Full disclosure: I’m a little drunk, a little pissed off, pretty sad, and avoiding writing a paper about Roman sexuality. Skipping the “drunk” and “pissed off” as my natural state, I’m still sad because Rue McClanahan died. I feel like each Golden Girl death hits me harder. Estelle Getty was suffering and I could be glad she was at peace. Bea Arthur was so sudden it was more shock than grief, and I had friends around me to comfort me. Now Rue McClanahan is gone, so soon on the heels of Dixie Carter, and I am alone and drunk in my crappy Philadelphia apartment. I may not survive Betty White’s passing, and I’m gonna level with you: I don’t really want to.
I literally could not finish Meg’s middle school playlist. I was awash in feelings by about the fifth song, although “Your Woman” is a college memories song for me so that kind of tipped the scales. Some day when I’m reeeaaaal drunk and think I can slip it by Meg, I’ll put together a “Tulane Chris Feelings Playlist.” (Mostly Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, except every third song is “Walkin’ On Sunshine.”)
I hate to admit defeat. I once turned in an entire semester of classwork in four days after the semester ended. (Result: B-minus and a bachelor’s.) When someone broke up with me via text message, I referred to it as a “setback.” (Result: he tearfully asked me back.) I drove my next-to-last car until it stopped on the highway. (Result: I lost my job because I couldn’t get to work without the car and wound up washing dishes in an Arab café until I couldn’t stand it any more and faked a back injury so I could quit without having to confront anyone.) Refusing to admit defeat doesn’t always work, but at least your tombstone will read “he tried.” When King Milan of Serbia was assassinated, he survived being shot and stabbed, so they tried to throw him off the balcony. He grabbed the rail and only let go when they cut off his fingers. That’s what I call hanging in there. (Get it? He was hanging there!)
So was middle school that bad? Well, yes, obviously. I was oily and smelled weird. I could still have blended in with my peers if I’d tried, but I had a “colorful” (read: weird) personality and did things like faked a British accent for a semester. I wasn’t new, so it wasn’t like I had a prayer of successfully pretending to be the Duke of Pigshit-on-Thames, I was just weird. I was in the school orchestra (upright bass, of all things) and wore Jncos. On purpose. (I would kill to be able to go back in time and not give those to Goodwill.) I also had a “medical issue” during seventh grade so I just kind of… wasn’t there for most of it.
But, see, I hate to admit defeat. Were those three years of my life really as humiliating and pointless as they seemed? Surely not. Surely I learned something. I just sat here for three minutes trying to think of things I learned in middle school and literally I think I only learned a few words of Spanish, how to read bass clef, and that I didn’t like girls the way everyone else seemed to. I was in an “experimental” math program where we “taught each other,” which means that me and the other “smart kids” who went to that school all think x – sin(x) = DICKS LOL.
So what did I get? What was the silver lining? Here’s what I’ve come up with:
MTV played music videos back then: I am an incredibly nervous person, which isn’t surprising considering my genetics and upbringing. Some Scots all married each other, then the English chased them away. They went to the South and all married each other until the Yankees drove them away. They went to West Texas and married each other until the highways were built and my mother could move away. (My dad is the same story but Irish.) I have the same overbred qualities as a prize-winning whippet: same even, pointy face; same bony front legs and strong back legs; same bursts of energy between frequent naps; same constant nervousness. Because of this nervousness, I have to have ambient noise on all the time. The TV or the radio or the fan or an air-raid siren or something has to be on, because if it’s too quiet it makes me more nervous. MTV used to be perfect for this. Music videos would play and you could kind of look at them without having to watch them, but there was always sound. Then a VJ would cut in and say something boring in a pleasant TV voice, then more music. It was balm.
You Were Still Kind of Blind to Your Parents’ Failings: On some level I understood that my home life was unhealthy, but as long as one of my parents bought me and my friends pizza and would let us rent R-rated movies, I did NOT care.
Porn Was A Lot More Low-Tech and Thus You Were More Grateful: Everyone born between 1982 and 1987 remembers clicking on the thumbnail and waaaaaaiiiiiiting…. And here a stripe, there a stripe, and graaaaaadually…. I appreciated that one image more when it arrived than the THOUSANDS of HOURS of pornography I could theoretically download in the next twenty minutes. The other kind of porn our generation had was pausing an R-rated movie just right. You remember. “Okay…. Now!M” Damn. Rewind it like 5 seconds. Okayyyyyy….. Now! Damn.”
It’s Not Like You Had to Pay the Gas Bill: Admit. You didn’t generally have to give a fuck about bills.
Puberty Metabolism: Every single day in middle school, I had either: a chicken burger, fries, and Hawaiian Punch, or a bag of Andy Capp Cheez Fries, Reese’s Cups, and Hawaiian Punch and yet I was thin until I moved to New Zealand in my twenties and spent most of a year eating only curry and beer.
It’s Not Like It Counts: If something sucked in middle school you could just say, “Well, this isn’t real life. I’m not a grown-up yet. It’s okay. I’ll still grow up and do great things.” I am 25 years old. I have a credit score. Things I do count.
I look back on the advantages of middle school I’ve tried to accumulate and I see that it’s mainly inbreeding, immaturity, and masturbation. Well, whatever. Having someone else pay the bills while you jack off sounds like a damn fine deal to me.