Friday, September 21, 2012

The Red Dress Playlist: "Wakin' Up in Vegas"

A while back, I started a self-improvement project, inspired by Jenny Lawson, the Great Bloggess. To read about the origin of my project, look here. For the short version, each week I will set out to conquer something that is holding me back from being the person I want to be. A relationship, a memory, a fear. . .anything that makes me less than I am. I will attack each challenge wearing my red dress as a cape for inspiration and as a symbol of the superheroes we all are inside. My goal is to undertake the daunting task of taking one crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable woman and molding her into a productive member of our crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable society.  

Sometimes I think I peaked in elementary school. . .well, socially speaking, that is.  When I was eight or nine I was the Alpha Bitch of the playground.  Kickball?  Oh, hellz yeah I'm Captain.  Gathering with my homegirls for a reenactment of last night's "Little House on the Prairie"?  You'd best believe I'm playing Laura.  Every.  Damned.  Time.  Even in middle school and high school I pretty well skated by with a relatively small but mighty group of compadres; in no small part due to the fact that I participated in the more high-profile activities like cheerleading and drama.*

*Yes, I was a whore for attention from birth.  I am of the firm belief that every child at the park standing atop the jungle gym screaming "LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!" is a future blogger.

But even though I always had friends; many of them male, I never had "boyfriends".  Literally, never.  For the most part I never saw the point.  I would sit for hours listening to my girl friends sobbing and starving themselves and screaming on the phone to their boyfriends and then listen to them say, "You should TOTALLY get a boyfriend!" which to me was kind of like when someone takes a swig of expired milk, and then says "Jesus, this is disgusting!  Try it!"  As moronic as I was at sixteen, I didn't see an intrinsic value in finding a horny teenaged boy to define my status.

By the time I got to college, the thought of a boyfriend became more appealing, but at that point I was losing my social skills faster than an autistic kid after a shot of Nyquil.  I gained weight, I lost confidence, and a few traumatic events my sophomore year stripped away my entire sense of self and catapulted me headlong down a decades-long spiral of alcohol abuse and eating disorders.  I was deeply entrenched in both when I met my ex-husband and  my fucked-up mind and body were an enticing cocktail for someone with his innate need to control and manipulate.  I was floundering through my first year of law school with no self esteem or sense of direction and he swooped in and told me he'd take care of me.  Huzzah!  Done and done.  We married the next year and at age 26 I could honestly say he was the first real "boyfriend" I'd ever had.  I loved him. . .or thought I did. . .but in truth, I think I just wanted so desperately to be in love and to feel love that I projected those emotions onto him and spent the next nine years losing what was left of me to be the person I thought he wanted.

After we divorced, I gradually emerged from my shell and returned to the confident and outspoken woman I'd been in my youth but it took time, therapy, a DUI, and a shit ton of antidepressants to get there.  Since I got my sorry ass sober, returned to school, and started this blog, I now find myself surrounded by bright and interesting people and for the first time in a long time, I have FRIENDS again.*

*Ever scroll through the contacts on your phone and feel genuinely stunned that all of those people like you enough to actually give you their fucking phone number? . . . No?  Just me?

But although I now feel safe and secure enough to forge friendships, it is still painfully difficult for me to do so.  Where as a child I used to collect friends like Larry King collects wives, now I don't even answer the phone when it rings because I know it means I'll have to actually converse with a living, breathing human being.  And as for meeting NEW people?  Oh HELL to the no.  I don't have time to meet new people, I'm too busy avoiding the people I already know.  I mean, it was easy when we were younger: your mom drove you to the party that lasted until a specified time, you knew everyone there, then Mom picked you up and you went home.  Now there's so many. . .variables.  You have to mapquest the party's location, find a babysitter, you don't know who in hell will be there, and then there's the open-ended question of "When can I leave?"  Invariably, I wind up hunched in the corner. clutching my Diet Coke and wishing to God I were back home on the couch eating Wheat Thins and watching "Toddlers & Tiaras".  It's just too much work.*

*This probably goes a long way toward explaining why I work in the field of autism research.  These are my peeps.  ((this is where I'd normally insert a fist bump but we're not big on touching))

Unfortunately, my socially backward behavior has not greatly improved vis-a-vis the outside world either.  Sure, I may appear affable and friendly on the outside as the counter girl at Chipotle is bubbling excitedly about the latest campus political rally but inside my brain is screaming "Quit 'rocking the vote' and just make my goddamned burrito, Bitch!"  I know that I need to get a handle on this shit one day because there's only so long I can wander soloistically through life humming Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" before I find myself living alone hoarding Thomas Kinckaide art.  There's a fine line between snarky bitch and crazy cat lady and I'm straddling it like a Ukranian gymnast.  No one wants to die alone; and let's face it, xenophobia only pays in high-stakes Scrabble.

So, for this weekend's Red Dress Challenge, I am undertaking a truly terrifying task.  On Friday afternoon I will be getting on a plane to travel to Las Vegas to spend three days at the "I 'Heart' Radio Music Festival" with 24 other people; only two of whom I know well.  We will be sharing hotel suites, intermingling our toiletries on the bathroom counter, and wandering the Strip with one another for the full 72 hours.  Suffice to say I'm feeling touchier than a priest at a Vatican summer camp.  The only thing saving me from full-blown panic mode is knowing that the bulk of our time will spent ogling the likes of Usher, P!nk, and my homeboy, Pitbull.*

*Look out Mr. 305, 'cuz Miss 503 is gonna keep it real up in heah!

So, I throw myself on the mercy of all of my socially gifted readers.  Advice?  Good thoughts?  Prayers that I don't act like a total asshole or freeze up so badly that they have to drag me around like it's "Weekend At Bernie III"?  Help a sister out, y'all.  Because even though I have never met most of you in person (and probably won't answer the phone if you call), in my own quirky, Boo Radley kind of way, I really do consider you my friends.


P.S.:  If you don't hear from me by Monday, send bail money.  ;)


AC said...

You CAN do THIS! I don't have any good advice other than that.

Vegas, music, Vegas, food, Vegas, fountains, VEGAS! MUSIC!

I will be thinking of you all weekend as I tried to win tickets and was thwarted by some pimply faced teenagers who only want to see Gaga and Selena Gomez. Bah.

Had I been there, I would stalk you down and air five you. :)

Have FUN!

Leauxra said...

I know this sounds pathetic, but I find Las Vegas mostly boring. And while I love concerts, I only love them for about an hour before I need to go hide in a corner and get these fucking people away from me.


Strangers is easier than people you know. People tend to be more polite, especially when you have access to them while they are sleeping. Make sure you have an hour somewhere to hang out by yourself to read or do a crossword every day, and you will be FINE.

And take lots of pictures and send them to Misty for her Weekly Whacked.

Tricia said...

God speed! You can totally do this. I'll be reading for updates conveniently hidden behind my computer here.

(This coming from a former theatrical attention whore who peaked in 5th grade. My sport was handball. I also kicked ass at pickle. I then majored in theatre in college. But hid behind the curtain doing "backstage" stuff. Now I write.)

Maggi Shelbourn said...

Just think about the blog fodder that Las Vegas is (especially the people watching). That said, enjoy the music and the time away.

Jen said...

AC - I should be able to avoid the youngsters by skipping the Taylor Swift show and seeing Bon Jovi instead. ;)

LEAUXRA - That is what scares me the most--the lack of "alone" time. I picture myself locked in a bathroom stall at the Bellaggio, rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

TRICIA - Even more proof that we were twins, separated at birth. :) How are your twinners doing?

MAGGI - Vegas is always a shit show...I'm relying on that!

Jennifer Clark said...

I dunno, Jen. I spent a week in Vegas at a theater convention in the late 80's and the very thought of being in that town *literally* makes my skin crawl. I hear it's much less sketchy now, but at the time it was bright lights on crumbling building with drunks staggering about all hours of the day and night, with the sound of the goddamn slot machine every-fucking-where!!!! I'd rather stick needles in my eyes, thank-you.

Here's my advice: Ask people about themselves. Folks are always flattered that you are interested and you can receive rather than give. Much less sucking of your energy, ya know? Then make it a point to spend some time alone to recharge your batteries. That's my introverted husband's method of surviving social situations, anyway.

Cheers, luv!

Andrea said...

Loud music = conversation limits??? I always like to have my exit strategy planned ahead of time, and since you know when the weekend ends, you are part way there. Seriously? Have an incredible kickass red cape wearing time!

TheChickIsRight said...

Kudos to you, my dear, for stepping out of your comfort zone! *applause*

My little piece of advice? Don't be afraid to say "no" every now and then. Whenever I travel with a group of people, there always comes a time when the group wants to go "do something" that I'm not jazzed about. I used to let myself get roped into these activities out of some obscure sense of obligation and would invariably end up miserable and/ or bored. Now, I just smile and politely say "No thank you." or "I'd rather have some time to relax right now." 99% of the time, the people I'm with understand and go on their merry way. AND I get to have some alone time! Win-win. :-)

Have fun!!!

Jen said...

JENNIFER - Another vote for "alone time". Done and DONE!

ANDREA - You're right; all of the concert craziness will definitely keep me from too much interaction. Thank God for Usher and P!nk. ;)

CHICK - You are rad. I have trouble saying 'no' but will have to if I want to retain my sanity.

Holly said...

I feel your pain. I also work with Autistic kids and I think one of the reasons I am good at it is that I think their reactions to many situations is not unreasonable...the world is full of noisy people who want you to do things when you would rather be doing something else! As an introvert I firmly believe people are overrated...nice invention God/evolution, but why so many? And the telephone...only use for this is it means people can be taught not to 'drop by' without ringing first. I LOVE my friends and do truly value them, but I need my quiet time! Your trip sounds a bit nightmarish to me!

TheOtherLisa said...

I would totally give you both my phone number and bail money.

Have fun in Vegas.

Anonymous said...

You'll be fine. You survived NYC and that was a shit ton of people. Just take a couple minutes to breathe and you'll be ok. Give yourself more credit.

And call me if you need me to come out there to bail you out. ;)

Johi Kokjohn-Wagner said...

As I may not qualify as socially gifted, I will advise you in more of a social experimental way and quote my very own mother:" just be yourself!" While this does not always work for me ( because I'm kind of an asshole), I know it will work for you, because you're awesomesauce. Have fun! And send me pictures!

Tiffany said...

Suck it up and fake it 'til you make it. Aren't you glad that wasn't advice on sex? Other than that, I've got nothin' - that's how I managed a Disney Cruise this summer without chucking people overboard. Especially my mother in law. She was just begging to be tossed to the sharks. The moral is: murder is illegal and some people are fun and the concerts will kick ass. Focus on that and have fun!

mothers little hleper said...

Dear Jen

I think you are very brave and fabulous as you have come so far. There are many of us out there with similar stories, and it gives me hope, that things can get better. we survive, we are stronger than we think.
Have fun in Vegas and if there are a couple of (un)social gaffes, then so be it!
would love to say call me and will bail you out but I live on the other side of the world!

Von said...

The anticipation will be harder than the reality, I think. It's only for 3 days; you can cope with that easily because you're a strong woman. I will go along with the others who said grab some time to yourself. And remember that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Who cares what a bunch of strangers think?

Rachael said...

Well you should be back tomorrow, so it's too late for advise, but I do have a stash of cash in an envelope in my laptop bag, so if you need bail money I have it ready to go!

I'd love to se Pink and Bon Jovi. Am I showing my age. Usher I saw during the Olympics at a free show - awesome.