so let’s be done with this…

Mood: older, wiser
Drinking: fountain soda

Her smile, the first time it appears, startles me. It comes without warning. It reminds me of you.

She gave me no clues that she had such a weapon in her possession. Nothing about her suggested it — not the crooked whitestrips teeth, not the shiny Mattel hair, not the suburban manicure or the pink lace bra playing peekaboo with the gaps in her button-down shirt. None of it looked anything like you.

But then she smiled and there you were.

The first time I met you, sullen and sulking in your plus-size, out-dated jeans, there wasn’t a smile anywhere in sight. Your eyes, heavy with silver shadow, didn’t lift from your knees. You chewed the ends of your hair and took up far too much space. I couldn’t decide if the blemish on your right cheek was a birthmark or a bruise. I couldn’t decide if I liked you.

But we were friends a few weeks later. You made sure of that. You asked me to lunch at a Burger King with no drive-thru. We picked at our fries, smeared the ketchup in circles, made awkward conversation, and left. I remember feeling sorry for you, but I can’t remember why.

It didn’t take you long to turn the tables. To ignite that 10,000 watt smile and melt all my reservations. I was so dazzled, I didn’t even think to protest. Or step back to safety.

I dream of you sometimes. We are giggling, conspirator-like, over coffee in a bright cafe. (Actually, it’s not coffee. It’s some other imaginary beverage, since I don’t even like coffee in my sleep.) But we are together. We are friends again. We are fine. We’ve forgotten all the reasons why this will never work.

The dream doesn’t last long. It doesn’t have an ending, either. Just fades away… You would pay for this information, wouldn’t you?

Ah, how you used to shine. The world was less bright when you were away. Less complicated, too. But I didn’t yet know the value of simplicity. So I let you attach me to yourself like a surgically enhanced Siamese twin. We were almost that inseparable.

Remember how they called us “the Twisted Sisters”? Or was that your name for our duo? There was such a stack of lies, I can’t remember which ones were true.

We paraded around as equals in our complementary platform shoes, but I always knew you were the one behind the wheel. You had the agenda, the vision, the ulterior motive. Left to myself, I would have spent all those years at home, buried in fiction. I would never have found my dancing shoes.

Perhaps I should have thanked you for that, for drawing me out, for showing me the world, the ropes, the intricacies of eyebrow waxing the way you did. But it seems now such a small compensation for the damage. And you didn’t do any of it for me, anyway.

You should know that you were the one who first told me you were crazy. It would have taken me so much longer to figure out, on my own. But you showed me the stash of stabilizing drugs in your bedroom closet. You blamed the defect on bad genes, bad parenting, bad luck, bad sex. But you brought it up first ? just so you know the insult is not random. Just to justify my means, in the end.

We were parked in my blue Celica the first time I finally believed you were dangerous. It didn’t start out as an argument, but it ended there, and I was the one with all apologies. You got me to repent of sins not yet committed, to confess to lies never spoken. And you covered your tracks with that smile.

Three times I denied you. Three times you talked your way back in the door. (There was no charm to any of it.)

My friends, the ones who knew you, would be horrified to know that, in spite of it all, I sometimes miss you. (The new friends would worry, too. Oh, they’ve heard some stories.) But they shouldn’t. I’m not dialing information. You could flash that smile all you want, now, but we both know where this would end. We’d both go around the bend. I’d hate you all over again.

I have hated you, yes. It’s no exaggeration this time. I hated you with a far greater fire than I ever used to love you. So I sold all your secrets, mon cherie. I exposed all your lies. I ripped doors from closet hinges and dragged your skeletons into the burning light. I made a public display of all your dirty laundry. For those few frantic months, I would have done anything to ruin your reputation. With mud, with machetes, with malevolence, as if any of it would make it better. As if any of it would make you go away.

I got tired of it, eventually. (Hatred is exhausting, debilitating.) Time and distance make everything look so much smaller. No, time doesn’t heal the wounds, but it certainly takes the edge off.

I don’t know where you live anymore. I don’t know how you’ve made your life. I don’t know which fads you follow or what you have done to your hair. But I’m sure, I’m very sure, that you’ve replaced me.

You’ve got some other girl hooked on your smile and you’re leading her on, mile after mile. And she’ll swallow all your stories (especially the ones about me). She’ll follow until it’s too late.

But I see through it now. It’s been years since I was fooled. And I am taking it back, finally, what you’ve done to me. My very cells are tired of knowing your name. So these are the last words I will write of you. There’s nothing left of you now but a substitute smile.

-Lo, who still has her dancing shoes.

It Will Bite You Back

Mood: gloom & doom
Drinking: diet coke, sans vanilla

This is a story about how email done me wrong.
(Or, more accurately, how email enables my own tendencies to be an idiot.)

To start with a caveat, I’ll say that I’m one of email’s biggest fans. Since discovering it way back in the 90s when Pearl Jam was over and the Internet was the World Wide Web and the wonder was just beginning to be commonplace, I’ve sent thousands and thousands of little email gems.

It’s the easiest way for phone-o-phobes like myself to stay in touch with friends, far and near. And I’ve become pretty adept at filtering all the cheesy chain letters with frolicking flowers and kitties, the Nigerian fortune scams and the endless offers for oh-so-handy penis enlargement. (The latest one is all personalized: GROWTH4ULADONN.)

But sometimes email makes it too easy for me to be a complete idiot and sometimes even an asshole. There was the time (just this week) I got an email from a friend who had just suffered through a break up. He was letting a select group of friends know what had transpired. And knowing that he was all raw and wronged, I replied with a heartfelt and personal email to let him know I cared. You know, a private long-distance virtual hug between two friends. Except I hit “Reply All” and shared my private heartfelt virtual hug with my friend and all 17 of his friends, most of whom had no idea who I was. A fairly innocuous mistake but annoying nonetheless, because it turned sweet inentions into a cry for attention, all “LOOK AT WHAT A GOOD FRIEND I AM, SENDING THIS TOTALLY NICE MESSAGE. SEE? SEE WHAT GOOD VIBES I AM SENDING! YOU ALL SHOULD DO THE SAME, YOU MISERABLE PRICKS.”

That one wasn’t so bad. But then there was the time that earned me the temporary nickname “Darth LaDonna”. See, there was this girl, way back in the past tense, who used to be a very good friend of mine. And then we had a falling out, for a few good reasons. And then we had a getting back together. And then there was another falling out, for a thousand more reasons. And then a sort of truce. And then a whole lot of not-talking.

Years go by. We now live two thousand miles apart. She sends me an email to get reconnected, an email which includes a scantily-clad photo of herself, which left me mystified. All I could think was that she was trying to show me how skinny and pretty she thought she had become. Skinnier and prettier than me, she hoped. (‘Cuz that’s what ex-girlfriends do.) And I rose to the occasion with a bland and harmless message back to her, very noncommital, because I wasn’t sure how far I should take this whole reconnection thing. But since it was all online, since there was no real voice on the phone, it felt safe and impersonal. I could draw whatever conclusions I wanted from her glamourshot, and I did. And my conclusions were all based on a whole baggage compartment full of dusty hurts and half-forgotten resentments. I assumed the worst.

And I felt the need to share both my confusion and my assumptions with my sister (‘cuz that’s what sisters do). So I forwarded the bizarre photo, with accompanying email from the Ex-Friend, to her. I prefaced it all with a snarky little message making fun of the picture, which was all red lights and wind machine torn t-shirt, like an amateur Maxim shoot. I spent all of 15 seconds writing it. Then I hit “Send”. Which was my 2nd mistake.

My first mistake was that instead of choosing to “Forward” the message, I clicked “Reply.”

Yup. So right on the heels of my bland and vaguely friendly message, Ex-Friend gets a completely snarky, talking-out-the-other-side-of-my-mouth message. The reconnection attempt failed spectacularly, and falling out #3 took all of about 30 seconds.

What a bitch, right?

Not really. Well, sometimes yes. But the thing about email is that it makes bitches out of all of us. In a moment of passion or fervor or rage or vodka-induced-delerium, you bang out these frantic missives, some of them peppered liberally with totally inappropriate sentiments (“I used to be in love with you.”) or completely uncalled for epithets (“motherfucker” comes to mind) or ill-advised confidences (“What the hell is she thinking? I’m, like, totally not sinking to her level.”) or whatever. And you don’t even re-read it for spelling errors before you hit Send and it’s gone.

Then before you blink twice, you’re in the midst of a shitstorm that could have been avoided, god, so easily! Just by picking up the phone and talking instead. Just by writing a good old-fashioned stamp-required letter. Just by waiting ’til the sun came up. Just by waiting.

And you know what’s even more mystifying about all of this? We try to fix it all with more emails. More emails that will get misconstrued and misunderstood and sent ahead for non-involved parties to misinterpret and malign. And it just never ends.

Of course, I’ll never stop writing emails. I wouldn’t know how to go back to just paper and pen. But I’m well aware of the cost, these days.

Somehow it doesn’t seem to matter, though. I just pay the toll and keep on rolling, fingers flying, down that information superhighway.

-Lo, who thinks if anyone’s gonna call me a Bitch I should at least get to earn the title, first.

Blog? Bleah!

Mood: Oh, so superior
Drinking: DVCoke

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately. Trolling about the internet, clicking on random links and flipping through the intimate details of the lives of people I don’t know. This is not necessarily a good thing. (TMI, anybody?)

So I’ve decided that my little corner of the net is NOT a blog. It’s a newsletter. An op-ed piece. A post. An essay. A rant. An update. But heaven-help-me, it is not a blog!

(I hate that word! “Blog.” Sounds like a tumor. “I’m sorry to tell you that you have a blog on your lymph-node and only six months to live.”)

My beef with blogs does not extend to every weblog in cyberspace. There are several little sites that I visit most diligently and wait for new entries most anxiously. But then there are those other ones. The diary-blogs. The ones where the authors have no shame.

The ones where they talk about their co-worker crushes, the frequency of their cat’s bowel movements, the consistency of their morning bowl of Wheaties, the way their favorite undies ride up the crack, and on and on. The ones where you sit there for a minute, reading, and thinking “Dude, seriously?”

(Exception to this rule: sites like dooce.com. I’ve been reading Dooce’s site for years. It’s an oasis in the diary desert where poop is not only interesting, it’s hilarious. Dooce knows how to make you care about her bowl of Wheaties. And so she is excused from this self-righteous lecture. Mimi Smartypants can be excused, too. Really, if you can make me laugh because of your wit and charm, as opposed to your idiocy, you are excused. Pack up your textbooks and head to the snack shop!)

I completely understand the urge to at least try to read these things…I’m admitting to being a lurker. It’s the voyeurism. You get to be a virtual peeping tom, except most of the time you don’t get to see anything scandalous.

What I don’t get about the bleah blogs is the need to write about every damn detail of your little life and publish it all over the internet. The thing is, you’re not a unique snowflake. Every single thing you do is not fascinating. And did you stop and think for a sec that the “www” stands for worldwide web? So you’re telling the whole world (or at least the five hapless souls who stumble across your site) all about the interesting texture of your boogers. There are diaries for these things. Tangible paper blankbooks in which you can write all about your temper tantrums and sexual escapades and whatever else you do on Tuesday nights. And then hide it under your mattress for safekeeping.

I am a diary whore. I love the feel of pen on paper. Even more than that, I love the way a page gets all curled and crispy after you’ve covered both sides with ballpoint scrawl. I’ve kept a journal almost since I could write the alphabet. (My first one had a lock and key and a big blue elephant on the front. The first entry consisted of three pages of me trying to spell my name in big block letters that sloped steadily down into the corner.) I now have a suitcase chock full of finished blankbooks, each one carrying with it all my tawdry secrets and oh-so-naive aspirations. First-kiss confessions and bell jar blackness. I don’t expect that anybody will ever read them. Hell, I don’t even go back and read them. It’s too horrifying to see the silly things I was so sincere about at age 16. Not to mention the penmanship!

For me, keeping a diary, journal, scrapbook, whatever, has always been a quest to understand. My diary was my confidant, my therapist, my muse. I could pour everything out onto the blank page, then shut the book and walk away and feel somewhat satiated. And I didn’t have to feel stupid about what I wrote, either, because nobody was ever going to see it. It was secret. It was safe.

Perhaps all these online diarists, these look-at-my-tits bloggers hope that by spreading all their miniscule moments out there for anybody to rifle through, they will find a kindred spirit. Somebody will come along who finally understands them. But to me, writing about personal details is writing to understand, for yourself, not to be understood by someone else.

I should make it clear, again, that all blogs are not created equal. There are the online diaries wherein far too much is revealed (and believe it or not, they’re not all published by teenage girls), and then there are the other ones. The funny ones, the interesting ones, the artistic ones, the political ones. The sites where the writing has some substance and some value. It’s not all verbal diarrhea and insecure rambling. And those are the blogs that I tend to visit on a daily basis.

I realize I’m treading on thin ice. Because here I am ranting about blogs while writing on a web site. But I don’t see this as a pot/kettle situation. For one thing, I’M A WRITER. Putting words on a page is my job, my calling, my raison d’etre. And this is not my diary. I’m not going to give you any intimate details. You’re never going to lay a finger on those. Most of the time, I’m not even going to give you the real names of the characters in my little stories.

“She Says” is more of an exercise in writing. I aim to be readable, interesting, provocative, even witty sometimes. I write when I actually have something to say. I try to write the type of entry that I’d be interested in reading. That’s my measuring stick.

In an effort to extricate myself from the sticky blog mess I’ve so foolishly waded into, I’ll say this: I fully understand and encourage the need to “get it all out” by writing about it. Doing just that has saved my life more than once. And I know how the Internet works. I know I can click on the little red X anytime I want and make it all disappear. I’m not bound to a chair with my eyelids clipped open, forced to read so much drivel until I crack. All I’m advocating is a little old-fashioned “think before you speak” etiquette. A little more buying of blankbooks. A little less “OMG, HE, LIKE, IM-ED ME BACK AND IT WAS SOOOOOOOOO HOTT!”

A note to all my “real-world” friends out there who have blogs…No, I’m not ripping on your blog! Don’t get paranoid, lovies. I wouldn’t visit your cyberspace cubbyholes every single day if I thought they were boring, now, would I?

-Lo, who’s just sitting here waiting for the backlash.

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