This Probably Isn’t Normal: A Poem

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One night in college, after a series of relatively minor but unfortunate events, I found myself unable to go to sleep because I couldn’t stop checking my alarm clock. I was sitting up in my bed, lights out and sound machine on, unable to put down the clock, no matter how sleepy I got, or how crazy I felt.

The thoughts and behaviors I was experiencing back then are often associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, BUT I am not assigning this diagnosis to my situation, because I never actually sought help for the issue, nor received a professional opinion. Also, I do think that the label is casually tossed around way too often, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

This post started out as a regular ol’ narrative, but I soon found myself wanting to make a poem out of it. If you’ve read my previous poem, you’ll know I’m no poet – but I have fun with them anyway, even when they’re relatively serious 😉

Once upon a time
During college – junior year
I developed a nasty habit
That sprouted from a fear

I overslept one morning,
And this bothered me to my core
Because I would be very late for class
By the time I walked out the door

I fretted my professor would hate me,
Or at least find me careless or daft
I made up my mind to be more careful
And this is where the universe laughed.

You see, as “fate” would have it,
I had set my alarm wrong again
What kind of person makes this error TWICE?
That thought got under my skin.

I knew that I was only human
And humans make mistakes
But I was really angry with myself
And I refused to give me a break

The habit started simply enough
At night, I’d double-check my alarm
Then “just one check” grew to two, then three
I didn’t think it’d be any harm

I’m sure you can tell where this is going:
My “checks” snowballed to 50+ times
I couldn’t stop thinking about my alarm,
And I became anxious at every bedtime

What if the time is set wrong?
Or what if it’s set to p.m.?
What if the clock somehow turned off?
…Maybe I’ll just check it again

I’d make myself exhausted
I’d cry from the aggravation
My rational side tried taking power,
But the logic train had left the station

My body’s primal need for sleep
Would finally, blessedly, take over
But should I awaken in the night
The thoughts would just carry right over

Anxiety is its own kind of torment
A prison from which there’s no escape
I often felt I was holding myself together
With Elmer’s glue and pieces of tape

With some time and a lot of effort
I broke myself of the madness
But I still get nervous that it wouldn’t take much
To just slip back into the practice.

 

Carpet Surgeon, Part 2

Please read Part 1 of this story first, where I describe how I accidentally stained my carpet with bleach, and then employed a really unconventional method for trying to fix it. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.

But I did come up with another strategy…

I found a pair of fabric shears and a small bowl, and ungracefully plopped down on the floor in front of the offending spot. Before I could change my mind, I used the scissors to gouge a hole in the carpet, and began hacking away.

My “brilliant” plan was to cut out the entire piece of stained carpet, and switch it with normal-looking carpet from another area in my apartment. The bowl would guide me in cutting out the carpet, so that both the damaged and undamaged pieces would be roughly the same size and shape.

You know, much like surgeons plan out organ transplants.

 

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This may surprise you, but fabric shears were actually not made for cutting through thick carpet. Crazy, I know. Using a bowl as a unit of measurement is also not advisable. I developed a newfound sympathy for carpet layers, even though I was guessing they worked with slightly more sophisticated equipment.

Before too long, my hand started to ache from cutting through the carpet. My back grew tired from awkwardly hunching over. But this idea felt smart, like it was really going to work.

Soon, I had a disastrously-cut circle of carpet in my lap. I then gazed around my apartment, attempting to find an unobtrusive location where the transplant would come from. I thought about using a portion from under my couch or bed, but quickly nixed that thought.

And then, my gaze drifted to my bedroom closet. It was the type with sliding glass doors on a track – the kind where you’re never able to see the clothes at the very back, because the light doesn’t reach that far.

Fortunately for me, this meant that the carpet at the very back was also much less noticeable.

I spent half an hour folded up like an accordion in the back of my closet, clothes hanging overhead, cutting out another circle of carpet. I briefly wondered how many people had found themselves in my exact situation, and decided the number was probably pretty low.

When I finally had a circle of soft, blemish-free carpet, I placed it gingerly in the hole where the stained circle had once been. The new circle fit well enough to sit level with the rest of the carpet, but there was an obvious ring around it, similar to the “dents” that heavy furniture leave behind.

I sighed, but I didn’t take the time to fret about it. I found a sewing needle and beige thread, and got to work sewing carpet fibers together so that the new circle would blend more smoothly into its surroundings.

You know your life has taken a strange turn when you find yourself lying on your stomach, sewing pieces of carpet. They should make Girl Scouts do that shit for patches.

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After the sewing was complete, and over the next few days, I stacked heavy books on top of the new carpet in an effort to further squish it down and soften out the obvious indentation. I even marched in place on it – again, much like surgeons probably do during transplants. Anytime I had to vacuum, I did so very carefully, so as to not destroy the delicate carpet stitches.

After all that work, you could still see the ring when you got up close, but from a few steps away, it was surprisingly pretty blended. If you don’t believe me, you should know that in my three years of living in that apartment, not one family member or friend ever gave the transplanted carpet so much as a second glance.

And when I eventually moved out? Management didn’t charge a penny for my ridiculous, over-the-top mistake(s). Because they never noticed it.

I think that’s enough to be considered a genius.

Carpet Surgeon: The Story of Why I Can’t Have Nice Things

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When I left my hometown to attend graduate school, I moved into an apartment in San Marcos, a city 30 minutes south of Austin. I loved that apartment. It was my first time living alone, and I had a grand time setting it up just how I wanted. I’ve never been a neat freak, but I was proud of my adult home and I took good care of it.

One day, after a marathon cleaning session, I walked through my bedroom and was surprised to feel a small patch of wet carpet under my bare feet. I couldn’t remember spilling anything in my room, but I figured it was probably just a bit of water, so I used my toes to rub the moisture in, assuming it would dry.

A lot of mistakes happen in this story, and this was Mistake #1.

Hours later, I walked back in my bedroom and stopped dead in my tracks. The “bit of water” on my carpet had dried as planned, but had left behind an ugly orange stain. The texture of the spot felt rough and fried.

Turned out, the innocent-looking wet patch had been caused not by water, but by BLEACH. I was dumbfounded. I had been cleaning with bleach earlier in the day, but I really couldn’t remember carrying the bottle through my bedroom, much less spontaneously pouring some on the carpet.

Like I said, I was proud of my little apartment, and I felt sad that the Great Bleach Monster had invaded my lovely space. It was all I could think about for the rest of the day. My unhappiness only increased when I realized that my apartment managers would likely charge me an exorbitant amount of money to replace the carpet, when (not if) they found the damage.

An amount of money I didn’t have. Because I was in graduate school. Earning a degree. Pretending to be intelligent.

I couldn’t and wouldn’t be foiled by the Great Bleach Monster. I Googled ridiculous things like: “how to reverse the effects of bleach” and “how much does carpet cost?”

I felt sick. I wanted to cry.

I kept asking myself how a “real” adult would handle this situation, and I quickly (and irrationally) decided that adults don’t make mistakes. If they do, they make adult-sized mistakes…like running someone over in their car. Spilling bleach was kid stuff. All night long, I tossed and turned in bed, trying desperately to think of solutions to get myself out of forking over hundreds of dollars.

The answer came to me the moment I woke up the next morning: I was going to have to paint the patch of stained carpet.

Stay with me, here. It was the only solution, aside from confessing to the crime, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to do that.

Still in my pajamas and wild sleep hair, I tore through my art supplies, frantically searching for a paint color that would match the carpet. Apparently the paint gods were smiling down on me that day, because I found a pretty close shade of beige. I held up the little bottle of paint, beaming at it with pride.

It was like Jonas Salk probably felt when he finally worked out that tricky polio vaccine.

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I knew right away that it’d be foolish to use the paint in its original form, because it’d dry too thick and leave the carpet feeling strangely “hard” and brittle. (Like interior decorators always say, if you’re going to paint your carpet using acrylic craft paint – you have to do it right.)

I poured a little paint in a bowl, watered it down, and sat cross-legged in front of the stain. Painting tiny carpet fibers was delicate, tedious work, but my little brain was full of shiny hope and confidence that it would work.

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And that was Mistake #2.

Look, the paint idea technically did work. You’re probably rolling your eyes at me, but trust me here – it looked MUCH better than the awful burnt orange had. When I backed away from the stain and squinted my eyes, it could almost pass for normal carpet. The main problem came when I stepped on the painted patch and discovered that it felt like walking on a pile of crunchy toast crumbs. I knew it’d be noticeable to anyone who happened to walk on it barefoot.

I barely resisted the urge to throw myself on my bed and cry. Instead, I resigned myself to my computer to pitifully Google “how to unpaint something.”

I mentally toiled over my carpet for weeks. When I wasn’t searching online forums for insights from fellow Bleach Monster victims (there aren’t many), I was staring at the stupid patch, anxiously wishing for inspiration to strike – or for the carpet gods to bless me with a carpet-healing miracle.

At night, I dreamed about the stain taunting me for my incompetence. I could feel my sanity deteriorating.

Then, just as before, the answer came to me when I woke up one morning. As I got out of bed and gathered the necessary supplies, I felt grim and nervous. I knew my intervention would either solve the problem for good, or spell total and complete disaster – there would be no in-between.

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Carpet Surgeon, part 2

Pantyless in the Street

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On a warm summer evening during college, my best friend Kim and I headed for a park to engage in our favorite ritual: chowing down on ice cream while watching people jog.

It’s pretty much the most evil thing a person can do.

We sat down on a bench near the running paths, and I smoothed out the skirt of my short sundress. Kim and I most often engaged in this voyeuristic activity when one of us had something to talk about, and this time was no different. She began discussing something I no longer remember the details of, but was probably hugely important and serious to us at the time.

As she talked, I soon started to feel a strange sensation coming from my legs – it was sort of tingly, almost like tiny, tiny people were poking me with tiny, tiny pitchforks. Not really painful, but definitely noticeable. Taking another bite of my ice cream, I tried to shake off the odd feeling and shifted my focus back to Kim.

A couple minutes later, the sensation began spreading upward toward my…. nether regions.

I sat up ramrod straight, extremely aware of the not-okay feeling coming from my crotch, but still trying to listen to my friend. Her story was heartfelt and serious, and it seemed rude to interrupt her with off-topic updates of my lady garden.

A couple moments later, I had drastically changed my mind about trying to be polite. It now felt as though the tiny people poking me had replaced their pitchforks with big, fiery torches. With blades coming out of them. The sensation was quickly growing more and more intense.

I put down my ice cream. Something was very wrong.

“SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG!” I blurted out to Kim, no longer able to focus on her tale.

Being the incredibly sweet person she is, she immediately abandoned her story and looked at me with alarm and concern, asking if I was okay.

I don’t remember what my exact response was. I probably gave her a wide-eyed, panic-stricken look and yell-whispered that my delicate bits were on fire and we needed to leave immediately. My confused-but-always-loyal best friend threw away the rest of our ice cream (which should show you how serious this situation was), and we sprinted to my car.

Just like that, we’d gone from watching runners to being runners. I mean, sort of. Most runners probably don’t get their motivation from having fiery switchblades in their underwear. They also probably don’t have to use all their willpower to keep from frantically pawing at themselves.

I was convinced I was dying. I imagined what my headstone would say, and hoped it wouldn’t be something like: “Died from Spontaneous Crotch Combustion.”

Once we were in my car, I recklessly reversed out of the parking spot and began speeding down the street. The feeling grew even more painful.

“SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG WITH ME!” I repeatedly screamed at Kim. For some reason, it was important to me to make her understand just how freaked out I was. I think she got it.

Unfortunately for her, trying to drive a car while you’re in pain and panicking is not a great plan. There was a lot of harsh braking and swerving.

“Just stop the car!” She eventually yelled, wildly waving her arms at me.

And I did – right in the middle of the street. There was no time to pull to the curb. I scrambled out of the car and reached up my dress for my underwear, mentally grateful that I hadn’t worn pants. Easy access, indeed.

Standing there in the public street, in my cute little sundress, I pulled off my underwear.

And I found fucking FIRE ANTS crawling around in them. My mother doesn’t like it when I curse in my writing, but I think even she’d agree it’s warranted here.

Apparently, they’d been all over the park bench, and because it was dark out, neither of us had noticed them. It appeared that the ants were angry with us for showing up uninvited and crushing a few of their friends. Lucky-ass Kim had been in jeans, and was protected from the ants’ wrath.

I screeched with both disgust and righteous fury as I violently flicked the ants from my underwear. Kim discovered more in my driver’s seat, and set about systematically killing them.

Finally, I was able to return to my car, still sans underwear, and still throbbing. Only now, I also felt somewhat emotionally traumatized. The literal ants in my pants had beaten me.

The night ended with the two of us holed up in Kim’s bathroom – me pitifully spreading cortisone cream on my horrifically-located ant bites, while Kim made soothing noises at me.

Anyone else gotten into battles with mother nature? Or perhaps found themselves unwittingly sans panties in public? If there are enough of us, we could start a support group.

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This Dog is a Con Artist

When I was in high school, my older brother adopted a dog from a shelter and brought her home to meet the family. He intentionally looked for the least-cute (which sounds slightly nicer than flat-out calling her ugly) dog at the shelter, because he figured she was less likely to find another home. It was a sweet thought, and my parents and I admired him for that.

Until he brought the dog over for a visit.

This dog appeared to be made up of about 100 different dogs. She had the little ears of a terrier, the short legs of a corgi, and a tail that was long like a beagle’s, but also curled up like a pug’s. She even seemed to have a little muskrat or sea lion in there. She had an underbite and was thin, but oddly muscular, like she’d been pumping iron in some sort of canine gym. In sum, she was not very cute. Hers was a face only a mother (or someone with really poor eyesight) could love.

But my dog-loving family and I and welcomed Her Weirdness with open arms and soothing tones, mentally proud of ourselves for being so kind to such a strange-looking animal.

It turns out, the dog was just as unimpressed with us. The moment she entered the room, she scampered away from us and began sprinting around the entire house. We assumed she had some nervous energy to get out and would begin to calm down after a minute. Nope. She made laps down the hall, through the kitchen, into the living room, out the back door (that we had kept open in case she needed to potty), then around the yard and back inside.

Anytime she came close to one of us, we’d reach a hand down, thinking a gentle touch or opportunity to sniff would make her more comfortable; instead, there was more running. We also quickly noticed that she had some sort of phobia of the threshold that connected the outside concrete with the inside of our house – each time she approached it, she’d gain speed and take a flying leap over to the other side. I began to understand why she was so muscular.

My parents and I breathed sighs of relief when my brother took the dog to his own home a little while later.

Of course, no decent story would ever end there. My brother eventually joined the Navy, and my family became the skeptical proud new owners of Caramel, named for the color of her fur. Fortunately, Caramel had relaxed considerably by then, and was actually a very sweet little dog. She was relatively well-behaved (despite her inability to learn ANY tricks), and kept her running sprees to a minimum. She also adored our other dog, Abby, who was pretty old by then. She followed Abby around the house, curled up next to her on the couch, and seemed to consider it her personal mission to keep her face groomed, much to Abby’s indignation.

Despite having some undeniably good qualities, Caramel also had some strange ones. For starters, she licked everything. I don’t just mean people or sticky floors, either. This dog happily licked the refrigerator door, the cabinet, the couch, even rocks. If she came across a particularly tasty rock, she’d even take it in her mouth and attempt to gnaw on it – appearing puzzled when she couldn’t chew it up.

She also had a strange penchant for biting toes. It wasn’t an aggressive thing at all; she’d just happen to walk past someone with bare feet, and then decide to casually gnaw on their toes. No big deal.

Unfortunately, we were pretty certain that Caramel had been abused by previous owners, and as a result, every time she was told “no” in a stern way, she cowered down and gave us sad looks. This made dog parenting a bit challenging.

The Pitiful Dog Cycle:

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It’s entirely possible that Caramel was smarter than all of us and somehow cooked up this entire scheme – like a furry con artist. Trying to eat rocks doesn’t usually indicate high intelligence, though.

Caramel’s social skills were another point of confusion for our family. Although she appeared to feel intense love and affection for Abby, she seemed to think that all other creatures are malevolent and must be stopped. She would perch herself at the front door, still as a statue, and wait for suspicious animals – which included humans, dogs, cats, birds, butterflies, and pretty much any other live being – to cross by our house. Oddly, the smaller the animal, the more evil it appeared to her. Grizzly bear outside? Meh. Baby squirrel? NOPE.

If anything dared set foot near our property, or even glance in the general direction of our property, Caramel let out some intimidating warning barks. If the suspect didn’t notice her (which was often, because they were outside and she was not), Caramel’s brain switched into Enraged Mode.

Caramel: Normal/Sweet Mode                        Caramel: Enraged Mode

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She’d pounce on the door with her short front legs, bark angrily, and glare at the offender with bloodthirsty eyes. If and when my family intervened and attempted to scold her, she’d ignore us completely, or employ the Pitiful Dog Cycle again. We even tried comforting her, thinking that maybe the dogs and butterflies were “just stressing her out,” but our kindness was no match for the crazy.

Once the suspect moved out of sight, Caramel pranced victoriously around the house, her tail high and proud.

This complex little animal was also a bit of a drama queen, and felt the need to make her feelings known to everyone around. She loved going on walks with my dad, and the second she saw him holding her leash, she became filled with more joy than her little body could contain. Wild-eyed, she’d bark excitedly and do some sort of hyper jump-dance around my dad. (Picture a tap-dancing jack rabbit.)

On the other hand, if he dared go on a walk without her, Caramel made sure the rest of us knew about her anguish. She’d sit at our feet and whine, and then pace the house, looking out every window for Dad Sightings. After several minutes of No Dad, she’d start howling – a terrible, pathetic howl. This wasn’t the high-pitched sound that I’ve heard from other dogs; no, this noise was groan-like and raspy, as though she’d been smoking cigarettes for thirty years. (To our knowledge, she only smoked pipes.) Nothing we could do or say would soothe her, and she would punish us with this noise until Dad finally returned.

Truthfully, Caramel was probably the most “human” dog I’ve ever known: varied emotions, lacking manners – and a strong desire to do whatever she pleases.

Birdaphobia

There are a lot of things that I like in this world, but birds are not one of them. I actively dislike the winged monsters. They are terrible, and there’s a reason Alfred Hitchcock made an entire horror movie about them.

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My disdain probably began in middle or high school. A family of mockingbirds made a nest in the tree outside my bedroom window – adorable, right? WRONG. The jerks made a daily habit of pointlessly pecking the wall outside, which created a loud tapping noise in my bedroom at the crack of dawn.

Who knows why they were doing this. Why, birds why?! What were you trying to accomplish? They have tiny brains, so even they probably didn’t know why. I was even less happy when the mockingbirds apparently either procreated, or invited their long-lost cousins to live with them, because the tapping grew even louder and more persistent.

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At first, I attempted to solve the problem on my own. As soon as the birds woke me from my blissful sleep, I’d lunge across my bed in a fit of rage and bang my fist against the wall. Thankfully, the birds were perplexed and terrified by this noise, and scattered out of the tree. Mission accomplished!

…Until the fools eventually realized that their home was not spontaneously exploding. They appeared to start thinking of the bang as a sort of greeting; as soon as they heard it, they’d momentarily pause their tapping, only to resume it at an even louder volume.

My parents eventually got involved in the problem-solving, most likely just to make sure that I didn’t leave a fury-filled dent in the wall. On advice from my grandmother, they purchased cheap rubber snakes at the dollar store and planted them inside the bushes and trees outside my room. I was doubtful – I figured even the tiniest of bird brains would realize pretty quickly that their enemies never moved or blinked. (Technically, snakes never blink, but birds are stupid and probably don’t know that.)

It turns out, I was wrong. Bothered by the presence of the snakes, the mockingbird family packed up their things and moved on to another tree, never to disturb my sleep again.

No, that wasn’t some sort of happy ending to this story, because I have other reasons for hating the feathery bastards.

In elementary school, a couple of my teachers kept class pets – one of them, an African Grey Parrot named Murphy. I can’t speak for all Greys, but Murphy was basically the devil. He acted innocent and loving around my teacher, but anytime she stepped out of the room, Murphy would screech noisily and pace in his cage, glaring at us through the bars as though he were plotting our deaths.

Once, he managed to escape from his cage and chase us around the room. We all screamed and climbed on top of our desks, trying to avoid getting chunks of our flesh ripped out by Murphy’s big beak. The power-hungry dictator seemed pleased by his authority over us, and returned to his cage before our teacher ever knew he was gone.

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He’s pretending that cucumber is human flesh.

Another time, I was driving on an access road and noticed a giant bird perched on a speed limit sign up ahead of me. When I tell this story to people, I sometimes identify the bird as a balding eagle or a pterodactyl, which it probably wasn’t. Don’t really know for sure. But it was definitely some sort of bird of prey, like a falcon or a hawk. As soon as my car got close to the sign, the bird chose that moment to swoop down from its perch. I screamed and closed my eyes (which is a great thing to do when operating a motor vehicle), and slammed on my breaks. I heard a light “thunk” as the bird’s wing hit my windshield, but the beast continued on its path, seemingly undeterred.

Clearly, the feeling of hatred is mutual.

The only person (or animal) who has ever come close to understanding how I feel is my parents’ neighbors’ cat, Garfield, who is now sadly deceased. Admittedly, Garfield was the one who instigated HIS troubles with the mockingbirds in the first place, since he seemed to make it his life’s goal to attack and kill a lot of them. (Which is pretty bad ass, considering that’s illegal in Texas.)

Eventually, word of the bird murders got out, and the remaining mockingbirds joined together to form a Bird Mafia and avenge their friends’ deaths. After that, every single time Garfield set foot outside, they’d swoop down from the trees and peck at the poor cat’s head.

I don’t necessarily hate all species of bird. Every once in awhile, I can admire a pretty blue jay or cardinal in the yard. I also find ducks to be quite cute and charming, and I once fed potato chips to a stray chicken at a gas station in Corpus Christi. (It was fun until he tried to get in the car with me. I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.) I also squeal and clap my hands in excitement when I see peacocks out in the real world – which has happened exactly three times.

Proof of my positive interactions with birds:

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But my favorite bird of all, who is totally exempt from all my bird-related disdain, was my childhood pet, Bogie. Bogie was a sweet little Quaker parrot, with beautiful green and blue feathers. He could say certain phrases (like “good boy” and “thank you”), and he’d step onto your finger if you held it out for him. He was pretty amazing.

Like Murphy, Bogie had a talent for escaping his cage; unlike Murphy, however, Bogie used his skills for good instead of evil. His cage was kept in the living room, and if the rest of the family was gone from the room for too long, he’d come search for us – like a tiny little stalker. He probably just wanted to make sure we were still alive. Or to beg for treats. Either way, it was adorable.

The great irony of all my bird hatred is that the décor in my office at work includes birds. I want to like birds. For most people, they’re beautiful symbols of freedom and hope. But for me, they’ll always be screeching, wall-pecking, car-diving little demons.

And with that – Happy Halloween 🙂

photo credit (top, black & white): high contrast power lines via photopin (license)

Mommy Dearest

Given that my mother is at least partly responsible for the lovely yet disastrous adult I’ve become, it seemed fitting that my first real post be about her.

To me, it seems like there are two different types of moms. There are the Florence Henderson moms who prepare healthy snacks, limit the amount of television their kids watch, and participate in the PTA.

Then, there are the moms who seem to come straight out of gloomy Lifetime movies – moms who do hard drugs, or murder teenage girls so their own daughters can be on the cheerleading team. My mom is an interesting and confusing combination of both of these types.

Don’t argue with me, Mom. You know it’s true.

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When I was a child, my mom had all the makings of a good sitcom mom. She read to me every night, was involved in my school, and prohibited my brother and I from eating junk food as an after-school snack (much to our friends’ dismay). She attended every awards ceremony, sports game, and choir concert, and actually seemed to ENJOY those things – or was just really good at pretending, which counts for something.

But there’s also a slightly sketchier side to my mom. As relevant background information, you should know that we both share a fascination of big, lovely homes in wealthy neighborhoods. We like to drive past them and daydream about what our lives would be like if we lived in them. We pick out the ones we’d want to live in, sarcastically passing judgment on the slightly-less-grand places.

After having foot surgery a few years ago, I was bored out of my mind from sitting around all day, but was still not quite well enough to be out and about on my feet. My mother’s solution was to pack me up in the back seat of her car, shove a pillow under my bum foot, and set out driving down our street. I assumed we were going for a leisurely little drive, until she whipped out a neatly folded piece of paper with her perfect handwriting all over it. I asked her what it was.

“Just a few addresses,” she replied, casually waving her hand in the air. I found her play at nonchalance unsettling.

“Addresses…to what?”

Mom hesitated briefly, and then gave in. “To some of your doctors’ homes. We’re going to see what kinds of houses they live in! I bet your dermatologist lives in a really nice place.”

“Oh, my God!” I shouted, feeling both horrified and enthralled. I knew with certainty that this was a massive invasion of my physicians’ privacy, and I was virtuously creeped out on their behalf. And yet – I kind of wanted to see what type of mansion my dermatologist lived in.

I considered lecturing my Mom on what was wrong about this situation, but I am my sketchy mother’s daughter, and I wanted to see some damn houses.

And that’s what we did on a hot summer afternoon: we drove around the city and looked at my doctors’ homes, expressing awe over some of them, and disappointment over others. To be honest, it seemed like we were paying some of them quite a bit of money to be living in such dull, average-sized homes. We happily and ironically judged them a bit for that. It was a gloriously weird afternoon.

If you don’t think that story was particularly questionable, I was just easing you in. When my mom was a teen, she experimented with things that many teens experiment with, especially in the 1970s. Nothing she did was really that crazy, but she was seen as super rebellious in her family because her parents were pretty conservative. Therefore, Mom resolved to be way more understanding about that kind of stuff once her own kids entered adolescence.

I think my family was a bit baffled by adolescent me. I wasn’t perfectly innocent – I certainly did some things they didn’t know about (and still don’t, for the sake of their sanity and mine) – but most of my mischief was more dumb than outright rebellious or dangerous.

My friends and I were very close, and enjoyed doing different things together – going to the movies, playing mini-golf, or just chatting on AIM. (Aw, remember AIM?) We also loved driving out to the lake and sitting around a fire, where we’d roast marshmallows and talk about our futures. I know it sounds like a cheesy Disney movie, but I swear it’s true.

My parents, however, were convinced that something more sinister was going on during these lake trips, and that’s fair, because there usually is when you combine teenagers with bodies of water. One afternoon, as I prepared for another lake outing, my parents called me to the living room for a frank discussion about the dangers of alcohol. I listened solemnly and respectfully, and then informed them that my friends and I weren’t drinking. They exchanged doubtful glances and assured me that they wouldn’t be angry or disappointed – they just wanted me to admit to it so they could help me stay safe. I stuck with my original story.

My parents still didn’t buy it, but they could see that I wasn’t going to “fess up,” so they made me promise to call them if we drank too much to drive home. My friends heard that story and were jealous of the leniency I was experiencing, and I could agree that it was pretty progressive of them as parents.

But I found it hilarious that they just couldn’t fathom the idea that any teen (much less one raised by two formerly rebellious people) wouldn’t be out doing crazy stuff. It was like I was rebelling against them by not rebelling.

Not long after that conversation, I was with my mom in the car. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but somehow the subject of alcohol crept its way into the discussion. My mother again asked me if my friends and I were drinking, again assuring me that she wouldn’t be upset, and again reminding me that she had done the same things as a kid. I began to wonder if I had some sort of communication disorder that made it difficult for people to understand me. Nevertheless, I once again insisted that my weekend activities were (mostly) innocent.

Here’s where the sketchier, Lifetime-movie-version of my mom kicked in. She turned to me and reported, “Well, I just find it strange that y’all aren’t experimenting at all. That’s what your adolescence is for.”

There you have it, ladies and gentleman of the jury. My mother, the same woman who raised me to be a smart, responsible, considerate person, was judging me for NOT breaking the law. My mother. JUDGING me. It’s pretty bad when your own mother thinks you’re strange and uncool. In fact, it’s a wonder she didn’t put tequila in my baby bottles. Kidding, she would never do that. Or would she…

In all seriousness, my mother’s loyalty to me is fierce. She was my biggest cheerleader when I decided to attend graduate school, and even took on a second job to pay for my rent while I completed my program. If I call her to complain about a tense discussion with a coworker, or an argument with a friend, Mom makes all the appropriate noises of outrage on my behalf. She even likes to suggest witty (and somewhat hostile) remarks that I could make if the situation arises again. Even if I admit to being partly to blame for the argument, she chooses to focus on the other person’s mistakes. She is forever on Team Amanda, no matter what. In fact, I’m half convinced that if I called her and confessed to murder, she’d come up with a few reasons why the guy probably had it coming.