Blog: French Kiss

The movie French Kiss is a romantic comedy that came out in 1995 starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. In the movie, Meg Ryan gets dumped by her fiance. She follows him to Paris to win him back and during her journey, she makes the acquaintance of Kevin Kline. Kevin Kline is a dirtbag who hides a grapevine seedling along with a stolen diamond necklace into Meg Ryan’s bag. He intends to start his own vineyard with this seedling, funded by the necklace, but we don’t know that, yet.

The movie has a plethora of quotable lines that I never hear anyone quote but that run through my own mind on any given day when faced with various situations. One line that often narrates my life is Meg Ryan mimicking Kevin Kline’s French accent as she mocks something he said to her earlier in the movie. “My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch.” Literally one of the best lines ever written, and Meg Ryan’s understated delivery is nothing short of elegant. Similarly, Kevin Kline’s subtle amusement at her mockery is delicious.

Throughout the movie, Kevin Kline is coaching Meg Ryan on how to seduce like a French woman so that she can win Whatshisface back. The thesis of the movie comes when Meg Ryan has had enough of this coaching and rants at Kevin Kline about her own particular approach to life.

“Happy — smile! Sad — frown! Use the corresponding face for the corresponding emotion!” She’s been told for the entire movie that her straightforward approach to life won’t get her the man that she loves, and she has been trying to behave (with some success) like the type of woman that her fiance left her for.

I think this is the quote that runs through my mind the most often. We’re all expected to walk around feeling hashtag blessed all the time, and when we express an honest negative emotion, we’re shamed for it. I was at my local Pizza Rev because pizzas are $6 on Tuesdays, and one of the girls on the assembly line asked me how I was doing. I usually answer “okay” because even though I’m on my lunch break from a job I hate, I’m also about to eat an entire pizza to myself. But I was having a particularly bad day, so I said, “tired and cranky.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way!” she chided. And here’s the thing. She knows she’s in the service industry. She knows that her job is to be agreeable as much as it is to make pizzas. And she almost immediately remembered that she’s not supposed to have opinions while she’s clocked in and immediately said something placating. I was irritated, but not at her.

Think about how ingrained a societal attitude about how we are allowed to feel, in order for that to override the training in obsequity. I broke the social covenant by answering honestly and was immediately put in my place. And it’s not the first time. I’ve heard “you shouldn’t feel that way” from friends, family, and strangers my entire life. I’ve heard it after answering “how are you” with “I miss my dead mom”.

Our emotions are constantly being policed, and if you think about it, you’ll remember times when you’ve policed other peoples’ negative emotions. I think the reason we do this is because we live in an individualistic society. I think about it like this. Everyone is carrying an armload of burdens, at all times. We’re expected to figure out how to deal with these burdens — throw them in a lake, hand them off to some dumb sucker who doesn’t know any better, keep them buried deep in side — whatever. As long as the person walking down the street toward you never sees them.

I was having a pretty intense panic attack at work a couple of weeks ago, to the point where I couldn’t hide it and had to tell my boss. I can’t even count how many times I apologized. She was very very nice about it but I couldn’t stop apologizing. I was more ashamed that I couldn’t hide how worked up I was than I was upset about whatever it was that was causing the panic attack. Later, I regretted owning up to the panic attack.

I could have hidden in the bathroom until I had it under control, like I usually do. But mental health experts are always saying that you shouldn’t isolate when you’re in pain, that that just increases the stress level. But I feel stressed, not relieved, that my boss saw me cry. Now I think she won’t take me seriously or can’t trust me with responsibility or thinks that I’m a flake. I hate that.

It’s not cruelty that makes it impossible to let each other feel the way that we feel.

Blog: Home

People refer to certain places as their second home and I realized that Flappers was my first home. It was the first place I ever belonged, the first place I was ever excited to be, the first place where when I walk in, people scream and run over to hug me. I always hesitate to go back, thinking this time it won’t feel like home and I’ll have lost — that.

The day that I put in my notice, I came home and cried for three hours. This came as a surprise to me because for weeks, I’d kept a crisis hotline open in one window while booking shows in another. Reconciling how much I love the art of comedy with how poorly I fit into the business of comedy is something that I still struggle with.

But, God. I don’t know how I can love so many people so much. And I really don’t understand why they seem to love me back. Sometimes I think I left before anyone could realize that I’m really not that special.

Brody Stevens killed himself and I don’t know what to do about that. I wasn’t a fan or a friend but I do know how hard despair can hit — even right in the middle of the happiest moment you’ve ever had. I was trained to never trust a moment of joy or peace. Every time I’ve ever felt like I was starting to get a handle on my place in the world, someone I love died — or asked me to kill myself.

People say polite nothings when we part, like “get home safe” and if I trust the person enough to be honest, I reply, “safety is an illusion”. Sometimes I’ve never been not a god and sometimes I’m a shrivelled, trembling guppy in a human suit.

Blog: On Being a Good Person

People constantly mistake me for a good person. The reason that’s frustrating is because I’m more complex than that. When people dismiss me as a good person, I know that I’m never allowed to have a bad day in front of them, never allowed to be petty and stupid and mean without losing my status in their eyes.

Blog: The Rapist is Inside the Car

My mom used to be in counselling for her various mental illnesses and she would bring back bits of wisdom that I still use today. One of these was about taking control over the direction of your thoughts. The shrink said my mom should visualize herself in a taxi (this was before Lyft and Uber) and acknowledge that the driver could only take her to where my mom requested the driver to take her. And if the driver ended up driving my mom somewhere she didn’t want to go, she could have the driver change direction and take her somewhere else. This, to me, is a perfect example of how mentally stable people misunderstand mentally ill people.

I agree that we have a certain level of control over our thoughts. There was a time in my life when I purposely dwelled on the bad that that had happened to me in my life, constantly listing off reasons why I shouldn’t trust people or even get attached. After my mom died, these thoughts were like sunlight on a bad sunburn, and in order to not go completely insane, I had to learn to change the direction of my thoughts. I had to learn how to be in the moment, to focus on things that were pretty or nice or just not completely horrible.

On the other hand, someone told me a story today about an Uber driver who raped a passenger. And that’s the thing — we don’t have complete control over anything. A driver is SUPPOSED to get us to our destination safe and sound, but that’s not what always happens.

And living with a mental illness is like having a psychotic Uber driver in your head all the time, constantly driving you to remember the worst things people have ever said or done to you, the worst things you’ve ever done. And it doesn’t matter how many times you re-set the destination, you just end up in one bad memory after another. When you’re mentally ill, life is often one giant nightmare that never ends.

 

Blog: Shut Up!

I was told as a child that I was ugly, and it was said so forcefully, so frequently, and with such conviction that I still believe it. I was told that I was ugly in conjunction with being fat, so every time I feel ugly, I’m aware of how fat I am. But I have fat friends who have a lot more sexual experience. They get to feel beautiful. But I grew up, not so much unconcerned with my appearance, but thinking that if I wasn’t going to be beautiful, I could at least be unremarkable. So I hate it when people comment on my appearance.

I hate compliments. I think it’s because I can’t internalize them, but it’s also because I care so little about what I look like. I compliment other people on what they look like because i know that stuff is important to them, but I don’t actually care what anyone looks like. What someone looks like has never affected how much I like them for longer than a 20-minute conversation. That’s how long it takes for them to either become a person I like, or a person to avoid.

Someone commented on my shirt tonight. So now I can never wear it again. Because someone noticed it.

Blog: On Rose Gardens

I got fired from being Robin’s mom’s book cover artist. On one hand, it’s a relief, and on the other hand, it’s a rejection. Robin was on vacation, so I haven’t seen her since, and I bailed on meeting on Thursday and then we were supposed to meet tonight and I bailed again. I’m not mad at Robin, but it does make me wish I hadn’t gone up and met her parents and shared a part of myself with them. And it makes it super weird to think about going up there again, with that hanging over our heads.

And I want to finish the piece I started, but every time I think about it, I just get mad and then I think , what’s the point? She doesn’t want it anyway. She didn’t even say anything about it, just that it didn’t looked like I wasn’t going to meet her deadline. What the fuck is that? She’s been working on the book for years, but can’t wait a few more weeks for custom artwork?

And yeah, I could have started on it earlier, but then I found out that Deidra’s mom has cancer and I made something for her instead. Plus, I hate working on commission. Agreeing to this and to doing the cover art to Lee’s book (which I was also fired from), just reminded me of when I used to do custom art for my website and how wracked with anxiety I was — and that part hasn’t gotten any better. Every time I think about quitting Flappers, I know the one thing I CAN’T do for money, is draw.

Plus, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that human interaction is fleeting and that friendship is an illusion. I feel like I give so much of myself and then at some point, I stop and i think, how important am I to these people? How important are they to me? And I think, I could walk away from all of them. I could start life in a new town and never see or hear from any of them ever again, and only feel relief.

And right now, I think , even if they died, I wouldn’t feel anything. And I know that I’m just going through one of those emotional numbnesses right now, because Cheri didn’t show up to a meeting we had planned once and I was hysterically crying, thinking she was dead. I had called a Lyft and was on my way to her house when she texted me and said she overslept. And then I cried even harder because I was relieved but also because I couldn’t stop picturing my life without her and feeling my life stretch out before me, empty of her, like I felt after my mom died.

So I know that this is the depression talking and that this distance I feel from everyone and everything is chemical but I also feel like I can’t afford to care so much. This numbness is like a blister, because right underneath is the hurt part.

There are these movies, Lawnmower Man, Lucy, where these characters are injected with superintelligence and then their bodies can’t handle it and they basically explode. It’s like that for me, except instead of being smart, I just feel. Everything. All the time. I can’t stop and I want to so bad.

I was talking to Jessica on Friday and she said to me that suicide is the most selfish thing a person can do, and I said, I think it’s more selfish to ask someone who is constantly in pain to keep living.  It doesn’t mean I won’t ask it. If I have to be here, don’t leave me here without you. That’s all I ask.

Be stupid, be selfish, be caught up in shit that doesn’t matter, but whatever you do, just be. And that’s the one thing I can’t guarantee. I could lose another one any minute — it’s been a long enough interval, that I’m about due, and looking around, trying to figure out who it’s going to be. And it might be me.

I can’t control it anymore. I don’t know if I ever could. It’s like there are two of me — one me barrages me with reminders of the times I’ve been hurt or I’ve hurt other people and then the other me is trying to fight back with three years’ worth of happiness and feelings of belonging — and the second one is losing.

The first one is so much stronger, she has so much more ammunition, and what can the second one say? Yes, you get to feel special and finally have a place in the world, but you’re still going to feel like you don’t, sometimes.  No matter how good your life gets, this crushing doubt and fear will never leave you for longer than moments at time. This is your curse, and the only way out is death. So, what’s for lunch?

This would make a good suicide note, I think, except I’m not going to kill myself. Today. Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up early and go to the DMV and get my ID replaced and then Renz is going to come over after dialysis and he’ll tell me what foods he’s not allowed to eat that he ate over the past week, and we’ll probably watch TV and one or both of us will fall asleep. And then I’ll call Madlen if I can overcome the anxiety that stops me every fucking week. (It’s so much easier to overcome the guilt of not calling.)

And then on Tuesday, I’ll go back to work and start waiting for the weekend again, the three days in a row in which I don’t have to pretend to be anything other than what I am, or to live up to any expectations, some of which I cultivate and others that are thrust upon me. The good thing about interacting with Renz is that I was a total asshole to him until I was in my late 20s, so any time I’m even polite is an improvement over what he’s used to. Everyone else has such a different experience of me. He’s like a vacation.

Sadness Saturdays #7

I have to stop complaining about my job. Not because I don’t hate it but because nobody wants to hear about it. People are supposed to want power, even women, so to complain that the collective hopes and dreams are, as Dan Fogelberg once described a woman’s heart “so fragile and heavy to hold” — people just don’t get it. If someone saw me crying at my desk, which happens almost every day that I’m at work (to be fair, I cry a lot at home, too, mostly about my dead mom) they would think I was insane.

I’m so tired of trying to explain what a drain it is to try to keep everybody happy all of the time. People tell me that that’s not possible, and I get that in theory, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

On an unrelated note, I’m sure, a new facial twitch popped up yesterday. So, of course, the eyelids top and bottom, left and right, are the classics. I also have had eyebrow twitches. Once, the middle of my lower lip twitched for about a week, and then last week, my upper lip twitched for the first time. The newest one, though, was between my eyebrows, at the tip of my right eyebrow. Who needs to travel? Dealing with my own face is an adventure.

I also had the fibroids flare up this week, which means that I left work early on Friday, and almost called in sick on Saturday. I remember this happening when I was agoraphobic and wondering how I was supposed to hold down a job when I’d be Mt. St. Helens-ing for weeks on end, and it’s mostly been okay. It’ll officially be 11 years in July since I went out and got a job. Not that it hasn’t been a problem, but it’s mostly been manageable. Still, it sucks to be debilitated every 6-9 months for no earthly reason other than, you know, biology. Stupid biology.

I’ve also been isolating a lot. I’m finishing up all of my promised projects and I’ve promised myself that I won’t start another one. I’m avoiding my best friends and am “too busy” to really stop and talk to anyone at work. Josh can tell that something is wrong so he being vigilant about checking in on me, but Barb is going through her own personal nightmare so she’s too sad and distracted to notice. Dave is getting ready to film his special and between that, helping Barb, and getting ready to film his special, he’s nice and distracted too. So I get to fly mostly under the radar, only interacting the minimum amount to avoid suspicion that I’m not okay.

After my mom died, I used to pretend that I was okay so much that I started to feel like a con artist. But I’ve studied up on it and I definitely don’t have that Machiavellian instinct. I think I just have BPD, part of which is having extremely thin skin AND emotional numbness. What a roller coaster!

How I deal with it is I just stay distracted as much as possible. I’m watching a lot of YouTube tutorials and Ted Talks and trying to stimulate the part of my brain that isn’t constantly screaming. I am currently making a crown-shaped jewelry box out of cardboard and a purse and neither project is for anyone in particular. And I created a new and pretty stitch for my knitting loom. I mean, I’m sure I didn’t invent it, but I didn’t learn it from anyone else.

I wish I had more or better advice about how to deal with it, but sometimes, there just isn’t any. I did an online chat with a crisis hotline about a week ago. Super unhelpful. I got linked to an online anxiety tips list that was clearly written for children and that linked to a longer list that I could pay for if I wanted to….I’m seriously better off just Googling baby animals.

Face-Blindness Fridays #5

“Prosopagnosia can be socially crippling. Individuals with the disorder often have difficulty recognizing family members and close friends. They often use other ways to identify people, such as relying on voice, clothing, or unique physical attributes, but these are not as effective as recognizing a face. Children with congenital prosopagnosia are born with the disability and have never had a time when they could recognize faces. ” MedicineNet.com

So, last week, I wrote about the first day of my second year of kindergarten. My face blindness is fairly moderate. it takes me probably 2-3 times longer to learn a new face than it would take an average person, and if I haven’t seen someone in a couple of months, depending on how well I know them, I can forget who they are entirely, until they tell me their name. If I know them well enough, it might take me like an extra 3-5 seconds to recognize them.

It may not seem like that big of a deal to take that long to recognize someone, but it creates an emotional disconnect. If it takes an average person half a second to recognize me, and it takes me 3-5 seconds, they’ve already recognized me, waited for acknowledgment, AND felt rejected by the time I actually recognized them. I try to make up for it, but it’s definitely something that I’m aware of.

I used to walk around, displaying a full amount of friendliness at all times, but that got exhausting. So now, people have to deal with me not being particularly happy to see them until I know who they are.

Face-Blindness Fridays #4

I did kindergarten twice, and have never been given a satisfactory answer as to why. However, since the first year of kindergarten was spent in two different elementary schools, and the second year was at a third, I didn’t really notice. I also don’t think I had any friends until my second year of kindergarten, or that may have given away.

I was a solitary child. I shared a room with my two brothers, and I HATED that. I wanted a room to myself SO BAD that on weekends, I would encourage them to go out and play with their friends, and while they were gone, I would pretend like the room was just mine. The extra beds were just in case a friend wanted to sleep over — I didn’t particularly LIKE that idea, but it was nice to have the option.

I don’t even remember what I used to do with all of that free time. I vaguely remember coloring a little bit. Once I asked my mom if I could play dress-up in her closet, because the twins who lived around the corner said they did that. My mom said “no” but that I could play dress-up with my own clothes. I thought that was a terrible idea, but it worked out.

My best friend in kindergarten’s name was Simple Tan. I don’t think I was her best friend, looking back, but she was the only person who went out of her way to be kind to me, so I liked her. We run into each other once in a while and I’m always happy to see her. She and her family are still the nicest people I’ve ever met.

The first day of kindergarten, I was excited because I’d been going to school for a while and I still didn’t know how to read (boom, there’s your answer as to why I was held back). I really wanted to learn to read because I loved being read to and my mom didn’t do it nearly often enough. She had read a book to me (and probably my brothers too) called Morris the Moose Goes to School in which he learns to count, write, and draw in perspective, all in one day.

So my first day of my second year of kindergarten, I walked to school (probably with my older brother), determined to finally learn how to read. The first day was mostly coloring, and I guess I didn’t know how recess worked because I remember sitting at my table as the other kids all scrambled out of the room.

The teacher came over to me and kind of gently urged me out of the classroom. I stepped over the threshold reluctantly. I didn’t know anyone, and the kids at my past two schools hadn’t been particularly friendly. For a moment, I was hopeful. None of these other kids knew each other, either, right?

My heart sank as I stepped out onto the playground and saw clumps of kids running around, chasing each other. How did they all know each other already? There was a large tree very close to the classroom door, and I decided to spend my time there until the teacher let us in again.

I was walking around on the roots that were growing up out of their concrete prison. A girl came over. She had black pigtails and dark, almond-shaped eyes. She had tan skin, unlike the other kids. “My name is Simple,” she said. I thought that that was a mean name for her parents to give her. Her eyes sparkled brightly. She didn’t seem very simple to me.

“Crystal,” I mumbled.

“Those are my friends,” she said, pointing to twin girls with identical brown pigtail braids and a blonde girl I’d never seen before. “Do you want to come over and play with us?”

“Oh, no, that’s okay,” I said, torn between desperately wanting to have friends like everyone else, and having no idea what to say to any of them.

Simple just looked at me for a moment, and then smiled and took my hand. She led me over to her friends and introduced me. I stood there, listening to them talk, glad to at least seem like I was a part of the group.

Back in the classroom after recess, the little blonde girl sat down across the table from me.

“Were you sitting there before recess?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, frowning. “You borrowed my blue crayon.”

I wanted to laugh about my mistake, but she seemed upset by my question.

Face-Blindness Fridays #3

I have to leave for work in a little bit, and am SUPER GLAD that the shows this weekend are actually a film festival. That means a) I can get some work done and b) I won’t be hugging strangers and then checking lineups to figure out who that person I just hugged was. Yaaaaay…!

The thing about having face blindness is that I make friends slowly. I have to first, be able to name you when I see you, which takes about 6-7 times of you introducing yourself. Then I have to know something unique about you to go along with the name and face. Then, we have to have some sort of uncomfortable moment. You can’t be real friends with someone until after your first fight. But, once I love you, I love you forever — or until you cross me, haha…

Generally, for me at least, having face blindness is a relatively minor inconvenience. It’s sort of like walking down the street about 20 steps behind the people you’re with (I’m also a slow walker). I will say, though, that one benefit is that I don’t generally judge people based on what they look like. I mean, I’m as superficial as anyone else. I would prefer to look at a pretty face than an ugly one.

But when you’re not around, and I can’t picture you, what I have to grasp on to, memory-wise, is what it felt like being around you. Was I comfortable? Did I feel safe? Did you make me laugh? Were you nice? Were you interesting? People with visual memories don’t have that advantage. I get to separate, in my mind, who people are from what they look like, whereas for most people, those two things are intrinsically linked.

That’s why, when I don’t recognize someone, even though we’ve met several times, it hurts their feelings. They feel like they’ve been erased completely. It’s really hard to explain to someone that they are a complete, multidimensional person to me — it’s just that the memory of them is triggered when I hear their name, not when I see their face.

Then again, maybe I had a super great conversation with someone and didn’t catch their name. So now, I had a great moment that I will carry around with me for the rest of my life, with someone I will never see again. Unless that person actually brings up that conversation again, I will have no idea that that moment was with that person.

It gets a little abstract, trying to describe it, because there aren’t any visual ways to describe someone’s soul. I mean, you can use colors and stuff, but for me, it’s a sense. Right after my mom died, I missed her. I tried to recall the feeling that she brought into the room with her, but I couldn’t. I wouldn’t only get to experience her presence again when I’d dream about her. I don’t know why my waking mind only allows me to partially remember what it was like to be around her, when I dream about her, I get to feel it fully.

And in my dreams, my mom doesn’t look any particular way. She’s a vague, mom-shaped blob, but the way that I feel about her is how I know it’s her. I’ve had dreams in which someone I knew looked like someone else. Like I’d be looking at Vin Diesel, but it would really be my best friend, Madlen. Then I’d wake up, and I’d be like, that was weird. I was dreaming about Madlen, but she looked like Vin Diesel. Alternately, this hasn’t happened, probably because it happens so much in real life, but I’ve never, in a dream, had someone say they were someone I knew, and they looked like that person, but I knew they weren’t.

My dreams are the only time I never have any trouble recognizing anyone. In real life, not only do I completely forget what people look like, but I’ll mis-remember their hair color or basic body shape. Half of the time when a comedian is on stage, I’m correcting my memory of what they looked like by observing what they actually looked like. How people can tell when I’ve lost two pounds, I don’t know. They never mention it when I gain those two pounds back, though, which is nice.

Or I’ll get two people confused. Like, there is a comedian named Brian D’Augustine, and his name does not match his face because when he filled out the independent producer form, I was like, “Oh, I know who that is,” and pictured Andrew Duvall. So when I run into Brian, I always picture Andrew Duvall, but I can never remember Andrew Duvall’s name when I’m talking to Brian because he has the name that I think that Andrew Duvall should have. And they don’t look at all alike.

Brains are weird. It’s amazing that I’m functional at all, really.