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December 7, 2008 / Brittany Hendrick

Daft, not deft: suffering from foot-in-mouth disease, t-shirt Hell

Disclaimer: This entry is really long, but it must be remembered that I am writing for myself, creative writing, first; audience second.  Besides, this makes up for not writing anything in several months.  So if anyone reads it, great, thank you.  If no one wants to read it, fine– Highlights can still be found on newsstands.

Everyone is weird.  Just like everyone is neurotic.  That is normal human psychology.  There is nothing wrong with that– until you start treading into sociopathy and clinical personality disorders (DO NOT CLICK ON THAT!).

 

By and large, we all, as humans, have our “thing”, our idiosyncrasies.  Here are some of mine, which people already know.  This excludes my general absentmindedness:

— I want to be the Arby’s oven mitt for Halloween. (weird)
— I do not like my purse touching the floor in public places. (neurotic)
— Every time I order a Stella Artois I think, and may even say, “Stelllllllaaaaaaa!!!!” (weird)
— I tell the bartender to give me Stella in a regular pint glass and not that goblet. (neurotic)
— I do not like coffee, mayonnaise, butter or egg yolks, unlike most of the western hemisphere. (weird)
— I won’t stick my hand in dirty dishwater, but I’ll clean a toilet with a rag despite myself being slightly anal retentive.  What.  Those stupid brushes don’t work very well. (neurotic, neurotic and neurotic)

It may be said that we either try to hide or are apologetic about our idiosyncratic behavior.  Why?  If we possess neuroses to some safe degree, then why are we fearful of being judged by other neurotics?

I guess I am sensitive to examining this because my mom was a sociology teacher, so this mode of thinking is within me.  My brother, sister and I were raised a certain way, the same way, and raised very well.  Yet our parents encouraged us to be individuals.  We were never forced to think a certain way (i.e. politically), dress a certain way, make certain career paths, etc (though Mom wishes I had become an actuary or accountant.  Oh, well.).  My mom’s goal was for her kids to be “properly functioning members of society.”  We were taught to be socially conscious; self-aware but not self-conscious.

 

However, I tend to examine my existential world a little too closely sometimes.  I will admit that.  In particular, I unleash this examination ad nauseam when I fear that I have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by people.  It’s not a fear that keeps me from being myself in-the-moment.  It’s a post- fear: after I say something, after I write something, after I do something.  Impulsivity is not to blame– I always speak and act with purpose.  Yet even with forethought, even with awareness, even with full anticipation of potential outcomes, there are instances when things end up making me look… well… weird.  It’s especially chafing when this gross misrepresentation of myself is unjustified or circumstantial.

Normally, being viewed as “weird” or “different” or the polite cousin, “unique,” doesn’t bother me.  I’m probably thinking you’re weird, too, so who cares.  I’d like to think that– SOMEDAY– there will be some great reward for not compromising myself.

So, it should be no surprise that I own a tank top with a cartoon graphic depicting three bears — one with underwear on its head — with the caption “be weird”.

That wouldn’t be such an unfashionable statement, had it not foreshadowed what would become the one time in my life that I was the most weird.  Even Sophocles, with the Theban Plays, couldn’t have written such devastating foreshadowing better than how my own case unfolded.  Sophocles’ Oeddy the Idiot looks like a GENIUS compared to me!  That was just my longwinded excuse to use “Oeddy the Idiot.”

Back to Brittany the Idiot.  I was wearing the tank top when I met this guy– I’ll call him Jerry– for the first time in 2005.  It was an accidental, brief encounter.  I marveled at how he was even better looking close up.  See, I didn’t always think Jerry was attractive.  But something happened to him in 2003: he pulled a Jerry O’Connell and metamorphosed into a handsome man.  At this particular moment, in 2005, I stood before him, like a dummy.  And he had this “I’m dying to talk to her” look on his face.  But neither of us could come up with anything.  We spoke two sentences to each other.  It got to a point, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to leave the premises.

I didn’t give him a second thought for several reasons:
1) he smokes (gross– though I’ve been known to overlook this)
2) he probably has a girlfriend (pass)
3) he lives nowhere near me (so why bother at all)
4) he’s a touring musician (okay, forget reasons 1 through 3– RUN!)

In fact, I forgot all about J.  I’m gonna call him J from now on.  Like J Spaceman, only I’m not talking about him even though he fits the above criteria.  Don’t bother guessing his real name, as it’s nowhere near this.

 

Anyway, J wasn’t a blip on my brain until his band came though again in 2008.  By this time, he had five years of handsomeness under his belt.  I also had the opportunity to meet him again.  NO, I didn’t chase him down after his show.  Some minutes after the concert, he came into the bar where I was with my friends ALREADY, thank you.  And it so happened, I had a legitimate band question/comment burning on my mind, which earlier I’d resigned to finding the answer on the Internet.  But now I could ask J myself.  I would’ve done the same if it were any other band member who walked in, because I’d met all of them before, I know they’re nice and would oblige.  My plan was to ask my question, get my answer and go about my business.

I asked, I got, but I didn’t go.  Somehow, I became involved in conversation with J and a boyfriend-girlfriend couple (fans) who were with him.

“Why don’t you pull up a chair?” he asked me.
“Yeah… I guess I could…”

The couple were probably seething that I usurped their “alone time” with J.  Hey, I was just following instructions.

Now, here is where the weirdness begins.  It’s not so much a specific thing, but more like a shift in atmosphere: it turns into an extended episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I don’t know what happens.  I’m not socially dysfunctional.  Yet all of a sudden, I turn into Larry David and can’t seem to do or say anything right.  Nothing goes right.  I also call these “Charlie Brown moments.”  Fortunately, J said his share of even stupider shit… which I later found to be endearing because I accepted the weirdness in addition to my own.

 

To start, within minutes of meeting, while discussing our ages, J said something to the effect of… life is “downhill” after you hit 30 (he’s well into his 30s).  Gee.  Downer, man.  Glad I have something to look forward to.  I wondered what would make J say such a dour thing to people he barely knows.  This story would be best followed if I kept a tally.

Guest: 1
Home: 0

Besides, it was my turn to say something totally inappropriate.  I made a very, very thinly veiled reference to a no-no topic that I didn’t know much about but KNEW ENOUGH that it might still be off-limits 10+ years later.  I knew what I was saying.  Yet as soon as it escaped my mouth, I felt like eating my entire leg and Supergluing my hand over my mouth.  Oh, why did I say that?!  J didn’t respond; he just gave me a blank look that said neither “shutthefuckup” nor “I can’t believe she said that.”  So, maybe he really had no idea what I meant.  That’s OK, I looked stupid for not making sense.  I’ll take the hit.  No, on second thought, I think he knew what I was getting at.

Guest: 1
Home: 1

Throughout our conversation, my friends, who were in various states of inebriation, flitted in and out.

“I just want to say that I think you have really great stage presence!” one of my friends gushed to J.  It is obvious and known that he has ZERO stage presence.

 

“Surely you’re joking?!” J exclaimed with incredulity.  I laughed as my friend bounced off and away.
“She’s happy,” he deadpanned.
“Or drunk,” I replied.  I mean, excuse her for having a good time.  He has some problem with happy people?  My friend is a few years OLDER than he is, and SHE’S happy!  What is this guy’s problem?

Guest: 2
Home: 1

Oh, I found out the problem.  But not before I was handed another clue.  After the bf-gf couple, J and I shut down the bar, he and I were going to get something to eat.  When we parted ways with the couple and began walking to my truck, J sarcastically muttered in reference to our departed company, “Huh, she wears the pants in that relationship.”

 

OK, ah, I’d just met those people, and J didn’t know them much better.  I mean, yeah, the girl was kind of a bitch, but I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it.  I’m not sure what gave him the basis to utter such an odd statement.  I didn’t know what to say.  I just chuckled and said, “Yeah.”  Really, I don’t believe either person in a relationship should “wear the pants.”  I wanted to say more.  I understand that J was trying to be funny, and I did think he was funny.  At the same time, I was so taken aback by his bitter tone, I couldn’t formulate a sentence to state a proper answer.

Guest: 3
Home: 1

That’s OK.  There was plenty of time left in the night for things to run amok against my favor.  Such as the box with my leftover lunch sitting in the passenger seat.  Hello, Chicken.  Well, I went to the concert straight from work, and I wasn’t expecting to take anyone for a ride that night (like how I was taken for one!  @$%!)
.
“Oh!  My leftover lunch…” I mumbled, putting it in the backseat… where, minutes later, the sound of aluminum cans could be heard clanking against each other.  I’d collected a bag of cans from work to put in the recycling bin at home.  I had the bag loosely tied.  It came undone.

“Oh!  My recycling…”

I really do say “Oh!” like that, though in this case I was probably more distressed than surprised sounding.  Great.  Food, shit in the back seat, now it looks like I’m a slob.  Why tonight?!  Why??  Please, not when I have the Jerry O’Connell butterfly (jerrae connellus) sitting in my truck!

Guest: 3
Home: 3

Despite all these damning circumstances thus far, I quickly forgot about them as soon as they occurred.  I didn’t perceive these flubs to have any collective impact.  Of course I didn’t want things to go wrong, but I wasn’t jumping through hoops to impress J either.  Sure, I thought he was goodlooking.  I enjoyed talking to him.  I liked him, but I didn’t LIKE him.  I wasn’t “after” him.

If you saw the way I looked that night, you’d know that I wasn’t after anybody.  I looked nice, but I didn’t do anything with my hair– I had it in this half-pulled out, Pebbles-like ponytail on top of my head.  My family HATES when I go out in public with my hair like that.  What do I care?  My social scene already knows what I look like.  I don’t find it necessary to look “perfect” when I go to a concert where it’s dark and everyone is drunk.

What?  Fine.  I’ll tack on a point for my goofy, who-gives-a-crap hair.  At least I use a rubberband and not a bone.

Guest: 3
Home: 4

 

On the short drive to the diner, J educated me on which band members have children and that one member had to “get home to the baby” after the band’s tour(this is important to know for later).  We ate, we talked about everything but our jobs, which was nice.  We didn’t even really talk about music that much.  Then again, had we done that, we wouldn’t have had more dumb-dumb dialogue and forfeited our dignity.  In other words, we revealed things to each other that probably wouldn’t occur in normal fan-musician five-minute post-concert conversation.

Astonishingly, J shared with me that he and his girlfriend had broken up after many, many years together.  I didn’t ask when, but I guess it was very recent– at the bar, he’d mentioned that he just moved into a new home.  None of it was my business, really.  I figured he’d tell me as much as he wanted to tell, and I wouldn’t press him for more.  How did he know he could trust me in the first place?  What if I’m a blabbermouth and spread his business around his fanbase?  I would never blab, but he didn’t know that about me.

I can say, I’m not the type who asks 5 million questions about someone’s personal business, not upon a first meeting.  All I asked was either “why?” or “how come?”  I don’t believe I asked “what happened?”  I tried to be very careful with my wording.  This is probably the only time during the entire night that my comments didn’t come out wrongly.

He said that paranoia and trust were factors.  Apparently she didn’t trust him, which caused him not to trust her.  And then a big-old mess happened.  Basically, the ex-gf says he is a cheater-cheater pumpkin-eater.  Basically, I asked if he really is a cheater-cheater pumpkin-eater.  I prod with efficiency.

 

Did you give her reason not to trust you?” I interrogated.  It wouldn’t make a difference in my life if he said “yes”, but I felt like giving him a hard time.  Just in case he deserved it.

“No!” J responded in a bewildered tone, as if he still couldn’t figure out what went wrong.  I believed him.

He added that the “last two years were bad.”  What the– ?  Year One I could understand, because you love someone and want to make it work.  TWO years?!  Shit.  Year Two makes me think that perhaps there are other, personal issues there.

I asked if they were still friends.  He said “yes,” I said “good.”  That was all we spoke of it.  Given the comments J had made thus far, I got the impression that he was having some, um, difficulty getting over things– which is understandable if he was wrongly accused of infidelity.  It seemed that everything was beyond his control.  I finally understood J’s contempt for someone who “wears the pants” in a relationship.

 

In exchange, I recklessly told J four things about myself that I SHOULD NOT have said.  I mean the Grandaddy, Grand Poobah, Grand Master Flash of all subjects that should not have been uttered.  They’re not big secrets– my friends and family know these things– but I am NOT repeating them publicly, because I know everyone will kick my ass for saying what I said.  I should’ve held up a mirror and given myself a “shutthefuckup” look.

But it didn’t matter.  It wasn’t like I’d see this guy again anytime soon.  Still, wrong things to say.

Guest: 3
Home: 8

Now, J’s troubles may seem completely irrelevant to the topic at-hand.  (Errr, what was the topic?  Oh yeah, saying the wrong thing and making yourself look weird n’ stuff.).  On neutral terms, J didn’t say anything wrong.  Just a guy confiding in a stranger.  More brave than blundering.  However, he said something– TWICE– that changed the meaning of our meeting.

He said that we met by “fate.”

Whoa.  Repita, por favor. Time out.  Back up the car.  STFU!!!11!1!!!  Fate, how…what?  Do guys really say this to girls?  and expect us to believe it?  OK, I know J has been out of the game for a while, so maybe he forgot:

you can’t say shit like that to women.

Well, you can– to teenagers.  ButI may think that you are one or more of the following:
— full of shit
— desperate
— smarmy
— loony
— disingenuous
— joking
— baiting/testing me
— having a low self-esteem day
— gay

Guest: 4
Home: 8

Good thing I had nothing in my mouth when he said that, or else I’d have choked, possibly died, and I doubt that was part of the fateful plan.  I don’t even remember my responses.  I probably laughed like an imbecile, figuring it was the more polite thing to do, rather than saying, “HA!  Yeah.  Okay, buddy,” and making this poor guy feel worse.  J explained that he and the bf-gf couple were supposed to go to another bar but ended up where I was, because it was “closer.”  And there we were.

Naturally, this newfound fate business changes the scope of what he told me regarding the ex-gf and his own character: he’s a dumbass for hanging on for two bad years with the ex who obviously “wore the pants” (and still wears them, I have a feeling) and dragged him along.

Guest: 6
Home: 8

 

I felt like this great responsibility had been placed upon me.  The guy is searching for MEANING and I was unsure if I’d provided anything helpful or… anything!  Should I have asked him more questions about the ex-girlfriend?  Too late now, we’d already moved on from that topic.  Should I drag something else out of him?  I didn’t know what to do.

Oh, I know.  Nothing takes the attention off fate and destiny and the universe better than a bit of zodiac chat.  Don’t ask me how we got on that.  After J [rightfully] acknowledged not to get on my bad side (we Scorps are nice people, but you’ll rue the day you take advantage of our trust and loyalty), he wanted me to guess his sun sign.  Aw, Hell, here we go again:
— full of shit
— desperate
— smarmy
— loony
— disingenuous
— joking
— baiting/testing me
— having a low self-esteem day
— gay

Guest: 7
Home: 8

OK, I’ll play along.  I’m not well-versed on zodiac signs’ conventions apart from my own.  I had no knowledge of J’s birthday.  I could definitely deduce that he wasn’t a Scorpio or Leo.  I made some ill-attempted guesses, and he finally told me his birthdate and sign.

 

Don’t get me wrong: it was flattering to hear the jerrae connellus spout dreamy, transcendental shit.  But what was I supposed to do with it?  He’d been a good boy all these years and, what, now he wants to… be a typical touring musician?  OK, I understand that, and he’s entitled.  But he didn’t strike me as that type of guy, and I’m not that type of girl; I certainly wasn’t portraying myself that way, so I know there was no confusion there.  Unless he was HOPING I’d be that type of girl.  Whatever, who knows.  I chalked it up as him being nice and nothing more.  I took his comments at face value and ignored any possible underlying meanings.

Normal conversation resumed between J and me.  And then– it could’ve been 30 minutes later– it hit me.  I can pinpoint the moment exactly.  I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I know what he was doing, and I know what I was doing, and it was this split-second electric event.  It was the lightning bolt moment: I LIKED him.

 

Noooo!  Why?  How?  I didn’t want to LIKE him– there was no point in it.  This went against so many of my principles.  Yet I wanted to scream, “Hey, you know those four assbeating-worthy things I mentioned earlier?  Well, forget I said them!”  I became a nervous mess– in a good way.  I babbled, lost my train of thought several times.  I practically repeated everything I said, like Jimmy Two-Times from Goodfellas.

“I’m gonna go get the papers.  Get the papers.”

Guest: 7
Home: 9

How about “I’m a fucking dolt.  Fucking dolt.”  I stopped making sense altogether.  At one point, near the end of our time spent at the diner, I’d said… something…something about wishing I’d taken astronomy in college.  J said, “What?” in a way indicating to me that he wasn’t paying attention, possibly from boredom, exhaustion (it was about 5 a.m. after all), or his mind had simply drifted elsewhere, or maybe I teetered over the threshold and finally went too far into leftfield.  Because I know I spoke loudly enough.  I suppressed my laughter over this obviously awkward gaffe.  Without missing a beat, I repeated myself (at this juncture, sure, why not!).  Yes, we were tired and it was time to go.

Guest: 8
Home: 9

I reminded myself in order to maintain my reality, as well as my composure: “Smokes, lives far away, traveling musician, meets lots of women.”  No sense in losing your shit over a guy who probably won’t remember anything about the night much less your name.  He said some weird things, I said some weird things.  We both had cause to think to ourselves, “Man, I fucked up.”

So far, I looked like the biggest weirdo.  But in the grand scheme, so what.  It’ll all be over– just another night in some U.S. city, just passing time, history, forgotten– when I drop him off at his tour bus, right?  Wrong.  The prophesying “Be Weird” tank top does not lie…

To be continued.

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