For this month’s piece for The Nervous Breakdown, I wrote about six childhood books that have haunted me my whole life:

 

http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/tfreeland/2011/08/six-childhood-books-that-traumatized-me/

 

Because if an animal dies a horrible death, you should probably write a children’s book about it.

 

***

 

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Hey, friends.

I have a new piece up on The Nervous Breakdown called “Let Them Eat Cake” about what a passive-aggressive jerk I was when I used to work with the public.

You can read it here: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/tfreeland/2011/04/let-them-eat-cake/

I love you. Inappropriately.

xoxo.

It was sometime in the mid-nineties, after the last ragged, dying gasps of my foolish decision to marry at nineteen. The disco ball sparkled fragments of light romantically around the floor, where I moved slowly underneath, head pressed against the chest of my new boyfriend. A crowd of equally drunk people swayed around us in the haze. Through the speakers, Whitney Houston was singing “I Will Always Love You” in a time before reality shows would make her a laughingstock. I pushed aside the cynical part of me that was cringing at the drippy song lyrics, and just tried to enjoy the moment. We were young, it was midnight on a New Year’s Eve, and we were naked.

No, not emotionally. That’s not a metaphor or anything. We were actually naked.

To read more, please go to: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/tfreeland/2011/01/happy-naked-new-year/

And leave a comment there on The Nervous Breakdown if you like it, or like me, or like naked people.

xoxo.

 

I have forgotten to post a link here to my new writing zone for a very long time.  I moved, and forgot to tell you.  Whoops.

If you want to read the latest ramblings of a crazy woman, go here:

http://myshinyhell.blogspot.com/

(Unless you want to gripe about the one goofy little blog I wrote a long, long time ago at this WordPress site about ferrets, and how much I think they suck. Then you can go ahead and stay here to whine about how much you love those stinking weasels, and how much you think they don’t smell like pee and musk, but instead smell like flowers from heaven, like if heavenly flowers smelled like urine and sweaty ball-sacks, and how they saved Timmy from the well that one time, and choose your lottery ticket numbers for you every week, and make you lunch every day with those disgusting Vienna sausages in the clear yellowish jelly-filled jar, and don’t let the terrorists win on this site where I will never, ever approve your angry, ferret-defending comments full of horrible grammar, misspellings and trailer park rage for anyone else to see. Yep. Then you can just stay here.)

Hugs and kisses,

T-Free

My husband works with a woman who told him last week that she is against bringing people over to America from Haiti (the Red Cross is specifically thinking about Florida) who have no place to live because we need to “take care of our own country first.”

The next day she lost her very old dog to an illness from which it had been suffering, despite months of expensive acupuncture treatments and veterinary visits. She was crying at work all week about it, and trying to figure out what type of costly burial to have for the dog.

In short: this person has more compassion for a dead dog than live human beings. She was willing to spend money keeping a dog that was ready to die alive for longer than it wanted to be here on the planet, but not on living people who want to survive. And now that the dog is no longer with us, she wants to pay a lot of money to dispose of the body her vet would have taken care of for less than $20. But she thinks those people in Haiti, those people that are still alive and in need, can just stay there and rot, because we need to take care of our own country.

And I’m sure she’s doing SO much to take care of our own country.

“I have running water and a roof over my head and my family wasn’t just killed in a horrible earthquake, but you know, what am I going to do with the dog carcass? I think I need to take the rest of the day off work to mourn.”

Okay, so she didn’t say the first part of that sentence, but you get my point. Fucking ridiculous.

We should never, ever forget how lucky we are. Gratitude is essential. And compassion is a part of gratitude. I really don’t think you can feel one without the other.

My husband was so disgusted he officially requested she not talk to him about anything political at work ever again.

I keep seeing status updates on Facebook that say things like “Let’s take care of our own people before we help Haiti” and “I wish we could get telethons for people HERE that need help” and other such bitter, vitriolic rubbish.

This attitude is so mean-spirited that it is breaking my heart every time I encounter it. And confusing me. I don’t understand why there is a cap on compassion and a limit to love for some people. Why some people think that by helping one person in need we are taking something away from another person in need. I don’t get this at all.

To see people all over the world rallying to help another country in need and to only think, “Why aren’t we helping our own country this way?” seems so small-minded and selfish.

Why can’t we just be happy that someone hurting is getting assistance and that people are being inspired to help others in any way possible? We live in a harsh, sometimes very dark world, and one person lighting the way doesn’t have to equal others in the dark.

Why can’t we simply see any and every good deed as more light in the world?

My point: One less person dealing with horrible conditions and pain is still one less person dealing with horrible conditions and pain, no matter what is happening in our country. This is always a good thing.

I want to ask the people saying things like “Why don’t we take care of our own country first?” what they are doing for our country. To which of their superior American causes do they donate?

And I want to say to these negative people: maybe instead of griping about American dollars going to Haitians, as if they are lesser human beings simply because they weren’t born on American soil, you could have some compassion and realize that we are all connected, no matter where we were born. We all feel pain. We all have hopes and dreams. Some of us are lucky enough to have homes and families. We all bleed the same blood. We cry the same tears. We all have hearts.

Well, most of us.

I’ve been up since four this morning.

I wake up in the dark most mornings.

I don’t really like this about myself.

Actually, if I didn’t have a child or job, I wouldn’t give a shit. I’d wake up early, enjoy my most productive time of day and take a nap when I felt tired again. But mommies don’t have the luxury, so instead I have dark under-eye circles you could park a car inside.

It’s a living.

I also have a freakishly accurate internal alarm clock that I can set by looking at the current time and thinking about what time I want to wake up before I fall asleep. Inherited from my biological father. I haven’t talked to him in years, but he was always the same way.

It’s funny, the things we inherit from either parent.

I got my father’s allergies. All berries except blackberries. Red meat, milk and eggs. I’ve been tested and everything. My body very much dislikes animal proteins and I often wonder if this might be why I’ve found most of them repulsive my whole life.

As a baby, milk swelled my face shut, sent me to the emergency room. Soy formula kept me alive.

As a kid, I found meat and eggs so disgusting that when forced to eat them, I would drench them in ketchup. Now I associate ketchup with these foods and don’t really care for it.

I also got my father’s need for clean and order. It creeps me out a little when I notice it.

My dad used to follow us around with a hand-held vacuum if we walked from the kitchen to the dining room with a piece of toast, vacuuming imaginary crumbs.

Now I think about him every time I grab the Dustbuster and vacuum under the kitchen table, post meal. I worry to myself, “Am I just like my father?”

Dishes were absolutely not allowed to languish in the sink and had to be washed immediately, but once cleaned, they had to pass inspection as well.

My sister and I still make jokes about the time he carried a cheese grater we’d washed inadequately into the living room to yell at us. He told us that if it happened again, we would lose our cheese grater privileges.

My father stormed out of the room and my sister and I had to wait until he was completely out of earshot before we made eye contact. Staring at the floor, stifling giggles.

“Oh no! Not my cheese grater privileges!” she whispered in mock horror, before we collapsed laughing.

As you can imagine, we still take our cheese grater privileges very seriously.

My father’s kitchen counters had to be free and clear of all clutter and wiped clean. He can’t even stand a toaster or coffee maker on a counter. Nothing.

I am somewhat horrified to find that I now start every morning by cleaning my kitchen counters thoroughly. Everything wiped down and shiny. I can’t have dishes in the sink either. Ever.

See? Creepy.

He plays guitar and drums, so I guess I got my interest in music from him as well. And there you have me: a borderline-OCD guitar player with sensitive skin. I know, it’s a hot combination. Try to control yourself.

From my mother, I inherited bunk feet badly in need of corrective surgery, and a really amazing rack. I feel like these two things sort of balance each other out. I’m okay with deformed feet and great tits. It’s okay. Giveth and taketh away, and all that happy horseshit, right?

I obviously don’t really have anything to talk about, I just felt like writing before I go to bed. I need a creative outlet or I go fully crazy. And I’ve been making a fine ass of myself commenting on social networking sites and blogs the last few days, so maybe if I get it out here I’ll stop that.

I don’t know what’s wrong. I am typing and I can’t shut up. I’m over-sharing. I am Inappropriate Self-Disclosure Lady. I am Jack’s raging bile duct. I need to just be quiet for a week. Or something. More delete opportunities, maybe. Deletortunities.

I hate it when blogs don’t let me delete a dumb comment I’ve made.

You’d think this would teach me to be more careful about what I say before I push a “post comment” button, but so far this little bit of growth and maturity has eluded me. Heart-on-my-sleeve gets me again. Gets me everywhere and gets me nowhere. Stupid emotions.

A friend told me that Mercury is retrograde right now and this screws up communication. She said it would end on the 15th of January, which is tomorrow, but I’m still going to put myself on shut the fuck up watch for a while, to be safe.

I like astrology. I’m a Scorpio with Aquarius rising. For you astrology newbies, this means I present a happy-go-lucky person to the world, but I actually suck.

Head throbbing. (And that’s how that nasty Google search led you to my blog, pervert.) Time for bed.

Ramble on.

The term “Helicopter Mom” has been thrown around a lot lately in parenting pop culture. This nickname generally refers to mothers seen as too attentive by the other moms. They hover over their children, much like a helicopter might hover over a potential drowning victim clutching a log in a raging river.

I thought Helicopter Mom was really a clever way to describe this style of parenting, until I realized they were talking about me. “Ha, ha, ha, Helicopter Mom! Huh? Wait a minute…”

Yes, I am a Helicopter Mom.

I first became aware of this after hearing from a friend that some other moms were making fun of me on our neighborhood playground. Not in a mean-spirited way, mind you, just sharing their thoughts about me, in the way that we all do sometimes. The fact that they were talking about me didn’t bother me, but the way they were labeling my behavior left me perplexed.

My friend told me that they were saying that I needed to stop following my two-year-old son around; to let him fall and get hurt on the playground so he might learn those important lessons.

I was puzzled by this mentality; that kids need to be tossed out into the pool of life to see if they sink or swim. I understand that I will need to back off and not smother the boy as he gets older, so he can develop his own personality and learn from his own mistakes, really I do. But I still believe that age two is too young to leave him alone in the woods. Isn’t it my job to teach him how to fend off the wolves first? If he has to get burned to learn that fire is hot, then why am I even here? Is my only purpose in life, as I feel on some days, to be the maker of macaroni and cheese and wiper of little butts?

My son is nearly four now, and in preschool. I am happy to announce that despite my neighbors’ fears that I was raising him to be a timid and clingy “momma’s boy” with my overbearing parenting style, I instead have the confident, outgoing kid described by teachers as a leader. He has also never had a moment of separation anxiety. He hugs me and nonchalantly wanders off to play when I drop him off. This may be a lucky roll of the genetic dice, but I like to tell myself that it’s because he knows his mom has his back. He trusts I will always be there for him, because I always have been there for him.

As he’s gotten older, I have spent countless hours on that same playground with him, watching him master the different degrees of stairs, normal and spiral. He can climb the ten foot high rock wall alone and go down the big kid slide all by himself. But until he was able to perform these tasks with a modicum of finesse, I was waiting (okay, I’ll say it… hovering) nearby to catch him. Partly because a trip to the emergency room to have a broken arm set isn’t my idea of a good time, but mostly because I see this as my job.

My job as a parent is to teach this child the lessons he needs to survive in our world and to support him as he learns them. I am his teacher, above all other teachers he will have as he gets older, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I also don’t believe one should have a child if they aren’t willing to put that child’s emotional and physical well-being above everything else in the world, including themselves. This may sound a bit heavy to some people, and to those people I say: you are absolutely correct. Parenting is heavy. It is a huge responsibility, not to be undertaken lightly. But it does have a lighter side, if you are willing to pay attention to your child long enough to see it.

This Helicopter Mom would now like to share the best thing about being a hovering, present parent. Because while you were sitting on the park bench, yapping away on your cell phone and rolling your eyes at me for following my two-year-old around on the playground, not only did you miss the fact that your own two-year-old was eating handfuls of mulch, you missed the fun part.

You missed the kids being silly for no reason in the way that only kids get to, the way for which adults acting the same are asked to seek psychological treatment. You missed the funny little interactions between these strange, but really cute little creatures as they spoke to each other in the alien language of Two that only they understand. You missed the look of pride on your child’s face as they mastered the big kid slide for the first time, or made it up the rock wall.

But I didn’t.

In defense of Helicopter Moms like myself everywhere, I would like to say to our critics (very kindly, because I know that parenthood truly is the hardest job in the world): wake up.

Because while I am over here giving your child the boost into the bouncy house they’ve been sadly waiting to get for three minutes, and while you are sending that Very Important text message fifty feet away, I’m watching your child grow up. And soon your child will be long past the goofy, happy-go-lucky toddler phase and into the boring-by-comparison phase we all know as adulthood. Soon your teenage children will be sitting around sending text messages to friends of their own, and you’re going to say things like, “How did they grow up so quickly? I feel like I missed it.”

And it just might be because you did.

I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and remained there until my parents divorced in 1977. This made Disneyland (or Bisneyland, as I called it then), a favorite vacation, because we could drive there. It was like a family-friendly Las Vegas.

I think it was on such vacations that I first became terrified of sports team mascots and costumes in which the wearer’s eyes are concealed from view. If eyes are the window to the soul, the person inside the creepy costume might have a really putrid one and I would have no idea. This has always been bothersome.

My parents tell me that when the Disneyland characters would come up and try to hug me, I would run screaming, red ringlets bobbing behind me, cold sweat of fear beading my tiny brow. I did not want those freaky creatures touching me. Animals were not supposed to look like that and I knew it. They were unnatural. Creepy.

(I would later add ventriloquist dummies to my list of horrible things to avoid, after my cousin Amy told me that hers would sometimes talk to her at night from within the closet. And clowns because, well, look at them. Sheesh. Who decided clowns were a good idea?)

I have an early, mildly traumatic memory associated with the mouse-shaped helium-filled balloons from Disneyland as well, because I brought one home from our vacation there, and my Aunt Carolyn popped it. She was jokingly chasing me around the house, threatening to pop my floating rodent with a lit cigarette and whoops! It really happened.

(Yes, chasing a little girl with a lit cigarette. Ah, the seventies. Nowadays you’re a monster if you smoke within twenty feet of a child, but back then we kids were trapped in seatbelt-less cars with chain smokers faster than you can say “emphysema.”)

To get me to stop crying, she promised me she’d get me another Mickey Mouse balloon. Every time she came over to our house from that point on, I asked her about it. “Have you gone to Bisneyland to get me a new balloon yet?”

She never got me a new balloon. I never trusted her again. She was in it with the monsters in the mascot costumes, as far as I was concerned.

As I got older, I realized I still had this fear of people hidden in costumes. It was completely irrational and pointless, but aren’t most fears, really?

I remember in college, going to a grocery store with a friend. As we crossed the parking lot, I stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted a Kool-Aid Man hovering around the entrance. Big, round pitcher, eerie smile painted on, not a real eyeball in sight. There could be anyone or anything inside there, man.

He was greeting people, but might as well have been eating people, for the way it made me feel. I suddenly realized that my heart was pounding and I was sweating, adrenaline pumping, poised for fight or flight.

I was shocked to find that this childhood fear I giggled about was still very real. The funny Disneyland anecdotes my parents would tell about their non-trusting little girl versus the big cartoon characters were more than stories. I was now a grown woman having a ridiculous reaction to some person trying to make a dollar in a humiliating way. Logically I knew this, but emotionally, I believed that huge pitcher with legs was full of the cherry red blood of children.

I could not go into the store that day.

My friend thought I was being ridiculous. I did too. Didn’t change a thing.

Later, when confronted with a giant sandwich outside of a sub shop, I would be unable to get out of my car and enter the restaurant. There was no coupon in the world worth having to touch the hand of the Sandwich of Death.

A boyfriend aware of this phobia, upon spotting someone in a mascot costume standing roadside to promote a business, liked to cross traffic lanes to try to get my passenger side as close to the creature as possible. Screaming ensued; windows were rolled up; sometimes I’d have to duck down as far as the seatbelt would let me and cover my head. This was highly entertaining for one of us.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I now have a child of my own. My son will be four this winter, and we have been invited to stay with California friends next summer, which would make a trip to Disneyland inevitable.

I am wondering how my son will react. But mostly, I am wondering how hard it will be to hide my own fear from him.

So far I have hidden my fear of the dentist from him by making his father take him. Not a very impressive display of parenting on my part, but my son loves the dentist.

I also recently managed to hide my “nervous flyer” feelings from him so well that I actually convinced myself to stop being afraid, mid-flight to Phoenix. While the metal tube in which we were encased was racing through the clouds, I tried to make my son see it as miraculous, rather than scary, and ended up believing it. My son even told me he wants to be a pilot when he grows up, the first declaration of the sort to come out of his mouth.

I’m hoping that a trip to Disneyland will have the same effect. I’ll be so busy trying to make it a positive experience for my child that I will face my fears and get over my illogical phobia of costume-clad creatures once and for all.

Or I will flip out and finally attack one of them.

Either way, it will make a good story, right?

koolaid

It’s sniffing your delicious head, little boy. Run!

I boarded the plane headed for Phoenix. One of my MySpace friends had suddenly died and we were all going to her funeral. We were in her top thirty-two, after all. That meant a lot to us.

Jennifer had stopped commenting on blogs and leaving her blinking, flashing “Have a nice day!” messages in our comment sections. She seemed to completely disappear from the cyber realm in which we existed together, and we were all wondering where she had gone.

A quick glance at her profile answered our questions. Her sister Anne had recently posted an explanation online; it seemed our friend had been in a car accident. She was killed instantly.

Her MySpace page immediately became a memorial website and the comment section was rapidly filling with messages about how much we’d all miss her.

Jen’s MySpace friends were invited by her sister to the funeral in Phoenix this weekend, and many of us agreed to attend. It was a sad excuse to meet the people we’d been getting to know online for so long, but we decided Jennifer would have wanted it this way.

Anne had been remarkably helpful in facilitating the attendance of Jennifer’s online friends at the funeral, arranging to pick each of us up at the Phoenix airport. She even made a deal with a nearby hotel to provide affordable rooms. I was touched by the kindness of the airlines and lodging, providing cheap rates and discounts for us all. 

The funeral was scheduled for Saturday evening, so we decided to fly in Friday afternoon to have an impromptu memorial service and meet each other in person. Anne suggested this, actually, and rented the recreation room of the hotel we were all staying in to give us a large meeting place.

Despite the sad reason for being there in the first place, I was really excited to finally see these people I’d been getting to know online for over a year. Jennifer had always been a boisterous, fun girl and said, “Any excuse for a party!” I hoped she really meant it and wasn’t looking down on us from the ghost world for having a getting-to-know-you celebration in the aftermath of her sudden death.    

I deplaned and walked through the Sky Harbor terminal until I saw the sign with “Alexa” on it. That’s me, I thought as I greeted the driver. We drove away from the airport, passing palm trees and saguaro cactuses as we traveled along the heat-shimmering road.

The hotel was really nice and I couldn’t get over the low price as I got ready for the MySpace friends party. Make-up and hair to my liking, I walked down the hallway to finally meet my online friends in real life.

At the entrance to the large recreation room, there was a big sign that shouted, “Welcome Jennifer’s Internet Friends!” in a bold font. I couldn’t believe Anne went through the trouble to have such professional-looking signs printed up for this gathering. She really had her wits about her for someone who had just lost her sister. I felt momentarily jealous of her coolness under pressure, decided that was unkind of me and entered the room.

There were over fifty people there. An anorexic-looking blonde girl quickly walked over to me with a somber smile and introduced herself. A man with a large camera followed her closely, filming our meeting.

“I’m Jennifer’s sister, Anne. Thank you so much for coming… Alexa?” she said questioningly.

“Yes, I’m Alexa. Call me Alex. How did you know?” I asked.

“I recognized you from your MySpace pics,” she replied. She gestured toward the camera. “I hope you don’t mind that I’m having Jennifer’s memorial filmed by a professional crew. There were a lot of internet friends who couldn’t make it to Phoenix, and I want to put this on You Tube so they can feel like they were here. Jennifer would have loved it.”

“How many MySpace friends did Jennifer have?” I wondered aloud. It seemed like the room was full of people.

“Oh, this isn’t even a third of her MySpace friends. She was also popular on Facebook, Friendster and Twitter. My sister was a friend to everyone she met,” she said, shaking her head sadly.

She quickly had me sign a release form so that she could use my filmed moments in her You Tube memorial, stating it was just a formality. I didn’t mind. I had nothing to hide, after all. That’s why I was on the internet in the first place, right?

After thanking her for being such a great hostess and offering my condolences on her loss, I left Anne and the camera guy to walk over to the open bar. I decided that Jennifer and Anne must come from money, as I ordered a free beer. I left my usual twenty percent tip because I’ve had that job, took a deep breath, and looked around.

Standing at the bar, I scanned the room for familiar faces. Everyone was engrossed in conversation, with Anne and the cameraman recording the memories people shared about Jennifer for internet posterity. Some people were crying in front of the camera while others laughed, sharing different thoughts on the loss.

I quickly drained my beer and ordered another one. I was really nervous about meeting all of these people with whom I’d been chatting so intimately on blog comment boards for the last year. We knew so much about each other, yet nothing at all. It was a strange dichotomy, and hard to marry with my usual go-to friendship formula.

I spotted Kaitlin. She was a sassy, outspoken woman with cool Nordic blonde good looks and one of those mouths that makes even the straightest girl feel stirrings. She met my eyes as I noticed her; the recognition clicked and her expression brightened.

“Alexa!? Alex! Is that you!? It is you!!” she squealed, and came running over to hug me warmly. “It’s so nice to actually meet you in real life!”

I told her it was great to meet her too, and asked her what she thought of all the cameras.

“It seems kind of weird to me, honestly,” she whispered under her breath. “But if Jennifer’s sister Anne thinks it’s necessary, then I guess it makes sense, right?”

I nodded and we stood together making small talk, surveying the crowd of people that seemed to be growing larger every minute. We noticed another friend we often talked to online as she walked through the door, with the cursory introduction and welcome by Anne and the cameraman. She refused to sign the release form. Brooke. Of course.

Brooke was petite, with pale skin and dark hair. She had goth vibe going on. She liked the Vampire Wars application and sent fanged fairies as Facebook gifts. She was dressed in her usual all-black attire, leather boots and wore her signature blood red lipstick. Thinner than I expected with dark under-eye circles, she looked like Snow White’s sister who freebased poison instead of eating tainted apples. She didn’t look like she ate much of anything, actually. Kaitlin and I recognized her instantly.  

“Brooke! Over here!” We both shouted her name and waved her over.

She glided our way and stared around the room incredulously. “What the fuck is all this shit?” she asked us.

Brooke was a blunt person. She didn’t waste time on niceties in the written comment format, so it didn’t shock me that she’d work blue with her first sentence spoken in real life. I would have been more shocked if she acted sweet and demure, honestly.

“We don’t really know either,” I told her. “Jen’s sister Anne seems to think Jen would have wanted her online friends who couldn’t be here to be able to watch her informal friends-only memorial on You Tube.”

“Well I think that having a film crew at a private memorial is completely fucked up. I’ll probably write a blog about it when I get home,” she answered. “I’ll put it on MySpace and we can talk about it some more, because I feel like an asshole complaining about it here.”

We agreed to revisit the topic in our blogs and continued to walk around the room, drinking free booze and meeting all of the people we knew only from online pictures and occasional written blurbs. It was a strange sociological phenomenon that made me uneasy and out-of-my-element all night. The whole thing felt like a weird dream I’d have after drinking and playing on the computer too late.

After foolishly moving from beer to the hard stuff and drunkenly slurring to the cameras about what a cool person Jennifer was, I hung out with my cyber-friends and stumbled back to the hotel room late. I used the laptop computer I’d brought to see if I had any new messages waiting before I passed out, already dreading tomorrow’s more serious service.

I awoke the next day feeling hung-over and strange. I had the “Where the hell am I?” moment as I looked around the hotel room until I remembered. Today is Jennifer’s funeral. My stomach clenched with nervous energy. I was not looking forward to it.

I grabbed the water bottle I’d placed next to the bed in a burst of surprising drunken forethought and chugged. I felt like I’d crawled through a desert with straight vodka in my canteen and only cigarettes to eat.

After spending the day online chatting with friends (some of them in the same hotel), I got in the shower and prepared for Jen’s evening service, wondering if her sister Anne and the camera guy were going to film the actual funeral. It seemed kind of disrespectful and I really hoped not. I also knew I would cry and I didn’t want it caught on tape for all to see.

The funeral home was conveniently a few blocks from the hotel. Anne seemed to have planned everything out perfectly. Once there, I found my internet inner circle of blog commenters and we huddled together in a group with our fold-up chairs pushed together.

The funeral home looked brand-new, like it had been very recently built. The light fixtures were Eames-style modern, like hanging cream bubbles with brushed nickel hardware, and the floors were tiled in a rich chocolate brown. The shiny, black coffin was up front on a huge stone table—it almost seemed like an altar—placed on a shaggy, furry cream rug. White roses in silver vases and deep red candles covered every surface, flames flickering. It didn’t have the seventies, drab wood paneling feel of most funeral homes. It felt like MTV Death Cribs.

I could see Jennifer lying peacefully in the coffin, just the very top bit of her pretty face. She looked like she was sleeping. Her hair looked great. I’d never been to an open-casket funeral and thought the dead would look much worse than she did. She was holding a bouquet of white roses and wearing dark red dress that matched the candles. I had no idea that death could be such a fashion statement and was once again impressed with Jennifer’s sister for her amazing attention to detail.

I noticed the Guns ‘N’ Roses song “November Rain” was playing through overhead speakers. How unbearably trite, I thought to myself, vowing to write down the songs I wanted to be played at my own funeral.

As we waited for some sort of religious leader to walk to the front and start the proceedings, I realized I didn’t know to which religion Jennifer belonged. I realized that I didn’t even know her last name; where she grew up or where she went to school. It hit me that I really didn’t know anything about her, or any of the other living people in the room, for that matter. I was suddenly overcome by the urge to run out of the funeral home back to the hotel. This was all starting to feel really weird. I looked around uneasily and noticed many other people murmuring to each other, with confused faces like mine.  

Before I could bolt (or more likely, discuss bolting with my friends), Anne walked to the front of the room with a cameraman behind her, filming every word. She said loudly, “I have an announcement to make and all I ask is that everyone here please listen to every word before you rise to judgment.”

The murmuring stopped and the room was silent in anticipation. Anne nodded, smiled and continued addressing the room.

“This is not actually a funeral and I am not actually Jennifer’s sister. My name is Anne, but I work for a television network. This event we’ve been filming is the pilot for a new reality show that we are hoping will be a really big hit. Those of you who signed the waivers will be featured on the first episode. It’s called Virtual 2 Reality and the premise of the show is to help people who have met solely through social networking websites meet in real life for the first time. We think it will be a fascinating sociological study of the new ways we make friends via the internet and… most importantly… really great television!”

We stared at each other with mouths agape in disbelief as she continued, “We didn’t mean to trick you, but we didn’t think as many of you would agree to come if it wasn’t for a serious reason. We apologize for the scare and you will be reimbursed for your travel expenses, as well as paid a respectable fee for your camera time. And I think you will all be happy to know that Jennifer is an actress who is alive and quite well!”

She clapped her hands and Jennifer, who had up until this moment remained motionless in the coffin, suddenly sat up and smiled, waving at the room full of people, still seated in our chairs in shocked silence. Someone started to clap along with Anne, and soon much of the room broke out in applause. Some people sat still with furious hands in their laps, and some people were crying tears of relief, but overall, the group seemed to recover from the shock very quickly.

People jumped up and ran over to Jennifer as she climbed out of the coffin for hugs. I could see them already vying for their fifteen minutes, schmoozing Anne and the cameraman, giving interviews and reactions to the bogus funeral. Kaitlin was up front, laughing and smiling for the camera, and I was shocked. I never pegged her as an attention whore. 

You know the people I mentioned, the ones who were not clapping and furious? Yeah, I was one of those. I looked at Brooke, who had more color on her pancake-pale face than I’d ever seen. She hissed, “This is fucking bullshit. I’m out of here, Alex,” and stood up. I followed. We went straight to the hotel bar and got ridiculously drunk. We talked for hours and exchanged phone numbers, vowing to make a point of getting together in person at least once a year. We hugged at the end of the night and went to our rooms to sleep it off before the morning flights Anne had booked for us.

I arrived early at the airport, got a cup of coffee at Starbucks, cursing their moronic sizing system as I asked the snooty barista for, “I don’t know, a really big one, I guess,” with a roll of my eyes. I found a table and opened up my laptop. I had one hell of a crazy blog to write.

Dear Kraft Macaroni and Cheese,

Oh, we are such grand old friends. You and your delightfully versatile pal Ramen Noodles were there for me in college, and I will never forget the way you kept me alive during the more financially bereft phases of my existence. Never.

We even endured the British boyfriend together, and his irritating way of referring to you as “Kraft Dinner” instead of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (or even Kraft Cheese and Macaroni, in a nod to the old advertising campaign that showcased exactly how cheesy and delicious you really are, my friend). We rolled our eyes at each other conspiratorially behind his back, and mocked him by saying “Kroooffft Dinn-ahhhh” when he left the room. We had fun, didn’t we?

But the honeymoon is over, I’m sorry to say. I am afraid I am breaking up with you, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, even though it makes me a little bit sad.

The first reason is that I have a child now; a child who would eat you for every single meal, if allowed. I cook you so often that I am ridiculously sick of smelling your hot, milky cheese and starch smell. I am nauseous right now just thinking about you.

The second reason is that since giving birth, simple, starchy carbohydrates seem to instantly turn me into a fat girl in a free chocolate store. I look at your bloated, white puffy pasta-ness and gain weight.

It’s just not working out between us anymore, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but thanks for the years of service and loyalty. It’s not you, it’s me. I swear.

  

Tell Bread to call me,

 Tawni

 

 

 

Dear Husband,

You are a wonderful father to our son and I appreciate you more than I can put into words.

Perhaps your all-around awesomeness is why I tolerated it when you taught our toddler to reply, “Chicken butt!” to those asking him to, “Guess what?”

And I only winced a little when you taught the young lad all about having the “meat farts,” and laughed as he repeated the term back to you in his little three-year-old lisping dialect as “meat fawts.”

But the other day, when our child informed me from the toilet that he was about to “squeeze one out” for me, I decided that it was time to have this talk with you and make a request:

Please stop making our son disgusting.

  

I love you,

Tawni

 

 

 

Dear Girl at Lowe’s,

I was buying plants for my garden and in a really great mood. Planting things brings me joy.

I was standing in one of two lines and the register opened up on the other one.

Rather than run over to the register ahead of the man in front of me in our line, I asked him if he would like to go over to the now-open register, since he’d been standing there longer. He was chivalrous and deferred to me; I thought this was incredibly sweet of him.

Imagine my surprise when you darted into the open spot ahead of both of us, even though you had just walked up and hadn’t stood in a line at all.

I waited for you to finish being rung up and tried to make eye contact with you the entire time, hoping you might say something, or maybe acknowledge what you had done. You very obviously avoided my gaze and hurried away, so I know you were fully aware of your pathetic, out-for-number-one register queue move.

In conclusion, Girl at Lowe’s, you will probably get a lot further in this life with a “nice guys finish last” mode of behavior than I ever have by trying to be a kind, considerate person; but I have a strong feeling that when we both get to the end of the ride, you’re going to like yourself a lot less than I will.

 

Just a hunch,

 Tawni

 

 

 

Dear Bathroom Scale,

My husband is a tall, large man, but he is by no means overweight, so I know that he did not break you. You could have chosen to split in half when stepped upon by anyone. You were a cheap purchase made of brittle plastic.

Thank you for choosing him anyway.

 

Love ya babe,

 Tawni

 

 

 

Dear Rhett from the Old 97’s,

I saw your band play at Mayfest a few weeks ago.

Your voice is awesome and the cool “swaying from side to side” dance you do while playing guitar reminds me of a happy little kid. It could look goofy done by the wrong person, but you totally pull it off. When you wind-milled your guitar and danced like Elvis, well, I can admit it; I swooned.

You also played a guitar that was old. I have a lot of love for a guitarist playing an obviously adored, good old guitar with the wood worn through from years of strumming. You won’t give up your Number One for a new, shiny guitar, will you? You’re loyal. The kind of person who won’t sell out their best friend for a better deal. The kind of person who wouldn’t steal the spouse of another person. You are that kind of person, aren’t you, Rhett?

After your show, as we walked to the car, my husband said, “Rhett is so charismatic! I couldn’t look away from him! He’s definitely got something,” and was really impressed with you. I could tell he was actually perplexed and maybe a bit uncomfortable with his infatuation. (Manfatuation, if you will.) He’s a beer and football loving guy’s guy. I’ve never heard him say anything like this about another man. Ever.

Another guy friend of mine later referred to you as his “mancrush.” When I told my husband this, he replied, “Yeah… I’d fuck him! I’m not gay, but I’d fuck him! He’s beautiful.”

I tried not to be threatened when my husband professed his lust for you this second time, but I thought you might like to know that you know that you are having this mesmerizing affect on completely heterosexual men, you enchanting warlock of music and rhythm.

  

Back off, he’s mine,

Tawni

 

P.S. I love your hair.

 

🙂

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