Well, since I’m apparently not afraid to seem like a prissy bitch and I’ve told you about how I became scared of hostels, let me tell you about how I became afraid of camping.
You’re probably thinking, “Oh, she must have had some traumatic experience or something. Maybe she got chased by a bear!”*
Guys, I’ve never been camping.
I know, I know, what kind of person am I?
SIDENOTE: I’ve also never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies. What are you gonna do about it?
Camping looks fun.
But here’s what worries me:
What am I gonna eat?
I’m a gluten-free vegan. Yes, I could still grill up a mean tofu steak and some veggies, but also…
How am I gonna wash my hands constantly?
I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I like things to be clean. Really clean. I like washing my hands lots. Especially when I’m cooking and/or eating. And also…
Where am I gonna pee?
I sure as hell am not gonna pee outdoors, y’all. I don’t even know if I know how to do that properly. Need I remind you that I won’t even pee in some public washrooms? Forget outhouses – unless it’s an emergency.** This point could be on a constant loop with the previous point – how am I gonna wash my hands constantly? And speaking of hygiene…
How will I shower daily?
Yep. Daily. In fact, I usually shower twice a day: once in the morning and once after the gym. I can’t stand not showering. I feel all grimy and sticky and weird about it, even after a day. Plus…
How am I gonna look pretty?
I do not look good without showering. It’s one of the few downsides of having short hair. You can’t just sleep on it and then wake up and look fabulous like those jerks with perfect long hair. It goes everywhere. Some days, if you’re lucky as fuck, it can be endearing. Most days, though, you just look like a crazy person. A dirty crazy person.
And now, what may be my biggest camping worry – and quite possibly the most stereotypically girly one…
I do NOT like bugs. Like, I don’t even like watching bugs on television, never mind having bugs anywhere near me. Sometimes, in the summer, I get a mosquito in my bedroom and I literally cannot sleep until I find it and kill it. If I don’t, my imagination goes crazy thinking about everything that could happen while I’m sleeping: the mosquito may bite me a million times, or fly into my ear and find a way to kill me via my brain (or it’ll just burrow in there and I’ll wake up one day and be myself but slightly off, because the mosquito will be pinching a brain nerve or something), or I’ll just choke on it in my sleep. I’ve woken up coughing. I know what’s up. And I don’t like it.
Basically, sleeping in a tent that bugs have access to = NOT OKAY.
I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made myself look bad enough. I have to admit that despite all of these worries, camping does have an appeal. I’ve always dreamed of being a little more outdoorsy. And outdoorsy guys are sexy. You know the ones. They’re kind of rugged and they know how to start fires and climb mountains and shit. (So hot.)
Where was I?
So here’s what I’ve learned from a lifetime of being camping-curious:
(A) I should either go “camping” in an RV instead of the real deal, or
(B) I should go real-camping with someone who is very, very, very patient.
Form an orderly line, folks – no need to fight over my camping company.
Did you know that Sweden is expensive? Like, insanely expensive?
SIDENOTE: It’s not as expensive as Switzerland, which made Sweden seem like a financial fucking walk in the park, but it’s expensive.*
Anyway, Sweden. One of my favourite places in the world. I wish I could go back there like, yesterday. But yes, expensive. So when my BFF Mags and I started planning our post-thesis trip to Sweden, we panicked a bit. Oh shit. Every B&B and guesthouse we looked at seemed unaffordable.
(They seemed that way because they were, just to be clear.)
“We’ll definitely need to stay at hostels.” Margaret said as-a-matter-of-factly. And she was right.
It took us a long time to find hostels that were affordable and acceptable. And by acceptable, here’s what I mean: in our searches, we discovered that the Swedes (in fact, most Scandinavians) are very comfortable with nudity.** So “sports style” showers and communal bathrooms are the norm. So that’s like, a wall of shower heads, with maybe some curtains in between them. Maybe. We saw some photos of these “sports style” showers. They did not look promising.
Throughout our time in Scotland and Europe, Margaret and I jokingly referred to ourselves as the “uptight (North) Americans.” We got stressed, for example, when it took a month to open a bank account instead of the 15-20 minutes we were used to at home. We were also not totally down with showering in front of other people. Or each other.
“If we stay at a place with sports showers, we have to take turns,” Margaret told me, “I don’t think I’m ready to go to that level with you.”
“If we stay at a place with sports showers,” I responded, “I am not showering. Just FYI.”
And I meant it. I meant it so hard.
We found two decent looking hostels, one in each of the cities we were staying in – Gothenburg and Stockholm. Everything was going to be okay.
And when we got to Gothenburg, everything was just fine. Our hostel was perfect. It was immaculately clean (like the rest of Sweden, which made my germaphobic, OCD heart so happy), we had a room with a bunkbed just for the two of us, and the bathrooms were perfect: a wall of communal sinks with mirrors, and then a number of private washrooms, each of which contained a toilet, another sink, and a shower.
(Also, I hate to fuel stereotypes, but it looked like IKEA. And I’m pretty sure most of the furniture was from IKEA. I loved it.)
Then we went to Stockholm. Perhaps we should have taken our eight-hour bus ride, which was less than smooth, as an omen. We got stuck on a sold-out trip behind who I think is the SMELLIEST girl in Sweden, maybe the world. I’m not going to go into detail. Let me just say that any time we went around a bend in the road, a smell so offensive it made me want to retch would waft toward us. For eight hours, folks. EIGHT HOURS.
SIDENOTE: We ended up sitting behind this girl after Margaret suggested we switch seats. Not that I’m holding it against her, but still.***
ALSO: This girl was listening to a discman. In 2010. I can’t get behind that.
When we arrived in Stockholm, we were tired and ready to find our hostel, which proved easier said than done. I think we ended up taking a very expensive taxi because we were so eager to rest.
The check-in process was a bit rocky. The woman at the front desk wanted us to schedule our use of the blow dryer. She was very confused when Margaret asked if she could just keep it for the night and then return it in the morning. I think it was eventually agreed that Margaret would have to go pick it up in the morning in order to use it. But there might not be anyone at the desk until 10am. Or something. They also insisted that we take off our shoes before even entering the hallway, which would have been fine, but the floors in the front entrance were kind of dirty.
Then we had to go find our room. It wasn’t far – just slightly down the narrow hallway – but we didn’t get a very warm welcome. We were already feeling pretty uncomfortable about the whole situation, so when we opened the door and found some random dude lying on a bed fiddling around on his laptop, we kind of froze in our tracks. He put a great deal of effort into looking over his shoulder at us with great disdain. I don’t even think he said hello. He just looked, then went back to his laptop. I remember feeling very scandalized over the fact that his shirt had ridden really far up and I could see a great portion of his lower back, the top of his boxers and jeans, etc.
Mags and I exchanged a look.
It said something like, “Yeah, he’s weird. Let’s not panic yet.”
We locked our bags in the “locker” provided (which was basically a cupboard with a tiny latch on it for a lock – very easy to just yank open and break), and decided to assess the premises.
First we found the kitchen. It was filthy. And it smelled – no, it STANK – of fish. Now, I get that I’m a vegan, so I’m more sensitive to meat smells, but even Margaret was like, “MAYBE LET’S SEE THE REST OF THE PLACE” as soon as we set foot in that kitchen. When we got back into the main hallway, we let out a mutual breath. Ugh.
Then we found the bathrooms. Well, sort of. There were two closets at the end of the hallway with toilets in them. Margaret really had to pee, so she went in to use one. As soon as she did, some guy staying at the hostel decided to also try to use the bathroom, but instead of twisting the doorknob once and realizing someone was in there, he yanked and fiddled with it for a good 30 seconds.
“Uh, there’s someone in there.” I muttered, trying to lessen Mags’ inevitable panic.
He ignored me, jiggled the doorknob again, then walked away, frustrated.
I decided to check out the showers.
Guys, I get that I can be a prude about certain things, but the shower situation really did it for me. The showers were literally in a closet. There was nowhere to really hang your towel without getting it soaked, never mind room to change into dry clothes.
As I was inspecting the showers – and debating how long I could comfortably go without taking one – our lovely roommate came down the hall wearing nothing but a towel and went into the closet next to me. I think this happened right as Margaret exited the toilet closet.
We exchanged another look.
This one was speechless.
I let Margaret take a look at the showers. As we walked back down the hallway, she said, “You know…”
“What?” I replied anxiously.
“Andrea, just so you know…I wouldn’t be totally horrified if…like, I wouldn’t be horrified if you didn’t want to stay here tonight.”
“OH THANK FUCKING GOD.”
“Oh THANK GOD.”
There was a communal computer on a desk randomly planted in the middle of the hallway. We lept toward it and hit up Expedia. Suddenly, we felt we had to be as stealthy about this as secret agents. We were, after all, searching for hotels from the hostel we were supposed to be staying at.
“Is this insane?” We asked one another.
Our roommate came back down the hall in his dripping wet towel and went into our room. He was definitely being naked in there, however briefly.
No words were necessary. We turned back to the computer. We booked a hotel. It was “cheap” (see: Swedish cheap) and it wasn’t even a hotel – it was a suite. We had a kitchen, a living room, a spacious bathroom, and a bedroom.
That was the day I confirmed that hostels aren’t my thing.
P.S. I could tell you about the adventure it was to find our new hotel and then to actually get into our new hotel, but that’s a whole other story.
P.P.S. I still think back and wonder what our hostel roommate must have thought that day. We checked in, showed up, then disappeared. Maybe he thinks that we got drunk and kidnapped and murdered.
P.P.P.S. The image of his bare lower back still haunts me to this day.
*Also, I loved Sweden and my experience in Switzerland was less than awesome, so I still bitch about how expensive it was. I’m fully aware I should give it another chance. But Geneva just didn’t rock my socks like I wanted it to. (I can’t believe I just said, “rock my socks.” I’m sorry.)
**If I looked like Alexander Skarsgård – heck, if I looked like most of the insanely beautiful people I saw and/or met in Sweden – I would also be very comfortable with nudity. I mean, come on.
Remember yesterday when I said that since I was travelling by myself the first time I went to the UK and Ireland, it was pretty common for other B&B guests to strike up conversations with me? And that it was nice most of the time?
Sometimes it wasn’t.
When I scheduled my trip to Ireland, I gave myself more time in Cork than any other town or city because I thought I would like it best. (I was right, by the way. Cork is one of my favourite places in the world.) My B&B was great, aside from a bit of a bathroom situation, and it had a nice large breakfast room on the ground level where I met lots of nice fellow travellers.
Now, when I say that I met them, I really do just mean that I met them. I have never been one of those travellers who goes to random cities and meets people, then becomes life-long friends with them. I’m more of a chat-over-breakfast-then-say-goodbye-and-never-see-each-other-again-but-remember-each-other-fondly type. Like the lovely Australian couple I chatted with on my first morning in Cork. Not only were they sweet, they were two of the sexiest men I had ever seen. I don’t remember much of what we talked about. I’m only human, after all. And I was 19. So I’m sure I giggled a lot.
But then there was the day I met Jaz.
I was having breakfast and I could see him staring at me. I’m pretty sure this was after my bathroom fiasco was over, so I had, in fact, taken a shower that morning and was no longer worried about how greasy my hair looked/was. Jaz – a Londoner, I would later learn – was probably somewhere between 29-34, and I was only 19, so his staring worried me slightly. I tried to keep eating, avoiding eye contact entirely.
But guys, I’m a crazy magnet. And also, I’m too nice to just tell people off 98% of the time, so when he struck up a conversation, I hesitantly responded to his small talky questions.
Then he asked me what I was up to for the day.
SIDENOTE: YEAH, I’m aware I should have lied. Hindsight and all that.
So I told him: “I’m going on a guided bus tour of the city.”
And he was like, “Great, I’ll join you!”
I was honestly speechless. He had just invited himself to spend the day with me. I finished my breakfast as quickly as I could and was like, “Okay, see ya,” thinking that he might not actually follow me. But he did. He suuuuuuure did.
It might have been fun if Jaz were like, young and cool, but he was old (compared to me) and awkward, and he did a lot of staring at me and it made me beyond uncomfortable. He asked a lot of questions. I tried to answer as vaguely as possible. But rather than take the hint, he just kept asking questions.
And of course, Cork is a small city, and it was a rainy day, so for the majority of the guided bus tour, Jaz and I were the only two fucking people on that stupid bus.
I thought I could deter him by showing him how boring I am, so I blurted out, “I’m going to do a whole loop without doing the hop-on/hop-off thing. I want to hear all about the city’s history.”
And he was like, “Cool.”
So there we sat. Only instead of listening to the city’s history, Jaz asked me awkward question after awkward question and stared at me. I wondered how my family would be notified if I got kidnapped and murdered in the middle of Cork, Ireland by some guy with a stupid name. I thought about whether I could beat him off me with the umbrella he had been holding onto all day. I kept forgetting to pay attention and actually see the city going past me.
And then I was saved.
(That’s gonna seem like a great pun in a second. Just wait for it.)
The lovely recording blaring through the bus’ speaker system started describing the next stop on the hop-on/hop-off tour: St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. Completed in 1879, built by architect William Burges, blah, blah, blah.
I stopped listening when Jaz said, “Meh, I’m not one for religion. I don’t think I could be bothered to stop at that one.”
“I NEED TO SEE THIS PLACE!”
I jumped out of my seat and ran to the side door of the bus.
“Sorry, this is really important to me. Maybe I’ll catch you later?”
And before he could respond, I jumped off the bus and ran for St. Fin Barre’s.
I spent the next few days going to breakfast either unreasonably early or 10 minutes before they stopped serving in hopes of avoiding Jaz.
I never saw him again.
Maybe he was actually a really nice, but incredibly awkward and inappropriate, dude. Maybe he’ll come across this story by some freak chance and go, “Wait, that’s me – she had it all wrong!” Maybe.
But regardless, that was the day I learned that some people don’t understand personal boundaries.*
At some point in the midst of my serious talk with Mr. Jones in the third grade (about how I was acting out, how he thought I needed to ditch my friend Sara and start being true to myself, etc., etc.) he stopped, looked at me very seriously, and said, “Are you Norwegian?”
This is the story of my life.
On my first day in Edinburgh, I was eating breakfast at my B&B and an older couple at the next table struck up a conversation with me. This was pretty common, since I was travelling on my own and I was only 19. Everyone felt like I needed company, which was really sweet (most of the time). They asked me where I was from, where I was headed – all of the usual small talk questions you ask someone you’re meeting who is also travelling in a foreign country. Then they said, “You’re Black Irish, right?” Apparently, it was my very fair skin – but dark eyes and hair – that gave me away.
When I got to Ireland, I got asked if I was Scottish. No, let me rephrase that: people assumed I was Scottish.
(When I was living in Scotland, people knew, before I even spoke, that I was not Scottish…)
A great percentage of the people who see my last name – Beça – written down on paper immediately look up at me and say, “I thought you looked French!”*
Wait a second…
Throughout my life, I have been told I look like and/or asked if I am:
And others I know I am forgetting…
(Big breath out…)
Ironically, the people who thought I was English were the Portuguese. I would walk into a store or restaurant and I would see the employees prepare to deal with a tourist. They would look at me expectantly, waiting for either very slow English or broken, butchered Portuguese, and when I would speak to them in their own language, they often took a moment to get over their shock. One woman actually froze in her tracks and stared at me for a good 30 seconds, like she was so surprised I spoke the language that she needed a minute to process what was actually happening. Her response came in confused, stuttered Portuguese. Then she asked me what part of Great Britain I was from.
“I’m Canadian-Portuguese,” I told her (in Portuguese, obviously).
She just stared again, then got me the food I ordered.
In 26 years, no one – and I really mean no one – has ever asked me if I’m Portuguese.
So apparently, I have a very international face, which I’ll take as a huge compliment.
*So far, I’ve discovered that the cedilla is used in French, Portuguese, and Turkish, and that it does the same thing – makes the ‘c’ sound like an ‘s’ – in each of those languages. Know of any others? Let me know – I’m genuinely curious!
There’s something I like to call “Life Math.” It’s a tricky thing. Like how you can feed a baby a small bottle of formula and they puke up like, 10 bottles’ worth a few minutes later. Or how you can have more than 20 tickets left to sell at a theatre, but you struggle to find an empty seat anywhere.
Lately, I’ve been plagued by another type of Life Math.
Well over a year ago now, I chopped my hair super short again (it’s been somewhere between chin-to-shoulder length and super short ever since I was in grade six), and somewhere between then and now I also shaved off a significant part of it, making my hair styling routine very quick, as in a few minutes at most. I wear very little makeup in my day-to-day life, so that only takes me about 10 minutes, max. Basically, I’ve got my dirty-to-diva (god, I hate the word diva) routine down to about 35-40 minutes, including breakfast and a shower.
So tell me, HOW AM I ALWAYS RUNNING LATE?!
I used to be one of those chronically early people. Like, if I had a uni class at 1pm, I’d be there by 12:20. Irritatingly early. I would be stressed about getting there on time, but then I’d get just as stressed about having to wait around so long beforehand.
Mind you, it used to take me something like two hours to get ready in the morning, so maybe my body and brain were always just over-preparing. Now that I know I can be quick, my body’s like, “Whatever! No big deal!”
But let me tell you something: my brain is not cool with it. Because I hate being late. Being late for things stresses me out to the point that I will break into a sweat or want to cry (usually both) if I know I’m going to be late for something. Because I think it’s crazy disrespectful to waste other people’s time. I know how busy I am, and how many other things I have to do in a day – waiting on someone who can’t care enough to be on time to meet with me/work with me/whatever it may be is definitely not on my to-do list.
Does that mean I’ve gotten my shit together? Not yet. Somehow I am still always RUNNING out the front door muttering a constant stream of swears about the time. I’m lucky that I make it in time 98% of the time. That other 2% drives me mad.
Life Math just doesn’t add up sometimes, A.K.A. when did low maintenance become so high stress?
P.S. I’m currently well ahead of schedule for the afternoon class I’m teaching. Wish me luck.
Last night, a woman came up to me after class with a big, beautiful smile on her face. She had come in a few minutes late, so she hadn’t been there for my intro in which I ask if it’s anyone’s first time at Zumba®, but as it turns out, it was. And she loved it. I mean she LOVED IT.
“Cross that one off the bucket list – what a blast!” She said between asking me for some tips on how to do certain moves and raving about the class.
We crossed paths again on our way out the front door of the gym. She turned to me again.
“Okay, so do you just go to all of the dances and parties in town?! You must – you’ve got such amazing moves!”
“…Not really…?” I replied, kind of speechless.
“You’re kidding! They should invite you EVERYWHERE! You’re awesome!”
“Oh, geez – you’re making me sound waaaaay cooler than I am!” I said, deflecting her compliment with a joke in true Andrea style.
But you know, after we said goodnight and parted ways, I got to thinking: maybe I should have a social life. I mean, I have a social life, and lots of amazing friends and everything, but I almost never go out. I should probably go out. I’m 26 and you can usually find me at home in the evenings, writing, cuddling my dogs, and watching movies.
But I can be fun! (I think.) I’d like to go out dancing! (Maybe.) I could stay out late doing fun things! (As long as you get me to leave the house before about 9pm, otherwise there’s no turning back.)
Lesson learned: I need to put a little more effort into having fun outside of the house. Who’s with me?
There are a lot of dicks in the world. And when I say that, I mean derogatory dicks, as in assholes, as in mean people, not just penises. I’ve got nothing against penises. Also, just because you’re a dick doesn’t mean you have one. Not in my books, anyway.
Lately I feel like I’ve met and/or had to interact with a great percentage of the world’s derogatory dicks. It’s hard to get dragged down by other people’s negativity, even when you’re being so nice to them, doing your best, etc.
But whenever I’m stewing in a little pot of sadness, wallowing in self-pity, probably crying and eating something I shouldn’t be (like, say, an entire tray of vegan brownies) all I have to do is send one of my BFFs a text, or give them a ring, and I remember that everything’s going to be fine because they are the best. (Hence the ‘B’ in ‘BFF.’)
The other day, Jolene, one of my newest BFFs, asked me a very logical, organized question, which is just her style: “So what, exactly, makes a person a BFF, as opposed to just a really good friend?”
To which I said this: A BFF is a friend I love endlessly, a friend I can tell absolutely anything without fearing judgement, gossip, etc., and maybe the most defining quality, a friend I could spend 24/7 with without wanting to murder them in their sleep, meaning a friend I could easily live with, travel with, or marry.
Let me tell you about four of my BFFs.
I met Jolene because she’s a Zumba® instructor. I went to her class – my first Zumba® class at a big gym (as opposed to the tiny studio I was used to) – and thought I was going to die. (A) Because I was nervous and self-conscious, but also (B) because Jolene is an insane instructor who jumps around a lot and I spent the whole class trying to catch my breath.
But even before the class had started, Jolene pegged me as a newbie and came to say hi. And we clicked. I had that instant “this is a cool chick” feeling about her, and I was right. Eight months later, she’s the jelly to my peanut butter, the Laverne to my Shirley, etc. I see her pretty much every day, I co-teach Zumba® with her, and I’ve never wanted to kill her. I’ve never even been annoyed with her. We’re so similar in so many ways, you’d think we’d make each other crazy, but I think we’re just the right amount of crazy to get along on an in-person and psychic level. It’s true friend love.
Jolene is amazing and lost over 160lbs, so she also doesn’t think it’s weird when I text her things like, “On a scale of 1-10, how stupid and/or noticeable would it be if I stuffed my bra right now to make it fit better?” when I’m having a wardrobe meltdown. We compare notes about how much our arms flap when we’re teaching. It’s great.
Also, we’re the same shoe size, and Jo has a lot of really cute shoes, so I have to keep her around for when I want to borrow them. (I have my eye on a pair of hot pink stilettos.)
My BFF Louise actually gets stopped on the street and asked if she’s Juliette Lewis. One day I swear I’ll take her out somewhere and lose her to a crowd of fans. And I can understand why: because she’s crazy cool.
Before Louise and I became friends, I knew her as this insanely cool alterna-sexpot (see: goth chick) who always came to opening nights at the theatre I was box office manager at. She had a wicked hairdo and she wore frilly underwear as pants. Basically, I had a crush on her and her sexy corseted confidence.
One day, she came out to audition for one of my plays. She walked in wearing a pair of sexy high-heeled boots or something, and being the nerd that I am, I couldn’t help but mention them. I think I babbled something along the lines of, “OMG you’re so cool and you always look so put together and rock the highest heels and I wish I were you will you autograph my left tit?”*
Louise proceeded to tell me a story about this time she went out to the grocery store and everyone was looking at her funny, which she didn’t get because she was just in a tank top and some sweatpants. Then she got home and her then fiancee (now husband) said, “Babe, you’ve got a false eyelash stuck to your forehead.” It was at that moment that I fell madly in love with Louise. She’s hilarious (yes, HILARIOUS, as in one of the FUNNIEST people I know!) and the craziest shit is always happening to her, but she’s got the best outlook on things: she’s always able to appreciate that the crazy translates into a great story and she’s always able to laugh at herself along the way.
Also, she saves stories for me, which I look forward to every time we get together. When I get a text saying, “Oh no, this is an in-person story only,” I know I’m in for a really good one. When she calls me whispering because she’s in a broom closet, I know I’m in for a killer story.
Thank god I was refused a raise at my theatre job and decided to spite everyone by getting a different theatre job one year. Because if I hadn’t, I would have never met my BFF Mandelle. And I still believe to this day that is was pure fate, because my “new” theatre job only lasted five weeks, but I’ve gotten to keep Mandelle for nearly five years now.
She hired me as her box office assistant at a huge theatre company in town. On my first day at work, we were sitting at our desks, which faced one another, and she started quoting Elf at me. When I left at the end of the day, she was like, “Byeeee, Buddy! Hope you find your dad!” and I tried to play it cool, but I was internally GEEKING out.
SIDENOTE: To this day, we still call each other Buddy.
On my second or third day at work, Mandelle told me we needed to go for lunch together…away from the theatre. So we walked down the street, got some food, and she told me flat out (which is true Mandelle style): “I’m quitting this place.”
“Me too!” I blurted out, unable to imagine the theatre without her. Three days into our friendship, I already knew I didn’t want to be there without her. So I handed in my resignation, and so did she. That was in May. By June/July, we were already going on roadtrips together and talking all the time. Mandelle and I have done a lot of laughing together, and a lot of crying, too. She’s also the only friend I’ve ever had who made me a Birthday Tree, which is a Christmas tree decorated with birthday streamers, and with a big photo of me as the angel. Shut up, right? The best. I adore her.
And the only thing I hate about her is her fucking PERFECT, AMAZING HAIR. (Seriously. Perfect. Beautiful. ALWAYS.)
Margaret didn’t show up to our pre-first-class orientation day at the University of Glasgow because she was still in transit from Detroit, Michigan, so I didn’t even know she existed until our official first day of class.
As soon as she opened her mouth, I was two things: (1) intimidated as hell, and (2) intrigued.
Margaret is one of those insanely smart, well-informed, well-read women who can say, “I hate mushrooms”** and sound like she’s at the presidential debates or something. So when she started to comment on a play and compare it to American politics, I was like, “Oh shit, this girl’s way smarter than me.” Luckily she doesn’t hold it against me that I know almost nothing about politics.
Mags and I had what I’ll call a blossoming relationship. We didn’t talk very much at first (because she was intimidatingly smart and cool!), but when we finally got started, we couldn’t stop. We became two North American peas in a Glaswegian pod, and we’ve been besties ever since. I still can’t go shopping without accidentally almost texting her to say, “Want to come with?”
Margaret was there for me when I got hit by the monster rash and I needed to go to the ER. She was also there for me when my uncle passed away very suddenly and I needed someone to come over just to watch me cry and help me pack a suitcase and book an emergency flight to Portugal to be with my family.
Thank goodness she was also there every time I wanted to indulge in really awful reality TV. We also did a lot of travelling together, which I think is a true testament to our friendship. I still wish every day that we could somehow live in the same city, because Chicago’s really far away and I miss her daily. (The OBVIOUS solution to this problem is that I should move to Chicago.)
Also, Margaret brought her ridiculously cute dog with her to Glasgow. And we all know how I am around ridiculously cute dogs.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re like, “Wow, Andrea, first of all, your BFFs sound like the coolest ever, but secondly, what’s the lesson attached to this long, rambling blog post?”
The lesson is this: There’s no need to let the derogatory dicks of the world bring you down, because your BFFs will always be there for you to:
(A) Make you feel better.
(B) Remind you that you’re loved and supported to matter what.
(C) Trash talk the assholes for as long as you need.
I’m a lucky girl. I love you ladies!
EDITED TO ADD: Guys, I just realized that I have NEVER had a fight with ANY of my BFFs. Like, ever! That’s how brilliant they all are.
P.S. There aren’t actually enough words to express what these women mean to me. Also, if I really got going, you’d probably find me, still sitting at this laptop like a week later with a 50,000 word blog post in front of me, sobbing uncontrollably and muttering things like, “Shit, seriously, they’re the BEST.” And I wouldn’t even be drunk. That would be sober crying. So there you have it.
*That’s an estimation, FYI.
**I don’t think Mags hates mushrooms, but I sure do.
***Shout out to Ryan for his mad Photoshop skillz. Thx for the BFF mash-up!
Everyone has a go-to movie, right? One of those movies that you’re willing to watch pretty much any time? Or on a loop? One of those movies that you find endlessly comforting? One of those movies you put on every time you’re sick and stuck in bed or on the sofa? (Or every time it’s a Thursday?)
Mine is Mermaids.
I know, I know, and yes, my love of Mermaids is probably what got me to sit through Burlesque. I have a soft spot for Cher because I still always think of her as Mrs. Flax.
(And, let’s face it, she’s awesome.)
It took me a while to figure out why I love this movie (and the book!) so much, and then it came to me: I love messed up families. When I was younger, I used to wish that my family was super fucked up.
I’ve always had an intense fascination with screwed up people/families/situations. Like, the family from Mermaids? Totally messed. Mrs. Flax has two kids, each with a different man she’s barely even met, and she’s seriously committed to her fear of commitment, so she’s constantly moving her kids around to anywhere other than where she is (she closes her eyes and points to a map), getting partially settled, and then running away again whenever anything goes wrong or gets too serious.*
When I was little/a teenager, I thought that being messed up made people more interesting.** It gave them more stories to tell. They had richer lives because of it. And I craved that. I actually sort of wished for things like a broken home, a sibling with a drinking problem, or a haunted house. I wanted more stories to tell!
TRIVIA Q: I’ve only experienced one of those things. Can you guess which?
Even as a grown-up, I sometimes find myself wishing for weird things I shouldn’t really wish for, like a month of full-on, legit insomnia, so that I could see what it’s like, how crazy it makes you, what happens in the world when “normal” people are sleeping, etc.
Is this a weirdo writer thing?
(No really, is it? I have no idea. Maybe it’s just a weirdo Andrea thing. Because I’m a weirdo.)
And that, that is exactly what I eventually learned: I don’t need to wish for more craziness in my life, because my life is already crazy. My family is crazy, too. And messed up.
Everyone’s is. Everyone is.
We all have an endless number of stories to tell. (I hope I’m telling good ones here – can’t believe I’m on #100 already. Boy, do I like to talk…) We just need to embrace our own messed-up-ness. And then if you’re a writer like me (or any creative type, I guess), you can make the rest up, to fill in any gaps in the crazy.
I love Mermaids because it makes my crazy feel safe and secure. (See: “*”)
*Wow, when I put it in a nutshell like that, I’m like, “Huh, I could see that being my life…” Probably not healthy. Good thing this blog replaces my need for real therapy!
**It does, really. If you’ve come to enough of an understanding with yourself and how messed up you are and you can be normal about your messed-up-ness. Does that make sense? It does to me.
FOR THE RECORD: I still watch Mermaids like, all the time. ALL THE TIME.
Last week, I got together with three of my wonderful girlfriends for a farewell lunch for one of them who is moving on to a new job; the four of us are all past and current staff at the same theatre in town.
I was browsing the menu and saw something called a beet salad that sounded good. The short blurb – which isn’t usually an exhaustive list of ingredients – mentioned beets, arugula, and feta cheese, so I asked our server if I could get it without the feta because I don’t eat dairy.
“Sure,” she responded, without any additional comment.
Okay, great. Sounds good. I ordered the large size, because I was hungry.
I don’t think I could have ever anticipated what would be put down in front of me about 10 minutes later.
It was a GIANT plate…teeming with beets.
There were a couple very small shreds of lettuce buried somewhere under the appalling amount of beets. A couple. And that was it. No onions, no other vegetables, just boiled beets. I think there was supposed to be some sort of vinaigrette on the whole thing, but the beets sort of overpowered that.
The server might as well have just thrown some beets at me and said, “Enjoy!”
“Wow,” exclaimed my friends, “that’s a lot of beets.”
I think I was in shock, and also I’m a Canadian pushover, so I didn’t return the salad.*
SIDENOTE: And also, I’m gonna be honest, a big part of me was seriously amused by the ridiculous plate in front of me to the point that I sort of had to go through with eating it. (And also, as soon as I saw that stupid plate of beets, I thought, “I’m gonna blog about this,” because who feeds a person a plate with nothing but beets on it?!)
I ate as many forkfuls of beets as I could manage and then I took the rest home to mix into a REAL salad.
Here’s the thing: I get that we “weirdo” vegans and vegetarians sometimes order strange things at restaurants, but as a server – especially at a place that already has lots of veg options – should you not be prepared to at least warn people like, “Just so you’re aware, there isn’t much else on that salad,” or offer additions, like extra veggies, extra dressing, or something? It’s 2013!
I need to stop being a pushover.
I need to be a little more precious when I’m ordering food.**
I’m off beets for a while. I learned that my beet limit, while higher than I thought, is well surpassed for the next…oh, month or two. Or six or seven.***
You’d think after being veg/vegan for 23 years, I’d have this ordering food thing down to a science. But sometimes, you still get surprised.
P.S. My friends’ meals all looked like pretty nice, normal meals, so I’ll give the restaurant that much.
*I should have. Those damn beets cost me $12.
**No server would bring Angelina Jolie a plate of beets. (I don’t know what that has to do with me, but it felt like something relevant to say.)