Annoying Social Group – Sisters or Snakes

Sigmund Freud analyzing a man with a very flat head. He tells him his mother never loved him because she hit him with a frying pan.I recently got together with a group of women to just hang out.  That’s never really been my style, but my husband thinks I need to have a social life that involves grown-ups, face to face, blah, blah, blah.

“I never really hung out with girls much.” I said.  “I mostly hung out with guys.  Much less drama, you know.”

It occurred to me, that might sound insulting so I quickly tried to explain.

“I mean I like them, I just don’t –  See, to me girls are – I mean, were, like snakes.  I think snakes are fascinating and I like to interact with them sometimes, but I wouldn’t want one around all the time.  Uh, but that was a long time ago. Now I LOVE hanging out with snakes – uh, girls – women.”

I could see I was making things worse, so I poured myself some coffee, which I don’t even drink, just to get out of further elaboration.

“I agree with Shay.” Evette said.

Evette’s one of my friends I like to hang out with because she doesn’t play games, no drama, no backstabbing.  She’s more likely to stab you right to your face.  Wait, that sounded horrible. She tells things like they are. She doesn’t lie to your face then talk about you behind your back.  At least I don’t think she does.

“Women can be psycho.  My ex-sister-in-law was crazy.” Evette added.

“The one that went to jail for hit and run?” I asked.

“That’s the one.” She said.

“Oh, my gosh.  Was she driving drunk?” asked one of the women in the group that looked like a 1950’s librarian.

“She wasn’t driving. She just punched a guy in a restaurant and ran off.” Evette explained.

“For no reason?” someone else asked.

“There has to be a reason.” The librarian stated frowning.

“Maybe she knew him.”

“Nope.” Evette said.

“Maybe he cut in line or bumped into her.” Someone else offered.

“It could have been PMS. I’ll hit anyone when my hormones are off.” I said, perhaps a little too forcefully.

An uncomfortable hush fell over the group and I could tell from Evette’s expression that I had just gotten kicked out of another social group.

Suddenly everyone had somewhere to be and it was just me and Evette.

“That went okay.” I said lamely.

“That was not okay.  Why do you have to – “ she stopped before voicing that thing I did that was too

“You’re the one that brought up the hit and run.” I said defensively.

“I did that because I wanted to get kicked out of this group. I don’t want them to start asking me to join them and have to make a bunch of lame excuses for avoiding them.” She said.

“You…?  Well, maybe I did too.”

“Uh-huh.” Evette said finishing her coffee.  “I gotta go.”

“Okay. Hey, what about you’re girlfriends.  Maybe sometime I could join you-”

But Evette was already shaking her head as she headed to the door.

“What? I can behave.” I said chasing after her.

She continued to shake her head as she exited the diner.

“Why not?  Is it because I’m white?” I asked point blank.

Evette let out that beautiful, although in this case irritating, laugh. “It’s because you’re annoying.” She explained.

“No I’m not!  Am I? Really?  What do I do that’s so annoying?” I asked as she got in her car.  “Name one thing!”

She started the car. I stepped back, but raised my voice so she could hear me through the window.

“One thing!  You can’t name one thing, can you?” I said smug in the knowledge it was an empty excuse and there wasn’t one thing actually annoying about me.

She paused and rolled down the windows just a crack.

“You don’t know how to let things go.” She said with the confidence of someone that had just laid down the winning hand in rummy. Then she drove off.

I love Evette, but she was wrong.   I was going to go home and write down every single non-annoying thing I do and present it to Evette.  And to the breakfast club for that matter!  That would show them just how wrong they are about me.

I had a strange feeling there was something I was missing, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was just hormones, I should probably stay away from people for a few hours.

Past Disasters and Confessions of Youth

Before electronic games and cable TV, we played make-believe, with or without actual toys.  I climbed trees and played Pocahontas. I made bows and arrows out of tree branches from our Christmas tree whittled with mom’s kitchen knives.  By Christmas Day our tree looked like Charlie Brown’s and the knives couldn’t cut butter; but sacrifices have to be made for creativity, right?

Most of my real toys were hand me downs anyway.  I can only recall one toy that I got new, a knock-off Barbie.

She was  4’2” in Barbie height and had a pull string voice box that was supposed to sound cheery: “Come over to my house and play.”  Unfortunately, it was broken from day one and sounded like a demon whose message was clearly: “come over so I can kill you.”

I didn’t have any Barbie clothes either.  I think she came in an outfit, but it got lost, so she was naked most of the time.  I tried to make a sarong out of Kleenex with limited success.  I also made a maxi pad bed with a tampon for the pillow.  Pretty resourceful for a kid who didn’t even know what that stuff was!

I inherited a lot of my ingenuity from my older siblings.  When my oldest brother realized he was the leader of a gang, (there were six kids which under loitering laws constitutes a gang), he would devise elaborate missions for us to undertake in our war games.  Sometimes it was fun, like the time we dug a “foxhole” in Grandmother’s back yard, which caved in on us when it started raining.

Other times it was NOT fun, like playing Army with him as  the General while the rest of us were Privates that had to scrub the floor with our toothbrushes.  No wonder I had cavities!

My mom will vouch for the most insane stunt.  One night our parents left us home with our housekeeper (the brief time we had one growing up). What most likely started as a food fight, became a full on floor party ,when we poured an entire pot of spaghetti sauce on the tile floor and went sliding in it!  Our housekeeper, who was a saint, cleaned up everything and by some miracle convinced our dad not to punish us for the incident.  Maybe he took pity on us because he knew what I’m now realizing:

While genius and insanity are separated by a fine line, creativity and insanity share a smudged line.

That Fatal Step Beyond Brilliance

A man using a blow torch to melt ice of his windshield.
Apparently the high UV protection rating of the windshield did not equate to fire retardance. (That fatal step beyond brilliant.)

I’m always trying to learn more about my craft.  Which is writing, in case you were wondering.  I tried knitting once but it was too hard to turn one long string of knitted yard into something useful.  But I digress.

The Austin Screenwriting Conference is one of the places I have gone for many years to learn about screenwriting and most recently playwriting.  It’s cool because there are literally hundreds of people you can talk with about writing, unlike at the grocery store where people are more interested in talking laundry detergents or shocking alien baby headlines.

While waiting in line to go into a session last October, I was talking with some fellow writers about a title for a script idea I had.

“The premise is: A woman fears her mailman could be the sperm donor of her young son.”  I explained.

“What about Heir Mail, spelled H-E-I-R?” someone suggested.

“Oh, I like that.” I said.

“I know, Postage Due.  No, Male Man.  That’s no good. I’ve got it, Going Postal. ” a woman drinking an energy drink fired off.

“I was originally thinking Special Delivery, but I think I like Heir Mail best” I said.

“Those are terrible names.” Scoffed a rather grungy looking guy of indeterminate age.  “What’s in now is sounds.”

“Sounds?” I asked wondering if he was on something.

“Titles go through cycles. It used to be the end of things, like “The Final Chapter” or “The Last Jedi.” He explained.

“Oh, I see. So, you’re saying… what are you saying?” I asked still confused.

“Sounds, man.  Like crunchy, or clank, or SNAP!” he yelled, causing us to jump back.

“I’m not sure I -” I began, wondering if this was another of Austin’s homeless teasing us for his own amusement ,or if it was Terry Rossio, who was leading the session we were going into.

“Alright, I’m just going to give this one to you. No fiduciary.” He said as he moved in to whisper in my terrified ear.

Clank Fizz Boy.” He said softly.

Suddenly they opened the doors and everyone rushed past me into the room.  The grungy man was gone, the room filled up and they closed the doors and still I stood there.

I knew I should disregard what he said, but I felt like the beginning and end of Citizen Cain having just heard the word “Rosebud” whispered to me like the key to the universe.

Clank Fizz Boy. It was just crazy enough to be brilliant.  I raced back to my hotel room, unplugged and began outlining a new script.  It was either going to be my big splash into film success or land with a resounding thud. (See what I did there?)

A baby wearing suspenders to hold up his diaper.
Dana was sure her diaper suspenders were going to make her rich. (Another fatal step past brilliance.)

Fear the Fries and Other Lies – Or Are They?

Easter Bunny in overcoat with KGB on it, sets out eggs with antennas.
She thinks the Easter Bunny was an invention of the Cold War communists to hide bugging devices all over America.

“My mom is a conspiracy theorist.” My friend Kimberly was saying.

We were packing up her mom’s house to move her into a retirement home.  Having moved 10 times by the time I was 18, I knew a bit about packing.  What I didn’t know about was her mom’s obsession(s).  There were microscopes, lab specimen containers (empty, thankfully), scales and LOTS more.

“What kind of conspiracies?” I asked curiously.

“Every kind you can think of.” She said holding up one of the scales. “For one thing, she thinks the potato chip companies are shorting us on chips.  So she weighs each bag and logs it in one of those journals.”

There must have been hundreds of the journals lining the book cases.  A shiver ran up my spine as I looked at them.

“She thinks fast food places put drugs into the food to make people addicted to it so they’ll keep coming back.”

“I could go for some french fries now.” I said.  Then began to crave them the more I thought about it.  Could it be true?  Was I addicted? Why else would I crave something that tasted like over-salt fried cardboard?

“And I bet it’s heat activated, because once they’re cold, we lose the desire to consume.” I speculated aloud.

“That’s just what my mom thinks.” she laughed, not realizing the truth of the matter.

I desperately wanted to get into those journals to see the evidence she amassed, but didn’t want to seem nosy, so I grilled Kimberly instead.

“Do you think maybe sometimes she’s onto something?”

She gave me a  doubtful look.

“She thinks the Easter Bunny was an invention of the Cold War communists to hide bugging devices all over America.  She thinks the trash company is run by the mafia so they can dispose of bodies without suspicion.  And she thinks Congress has been replaced by aliens.”

Some of that sounded plausible.  All of it, actually.

“She even thinks you’re a secret assassin.” She laughed.

“I wish.” I said.  “I mean, it sounds more exciting than housewife or room mom.”

I decided to start packing the bookcase, with a plan to accidentally drop one or two of the journals open to see the contents inside.  But first I had to pack up three boxes of books on Lincoln.

“Let me guess, she thinks the Union was behind Lincoln’s assassination.” I teased.

“No, she’s convinced it was suicide.”

“What!  How in the world – are you Mrs. Sammon?” I said catching myself as Kimberly’s mom came up from the basement.

“I’m fine dear.” She said, setting down a bird cage and giving me a hug, which actually felt more like a pat down.  Had she always done that?

“What a pretty bird.  What kind is it?” I asked but she was done with me and headed back to the basement – probably a secret laboratory.

“Sherlock is a canary.” Kimberly said.  “His job is to detect if someone is piping poisonous gas into the house.” she said trying to sound mysterious.

“That’s-”

“Crazy.  I know.” Kimberly said, cutting me off.

I was actually going to say “brilliant” but decided to keep it to myself.

“What are you going to do with all her stuff?” I asked, still hoping to peek into the journals.

“Most of it is going with her to the retirement home.”

“How does she feel about moving into the retirement home?” I asked curiously,  since many people her mom’s age are against it.  Personally, I think three catered meals a day, a housekeeper and bingo sounds like heaven.

Kimberly closed the door to the basement to be sure her mom couldn’t hear us.

“She thinks she’s going there to find a North Korean spy.” She said with a wink and a smile.