Sex, Advice, and Small Cars

I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when I was a kid. About anything. It’s not that I was a rebel or even a know-it-all; I just sort of did things my own way. Usually not so much out of stupidity as a general sense of cluelessness.

My mom used to get terribly frustrated with me. “It’s one thing to follow the beat of a different drummer,” she would sigh, “but you keep wandering off after the tuba player.”

To be perfectly honest, she wasn’t exactly a source of great wisdom when it came to advice. She was a bit of a blurter with very vague definitions of what was appropriate advice to share with impressionable young people, especially in her later years.  I remember one particular conversation that took place when I made the mistake of asking her something about sex. I don’t remember now what the question was or what kind of temporary insanity gave me the brilliant idea of asking her, but I’ll never forget her response.

“The most important thing you need for your first time is a sense of humor,” she advised me. “Because, you know, when your foot is out the window and your head is stuck in the steering wheel and the gearshift is up your ass, there’s really nothing to do but laugh.”

I think I may have passed out at that point, because I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. Perhaps my mind has just protected my sanity by blocking it out. But I do remember that bit of advice, and I thought about it again during the course of one eventful evening with an old boyfriend.

I was in my early twenties, and I was in love for the first time. Call me a late bloomer, but I was learning about love and sex and daring all at the same time, and that made for an intelligence-numbing combination.  All Mr. Wonderful had to do was give me a particular look or raise one suggestive eyebrow, and I would become a quivering heap of idiocy. I knew better than to take some of the risks we took, but I just didn’t care.

Which is how we ended up “parking” in our old high school parking lot that night. Not the most romantic setting, especially since he was well over six feet tall and he drove a very, very small car. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of giggles and accidental horn-honking and a few near-collisions with the gearshift.  By the time we gave up and Mr. Wonderful stepped out of the car to re-adjust his clothes and give me a moment to do the same, we had no idea just exactly how long the police car had been parked behind us, watching.

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The officer took our names and other pertinent information and let us go with a warning. And that’s when things got interesting.

You see, Mr. Wonderful had decided to break up with me that night, but apparently didn’t see any reason to share that decision with me before trying to get lucky in the high school parking lot.  I had never been in love before, never been in a relationship before, never been dumped before.  And I didn’t take it well.

I started crying. Mr. Wonderful was trying to drive and trying to comfort me, and in the process of doing both he also managed to run a red light.

The cop who pulled us over took Mr. Wonderful’s license and went back to his car, where he no doubt saw that a different officer had just run that same license through the system less than ten minutes earlier. Meanwhile, my date was trying to comfort me by putting his arms around me.

I was having none of that. I was pissed. I swatted at him and tried to shove him away from me.

Now, imagine how that looked to the police officer sitting in the car behind us.

Before I really knew what was happening, Mr. Wonderful was out of the car. Just like that. Gone. In his place, the officer leaned into the car, shining his flashlight directly in my face and demanding things like, “Are you hurt in any way?” and “Do you need a ride home?” and the kicker: “Are you in the car against your will?”

Call me naïve, but I really didn’t understand what he was asking. Mr. Wonderful may have been a bit of a dick at times, but there was absolutely no way in the world he would have harmed me. I was perfectly safe with him, and I didn’t comprehend what the officer was asking. So I just kept sobbing, “I’m fine, I’m okay, I just want him to take me home.”

It took me years to realize just what kind of revenge I could have taken on Mr. Wonderful that night, or how utterly terrified the poor guy must have been during those moments. Just imagine what must have been going through his mind while he was face-down against the side of his own car, listening for the words from me that could have destroyed his life.

I like to think that I would have taken the high road even if I had comprehended what was going on. I hope that I’m the kind of person who would never have told a lie about Mr. Wonderful just to get revenge. As it was, he ended up with a ticket for running the red light, and nothing more. He drove me home and we said our good-byes, and that was that.

I can look back on that night now and laugh, so I guess my mom’s advice was right about needing a sense of humor. But if my teenage daughter should happen to ask me for advice about sex, I don’t think I’ll mention laughter, cars, or gearshifts.

And that’s okay, because my kid doesn’t listen to advice any better than I did.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Michelle Grewe http://crumpetsandbollocks.com/  and Ruchira Khanna http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read some earlier funny stuff from me, check out Have a Goode One, my collection of humorous posts from my blog, most of which are no longer available here on WordPress.

The Best Medicine

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

The world needs more laughter. Even on the worst of days, even when the future is bleak and the present is worse, even when all hope seems lost . . . we have to look for reasons to laugh.  I know that laughter has never, ever solved a single major problem, but neither have tears. Especially not in my family.

We were devastated when Aunt Ida died. She was the first one of The Amoeba Squad to go, the first of the four sisters to go somewhere without her siblings. She’d been sick for ages; Aunt Marian often said that that Ida had “one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel.” But still, her death rocked us.

Aunt Vernabelle took it especially hard, although I never really knew if that was because Verna was the most sensitive of the four or because she just really never liked Ida very much and felt guilty about that.  Either way, Verna’s grief was overwhelming. She cried non-stop for days; she cried herself sick and then cried some more after being sick. She couldn’t function.

It was during the visitation that Aunt Marian, the Head Aunt, decided that enough was enough. She turned on her sister and issued an ultimatum: Verna had twenty-four hours to get herself under control, or else. Now, no one was ever really clear on what “or else” meant, but the threat was sufficient to get through to Verna. She sniffled and sobbed and wept for the next twenty-four hours, but she also kept a running countdown: “I’ve got eighteen hours left to cry!” she’d wail. “Marian says I can cry for sixteen more hours!”

“The next time someone dies,” Marian grumbled after a while, “she only gets twelve hours.”

And we laughed. God help us, we all laughed, even Verna. That’s just how my family has always dealt with things beyond our control. We try to find the humor in humorless situations.

I’ve heard it said that humor is a defense mechanism, that a human smile is similar to the way a wild animal bares its teeth as a warning. Well, of course it is! I make the worst jokes and laugh the loudest when life is at its worst.

The night of my car accident, I had a wonderful nurse named Nadine. As I lay there in the Emergency Room, strapped to a backboard and immobilized by a C-collar, Nadine came in with a Shop-Vac to vacuum the glass shards off before cutting off my clothes. As I remember, she was quite enthusiastic about the job, very thorough about getting that glass out of every possible nook and cranny. And I do mean every possible nook and cranny. When she aimed the nozzle between my legs, seemingly in search of glass in the lining of my uterus, I let out a whoop and told her I didn’t usually allow such liberties without dinner and a movie first.

Poor Nadine didn’t know what to do. She burst out laughing, apologized, and kept vacuuming, although I’m pretty sure I heard her mutter something about not ordering the lobster.

Later that night, when they had realized the extent of my injuries and started preparing me for the ride to a bigger hospital, Nadine came back to put in a catheter. Let’s just be honest here: having a catheter inserted is not exactly a relaxing experience. It’s a major invasion of one’s private areas, and Nadine was definitely going for frequent flyer miles in my pelvic region that night. She had to keep telling me to relax, but by that point I was well on my way to a complete meltdown. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t cooperating.

“Honey,” Nadine teased, “would you spread your legs for me if I got the Shop-Vac again?”

For the record, no Shop-Vacs were harmed in the course of my recovery. But laughing at that moment gave me the strength I needed to get through the next few hours. It also made the ER doctor pause and peek into the room to make sure I hadn’t completely lost my mind. “I don’t think I want to know what’s going on in here,” he told us.

Here’s a simple truth about life: Sometimes, it really sucks, and there’s nothing you or I or anyone else can ever do to change that.  People die, people get hurt, and the world just keeps on turning. Our hearts may get broken, but they keep on beating. Sun comes up, sun goes down, life goes on.

We can laugh or we can cry. Or we can build a blanket fort under the kitchen table and curl up in a fetal position and do both, but eventually we’re going to have to come back out into the real world.

Might as well find something to laugh about while we’re at it.

And when I die, you all only get two hours to cry.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “The world could use more . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee,  Shelley Ozand Anna Fitfunner.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Bye, Spot

The last really good belly laugh I had was just last night.  Or early this morning, I guess I should say.

It took a while to get Little Man to bed for the night.  He has been up much too late the last two nights because of different 4th of July celebrations, and he was having a hard time turning off all of the internal engines for a night of rest.  No, that boy was ready to party on when he should have been sound asleep.

When he finally passed out, I settled in on the couch with a book and my can of Tab (yes, I cheated on Diet Coke), enjoying the silence that can only be appreciated after spending two hour with a six year-old who keeps insisting “But I’m not TIRED, Mom!”

That’s when the other two came downstairs.  Just as nature abhors a vacuum, my teenagers apparently abhor silence.  Of any kind.  If there is silence there is trouble, they seem to feel.

“What’s the matter, Mom?”

“Why is it so quiet?”

“Are you upset?”

“Is something wrong?”

I have great kids.  Noisy ones, but great.  They were worried about me.

They plopped on the couch with me and we spent the next two hours giggling over YouTube videos of Steve Harvey and some idiot woman who thinks rainbows in the sprinklers are part of a government conspiracy.  We swapped horror stories about Driver’s Ed, and made fun of each other, particularly my vertical challenges when it turned out I was too short to blow out the candle on the entertainment center.  We laughed over stupid, unimportant, inconsequential things.

I laughed so much my belly hurts this morning.

Who knew my kids were so much fun?  When did we reach this stage in our relationship?  I feel as though I’ve been inducted into a secret club that previously existed only between the two of them.  They are fourteen months apart, and as different as two siblings can be, but they have their own little world that that I have never been invited into before now.

Last night’s laughter took me back to my teenage years, when my mother would go to bed early and my sisters and I would become idiots.  We’d bring out the Monopoly board for marathon sessions that didn’t start until nearly midnight, and nobody ever won.  We’d get lost in laughter and stupidity, usually ending when one of us would flick the little Scottie dog across the room as part of a long and complicated “Mr. Bill” joke that ended with a loudly whispered “Bye, Spot!”

We weren’t innocents, not by a long shot.  Over the years, we broke so many bottles of Boone’s farm and TJ Swan under the bed of the purple bedroom that I’m surprised we didn’t get a contact buzz from the alcohol fumes that permeated that room.  We never got the idea that shoving our contraband under that bed wasn’t a safe or smart way to hide it.  In fact, I remember late night laughter about christening the carpet that became inside jokes about the Christian side of the room vs. the Jewish side.

I guess you had to be there.

The point is that most of my fun memories of laughing with my sisters didn’t involve alcohol.   We laughed at stupid things that were really funny to no one but us.  It was our own secret language; an exclusive club open only to the Hyde sisters, although an occasional Crawford, Lockwood or Thayer joined in once or twice.

The club closed down long ago.  We all got married and divorced, had children, argued over too many things.  We never figured out how to find the fun, how to keep the laughter alive.  We forgot the punch lines to our own inside jokes.

We grew up.

We stopped laughing together.

We grew apart.

My sisters and I are as different as my children.  The shy one became the ultra-confident career woman.  The outgoing one became her own person and created her own family from her network of friends.    And the bookworm?  The tagalong who was so busy trying to be like her big sisters that she forgot to figure out her own identity?

Well, I’m finally growing up, too.   I stopped trying to copy Susan’s quiet elegance and sophistication, stopped mimicking Barbara’s effervescence and charm, stopped trying to be what thought I should be, and started figuring out who Amy is.

I’m a writer.  I’m a single mom.  I’m a decent cook and a great quilter.  I tell too many stories and I have a tendency to forget that I am not the center of the known universe.  I have some amazing friends that I don’t always deserve because they are better friends to me than I am to them.

I have great kids who let me into their private club for a brief time last night, and I have the aching stomach muscles to prove it.  And when they grow up, my most heartfelt prayer is that they never, ever forget the punch lines to their inside jokes.

 

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/roaring-laughter/

15 Little Rules

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So I’m going to blatantly steal a fabulous idea from Awkwardly Alive and Pleasantly Peculiar’s recent post  about making up the perfect list of rules for life.  I enjoyed her list and decided to expand upon it with some rules of my own.

As a parent, I hope I do a good job of teaching these rules to my children.  Or at least of remembering them myself!

1.  At least once in your life, go to a beach in winter.

2.  Be nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

3.  Cry once a week, either tears of sorrow or of joy,

4.  Eat dessert first once in a while.

5.  Trust your instincts.

6.  Have fun. Life is shorter than you think.

7.  Find something to like in everyone.

8.  Go to bed angry once in a while.  It’s better than saying things you will regret.

9. Every so often, do something that scares you.

10.  Laugh at a few inappropriate moments.

11.  Find something beautiful in the mirror.

12.  Listen to “Nightswimming” by REM.  Alone.

13.  Never waste a chance to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry.”

14.  Know when to walk away, no matter how much it hurts.
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