Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Six Flags" the Barback and His Amazing Abs!

Another older annecdote I forgot to share...
Several times a year, all the abs in Los Angeles gather for their semi-annual Ab Fest.

Kinda like these I guess.

This abdominal caucus convenes on one man's midsection, and that man's name is (for the purposes of this blog,) XXXX.
(bahhh gotta look out for the guy's privacy an all. Dammit. It's SUCH a stupid name, too. I wish I could say it.)
He's bronze, he's blonde, he's beautiful, and his So-Cal Valley drawl is hotter than a sizzling fajita platter at the Saddle Ranch he works at.

Reader's note: this concludes the nice things I have to say about XXXX.

I met XXXX at that very same Saddle Ranch, on Sunset, when I made the classic mistake of showing up on time for a co-worker's birthday party. The invite said 10:30, so naturally, the punishment for my ignorance was to sit at the bar, alone, for about 45 minutes.

At this place...
Did I mention my coworker was turning 21? Sigh.

During that time, I joked around with the hot chatty barback, who, I assumed, considered it a job requirement to flirt with me. His name is XXXX.
Let me say that again, and allow it to really sink in:
His name is XXXX. That is his actual name, and he seems oblivious to how stupid that is.
That is a name for a caveman, or maybe Kristin Bell's husband. But really? XXXX?" Come on. I stifle a grin and focus on my drink.
XXXX asks me what I do, and I tell him I'm a writer. His eyes light up.

"Really?" he asks. "I'm looking for a writer!"

"Really." I'm skeptical, but then he launches into a pitch he's got - he wants to create a new spin on Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is a hitman. Apparently he's got a whole story bible mapped out, and knows exactly how he wants the plot to go, he just needs someone who can crank it out in the proper format for him. He's got a list of characters, and descriptions of each scene. I'm actually impressed - the idea is cool, and it's a job I wouldn't mind taking on, provided the price was right.

He asks if he can get my number so we can discuss it a little further.

"Cool," I say, and hand him my card, nonchalantly. I get up to go pee, and he swears he'll text me. He's absolutely never, ever going to text me.

He texts me. While I'm peeing. "Careful in there," XXXX writes. "We had to clean up some nasty things after last night's bathroom orgy."

I smile. How can I not.

"Way to keep it classy," I fire back.

I'm busy with my friends for the rest of the night. (The FINALLY showed up.) But XXXX texts me again the next morning.
"Good morning beautiful."
Wait, what? Weren't we talking about a script job? Like, work stuff?

Confused, I agree to meet him when he asks me out to coffee. Is it a date? I have no idea. I wear writer clothes, just in case.
He talks with me a little bit about his script idea over lattes, and it still sounds pretty good, albeit slightly less organized than he'd made it out to be at the bar. There was no actual "bible," per se, but he had a list of characters. And he knew how he wanted it to begin.
I arch a brow at him. This is starting to seem like more work than I'd thought, but still, a gig's a gig.
He was a barback at one of the most lucrative bars on Sunset Boulevard. He could probably afford to make it worth my time.

I had to go, but as I'm standing up, he takes my hand suddenly.
"Hey, thanks, for just chilling with me, too," he says. "I don't get to talk to girls like you a lot."
That eyebrow shoots back up.
"And what kind of girl am I, XXXX?" I somehow manage to pronounce his name without it sounding comical.
"You know." He looks bashfully at the remains of his muffin. "Smart."
Oh! A compliment! ...wait, or was it?
Was he calling me fat?
I wasn't sure. But I knew it was NOT a date.
"I'll email you my consultation rates," I tell him as I get in my car.
He smiles and waves from the curbside table.

What just happened?

That night he sends me a text thanking me for my time that afternoon and letting me know he was thinking about me. A lot. Winky face.
Dear lord. What have I gotten myself into?
He texts me again the next morning, "good morning beautiful," and I begin to assume I'm on some sort of mass-text roster.
I mean, a guy this gorgeous, with access to scattered ass left and right at "Straddle Ranch," surely has better options than me.

Like this "Take-Home-To-Mom" beauty...

But then he asks if I want to hang out with him that afternoon, in the park.
I actually had to get a stilt workout in, since some stiltwalking auditions were coming up, so I agree.
Shit. Wait. Is THIS a date?
I wear workout clothes. It's not a date.

And yet he meets me at the park, opens my car door for me, compliments my ass while I stretch (he clearly knows the way to my heart) and seems genuinely impresseed as I strut around on my drywalls, practicing my turns and skips. We chat a little, and, true to his form, most of it is about him. There's a little more commentary about my ass, but mainly him.

Then he took his shirt off for no reason. LADIES AVERT YOUR EYES because dear god. Dear. GOD. I just... really? On a real person?
The semiannual Los Angeles Ab-Fest, 2013. And there is was. Every ab in the world. Like, all the abs, ever. I think somehow he'd planned to remove his shirt where a sunbeam would fall, because at that exact moment a ray of light shot from the heavens and dazzled the very air around his glistening 19-or-20 pack.
I'm pretty sure a choir started singing.

Yep. More like these.

He starts his workout, and I feel like a perv just hanging around like the beads of sweat rolling down his body, towards his GAHHH FOCUS WOMAN. I avert my gaze as much as possible and WHERE IS THAT SINGING COMING FROM.
He tells me that basically, rather than a bad-ass female Alice, HE wants to be Alice.
He wants this to be a vehicle for his acting and stunt career.
Ah, of course.
Oh, and that "character list" he has? It's in his head. He rattles off a few ideas, but really everything sounds pretty half-baked and weak, in the clear light of day. But damn that light's reflecting off his golden, tawny-sorry. It was so weird trying to talk shop with this guy.
I pin him down (only verbally, sorry ladies) and get him to confirm: really, he just wants me to make up a story where he's a hitman and there's an evil queen and there's chess and drug references and stuff. But make it gritty and cool.
Pretty sure this is how the script for "The Unsual Suspects" was created. In between pull-up reps.

I took my confusion and drove home to consult my roommate for advice.

"Sounds like some serious abs," she says, when I tell her.
"Oh yes."

We then make a verbal list of how he's blowing hot one minute, then treating me like a business partner the next. I honestly can't tell if he's flirting or he's just naturally that flirty with everyone, even writers he'd like to hire.
Eager to eliminate him as a potential suitor, so I don't create any unnecessary confusion, I begin to list the serious red flags which had come up during our brief chat in the park:

Red Flag #1: He has yet to respond to the consultation rates I sent him, or mention money at all.
Red Flag #2: He doesn't have a car. Shallow, I know, but how could he come to my rescue if I'm ever a damsel in distress?
Red Flag #3: He lives with roommates. FOUR roommates. He doesn't have his own room, he's the guy on the couch. Ick.
Red Flag #4: Those abs tho. Anyone who spends that much time on themselves is probably a narcissist.
Red Flag #5: He's into pot. Like, a lot. No wonder he can't seem to finish (or start) a script, he's stoned, like, 24/7.
Red Flag #6: His name is XXXXX. COME THE FUCK ON.

Thus, Six Flags: Fun for a ride or two maybe, but not somewhere I wanna spend a lot of time. Plus, dirty, dirty, dirty.
The man works at STRADDLE RANCH. He's beautiful, but probabbly riddled with the herp. At the least. With a heavy sigh, I know what I must do.
I gotta cut those abs loose.

The next day, I send XXXX an email suggesting he's got enough material (maybe) for a short film, which would be between 15 to 30 pages. I send him my page rate, my day rate, and what my hourly consultation rate would be for any future story development meetings.

I then text him that I was looking forward to getting started on his project.
XXXX texts me back asking if that's ALL I'm eager to start doing.
I do not respond.
He texts me a winky, tongue out face.

I show my roommate.
We're fairly certain that a herpetic dick-pic is in our immediate future if I do not clarify, so I let him know that I accept paypal and cashier's checks.
There is a long pause, and a series of three dots. For a long, long time.
Then, XXXX texts me:
"I was hoping we could work something ELSE out, if u no what I mean."
I do not respond.

He sends me another goddamn winky face.
"Like i give u pleasure n u write."
Ugh. Subtle.
I mean wow really??? I can write for this guy, NOT get paid, AND contract several STDs? WHERE DO I SIGN UP???

...What happened to the gentleman who'd texted me so eloquently in the bathroom? Sigh. At least my confusion had totally cleared up.
Unlike whatever rash I suspect Six Flags struggles with daily.

"Thanks for the offer but I'm really only looking for paid professional writing work," I finally reply.

He texts back:
"I wanna go down on u so bad."

"Bye XXXX."

I only saw him one other time, when he texted me to let me know he was at Universal, and wanted a photo with me on my stilts. (The practice had paid off; I got the stilt job.) We snapped an awkward photo together, and he sent me a copy of the photo.

I really don't recognize him with his shirt on, so I deleted it.

LA Stories- Wizzards vs. Warriors

This is an older story I forgot to publish from a few years ago:

It all started with a feather... A blue feather, chosen by my friend Mandy, placed in my hair alongside my blue streak and secured with a plastic bead. "There," she said, admiring her handiwork in the mirror of the salon where she styles hair. "That seems right."

I'd gone to visit Mandy and to support her salon's art show, which was displaying some art she and her fiance Dani had created. I brought my friend Kyle with me, and, although he declined a feather, we enjoyed an impromptu rock concert and some wine- a fun outing with fun people.
The next day was my friend Elissa's birthday, and she'd invited everyone to join her in some karaoke in Culver City... I HATE karaoke, but I love Elissa. She was one of the first friends I made when I came to LA, and has been a social staple in my life ever since. So I had to go and endure some Empty Orchestra.


There was a two drink minimum, but I more than met it by engaging in a drinking contest with my friend Erik, who happens to be Kyle's roommate. Not feeling buzzed at all, I matched Erik drink for drink, baffling him with my abnormally awesome liver. That night, more and more friends showed up- Kyle, John, Zach, Annalisa, Chelsea, Melissa, Sean... all these familiar faces I've been working and playing with over the last year. A mismatched group of Lost Boys. Fighting for survival, bonded through sweat, blood and tears, I was looking at my LA Family. I sat back with the last of Erik's challenge swirling through my system and gazed at my friends as they danced. The same powerful sensation of love and bonding I'd felt with my Band, with my Karate Family, with my Universal Family- here it was again, surging through my veins alongside rum and godknows whatelse.
We are a tribe. I had a feather in my hair. I am a fighter. I am a Warrior.

All of the battles of the last 6 months had been registering in my body, leaving heavy scars on my psyche. I suddenly felt free and liberated. My handsome Dark Haired Boy asked me to dance, so, leaving my cares on the sticky barroom table, I joined my people and danced and sang alongside my fellow Warriors. The night belonged to us.

I left the feather in my hair to remind myself of my new outlook.

I've been suffering for long enough- I'm tired of feeling like a victim- I need to remember that I am strong, I am a fighter, and I can survive.
I kept this attitude when my roommate, Jon, informed me that even though I'd only been living with him and his girlfriend for 2 months, he was in a bad financial state and needed to raise the rent. By $100 a month. Being a badass Warrior, I no longer take shit from anyone, so I told him I'd be moving out. Jon is in a Metal bad called "White Wizzard." They don't suck, but (did I mention they're a Metal band so) they aren't that sucessful, and financial hardships and rockiness within the band were making Jon grumpier and grumpier. I don't need that in my life- I'm a fucking Warrior. Warriors don't take shit from Wizzards.

Over the next few days, things got tense between Jon and his live-in girlfriend, Jane. (not her real name.) Jane is from Thailand, and although there is an occasional language barrier, we both speak Empathy, and had been growing closer as friends. As we spend time together at the gym, or swimming in the pool, she began to confide in me. Things about Jon. Things like, how he told her that "if he ever found out that she'd been sent by the cops to spy on him, he'd have her killed." Things like how he calls her names. Things like how she is forbidden to ask him where he's been, when he's coming home, or who he's been spending his nights with. I'd heard him speaking to her, and telling her how "fucking stupid" she was. I hated how he'd wax philosophically about the beauty of open relationships, but insisted she not see other men. He'd cut her off entirely from all of her friends, and she no longer had a social life because Jon did not allow her to go out.

This came to a head two days after Elissa's birthday, when Jon sent me a text stating that he was intending to have a "mellow night at home," that he'd had a death in his family, and that Jane was spending the night elsewhere and he needed some down time to be with some friends, so could I not have any guests over that night. "Sure," I wrote back. "Understood- I'm sorry you're sad."

I stopped by the apartment to grab a few things, intending to spend the night with my Dark Haired Boy, when I saw Jane, also packing. Jon was not around. I asked where she was headed, since it wasn't like her to spend nights out of the apartment.
"Jon has asked me to sleep in the van tonight."
"What! Why?"
"He say he needs to be with his sister. But he has no sister..."
"Jane, this is stupid- come stay with me tonight- I don't like the idea of you sleeping out in the open streets. It's not safe."
Jane whispers now, looking at the floor. "I think he cheat on me..."
She insisted on following Jon's orders, because he had to meet up with her for some reason that night. She waited in the van all night, and he never arrived. However, when she got back to the apartment the next day, she found Jon passed out in bed next to a bottle of pink tequilla and a bottle of body oil. He'd had sex in their bed, and left the sheets messy.
Taking advantage of his unconscious state, she grabbed his cell phone and began to look through the texts. She found plenty of evidence that he was cheating on her.
She told me this through a storm of tears that afternoon.
"I hate him! He take everything from me, he threaten me, he say he's going to smack me if I ask any question, then he cheat on me in this bed! I want to leave him!"

Being a Warrior, I feel protective of Jane. This man has no right to threaten to hurt her.
"Whatever you need," I said. "I will help you."
Jane looks at me with determination in her eyes.
"I want to fuck him," she said, in perfect English. "On rent. I want to fuck him on rent. I want to leave right away so he is fucked."

"Okay," I said. "Let's make a plan and be smart about this... If you want to move out when I move out, I will help you move. But Jane, if he's threatening to hurt you, I think you should get out sooner. He doesn't love you- no one who loves you would talk to you that way..."
She hugged me around my neck, and promised to figure out a plan to leave.

I talked with a bunch of people about the situation that day, and got some good advice. I also called Jay, just because I missed him and I wanted to talk, but he was not particularly helpful. "You shouldn'tve moved in with them," he said.
"It's not like I had a lot of time to hunt and look- you LEFT me, so this means I am victime to CraigsList."
"That's not my problem," he told me.

Awesome, cool, thanks Jay.

That night, Jon was still out, but I sensed trouble on the morning's horizon. I had such a powerful feeling that something bad would happen, I slept in my clothes and left a lamp on in my bedroom.
Sure enough, at 5:20AM, I awoke to the sounds of them arguing loudly. Then Jane started screaming my name, yelling "Jaime come help me!"
I bolted out of my room to find them squared off in the kitchen, her back to the wall.
"He choke me!" Jane said.
"Grab your bag, we're leaving."
Ah, but Jon the Wizzard was angry now, in full Metal mode.

"Oh so now you're waking up our roommate with this bullshit- you pushed me to the limit, so you can get the fuck out!"
Jane screamed back at him "You cheat on me!"
"OK," I said. "Probably time to get that bag now."
I wedged myself physically between them and stayed there like a wrestling Ref.
Jon was furious. "Where the fuck do you think you're going?"
"I'm not getting in the middle of this, I'm just taking her somewhere so you two can cool off."
Jane finally grabbed her purse, and we took off. She was hysterical, crying. "He choke and scratch me!"
She was adamant that we NOT call the cops because then she would be deported.
"That's not how that works," I said. "They don't care about whether or not you're a citizen, they care about whether or not your boyfriend attacked you."

We arrived at Paul's (the Dark Haired Boy) house at 5:30, and texted him out of bed. I'd kept him in the loop, so he wasn't completely shocked to see us at his door. Jane had scratch marks on her back from the Wizzard's guitar fingernails, and was pretty much in shock. I took pictures of her scratches and we convinced her to let us call the cops.

They arrived in true LAPD fashion- an hour later.

They, too, took photos of Jane's scratches and reassured her that they didn't care where she was from, they were just there to get the bad guy. By now Jane was calmed down and able to talk with them about all the awful things Jon had said to her. They listened, sympathetically, then left to go arrest him. Sadly, by the time they arrived at the Wizard's, he'd already gone.
This wasn't surprising as the man already has an arrest record and is behind on his child support payments.
...did I mention he's a pretty awful human being?
I was meeting my huge awesome friend Carlos that afternoon to carpool, but he couldn't get there until 11. That meant Jane and I had to kill a few hours and get as much stuff packed as possible during that time.

I knew Jay lived just down the street from us, also in North Hollywood, so I sent him a text:
"I know it's early but LAPD just left and I'm scared- can you please come over?"
He groggily phoned me back after my 4th call, and told me that it wasn't his job to take care of me anymore and that I should wait in Panera Bread.

Thanks, Jay. Thanks for showing me your true colors- now I can focus on the people who actually give a shit about someone other than themselves, like pretty much every other friend named in this story.

Jane and I spent that night at the Paul's, and came back the following evening to an empty apartment. Paul stayed there, with us, just in case.
Jane and I decided to act normally around Jon (if he came home) for 2 more days until I could help Jane drive her personal belongings to her new place where she'd be living with the one friend she had left. She had about 2 cars worth of stuff, so we'd caravan her out before the Wizzard knew she was gone. We were going to be quick- we were going to be smooth. It was going to be easy, and then he'd be unable to take any agression out on me, because I am his size physically, and he clearly prefers to pick on smaller girls without citizenships.
Thursday arrived, and I rounded some troops to help extract Jane. I was counting on the Wizzard staying gone, but we couldn't be sure, so I put out a request on FaceBook for some fellow Warriors to act as Guardian Angels. My prayer was answered in the forms of Joop, an old friend from Oyster's Secret in Orlando, and Kyle, a new friend from Halloween Horror Nights in LA. We held a pow-wow at a newarby coffee bean and tea leaf and discussed the plan while we waited for Jane.

She arrived, dishevelled.

"He's home," she said, then started to cry. "He make me have sex with him- I feel disgusted."
She began to have second thoughts about whether or not she should move out, but ultimately decided to move forward with the Plan. We were behind her 100%.
"If he hurt you once, he'll do it again."
She agreed.

As soon as she started packing, the Wizzard freaked out and began to yell at her. He bellowed over her shoulders as she began to stuff things into boxes and bags. I signalled to the boys to not leave her side while I went into her closet and began packing her things. Joop and Kyle stood like stanch soldiers in the living room while the fighting escalated. The Wizzard kicked over the kitchen table, flinging hot coffee everywhere, as he ordered Joop and Kyle to get the fuck out of his house. He took an exceptional shine to Kyle, who he insisted was somehow smirking at him.
Kyle may have been, but he also just kind of LOOKS like a smirker, so, what can you do?

To calm things down, I suggested Kyle and Joop wait outside, and we'd keep the door open.
The Wizzard slammed the door shut, and continued screaming at Jane, who by this point was so stressed out she began to vomit.
While she was retching in the bathroom, the Wizzard turned on me, telling me that I was a lying sack of shit for stating that I didn't want to get in the middle of things, and that he wanted me out as well.

Noooo problem.

We loaded everything into my car and Jane's car, but I had a horrible feeling that the Wizzard would do something evil to my cats if I left him alone in the apartment. I have no bedroom door, only a curtain flap, and even if all he did was let them outside, I'd be devastated. I sent out a text to Todd, Paul, and Carlos, all of whom responded instantly. They were on their way. Todd arrived within minutes, and the Wizzard immediately picked a fight with him. This would've been awesome, as any one of my Warriors could kick the Wizzard's ass, but Todd just smirked, which I knew was the best reaction.

I sent Joop to drive my car to Jane's new place, and I sent Kyle home. Todd waited with me until Carlos and Paul arrived. Once they got there, it was obvious.

"You need to get out. Tonight."

Carlos called his girlfriend (and my friend) Shaunelle, and between the four of us, The cats were moved to Todd's, and I was packed and moved out of the Wizzard's and into Paul's within 4 hours. Surprise!

Victory: Warriors.

The next day, I went back for my bed and some shelves (the only items left) with my friend Gabrielle, and her friend Emily. And their boyfriends Nick and Matthew, who are, respectively, Marines and humongous.

The Wizzard literally gnashed his teeth when I arrived with such giant Warriors. He said not a single word to me as we packed, but proceeded to write me a nasty email, which I read over his shoulder as we moved out.
I'll be happy to post the letter online, because it's funny, but it's mostly blaming me for his problems with Jane because I introduced her into my circle of numerous guy friends, who encouraged her to act on her irrational fears. He also stated that I would not be receiving my security deposit back until he found a new roommate to replace me.

This may mean small claims court for me, but I'm OK with that. I can continue fighting, because I am a Warrior. Oh, and there's that little matter about a police report filed against him that he doesn't know about yet- that'll be a fun surprise to break to him!
In the meantime, I'm safe and loved, here with my Dark Haired Boy and my group of Big Hard Fucking Heroes- Joop, Kyle, Paul, Carlos, Todd, Shaunelle, Gabrielle, Emily, Matthew, and Nick, and everyone else who's shown me love and given me the courage to keep fighting and standing up for what is right.

...Jane moved back in the the Wizzard 5 days later, after he promised to marry her early next spring. Paul says, "sometimes the only reward for doing the right thing is knowing that the right thing was done." He may be correct, but I like to think that maybe in helping Jane escape the Wizzard once, we'll have at least given her a little courage.

When I finally take my feather out, I'm going to send it to her.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The John Avery Effect, Pt. 2

I went to a party at a friend's house a few weeks ago - you know, one of those Girls Nights. It was awesome. The hostess is a natural socialite, and had the whole evening set up to hang out, drink, gossip, and enjoy each other's company. I was especially excited because one of my friends from work was there. I hadn't seen her in a while, and I was eager to catch up.
Except she was there, but she also really wasn't there.
She was at the party, but she wasn't present.
She had her nose glued to her phone the. entire. time.

Curious as to what was so important, I asked, and she showed me: she was on, and had found a connection with a cute guy. They were chatting through the app, exchanging messages back and forth. She showed me a few photos he'd used for his profile page, and he was indeed worthy of her interest - but not like this.

Rather than spend an evening with her actual friends, at a party she was physically attending, she kind of ditched us all and gave her undivided attention to this guy she hardly knows. Based on a few photos and texts back and forth, she automatically gave this stranger the benefit of the doubt, assumed he's awesome, and blew us off to maintain his interest.

"Yep, he's hot. And now your beer is, too."

I hate this for her, and I'm ashamed to admit I've been guilty of this in the past, too: It's the John Avery Effect.
When we don't know someone very well, we assign to them the qualities we hope to see. "Ah, he has a picture in a rural area! He must like to hike! Therefore he's healthy and in great shape and loves nature and we'll give our kids earthy, naturalistic names like 'Cedar."

Human beings are meaning-making machines, and when we're kind, good people, we tend to project those qualities on others. The less we know about someone, the better we think they are. That's how I operated. For me, I'd meet someone and if they behaved marginally decently towards me, I automatically thought they must be a fantastic person. I would place their value higher than the people I actually knew, because those people had at some point shown humanity, shown weakness, or let me down. But THIS person - this shining beacon of hope - THIS person is amazing.
Often these estimations are unfair to their subject. When I placed the men I was interested in so high up on a pedestal, it was only natural that they'd let me down. I set them up to fail by assuming they were perfect.

I felt bad for my party friend - not only was she wasting her time with us, but I suspect she was wasting her time with him, too. What guy is going to be intrigued by a woman he already has at his beck and call, on a Saturday night? She's out, at a party, and giving him her 100% focus. There's not really much alluring or ooh-I-have-to-get-to-know-this-mysterious-creature about that. Men's brains are still pretty simple. They get off on Novelty, which is why if you sleep with someone too soon in the relationship, sadly, more often than not that relationship is doomed. It's been my experience that the guys who are sexually attracted to a woman, but are not instantly gratified in that department, often stick around and (gasp) actually get to know the woman they're pursuing sexually and discover that hey, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, they may have a lot more in common than interlocking genitalia.

Plus, the fact is, my smitten friend (in addition to making herself look desperate) is making her assumptions based on a PROFILE SITE. A carefully manicured presentation of the best parts of someone. It's not like she met him at Whole Foods so she can make a logical guess that he likes organic carrots and is gainfully employed. She's looking at a dating site, so of course only the final edited director's cut is shown. Even if they go one step further, and link up via facebook, that's still not the whole story. Who among us is accurately defined by their facebook page?
Except for me, of course. I have a profile pic featuring me, on stilts, wearing a lemur. A goddamn lemur, people. I'm awesome.

My friend over-valued this stranger, devalued her friends, and worst of all, devalued herself when she spent her night like that. But I've done it too. (In my defense, I really wanted to get laid.)
But let's look at this behavior, because it's not uncommon and sadly it affects all ages of women, at any time. Where did this nasty habit begin?


In Part 1 of this series, I describe a very influential first-love with a guy I really didn't know all that well, but thought I did. It was a big part of my emotional development and came at a critical time in my teen years, so my "relationship" with this guy actually had a massive effect on the way I handled relationships in the future. I suspect that the timing (hormones and whatnot) and outcome (teen heartbreak) are not unique to me, so it's my conclusion that the John Avery Effect affects lots of women other than just myself. This common experience sets a pattern in a still-developing brain. Sorry, ladies, but yeah - our brains didn't get full-grown til we were out of our teens. For boys, it happens even later.
We all have a first love. We all have a John Avery. That guy gets around.

John would send me letters, and, hungry for connection, I'd instantly gloss over what he wrote and read what I wanted to read. I was oblivious to my own self-editing, or I lied and told myself it didn't matter. (Trust me ladies, it matters. But that's a subject for another time.)
When John would simplistically describe his new home and town (per my eager request) I'd photoshop my own mental picture until a blah Nothingtown became a lush winter farmland paradise. Snert and concrete rebar became fluffy sparkling snowdrifts and cherry-red brick walls. I enhanced it, mental pixel by mental pixel, subconciously because that is where I wanted it to be when I met up with John again.
We were getting married. I know because he gave me a necklace.

I caught myself doing the same thing, too, when a guy I'd meet tells me he's a director. I automatically assume his films are the stuff of genius. If he tells me he paints, I assume his work is fantastic. And the worst part? If these works didn't live up to my expectations, my brain was so tired of being disappointed, sometimes I'd lie to myself and say "oh, wow, yeah... it TOTALLY is a great painting of a landscape... er, self-portrait. Is that a face? I see it now, wow that's good." My projections went rampant to the point where if someone laughed at my joke, I'd assume THEY were hilarious.
I think a lot of it comes from good intentions, but I'm ashamed to say a whopping portion of it came from low self-esteem. I didn't really like me much, so if they showed interest, they should probably be knighted on the spot.

Once I got a little (coughcough) (OK, a LOT) older, and had the luxury of my old thought patterns destroyed, I began to see things a little more clearly. After the dust settled from my explosive divorce, I got to reinvent myself, and this time, I choose a woman I love. She's smart, she's kind, she's confident. And she has a great sense of humor. But she's still a total softie, and still very, very in love with love.

Cue Round 2 with John Avery.

After almost 2 decades of wondering, I finally tracked down John. Even though I'm in a very happy relationship, I've always been curious as to whatever happened to my first love. And so, through the modern miracle of Facebook, I found out...

As soon as I saw the profile photo, I knew it was him. Same green eyes, same sandy blonde hair, just framing the face of an older version of the boy I knew. His facebook page is not set up to allow friendship requests, but I could scroll down and see a sampling of what his life is like based on the 4 profile photos he selected.

1) There's the angry beard shaved head black and white shot.
(He's deep, he's broody, he's angry! Aha! The stormy musician I'd fallen in love with!)

2) There's the kinda musing, reclined in a chair, black and white shot.
(Sooooo broody!)

3) There's a measuring tape with a "Local Union #4" logo on it.
(He's a ...metal sheetworker? My sensitive musician is a sheetworker??)

Aaaaand my personal favorite:
4) a two-shot of a cheery looking woman in glasses, and a cherub-cheeked toddler who looks like both of them.

Could this have ever been me?

And of course I have to wonder... is this his wife? Is that their child? Is he living out the dreams he'd shared with me, all those years ago? None of this is what 16-year-old John said he'd wanted.
I picture myself, if things had worked out, living his life in South Carolina. I have glasses and a toddler and a sheetworker husband...
It's not me.
It's not what I want. It's not what I ever wanted. And I'm so happy for the glasses-woman, and the toddler, and him, but happiest for me, I think. I'm doing exactly what 16-year-old Jaime said she wanted to to: I'm writing in LA.
It's hard to say whether or not he's happy. I hope he is, because he springboarded a very powerful lesson for me, but honestly, I don't know him. Sadly, I never really did, because we see what we want to see. Noone could've ever been as cool as the John Avery I'd made up in my mind. The shy musician with the green eyes, casually strumming a guitar in his van while we toured America and I wrote from my laptop.
And I don't have John Avery, but I have something much, much better - a genuine, real, authentic man whom I fucking ADORE because he is not exactly what I'd imagined, but everything I'd hoped for. He's smart, and kind, and confident. And he has a great sense of humor, and he loves me better than I've ever been loved for who I am, in spite of who I am, because of who I am.

The John Averys and the subsequent men I've projected on are their own men. They are wonderful and flawed and awful and perfect in their own ways, and I'm slowly wiping the glitter (I somehow secrete) from my eyes and learning to see people for who they really are, and not who I want them to be. There are so many special, awesome, good guys out there - but they're the ones who will straightforwardly tell you how they feel over pad thai, and not monopolize your Girls Night because they want to get laid.

"I know you said you were busy, but I have a penis, so..."

The very best way to get to know someone is to know yourself. And when you get to the point where you can love yourself enough, you won't have to throw that love on everyone else instead. You don't have to make a stranger like you. If they DESERVE you, they'll like you just because.
And hey - maybe I don't know you that well, but I think you're pretty terrific. So put the phone down, girl. Come party with us.

The John Avery Effect, Pt. 1

After literally nineteen years of searching, through the modern miracle of cyberstalking, I finally tracked down the first man I ever loved. And let me preface this by stating that this was a HARD teenage crush, back in the flanel-wrapped glory days of 1996. I was 16. He had a guitar. Clearly we were made for each other. His name was (and still is) John Avery, and I met him, oddly enough, at church.

Neither one of us is particularly religious, but his parents are, and my best friend Holly is. So it was pretty miraculous in the first place that I found myself at the Oviedo Baptist Church that evening, but even more divine: this angelic boy bent over an acoustic guitar...
John was playing something derivative of the time - Pearl Jam, I think. Holly introduced us, and when his smokey green eyes shyly lifted to meet my skeptical blue, I experienced a feeling I'd never felt before... and I was instantly smitten. We shook hands and mumbled "hellos," but he held my hand a little longer in his guitar-string-calloused grip. His hands were rough, but gentle as they held mine like someone would hold a bird. He held my hand like he was holding something valuable, and a delicious shudder ran the length of my spine, landing in my brain and lodging there.

Smitten, Smitten Kitten. Oh yes I was indeed. As it turns out, so was he! I'd been curious about other boys at my school in my past, but never beyond rampant gossipy speculation with my female friends about "who likes who," etc. With John, though, there seemed to be a palpable realness to an intangible connection.
We spent most of the service delighting in catching the other one sneaking glances, and each time I'd bust him, he'd turn crimson and hang his head until his mop of sandy blonde covered his eyes and all I could see was a sheepish grin. Oh, he was cute.

And after church, after his band performed, (spladoosh,) Holly and I were leaving when I heard the soft shuffle of corderouy pants hustling up behind us. I spun around to find myself a breath away from John, who pressed a sweaty-palmed piece of paper into my hands.
Two words from him: "Call me?"
A verbal waterfall from me: "Oh yeah, sure, OK. I'll do that. I will call you. On the phone. With this."

I don't remember the ride home. Or really, much of anything after that, except how patient Holly must've been as I surely obsessed about when to call and what to say when I did. Working up the nerve. Whatever I said on the phone must've gone well because John invited me over to his parent's house. They lived so close to me, but just on the border of the next county over, which is why we never shared a school.

When I arrived, I parked on the street in front of his house because his driveway was full of boxes. He came out and introduced me to his parents, who politely shook my hand and called me "dear."
John's parents didn't allow him to "date," so we just went for a walk around his neighborhood. We had SO MUCH IN COMMON: we were both white middle-class American teenagers. We BOTH LIKED MUSIC. We BOTH ATE FOOD. Clearly, this was my soul mate - and then my soul mate dropped a bomb on me.
"So I'm moving to Michigan," he says. "Like, tomorrow."


Hm. Well, that explains the driveway full of boxes. Dammit.

Not to be deterred, I suggested we pen-pal it. After all, I told him. I was going to be a hot-shot writer someday, so I'd enjoy keeping in touch with letters. Kind of chronicle our love affair until we found a way to be together.
Shockingly, he agreed - after all, he was going to be a hot-shot guitarist someday. Surely, they'd have a van or travel trailer of some kind. I could get a laptop and write from there while the band toured the country.
A laptop? I already had a laptop. So basically we were halfway there.

He moved, just like he said, to Farmington, MI. When that first letter arrived in my mailbox I was over-the-moon excited. He DID write. He DID love me. And even though it was riddled with all the misspellings and grammar errors one could imagine from the product of Florida public education, I delighted in every syllable of his oddly block-printed handwriting. I was thrilled to hear about his new surroundings, and visualized everything in lurid detail. The woods near his home. The snow piled up on the red brick walls of his new school.
John hated Michigan. He was just starting his Senior year of High School, and had a hard time making new friends or finding other musicians to play with. I tried to keep my letters cheerful and full of sunshine, but no amount of positivity of affection from me seemed to make a difference.

I obsess in Lisa Frank proportions.

As his letters got shorter and more impersonal, I could sense him slipping away.
I asked my father, who was an airline pilot, if he would help me visit John to cheer him up. After some parental discussions between his folks and mine, in an unprecedented act of adventurousness, my dad agreed! We'd go to Michigan for the weekend! True love conquers all!
John had mailed me a plastic purple bead necklace, and told me he had a matching one. This was the first gift I'd ever recieved from a boy, and certainly the first jewelry I'd ever been given. I wore them every day until the string smelled like my marching-band-practice sweat.
Then I hung them from the rear-view mirror in my car, and every turn I took, every speedbump, they'd rattle and I'd feel that shiver resonate in kind, right up my spine. I was in love.

I'm pretty sure if I'd kept a journal at the time, it would've been riddled with heart-shaped doodles of "Mrs. Jack Avery" and her husband-to-be. I mean, surely the stars had aligned to introduce us before it was too late. Surely the Universe had conspired to nurture our young love with the letters and calls. MY DAD WAS ENCOURAGING THIS RELATIONSHIP SO IT HAD TO BE THE ONLY CORRECT PATH.
Never mind the fact that really, I was the only one writing at this point; that wasn't the point. The point was:

I would go to Michigan and get my first kiss.

After a short flight and a short drive, (but still plenty of time to allow my stomach to completely tie itself into knots,) my father and I arrived in Farmington. We followed my hand-written directions carefully through the snowy countryside to John's neighborhood, which looked nothing like I'd imagined. There were none of the flourishes I'd pictured, no "Michigan Farm House" charm. Just standard track houses on a normal street.
The "forest" near John's house, where he'd go for melodramatic angst-ridden teenage walks of solitude, was kind of just a square or two of semi-undeveloped land. But it was fine - it didn't matter - we were together!

I rushed up to his door, not sure what to expect, but when he and his mom opened it together, there was no swell of music. No cartoon birds appeared, and a very awkward hug ensued between us as our parents met in person for the first (spoiler alert: and last) time.
Didn't matter. I was here. He was here. We were in love. And I was gonna get that kiss god dammit. I was 16. It was OWED me.
After some polite small talk, Dad left for an hour or so to go scout out a hotel for the evening.

That gave me and John some time to warm up. Sort of. I'd been standing around in his mother's living room, not sure what to do with my hands. I hadn't even removed my coat. I was so nervous. Had I done something wrong? Was something wrong? Hadn't he asked me to come?
John suggested a walk, much like the one we'd taken the only other time we'd been alone together. A walk in the woods. A walk in the snowy woods. Trying to still my racing heart, I rebuttoned the coat I'd yet to take off. It was 40 degrees outside. I think I was sweating anyway.
We went for that walk, and I kept expecting that at any moment he'd give me... something. A kiss, an honest moment. Where was all that chemistry we'd both felt at the church? He really didn't even make eye contact.

After we reached some arbitrary half-way point known only to him, we turned around and headed back towards his house.
I think he tried to hold my hand, but we both had mittens on so who the fuck knows.

I could've unbuttoned that jacket for him. I was so hot from my own nervous energy, my blood, my brain, that spot in my brain which had been ignited when he first touched my hand, was on fire. I wanted so desperately to show him that I'd kept his beads, and removed them from their shrine on my car to travel North with me, as proof of my love. I could've shown him, I guess. But something told me he didn't care.

Back at his house, he took me for a quick tour of the town. There really was no town, so he basically just drove me to his school and back. All that nervous chatter faded on the drive back to his house. The bricks weren't even red, they were brown. Why had I imagined them as red? An iconic setting from his letters, in which I envisioned my love ardently penning letters was just a brownish wall about 4 feet high. With a handfull of tired grey snow clustered around the bottom. The naked, thin woods, the non-town, the grey, grey, grey everywhere and the deafening silence from John kind of piled up. We all went out to dinner that night. Our parents took pictures of us. We are standing 3 feet apart in the pictures.
The next morning, my dad and I went back to Florida.

Bleh. Just, bleh.

I sent a thank-you card. I sent a letter. I included copies of the picture my dad took of us. John's hands are folded so far behind his back he looks armless. Just a guy with empty short sleeves, staring stoically into the lens like some soldier in a daguerreo-type.
A little while passes, I've heard nothing. I write him again and ask if he has a girlfriend and hold my breath for a week until my response arrives.
"I am, in fact, seeing someone," he writes. "Lady Depression is her name. I am courting Despair."

I had, at the time, zero comprehension of what that meant. My own Dark Lady would set up camp with me in the years to come, but at 16, I couldn't possibly fathom what that meant. I just liked that he wrote like a cheesy balladeer. I liked that he wrote. I mean, what even WAS depression? Pff. Things would work out.

...Things didn't work out.
After two months went by with no more letters, I retired those beads off my mirror permanently and stuffed them away into some dark corner of a jewelry chest. It wasn't until nineteen years later that I'd see his face again, via the great public crystal scrying bowl known as Face Book.

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we learn what ever happened to John Avery...