Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Off Topic: Some 20 years.

I am a nerdular fan of Nine Inch Nails. Very nerdular. NIN is a band that I was down with from the very beginning – the beginning which happens to be 20 years ago today, the 20th anniversary of the release of NIN’s debut record, “Pretty Hate Machine”. It rapidly became the soundtrack of the latter half of my junior year and a goodly part of my senior year of high school (alongside “Disintegration” by the Cure, of course) because I was extremely, extremely angry at that point in time.

I was in a massively fucked up unrequited love sort of situation that picked at my self esteem and picked at my wobbly brain chemistry and picked at my ego (which was shockingly enormous, based on journal entries from that general time period and my own recollection). The object of my affection, which doubled as my best friend, knew how I felt and exploited it time and time again, humiliating me and coloring my relationships for years. At one point, I considered suicide. What saved me was I wanted to see what kind of awards I would get at the end of my senior year for all the activities I was involved in. Once that was done, I swore, I would end it all. My ego saved my life, which is why I stroke it so lovingly to this day. After yet another humiliating event that I can’t bring myself to go into at the present time, I finally dismissed him out of my life with a phone call that I ended with “I can’t see you anymore”. Click, done, over, free.

But it wasn’t over, not really – the jerkwad douchebag dungfuck assholes that we encounter in our lives may eventually exit our lives, but they always leave a trace, a hint of stink. And his scent lingered over me for a very, very long time. I spent most my twenties in a fairly solitary state, living alone in the city of Chicago and going to work, renting movies, smoking cigarettes, venturing into the suburbs on the weekends to see my family and my couple of friends that lived out there as well. I wrote screenplays and would send unsolicited manuscripts of “The X-Files” out to Fox (I did manage to get a couple episodes to the reader stage), but for the most part, I kept to myself because I had learned that to be vulnerable, to be honest, to be an open book was asking to be terrorized, mocked, and humiliated. I was incredibly lonely. I watched my friends couple up, get married, and well-meaning friends would always say, “I don’t understand why you don’t have anyone”. Well, I did. I mean, problem number one: I never went out of my apartment! Problem number two: I was convinced that me fat = hideous horrible awful ugly disgusting smelly rotten poopy. My personality in general was (and is) kind of a hard sell, so to couple it with a body that didn’t look the way I wanted it to look? Oh, hell no and then some. Of course I was dieting through all of this mishmosh. On and off and on and off and lose and gain and lose and gain. Let me tell you, I was a pile of sunshine and delight.

But somehow – I couldn’t tell you how because at 37, I’m finding it very hard to remember the details of anything that happened before 34 or 35 - I emerged out of my twenties fairly intact and discovering the world again via the internet, of all things. I started being social again with folks both online and off. My urge to diet dialed back, though I hadn’t quite seized onto the concept of fat acceptance yet. I was approaching some semblance of peace. Not contentment, mind you, that is something that eludes me somewhat, though I can feel it nearing, but a peace with myself, a self that I beat the shit out of for so many years because of the actions of one single jerkwad douchebag dungfuck asshole. Not that I completely stopped beating the shit out of myself, oh no no no. I still take a swing every now and then. I was feeling good, feeling confident, doing my thing. Then, one day, while out in the suburbs visiting the family, I went into a grocery store while my dad and sister waited in the car at the curb. I was walking down an aisle when I spied the jerkwad douchebag dungfuck asshole and his wife and their kid. I’ve experienced many things in my life, but I had never felt the kind of utter fright and terror I did when I saw them. I hadn’t spoken to him in 10 years or more and as I started to shake, I knew there was no way in hell that this day was going to be the day I’d break that streak. The item I’d been sent in to find wasn’t something that was difficult to find (we’re talking, like, a loaf of bread), but I couldn’t find it and I ran out of the store and climbed into the car, still shaking and begging my dad to drive away as fast as he could.

Later, I berated myself for having such a reaction. I should have marched straight up to him and been cooler than cool (ice cold). I should have made up an exotic boyfriend to show him that he hadn’t destroyed my ability to connect romantically with someone! I should have should have should have ohhhhhhh for God’s sake, I did the right thing running out of the store like I did because my brain knew I needed to protect myself. I had a ways to go, but a few years later when I got a MySpace message from him telling me that he figured I was the kind of girl who would let bygones be bygones, I wasn’t a gelatinous sobbing mess for the next few days. I muttered, “oh, go fuck yourself” and clicked “delete”.

When I think about the me that was 20 years ago, I’m occasionally shocked that I survived because I have a long memory for my excruciating miseries and missteps, so much of which was accompanied by Nine Inch Nails. The electronic cacophony and driving guitars and the rage that Trent Reznor wrote and sang about served as a comfort for me because NIN was the first band that really, really got the roiling, unsettled landscape that was my brain and my heart and gave it a sound and gave me the opportunity to scream it out, exorcise it. Earlier this year, Trent announced that NIN would be playing its final shows for a very, very, very long time (if not the last time) and I managed to get a ticket for one of the Chicago shows. My life is quite different than when I first listened to “Pretty Hate Machine” – hell, it’s different than when I first listened to “The Slip” in 2008. Instead of the show serving as a way for me to vent all the unhappiness that was filling me up, I had the chance to celebrate myself and the fact that I have survived. As Trent says in “Hurt”, “I am still right here”. I may never be able to explain precisely how I managed it, but goddamn am I grateful I did.


JL3wis said...

2 words;


May I also add that what you said about NIN and how you identified with them and connected with them (and The Cure) is ALSO what I felt and p. much went through!!


You are awesome!!

Monica M. said...

I'm about 15 years older than you, and I like the Johnny Cash cover of "Hurt" better, but I love reading your blog. I'm always delighted to see your byline pop up in the FatOSphere feed. It's rare to find someone so emotionally honest and deep-thinking on the internet, who's also fun to read. And while the experiences you're relating in this post are not fun, I'll bet you felt better after writing this down.

Just want you to know I'm out here reading, and I hope you get everything you want in life.

Anonymous said...

You're awesome.

Dianae said...

It takes a lot of guts to lay your deep scars out on the table like that and I applaud your bravery. This is a theme I know well. Seems to a scenario some of us need to grow in this life. Looks like you took the bull by the horns, so to speak, even if the bull was what you were feeding yourself undeservedly.
I like who you've become. I am awed by your talent and I hope you grace us with your presence for a long, long time.
You inspire me in so many ways to be who I am capable of being.

Amy said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Sing Clementine said...

This hits close to the bone. You're awesome, and very brave. I don't have much to bring to this discussion, yet, but one day - I hope to crawl out of my hole and have something to say for myself, and if I'm lucky it'll be a fraction as courageous, bold, and beautiful as this.