This morning I’m waiting for my exercise class to get started when my instructor comes flying in. She is cute on legs and I adore her, but the instructor waiting for her to relieve him was not amused. I could tell why. She made a mistake I have never made, but only because I have seen others make it and said to myself, “Self, don’t do that.” I’ll tell you what it was in a moment, but this incident pointed out a larger need – a need for you, dear reader, to learn from others’ mistakes.
I have been pretty forthcoming with my own penchant for idiocy. I do so happily with humor and some self-love to go with my utter shame, but I haven’t been as free with some really awesome lessons I’ve learned in my life at the expense of someone else. I mean, with the exception of my Dad. (Don’t get drunk, give all your shit to a meth addict, and blow your brains out on the nice rug. For fuck’s sake, put plastic down!) I would like to present a little list of things that you can learn from those who went before you in my life. It might teach you something. And just maybe it will instill some gratitude so that the next time you see some imbecilic action go down in front of you, instead of looking for the nearest blunt object, you can say, “Thanks for doing that! Self, don’t do that.”
My first bit of advice, so I don’t pull that asshole writer move and make you wait until the end of my piece to find out what happened this morning, buy a travel mug. This is so, when you are running late, you don’t fly into work gasping for breath, sincerely thanking those who covered for you, and be met with chilly glares when they see the cardboard cup of Starbuck’s coffee in your hand. Lateness can be forgiven. Lateness avec a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Ice Blended Mocha will earn you lifelong hatred from the assistant director. However, if you have a travel mug in your hand, immediately the message you’re sending goes from, “I know I’m late but my caffeine fix was more important than your pre-op appointment,” to, “I was so desperate to get here on time I didn’t even swig down a single mouthful of my morning heroin, I brought it with me!” If you can’t be thoughtful enough to be on time, at least be thoughtful enough to not make it obvious you stopped on the way in.
Next up: Don’t ever do something once you’re not prepared to keep doing. This applies to everything from eating fudge to fucking someone to shooting heroin. (Wow. Two heroin references in as many paragraphs. Think somebody might be coming off all of her pain pills? Maaaaaaaybe. But that’s another blog post.) My grandpa, a man I utterly adored, died slowly and painfully of complications from smoking. He was a war hero who always could find a quarter behind my ear. We shared a secret language and have the same eyes. He rescued me from more tears than I will ever remember. And in my late twenties, I trimmed his nails and washed his hair because he didn’t want the hospice women touching him more than they had to. I remember the blanket falling off of him and there was Superman, naked and frail, unable to cover his body. I looked away, ashamed for him, but he barked, “Oh, I don’t give a damn, just pick it up.” As I draped him again he muttered with an even, emotionless voice, “They put dogs down, why can’t they do the same for me?” Then he looked at me and said, “I wish I’d never had that first cigarette.” YOU CAN NEVER GUARANTEE YOU WILL STOP. You will fuck him or her again. Maybe. You will eat that again. Maybe. You will drive after one too many again. Maybe. If you live through it once, you assume you will again. Here’s the deal…. if you know it’s a stupid fucking thing to do and you don’t want to do it forever, there’s no point in doing it once. It’s not worth it. “To see what it was like,” is a pussy excuse. Use your imagination and google.
Well, that went dark. So, to keep in the same hue: Don’t cheat. This is kinda included in the above, but I’d like to be specific about it. If you are in a relationship and you cheat, one of two things will happen. You will either stay in the relationship, or you won’t. If you do stay in the relationship, presumably it makes you happy on some level. But if you have cheated, it will never make you as happy as it could. You will always have a hum of guilt singing harmony with your bliss. You will always know you don’t deserve full joy. You will always have a secret or an apology. Even if you confess and you’re forgiven, you will know you are unworthy.
OR…. you won’t stay in the relationship. So why waste everybody’s time fucking around? “I don’t want to hurt her/him,” is complete bullshit. You’re not the only person who knows you cheated. The other person knows. Probably a friend or two knows. And sooner or later, the person you cheated on will know. That WILL hurt and you will feel like an asshole and no matter how much you think you don’t care, that shit builds up until you’re sad and alone and think you don’t deserve affection no matter who thinks otherwise and your dog runs away and you lose your mom’s recipe for dumplings and with it the last whiff of unconditional love you might ever have. Think I’m exaggerating? I ain’t. Trust me. I’ve seen it. Don’t cheat. Find what you want in your relationship, live without it, or leave.
Meh. Now let’s indulge in a bit more schadenfreude, shall we? It’s okay to giggle behind our hands at others’ lessons as long as it’s tempered with a bit of sympathy. You are unlikely to make these next couple of mistakes, but just in case you get drunk and take a bet, let me warn you on behalf of some unfortunates.
Don’t get a bad tattoo. Yes, I am a tattoo snob, and I think I earned that right. But I have an appreciation for a sweet set of hearts on the ankle or a mantra on the inside of your wrist. Predictable doesn’t automatically equal bad, especially if it means something to you. I’m talking about the shit that makes sense when you’re sixteen and have had too many wine coolers, (three). A band name. A Warner Brothers cartoon. Or Japanese characters if you don’t speak the language. Because, true story, I met a woman whose father carried the Japanese words for “crisis” and “opportunity” on a card in his wallet. The family was Mexican. When Dad died, this woman and her sister had the symbols tattooed on their necks. Fast forward to a few years later and she was working with a Japanese woman. It was hot and she put her hair up in a ponytail. The Japanese woman stared and then asked bluntly, “Why you have ‘dangerous door’ tattooed on your neck?” It may be too much to ask that you find an artist and spend months creating a personal and original work of art that will be tanned and framed after your death, but for God’s sake, don’t get a permanent work put on your body because you thought it would be hilarious when you were high. (I’m talking to you, idiot who had “R” and “L” put on your feet. I would have forgiven you if they’d even been on the wrong feet. Points for irony. But as it was, you weren’t funny, you were an ass.)
For those of you who might be wealthier and older, your version of this advice is don’t get liposuction if you never exercise and don’t get boob implants if you’re anorexic. The body needs muscles and no amount of slicing and dicing will make up for their aesthetic effect. I could go on, but I don’t think I need to. If you need visual reinforcement, just turn on any television show that has the word “housewives” in the title.
The same dude who had the feet tattoos taught me another lesson. Don’t tell people how much your clothes cost. Just don’t. Anybody who would be impressed already knows and everybody else just wants to punch you in the neck.
Finally, I’m going to give you a TO do tidbit. I have learned it numerous times from many people I think are awesome and it makes me love them more every time. Be free with your gratitude. Say thank you. Wave when someone lets you into a lane of traffic. Compliment a barista’s foam creation. If you’re feeling saucy, drop a quick curtsy when someone holds a door open for you. It costs you nothing and it feels great. I mean, for you AND the person you thank. It’s easy, it’s free, and it rocks. It can even be hilarious. I derive a lot of amusement from calling companies and telling them about someone who did a good job. The conversation usually runs as follows:
Me: Hi, Ahmud! My name is Kim Rhodes.
Them: Thank you Mrs.Rodess, howcanIhelpyou?
Me: Well, I just had my refrigerator installed. Do you need the purchase number?
Them: No thank you. Do you have the purchase number?
Me: Yes! I have it right here.
(reads off number)
Them: Okay, Mrs.Rohad, IhaveitrightherehowcanIhelpyou?
Me: Well I just wanted to thank you. Larry was really brilliant. He went above and beyond the call of duty and I wanted to let you know.
Them: Okay, what was the problem?
Me: There wasn’t one. He was awesome. On time, incredibly tidy, nice to my dogs, and explained something really confusing about my garbage disposal while he was here.
Them: I’m sorry, I’m not understanding what the problem is.
Me: There isn’t one. This line is just for feedback, right?
Them: Uh…. yes?
Me: So I wanted to give some good feedback. I imagine you don’t get much.
Them: I… I don’t actually think I have ever had this happen.
Me: Well now ya have, Ahmud. Thank you for your time and make sure his manager knows, would you?
Them: Yes, absolutely. Is that all, Ms.Rhodes?
Me: Yep. Have a great day.
Them: I will. And… thank you.
Thanks for indulging me. I appreciate it. I really do. And thank you to those who learned their lessons the hard way so I didn’t have to.