Category Archives: Dysfunction

Of Police, Pillows, and Pizza

This afternoon I heard screaming in the upstairs apartment. It sounded alternately like a man, then a woman. The footfalls were unusual too. Some rhythmic in one place and some short bursts of running all over the unit. I’m used to Stompy up there, and this was different.

As the warm glow of domestic violence PTSD washed over me, I called the cops, hoping I was just overreacting. They told me I was their second call about it, so I took the next sensible step and began hyperventilating and calling Paul’s cell until he picked up.

In the midst of this, the part of me still connected to Earth knew I was losing ground with my work schedule. I had to call my clients to ask for deadline extensions. While waiting for the police, texting my clients was out of the question because I was shaking so badly that my finger kept missing the phone altogether.

The cops arrived pretty quickly, just after what I swear was a woman screaming, “Oh, my God!”

There was a brief discussion at their door upstairs, then quiet. One of the officers came down, grinning, and said, “Yeah, it’s just one guy up there watching a soccer game.”

I’ve worked in a sports bar, and while I’m indifferent to sports, I detest rabid sports fans. Especially dudes who shriek like a woman being stabbed to death.

The officer and I agreed that it’s better to call just in case, and isn’t it nice that there’s nothing violent happening and all, so I didn’t confess my plan to smother the bastard with a chloroform-soaked pillow later this evening.

So the breathing is back to normal, and my chest pain has subsided. But now there’s a tic underneath my left eye, and I feel like a wet towel that’s been beaten on a rock.

Some of my exhaustion may also be due to the dead guy we found in our carport this morning. Naked, pants around his ankles, staring up at the ceiling.

Either way, I’m having wine and pizza, with a Sominex for dessert.

Mexican wrestling fan_free
I know it’s not about soccer, but I’m still getting my pillow.

 

Sweaty Betty, an Update

It took less than an hour after I posted my Fretty Betty Disorder story to develop a new obsession:

What if the memoir-writing class doesn’t get its minimum of five students? They’d have to cancel. So I’m in, but what if? I’ve had other writing classes cancel at another place.

Now I have a lemony-fresh thought to worry about. What a relief. I must be a stress junkie.

I do fight this. Really. I tell my brain about how popular this class is. It’s always full. There’s always a wait list. It’ll happen.

My brain thinks I’m a chump.

(Paul is Rachel, and I am both Monica and Phoebe – mostly Phoebe)

Fretty Betty Disorder

I have no off switch for worry. If there’s any way to chill and let things flow, I can’t find it.

Then there’s Paul, my vanilla-flavored glacier. He can’t envision a reason to push events forward at top speed or sweat about anything.

I don’t get it. Why doesn’t he recognize the value in unnecessary stress? It could be that he sees when I freak out, I’m no less uptight, but it’s more likely that there’s something wrong with him.

Like when I recently submitted a project description to apply for a ten-month memoir-writing class.

I said, “Oh, my God. I’ve waited a year to register for this. I thought I could just sign up. I have to wait for approval. The instructor’s going to scratch her head and wonder how such a moron could belong in her class.”

Paul’s response was as disturbingly calm and predictable as always: “Don’t worry, Sweetie. You’ll get in.”

How naïve.

So I spent sixteen years between August 8 and August 14 waiting to see if I would be accepted. I hit the refresh button on the submissions website seventy times an hour, and it stubbornly said, “Submitted” every time. No “Accepted,” or more sensibly, “Rejected.”

Then came August 14, and the site conceded that indeed I was “Accepted.” This bewildered me, but I was happy. For five minutes.

Then I realized there were probably 40,000 people applying for fifteen seats in the class, and they would all get into the class ten seconds after registration opened the next day.

Starting at 7:00 in the morning on August 15, I began checking the institution’s site, only to find that the “Register” button was available for every class but the one I wanted.

Trying to get any work done while hitting the refresh button every five minutes isn’t easy. Plus after three hours, I imagined that the class’s fifteen seats were full, with a wait list of 39,985 people ahead of me.

So I emailed the school, and they said, “Well, for this class, you have to register by phone. We sent you an email about it.” There was no email in my inbox.

Now my mind was whispering, “This is a special, secret society, and you don’t belong.” Made sense to me.

When I called and told the nice lady that I didn’t receive an email, she said, “The message is in the submissions site, which is a separate program from regular email.”

Of course the site has a separate email system. It’s a secret society. Why hadn’t I thought of that? But maybe I could still get in. I took a deep breath and asked if I could register, and she said, “Sure.” That was easy. Too easy.

Now I’m in the class, but part of me expects to be the accidentally registered sixteenth person, and I’ll be turned away on the first day. Still, that insane part of my mind hopes to be surprised in a pleasant way.

But I think my paranoia may not be a disorder after all. If I hadn’t fretted and sprained my finger hitting the refresh button and then finally asked, “What’s up?” I wouldn’t be in the class. So everything’s fine now.

But what if it’s not? What if my printed confirmation is the product of a random punking scheme? Thank goodness I have thirty-four days to worry about this. Otherwise I’d just have to invent another obsession.

Paul doesn’t know what he’s missing.

Neeners from Beyond

I’m trying to decide if it’s weird that I enjoy planning what will happen after I die, especially because so much of my pleasure is rooted in vengeance.

The last time I updated my estate documents was four years ago, just two weeks before I was scheduled to have a bit of cancer removed from my right kidney (or, as one of my bosses speculated, it was just a wine cork. My surgeon declined to confirm). So that go-round wasn’t as much fun as this time.

I recently reconnected with my cousin Lesli, who has an only daughter, Megan, so now I have blood relatives I actually speak to again. And unlike when I communicate with a couple other members of the family, when I talk to Lesli and Megan, I don’t want to kill myself, which is cool.

Plus this reconnection got me thinking about my will’s provisions if Paul dies before me (which is fairly moot-ish because he’s ten years younger than I am and takes way better care of himself than I do; although we Valleleys have a tendency to just keep living in spite of logic, so things are a tad mentally swirly).

Lesli and I grew up like sisters, which was handy because we’re only children, and Megan is like a niece to me even though we haven’t met yet.

Such is the power of the Internet to render the in-person meeting unnecessary to form relationships. Paul and I put our estate-planning and tax return preparation in the hands of an attorney and an accountant we couldn’t pick out of a line-up, and neither of us thinks it’s all that strange.

The control freak in me likes the idea of dictating my last wishes, and it tries really hard not to imagine anyone not following them. I mean, how would I do anything about it? I hope haunting and poltergeisting are real, just in case.

As for stuff and money, I get to decide who gets what and how much of it. There isn’t a vast empire to begin with, but even if I only had five beans, I’d enjoy the thought that I get to withhold all of them from certain people (and yes, to those two or three people who may have read all of my posts, I’m talking about Paul’s middle and younger brothers, MB and YB).

Maybe I sound petty, but I know those two boys will see everything I own as belonging to them just because I was married to their brother.

I know that because two hours after their father passed, as we were driving YB over to console their stepmother (because, as YB put it, “I’m too much of a delicate flower to drive myself anywhere at this awful time because this shock is affecting me more than anyone else, including Dad’s wife”—I paraphrase), out of nowhere, YB said, “We’d better get over there and divvy up Dad’s stuff.”

No need to offer an anecdote about MB to support my theory. Two peas. One pod. As YB’s girlfriend once described the group (both boys and their girlfriends), “We’re as thick as thieves!” Surgically precise writing.

So yeah, despite how heartbroken they’d be to see me go, I have good reason to believe my death will trigger a plundering that would make the Vikings look like a bunch of pantywaists.

So in addition to denying them a single penny, here’s the part of estate planning that has me cackling and rubbing my hands together like a B-movie villain:

Lesli and Megan are sweet, but they’re also tough people who can—and will, for me—body-block MB and YB from even crossing the threshold after I’m gone.

And I’ve got news from beyond for those two loving, caring lads: Megan is a total martial arts badass, and if they try to get in with their empty boxes and sticky fingers, she will have signed, notarized authorization from me to kick them into the next century.

Now it’s time for spreadsheets and office supply shopping. This is intoxicating. I hope reincarnation’s a real thing. I’d like to believe that I’ll be able to do this again and again throughout eternity.

I’ve decided. If it’s weird, I don’t care.

Mwah-hah-hah, etc.

 

Who’s Wearing the Smarty-Pants in this House?

For years, I’ve assumed I’m smarter than Paul. There’s no proof. It’s just nice to believe that. In fact, he has a master’s degree, and I have two associate degrees (which adds up to a bachelor’s degree, right?). So he’s a bit farther along in education.

At the very least, though, I’ve assumed I’m cleverer than he is, but I’m beginning to wonder.

Trying to get my handyman to do something (that doesn’t involve food) can be difficult. For twenty-two years, I’ve tried asking, sweet-talking, nagging, begging, and bribing, but if he’s not interested, the project will remain a theory. Possibly forever.

So recently when I decided to order parts, with permanent adhesive, to take care of something, I told him, “I got this stuff, and I’ll go ahead and take care of it.”

After two decades of watching me park the car at an angle between straight lines and put clothes on inside-out, Paul seemed a little worried, but I could see his look of amusement, and I could read his mind:

“She’ll never do it. She’s too scared she’ll get it wrong. And she will. She’s going to bug me to do it, but I’ll get around to it sometime. Maybe.” I paraphrase.

So he didn’t seem too worried as he said, “Great!

Game on.

Every couple of weeks, I announced, “I’m gonna take care of that today.”

Paul smiled, all patient and wise, and said—with a homicide-inspiring amount of patronizing in his tone—“Okay. Sounds good.”

The other night I’d had it with both of us. I grabbed the stuff I needed—including the permanent adhesive—and I asked, “Do you have something called ‘mineral spirits,’ Sweetie?” (Mineral spirits, it seems, are something that help clean up what those in the construction trade call “boo-boos.”)

I said this as I clipped the tip of the adhesive tube and grabbed the item to be glued—to the wall and the bathtub simultaneously.

I noticed an entire lack of smirk on his face. He said, “Sure. Let me get it for you” as he trotted to a closet while frequently looking over his shoulder to see how the glue application was going.

He set the mineral spirits on the counter and stood frozen, watching me actually do this thing.

Suddenly it dawned on him all the times I’d said during the last few months, “I’m so nervous to do this. You know I’m not handy. I’m so afraid I’m going to mess it up.”

Then the would-be hero of the story asked—with lots of helpfulness in his tone—“Would you like me to do that?”

I handed over the items so quickly I think I knocked the wind out of him.

My only question is: Why did it take so many years for me to figure this out?

Paul’s had it sorted for years: “If I prove that I can’t do something the way she wants me to, I don’t ever have to do it.”

His equation for working around me:

1 + 1 = 2

(Can’t argue with elegance.)

 

My equation for working around him:

 

complex logic_public domain
I’m confused, and I think Paul might be asking me for a threesome in this scenario.

I get who’s really the smart one.

 

Even the Bee Gees Can’t All Keep Stayin’ Alive

When I reconnect with someone from my youth, my first thought is “How cool. They’re still alive.”

This leads to a couple of questions:

One: Just how old do I think I am?

(Answer: Dead any moment now.)

Two: Is my reaction a glass half full or half empty?

(Answer: Half full because I’m happy these old friends are alive, but half empty because see question number one.)

I blame celebrities. If they’d stop dying, I might not think about my own mortality so much. I keep calling the still-alive ones to request that they live forever, but it usually results in restraining orders. Then they die. Probably to spite me.

I’ll just keep enjoying my life each day I’m here, working at home, hanging out with the cats, and listening to the newest certainly sane neighbor as he shouts helpful advice to all the “fuckin’ bitches” to “shut the fuck up.”

It’s the little things.

The_Lunatic_Asylum_public domain
Our neighbor warming up for his musical, “Shut Up, Bitches!,” based on a lesser known Bee Gee song.

Murdering My Inner Frump

Paul thinks we need to consult a personal stylist. To his credit, he was wise enough to say, “I need to,” but I believe the inclusion of me is clear.

Maybe this revelation has to do with the old sweatpants I was wearing the other evening that have a large vertical rip down the center of the buttular area.

Maybe it’s because everything we wear looks like we went out of our way to find something frumpy and ill-fitting.

I’m amazed by people who look well put together, and I’ve always assumed they were born knowing how to dress. But then I recently watched a documentary about Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and it seems her father demonstrated how to dress well. So she learned about this even though a large part of her DNA was stamped with “Oleg Cassini” and “Chanel.”

Perhaps Paul’s right. I’ve been less than pleased with my reflection in the mirror for years, and it’s not just about being overweight. I look like someone who’s been dressed by a person with a vendetta against me.

Maybe if I had nicer clothes, I’d take better care of them too. The other day I noticed that I’d popped a button on the waist of my favorite summer pants, which loosened the flap above the zipper. The result was the semblance of a bellybutton that was trying to escape through my blouse, Alien style.

I will eventually replace the button, but meanwhile, I just tuck the waistband flap into the top of my underwear, and my belly fat keeps it cinched down.

If we do get a personal stylist, they’d better have an emergency hotline number.

Victorian_Woman_fashion_public domain
How I see others
old peasant woman
Me, headed home from the store

 

I Put the I in IED

When I go too long without something to outrage me, I break out into hives. So I’ve added “lack of anger” to amoxicillin on my list of known allergies at the doctor’s office.

This condition is called “IED,” or intermittent explosive disorder, which I officially have because I found the term online. “IED” also stands for improvised explosive device, which means I’m fun-loving in an extemporaneous way, and people enjoy my company because they never know what’s going to happen.

It’s also great for Paul because I help keep his life on track by way of constructive nagging. Like the other day as he headed to work, and I thought he was late for his weekly meeting. I tried to resist the urge to say something about it, but I did anyway because my disorder forced me too.

He grunted something unintelligible, which I assume was “I’m so grateful for your concern. Without your supervision, I couldn’t even tie my shoes.”

After he left, I remembered that he teleconferences in the car until he can be at the meeting in person. I texted an apology even though I didn’t need to because I have a disease.

I was happy and not worried again, which was really upsetting. Then I read the newspaper. I feel better now.

plague
Rats didn’t bring the plague. It was sustained happiness. Chumps.

 

Image by Wellcome Images

 

 

The Battle of the Butter Spatters

I just read an article on the Internet that says millennials are obsessed with personal grooming. I haven’t particularly noticed this phenomenon, mostly because I rarely leave the house.

However, I have met quite a few young people who enjoy talking about how amazing they look in the mirror, but this may have more to do with the large amount of time I’ve spent in live theater. Now that I think about it, age doesn’t seem to be a barrier when it comes to aesthetic self-praise, so what’s your point, Internet?

I do blame the millennials for my growing lack of concern regarding my own appearance, though. I believe each new generation absorbs positive qualities from its predecessors, leaving older people husks of their former selves with Medusa hair and Howard Hughes toenails. I find this point of view preferable to accepting responsibility for running a comb through my hair and using the nail clippers.

This rationale, combined with Paul’s poor eyesight, is perfect for me, especially during times like last night. I was wearing one of Paul’s raggedy light-grey shirts when I noticed an old butter stain in the interboobular area. I thought that wasn’t very nice looking, so I changed from that shirt to one of his old hunter-green shirts. (The fact that I use terms like “hunter green” means I have a keen fashion sense.)

Paul said nothing about my wardrobe change, but as the evening wore on, I realized the green shirt looked like it had been on the losing side of a Gatling-gun butter fight in the Spanish-American War.

It was during one of the more famous charges led by Fabio, an Italian mercenary whose signature battle cry was “I can’t believe it’s not mantequilla—I mean burro!” after which he was drowned in a vat of olive oil by his own troops because he couldn’t tell the difference between dairy products and pack animals. Besides, it was siesta time, and the tapas delivery guy had just arrived.

So that’s how I ended up changing back into the light-grey shirt with just one stain.

Paul never noticed the switches in wardrobe, and I’ve chosen to believe it’s because his vision is clouded by love and not nearsightedness.

RoughRiders_public domain
Post-San Juan Hill Summit, where Teddy’s battle buddies persuaded him to edit his immortal phrase from “Speak softly, and carry a big stick of butter.”

 

 

Of Frying Pans and Fires

I’m feeling thankful for some lessons I’ve learned, and it’s only right that I express my gratitude.

I’m grateful to my in-laws for helping me understand that their concept of “family” is similar to what I learned as a child. The rollicking adventures of verbal abuse, taking advantage of others for a profit, and a pervasive sense of enraged entitlement give me a comforting sense of consistency. What a warm feeling.

I’ve especially enjoyed the holidays during the last couple of decades because that’s when my mother-in-law’s affectionate verbal punishments ramp up. It’s such a joy to be a punching bag, and when I pop back up like one of those inflatable clowns in a playroom, there she is like a champ, ready to pop me another one. Kapow! What fun.

I’m also grateful that my brothers-in-law have pointed out that I’m a greedy jerk for being upset that they didn’t pay the money they owe us, as they scampered off with a fat payday at our expense. They were correct to tell me, “You’re all about the money, Cindy.” What wisdom.

I’ve learned great lessons from my in-laws, especially about my own shortcomings. And even though I don’t speak to most of my biological family, it feels like I never left the hornets’ nest. What a cozy feeling of hearth and home.

Thank you, all. Seriously, there may be tears.

The_Borgia_Family_by Dante Gabriel Rossetti_public domain
My adopted family, the Borgias. Advantages: more exciting sins, and they’re all dead.