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March 10, 2008 / Brittany Hendrick

I’m a longtime drug user

“We were laughing at you in the conference room today!” one of my co-workers gleefully announced to me as I returned from lunch.  I think he was just really happy because he wasn’t the one being made fun of by everyone for once.

“Oh, yeah?  About what?”

“Just check your voicemail,” he said.

“Is it going to make me laugh, too?”  I couldn’t wait to hear this.  And how did my name come up in group discussion anyway?

He promised that I’d find it funny.

The message began with a chorus of laughter from my boss and a handful of other co-workers.  My boss then went on to say that he gave everyone a “preview” of my outgoing voicemail message via speakerphone, in which I sound “very relaxed.”

Oh, I get it.  Later, I asked my boss if I sound that bad on my outgoing voicemail message.  He said that I do in fact sound like I’m stoned.  This is the same man who also gave me the nickname “‘Shroom.”  So this new joke is not so revelatory.

This isn’t the first time it’s been thought by others that I’m a stoner.  But the stereotypical tip-offs just aren’t there: I don’t have a dopey demeanor like Beavis & Butthead (though I can imitate them pretty well); I’m not spacey in that the only word that effectively escapes my mouth is “…whaaaat…?” when people talk to me.  Pupil size: normal.  Appetite: normal.  Affect: normal.  So how is it that I’ve induced drug user jokes all these years?

As far as people being wary of me and all the drugs I wasn’t doing, I can trace this back to 8th grade.  My friend Vickie and I lived within walking distance of each other (approx. 1 mile), so we spent a lot of time at one another’s houses.  All we would do is play pool and make Rice Krispies treats in the microwave at my house; and read/scoff at YM magazine and watch Beavis and Butthead at her house.

We weren’t deviants by any means.  We weren’t the ones mired in slut rumors.  We weren’t the ones who got busted selling LSD at a high school football game.  Yet I always got the impression that Vickie’s mother did not like me; I felt it even back then.  I was always polite and respectful with her, as I was raised.  But still, I knew that she thought I was a bad influence on her daughter.  What could the “tell-tale sign” have been, though?

Since I never showed up at her house high, the only reason I can come up with is that I liked that weird rock music stuff!  Only bad people who are going to Hell listen to rock music.  And I was the one with headphones attached to my ears from the years 1987 through 1997.  And I liked the top two bands that no parents (except mine, who didn’t care) wanted their child to be exposed to: Guns n’ Roses and Nirvana.

 

As my left-of-center music tastes grew and followed me throughout high school, so did my false non-reputation.  The fact that I listened to college radio did not help.  I was into bands that NOBODY else knew about (kind of lonely… no one to talk to about Pavement and Sonic Youth and Melvins and all).  It was the “unknown.”  So I must’ve been on drugs.

Funny thing is, I didn’t go to parties and hang out with people using drugs.  I had my stoner friends in class, but outside of school I was in my own world (therefore, on drugs).  But people were so certain that I used drugs– or desperately wanted me to be a drug user– that an outright lie was fabricated about me.  My sister’s boyfriend (a stoner) at the time told people that he saw me smoking pot at a party.  And my dumbass sister (former stoner) believed him!  First of all, I didn’t go to parties.  I didn’t have to.  I could drink alcohol at home, thanks.  Second, I’d never be at the same party as that guy!

My mom never worried or wondered if I was on drugs, but I think my dad did.  I’ve only had one argument with my father.  He got mad at me once because… I still don’t even know why.  The headphones were attached to my ears, I was in my own world, and I guess that was of growing concern to him.  I remember him complaining, “You don’t talk to me.  You don’t even look at me!”

Um, Dad, I’m 14 years old– I don’t want to look at or talk to ANYONE; in fact, I don’t like ANYONE or ANYTHING right now.  Because I’m 14, see…

He probably thought I was on drugs, but couldn’t articulate it.  It was that weirdo rock music.  It was all I cared about.

The falsehoods continued into my adulthood as “evidence” mounted: my music tastes; the industry in which I work; my friends; my laid-back, laissez-faire personality and my creativity.  One particular creative endeavor on which I worked, jokes were made that I sniffed glue.  People have offered me marijuana, and upon my refusal they say, “Oh… I would’ve taken you for someone who smokes.”  Moreover, people can’t even believe that I’ve never tried marijuana.  I really have to convince them, because apparently I have this aura about me that I have smoked or do smoke.  I like surprising people.

My boss calls me ‘Shroom because he once asked me, “What are you doing back here, growing psychedelic mushrooms?”  It so happens that my office is in the far back corner, hidden from foot traffic.  I work with the lights off, except for a small lamp on my desk.  My walls are covered with band posters and Frank Kozik artwork.  CDs are everywhere.  The guy who waters our plants reminds me to turn on the fluorescent lights at night so my plant doesn’t die (I’m on my second one).  My weirdo rock emanates from my office, and sometimes my boss asks, “WHAT are you listening to?”  And I’m very relaxed.  I suppose I’ll always be this character that invites drugs questions and jokes.

In conclusion, according to my calculations, I’ve been on drugs for 16 years.

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