I Caused the Pandemic by Being Bad

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There are weeks when pandemic life gets me down, lower than America’s current character. Days when I have to remind myself that I can’t sleep all day and nights I succumb to alertness while the hours crawl by and I scratch my head and worry about how much I scratch my head.

At 3 a.m, my mind veers into absurdity, like I start to wonder if maybe I brought this pandemic on. I suspect this illogical logic stems from my Catholicism and won’t go away no matter how hard I distance myself from my religion.

See, when something bad happens, I think of what I may have done to cause it. I’m incapable of dishonestly calling out from work sick because I believe that deceit will make me sick. At church as a kid, I’d spend the whole time fantasizing about making out with cute boys and I’d shake it out of my head — sure God could hear and I’d be forever doomed. A few minutes would go by and I’d be right back to thinking about boys and Cyndi Lauper.

So, I think I caused the plague. I’m also a self-diagnosed narcissist so everything relates back to me and my formative years, but I’ve done some lousy things and perhaps my juvenile delinquency started the plague.

A Fake Teenage Elopement

I was a mildly screwed up kid. I wanted to be much more screwed up than I actually was, but I tried damn hard. All my idols were troubled, and I craved excitement and drama. But acting out in a small town becomes redundant after a while. How many times can you smoke cigarettes in the girl’s bathroom, or go to the high school dance after having a few nips? How many games of Truth or Dare can a young girl initiate? One must get creative.

Afraid that my wanna-be groupie lifestyle and poor grades just weren’t cutting it to define my bad assery, my high school love with the chiseled cheekbones and I concocted an eff you to the world: We ran away and left a letter to our caring parents stating that we were eloping.

As a lifelong lover of letter writing, I think back on that stark letter, written on a haphazardly ripped out piece of paper: “Mom, I eloped. Kathy.” That was it. Nothing fancy and right to the gut.

The zeal of such defiance was intoxicating. Or maybe we were just intoxicated. Anyway, we didn’t get married and we had never planned on doing so. We wanted to piss people off and well, it worked. My boyfriend’s parents placed a missing person’s report while he and I traversed all around South County, Rhode Island for two days.

After a few days without a shower, I calmly walked back home and yelled ,”I’m back.” I don’t recall actually getting in trouble, but my goal was met: I created excitement and messed shite up.

The Thievery

I once had an Aunt Mary whom I would visit monthly. She was old, frail and as nice as a curmudgeon could be. She lived in a small condominium and every visit came with a penmanship lesson and a little money in my stonewashed jean’s pocket.

Good ol’ Aunt Mary gave me money to take out her minimum amount of trash that only contained crushed and cleaned TV dinner boxes. I suppose she was green before her time.

Aunt Mary’s home was tidy and filled with creepy religious pictures and crosses. She’d watch Mass on the television and I got a kick out of that. One day as I snooped through her place, I saw a Jesus cross affixed to the wall that I just had to have. After looking both ways, as all good thieves do, I swiped it right off the wall. Accomplished, I fingered it in my pocket for the rest of the visit and all the way home, happy with my forbidden treasure.

Not long after arriving home, the one home phone rang and it was ol’ Aunt Mary concerned about her missing artifact. Could I have taken it? I denied it for as long as I could but eventually, I had to fess up and apologize. I had grabbed it right off the wall and left a tear where it had been.

Crab Murder

My cousins and I spent most summers hanging around Rhode Island beating each other up, comparing sunburns, getting lost at state beaches, stealing cigarettes from the adults, and crabbing. I could spend hours collecting crabs but my cousin was petrified of them and I would absolutely torment him with crabs.

One night we had a bonfire and I fed the fire a bucket of crabs. Directly into the fire, I dumped live crabs while giggling over the sounds that escaped the crabs as they were burned alive. I was young and…evil? I’m not sure but I do remember my more sensitive cousin battling insomnia for a lot of that summer and mentioning that when he closed his eyes he could still hear the squeaking sound of those dying crabs.

I think it’s entirely possible that I created the plague by being such a bad child and I’m really sorry. I will find a way to make amends and if you have any ideas, send them my way!

Life’s so rotten, let’s focus on worse times.

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The Covid zombie apocalypse has got me low.  I’m sadder than Ben Affleck before he found Ana de Amas. I live in a shaky world where fainting is a palpable possibility and slumber is a nice-to-have requirement. But all the nervousness, political anger, and family closeness makes me realize that things have been worse.

Heartbreak Erupts into Obsessive Movie Habits

In 1994 I was so heartbroken that I spent three days watching Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” on an endless loop — only stopping to drive by my ex-boyfriend’s apartment to envision all the sex he and his new teenage girlfriend were having. I was staying with my sister and she’d occasionally yell at me to refill the ice tray and throw away my molehill of smoked butts, but other than those strained interactions, it was just me basking in the pain of a 3-hour movie. I was proving a point, but I had no idea what the point was or to whom I was pointing the point.

Have you ever watched “Short Cuts?” It’s psychological torture. Watching it once messes with your head but watching it for days while chain smoking vacuum seals you right into the bell jar. I eventually aired myself out, plucked a few more eyebrows, and found another troubled boy to date. And yeah, life got better, but it was an even worse time than pandemic schpandemic.

Summer School Bullying

Then there was that unfortunate year when I failed high school science and was given the social-life death sentence of summer school in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. My mom was so angry that she plucked me out of my dazed summer party scene and forced me to endure summer school in a foreign land. I was stuck with a group of dumb kids who taunted me by calling me “Cure Girl.” As a big fan of The Cure, I was pleased with my new moniker.

A few weeks in, the teacher quietly called me up front and asked, “What are you doing here?” I responded with a well-practiced shrug. Say no more, say no less.

I’ve Been Uglier

I’ve definitely looked worse. Sure, I am currently sporting white hair on my head, eyebrows and other unmentionable areas, but I’m still prettier than I was during my elementary school love affair with the perm. I had reddish curly hair, a face full of freckles and ONLY wore clothes with rhinestones, lace and tulle. Of course I needed a perm!  

I think I know why my first kiss happened in the last few days of 7th grade during a ‘7 Minutes in Heaven’ game gone wrong. While waiting in line, having a slight panic attack, I could hear the boys discussing how bummed they’d be if they got me. Well someone did and wowza, I’d been kissed, albeit in a forced situation and years after all my girlfriends. Don’t worry though, I developed nicely that summer and made up for lost time.

Mistakenly Dating a Homeless Man

Yes, life can always be more painful. Right after college while I was hiding out in Portland, Oregon, running away from my parents needling me about getting a real job and escaping an arrogant manchild, I found a mysterious coworker to dig. He was much older, secretive, and good looking. What more does a naive girl need?

After months of waiting for Tim to ask me out, he finally did. He didn’t have a car — which now I see is a warning sign but this was Portland, Oregon and the crunchies rode bikes. So, I picked him up at a street corner.

My mind raced with all sorts of theories. Perhaps his home was so luxurious that he wanted me to know the real Tim. Could he have a secret family? The night staggered on and we drank enough alcohol to cloud all bad judgments into smart ones. There was some making out and a shared cab ride to his street corner and my apartment.

Tim didn’t show up to work the next day, or ever again while I was employed there. Seems Tim was living in a homeless shelter where sobriety was a requirement and his walk of shame landed him right into a court-mandated rehab. Who knew? Not I. But everyone else at work knew and I quickly became the girl from Massachusetts who caused Tim’s downfall.

So, it could always be worse folks. You could be married to Meghan Markle or Sean Penn. We could be members of the Cyrus family and have to listen to them all sing during Thanksgiving. Even worse, you could have a mom like me who bribes her children to tape her doing the WAP dance. It can always be so much worse.

April Showers Bring Mayday Mudslides

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Two toothpaste containers and menstrual cycles ago, I shut my door and buried myself with books, ample facial moisturizer, and “Mad Men.” Sometime in March, I put on an eternal pot of strong coffee that has somehow produced a pond of joe from which I drink all day, every day.

Other than a few trips to the Zombieland grocery store, a walk with my zany sister, and a sad meetup with my best friend where we each sat in our cars and conversed through the cracks in our windows, I’ve been here. I’m watching my children outgrow the clothes they wear, and wondering what’s next.

Nothing is funny anymore, is it? Every complaint and gossipy story must be prefaced with a “I know I’m lucky not be sick,” or “I hate to complain, but…” Can’t we be grateful to be healthy AND be disappointed in this horrifying situation – while fitting in wisecracks? Perhaps we can all give each other a chance to whine and vent without being so judgmental.

So here it is, some things that have spread a smile across my stressed face.

A Love Letter to Ben

The relief we all crave.

Ben Affleck has been popping up during COVID with his new girlfriend, star-on-the-rise Ana de Armas. They gaze at each other lovingly, like new beautiful lovers do.  As they clutch their Dunkin’ coffees, dog leashes and donuts, they’re effortlessly and casually chic.

Ben is an honest slice of Americana, a man bold enough to smoke a cigarette, in public, while wearing his mask. Ben’s deep drag on his butt is the collective relief that we’re all desperately craving. One doesn’t have to be a smoker to know that need. I feel it every time I pass my pantry and stuff chips into my mouth, looking down at the crumbs that have fallen on my kitchen floor and not really caring. I feel that release as I down my eighth cup of coffee, knowing that I just extended my bedtime to 2 a.m. and not caring.

Ben, I thank you for your loyalty. You’re steadfast in your zest for coffee, nicotine, and Boston. I thank you for your daily COVID walks, no doubt traipsed by paparazzi. I appreciate your white beard hair, fluctuating weight and honest portrayal of your battle with addiction.     

Somewhere in Malibu, Jennifer Garner is rolling her little eyes.

Notes During Quarantine

Reality TV’s Basic b&^ch.
  • When I pleaded for a celebrity scandal, I wasn’t hoping for Kristen Cavallari and Jay Cutler divorcing. Yup, I’m guilty of watching “The Hills” and “Very Cavallari,” and I can assure you that Kristen Cavallari is the most boring “celebrity” of all time, that Jay Cutler provides the only entertainment on “Very Cavallari,” and that somewhere there’s a “Bachelor” reject waiting to marry Cavallari in a soon-to-be televised reality series. YAWN.
  • I can cook approximately nine dinners and if I ever eat them again, I may never want to eat again.
  • Proving, once again, that Britney Spears is the celebrity gift that keeps giving, Queen Spears recently announced that she burned down her own gym. In her own words, “Hi guys, I’m in my gym right now. I haven’t been in here for like six months because I burnt my gym down, unfortunately.” Thank you, Britney. You are what the world needs right now.
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  • I just watched all 92 “Mad Men” episodes again. I know there are so many new programs to watch but I needed the comfort of double nostalgia. Nostalgia for a time I never lived and nostalgia for a cooler time when I watched the series. I love everything about “Mad Men” and watching it again is refreshing and sobering. Don Draper is a wretched man, Peggy Olsen is a comedic revelation of ambition and sadness, and January Jones’s Betty Draper is what nightmares and daydreams are made of.
  • It’s impossible to know if people are smiling or frowning behind their masks and it makes interactions extra scary.
  • Fiona Apple’s new album “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is exactly what I hoped it would be and so much more. There could not be a more fitting soundtrack for quarantine than this poetic masterpiece.

The Art of a Car Ride, Pop Music + a Plea for a Celebrity Scandal

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Day 666 of quarantine. Reality is setting in. The days cascade through gratefulness, fear, empathy and what is that? Anger, I think. Healthcare workers, grocery store employees and to-go servers are heroes and offer me a rare glimpse of human interaction beyond my four walls.

Quarantine makes me nostalgic for my teen years when freedom arrived in the form of a car. The anticipation of getting my license was so severe that I failed my driver’s test twice. TWICE. I attribute the failures more to anxiety than poor driving skills, but I finally nailed it on my 3rd time and took to the roads with a Chevrolet something.

Much like right now, driving through the windy roads of a small town, with pop music blaring, was all there was to do. It’s what I’m doing every afternoon now and here’s what I’ve noticed.

“Hot Girl Bummer” is Perfection

After years of silly resistance, I now embrace weird rap. What I dig is the honesty, lack of pretense and its boasts of illegal and poor behavior. I’ve had enough of the phony positivity of Lizzo and Lovato and prefer to listen to fairy tales of promiscuity, excessive partying and girl fights. “This that throw up in your Birkin bag, hook up with someone random.” Smells like teen spirit to me.

Speaking of teen spirit, the song’s tone reminds me of Nirvana. It’s angry and funny, with a keen eye on youth’s beauty and ugliness. “F#$k you and you, and you. I hate your friends and they hate me too.” Thank you, Mr. Blackbear, now please cool it with the facial tattoos.

Kurt Cobain + My Numbers Problem

I’m bad at numbers. I have to REALLY think before I can answer the years my children were born. My oldest is easiest, it’s 2001. But every year around the beginning of April I remember that it’s Kurt Cobain’s death anniversary. The hint of spring jolts me with a whiff of alertness and I recall that spring feeling with news that Cobain died. I tend to live in the past, in my head, and the quarantine escalates my dwelling.

Driving around with nowhere to go while trying to figure out the meaning of life is exactly what I’m doing these days, exactly what I was doing when “Nevermind” was released, and what I was doing around the time Cobain died. As the April 5 anniversary came and went without much news, I realized how much has changed but how little we change. Like 1994, I’m savoring car rides, writing and awaiting a new Fiona Apple album.

Fiona Apple Reemerges

Sensing Gen Xers’ malaise, Fiona Apple sweeps in and will release her first album in eight years on April 17. To share that I’m excited is as immense an understatement as “Meghan Markle’s dull” or “Britney Spears is strange.” I count down the days until I can listen to her new album and I’m sure I’ll keep it in my car’s outdated CD player until her next album is released during my retirement.

No Celebrity News Isn’t Good News

Perhaps Beyonce, Jay Z and Solange can get into another elevator.

I’m watching the news throughout the day and so saddened, but I feel like something’s missing: the universe needs something frivolous to focus on.

Consider this a personal plea to the Gwyneths, Madonnas, Brads and Britneys to mess shite up with a scandal hot enough to avert our attention for a day or two. Divorce, a secret marriage or a disastrous elevator ride will do.  Heck, I’ll settle for a cheating scandal, rehab or an unplanned pregnancy.

A juicy celebrity scandal should be a part of their agent’s contract. Come on, they owe us one. Brad Pitt, the epitome of coolness, could take one for the team and have an Instagram live wedding to some unheard-of environmentalist. Or maybe he and Jennifer Aniston could pretend to get back together again ­– just to entertain us now that we’ve finished “Tiger King”, “Ozark” and the entire “Madmen” series for a 3rd time.

Hollywood, think about it and feel free to contact me for guidance. I will be sitting right here, unless I’m driving around thinking of alternative music.

xo

I was a strange kid.

COVID-19, Shopping, and an Inability to Act in a Crisis

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I’m extra twitchy.

Sure, I do dwell in a perpetual state of anxiety and weirdness but be forewarned, I’m acting much crazier than usual. COVID-19, coupled with my total inability to handle a crisis, has me shopping like Celine Dion and sweating like Amanda Bynes’s parents on visitor’s day.

My list of neurosis is as robust as my closet and hovering close to the top is a whammy: In a catastrophe, I’m immobilized by fear and can’t do anything other than shop, obsess and read.

White ceilings, bright overhead lights. Finally, I’m home.

Since my completely-sober Corona blackout, I’ve purchased a new wardrobe and polished off a book every other day. I don’t even know what the books have been about, I just read them until I can sleep.

Want to know what I haven’t done? Stocked up on necessities, contacted my doctor about doubling prescriptions, or sanitized my house. I’ve burrowed myself deep into a K-hole of inactivity and dealt with my fear by analyzing every word of The Weeknd’s creepy new masterpiece, shielding my eyes while watching HBO’s “The Outsider”, and wondering what Fiona Apple is doing. It’s all I know how to do.

Does Beck have a pre-existing condition? Will he be okay?

This behavior goes way back. Fresh from college, I drove across country with a male pal to move to Portland, Oregon. I had no reason to do this, no plan when I got there, and no thoughts on returning. My parents were on my back about getting a job with insurance and I just wanted to party, stalk Elliott Smith and get away from a pretentious manchild I’d been obsessing over for years.

So, to prepare for this ridiculous journey, I slept. I slept like I’d never slept before. I slept right until it was time to say my “goodbyes” and climbed into a car to travel 3,000 miles to party and stalk a new manchild. I can’t remember if I ever even wanted to go to Portland, I just didn’t know how to get out of it.

Portland-bound without a plan.

You know that part in a movie, right before someone delivers horrible news and they say, “Do you want to sit down?” That question is for people like me. People who get woozy at bad news and faint in times of turmoil. Don’t count on me in an emergency.

Some may blame it one laziness, but I think not. I’m not lazy, just crazy. I can’t even deal with this coronavirus stress by overeating because my inability to act landed me right into obesity and now I’m intermittent fasting like a millennial.

Can’t Kit-Kat may way out of this one.

For years I lived without a scale and with a false sense of comfort that I wasn’t THAT fat. Heck, I’d had three kids and could still wear all my ethereal tent dresses —how chubby could I be?

Because I also have a deep fear of doctors, I rarely had to step on a scale, and I enjoyed my make-believe land of thinness and health. But a nasty sickness landed me in the emergency room with a DEMAND that I get a doctor and lose weight. Yup, I knew I was getting fat, but I combated the problem by never stepping on a scale or going to a doctor. PERFECTO!

So, I’m going to fight Corona with everything I have: impressive clothing, an expert’s knowledge on The Weeknd, and a hunger for food after 6 p.m.

See you in the bunker! I’ll be the really well dressed hungry woman.