Is it me? Am I the crazy one? Or is it happenstance? Does everyone else find themselves surrounded by truly unique, bewildering, and sometimes incredibly frustrating individuals? From discussions I’ve had recently, I’m finding that I may have a higher-than-average ratio of strange:ordinary characters running amuck in my life. There is of course, the clusterfuck that is my family. But I’ve included a snippet of the others below. You be the judge.

Abby: She lives for the shock factor, for the attention. Her boss considers her a “visionary” in what she does for homeless kids. My experience with her causes me to question that description. This is a woman in her mid-to-late thirties who has two children of her own. At our place of work, I’d lock eyes with her occasionally as I pass her in the cafeteria with a group of first graders eating lunch and she’d hump the air while fake-grunting with her tongue sticking out. When a child tattles on another, she’d respond “Snitches wind up in ditches.” I come to her with a suggestion on how to improve a process that would help us serve more children and serve them better in the long run, but she responds “Oh, I don’t care about that. I won’t be here any more than 5 years – let’s just leave it as is.” She comes to work often with stories that illustrate what a terrible mother she is, seemingly proud of that fact. She tells us she screams at her 8-year-old daughter and tells her she’s a little bitch. She is “training her son to be gay” because it would be hip for her to have a gay son. I once bought her cheap flowers as her “secret pal” for her birthday and when she saw them, she started yelling on and on about what a cheap bastard her husband is and always has been for getting her cheap, ugly flowers. She also has a Poop Problem that she is oddly proud of. She drinks nothing but coffee and liquor and is quite constipated. However, a nice, hot shower is what can make the magic happen– in the shower. Then, she has to stuff the poo down the drain. Occasionally, there are plumbing issues which terrifies her – she doesn’t want her husband to know. Also, sticking a finger up there and wiggling around is another viable option that works for her, she says. She claims the Poop Problem has given her PTSD. Her Facebook feed is full of close-ups of her face (she’s the selfie queen) and snapshots of a glass of alcohol next to her latest knitting project at a hip bar, with a caption like “Cheers to you, Friday, love of my life.”

Maddy:This is a woman that reports to me, and keeps a regular appointment of rolling around on my office floor at 3:00pm each day to relieve stress or complain. She keeps toys on her desk for stress relief. Her therapist tells her to blow bubbles from a bottle to calm herself. She’s in EA (Eaters Anonymous) and calls herself “sober” and discusses her disease as if she were a drug addict (so eating badly/too much is considered “using”). One of my first experiences with her involved her telling a story to myself and the CEO during a meeting about a boil on her vagina that she cut off while her husband held up a mirror. She feels that everyone in the office treats her poorly/unfairly/rudely, and won’t consider that she may be coming off as abrasive herself.

Boss Lady: This woman hired someone with social work education and background for a social media job, and hired someone who has lost 4 loved ones (one right in front of her) to suicide and is extremely emotional (hasn’t processed her grief fully) for a director-level suicide prevention gig. And when that doesn’t work well, she feels very frustrated. She’s a sorority girl who is a leader of an organization, and focuses her efforts on fun and games and personality tests and parties. She began talking with a man on a phone app game and it led to email exchanges, and when the man’s wife found out, she began harassing her at work and home with threatening calls. Boss Lady says it wasn’t cheating (she’s married herself), but she’s sure her gamer friend would have had an affair with her if had the chance and it felt nice to have the attention. She asked me if this whole fiasco made me feel better about my child brother being a murderer.

Alexis: She slapped me across the face on the first day I met her, apologizing, saying she’d always wanted to do that to someone. She was my best friend throughout high school, and we drifted apart in college. Our friendship mostly consisted of her crying and my trying to figure out what was wrong. She struggled with depression even into her adult life, crying at the office every day and not knowing why.  We’d go dancing and she’d cry because no boys wanted to dance with her, then she’d cry when a boy would dance with her but she couldn’t feel that he had a boner- feeling she wasn’t hot enough for him to get one. Without telling a soul, she started online dating and drove by herself to another state to meet her now-husband for the first time who was living in a basement of someone’s house with a 22-pound cat and stayed the weekend with him, losing her virginity. Now that they’re married, he’s the stay-at-home dad who convinced her that it’s illogical to go to the theater to see a romantic comedy (her favorite). It’s so expensive – you have to see an action flick, otherwise, you’re not getting your money’s worth. She made a huge deal about designing and building their first house, which took over a year. A few months after moving in, she decides she’d like to change things up and move to another state just because she’s bored with her life. She always used to talk condescendingly to me because she comes from a wealthy family, and I come from a poor, broken, dysfunctional family. Knowing how painful my family situation was for me, she’d say things like “Well, the good thing about not really having a family is that you don’t have to waste your vacation time visiting them, right? Isn’t that nice?”

Roberta: This one is far superior to her husband and wants everyone to know that. She repeatedly tells her favorite story to coworkers about how her mother asked her if she was sure about her choice of husband on her wedding day years ago, saying she could do much better. She comes to work each day with a new complaint about something her husband forgot to do or something else he screwed up. She complains constantly about everything. Her mother favors her sister and buys her way more stuff than her mom buys for her. Her smoothie cup went missing at work one day and all hell broke loose. She went nuts for several days – not working- just complaining loudly for all to hear, interrogating suspect coworkers, sending passive aggressive emails, all for her $6 cup. There was a repeat episode when a few of her string cheeses wound up in the garbage. She also comes in and VERY LOUDLY announces that “man, I worked so late last night. And then I worked from home. And then I woke up early and worked before I came to work. Man, I work so much. OMG, more emails in my inbox? ARRRGHHH, they never stop coming! I work so hard! Ah!”

Marva: She is a past supervisor who would always attempt to take credit for my ideas and work. She spent most of her time gossiping with coworkers and “stirring the pot”, sitting back, and watching the drama unfold. She once told me “I don’t think the Receptionist should be introducing herself to people when they walk in. It’s weird and unprofessional.”

What’s the ratio like in your life? Are you also a magnet?


Best [Blank] in the World

My husband and I visited my mother the other day at her apartment in the city. It’s small, dingy, and fairly empty inside. It reeks of smoke. We have a seat on the lone living room couch and are having ourselves some small talk. Then I see it. Up on the wall, next to the T.V. There are three framed pink certificates. Quite ornate and very official-looking. I squint my eyes and look harder, trying to read what they say. I see the word “Lover”, panic a little, and avert my eyes. I continue my conversation with my mother while stealthily peaking back up at the center certificate and look away again in horror. I glance at my husband. Yes, he’s staring right at it, unable to turn away. So I just go ahead and put it out there.

“So, uhh, mom, I see you have been awarded a very prestigious award” I say.

“Heh?” she says.

“Best Lover in the World” I respond. “In the WORLD. Wow. What’s the, uh, criteria for something like that, eh?”

“Oh” she laughs, embarrassed. “My girlfriend made me those.” (YES, the girlfriend she is referring to is the same one referenced in Engaged Against Her Will).

“Wow. That. Is. Immmpressive. Best lover in the world.” To my husband I ask, “Where’s my certificate? Certainly, I’m the best in the world at something?” Wink, wink. He responds with awkward laughter. I ask my mom, “How is she these days, your girlfriend? How’s that going? I’m guessing pretty well, judging by the certificate?”

She says “Oh, you know, the usual… we break up, we get back together, fight, break up, get back together, I call the cops on her and get her arrested…”

“Say what?” I ask, interrupting. “What was that last piece you said?”

She proceeds to then tell me the story of the last time they had broken up. Her girlfriend was upset, drunk, and trying to get my mom to let her into the apartment. My mother refused to let her in, so her girlfriend banged on the doors and windows and yelled and cursed for hours until eventually busting one of her windows. So my mom had her arrested. But then, she thought about it and decided that her girlfriend must really love her a lot to have spent all those hours banging and yelling at her door. So they are back together now. You know. The usual relationship stuff.

Later, I think to myself- best lover in the world? Good for her. At least she has that. Because she definitely doesn’t win the “Best Mother in the World” award. But then, I immediately feel like an ass for having that super snarky thought. I’m still working through some of my anger and resentment I feel toward her (see Blood on My Hands).

I’m certainly not the “Best Daughter in the World.” Or the best sister. Or wife. Or anything, really. I beat myself up for not being there for my brother more when his wife took her own life. Over the recent years, I definitely feel like I’ve let all three of my brothers down significantly at various times. I let them down because I was afraid of getting myself hurt again. Or I felt I needed to focus on my own healing or my own relationships. And my brothers looked up to me for support, growing up. I took over the mother-role during our mom’s absence through the years.

So is there actually much of a difference between my mother’s neglect and abandonment and mine in their time of need? I’m not so sure…

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