The other night I had had enough! Not to eat. I have never had enough to eat. I had just had enough. I had, I think, flown into a rage about something inconsequential someone had done or something I’d said. I don’t know, something totally changeable. I found myself stuck in the worst funk. Not even my old stand-bys were cheering me up: old episodes of Will & Grace (Over it!), dulce de leche Haagen-Daas (Whatever!), beating up hobos near the railroad tracks (Snore!). I sat cross-legged on my bed, wiping the blood from my knuckles and I decided that something had to change, something big. “Self,” I said, to no one in particular. “You have got to get your shit together.” Cause, you know, there’s certain patterns of behavior that everyone has that maybe aren’t the best, certain habits we have that hold us back from living our best lives. I have them, too. Oprah has them; she has made an entire career out of hashing them out. Barack Obama probs had them, before he reached the unattainable level of awesome where he currently resides. I have got to fix myself, I thought. Not fixed like a cat or a child molester. The downstairs department on old Rowdy is staying in working condition. Just in case. Remaining sexually able is, for me, like having a fire extinguisher. It’s just a good idea; you’re not going to need it but what if you one night you get really drunk and decide to make macaroni and cheese and all of the sudden the pot overflows and the counter catches on fire? You’d be like, “I’m so glad I still have testicles.” This metaphor gets an F minus.
My initial impulse was simple and, if I do say so myself, quite smart. I’m an adult, I reasoned, that is unavoidable. But unlike so many other things one can find oneself being—a nuclear physicist, a professional dog-walker, an elephant tamer, Grace Jones—there is not a training manual or a class you can take. I decided that if I was going to remain an adult—as opposed, to say going all Benjamin Button and becoming an impossibly hot movie star. That’s what that movie is about right? This gremlin gets babysat by the girl from the Hard Out There For A Pimp movie and then grows up to be Brad Pitt? Seen it. If I was going to remain an adult, I should probably go about figuring out how to be a better one. The best one I could be. So I logged on to Amazon and bought $80 worth of self-help books. I am one fucked up puppy; I need a lot of help. Plus they have this thing where they’re like, “Hey, sucker, if you like that one you should probs buy these, too. Here, we’re just going to put them in your cart like you used to do with pudding at the supermarket and Dr. T’s all like, ‘Don’t think I didn’t see that,’ but then she gets to the check out and buys it anyway.” So sneaky.
It started off simply. I bought called How to Be an Adult. I don’t have a lot of time for finesse. Then I bought a book on maintaining healthy relationships because I don’t know a thing about that. Flying into rages and all. Then I bought a couple of books on modern Christianity. Then I bought a book called The Five Things We Cannot Change. Because I don’t know what they are. What if it’s like “1. Everything”? Then I’ll stop wasting my time and go get a Big Mac.
I then purchased a book (perhaps the only book) of daily devotions for black lesbians and gays. That was the first book to arrive. Reading that was a short-lived exercise in self-betterment. While I started feeling more confident and inspired, something lead me to believe it was actually a primer on black militancy. Perhaps because it was co-written by Marcus Garvey and Toussaint L’Oveture. I started showing up at work enswathed in an angry pink pashmina, pushing people out of the way, full on mouth kissing the Mexican dishwashers, standing on tables shouting “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house!” People were like, “Uh, that’s great, but we just wanted to know what tonight’s specials are.” Whatever, whitey.
For real, though, I don’t actually want to plunge into the soul-searching, detailed, lifelong process of changing myself on the inside. That sounds like a lot of work. And there is way too much saved on my DVR; I simply don’t have the time. I still have to watch the last 3 episodes of “Pushing Daisies” and that show has been cancelled since November. I have the inauguration DVRed. All nine hours. I have got to get to that before somebody tells me how it ends and ruins it for me. Work on myself? Maybe next year. Plus, as good an idea as working on myself is, it just doesn’t rate that highly on my “Want to Do Scale.” It’s currently hovering right above doing my taxes and right below making French toast. Making French toast is hard. Well, it’s not hard but there’s the dipping and the mixing and the pan-frying and the getting distracted by the mail and the wondering if you lick your fingers if you’ll get salmonella and the washing all the dishes—all 17 of them; really French people, be more difficult, please. By the time you finish enough to fill you up (12 slices) it’s time for lunch. And you haven’t even started the bacon, yet. Breakfast, I’ve decided, is just too much trouble. I mean, I guess that’s why God invented Honeycombs. It’s a nice idea, really—scrambled eggs, cinnamon toast, Polish sausage, pancakes with passionfruit syrup, raspberry scones, chocolate-covered strawberries, Bloody Marys (I kind like a big breakfast) but the only way you’re going to get that is if you wake up at 5 am. Or if you have a maid named Sookie. She has to be named Sookie. For all the rest of us who wake up 10 minutes for we’re due at work, scream, count our fingers, pull a pair of pants and a shirt from the bag sitting by the door that really, really is going to get taken to the dry cleaners one of these days, spritz some cologne on, run out the door, run back in the door, grab our keys and go it’s Eggos and regret on the menu.
So, honestly, if I don’t have the time to make myself a good, old-fashioned, 4 course all-American breakfast (go eff yourself, French toast) I certainly don’t have time to sit down and work out whatever issues I have. I’m a very busy person, following the daily adventures of Sasha Obama (today she had a cheddar cheese sandwich for lunch! And swung on the swing set for 15 minutes!) and gossiping and whatnot. All that is pretense, of course. You make time to do the things you really want to. I just don’t want to do it.
Here’s a partial list of things I would rather do than work on myself:
Fix the garbage disposal
Get the landlord to fix the mess I’ve made of the garbage disposal
Complain with my mouth full
Work on developing a deviated septum so I could get a nose job without people talking about me
Apply to be on a reality TV competition
Invent time travel
Oh, time travel would be brilliant! Bloody aces, mate! (Today I am Australian!) I’d be so good at it, too, as I’ve made a lifelong study of the mistakes, pitfalls and triumphs of one Mr. Martin McFly in the Back to the Future opuses.
Time travel! Ingenius. I trust you enough, Internet, to share the intimate details of my plan with you. Perhaps you can learn from my perspicacity. I would go back to freshman year of college, spring term and I would hide in my closet, as my roommate was wont to do (that is if I could find room in there next to all the ugly plaid shirts. And my sexual orientation). I would wait until I was really engrossed in The Iliad or an AIM conversation or illegally downloading Ani Difranco music like the big lesbian I was back then or Yahoo searching the symptoms for meningitis for the fifteenth time that day, then I’d jump out, and scare the shit out of myself. “Hey asshole!” I’d say. “Do your homework! Seriously. All of it. And remember the stuff that’s happening right now. It is as fucked up as you think it is and will make very funny stories over drinks. Also, have a drink. But not twelve. God, you’re going to be a mess in 3 years.” Then I would disappear. (I don’t really understand the difference between time travel and magic. Or Star Trek.) I would then go to October of sophomore year and do the same thing. “Hey lover,” I’d coo (I have a love-hate relationship with my 19-year-old self, clearly). “Do your homework. And stop staring at my receding hairline. If you liked it, you should have put a hat on it.” (Pause for laugh. Sigh, exasperated.) “You’re going to find that very funny in like 8 years. Do you even know who Beyonce is yet? Ugh, imbecile.”
Originally my plan was to do all of my homework for myself, thereby allowing my younger self to explore New York and college and himself and develop the sparkling personality I now possess. But then I realized that if my younger self didn’t actually do his homework himself he’d graduate without knowing much of anything. But then again, he’d be part of that very large, elite group of smarmy know-nothing assholes with Ivy League degree and sparkling personalities. And so he’d probably have a better job than I currently have. So, I might revert to that plan.
Anyway, before beaming up again, I’d add, “Also, don’t go to the First Friday dance. It will set off a chain of events that ultimately leads to George Bush being elected for a second term, Clay Aiken losing this show called American Idol and a massive a amount of awkward dancing over the next 7 years.” It also leads to a lot of personal stuff, but that’s between myself and… myself. Nosey. So, I’d drop that bit of wisdom on myself and then go back to the present and look at my kingdom, I’d be finally there, to sit on my thrown as the Prince of Bel-Air. I think I’m getting my plans mixed up.
Such a simple plan, right? That’s the genius of it. Nothing complicated. Just two heart-stopping encounters with some nerd in the late nineties and all the sudden my life is perfect. Much easier than setting aside time each day to crack open a self-help book, take notes, pray about who God wants me to be (an astronaut!). So, that’s what I’m working on now. Reading is for poor people. And if time travel doesn’t pan out, I’m going to give breakfast a try.