Jon took me out for a birthday dinner and Christmas celebration where we had planned on exchanging gifts. I had picked my favorite Thai food place—the one with the complicated cocktails called “Thai Me Up,” and “Phuket Passion”—and we were both dressed nicely, happy to see each other.
For some reason, though, we decided to exchange gifts in the car before going in. Maybe we knew something, sensed something, because this proved to be a good choice. Jon gave me my gift first. That is, to say, he reached behind the seat and pulled out a stuffed animal (unwrapped!) then handed it to me. “Happy Birthday.” Long pause. “And Merry Christmas!”
It was a stuffed cheetah. With a garish pink bow around its neck. I momentarily considered tying it around Jon’s.
But before you collectively string Jon up, you should know that I then handed him my gift. Perfectly wrapped with thick blue paper covered with embossed silver snowflakes and tied with glittery ribbon, it made a pretty picture.
Then he opened it. I had given him two books. Two literary books. “These were my favorite books this year,” I said proudly.
One of those books was on the Rwandan genocide. Because you know nothing says “I love you, Merry Christmas!” like a book on the Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan fucking genocide.
We both sat in the car for a full minute, staring at the peculiar gifts in our laps, wondering at them like an archeologist might wonder at some newly discovered specimen of invertebrate.
Yes, it might have been a sign. Probably several. One of which is definitely that no one should ever have to date me.
Today, on a marquee of an adult video store called Imagine That!:
“Back Door Outlet Store”
I nearly drove my car into the median.
My high school sweetheart, Olney, and I regularly broke up during the three years we dated. Often it would happen right before a formal dance. Which seems rather suspect, especially as I go through the dances I went to, the dresses I bought, and I realize we never attended one together. Highly suspect!
Regardless, on one such occasion, my friends and I were planning an elaborate dinner party for eight before the dance when Olney and I broke up two days before. “This is crap,” I said. “I’m going to find another date.” My friends were incredulous, but I did.
I took the butcher.
The night before the dance, my friend Nicole and I were buying some complicated red meat product, when the butcher (who was 22 and cute) asked what it was for. We explained, he flirted with me, I flirted back (as I am wont to do), and once I explained my predicament, he offered to escort me to said dance.
I distinctly remember doing some sort of jump-for-joy in the cereal aisle of Fry’s afterwards*.
The night of the dance, though, all of my friends had convinced me, during the hours of hair construction and makeup application and shoe discussion, that there was no way The Butcher would show. But show he did.
The other guys were in the front room of my house (my parents had taken my brothers out so that we’d have the space to ourselves) when The Butcher showed up. They all made small talk while I sent the other girls out to do a little recon. “Find out what he’s wearing,” I said. “And what kind of car he’s driving.”
Nicole and Tiffany conducted said recon, then came back with the goods: He had brought a dozen beautiful roses and was smartly dressed in a new shiny suit (this was 1990 people). But there was one detail that was too much. When Tiffany whispered, “Camaro” to me, I was overcome, and yelled out “CAMARO!” with the same joy the anunciador yells GOAL at a futbol match. Sadly, at that exact moment The Butcher was telling the other guys: “I hate it when girls just like me for my car.”
Then they all looked down the hallway where we girls were whooping like we’d hit the lottery.
This is the place where the secret blog entry would go. If I had a secret blog. Which I don’t. So there.
Me: I need help.
Friend R: Okay. With what?
Me: Don’t laugh.
Friend R: It’s that bad?
Me: I want help buying underwear.
Friend R: What?
Me: I want help buying underwear. Picking out cute underwear.
Friend R: I was just going to ask if you really needed a support system for buying
underwear. But then I realized you did.
Me: Happy now?
Friend R: Yes. Let’s go. And I’m making you go to the sword store!
In the car, a few months ago, as we drove through Salem near where Jon lives:
Thing One: Why did you and Jon break-up?
Me: It’s complicated, Thing One.
Thing One: Why is it complicated? Didn’t you guys love each other?
Me: Yes, but sometimes things just don’t work out.
Thing One: Why?
Me: You’ll understand when you’re older.
Thing One (gently, and with great care): Do you understand?
Months ago, on a marquee of yet another adult video store:
“Now we have gift cards! Buy some for Christmas!”
Because, certainly if a book on the Rwandan genocide says Merry Christmas, you can say it about 10 times better with a gift card from a porn shop: “Let’s celebrate Jesus’ birthday! Here’s a gift card so you can buy yourself some glitter lube!”
An email from Kari:
Every girl worries about the first date and all that. It’s natural.
And if she doesn’t, then I hate her already.
And finally, an old IM I found between Friend Omega (who became convinced that what I needed was a good sex rebound post-separation instead of dating anyone aka Jon) and I, circa 2005 about love, marriage, sex and fucking:
Friend Omega: Damn it TM why didn't you wait until you'd gotten dick like I said?
Terrible Mother: From whom?
Friend Omega: Anyone!
Terrible Mother: Well, I have been flirting with this grad student in the English department.
Friend Omegas: NO GRADUATE STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, TM!
Terrible Mother: I thought it was just for sex!
Friend Omega: NO!
Terrible Mother: And really, if it's a grad student, it doesn't count as sex. I'm pretty sure about this.
Friend Omega: Maybe, maybe, a graduate pharmacology major.
Terrible Mother: A pharmacology major?
Friend Omega: But English, Creative Writing, these sorts of things? No.
Terrible Mother: I'm not talking about marriage! I'm talking about SEX!
Friend Omega: I know what you're talking about. If you were talking about marriage, that'd be okay.
Terrible Mother: What? Why?
Friend Omega: Because marriage doesn't involve awkward avoiding-eye-contact moments until YEARS after the fact. Sometimes months, but months we can work with. Hours are tricky.
Terrible Mother: but you typically HAVE SEX sometime in marriage.
Friend Omega: No you don't.
Terrible Mother: I know this. I once had sex in marriage. That was a long time ago, though. I think The Spice Girls were still together.
Friend Omega: You had “married-sex.” You made love.
Terrible Mother: Shut up, Omega.
Friend Omega: “What are you making for the bake sale, TM?"
Terrible Mother: I don’t see your point, frankly.
Friend Omega: My point is that one night of naked debauchery makes for awkwardness the whole year round, not just at holidays like marriage does. Marriage is sustained debauchery.
Terrible Mother: is that what you're calling it now?
Friend Omega: Marriage is bauchery.
Terrible Mother: I knew you were typing that.
Friend Omega: You knew because I hit "Enter" and it showed you. That's no trick. You're no David Copperfield.
Terrible Mother: Well, you're no Siegfried and Roy!
Terrible Mother: Oh. Well…
*Before Fry’s became the individually-themed-mega-computer and home store, it was a grocery store. In Lodi and Stockton. No, I’m not kidding.
Listened to "Chan, Chan" from the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack while writing this.