Monthly Archives: July 2011

20 Year High School Reunion

This past weekend I performed for my former classmates at our 20-year high school reunion.  I was more nervous than I realized and forgot about 1/3 of my set. Here’s what I said and what I didn’t…

Like every other teenager, I was extremely self-conscious in high school. I pretty much had one goal: to get through the 4 years without embarrassing myself… ever… in any way.  Naturally, I grew-up to do stand-up comedy.

This is the first reunion I’ve been to and I have two ideas about how you all remember me:
1. I succeeded in flying well under the radar and you have no clue who I am.
or
2. You remember me as one of the mean girls and hope I make a giant ass of myself up here.  If it’s the second one, I apologize… and I blame my friends.

The girls I hung out with in high school had big attitudes and big hair.  We didn’t go anywhere without our Marlboro Lights and a can of Aqua Net.  We went to Club Hollywood every weekend, dated guys already out of high school, and got into fights with lots of nail breaking and hair pulling.  I don’t know what happened to any of those girls—unfortunately none of them are here tonight.  I assume they all went on to become home-wreckers or DMV employees.

So I guess everybody who is here tonight is on Facebook.  My sister’s reunion was 3 years ago and her invitation came in the mail, like 6 months in advance.  But times change quickly and social media is the wave of the future.  I’m glad so many of you came out tonight—I was a little worried that this was going to look like one of our school dances, which usually topped out at about 16 kids.  Anyone remember the Reggae themed homecoming dance?  No?  See.

I’d like to think that some of us were pioneers in the social media movement back then.  When my friend, Breeze, turned 18 we wanted to throw a big party and decided the best way to get the word out was to stand in the parking lot of 7-11 on the U of O campus, handing out flyers that said “Huge Party. Free Jungle Juice.”  Jungle Juice, for those of you who don’t know, is a cocktail made by mixing the cheapest, nastiest hard liquor money can buy with grape kool-aid or Hawaiian Punch.  Anyway, we passed out around 100 of those flyers; that was our social media.  At about 3 a.m. on the night of the party, Breeze and I sat huddled together in fear as 150 total strangers slam-danced around us.

At 16 I did not yet have my driver’s license, but I did have the driver’s license of a short, 26 year-old Hispanic woman named Lupita.  Lupita and I looked enough alike that I was able to use the ID at Rockin’ Rodeo, The Mill Camp, and any Dari-mart in town. So when prom came around and I needed money to buy a dress, I knew just what to do.  A few weeks before the dance, I took orders from my friends and talked my prom date into driving me to the liquor store after school.  We loaded his trunk with the booze and I charged everyone a steep handlers fee.  I don’t remember if I cut my date in on any of the profits, but he works in finance now, so I’m pretty sure I was an inspiration for his success.  I spent $117 on my dress and banked $82 in handler fees.  Not bad for my second business venture.

My first business venture was earlier that same year when I “borrowed” marijuana from my dad’s sock drawer and sold it at school.  It’s weird how things that seemed like harmless fun in high school now sound a lot like felonies.  If any of you grew up to become attorneys, I’d love to get your card before I go home tonight. (Side note: turns out one of my classmates is a prosecutor in the DA’s office… not quite what I had in mind.)  I would also like to take this opportunity to tell you that today I am a devoted and responsible mother with a college degree and a job.  Please don’t approach me about a maryjane hookup; I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure socks are the only thing hiding in my dad’s sock drawer these days.

I bet many of you have similar stories; growing up in Eugene gives one a certain frame of reference not found in kids from more normal places.  To illustrate this point I’ve prepared a list of the…

Top 10 Ways You Know You Grew-up in Eugene:

#10. You know the difference between tofu, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein.
#9. You know the difference between hemp and marijuana.
#8. At some point in your life, a significant part of your wardrobe was tie-dyed.
#7. At 16, your first car was the same beat-up old Volvo or Volkswagen you were conceived in.
#6. You, or at least 4 of your friends are named for a season, body of water, constellation, plant, or weather pattern.
#5. You, or at least 4 of your friends, are named Jennifer.
#4.  At some point in your life you “borrowed” marijuana from one of your parents.
#3. In high school your parents treated you like an adult but rarely acted like one themselves.
#2. You know who shot the sheriff AND the deputy.
And the #1 way you know you grew up in Eugene…  You can tell where one Grateful Dead song ends, and another begins.

My own parents went through the hippie-turned-yuppie evolution.  But back when they were hippies they wanted my sister and I to be well-rounded and have exposure to other cultures.  So every summer they sent us to stay with our racist grandparents in Florida.  When I was 8 or 9 years-old, Grandma and I were at a coffee shop having breakfast.  As she stirred her coffee she held up a sugar packet and said, “You know Jenny, the Jews, they steal these.”

This was very confusing information for a hippie-kid from Eugene whose lesbian mom read her “A Young Girl’s Guide to Feminism.”  I naturally assumed Grandma was talking about some form of social injustice that prevented jewish people from buying sugar at the grocery store like everyone else.  I imagined jewish mothers all over Florida trying to five-finger discount enough of those tiny packets to go home and bake some cookies. I wondered how far this thing went?  Who else was suffering from food oppression?  Were Hindus allowed to buy Miracle Whip?  I had a friend Rita who was a Sikh and I’d never seen a bag of potato chips in her house. Coincidence? You tell me.

I think those summers with my grandparents did balance things out for me.  I love the Oregon Country Fair and the Saturday Market, but I shop at the Gap. I listen to NPR in the morning and watch Access Hollywood at night. I shave my legs, but not my armpits. You get the idea.  This balance also helps me with the hardest job I’ve ever had—parenting my two boys.

In an average day as the mom of two boys I…

  • Feed, bathe, and dress them—sometimes in clothes the dog has not slept on.
  • Host play dates, referee Lego wars and rescue Lego POWs from the kitty litter box.
  • Shower them with love and affection, encourage their creativity, and Google “How to remove permanent marker from human skin.”

    The Price of a Shower

  • Wipe their bottoms, wipe their noses, and wipe away any memory of my former life.
  • Schedule Dr.s appointments and parent-teacher conferences and try to look intelligent, engaged and nurturing at both while my kid licks every flat surface in the room.
  • Laugh at their stupid knock-knock jokes that make no sense whatsoever while swerving across six lanes of traffic so we’re not late for “Tiny Tots Story Time” at the library.
  • While at story time, I repeat intelligent, engaging and nurturing behavior as all 17 tiny tots sing Ba Ba Black Sheep while eating their own boogers.

That’s pretty much my work day. I don’t get a lunch break and my co-workers follow me into the bathroom and watch me pee. I did all of these things today and I will do them all again tomorrow, until nap-time, when I plan to re-roof my house using the 7000 mismatched plastic lids in my Tupperware drawer.

After 7 years as a stay-at-home mom I have finally figured out how to get a break from the kids once in a while. Yep, I’ve gone back to work and I’m divorcing their father. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you all the gory details. If you want the gory details you will have to corner me later and buy me several drinks.

Marriage is a trip, isn’t it?  I doubt I will every get married again, but if I do I think I might try plural marriage.  I want to get me some Sister Wives.  Plural marriage seems like it would be a good thing, not because I think every man needs 3 women to take care of him — No.  For me it’s about the fact that I only need 1/3 of a man and… I’m good.

We all know about the unrealistic expectations some women have about romance and marriage—thanks to every fairy tale and Julia Roberts movie—but we rarely talk about the unrealistic expectations men have.  My personal favorite is the male expectation that marriage = endless sex without effort. For example: guys, when you were single and out on the town, did you ever turn to a woman and give her the elbow-nudge, point-to-your-junk, shoulder-shrug-question-mark-face?  Did that EVER get you laid?  I don’t think so.  If it did, you are either a rock star or a regular patron of whorehouses.  In either case, you probably aren’t ready to settle down.

Being single and dating again is a trip too— things seemed to have changed out there since my 20’s.
Women: raise your hand if, at any point in your 20’s, you met a new guy and you totally hit it off and you were so excited about how much you liked him that you called him 37 times in the next 48 hours? Bonus points to anyone whose phone call included the reading of poetry or journal entries.

Men: raise your hand if, at any point in your 30’s, you met a new chick and liked her so much that you sent her 37 text messages in next 48 hours?  Bonus points if your messages included dirty talk, poetry, or deeply spiritual thoughts.

In my late 20’s I was a walking, talking, biological clock that oozed desperation and had a long list of requirements.  I sized-up every man’s genetic stock, income potential, and commitment level.  Meanwhile the men I dated were just sort of cool and emotionally unavailable.

Now, in my late 30’s, I feel sort of cool and emotionally unavailable.  And my list of requirements is more like…

  • does he make me laugh,
  • does he turn me on,
  • does he do his own laundry?

On the flip side: half of the single men my age are out there because someone a lot like me got tired of doing their damn laundry.  They walk around with a look of desperation that says, “I am so scared I’m never going to have sex again and I’ve only got this one move: elbow-nudge, point-to-the-junk, shoulder-shrug-question-mark-face.”  Perhaps this is why so many of us single women are switching teams or moving to Cougarville.  Maybe the grass really is greener?

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Public Service Announcement

*To my friends and family: Please remember that if I am upset with you I will talk to you about it in person….not in a blog post. This isn’t about you. (o:

Check this out…

I have a friend who is also in the midst of divorce and when her husband was moving out, all their neighbors came out to see what was up with the U-haul in the driveway. Fine, normal, we’re all curious creatures. But one set of neighbors crossed all lines of polite behavior. When they asked what was going on, my friend’s husband quickly and directly said, “I’m moving out; we’re getting a divorce.” He hoped they’d go away, but they did not. Instead, they went on and on about what hard work marriage is and how, for the sake of the children, they should keep trying—otherwise they would ruin their children’s lives. And they said all of this right in front of the two children! These neighbors are not friends of the divorcing couple, have no real knowledge of the situation and… it’s none of their damn business! What is wrong with people??

One part of divorce I did not expect was how free people would be to judge, advise and question me. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked whether my ex and I went to counseling, I could probably afford the retainer fee of a decent attorney. It didn’t bother me at first but after the 73rd time, I started to twitch. The answer is yes (2+ years, 3 different counselors), and it didn’t help one single bit. I’m not saying counseling isn’t helpful in general; in my experience counseling is very helpful when the people on the couch speak the truth and invest themselves in the work. Otherwise, it’s just really expensive. In hindsight I think the money would have been better spent on hookers and housekeepers.

If I had a dime for every time someone has said to me, “You really need to…,” “You should…,” or “You have to…,” I could easily cover the attorney’s bill for the entire divorce. Divorce is an uncomfortable topic and it’s hard to know what to say when someone gives you sad news. While I can’t tell you the absolute best thing to say, I can give you a short list of what to avoid.

1. Don’t give advice unless you hear these words: “Do you have any advice for me?”
90% of the advice given to me is unsolicited and from people who don’t know me or my marriage very well. It’s getting pretty old. I have been a frequent giver of unsolicited advice myself, so clearly my karma was due, and I’m pretty sure this experience has cured me. If you are talking with someone and they say “Can you believe that?” or even “What do you think?” these are usually invitations for validation, not advice. Validation is comforting and sounds something like, “That must be really hard and I’m so sorry you are going through it.” If you are the generous and nurturing type you could even throw in, “Is there anything I can do to support you during this time?”

2. Don’t tell a woman (including yourself) to lower her standards or expectations in an effort to  find, manage, or fix a relationship.
Every woman on the ding-dang planet who has ever said this to another woman needs to check themselves. I would like to make a loud and public plea that we stop feeding each other this giant bag of B.S.. Seriously? Enough is enough. Yes, I’m sure that some women have insanely high standards and need a reality check from the people who care about them—but these women are in a very small minority (probably just Minnie Driver and one other chick I don’t know). Women’s relationship standards being too high is not one of the cultural crises facing the people of America. Trust me on this one.

I had no idea that Billy Ray Cyrus was Minnie's baby daddy!

3. Do not ask them how the spouse they are divorcing is doing. They don’t speak for them anymore. That’s kind of the point.

4. Don’t judge. None of us really know what happens in someone else’s marriage. The worst parts of a relationship are usually kept well-hidden from public view. Be careful what you say to or about someone going through a divorce. Your judgements will likely travel through conversations, across towns and eventually be added to the big pile of poo already sitting in the divorcee’s lap. Nobody needs that.

So what can you say?

“I’m sorry” is always good. No matter what happened, no matter who left who, even if it’s a mutual choice; divorce sucks for everyone involved. Curiosity about the details is natural, but tread carefully. A woman I know, when hearing my news, asked how long I was married and how many of those years had I wanted to be married. I thought this was a great way to put the question. If someone says “we were married for 10 years and I never wanted it to end,” you know more about how they are hurting, and it’s kinder than the “who left who” question. If they say “we were married for 10 years, but I wanted out after 6,” well then they probably feel a combination of grief and relief… and it’s probably safe to mention any hot single friends you’d like to set them up with in the future.

And now, I’d like to revisit point #2 (lower your expectations B.S.). I heard and followed this advice many times throughout my marriage and it always made things worse, not better. Always. I paid attention to the patterns; I cannot belabor this point enough. The less I expected and asked for, the less I got. I’m pretty sure it’s just physics… or something… sciencey. (I wish I’d known about this guy and listened to him instead.)

I am a very outspoken person (obviously) but when it comes to romantic relationships I have trouble being assertive about what I want and need. In my marriage I spent way too much time accommodating when I should have drawn lines in the sand. It was only when I spoke loudly and stood my ground like a prison guard that we made any progress. In the end, I think my marriage could have survived if I’d have done more of that.

So there we have it: my divorce is my own fault because I refused to behave like a prison guard, day in and day out. I have two kids; I do enough whip-cracking as it is. I waved the white flag and cried “Uncle!” Yes, relationships are hard work. Call me lazy, but I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life in a dead-end job.

Next time, I'm going for the haircut.

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