Thursday, April 22, 2010

There's No Place like Home

I flew home last week to go to my sister’s thesis show in Mississippi. Man. What a trip. Now, all I can think about is how homesick I am.

I hate admitting that. I hate admitting that I am homesick, because I remember when a girl I knew was living out here and she wrote some blog about being homesick, and she kept talking about how she wanted to move back to Memphis so that she and all of her “besties” could “raise babies together,” and I thought that was lame and disgusting and stupid, and I don’t ever want to come off like that.

Now that I’ve set THAT disclaimer, I can freely say that I am homesick for my culture. Now, it’s taken me a long time to figure out what that means, exactly, and even though I can’t articulate it, I know it when I’m around it.

It feels right.

I picked up my cap and gown two days ago. I also got my degree framed. I remember the day that I graduated from college, my sister said to me,

“This is the happiest day of your life. You’ll never have another feeling like this. You’ll never have to write a paper AGAIN!”

And I remember not feeling like that at all.

I hadn’t really felt like I’d done anything. I just felt like I got a piece of paper. I remember during the after party, I felt really humbled or something, because a lot of people came who wanted to show me they loved me and supported me, and I was kind of shocked to realize what a strong support group I actually had, but actually walking at graduation didn’t really do it for me.

When I got my master’s, I was proud, but it was sort of the same thing. I don’t really feel like I’ve done something amazing or whatever. I just feel like I’ve checked something else off my list, like I’ve just bought detergent or had my oil changed. Maybe I just don’t feel anything. Maybe I’m a robot. With a nice butt (a “FANTASTIC @$$!!!! That is for you, Anna).

So. I’m saying all of this to say, that I moved out to L.A. and got a master’s. I came out here because I’d wanted to live in L.A. my entire life. I’ve come out here, and now I can check it off my list.

And now I’m ready to go home.

I’ve thought that going back home would mean that I’ve failed. I thought it’d mean that I’ve half-assed a lifelong dream. I thought if I moved home, it would’ve meant that I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t hack it, I wasn’t strong enough or something. All I could think about was the “I told you so” speeches I got from EVERYONE before I moved out here, how they all said I’d be back. That’s what I’ve thought about. I’ve thought about failing. But now I see that all of that is a crock of crap. I’ve done what I came here to do. I came out here, I got a master’s, I’ve “lived the dream,” I’ve hung out with celebrities, I’ve been to amazing events and met wonderful people and done stand up comedy and done things that lot of people could never do… And I’m ready to go home now.

I sort of feel like Forrest Gump. He runs and runs and runs and runs, and has this huge following of people whose lives he has changed, and then he just says, out of the clear blue,

“I'm pretty tired... I think I'll go home now.”

Now I get it.

I don’t want to talk too much about my work, but it has caused me severe emotional burnout. Severe. I’ve watch my boss jam her liver spotted finger into a grown man’s chest and make him cry. I’ve watched her verbally assault people time and time again and scream at them, asking why they are so “f-cking stupid.” She’s a rage aholic. I’ve never seen anyone so addicted to raw, sulphurous, venomous rage. It’s bizarre. I didn’t grow up in a yelling, screaming household, so this has been completely unfamiliar to me. And after awhile, it broke my spirit.

After my boss will make our clients cry and I watch them turn into puddle on the floor and my boss will scream, “I can’t deal with this f-cking idiot. Rachel, you deal with them.” I’ll sit in my office with a client while they cry quietly, and after they feel safe, they tell me their story. I’ve heard everything from divorce to abortion to drugs to the death of a child. You name it, I’ve heard it. I tell you this to give you a glimpse of my typical, 10-hour work day. It’s hell.

After I went to Mississippi to see my sister, I drove down to Louisiana. I needed to see my grandparents. I was soul sick and I needed a shot.

I picked up some dinner at the grocery store and drove to my Memaw’s house. Just driving down her street, that same street that she’s always lived on, I felt safe. I felt like I was home.

As soon as I walked into her house, I started crying. I’m even crying a little bit while I type this now. I just fell apart. I put the lasagna in the oven and sat at her kitchen table and I cried. I told her that I was done. I told her that L.A. had kicked my ass and handed it right back to me, and I was in a dead-end job that had completely made me give up all hope, and I’d spent all this time and money on a degree just to be in a job that I HATE, and dating has been a nightmare and I’m alone and empty and done. And I cried some more.

My Memaw hugged me like she does. She just hugged me. And she prayed with me. And I kept on crying until I had nothing left anymore. And then she said this.

“Now Rachie Pooh, you know that you are a feathers and sequins kind of girl. Now what does that have to do with divorce and abortion?!”

It was the most practical thing I’d heard in about two years.

I think I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be something I’m not. Actually, I don’t think I’ve done that- it isn’t that I’ve tried to be something I’m not as much as I haven’t been able to just embrace who I really am.

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be Dolly Parton. Then somehow down the line, I became a counselor, and I wear a bunch of frumpy, homely business casual close to work, and I come back home every day to lie on the floor and be depressed. What the eff happened to wanting to be Dolly?

The last guy I dated couldn’t handle dating me because my personality was too strong for him. When I was in the seventh grade, my Sunday school teacher told me I was the worst kid she’d ever taught. When I was in graduate school, my professor wrote me a note to tell me to stop being “so funny” when I made presentations. All of these messages made me feel a little bit ashamed, like maybe I needed to sort of calm it down and be more tame and average and safe.

Memaw taught me to say “Jam it” to people who want me to be less than everything that I am.

As I sat with her in her kitchen, I started to remember who I was. I started to remember that I can be obnoxious and make jokes and drive people crazy but also be thoughtful and kind and make people feel appreciated. She made me remember.

I spent a lot of time with family when I was home. Paw Paw and I went fishin down on Lake Tickfaw. I felt at peace for the first time in years. We fell asleep on the boat under a mossy tree. I got sunburned so bad that my face felt hot for a week. The incredible thing here is that I fell asleep. I actually slept. I slept every single night while I was home. I haven’t slept in years.

My aunt and I hung out at her house and danced like crazy to Michael Jackson on the back porch. We danced around while all of her dogs were barking and jumping around us. I had a coke with my cousin while he was recovering from a car accident and we just enjoyed being together. I saw my best friend from back home and spent time with her and her husband and saw their new house. I was around people who loved me just as I am.

I also met a nice guy. A genuinely nice guy.

Being home reminded me of who I was. I had some unfinished business to take care of when I was in Louisiana.

To set the stage, here, my dad gave me the OK to go to LSU two weeks before school started. TWO WEEKS. I had very little time to prepare and make my move down there. I got placed in some sort of horrendous ghetto housing, and I didn’t even care, because all I wanted to do was go to LSU.

So, I’m on a campus tour, and I see my new dorms, and they look like something out of Spanish Harlem, and I don’t even care because I just want to go to college so bad that I can barely stand it. My first choice had been East Laville dorms, but I wasn’t able to live there for a variety of factors. I don’t want to get into all of them because it’s irrelevant. Anyway, I came back from the tour, and my dad says,

“I want you to come with me. I need to show you something.”

So we walk down to East Laville in front of room 109. I didn’t know what was going on. My dad said,

“Honey, this is your new room.”

I told him to stop messing with me.

He wasn’t.

He had recognized the lady who was working at the housing desk. He knew her when he was in THE FIRST GRADE. Anyway, her name was Irene, and she hooked me up. Just like that. I got exactly what I wanted, and my roommate freshman year became my best girl friend.

I tell this story because when I was in Louisiana, I had to have a come to Jesus meeting with Jesus.

I was driving home from my best friend’s house and I drove to the LSU campus. I drove right up to East Laville and turned my car off. And I started to pray. I told God I remembered what He did. I remembered how despite being told that I couldn’t go to LSU and I couldn’t live in East Laville, I got both, despite impossible circumstances. I told Him that I remembered. I told him that I needed help. I told him I couldn’t keep working in this job in this environment with these people. I told him I was in over my head in L.A. and I was lost and confused and empty and broken. I told Him I needed help, and I remember who He is. We had a meeting. I sat there in my car for a long time and remembered walking up those steps a thousand times as a freshman, and every time feeling so fortunate that I got what I wanted. I told God I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, but I needed help, and He’s the only one who could pull me out. I laid down my stone of remembrance.

I kept postponing my return to L.A. Every day I thought that maybe I’d come back, but every day I’d stay one more day in the South.

I don’t know what I’m doing right now, but I know that there is something else for me. I know it isn’t this. I know it isn’t working in an environment where every day I come home and want to fall apart. But something’s coming. I don’t know what it is, but I'm not ashamed about going home anymore. Maybe that's exactly what I need. I came out to L.A. and did what I need to do. And now, I'm ready to go home.

Bump in the Night

A lot of weird, life changing stuff has occurred since my last blog. I am not very good about regularly writing. I have to be in the mood, and sometimes, I’m just not in it. The mood, that is.

So! Let me work from a few weeks ago up to the present.

I think that during my last blog, I was still dating my pseudo-boyfriend, but that went up in flames, which was a good thing. I don’t even know what happened. That’s the thing about L.A. You think that you might be dating someone, and maybe you are, and maybe you aren’t. You go to parties with them and they don’t introduce you as their S.O. (Significant Other, if you will), but you still hang out several times per week, and you aren’t dating anyone else. Then, once you attempt to have a DTR (Define The Relationship) talk about whether you ARE together or you AREN’T together, just to gain some clarity, your pseudo partner says,

“I just can’t handle this! You are too outgoing! I hate that you are friends with my friends! I hate that you meet people on airplanes and then you invite them to your parties! I feel like I have to always fight for your attention!!! I JUST CAN’T HANDLE THIS!”

And you wonder what the F they are even talking about, because you’re not sure what they mean by not being able to handle “this.” What the crap does “this” even mean? I was just trying to find out if I could date other people or not. Sheesh. Anyway, you wind up never talking to them again until they really miss you, then they call you up and tell you that they miss you and it’s just KILLING them not being able to talk to you or take you to parties and not introduce you as their S.O. anymore, and you’re thinking that the freedom from all of this dysfunction has been complete bliss, so when they give you some lame plea about getting back together, you just say, “Thank you,” and hang up the phone.

And that’s how it is when you date in L.A.

So, with this being said, the pseudo boyfriend is no longer in existence. Good.

Since we’re on the word pseudo, I have a pseudo-celebrity ex boyfriend/neighbor that I have stopped talking to who invited me to a party in Hollywood about three weeks ago. It was some big shin-dig that was kicking off a new Xbox 360 video game.

So, he picks me up and we go to Le Deux, which is all decked out like “Clue” has come to real life, with burgundy fabrics covering the ceiling and candelabras everywhere. We get there, and my neighbor, who thinks he is extremely famous (bless his heart), has to make his appearance on the red carpet and essentially leaves me abandoned by the bar. I begin drinking beverages out of bottles just to prove a point. In the South, women are never to drink adult beverages out of bottles. Adult beverages are to be poured into a cup and sipped ever so politely. I made it a point to be a little bit white-trashy on purpose, just to make him look bad. And I did it with pride.

There was some sort of iPhone game going on where we were given clues and we had to go from room to room in Le Deux and find certain “characters” to retrieve the next clue. For instance, the instructions might be, “Go to the back bar and face the door. Find the girl in the black dress with the red gloves to get your next clue.” So we’d find some girl and hope desperately that she was part of this game and not some stranger that we are accosting, and she’d pull off her glove and have a word written on her hand like “September,” and we’d have to type that in to get the next clue. Man, it was fun. At the end of the night, if you’re the first person to get all the clues, you win a free Xbox 360.

We didn’t win.

It didn’t matter.

Somewhere in the process of all of this, I meet some porn star named Taylor with long blonde extensions and boobs bigger than L.A. and lips full of collagen. She was wearing some sort of one-piece outfit cut into booty shorts and a plunging neckline, and of course, acrylic, 6-inch heels. Where I’m from, you just don’t dress like that. Even if you’re a hooker. Even if you’re a porn star. But you can do that here.

We got to chatting and she told me that she always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. Man. What a career shift. She was actually pretty nice. I felt sort of bad for her. I can’t imagine lacking such career longevity. She was sort of a butter face. She was only a butter face because she looked really effin old. She had this old lady face with the texture of a baseball glove that had so much work done that it sort of looked like a construction site, and this dynamite body- and she had this vacant look in her eyes. And I kept wondering when ole Taylor the Porn Star’s career would wear out. You can only do that kind of work for so long. Tragic.

At some point, Taylor asked me if I wanted to “bump.”

I didn’t know what the crap bumping meant, but coming from a porn star, I was a little bit nervous about it, and politely declined. She said it was an iPhone application for exchanging contact info. No matter what it meant, I was pretty sure that “bumping” with a porn star would make me wind up with Chlamydia, so I nicely said no thanks. She also said something about cocaine, but it was loud and I couldn’t really hear her, so I split. I got scared. Only in L.A. are porn stars freely walking around and telling you they always wanted to teach kindergarten one second and the next second asking you if you want to bump with them and mentioning cocaine. This place wears me out.

I started walking around as my neighbor kissed everyone’s ass, because that’s what you do when you’re in the “industry” out here, and I bumped into Joel McHale from “Talk Soup.” He was a cool cat. He was a lot taller than I thought he’d be. He looks like a wee man on TV.

I saw a bunch of D list “celebrities” that I’d seen at the Oscar party I worked at, and I thanked God that I wasn’t involved in this industry. It’s funny how glamorous it seems when you watch movies and see people on Leno and Letterman, and then you see them around L.A. with cocktails in their hands, talking to all of their fellow empty suit friends about NOTHING. They talk about NOTHING. They just talk about what they’d think you’d want to hear if you could overhear them, but the music is so loud that you just see their mouths moving, and then you appreciate the fact that you aren’t in that inner circle of depressing empty suits.

So that was my Le Deux, D-list celebrity experience.

The next day, I went out on the worst day of my life with a guy who looked like he was in his 30’s but would never tell me how old he was, so when he left the table to use the restroom, I grabbed his wallet and checked his ID. I was on a date with a 40 YEAR OLD MAN.

I sort of wanted to run away, but I decided that as long as I kept everything platonic, I could bail out at the end and just never talk to him again. Which is what I did.

I often think that I have Tourette’s. I don’t know what happens, but I blurt out whatever is on my mind without really thinking it through before saying it. So. I asked the 40 year old if he had fake teeth.

They looked really fake.

They sort of looked like they were made out of a bunch of Scrabble pieces that were spray painted white and all glued together in a big U shape. Of course, this was the worst thing I could ever ask, and he said, “No!” all huffy and what not. I don’t really blame him. I wouldn’t like it if I had a whole set of Mr. Ed teeth and someone asked me if they were fake.

During the course of the evening, though, he told me he had a tumor in his mouth when he was little and almost died. And I knew those teeth were fake as Hollywood.

I always ask men about their family of origin during a first date. I want to know where they came from and what they are all about. Bad question for this 40 year old joker. His dad was murdered on Halloween.

Way to go, Rachel. You’re really doing well on this one.

During the course of the night, I find out that not only is he 40 years old, but he is also divorced. Not to say I wouldn’t date someone if they were divorced, because that isn’t a big deal to me, but it IS a big deal that he’s 40 and divorced and has fake teeth and his dad got murdered.

I ruined the night for good when he took me to a movie. Guys, never take a girl to a movie for a first date. That is the worst idea ever. EVER.

So, we go to the movies, and guess what I do. I pass out. I seriously fall asleep so hard that I’m having dreams and I’m lying there like a starfish corpse.

After the movie, I wake up and JUMP because I didn’t know that I’d fallen asleep, and I look at the guy and say,

“Whoa. Did I just fall asleep?”

And he says, real miffed, “Yeah, you slept through like THE WHOLE THING.”

So, that’s the story of a terrible date, and it was terrible because I ruined it. Poor guy. He actually texted me last week and asked if I wanted to go out again. Some people like abuse, I guess. Needless to say (so why say it?), I politely declined, just as I politely declined “bumping.”