FOR ALL THE HOLIDAY MISFITS

krampus

For the past 5 years I have fallen into a holiday funk. Being single, coupled with not having any family to spend the holidays with during a season where ads for love and family and togetherness and diamond rings to “show her you care” are pounded into one’s psyche ad nauseam are enough to make anyone want to go off the deep end.

Then there’s my beloved Facebook, my social media of choice and social life all rolled up in one. Only this time of year, my preferred memes containing cats or offensive snarkiness fall along the wayside to ho hum pics of newly engaged couples in front of their tree and family gatherings with everyone dressed in their holiday finest—including my own, mind you, without me.

Here’s how it’s gone down for the last 5 years. Every Christmas eve, my entire family goes to an annual Xmas play. I drop my son off in front of my father’s house (because he and I are still not speaking to one another), wish my brother and sister a Merry Christmas, and off I go on my solitary way to feel sorry for myself at home while I view their happy group photos on Facebook that I’ve been tagged in so I can, you know, feel included as part of the family.

This year, I burst into tears as I was driving away, but only because my brother had just returned from Thailand and it would have been nice to be able to spend some time drinking with him that day and getting him to admit he solicited a she-male hooker by mistake. It would have been lovely to hang with my sister, who had finally fallen into a serious relationship with her best friend, even though he had fought their love for a year. I would have loved to tell her “I told you so,” because I did. Exactly a year ago.

They’re the family I miss. Not my asshat of a father who we all have to walk on eggshells around so as not to upset him. The asshat of a father who drinks too much and picks a fight with someone, anyone just to hear himself yell. No, I don’t miss that dysfunction at all.

With the world stressing how important family is, where does that leave you when you don’t have any to spend the holidays with? It sucks, but I vowed this year I wouldn’t fall into a deep, dark depression, and so far I haven’t. Maybe it was due to the power of intention. Perhaps my hormones are balanced this week. Or maybe for the first time, another single mother was at my friend’s Xmas dinner and for once, I didn’t feel so fucking alone in the sea of coupledom.

This woman’s husband committed suicide 2 years ago. Blew his brains out on a wilderness trail, leaving behind a wife and 11-year-old son. She’s very open about the whole ordeal, which is why I have enormous respect for her. Her family is spread out all over the world, and her mother is exactly like my father, so she’s essentially alone like I am. She has no interest in going out and trying to land another husband because she can’t hack being alone, and for that, along with her honesty and bluntness, she and I get along great.

We made plans to get together next week. She’s going to teach me how to make Spanish rice, authentic beans, and chicken Verde. Any other year I’d have shied away from making plans and doing anything that required me to smile, but this year is different. This year I consciously acknowledge there are other women out there who have just as craptastic a life as me. I simply have to find them. This woman whose husband blindsided her with death. Another woman I met on Thanksgiving has 2 kids, and is separated from her cross-dressing husband (although she’s OCD and a bit of a hoarder, so who the hell knows what the story is there). She’s asked me to get together with her as well.

These are the women I need to seek out in the years to come. Not the ones with their picture-perfect Norman Rockwell lives. I don’t have anything in common with them. I’ll seek out the misfits and the wounded and the shunned. The divorced and the widowed and the transgendered. Really anyone who doesn’t live a cookie-cutter life.

For all those who are going through a tough time this holiday season, take heart. It’s almost over. Try to seek out others in the same sinking boat. You may find they help keep you afloat.

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I’M ONLY HUMAN AND FACEBOOK IS THE DEVIL

Painting

Photo by corazon girl

I  hate Facebook. I rue the day it was created. I get that it’s a great way for people to get in touch, but half the people who find me are folks I was never that great friends with in the first place. So why would I want to be friends with them now, after 30 years?

I also get that it’s a way for people to stay in touch, but most of the crap that people post makes me want to stick a fork in my eye. Like inspirational quotes. If I wanted to channel Tony Robbins every day, I’d buy his freakin seminars on CD, okay? I didn’t buy the Inspirational Quote A Day Rip Off The Pages Calender, I went for The Far Side one, so that should tell you something about me right there.

I just accepted a friend request from someone I went to high school with. The minute I clicked “Accept,” 20 youtube song posts came up in a row. I don’t mind one or two, but 20? Really? What is he, unemployed, sitting in front of the computer, listening to music all day? Then he posted this pic, and I was like, “Whoa there, buddy! Back the truck up just a goddamn minute. Did you seriously just post this for all to see?”

                       

I have another friend who posts gems like this every day:

One of these at a time I can deal with. But 11 a day makes me want to “unfriend” her. And don’t even get me started on the ones who post God quotes.

I genuinely like hearing about important news. I would have never known my sister was moving to another city in two weeks had the news not been posted on FB. Ever since being banished from everything involving that side of my family, I have no idea what goes on with any of them anymore. My father threw me out of his house three years ago for looking at him the wrong way. I’m sure it also had something to do with the fact that he’s a Cancer, and Cancers always seem to think they can live your life better than you can. So if you’re not doing what it is they think you should be doing, then that’s a huge FAIL on your part and they no longer have any use for you.

Case in point: My best friend of over 20 years, also a Cancer, voiced her unwelcome opinion two years ago that I “needed to get my shit together.” For her, that meant getting a job as a full-time manager at Starbucks, stop focusing on the “romantic drivel” I like to read, and forgo all sex until my son was out of the house. Umm, yeah, well, it’s a good thing I didn’t listen to her or I’d be one over-caffeinated, stressed-out bitch right now.

Anyhoo, I get to see everything I’m missing out on family-wise, since they always post a gazillion photos. I see how people age, and how fat they get, without anyone seeing me age, and how fat I get. It’s a win-win situation.

There are times when information on FB is too accessible. Like when I went to my son’s elementary school principal’s FB page on a whim, and there were photos of her and Captain Crunch in that lame head-together pose couples do when they’re taking their own picture. Had I not seen that, I could have continued to be completely oblivious to the fact that Captain Crunch was fucking her and me, and who knows how many others at the same time.

Other tidbits of info I don’t need to see or read about on FB? What you ate for dinner, as well as photos of it. Who cares what shoes you’re buying at the moment? I do care if your kid’s really sick, but I really don’t care if you have the sniffles. Can’t people ever post something interesting, like, “Had a big fight with my DH last night after he came home wasted and puked in my newly-planted begonias.”

What’s that you say? There are people who post those kinds of things? Maybe I need to get a new set of friends.

SUCCESS SUCCHMESS

Success means something different to every writer. For some it might mean earning a million dollars, being on the NY Times Best Seller List, or simply being published for the first time. Others may define it as getting a favorable review from the snarky gals over at Smart Bitches,Trashy Books, having more than five people unrelated to you attend your book-signing, or just being able to buy soft, name-brand toilet paper on a regular basis.

For me, success means having at least fifteen people (who don’t know me) purchase and read my book. Even better would be if they were to like it. That’s it. Modest, no?

It satisfies the Validation aspect of success for me: that a completely objective third party can find my work enjoyable –work I’ve spent enormous amounts of time and energy on; work that has finally come to fruition, and been recognized in a fiercely competitive business.

I always smirk when the average person mentions they’d like to write a book. Go ahead and try it, I think to myself, feeling slightly superior. They think it’ll be a piece of cake. Until they sit there, in front of a blank screen and actually have to string words together that make sense. Kinda like the romance reader who foolishly believes she can easily write what she’s been reading all these years. Structure, characterization, motive, plot, tension, a beginning, middle and end? “But it looked so EASY.”

Money was never my motivator. If it were, I’d have become an investor or married rich. Doing a job solely for the money always left me feeling like one of those sad ponies at the fair, going round and round in circles. Talk about an utterly void existence. Yet when I was doing theater in New York and getting paid nothing, I was the happiest I’d ever been.

What other profession is one willing to do for zero money in return? That is the definition of a true artist. Yet the payoff one gets is usually worth more emotionally, mentally and physically than all the earnings of Jay-Z and Beyoncé put together.

I recently posted an announcement on Facebook of being offered a contract for my first novel. My stepmother called me immediately. “It’s so great when we, as parents see our children succeed!” she said.

What about all the years when I didn’t succeed? I wanted to ask. I was treated like a leper. When the blaring insinuation was that all I was doing was sitting on my unmotivated, “wasting my college education,” “expecting things to be handed to me” ass? Ah, yes – where was the love then?

Simple – there was no love, because I hadn’t SUCCEEDED at anything. See, in some families, if children don’t succeed at what the parents determine is “success worthy,” then it reflects poorly on said parents. Like they must have done a crappy job at raising their kids if they haven’t grown up to amount to anything.

I remember when I worked retail and all my father kept telling me was “It’s not like your job is hard. A monkey could work retail, for God’s sake.”

I wouldn’t care if, when he grows up, my son wanted to be a doctor or a mechanic; made a million a year or minimum wage. Sure, the amount of his salary will ultimately affect the quality of the nursing home he’ll stick me in when I’m old, but it certainly won’t make me love or approve of him any less.

I wish some parents would learn the obvious: That by giving their children unwavering and unconditional love and support in their choices – whatever they may be – it allows them to succeed a helluva lot more effectively than when they have other people’s expectations shoved down their throats.

What is your definition of success?