During the summer, we were pretty much locked out of the house from dawn till dusk, with the exception of lunch and a snack or two. Whereas I would have been content sitting in my fort in the back-road woods behind our street, Jennifer would constantly recruit me for her brand of feminine fun; a game which she coined, “Ladies, But We’re Friends”.
As children we knew, without question, that grown-ups were friendless bores. Hence, we would play the roles of “ladies” but to actually evoke some sort of action in the playful exchange, we had to be “friends”. It was a clever defiance of adult society as we knew it and, therein, we found the appeal to repeat a seemingly mundane activity for hours on end. In our defence, a game of just “Ladies” in the ‘80’s in small-town Newfoundland would have involved hanging clothes on the line while smoking and wearing Labatt nightshirts in the middle of the day. With rollers in our hair. And we were too young to smoke.]
The Rules of “Ladies But We’re Friends” (for two players):
4. As you finally approach one another, make eye-contact, appear only slightly happy to see each other (maintaining that air of grown-up stuffiness) and, in your most lady-like voice, say “oh hiiiii”, and keep walking (even with our youthful imaginations, this was the extent of “friendship” between grown-ups). Continue walking to opposite ends of the road. Turn around. Repeat.
It was far from “my thing” but I was a pretty good sport about it. And ever the good-humored big-sister, Jennifer would always return the favor for her little brosky.
[Note: You’re right. The illustrations do take a significant nose-dive from this point forward.]
Chapter 2. Whitney Hulkston meets Batte(shit) Middler
You know how sometimes you see those really touching commercials or YouTube videos about advice you’d give if you could go back and talk to your younger self, knowing what you know now? They’re pretty sweet.
If I could go back and give my ten-year-old self a pep talk, it would go something like, “You have narcissistic personality disorder. Stop being such an asshole.”
At the time, I just thought I was being helpfully (relentlessly) encouraging (abusive) in suggesting (insisting) that my best friend, Tiffany, do what I thought (knew) was cool (the best and only option that could ever, possibly make sense). But in hindsight, I was a bully. An asshole.
When I was about eleven-years-old I got an old-school karaoke set for Christmas which included two bonus casette singles: Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” and Bette Middler’s “The Rose”. Perhaps there were more songs, but I only remember those two because they were the ones I sang relentlessly. And, if you asked me, I nailed it. Every time.
Yes, I was that guy who says, “Don’t make me sing…I don’t wanna sing…Don’t make me sing.”. But then as soon as someone reached for the mic, I’d hit play, close my eyes and sway to the intro beats of my upcoming, killer slow-jam.
I would like to think that I have learned to be a bit more accommodating. Still a sucker for karaoke though.
Chapter 3: Hunk o’ Hunk o’ (Razor-) Burnin’ Leg Flesh
So I faint when I see blood. All the time. Your blood, my blood, it don’ matta. If I see it, or even if you describe it in too much detail, here’s what’s going down: I turn gray, break a sweat, my mouth fills with saliva, I do the pre-puke shudder, then I pass out and convulse for several minutes. I know it sounds pretty messed up, but it’s been happening my whole life so I’m used to it. No doubt you would be horrified. But through cracked blue lips I’d just reassure you that I’m about to faint, and instruct you to keep my legs above my heart, slap a cold cloth on my forehead and wait it out. Then I’d assume position and out I’d go.
When I was about fourteen, the water in our house was gone for the evening (maybe a pipe exploded down the road or something?). Anyway, mom worked as an operating room nurse at the hospital, so we drove there this one evening to shower. I was in a small shower stall with a heavy, locked door. I was shaving my legs. It was a shitty pink razor. I knicked my leg.
Yep, I knew immediately. This is happening.
This particular incident was, to date, the most dramatic, convulsive and long-lasting fainting spell I’ve ever had. And there have been a few. As I felt the disgusting wave of nausea wash over me, I knew I’d reached the critical fainting threshold. I was past the point of no return. And being locked in this small, steamy prison, I knew I had to get help fast.
Shhhlump. Blammo. Out.
All mom and Jennifer heard was an incoherent, drunk-man rant and a really loud thump. Mom tried to force the door open, throwing all her (98lb) weight behind it. It took several heaves to finally shove it open against my large, wet, fleshy, dead-weight body.
They pulled me out by my feet. Naked and lifeless. I was unconscious, so I cannot attest to my appearance at the time. But based on their descriptions, one can only surmise that I looked not totally unlike this:
The story doesn’t go much further. It simply illustrates a moment of sheer social mortification during a sensitive period of my newly-postpubescent life (read: mad pubes).
But indeed, it was mortifying.
And in case you were curious, nothing has changed (about the fainting. Not the mad pubes). Check out this pic of me from a few months ago taken after having watched an episode of True Blood.
Note: This was after the first scene of the episode. Fucking vampires.
Chapter 4: The Inflammatory Search for Self
My first desire for a body piercing came in highshool. I thought it would be expressive and profound (read: hot) to pierce my navel. And so with the help of good ol’ mom, dreams came true on a budget
That lasted a year or so until the scar tissue grew to the size of a blueberry and I decided to surrender my “ooooo, who’s that girl” sex-switch (I remained a virgin for several more years). I thought a blob of scar would be slightly more attractive than a bejeweled blob of scar.
In my first year university, I was in an all-girl residence. Between the naked pillow fights and sexual experimentation (that’s a fictional insert for all my lady-lovin’ readers; hollaaaa!), all the girls on my floor decided we should, as a group, get pierced. Most of the girls on my floor were going for navel piercings. My friend Jen and I thought eyebrow piercings would be pretty bad-ass. So we downed a few Wildberry coolers and off we went.
As you gleaned from Chapter 3, I’m a huge pussy.
So when the tiny, tatted studio owner and his spry little, blue-haired mom working the cash suggested that the tongue is the least painful piercing, I was sold. So was Jen.
You’ll be happy to know that I didn’t completely faint. The wooze washed over me, but I fought it and won.
It was a fat-tongued week of cold, gelatinized foodstuffs and incoherent agony.
My asinine splurge of parentless abandon lasted about six months.
Some say with age comes wisdom. Others say with age comes shifting one asshole move to the exact same asshole move in another location.
The desire for a nose piercing came during grad school. I wanted something sparkly and feminine, but that’s not how my life works. The initial beast was a giant stud.
Pretty soon, I decided that it would give me an even sexier edge of bad-motha’-lova angrogeny to get a fat-ass hoop. A slender ring just wouldn’t cut it. This, of course, required a “stretching procedure”. Yes, I fainted. But I still did it. Kudos, me.
[My profound apologies go out to the sweet girl at the tattoo/piercing place on Hess Street (Hamilton, Ontario), whom I verbally abused somethin’ fierce.]
Several months later I was flying to the hometown of an at-the-time flame to meet-the-parents, when I realized that my appearance (which I dug) may construe an air of deliquency to members of previous generations.
[I would like to go back and karate chop myself in the neck for caving to the societal standards of “acceptable appearances”. I loved that ring.]
I insisted we remove it. But despite our mutual jamming of thumbs into my left nostril to unscrew the thing, it wasn’t budging.
It was with a pair of metal cutters in a neighbour’s tool shed that an era was ended.
Then, about a year ago, my sister suggested that we get matching tattoos. Pretty laid back about the whole thing, but ever-ready to debase my body for the sake of thought provocation, I said “Yeah, man!”.
Jenn came up with the design.
Me: “‘Whoa, is that an abstract Muslim woman playing a banjo? I love it! Let’s do it!”
Jenn: “…It’s a J and an H. As in Jennifer and Heather.”
Me: “… A J and H! Makes so much more sense! Let’s do it!”
Chapter 4: Honor in the Face of Adversity. And Epidurals.
I arranged it so that the last clinical placement of my Physiotherapy program would be in Calgary so that I could be there for the birth of my nephew. I arrived on July 22, 2008. Jennifer gave birth the next day. For the delivery, I held the her right leg, Chase’s dad held her left.
And you thought your family was close.
But before the beautiful finale, there was some drama.
Jenn was being a trooper. I would have fainted at least a dozen times if I were in her position. But suddenly so much action was happening around her. Some nurse was stabbing her arm. Some dude was lubin’ up her back to prep it for an epidural hose. I was standing near the entrance of the room when Jenn’s eyes met mine.
I knew she was about to reach her point of no return. Yes, we’re a family of fainters. So I took matters into my own hands.
I’m pretty sure I was only kicked out of the hospital for an hour.
Apparently the medical teamsters weren’t the only ones who needed to fucking calm down.
But happily I made it back in time to witness, up close and personal, the birth of my nephew, Chase. And the slippery, purple dinosaur egg that chased him out.
Chapter 5: Writer’s Block
So that pretty much brings us to the present (not really, but I’m exhausted). Lately, I spend many-a-night curled up with my laptop trying to recall stories that might entertain the masses (I have a lot of aunts).
Although my ability to spew brilliance onto the page (screen) may seem as effortless as my ability to maintain this tight, round-assed bod, both are mere facades. I struggle with writer’s block daily. And the latter is a slight misperception, 30% owed to my fickle devotion to Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs and 70% to the careful selection of pocketless jeans with just the right amount of stretch so my shit gets rounded. Not unlike a cloth bag stuffed wit yer mudder’s peas pudding.
[For any non-Newfoundlanders reading this, I swear that last part was not derogatory. But I agree, caution should be exercised whenever using a sentence containing the words “stuffed wit yer mudder”. Your mother is, no doubt, an exceptional woman. And I encourage her to try adding a good-old-fashioned Newfie peas pudding to her next Sunday dinner.]
Usually when I sit to write, the faucet of my genius runs sluggishly at best.
My thoughts tend to wander. My behaviours become unfocussed and erratic.
I’ll spend upwards of an hour contemplating life…
Maybe take time for some vocal training…
Quite likely I’ll pause for some self-reflection; that’s always important…
I’ll work on photography skills…
I’ll ponder the tragic beauty of unrequited love…
And only then, after I’ve honed all these juicy creativity catalysts, will I be suddenly made aware of my story-telling genious.
So there it is. A chunk of my own graphic novel. I have a feeling that Allison Bechdel would be really proud that she was the inspiration for my book. Or she’ll sue me for defamation of character for having been mentioned in this post.
To which I say, “Oooooooo. Nooo, don’t take my student debt and two large Rubbermaid containers full of Dance Mix 90-something CDs and unopened threat letters from the CRA”. And also, I love you. Please don’t sue me.
P.S. For those of you who have been casually keeping track of these posts on Facebook, thanks man! If you aren’t completely bored of me yet, hit “Follow” below and I’m pretty sure you’ll win money or something.
For those of you who are not on Facebook…Wow. I want to study you. How have you managed to evade such a cultural phenomenon? I feel sorry for you really, I mean…How are you ever going to know how cute your cousin Judy’s neighbour’s daughter’s dog Lillian looks in a Christmas sweater? HOW?
[Thanks for following.]