Thursday, April 24, 2014

On Boring People

I realized a while ago that the one quality I won’t tolerate in a friend or acquaintance is being boring.  I’ll put up with selfishness, laziness, pettiness, childishness, trace amounts of cruelty, and even a generous dash of pure evil, but I bolt at the first sign of boring.  

One of the reasons that boring isn’t tolerated in my life is that it’s so immediately spotted, thus allowing me to duck out before things get bad.  Boring isn’t insidious like the other qualities above.  You can have a lovely friend whom, after several months or even years, you finally figure out is staggeringly jealous of your success and undermines you via subtle put-downs “to be realistic,” or a friend whom you realize probably says the same sort of acrid observations about you when you’re not around as they do about everybody else.  These qualities come in slowly, and reveal themselves after a long time, if ever.  The meaty stink of boring, however, hits you immediately, leaving you free to run, or, failing that, swiftly end your life.  I’ve come to hate boring people so much that the people I avoid the most are, in my internal catalogue in which I obsess over people I don’t like, named:
1) Boring Guy.  This is the name afforded to Ben’s and my current arch-rival, who finds it socially acceptable to approach us in public and be lavishly boring.  He’s also an insincere, condescending dickhead, but that might actually be kind of great if he were funny.

2) Boring [Name]:  The “boring” modifier was afforded to this individual to differentiate them from someone bearing the same first name as that boring chode I run into now and again when I decide to be drunk enough to risk being in public.

3) Boring Security Guard: I might loathe him the most, since he talks to me a lot at work, or he did until he saw me with Ben one afternoon.  Now he just waddles near me and gives me a vacant smile sometimes, and even the way he walks seems to suck the spark out of my brain.  If someone is boring at you while you’re being paid to stay in a certain place, there are no polite excuses available to you.  Your life is ruined forever.

4) Boring Lady:  Boring Lady also has truly remarkable body odor, thus proving that life is but a linear glance at a tableau of suffering and despair.

5) Oh Christ, not [Name]:  When “how are you?” and “fine” stretch into a 45-minute conversation with no other words, I am amusing myself by wondering what death feels like.  This person’s conversation is the auditory equivalent of gruel.

I consider these people my mortal enemies, despite the fact that each of them is actually quite nice, and kind, and good.  I just can’t stand them and I want them to die, that’s all.

I realized that the reason I couldn’t stand a lot of my ex-boyfriend’s acquaintances was that he could tolerate any sort of flaw so long as someone was “nice.”  A lot of the would-be corpses he worked with at the parking garage were like poison to me, but he could talk to anybody.  Now, I kind of hate people who can only be described as “nice,” but that’s another topic altogether.  Unfortunately, he had unlimited reserves of patience for boring people, and could find something funny in someone’s anti-anecdote about how their grandson just loves carrots but he never could stand the stuff himself, and his surname was Bland, but it was really a shortening from when some white people came over from Whitedonia, and they had previously been called the Blandens, which was shortened further from their roots back in Whitistan where it had been Blandendeath.  Urchins like this would talk to him and he would at least appear genuinely interested, and would always seem startled when I noted that my insides were rolling with hatred and escapism, and that the only way to deal with this person was to will my brain to begin naturally producing psilocybin so I could trip balls and be miles away.  Failing that, cellular death seemed an attractive vacation spot.

I, on the other hand, have a difficult time wasting words on people who spew beige at me in return, and I suppose that’s what categorizes me as an introvert.  I want to be social only when I can amuse, or try to at least (though I’m beginning to realize that my verbal slideshow of misery and death and pornography and the holocaust is significantly less funny to people who aren’t me), and then go home when I’m boring.  I’m boring a lot.  I’m boring when I drink my coffee in the morning, which is why I’m typically silent through it.  I’m boring when I get home from the grocery store, and all I can do is cry because I had to talk to people and nobody said anything funny and that’s intolerable.  I don’t want to be boring at people.  I want to live my moral code and adhere to strict hermeticism unless I’ve got something new to say.

Boring comes from an odd mixture of stupidity, lack of awareness, and humorlessness that becomes the most toxic substance known to mankind.  Boring can envelop and smother anything near it.  It binds with almost everything.  There is no known cure, only prevention and quarantine.  

Boring makes everything it touches boring, and after that it becomes self-perpetuating and exponential.  Two boring things near one another become more boring, but interesting things nearby become boring, too, if they directly interact for too long.  Have you ever used any of your A material on a boring person?  Isn’t it awful, feeling your vitality slip away as you stare at that person, willing them to actively participate in the conversation?  Those flat eyes, that soulless titter, that inability to leap lightly off your bon mots like a verbal Nijinsky, that tendency to bear down on one tattered path of conversation as old as time?  Have you ever noticed yourself slipping into boringland, where everything is beige and sunbeam bread?  It must be like those final months where you retain somewhat of a sense of self before succumbing completely to dementia.  You feel the loss, but grope at nothingness.  God damn you, boring person, you’re killing us all.  God help you if you say something not only interesting, but funny, at a boring person.  They look at you like they’ve never heard of a joke before, with this polite interest and bewildered, hesitant acceptance.  Is this okay? their dull eyes ask.  Just keep doing it and I’ll just watch.  No, that’s okay.  You go on ahead.  I’ll hold your purse for you while you go be a person.

Usually they don’t shut the joke down entirely, which can be kind of fun because then you get to push back, they just blandly accept it and wait for the next amusement.

Suddenly, I go from saying, “So at the far end of the dance floor, this stripper’s pulling her legs apart and staring up with soulless eyes, and these two dudes with these bright faces and button-up shirts...they’re there, and one is staring down the barrel of this lady’s vagina and the other one is gazing up at him in brotherly rapture, all Adam’s apple and dreams and hope, and both of them have these downright homespun expressions of charm and delight, and I was like….this is the weirdest Norman Rockwell painting I’ve ever seen.”

Which, if you don’t find that funny, fuck you.  So I go from saying that to saying, after the boring person’s stiff laughter:

“Yeah, it sure was weird, all right.”
“Yeah, I never went back.”
“No, I guess it is kind of sad when you think about it.”
“I mean, I never --”

and all is lost.  Thanks, you boring fuck.  You killed the funny.

If you kill a joke, you’re a murderer.  

Boring people don’t get the joke.  Usually, when someone gets the joke, they’re my friend for life.  When someone doesn’t get the joke, they become the joke.  Sometimes, that is a source of endless delight, like the guy at the bus stop who fellates hot sauce bottles while talking to strangers.  Unfortunately, when boring people become the joke, it’s not funny anymore.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Accepting Defeat

I am finally admitting defeat, and it’s a very good thing.
Ten years ago, under the familiar sallow glow of the bathroom light, I began vomiting blood.  Just a little at first, a few drops.  The taste of blood has always made me nauseated, so after the first few drops slid down my tongue, I vomited more, minus the intention this time.  The amount of blood was probably just a tablespoon or two, but it was enough.  I wasn’t scared, exactly, so much as resigned and satisfied.  Here was undeniable proof of how ruined I was, how sick and wrecked and wretched I could be.  I felt like I had earned a trophy.
I went to the emergency room, and while there was nothing physically wrong with me (just a small tear in my throat), I ended up in the hospital for three days.  I put myself there because I was punctuating nearly every two hours by purposefully vomiting in an attempt to lose weight.  At one point, I was up to 12 times in one day.  Once, I ate a small cup of applesauce, which I noted was 5 calories, and vomited it anyway.  I never did get thin, only sick and bloated.  I broke capillaries under my eyes, caused my face to swell up, and looked like I was near death at all times.  So much for an attempt to be pretty.
While I was in the hospital, I had doctors prod and pry into something I had essentially deified.  I guess I’ve always been more than a touch maudlin, because there’s something beautiful to me about a certain kind of suffering.  It was insulting to have them be so dismissive, dutifully cataloguing the scars on my legs and trying to get me to translate the words I had written there with a razor blade.  
“What is that?  Is that a boy’s name?”  It wasn’t.  I told them I didn’t remember, but I did.  I refused to tell them what the words were, only consented to let them know they weren’t all glossolalia.  
It unravelled my saintly pride to have nurses say things like, “Well, we’re going to keep you out here in the activity room after dinner so you don’t puke.”  Or to have a doctor, in group therapy, say (while laughing) “You know, this [gagging noises, miming slashing his legs] is a really stupid way to deal with your problems.  You’re too smart for that.”
I tell that story to people sometimes, and they’re typically horrified.  “That’s insensitive/how could he say that/you should have complained,” etc.
It was exactly what I needed to hear and see, though.  Had they legitimized my masochism and regarded it with reverence, I never would have stopped.  But I did.  It made me realize that I wasn’t going to be some waifish tragic figure with a trail of mourners, all lamenting her noble beauty and delicate suffering.  I was not a self-harm version of a Victorian consumptive.  I was just a fucked up teenage girl who was giving herself scars that would never go away, and throwing up rather than dealing with her shape in a healthy way, and blaming every problem she had on feeling ugly because she needed braces and was kind of chubby.  I haven’t cut myself since I left the hospital ten years ago.
My issues with food, however, are far from over.  I’ve certainly thrown up since then, but not on a regular basis.  Rather than vomit food, I simply digest it via a complex, inner system of guilt and shame and bargaining.  Food is weighed against other food, and I have to cancel out bad food with virtuous food.  Lucifer Chips are fighting an eternal battle against Archangel Michael Salad with low calorie dressing.  My relationship with my body has not gotten any better on the internal side of things, I just punish it less.   Or, rather, I do things that don’t feel like punishment, but are really finely crafted forms of torture.  Last June, I spent a week by myself while my then-boyfriend was out of town, consuming nothing but liquids and working out compulsively.
Here’s a recipe for what I ate three times a day: five or six leaves of kale, one cucumber, a handful of parsley, half a green apple, a thumb-sized chunk of raw ginger, and half a lemon.  Put that all into a juicer, and you have all of what I ate for a week.  The ginger was so powerful it made my eyes water and my throat burn.  After “eating” that green monstrosity (I’ll admit, it was actually weirdly delicious) I would work out for over an hour a day, in a gym with no air conditioning.  I passed out face first onto the elliptical machine once, and thought, “Wow, I’m glad nobody else was in here, or they’d make me go home now.”  Did I lose any weight?  Maybe a little.  It’s hard to tell.
I think back to how fucked up I was about food when I was a teenager, vomiting all the time, and am glad I’ve gotten better.  Then I look at what happens when I am left alone, and remember eating no solid food for a week and feeling like I wasn’t done working out until I was dizzy.  That was less than a year ago.
The other night, I admitted defeat.  I was lying in bed with Ben and burst into tears.  We had eaten pizza a few hours before, which is a minefield for me already, but in a fit of fearlessness I had eaten four slices, when I usually limit myself to two and promise to eat only salad the next day as saintly penance.  I was already in a difficult situation, because I was naked, and there’s no way for me to do that casually.  I can’t just walk, unclothed.  I have to contort to make sure my fat rolls are lessened, stand a certain way to make sure that I don’t jiggle as much, and cover up as much as possible to minimize the impact.  Lying down, especially cuddling, is both a blessing and a curse, because while there’s less of me immediately visible, what’s there is distorted and much more difficult to control.  All of a sudden all my flab starts to flow like lava and there’s nothing I can do about it but avert my eyes and soak up all this love I’m receiving via these sweet kisses on my shoulders and the most sincerely sweet gaze I’ve ever seen.  
I started crying, and it took Ben a few minutes to pry the phrase, “I’m sorry I ate so much pizza” out of me.
“Babe,” he said, puzzled.  “People eat when they’re hungry.  It’s fine.”
Of course, my immediate response was my saintly/teenaged, “You don’t understand,” but I suppressed it.  My assumption is that he doesn’t understand because he is beautiful, and because he’s slender, and because he is both of these things without trying and without artifice.  But who am I to say he’s never hated his body?  How would I know what he sees in the mirror?  It’s becoming increasingly clear that self-perception based on physicality has almost nothing to do with what the person in question looks like.  Some days, most days to be honest, I feel like a troll.  Whenever someone reacts negatively to me, I assume it’s because I’m ugly.  
I thought for six years that Ben didn’t like me, despite him telling me openly that he had done everything he could to get my attention when we first met, and that someone who fit my description was the “girl of [his] dreams.”  Clearly, it couldn’t be me, because I’m fat and my face is weird.  Clearly.  
The smallest things can make me feel wonderful, though.  When I’m wearing fake eyelashes, for some reason, I feel beautiful.  Lipstick goes a long way, too, but nothing erases my self-esteem issues quite like fake eyelashes, to the point where I’ve thought about getting eyelash extensions just so that I’ll spend less time crying and more time living.  
Logically, I know that I don’t look unrecognizable without my makeup on, but I’ve decided that the only reason I’ve ever been beautiful is the makeup I wear, and that it couldn’t possibly be the face underneath.  Logically, I know that makeup can only do so much, but emotionally I’ve never heard that.

Every single opportunity I’ve missed, every enemy I’ve made, every relationship I’ve lost, every failure I’ve endured, every rejection I’ve faced, I’ve blamed on my looks.  Every single one.  If something bad happens, I assume it’s because I’m fat or ugly or both.  When my last boyfriend cheated on me, I assumed my looks were the problem, not his commitment issues, my crippling insecurity (see above), his baggage from previous relationships, my need for validation, his resentment of my constant help and coddling, my need to try to make him better, his fear of failure, my upcoming move and transition into graduate school, my obnoxious intellectual snobbery, his self-consciousness about his lack of education, my desire to have a family, his issues from having children too young, etc.
The running commentary on my looks has gotten so constant over the years that I barely notice it anymore.  However, there I was, lying with my head on Ben’s beautiful chest, and suddenly I was a wreck because I had eaten pizza.  Pizza, for crying out loud.  That ubiquitous staple of youthful diets and spontaneity feels like eating a grenade to me.  That’s when I admitted defeat.  This not-vomiting thing isn’t enough, and clearly my self-image hasn’t gotten any better.  It’s beginning to bore me, being this obsessed with what I look like.  I’m sick to death of adjusting my clothes when I sit down to make sure nobody notices how fat I am, checking myself in the mirror fifteen or sixteen times while driving somewhere to make sure my makeup’s in check, not being able to leave the house without a full face of makeup on, feeling inadequate next to beautiful women, and on and on.  
I’m bored.  I’m holding myself back.  Clearly my attempt to manage this on my own have failed, and I am graciously admitting defeat and passing the torch. I can't do this by myself anymore. I’m going to find a community health center that works on a sliding scale or for free, and go see a goddamned therapist so I can start thinking about something else for once.