Frank: (Upon waking up on the wrong side of the bed after working 60 hours in one week) Do you think you could do the dishes today?
Me: (Upon waking up on the wrong side of the bed after trying to figure out HTML for Kindle for four hours the night before) Don’t you start with me. I did the dishes every night this week.
*Yes, our bed has two wrong sides. It was a “scratch and dent” deal.*
Frank: It would just take thirty minutes. I mean is it so hard to be neat? You are so messy.
Me: (Bursting into tears) Call me anything, but don’t call me messy. I’m doing the best I can. You don’t understand how traumatic this is.
Frank: No, I don’t.
Me: It all started at summer camp when I was eight.
During the summer, my parents put name tags in my undies and shipped me off every chance they got. So, I can’t remember what particular camp it was, but I remember the humiliation as if it were yesterday. Each day we were responsible for making up our bed and tidying our bunk area before we went to breakfast. While we dined, a crew of counselors would examine each tent. On the best-made bed, they would leave a beautiful harlequin doll. On the cot of the most slovenly camper, they left a ratty hobo. I received the hobo every single day of camp.
Frank: (Trying not to laugh) I will never put a hobo in your bed.
Me: (Examining his faded superhero PJ pants, stained muscle shirt, crazy hair, and sock with a hole in the toe) Too late. Now, you are the hobo in my bed.
Originally written on October 28, 2009
It was the coldest rain I can remember—a miserable drizzle that slowly worked its way through the clothes and skin and deep into the bones. Despite my trendy, patent leather boots, my feet had become soaked. Through the dampened scarf that was wrapped around my ears, I could hear the chants rise above the traffic, "Stop the hate, vote no on Prop 8." I looked around at the soggy signs stating, "Separate is not Equal" and "Love is Love."
Then, I sneezed, shivered, and asked myself two questions, "What does a straight girl have to do with gay rights?" and "Will I ever feel my toes again?" I decided to address the first by looking back on my life and determining when this issue became my issue.
I was a freshmen in college, walking across campus my first week of school, when a very attractive man rushed up to me and began gushing in a beautiful baritone, "You are fabulous. I love that dress. It would be perfect for the sportswear competition. See, I'm in this pageant this weekend at this gay bar. My boyfriend is a bartender there. My drag name is CoCo. My real name is Mark. I think we're about the same size. Could I borrow it?"
Suddenly, everything I had ever believed about men, and male-female relationships, and homosexuality, and cross-dressing was called to the floor...or rather sidewalk. It took me less than a minute to declare, "You think this one is hot, you should see the rest of my closet. Let's go."
My reasons for this reaction were simple. Mark had been more complimentary, friendly, and honest to me than any of the campus men that I'd met thus far. And, with his coloring, he would look fantastic in my dress. Mark was the first openly gay person that I had ever met. I instantly loved him. In a single moment, I became a hag.
Later that evening, when he left my room with his arms laden down with frocks, I took a while to consider what gay meant...and what it meant to me. A homosexual was someone who was involved, sexually and romantically, with someone of the same sex. So, since they weren't sleeping with me, their orientation was none off my business—problem solved. Even in my eighteen-year old mind, I realized that the only time to be concerned about what goes on in someone's bed is when you are in it with them.
Since Mark, I have been proud to have peopled my world with primarily gay men and lesbians. As a theatre major, dancer, and feminist activist, it was to some degree inevitable. But, much was by choice. In my gay friends, I found people who because of their own struggle to find acceptance and combat bigotry, were not quick to judge me. Coming from a highly dysfunctional family in a small town where I often felt defined by "the sins of the father," it was so liberating to be appraised based on my own merits and not preconceptions. Also, many of my companions had been forced to keep their true personality hidden for years. So, when they finally took the courageous step and "came out," they embraced their new self and their new world with an enthusiasm, optimism, and the philosophy that no moment should be wasted. I quickly adopted this mindset and zest for living as my own and it has defined who I am for many years. And, let's be honest, would I have the impeccable fashion sense, decorating abilities, quick wit, great hostess skills, and sleek signature bob if most of the boys in my life had not been gay? Probably not.
When my third husband and I started seriously contemplating divorce, yet another occasion for contemplation presented itself. What was marriage? What did it mean? Why do we do it?
My conclusion was that marriage, in its purest, non-political sense, was twofold. First off, it was a public decree of love and commitment which gave the relationship legitimacy in the eyes of family, friends, and society. Secondly, it was a legally-binding partnership that allowed both parties tax breaks, healthcare advantages, social security benefits, inheritance, child custody, and recognized decision making. Viewing it this way, it made perfect sense why every human would want the right to be married...even if I should probably have mine taken away for abuse.
So even if marriage was desirable, did the kind of relationship that I deemed worthy of this lofty privilege exist?
I looked around at the couples in my life to see if any had maintained the intimacy and esteem that I felt defined a perfect union. I found this combination of affection, communication, and mutual respect in my best friends. After fourteen years, these two men still held each other with the highest regard, kissed whenever they passed in the hall, and genuinely listened to what the other had to say, even if they disagreed. And yet, they are not allowed to marry. I, however, who has botched three marriages, and but good, am more than welcomed to go out there and find husband number four. To any logical person, this should be utterly ridiculous.
I think Lea DeLaria said it best with, "They are preserving the sanctity of marriage, so that two gay men who've been together for twenty-five years can't get married, but a guy can still get drunk in Vegas and marry a hooker at the Elvis chapel! The sanctity of marriage is saved!"
In the United States, the institution of marriage, as it stands, with its walls cracked by prejudice, ceilings moldy with hatred, and floor slanting toward ignorance, must be demolished. This faulty structure, that will not allow the best and bravest humans I know to enter there, should be leveled and swept away. In its place, let us build a new institution that welcomes true love and commitment in whatever form it chooses to walk through the door.
In closing, what does this straight girl have to do with gay rights? By fighting against Proposition 8, I am fighting for a world that is a more enlightened, kinder, wittier, wiser, and stylish place for all humans who live here...of which, I am one. And so, I will be honored to stand in the pouring rain, the blowing snow, or the scorching sun to insure that my brothers and sisters in humanity are given the right to fully and legally love through marriage.
Me: (letting out a howl) This is the most sucktastic day ever.
Frank: What’s wrong? What happened?
Me: I burned the frickin’ grilled cheese.
I snatch it out of the electric skillet, and cock back my arm.
Frank: Don’t do it. Don’t you throw that. Put it back.
I chuck the sandwich as hard as I can. Cheddar runs down the wall.
Frank: (condescendingly) Now, do you feel better?
I split what remains of the demolished sandwich between the dogs, wipe up the cheese, sigh, and smile.
Me: Actually, yes. Much, much better.
And I did feel better. And this is why I will never die of a stress-induced stroke. Instead of holding my anger in and letting it fester into some dreadful disease, I get rid of it on the spot. Now, I know in a perfect world where people levitated at whim and did yoga at sunrise and ate nothing but variations of Quinoa, I would have just taken three deep breaths, briefly pondered the metaphysical significance of the burnt bread, and moved on. But, this ain’t a perfect world and I’m not that evolved. And if you’re like me, you have to find a way to, in the words of Tears for Fears, “Shout, Shout, Let it all out.” I am a firm believer in forcefully tossing most everything…except dwarfs, which is just wrong. But if throwing things doesn’t work for you, punch a pillow, scream like a banshee, lay down in the floor and kick like a tired toddler, run it out. Just don’t let stress and anger become squatters in your soul. Stress and anger morph into guilt, self-loathing, suspicion, envy, and the fuel for that grudge that lasts for twenty years. The funny thing is if you just release your frustration into the expanse of the universe, it dissipates and disappears like a drop of red food coloring in the ocean. And once it’s gone, there is more room for peace and love and Girl Scout Cookies.
*This blog was not approved by the American Medical Association, American Dairy Association, or Girl Scouts of America*
For this "I'm freezing my tits off in Mid-March" edition of Tête-à-Tête Thursday, we'll be delving into the magical mind of Susan Ishmael-Poulos, who is toasty warm down in Texas. Susan is tenth generation Kentuckian now living in the Lone Star state; a published poet and blogger; and former sales and marketing executive who now writes full time. Her first novel is in the final stages of editing and will be on submission later this year. You can find her at www.whatwomenwritetx.blogspot.com and on Facebook. She's represented by Leigh Feldman of Writers House.
The Bourbonista: Tell me about yourself in 50 words or less. At least one word must begin with the letter “X” and none can begin with the letter “S.”
Susan: I'm a mom, writer, traveler, wife, Texas xeriscaper, and friend. I like to give gifts and dance. I think coffee and Chardonnay are better than food. I'm a Kentucky girl at heart. For almost eighteen years I worked in advertising but now I write, which is way cooler than working.
The Bourbonista: Xeriscaper...I see someone subscribes to Word of the Day. If you were a circus performer, what would you be and why?
Susan: I must say I am partial to Cirque Du Soleil over Barnum and Bailey… I like the idea of being a sexy contortionist. Trapezes? Leotards? Ropes and scarves and crazy stunts? What's not to love?
The Bourbonista: Leotards, ropes, scarves and crazy stunts...sounds like a typical Tuesday night on the boat for Frank and I. Try to get that image out of your head. Moving on, what would you do if you won the lottery?
Susan: I would travel a lot… and I’d pay college costs for my children and my nieces and nephews. And then after they graduated I’d pay for them to travel, too, but not to swanky places. I’d send them to Kete Krachi, Ghana, and Angkor Wat, Cambodia and Kolkata, India. I’d probably give half of the winnings to charities. I’d build a 1000 square-foot off-the-grid lake house somewhere in Kentucky with water reclamation and solar heat and a garden where I could write and be by myself. And then I’d write more books.
The Bourbonista: Cool. We can be neighbors and I'll kayak over to your place and we'll drink spiked coffee out of tin cups and discuss the pros and cons of composting toilets. Now, next, if you were on death row…don’t act like you don’t know who you killed to get there…what would be your last supper?
Susan: I'd go with seafood—a platter of oysters on the half-shell, some scallops and sea bass and snow crab and lobster washed down with a bottle of red wine.
The Bourbonista: I swear I could drink my weight in oyster shooters. Seriously, a raw oyster floating in top shelf vodka with a big splash of Tabasco is heaven in a shot glass. Just the thought of it makes we want to hop in the car, leave this frozen tundra, and head to Key West. But first, let's finish this interview. Let's get deep. Write a short “Thank You” letter to your future self for all the cool shit you’ve done twenty years from now.
You are forgiven by Me, first of all, for all the uncool shit we've done in the past twenty years. Things like hurting people and letting people down and for being mean. We've made a shit-ton of mistakes. HOWEVER, thank you for writing that first novel, and the next one, and the next one after that. Thanks for being a good mom and a good friend. Thanks for choosing love and for creating this life we always dreamed of. Thank you for all the travel and cool places we've gone. Thanks for taking care of this body and spirit and heart. Thank you for writing every day and for reading so many books. Thanks for keeping all the friends that love us in our life, and for getting rid of those that bring us down. Thank you for saying yes to our life instead of no—the yeses bring about a much better story than the nos.
The Bourbonista: I feel you. In the words of Ado Annie, "I'm just a girl who cain't say no." And, damn, has it made life fun. Finally, if you were a booze, which booze would you be and who would you want to drink you?
Susan: I would be bourbon, hands down. Poets and writers would sip me dry. Mamas would rub me on the gums of teething babies. Old men would reminisce; young studs would find their courage. Every day, someone new would ‘discover’ me and fall in love. It’s a nice little fantasy to think of Ernest Hemingway, Sharon Olds, George Clooney, William Faulkner, and Donna Ison, all sitting around enjoying my company, talking shop. Hell, we could probably talk Barbara Kingsolver into joining us for a round. Bourbon is good for writing on summer nights with big moons. Bourbon is good for fireplaces and conversation. Bourbon is good for both a good cry and a wild party. My kind of drink.
I have just discovered the best frickin’ website ever. I was looking for an inexpensive alternative for a book cover design for the new improved Flirtini with Disaster: The Single Girl’s Guide to Self-Sabotage, (which will be rereleased later this week), and I read about this fabulous site. So, it’s called Fiverr. And the basic premise is that people from all over the world offer to do things for you for $5. Yeah, $5, that’s the cost of a mid-shelf shot of bourbon…and, I can’t believe that I’m going to say this, but some of these services are better than a shot of bourbon. The categories range from Gifts to Translation to Tech to Music to, my personal favorite, Fun and Bizarre.
Here are some of the offerings I found on Fiverr:
I will sing a depressing Happy Birthday as a mouse for $5.
I will do a Mini Numerology Report for $5.
I will sell 30 pics of my sexy feet for $5.
I will turn any song or speech into a GOAT edition video for $5.
I will claim to have made love to your friend's mother in a personalized video for $5.
I will translate English to Hindi or Punjabi for $5.
I will draw you in anime style for $5.
Of course, being a struggling writer, this seemed like a feasible way to make Mama some whiskey money, so I started pondering what I would do for $5. This is what I’ve come up with so far:
I will tap dance in a sock monkey costume to “Baby Got Back” for $5.
I will share my no-fail hangover remedy for $5.
I will scare you out of the hiccups for $5.
I will share the Perfect Deviled Egg recipe for $5.
I will break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend for you for $5.
I will walk up and kick a complete stranger in the shin and say you sent me for $5.
I will write any message on a turtle and send you a picture for $5.
I will shame you out of any bad behavior for $5.
I will read you a Dr. Seuss bedtime story for $5.
The list goes on and on…think about it…what would you do for $5?
She ain’t no Disney princess.
Ain’t no fodder for fairy tales.
Ain’t no mythological maiden you’d want tattooed on your shoulder.
She don’t bear hardly no resemblance to her sea sisters.
With their magnificent manes, buoyant breasts, and emerald-inlaid scales.
Why would she?
She was ocean-caught, but farm-raised.
Kept as a pet in a pond,
By a lonely Fish and Game Warden.
Her fins ain’t felt salt water since she was a tadpole.
When they dammed Dix River back in ’25.
Master decided to let her go.
For nigh on a year, he came every day.
Bringing her corn bread, soup beans, and buttermilk.
But one day, he brought fruit.
Said she’d plumped up.
So she lassoed him with a rope she’d stole from a catfish trap.
Dragged him down.
And drowned him good.
She’s been fending for herself ever since.
Living off fried chicken bones, duck dung, and scraps of Styrofoam.
Won’t eat fish.
Feels like cannibalism.
When she gets to feeling sorry for herself,
She gets drunk on generator fuel,
Hits holes into the hulls of houseboats,
Screams, “Sink, you son-of-a-bitch, sink!”
Nope, she don’t bear hardly no resemblance to her sea sisters,
With her hair hacked all to hell.
Left tit lost to an outboard motor,
Right one armored with a snapping turtle shell.
Shit-brown moss filming up her fins.
Back in ’72, she caused quite a ruckus.
When she got her tail all in a twist over a boy named Ricky.
First time she saw him,
He pounding Pabsts and bow fishing off a brand new bass boat.
He might as well have shot an arrow plum through her heart.
Girl was eat up with him right from the start.
So, after years of laying low.
She set out to catch his eye.
Every morning she swam her most seductive swim,
Back and forth between Chenault Bridge and Wells Landing.
Ricky didn’t take no notice.
But plenty of other folks did.
Some professor called the news,
Thought he’d discovered a prehistoric beast.
From far and wide, the curious came.
Hoping to get a glimpse,
Of the Herrington Lake leviathan.
But, Ricky still paid her no never mind.
She got sick of being subtle.
Decided to demand destiny for a date
So, she spent all night getting gussied.
Lacing lures through her hair,
And shining the shell on her remaining right breast.
When Ricky popped the top on his breakfast beer,
She made her move.
Shot through the surface, grabbed hold of the side,
Then pulled herself up ‘til she was looking love right in eye.
Over teeth shattered and sharpened from years
Of chewing through fish baskets to free her friends,
She pulled back bloated lips,
Into what she thought was smile.
Meant to mesmerize,
It only served to terrorize.
First Ricky cursed,
“Damn that LSD!”
Then he prayed,
He’d been brought up brimstone Baptist
Reared on Revelation,
Believed in the Beast from the Sea.
Then, he hollered,
“Monster, monster, I done seen the monster.”
Her smile faded,
As realization rose,
That she ain’t no Disney princess.
Ricky reached for his bow.
So, she lassoed him with stringers she’d braided into a belt.
Dragged him down.
And drowned him good.
In that moment before he gurgled his last “Lord, help me,”
She stole a kiss.
Went a little boy crazy after that…
But now, eighty-five years and as many “accidental drowning” later,
She’s decided she don’t need no man.
What she needs is a career.
She’d heard the bands playing on Saturday night down on Sunset Dock.
Seen how people hooted and hollered,
And threw shiny silver into a big, old jar that used to hold pickled eggs.
In her opinion, that skinny gal who sings for ‘em ain’t got much of a voice at all.
Reckoned she could do better.
After all, mermaids were meant to make music.
So, she set about perfecting her siren song.
Most every midnight,
You can hear her crooning to the moon.
But don’t try to get a better listen.
Shy clear of the shoreline.
Cause old habits die hard.
She might just snatch up a lasso,
Drag you down,
And drown you good.
Cause she ain’t no Disney princess.
Ain’t no fodder for fairy tales.
Ain’t no mythological maiden you’d want tattooed on your shoulder.
I have developed a strange new addiction. An addiction that has me rushing to the computer, salivating in anticipation, checking my inbox again and again. No it is not internet porn. It is eBooksDaily, this site that sends you an email each day with a list of Kindle offerings that you can get for free. I have become a complete junkie. I can't wait to open the email and look at all the colorful covers and intriguing titles and then push the seductive blue button that taunts me with "Free Download." It takes me to Amazon where I hit the “Buy Now” for $O.OO. It feels like I'm stealing, like I'm beating the system. I can't stop myself. Everyday I order title after title after title. Some I can't wait to open, but others like... "The Rise of the Dibor" and "Kettleball Training" and "Adwords for Small Business Owners," I know I'll never read...but I can't stop myself. I get such a rush when the Amazon “Thank You” message pops up and I know that any moment my newest fix will be delivered via whispernet.
One side effect is that I am not only buying like a fiend, I am reading like a fiend, so much so in fact that my grasp on reality is getting a little tenuous. Last night, the following conversation occurred:
Frank: We need someone to work on the yard at the rental.
Me: I'll call Amber. She does landscaping. And she needs a job, now that she's clean.
Frank: Clean from what?
Frank: Amber...why have I never heard of her?
Me: (With spooky realization) Because she's not real.
Frank: What do you mean she's not real?
Me: She's a character from the book I just finished. I may need to start getting out more.
Do you too want to lose touch with reality? If so, join me in my addiction. So, here's the link: eBooksDaily
But, I warn you, once you try it, you'll need to go back for more and more and more.
I have a love/hate relationship with snuggling. So, last night was case in point.
“Snug me. It's cold,” Frank demands.
Two quick explanations: You know the way that couples develop their own obnoxious language? Frank and I have shortened snuggle to snug. Also, apparently, I give off more heat than a hot rock sauna, bonfire, and volcano combined. Frank, despite being burly and covered in nearly as much fur as a bear, is always freezing.
“Snug me. It's cold.”
He spoons up beside me, cheek pressed to my neck, chest hair soft against my back, his knees tucked behind mine, toes touching. I drift off to sleep thinking, “I am so lucky. This is bliss.”
An hour later, I wake up, thinking, “This is hell. I'm in hell."
I'm hot...sweating hot. His chest hair has somehow velcroed itself to my skin...panic...we're stuck like this forever...he's managed to clamp his leg over my body ...it's like being locked into “The Beast” at King's Island...he's snoring on my neck...I'm smothering...he's not my husband. He's a giant dry cleaning bag trying to suffocate me...
I kick my feet out from underneath the covers until sheet and all are puddled on the floor and thrash about until we are no longer touching in any way, then shove him to the edge of the bed and scream, “Get off. You're killing me.”
“Sorry.” He rolls over, and resumes snoring.
Tomorrow night, he will optimistically demand again, “Snug me.” He just refuses to accept that you can't spoon a fork.
Today, I am up bright and early, ready to take on the world. Yesterday, I didn't do anything but eat and participate in other recreational endeavors, and it was glorious.
Here are a few snippets from the brilliant conversations that dominated the day:
Me: I am a magical leprechaun.
Frank: No, you're not.
Me: So, you know what I would do if I was? Wish that three bites of all of my favorite foods would appear right here, right now.
Frank: Three bites?
Me: Yeah, nothing is ever as good after three bites.
Me: What's your favorite Dr. Seuss?
Frank: The Star Bellied Sneetches story.
Me: That's a good one. Mine is "Happy Birthday to You!" Will you read it to me?
Frank: It's not your birthday.
Me: So, first I don't get to be a leprechaun, and now it doesn't get to be my birthday?
Frank: Okay, it can be your birthday.
Me: Then where's my fucking present?
Frank: She was evil...like would kill someone and bury them in a field if she knew she wouldn't get caught evil.
Me: I'm evil like that.
Frank: No, you're not.
Me: Okay, if it makes you sleep better to believe that.
Me: (Laughing far too hard to speak) You know what...you know what...you know what...the funniest...the funniest...
Frank: I can't understand you. What's wrong with you?
Me: (Laughing harder) You know what...the funniest...the funniest thing.
Funniest thing...thing. in the world. The funniest in the world...would be?
Frank: No, what?
Me: (Falling to the floor laughing) A Gorilla Pig!
Frank: You mean like a big pink gorilla with a pig snout?
Me: Yeah, something like that.
Frank stares and shakes his head.
Me: I guess you had to be there.
Frank: I am there.
BONUS: If you were wondering what nutrients it takes to fuel such brilliant banter, a Slacker Saturday Diet consists of:
sausage and gravy pot pie (yes, such a wonder does indeed exist in the frozen food section), half an avocado, half a turkey sandwich, peanuts (first you suck all the salt off of the shell and then consume nut), a cheeseburger and potato wedges, pickles, chocolate cake, NutterButters and KitKats dipped in beer cheese, a banana, and slices pepperoni consumed at various points throughout the afternoon, all washed down by copious amounts of wine and generously sprinkled with herb.
Sharing All I KNOW about the fine art of voluptuating. here's to living the lush life.