As mentioned in my last post, my friends mean the world to me. If you are part of my posse there is nothing I will not do for you. Nothing. Which is the absolute sole reason I found myself in my friend Gina's car the other day on the way to my personal concentric circle of hell: Michael's Arts and Crafts.
Despite being a relatively creative person, when confronted with aisles of scrapbooking supplies and silk flowers I become stabbier than a Manson youth at a Beatles concert. And as the average Michael's clientele look like a casting call for "The Hills Have Eyes". . .*
*Only with more Crocs and Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirts.
. . .this is SO not my milieu. But as Gina was bound and determined to Martha Stewart all of her holiday decorations this year, I leaned into the strike zone and took one for the team.
"So, do you still want to try to visit Kelly in February?" she asked, turning her BMW onto Kruse Way.*
*For those of you who don't know, our friend Kelly recently moved to Southern California. I've tried to blog about it but every time I do I wind up crying like a fat chick at a Clay Aiken concert, so. . .no.
"Absolutely." I replied. "If you book the tickets then damned right I'll be on the next flight, payin' cash, first class, sittin' next to Vanna White."
Gina chuckled. "Well, in your case, Nelly, you'll be sitting next to Vanna not-so-white, but I appreciate the gangsta flow."
"So, what exactly do you need from Michael's?" I asked, choking down my disdain at the sound of the word.
"I need ribbon," Gina mused as we turned onto Interstate 5. "gold and silver. . .and silk poinsettias. But red. Not rose or burgundy, I need a true red."
"Like this?" I grinned, kicking off my leopard pumps to show her my freshly lacquered toes. "Do you love it? The color's called 'Bastille My Heart'."
Gina flicked a glance at my feet and scowled. "That's not red, that's maroon."
I pulled a foot closer to my face.*
*My eyesight may suck, but I'm still as flexible as a Cirque de Soleil performer on diazepam.
"You're on crack." I concluded. "This? Is totally red."
Gina rolled her eyes. "Jen, that is less red than anything on Jessica Simpson's bookshelf".
I paused in quiet awe for a moment before rewarding Gina with a s-l-o-w c-l-a-p. "That was beautiful". I whispered reverently. "How long have you been waiting to use that one?"
"You have no idea." she responded as a weary sigh emanated from the back seat. I turned to regard Libby, the quiet young woman behind me, her shoulders slouched, and her pretty face masked by a silken curtain of black hair. Libby is Gina's younger sister, and after a particularly painful "incident" with her boyfriend, Gina had flown Libby up from Colorado to try to yank her out of the Bell Jar.
"Seriously, Libs," Gina said gently, "you need to let this go. It's over. You're better off. Just move on."
"It's NOT over!" Libby cried. "He didn't break up with me, he just said he needs to take a break to get his head together!"
Gina sighed. "Yeah, I know, you told me that. But 'taking a break' means something totally different to men than it does to women."
Libby began to cry again. "But how am I supposed to KNOW what he really means?"
Gina pulled her car into the parking lot of Michael's, shut off the engine, and turned to face Libby head on. "You aren't supposed to know." she stated firmly. "You CAN'T know because you're twenty-six years old and haven't put in the sweat equity to figure that shit out. That's why I brought The Cryptex."
"The Kotex?" Libby snuffled.
Gina took a patient breath. "No, The CRYPTEX. Dude, seriously, did you not see 'The Da Vinci Code'? The Cryptex is the holder of secrets, the all-seeing, all-knowing key to what is true. I offer you. . ." Gina smiled and waved her hand toward me, "The Cryptex."
Libby wiped her eyes on her sleeve and regarded me warily. "Why do you think Jen has all the answers?"
Gina smirked. "Trust me, Libby, she may look like a hot mess, but this chick is Google Translate for men. Type in anything they tell you; every pick-up, break-up, and shake-up line and Jen will tell you what it really means. She's like The Whore Whisperer."*
*I choose to take this as a compliment.
Libby leaned forward pensively and locked her gaze with mine. "So, when he said he needs a break to get his head together?"
"Tough love time?" I asked. "Because if you can't handle the truth better step off now, Tom Cruise."
Libby took a deep breath and braced herself. "I'm ready."
"It means he wants a break so he can get his 'head' somewhere else." I gravely intoned, watching as painful acceptance washed over Libby's delicate features.
"I think I knew that." she whispered sadly. "No. . .I KNOW I knew that; I just didn't want to believe it."
Gina reached over and stroked Libby's hair. "I know it's tough, but trust me; the next time some guy feeds you a line like that, call Jen. She's got an insane bullshit filter."
Libby smiled weakly at me. "Show me some more?"
Gina grinned and tossed back her glossy black hair. "OK, how about my personal favorite: 'You deserve so much better than me'."
"Pfft! Easy." I laughed. "'I think I can do better'."
"Hmm," Gina mused with a furrowed brow. "what about, 'I'm not ready for a relationship.'"
"'. . .with YOU'." I countered.
Gina narrowed her dark eyes. "'It's not you, it's me'?"
"'I don't find YOU attractive'." I replied seamlessly.
"'I just need some space right now'."
"'. . .without you in it'."
"'I still really care about you'."
"'I care enough be kinda bummed if I heard you died in a fire, but not enough to actually call you'."
"'Let's just be friends'."
"'I'm boning someone else'."
Libby threw her head back in laughter. "How do you do that?" she chuckled.
"Years of experience, my dear." I smirked with a shake of my head. "When you've been Steven Hauschka-ed into the FriendZone as many times as I have, you learn how to read between the lines."
Libby's smile wavered as she picked at the hem of her sweater. "I don't think I can just be his friend." she whispered sadly.
"Then don't be!" Gina cried. "I mean, if he's a great guy and you just really enjoy hanging out with him without all of the mushy Katherine-Heigl-rom-com crap then, yeah, you can still be friends. But trust me, if you're just remaining 'friends' because you think there's a chance he'll fall so desperately in love with you that he fills your office with roses or chases you down in an airport then fuck that noise. Most guys won't even give you a ride to the airport, let alone chase you down in one."
I nodded in agreement. "She's right, Libby. Besides, after seeing you do the whole Sylvia Plath thing for the last forty-eight hours then I can guar-an-freaking-tee you that there's no way you can just be friends with this dude. And you'll never get over him if he's still in your periphery so you need to just go all Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and press delete."
Libby gazed at me with watery eyes. "Are you still friends with your exes?" she asked plaintively.
I shrugged with a grin. "The good ones. Actually, some of my closest friends are guys I was involved with in the past. You can still be friends with the ones you respect. . .the ones that still make you laugh and you know you can trust with all of your baggage. The rest of them I basically told to eat a steaming bowl of dicks and cut my losses."
"But what do I do now?" Libby begged us.
"Now," Gina replied firmly, "you stock up on Ben & Jerry's, listen to some shitty Adele music, and cry like a little bitch for a few days. It's all part of the process."
Libby buried her face in her hands and I reached back to pat her shoulder. "Buck up, my Brave Little Toaster." I told her. "Trust me, in a few years you'll have built up the requisite rhino hide of cynicism and hopelessness and this shit will no longer faze you. And in the meantime, keep going to places like Michael's and WalMart. . .you'll feel so much better about your life choices."
Gina glared at me as we climbed out of her car. "I suppose it is for the best". Libby admitted begrudgingly as we slogged through the rainy parking lot. "I mean, he did tell me he was just super-busy with work and school right now."
He told her. . .
He told her he was "busy". . .?
Should I. . .?
No, that's a translation, and a lesson, for another time.
Dr. Phil, signing out.