The Way Things Are






oodles of special
2006-01-17, 12:35 p.m.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Madonna was still a virgin - not just “like” a virgin, and I was in high school and technically a virgin but not much “like” a virgin, I belonged to my church’s youth group. We were a spirited, rebellious band of Southern Baptist kids, drinking, smoking a variety of things, and going practically all the way, or just all the freaking way - why not? - complemented by a subset of Genuine Teen Lesbians Actively Involved With Each Other, Especially on Mission Trips.

It was a very dynamic group. Never a dull moment. I was not a member of the Band of Lesbians, but they were definitely my friends and it didn’t occur to me that not all teenage girls have a group of promiscuous lesbian friends. Actually, they probably do, but maybe they don’t know about it.

There was one girl in our group, Connie, straight, not that it matters or that there would be anything wrong with it if she wasn’t, who was a couple of years older than I, whom I was particularly close to. She had a younger sister my age, but the sister and I were not terribly close. This sister, as an aside, got pregnant our senior year in high school and now has a 20-something year old son.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Baptists. Because you know, if you don’t let your kids rebel a little on the outside, they are sure as shit going to rebel behind your back. Every drunk-fest, every pregnancy, every casual fucking, was a big “screw you” to our parents. We had two girls go into rehab before they graduated from high school, one of whom nearly died of alcohol poisoning ON A YOUTH GROUP RETREAT. Yep, there we were, all cloistered and learning about God and trying to determine whether we were all really actually saved, because if you’re Southern Baptist and you continue to sin over and over and over again, it’s clear that your savin’ didn’t really take the first time, and this poor girl got ahold of a bottle of something and ended up in the ER. It was horrible. I was involved, and I think her parents should have had me and my little clique of shitheads publicly flogged.

I digress. I got all wound up, and I forgot where I was headed.

Oh, yeah. My friend, Connie. She’s the reason every time I hear a song by Boston, I’m 15 years old again. I’m driving her convertible Mustang down Miller Road in Dallas, and Connie and I are sharing a pack of Marlboro Light Menthols. Good times.

We had a friend in our group, let’s call her Ellen because that’s her name, that we were not particularly crazy about, but in retrospect, she was okay and we were snarky bitches. Ellen’s long-time boyfriend kept vacillating from her to me and back to her and then back to me because Ellen kept flitting in and out of the gay subset, but it was Ellen’s birthday, and there was a swimming party, and Connie and I felt obligated to get Ellen a present, so we did. When we couldn’t think of anything nice to write on her card, we wrote the following:

“Hope you have oodles of special on your birthday!”

Couldn’t stop laughing for days. Kept muttering “oodles of special” to each other, and breaking into evil laughter. I still wonder what possessed me to write such a horrid thing, and I still giggle an evil, horrid chortle when I think about it. Of course, part of my time travel in the red Mustang to Miller Road includes a reprise of the phrase “oodles of special”, which means “Everything’s Fine! Not Really!”

I believe oodles of special was a fair representation of our church youth group. All these fine, upstanding, good-looking upper-middle-class youngsters, sitting in the youth section at church every Wednesday night and twice on Sunday, singing in the choir, making the church elders proud, with the seamy underside lurking just out of sight. How many times did I go to church Sunday morning, hungover or still drunk from the night before? Oh wait, I still do that.

I heard a really good Boston song on the radio this weekend, and that whole jumble of people, and time and place and shit going on has been swirling in my head ever since.

I want to start using oodles of special more in conversation and writing, but I had to explain it first. Now you know so much more than you ever wanted to know, and I’ll probably forget to ever use it again.

I don’t even know what you would call all of that up there. A story? An anecdote? Rambling? Mumbling? Ah well. Careening wildly to a different topic without benefit of segue way or relevance, here’s a picture I took at my mother-in-law’s house this weekend, of the storage space under the stairs in the garage.

Please note: mannequin with arms fashioned from tennis balls and chicken wire. Also: shy mannequin child peeking from behind decapitated torso. You’d be shy, too, if you lived a naked life under the stairs.

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