Posts tagged ‘Humor’
When I was in elementary school we spent some of my formative years living in the world’s smallest town – not really; it just felt like it. It was a town of less than 2,000 people. In this town, there was a boy in my class named Mark Mattson. Mark Mattson was a really mean kid, and he was particularly mean to me. He was a downright little jerk.
Now, looking at this from the attitude of an adult, I can see that the kid had a lot to be a jerk about. Since we lived in a small town everyone knew everyone else’s business. Mark was the youngest of three brothers born to an alcoholic lawyer father who had since sobered up, and an alcoholic mother who had not. His father left his mother for a younger woman, and Mark was the only kid young enough to still have to live at home with a bitter drunk. This might have been enough to make any otherwise nice kid mean. When you’re a kid, though, you just think that other kid is mean, mostly because the kid was MEAN.
When I was in the third or fourth grade, poor Mark Mattson got cancer. He had lymphoma to be exact, although I don’t remember any details about it beyond that, and I’d be shocked if we knew them. Mark went away for an extended stay at a children’s hospital that specialized in treating pediatric cancers. During this time everyone in our class at school had to write a get well card to Mark Mattson.
Mine read like this:
You know that I don’t like you very much. I cannot tell a lie. You’ve been mean to me.
Even though I don’t like you, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, and I hope you get well soon and don’t die.
Yep. I was like George Washington with axe, ahem, I mean pen in hand. Mark Mattson recovered from his bout with cancer and returned to Tinytown. In fact, you’ll be happy to hear that I can find him on Facebook, which means that he survived to live to nearly forty years of age so far, a kind of remarkable feat for anyone with childhood cancer.
When Mark came back to school, there was much fanfare and hoopla and cake and a party. Mark got up and spoke to everyone and thanked us for our letters and well wishes. He gave a special shout out to me. He read my letter outloud to the class and teachers and parents who were present and then collapsed in hysterical laughter and thanked me personally.
Who knows? Maybe laughter really can cure cancer.
To my credit, I was at least embarrassed by this scene. And all kidding aside about the healing power of laughter, maybe I learned a lesson that there is such a thing as too much honesty. Maybe some things should just remain forever unsaid.
I think I’ve previously mentioned my penchant for stalking. I love “cyberstalking,” and I first became the accidental stalker when I was in ninth grade, and my parents moved me to an Oklahoma City suburb that one of my junior high classmates had moved to the year before. There I was in his band class. He didn’t seem thrilled.
I love coincidences like that. The second time I became an accidental stalker I was in my mid to late twenties. This man was the man that got away. Sigh with me now.
His fake name is Mark Foster. Naturally, he was not attracted to me at all. If he had been, then I wouldn’t have been interested. My level of attraction to a man is curved on an exact correlation with his level of indifference to me. I have a girlfriend who describes it as Groucho Syndrome, after a quote by Groucho Marx, in which he said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
I first met this guy at my workplace. At that time in my career, I was working for a publicly traded company in Dallas, in their corporate offices, as an administrator for their 401(k) plan. Mark Foster was an auditor for Ernst & Young. They would send an army of these guys to go over quarterly for our financials before an SEC filing or the publication of the Annual Report.
Mark was the only one of the auditors who didn’t go out to lunch every day with the battalion of suits. He would join us in the break room and eat homemade leftover spaghetti. He was clever, and he had a really great dry sense of humor. Something would come out of his mouth, with that completely deadpan face, and I would laugh a week later.
He used to take public transportation and ride his bike to work, and he was training to compete in some Iron Man Triathlon. He was totally adorable with this full head of wavy blond hair and wire rimmed John Lennon spectacles.
Now it would be inaccurate to say that he didn’t like me. We eventually became good friends, but more the sort of friends who hang out in groups. I am sure that he was won over by my wit, ‘cause it sure as hell wasn’t by my looks. I was still losing weight from my first adult porker fest. I probably easily gained one hundred pounds total the first year I lived on my own. I lost it slowly, and when he met me I was about halfway there.
I am convinced that I won him over with two lines. The first was a reference to E&Y’s staid dress code.
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Yes.” He looked scared.
“Do they really make you all shop for your clothes at the same department store?”
“Yeah, I didn’t really care which. I can see now, of course, that there might be advantages to marrying John Denver.”
We spent a lot of time together at work that year because he was the one they sent to audit our 401(k) plan. No one likes auditing retirement plans. It’s tedious and detail oriented and boring work involving a bunch of tax laws that you couldn’t possibly know unless you dealt with them on a daily basis. I’m sure Mark didn’t want to do the work.
But for me, ‘cause of my little crush, it was great fun. I learned a lot about accounting and finance from him, and he learned a lot about 401(k) plans from me. Because no one wants to do retirement plans you never get the same person two years in a row. You always get the kid who’s wet behind the ears, and after that year I didn’t see Mark again at work.
Fast forward about a year or maybe a little less. I’ve lost all the weight now, and I’m skinny. I’ve decided to get together with a couple of other single girlfriends and find a church home that we can all agree on. We visit churches on a weekly basis until we can decide on one that we all want to call home. Then we take turns cooking lunch afterward at one of our homes.
We found a non-denominational Bible church in North Dallas that we all liked. We had been there about three Sundays. We were all in agreement that this was where we were going to stay. They had a young singles class that was perfect for people our age, and one of our little group was dating the singles minister there. The singles minister’s name was Buddy.
One day after Sunday school, I’m seeing someone very familiar looking from behind. We usually took turns making and serving breakfast. One week you’d make muffins, and the next someone else would bring a Crock Pot full of breakfast casserole. I think that’s Mark, hovered over the bagels. Really. What are the odds? Do you know how big Dallas is? Well, they probably aren’t as long as I’d like to think they were because it wasn’t a sign that the stars were lining up for us to be together.
That is how Mark and I came to really be friends and hang out together socially. During this time he apparently was reconciling with a former fiancée of which I had no knowledge and was saving and planning to go to graduate school for his MBA at UT. The height of our communion together consisted of him playing and singing to The Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine” while I sang along in perfect harmony, and him pulling me over a rock wall, supporting my entire weight with one hand. I am sure I looked astonished, always the fat girl on the inside, and he laughed.
During this time, my dating life was pretty predictably one date here, a couple dates there. I made up little stories and jokes about it and shared them with my friends. For a while I was seeing an intern at Parkland that I met through a church function until he totally blew me off on Valentine’s Day. His name was also Mark, a fact that caused my friends to ask, during conversation, “Mark Mark? Or Dr. Mark?”
When Mark Foster quit his job, bought a Land Rover, and sold most of his material possessions to finance graduate school, I was secretly forlorn. Well, maybe not so secretly. The day he left, Buddy the singles minister said he had a song he needed to play for me, and it was David Wilcox’s acoustic cover of John Waite’s, “Missing You.” If you haven’t already heard it, then you should go to the internet now and play it. I know you’ve heard the eighties overproduced version, but seriously, you should listen:
Mark and I emailed back and forth, not much, but occasionally. I always, always initiated it, because I am slow to learn lessons like that you should never, ever pursue a man and expect a happy ending out of it. He broke up with the fiancée. A girlfriend of mine who had seen them together came back and reported, like a spy, that they looked to have a contentious relationship, and that for two people who were about to get married, they hardly touched.
Of course, she wasn’t nearly as cute as me. When I would show photos of Mark to friends of mine who hadn’t met him, they would always respond, “The nerdy looking one? You’re sure he’s not interested in you? Have you looked in a mirror lately?”
The company I worked for in Dallas sent me to do retirement plan seminars at their plants in Austin and Buda, and when I knew I was going to be making the trip, I emailed Mark and asked him if he wanted to meet me for a drink. He did! We met at Matt’s El Rancho for a margarita, and he brought a statistics book. He beat me there and was studying while he was waiting for me. He talked about his pain and disappointment about the break up, and he let me amuse him with my serial dating anecdotes.
When I told him Dr. Mark completely blew me off on Valentine’s Day because he later said that he wasn’t feeling well, Mark said, “Was he in a coma?”
This is where our story starts to take on a Felicity Porteresque quality. About a year later, I am unhappy and bored at my retirement plan job, so I start to put out feelers to look for work elsewhere. I figure that I can work for a brokerage firm or a records keeper and get my securities licenses and certifications and make a lot more money.
So, I had two interviews. One was with Fidelity Investments in Dallas, and another was with a turnkey outfit that I admired for a long time, a company in Austin. Fidelity decided to pass, but the other company wanted me.
They wined and dined me at The Shoreline Grill, interviewed me at a hotel in Dallas, agreed to pay my moving expenses and for a hotel while I looked for a place to live, and were going to pay me eight thousand dollars more in annual salary than I was currently making. Stalking Mark was a no brainer. Someone was going to pay me to do it this time.
By this time, we’ve just passed the Y2K panic, Mark has graduated and is working for some ubiquitous dot com start up that’s financed by some ubiquitous venture capitalists. I eventually lost my fancy schmancy job, and I am now temping around town and attending a church downtown where I met this dark haired, blue eyed young man named David. David and I start seeing each other casually. I liked him, and I had fun, but that’s all it was.
The church was sponsoring some cook out thingy at Emma Long Park, and I was going with David on a date. On the spur of the moment, I decided to send Mark an email, asking him if he wants to come with us. I mention that I will be bringing a date, and that he should come and bring someone as well, and that is the last I ever hear from Mark Foster.
At the picnic, David meets the woman who will eventually become his wife. Many years later, I hear that Mark Foster moved to Houston, started his own business with a friend who lost his job in the Enron scandal, got married and had a baby boy that he named after a famous Scientologist rock star. Well, okay. You caught me. I didn’t hear anything. I googled.
Tuesday morning at approximately five o’clock in the morning I was rudely awakened first by barking dogs and then by two police officers in my courtyard looking for a fugitive who, unbeknownst to me at the time, had apparently parked his car on my front lawn in the midst of a hot pursuit. If the cops had shared that tidbit of information with me at the time I could have told them where the fugitive ran. He scaled the fence that separates my property from some other duplexes on another cul-de-sac that is, unless you use the “shortcut” that we have to keep boarding up and screwing No Trespassing signs to, several blocks’ walk away. But they didn’t ask me that.
What they did ask me was this:
Did you see a man run through here? No.
Can we search your backyard? Sure.
Is there a man hiding in there with you? Oh, good Lord, no.
Do you live alone in there, a two-bedroom duplex? No man, no kids? Yes.
What kind of dog is that? A weiner dog.
All of this was asked through my bedroom window, which was open. No lectures please. It’s not visible from the street. During the whole conversation I am worried that the policemen can view the vibrator on my nightstand with their flashlights, like this should be my biggest worry when they are obviously wondering if I might have been harboring a fugitive. I should have been waving it in their faces. Look! See? That man who parked his car in my front lawn is not my boyfriend. I haven’t gotten any since May. I promise. And what are you doing later? I like a man in a uniform.
I am used to people thinking of me as some sort of social anomaly. I am a thirty-eight year old single white woman who has never been married and has no kids and lives alone with a weiner dog in a two bedroom duplex in northeast Austin. My Mexican neighbors shake their heads in a mixture of sympathy and perplexity at my apparent unwillingness or inability to procreate. I think I’ve answered the question in previous posts about why I am childless. I have never fully answered the question of why I am still single. The short and politically correct answer, I guess, is that I never found “the one.” But why not?
Why not? It’s a good question. Other people fall in love and couple up. Why not me? (They’re writing songs of love, but not for me.) Well, the great thing about the internets and Facebook is that you can really examine this stuff at great length, complete with pictures of the men you used to date (or even just wanted to date) and pictures of their wives and kids and girlfriends and fiancées. You can congratulate yourself or beat yourself up, rehash what has already been overanalyzed like a horse that was beaten to death and then sent to the glue factory. Wake up and smell the Elmer’s.
One of my favorite exes is a guy that I dated very briefly in college. He has a real name, but we always called him by the name of a very famous cartoon animal from the funny papers. I’ll call him Marmaduke. I was no older than twenty at the time and still living with my parents, as in I had never moved out. He was older. Twenty-five or twenty-seven. I forget now. God, was I nuts about Marmaduke! Everyone was. He was just the most charismatic sort of guy. He waited tables at an oyster bar then. I think maybe he was in school to be a paramedic. Now he’s a firefighter. All my friends were crazy about him, too. All my guy friends thought he might be the coolest guy who ever lived. All my girlfriends were envious when he asked me out. I felt like I won the dating lottery. Why me, God? I have done nothing to deserve that the dating gods would smile on me so.
After about six or eight weeks of bliss, one evening I went over to Marmaduke’s and his roommate’s. We had a double date going on. His roommate was dating someone I was friendly with, and we had dinner over there and watched a movie. It was like any other evening I had spent with him in tone, and I never saw it coming. We went to his room. I think we made out a little. I remember he had the largest hands. I used to like to hold my hands against them, palms together and be amazed at how they would dwarf mine. Later I would write a poem about this, as if it were some sort of profound revelation and I was the first woman to ever do that sort of thing.
He said he had something to talk about, which should have been my first clue. Then Marmaduke said that I was a really great girl and that he liked me very much but that he had no intention of getting serious. I could feel the blood rush to my face, start to pool in my head. The whole pallor of the world changed, and I had the feeling that this was not real. That I would wake up the next day and realize that it had never happened, and it was all a bad dream. Then I would call up Marmaduke and we could go out for coffee with all our friends.
Serious? Who said anything about being serious? Not me. I was all for having fun. There had been no serious discussions, no pressure to commit. I was committed to getting that piece of paper that guaranteed that I had jumped through enough liberal arts hoops. And then he said that he had felt pressured by my friends, that they all seemed to be steering him toward our inevitable supercouple status. It made him uncomfortable. It made him feel like a heel. And for a split second I hated my friends, every last one of them. He could not be dissuaded. He could not be talked, begged or reassured out of it. Not that I would have begged, anyway. And that was that. We stopped seeing each other. C’est la vie.
That weekend was Superbowl weekend. We were both at a Superbowl party the very next night. I observed the pressure he had previously experienced myself. How are you and Marmaduke? You two look so great together. Why aren’t you sitting together? How’s that going? I dodged the questions. I left the party early and went to get some coffee with a girlfriend that I spilled the beans to. Screw it. Let Marmaduke explain to them what happened. He dumped me. That should be his responsibility. And eventually, the grapevine did inform everyone. I never had to answer any questions.
A mere week or so later I was playing pool with Marmaduke’s roommate and some of his friends. I was able to gather from the conversation that he was now living with some woman. Huh? And that’s when I found out that Marmaduke’s roommate was not really his roommate. I learned that he’d actually been living with a girlfriend at the time that I met him, a fact that I was absolutely certain had been purposely withheld. They were having problems. She had kicked him out of the house. How long ago? Exactly one day before he finally asked me out after months of flirting. And now she had crooked her little finger and he had come running to sleep on her couch.
My rage and righteous indignation were something that only the very young should be capable of experiencing. After all, there is worse villainy in the world. I think every last one of my male friends had known about the live in girlfriend and also known that I didn’t know. I was learning that men stand up for their own kind, regardless of their alliances with women.
“What? Do I have Spalding stamped on my forehead?” I bellowed at the top of my lungs.
They looked at me like I had sprouted a second head. They didn’t know what I was so angry about. He had needed someone to make him feel good about himself, someone with whom to have fun. And I was nothing if not fun. I am the original good time girl. How had this hurt me? I got several free dinners out of it, after all.
That’s pretty much the story of Marmaduke. He never did really reconcile with the girlfriend. He tried. She wouldn’t take him back. With enough time we became friends again and once we even made a botched attempt at being physically intimate with each other. I was in the habit of being way more physical with exes than I had been when I was actually dating them, as if I could not handle the simultaneous risk of both my heart and my body. One at a time, please.
We ran into each other again several years after I graduated when he was living with the woman who is now his wife and the mother of his children. We were at church, and when I showed up with some friends they purposely let me stand beside Marmaduke, on the other side of the girlfriend, who introduced herself later as “practically married” to him. Funny. I don’t see a ring. He was genuinely ecstatic to see me, surprised, gushing over how great I looked. And that really was the end of it.
Why did I tell this story to explain why I never got married? Is it because I think of Marmaduke as the one that got away? No. I have no regret about that. I tell the story only because it is typical of my dating relationships prior to the Rat Bastard except that I usually did the dumping. I may have been overly picky. I once refused to keep seeing a really cute guy that I had a terrific time with on a date, largely because he couldn’t tell the difference between Sinatra and Bobby Darrin on a recording of, “Mack the Knife.” That was really the final straw for me. A gay friend of mine said I should have given the guy another chance since the orchestral arrangement on both recordings is exactly the same.
I sometimes secretly think that men are good for nothing. But then I realize that that’s completely unfair. They are, after all, good for disappointment. They are really great at managing to make you feel like shit about yourself from about the time you start to grow hips and breasts until, I presume, the time that you get your first hot flash. Maybe longer. And it is this attitude that probably, more than anything, is why I am still single.
I hate voicemail. I don’t have much choice about answering the voicemail at work. However, my personal voicemail will sometimes accumulate to the point that I have to empty it because I have no space left. I usually don’t listen to the entire message. Just enough to tell whom it is and then delete it. Yesterday I was listening to my voicemail, and it made me laugh.
I have a good girlfriend that you might actually say is my best friend. I’ve known her for about six years now. She’s amazing. She’s one of those women that you aspire to be but never will. She’s Barbie doll beautiful, super smart, and one of the most generous persons I have ever known. She’s so perfect even her feet are pretty. I met her at a temporary job I was working once. We were both talking about Dennis Lehane’s book, Mystic River, and how much we had liked it. Clint Eastwood had just come out with the movie version, and so that weekend we made plans to go see it. The rest is history.
She’s been my friend since right after the break up with the Rat Bastard when I was still espousing theories on how he was obviously a dangerous sociopath. I’ll call her Lubbock. She’s eaten my mother’s homemade chicken and noodles with both my parents, lugged me around with crutches in her car after my ankle surgery when I was stir crazy to get out of the house and go somewhere, and been the person with whom I get my very first sunburn at the pool every summer. In return, I have lugged her around in crutches after she broke her foot, listened to the stories of previous prospective boyfriends (including the New York City coffee shop heir!) and gone home with her and her current boyfriend, Lineman, for Thanksgiving.
We called that Thanksgiving the trial by fire. We all drove to Houston together, and it was the first time that both Lineman and I had met Lubbock’s family. We needn’t have worried. Well, actually, I wasn’t worried period, since all my friends’ parents have loved me since the beginning of time, being such a “good influence” and all. I can’t help it. I’m like catnip for parents. But Lineman was really worried. He won friends and influenced people by washing the dishes. I spent that same time talking to Lubbock’s eccentric grandmother, Nana. I take it that everyone was actually more impressed with my efforts with Nana than Lineman’s dishwashing, but I got the better end of the deal because I find Nana genuinely charming, and I didn’t have to wash dishes!
To make a long story short, after the Thanksgiving by fire, maybe because we were both the only strangers among family, or maybe, as Lubbock likes to say, because we are both Tauruses and just “get” each other, we bonded, and now Lubbock and Lineman and I are all three the best of friends. When Lineman got his iPhone it was only natural that he would turn to me for help with it since I am generally acknowledged to be by far the most technologically adept of our little threesome. I fixed him up and gave him an iTunes gift card I had. In return, among other favors we exchanged that weekend, Lubbock insisted that Lineman send me a picture by email attachment that he had taken of his penis using his new iPhone. Don’t ask. My friends are weird. But Lubbock is awfully proud of Lineman’s supposedly perfect cock. I don’t remember what happened with this actually, but in the end I did not get an email with a picture of the famous dick.
What I did get instead was a voicemail message some months later. Actually, it was three voicemails. The first one was from Lineman, wanting me to join him and Lubbock for a drink somewhere. The second one was from Lubbock, presumably also inviting me to join them. The third voicemail was from Lubbock again, exclaiming that Lineman had discovered that whenever he dials my number from his iPhone the previously mentioned penis picture pops up on his display and that he was paranoid that whenever I received a phone call from him the same picture would pop up on my cell phone as well. And as I was chuckling over that idea it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should check my voicemail more often.
Since I’ve been at my current workplace I have perfected the concept of the work boyfriend. The work boyfriend, for those of you who may be unfamiliar, is an unmarried, un-attached straight man that you work with who is willing to hang out with you at lunch and on breaks and a man who gives good chat. The purpose of the friendship is primarily for amusement. It is never to be taken seriously. The idea is that it’s all the fun aspects of an actual relationship without any of the negative aspects, such as, for instance, high anxiety and eventual profound disappointment. It is not an actual dating arrangement or a “relationship,” nor is it meant to evolve into one. In general, if said relationship evolves, it evolves into something I’ve coined as the undate.
The undate is any excursion made outside of work by you and the work boyfriend, or any friend of the opposite sex with whom you enjoy a mildly flirtatious rapport. The outing is like a date except that you usually go dutch and you aren’t going to be making out. Now, in truth, I realize that the male half of the undate may still think that this is leading somewhere other than friendship and/or that if he plays his cards right he might get some. However, since he’s been forewarned that that’s not going to happen, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about bursting his bubble. After all, I am fun to hang out with, even if you don’t get to make out with me.
The first work boyfriend I had at my current workplace was someone that I like to refer to as Work Boyfriend .5. We never evolved into the undate phase. This is actually a good thing since Work Boyfriend .5 was kind of an ass. We agreed on next to nothing. He was downright rude. His hobby was playing Call of Duty on the internet and drinking Gatorade. He was probably close to a hundred pounds overweight but thought fat women should be shot by firing squad. His idea of a dream job was being a law enforcement officer so that he could lord it over other people. If you can imagine Barney Fife being played by Kevin James if Barney also had Archie Bunker’s political views and a Dilbert desk job, then you know Work Boyfriend .5. But Work Boyfriend .5 was hilariously funny. And since the purpose of the Work Boyfriend is primarily for amusement, he served his purpose. Thank you, Work Boyfriend .5! Live long and prosper!
While Work Boyfriend .5 was still on the scene, I met Work Boyfriend 1.0. Work Boyfriend 1.0 was like the new and improved version with almost all of the bugs worked out. The biggest thing was that he wasn’t an ass. Work Boyfriend 1.0 was actually kind to me. Other bonuses were that he was better looking and we actually agreed on things sometimes. We are still friends to this day, despite the annoying presence of an actual girlfriend nixing any flirting potential, a six month falling out over what I like to refer to as “the infamous cell phone incident,” and the fact that we no longer work together.
I met Work Boyfriend 1.0 during a phase in which Work Boyfriend .5 and our other buddies and I were trying to figure out who was gay and who was straight at work. Work Boyfriend 1.0, when I met him, was mourning the loss of a female friend who got back together with an ex-boyfriend and decided she could no longer hang out with him after the reconciliation. That situation, combined with several seconds of him talking to my tits, convinced me that he was straight.
Sometime shortly after Work Boyfriend .5 left the scene due to an unfortunate incident that involved his typical rudeness, Work Boyfriend 1.0 and I evolved into the undate phase of our friendship. I think the first excursion was to go shoot pool after work. After that, we began doing things regularly outside of work. Work Boyfriend 1.0 was separated and going through a divorce at that time, so for me, there was never any question of its being anything other than a friendship, but I did have a fierce crush. At one point in time, I would blush scarlet at the mere mention of his name.
Work Boyfriend 1.0 and I were both lonely, and two lonely people recognize one another. I credit him with getting me to get out of the house to spend time with people, stop hibernating with my dog and drinking alone so much. At the height of the friendship, our boss used to say that there was so much giggling and general sounds of merriment on the row where we sat, that it was like Disneyland on crack.
Work Boyfriend 1.0 accompanied me to church. It became like a regular weekly outing with breakfast afterward, for several months. Sometimes he invited other friends to join us. He encouraged me to join a small group with him, and I made even more new friends that way. You might even say that Work Boyfriend 1.0 drastically improved the quality of my life.