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Thursday, March 14, 2013

200

Leaving the Girl

Tina reminded me of Laura Palmer: too beautiful to live. You’d have to comb the globe for a person who didn’t want to fuck and ruin her. But Tina was kind of okay with it because she wanted to fuck and ruin herself. When I first saw her she had a severe part in her long black hair and red lips, like Evita. The second time I saw her she walked into the coffee shop I worked at like a bewildered fawn. She’d chopped her black hair off and gone bottle blonde. It’s hard to describe anything about Tina without insisting you must know how she looked. A great beauty’s beauty pushes itsself forward before all other info. I’ll dispense with describing her now, but know that she had the aura of Greta Garbo or Lauren Bacall. Impeccable, unassailable style. She was the kind of girl who could pull off a Victorian ball gown at the 7-11. She smoked Marlboro Reds in opera gloves. I never saw her in a shade besides black.

That summer we met, her heart had been broken, and she was being trailed by several aged philosophy professors from the university who clearly had ideas about becoming her lover. I was a punk rock sylph with a purple star dyed on my head. I was 5’8" and, thanks to a diet that consisted primarily of Paxil and cigarettes, clocked in at a little under a hundred pounds. I was so thrilled about this state I was in that I wasn't threatened by Tina’s beauty. In fact, I made her a PJ Harvey mixtape and left it at the counter for the next time she shambled in looking like she’d been awake all night reading Nietzsche and despairing over this boy (flaxen haired, I saw him once. They looked like a devil and an angel together).

That was also the summer I’d begun supplementing my barista income by nude modeling for artists and photographers. During my time taking naked pictures for money, my thinness was an A+ attribute. It made me "arty" and, as one photographer said, as I straddled a school desk with a projector light pointed at my crotch, "Fantastic! Strait out of Auschwitz!" So when my barista job went kaput (as the Germans say), I made that little leap from nude pictures for money to nude dancing for money. My only hang up was genuine concern if I had enough meat on my bones to look plausible swinging around a pole. So I called the only real life stripper I had ever encountered in my 22 years. Tina. 

Tina’s job in our town’s only titty bar was legendary. It was the piece of information that everyone was dying to tell you: “That girl over there, that girl is a stripper.” And like with the girl known for sleeping with every boy at your high school, I couldn’t tell if people relished this fact because they were appalled or because they were dying to try it. Whatever it was, she was given a wide berth, as if she were royalty or had a very contagious disease. As I came to learn, to be a stripper is to interface with the pain and shame of the world in one of the most visceral ways that you possibly can. It leaves you with a patina, and Tina’s patina made her more beautiful to me, more real. After all, I was something of an alien myself. My transformation into a collection of sharp angles inspired awe and fear, it kept everyone at arms length. I felt I understood Tina without hardly knowing her. We could both do things with our bodies that other people could not.

Tina invited me down to the strip club for a preview, and off I went to that black lit land where pale breasts bloom under strobe lights, multiplied and multiplied in a maze of mirror walls and slick reflective poles. When Tina was on stage it was like having front row seats at Cabaret. No inch of her unloved by the many sets of eyeballs in there. I thought, if they expect me to do what she is doing then I am screwed. But no one expects that. They expect you to take your top off and flounce around. The next night I went in to audition. “You’re back already?” Tina laughed. She borrowed me a thong to dance in. Two Stone Temple Pilot songs later, I was a stripper; Tina’s tottering protégé in a bobbed wig and black vinyl boots.

We were fast friends. How could we not be? What friendship would not be eternally forged? “Are you lovers?” people would ask us, “Are you sisters?” I say ‘people.’ I should amend this to ‘men.' They hoped we would answer that we were both sisters and lovers. But Tina was something beyond me, I always felt. Something to aspire to, perhaps, because at times I felt like her beauty had answered the question I still plumbed my little body for. But she was not to fuck. And we never did. It was sisterhood true blue and I loved her hard and crazy.

She let down the velvet rope around her life and introduced me to her weird coterie of professors, ex-strippers, and admirers. None of her friends seemed to connect with one another in any way. We were nebulous, floating around Tina, our only shared interest. There was a boy among them who left her a mutilated library book, containing a tape inside confessing his true love, which Tina destroyed and dismissed. There was a way to her heart, stupid men, and mawkish declarations got you nowhere.

She had a costume party once. I went as Anais Nin and my cool musician boyfriend went as a pink bunny covered in blood. We stood in a corner and talked to my boyfriend’s friend dressed as Hestia, the goddess of the domestic. This friend of his thought the only reason she was invited to the party was because her boyfriend (dressed as Greed) was fucking Tina and the invitation was some sort of cover up. Everyone thought everyone was fucking Tina and went to great degrees to convince themselves (and you!) that this was true. I knew Tina to be above such pettish accusations and gave Hestia an internal eye roll.

As we were chatting with Hestia, a man came over to me, leaned down and said quietly into my ear, “You know, I always wanted to fuck Anais Nin.” I smiled at him. Nothing bothered me in those days. Nothing bothers the punk rock sylph dressed as Anais Nin; say anything to her! Go on and try! She has a hole inside her heart, a vacuum nothing can fill, but which compliments from men, no matter how vile, seem to abate. You can’t see that vacuum, because her tiny body protects her. For now, it is something only Tina can see, because she too has a swiss cheese heart.

Alas, Tina wasn’t all ball gowns, Nietzsche and stage presence. She had a truly terrible sense of humor, nicely summed up by two bumper stickers she was “saving” for when she got a car. One read: “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” The other read: “Imagine whirled peas.” These bumper stickers lit her Raphaelite face with mirth. There are other bad things about her, but they come later.

***

For now there is this:

I break up with my boyfriend for six months. I spend these six months in the care of Tina. I am devastated and joyous. Free but miserable. I sleep on Tina’s couch and she tries to feed me. I make out with every living human being in a three mile radius around Old Town, where the bars are. Tina pulls me home before I can do more than knock over a few chairs or have my shirt pulled up while lying on a pool table, do more than one tequila shot off someone’s naked breast. She puts me back on her couch.

She is a good German girl and so she makes me tea. So much tea, I can’t drink tea even now without thinking of her. I cry and we talk about our broken hearts and UFOs and government conspiracies and why Tina can’t do anything with her life besides strip, even though she is some kind of math super-whiz. But we are also having the greatest time ever because we are young and darling and wild. And we are together, free from the tethers of men. We are Brideshead Revisited, turned on its ear.

We use our extremely disposable income to buy clothes and blue bottled white whine riesling, which we drink at eleven in the morning. We go out for sushi and martinis. We smoke so many cigarettes. We wear sunglasses at night and link elbows and sing that song about it. We drink for free at the Service Bar most nights and at Tony’s we also drink mostly free and the bartenders sometimes flash us their dicks and we cover our mouths like little girls and laugh about it. We find jukeboxes that play "Fernando" by Abba (my favorite song) and we sway to it, holding each other. We dance together because we’re sex queens who live in the dirty gross sex world and we don’t give a fuck about how anyone sees us anymore.

Whenever anyone tries to take me home, I say, "I’m going home with Angela." Which is what I call Tina, because it’s her stage name. She calls me Alyssa. She warns boys about me. She say says, “Alyssa’s scrawny, but she’s scrappy.” And thank Christ, I am finally scrawny. I have worked so hard! Forsaken so many meals, and here it is. Finally. Finally saying fuck all. I am drunk, adored, wanted, doing whatever the hell I want to. In the summer. In the heat of black nights and hazy, blue Colorado days, with the girl I love best.

***

Later:

Tina holds it together and holds me together through the horror of my wedding. She does it without question or complaint, she does it though I have made her so sad and I know it and we never speak of it because, why? My fiance says to me: “Tina is a pathological liar. She lies to you most of all because she wants so much for you to think well of her. ” I think back upon ole Hestia at the costume party, all those years ago. Was there truth in those accusations that my love glossed over?

My oldest friend says to me: “I never liked you and Tina together.” And I narrow my eyes at her because what the fuck does she know? What does anyone know of me and Teens? Nothing. But as it turns out, my fiance and my oldest friend are right, Tina and I cannot be friends. Because Tina continues to date guys who hit her (there’s the way to her heart, boy with the mutilated library book) and if they don’t hit her, they abuse her in other ways or are broken in ways that are beyond dealing with. But then, Tina is the same as these boys. And long after we quit dancing, she still refuses to get a real job. Or at least, I think of it as refusal. When I saw her last she was stuffing flyers into envelopes for a living.

All that happened in Denver. But even before we crossed the years it took to wind up in Denver, it was over between us. It was over even before my first major illness and the steroid-induced-weight-gain-horror-wedding that followed. An event that shoved me further down the psychological ski slope of eating disorders; that long white run ending right at your headstone. It was over before the guy who hit Tina hated me so much, he wrote a post on his oft-read MySpace blog about how I was interfering in his relationship because I was fat now. Like fat transformed me into some kind of comic side character; a nosy neighbor eating KFC from the bucket. It was over before I unleashed a wall of rage on all the girls who wouldn’t help Tina with her abuser boyfriend because he was so cool and so good-looking and they all bought weed from him and they all thought Tina was kinda a slut anywayz. I lost friendships with all those girls, and it didn’t even matter. It was all flotsam to Tina’s jetsam. But let's go back just a little further, maybe about two years further, when we were still in the little town, winding up our dancing careers.

***

The friendship ended thus:

Tina moved and I moved with her. I tried to live out of my car and I tried to live at my friend’s house but I ended up back with Tina. I knew I was leaving the country soon, so I didn’t want to be anywhere for long. I moved into her little basement apartment and we drank wine from blue bottles and smoked cigarettes all day in the sun and it was the same as it had always been. But soon after, my ex-boyfriend’s band moved into the house across the street. He lived with them now that we were through. He had the front room that was all windows.

And one night, lying in bed with Tina (we were in the final stages of that age where you sleep all-to-one-bed like conked out toddlers), I suddenly got up and put on my shoes and I wandered across our yard and across the street and across his yard and I knocked on his window. I think about that night a lot because as I crossed that street, I crossed something else too, something I could never go back over. It was less my choice than it is the choice of a magnet to suck to metal. And I was going back to him. I was always going back to him. That was my trajectory.

I should have kissed Tina goodbye. Not in a sexy sister-lover way but because I loved her so much. I should have thanked her and hugged her. We should have cried and had a parting cigarette, because that was the moment it ended. She would never forgive me, not even when she was my white clad bridesmaid holding a drink to wash down my vicodin with, not even when she gave me a hundred euros when I moved across the ocean and a fake diamond necklace and the sweetest hand written note I have ever received. She would never forgive me for being a magnet to his metal. Picking the boy and leaving the girl.

 

Elinor Abbott is a writer in Minneapolis.



200 Comments / Post A Comment

PatatasBravas

This is beautiful.

wee_ramekin

@PatatasBravas Yes. I loved this.

Emby

Where do people get all the energy to be cool and dangerous??

finguns

@Emby I know! All the dark feeling-y parts of this reminded me of my early 20's, but if I had written this essay it would be roughly two paragraphs about crippling indecisive hand-wringing and falling asleep before the good stuff happened.

Mira

@Emby I know! I found this fascinating because I literally don't know a single person like this. Who are these people? Amazing.

I enjoyed the style, though.

Emby

@Mira I've met one or two. They tired of me pretty quickly. Most of my life I've tried to manage my vices, not sacrifice myself to them, and that makes me un-fun.

Scandyhoovian

@finguns I think there has to be a certain personality type that works this way and that mine is the exact opposite -- my age of indecision and not committing was less a whirlwind of dangerous adventuring and more of a stagnation built out of crippling inability to move forward. The "I don't want to settle down yet" life period story for me would be far, far less compelling of a read, though.

MilesofMountains

@Scandyhoovian I don't think I could have had less in common with this person if she had ridden a dragon to work every day.

aphrabean

@Mira Have you been to Portland, Oregon? I think it's Mecca to this type of person, and I don't mean that in derogatory way. Just like. . . I knew a lot of young women like this when I lived there.

honey cowl

@Emby I tried to be cool and dangerous for about six months but it just involved puking & going to bed late, both of which SUCK, so now I do my taxes in January & only drink on the weekends & pay my bills when I receive them not when they are due. #winning

Mira

@aphrabean I've never lived there, but I've passed through a lot...usually with my family, though, so I go to bed early and haven't hung out in the sorts of places where I think people like this probably congregate. I can see what you mean, though!

D.@twitter

@Mira Agreed. Very Francesca Lia Block. "Violet & Claire" anyone?

RNL
RNL

@Emby You know that energy you have to hold down a job and do your laundry? They put that energy into vodka, sex, and self-destruction. It's romantic, but it's not pretty.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Emby The closest I ever got to cool and dangerous was letting a handsome, glamorously older Italian man try to hold my hand for about three seconds while we stood at a weird Communist hole in the wall bar in a crooked-streets cobblestoned part of town, sipping limoncello as he tried to take my hand and suavely invited me to take a walk up to the top of the hill and see the panorama of the city. That was the exact moment where, in a novel or movie, I would have broken free of my shy responsible frumpy cocoon of good-girl boringness and blossomed into a free-spirited dangerous femme fatale on an Italian holiday.

In real life, I nervously put down my limoncello, which I wasn't even of legal age for back in the States yet, God, what was I doing, switched back from Italian to English, and stammered something lame about having rehearsal in the morning. Then I went home and went to bed early.

I will never have had a wild and misspent youth - unless the misspending of it is my steadfast inability TO misspend it.

Mira

@Countess Maritza My people! Let's watch Law and Order reruns and drink appropriate amounts of middlebrow wine together.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Mira And I'll bake something! But probably from a mix because I'm also misspending my youth by not learning how to cook anything artisanal and crafted.

To be fair, in the years since my Italian adventure, I've gotten much "better" at staying out far too late with entertaining people/beverages. But I'm still annoyingly responsible/mousy 95% of the time.

H.E. Ladypants

@RNL Oh my goodness. This is so true. When I was in my downward spiral heyday I was utterly baffled by how people had time and energy to do things like go grocery shopping or clean the house. It was a total mystery to me.

RNL
RNL

@H.E. Ladypants Go grocery shopping, eat, read books, go to class, talk to your mom on the phone. NOPE.

Vodka, sex, cocaine, lipstick? YES.

pajamaralls

@D.@twitter I was thinking if I knew anyone like Tina, and the person that came to mind was my friend who turned me onto Francesca Lia Block.

Minx

@Emby I think it tends to be more that they don't know any other way to be, because if they slow down long enough to stop being cool and dangerous, they'll have to face emotions, thoughts, and memories that they aren't sure how to deal with. Some people bury those things under drugs or other addictions. Others bury them under the cool and dangerous life. I have a friend who gets like this when things are bad. She just throws herself into reckless activities. The weird thrill from danger or discomfort isn't fun, but for some people it seems to be easier to live with than hurt or sadness.

Verity

@Mira Me neither! It's so alien.

@D.@twitter I tried reading Francesca Lia Block as a teenager, and gave up because the characters were so far removed from me that I could barely comprehend what was going on.

Hellcat

@honey cowl Same, right down to the immediate bill-paying. I won't say I never do anything ill-advised anymore...but I like knowing that all the grownup shit is in place first. In hindsight, that post-college-but-not-quite-a-real-adult stage was too stressful, especially when throwing "make sure to look cool while doing it" into the mix.

Lurkasaurus

Aaaack accidental deletion :( Long comment short: thank you for existing, other people who find living dangerously to be exhausting/straight-up unfathomable.

silverscreen

@Emby "Violet & Claire" anyone?
Ha! This was my first thought.
I liked FLB's books as a teenager but now I find them massively eyeroll-inducing.

LlamaLlama

@Emby Ehhhh don't worry: these people aren't actually cool. The bumper stickers are the tip-off... along with, um, everything else. This more drama club/goths in hot weather than anything actually glamorous and cool.

katzenklavier

@Emby I can't understand how the author isn't embarrassed by her shameless self-glamorization! I've been a skinny drunken purple-haired artists' model and had drug-fueled homoerotic friendships but I would die before referring to myself as a "punk rock sylph."

chetmaychua

@Mira Aaaack accidental deletion :( Long comment short: thank you for existing, other people who find living dangerously to be exhausting/straight-up unfathomable. Vietnam Itinerary 2 Days

Jill_Tata

dont like the start and end but like mid :D@k

LydiaBennett

well, I inhaled this. more please.

queenofbithynia

This is terrific although it bewilders me in the end. In the middle, too. Why did you leave your friend for some bozo, again, exactly? (And nobody is actually unfriended by a genuine human because they have shitty boyfriends or shitty jobs, right? this is a metaphor for something? what? something?) Oh but never mind, it's still really good.

RK Fire

@queenofbithynia I don't think she's unfriended so much as they grow apart due to differences in life situation. I really liked it too and I think I'm also a little perplexed at the ending. Also, I'm really trying to piece together what exactly happened at the wedding (did wedding stress lead to purging or medication abuse?). Did the marriage last?

A. Louise

@queenofbithynia I think this is what bothers me about this - I don't get a lot of the reasoning behind the actions and therefore don't really feel like I learned much.

But then again, I had a somewhat watered down rebel-without-a-cause stage and it was never about the why. If anything it was doing things because they had no rationale or meaning, and everything felt really void anyway. So maybe that's what I take from this.

This is my new username

@queenofbithynia Well I doubt most people unfriend others specifically because of a shitty boyfriend and/or shitty job, but people definitely unfriend each other do to the resulting toxic drama that sometimes accompanies those things, yes.

bitzyboozer

@queenofbithynia Hmm. I had a really different reaction, but then a lot of this was very familiar to me. Sometimes people are self-destructive because they really truly want to self-destruct, and nothing you do as a friend will ever change it because they don't want to change or deep down just don't know how. Once you decide to pull yourself out of a toxic whirlpool it's really really hard to stay friends with someone who keeps jumping back in and trying to pull you in with them. It is extremely hard but sometimes yeah, you do just have to let those people go. Maybe that makes me a shitty person but there you have it.

I also thought this was really good.

TheLetterL

@This is my new username, @bitzyboozer What you guys said. Sometimes you realize you're on-board a runaway train and you have no way to reach the brakes and the only thing you can do is jump off. And it has nothing to do with having less or inadequate love for the friend in question. You can still love your friend very much and worry about them years and years later, even though you're not sure you ever want to see them again.

Vera Knoop

@RK Fire Was the house too small?

rayray

I'm like, halfway down, but I think Tina is a bestworst.

katiemcgillicuddy

@rayray Exactly what I was thinking. This was a lovely read, though.

rayray

@rayray Or at least someone in this story is. I love reading things like this but at the same time the drinking and all the crazy lifestyle in general makes buttoned-up me feel a bit panicky and exhausted.

Daisy Razor

@rayray I think it's everyone in the story.

Scandyhoovian

@rayray The story seemed to me more like a chronology of someone's bestworst period than a description of any one bestworst person. It's like everything about it is bestworst.

H.E. Ladypants

@rayray Honestly, it makes me feel grateful. I did have that period in my life and I made it out alive and relatively unharmed and I can't say that for everyone.

Even Jack Kerouac died from trying to be Jack Kerouac.

I read things like this and I'm so glad it's not me. I'm so glad it's not my life anymore.

Emby

@H.E. Ladypants Kerouac was in my mind as I was reading this, too. Tina is very much Kerouac's vision of Dean Moriarty. Even down to the Denver-ism.

rayray

@Scandyhoovian and H.E. Ladypants:
Ain't this the truth.
I think most people have their own version of a bestworst period. Even I, who reading this am terrified for these people, had a period where I drank too much and stayed out way too late with people who perhaps cared more about themselves and less about me than they seemed to at the time.

Kristen

@rayray As I move farther away from my own bestworst period (aka, my twenties)I am becoming increasingly fascinated with the ways writers romanticize that time in their lives. When I was 22 or 23, writing like this was like crack to me. I devoured it obsessively, in part because I was looking for ways to make my own miseries seem like they had artistic weight. But I also let it influence me, in a way that is kind of terrifying to me now. I remember reading one early essay by Cheryl Strayed (later, of course, of Dear Sugar fame) and being so obsessed by the kind of "sexy wreck" persona she was so good at evoking that I used phrases from it, without attribution, in my own breakups. Which was obviously a terrible idea, and did nothing to help me grow up or figure out my own shit. Reading the bestworst thread in conjunction with this essay really brought home to me not only that this is a particular "style" of writing, with its own tone and tropes and cliches, but it's also a way of thinking about your own life that is the hallmark of a very distinct stage.

I feel like there should be a French phrase for it - "nostalgia for the period when you had the most sex, but most of that sex was bad, but everyone was young and good-looking so it was sort of worth it."

If someone had written a spot-on parody of this kind of writing back in 2005, I think I might saved myself a good half-decade of shitty relationships... but I guess that's what your twenties is for.

Blondsak

@Kristen This might not be exactly what you are looking for, but reading this, I kept thinking of a French short film from the 2000's called "Je t'aime John Wayne." It's a French New Wave parody that focuses on a male "sexy wreck" rather than a female one, but it is hilarious and I thought of it the whole time I was reading this.

emmycantbemeeko

@Kristen
"I feel like there should be a French phrase for it - "nostalgia for the period when you had the most sex, but most of that sex was bad, but everyone was young and good-looking so it was sort of worth it.""

This phrase just keeps cracking me up.

Bittersweet

@Kristen I have serious nostalgia for my teens and 20s, but it's the kind of nostalgia where you look back on yourself with pitying love and say "oh honey" to your younger self, when you were so naive and unknowing, but thought you were so wise and sophisticated.

...I'm sure I'll be looking back on my current decade the same way in 20 years.

Big Rig and Jesse

@rayray "sexy wreck" just got me all going on
Separation Sunday
, so thanks for that!

Janestreet

Did this just completely derail anyone else's brain? I feel like I was just hit with a literary car.

jule_b_sorry

@Janestreet I kinda feel bad about this, but my brain started adding "yeah, I guess" at the end of each sentence after reading the first few. So. Many. Declaratory statements that are actually subjective opinion.

alien_she

Francesca Lia Block much?

alicia

@alien_she I thought the same thing! (In a totally complimentary way.)

martinipie

@alien_she Yup.

fabel

@alien_she god, yes. YES. I actually about to ctrl-f "francesca lia block" before making my own comment on this, but then I noticed yours before I even did that.

I would be very surprised if this author had never read Violet & Claire.

bnna

@alien_she Its like if Francesca Lia Block and Michelle Tea had a literary baby.

frigwiggin

Wow! Um...obviously a lot of people are enjoying this, but it made me feel weird and I had to stop reading partway through. Maybe because it is So Not My Life--I usually don't have a hard time reading things that come from a different place than I do, but dang.

iceberg

@frigwiggin I found the time-skipping-around a bit confusing, and it bears exactly zero resemblance to my life, but mostly I did enjoy the way the words were put together :)

PatatasBravas

@iceberg Same! I am feasibly the most boring individual on the planet, and nothing in the story gave me an access-point to make connections to my real life at all, but I enjoyed the writing a bunch!

Verity

@frigwiggin No, I felt the same.

jule_b_sorry

@frigwiggin I stopped reading halfway through because it DID remind me of a time in my life - a time where I spent a ton of energy trying to be this sexy, different, troubled, fascinating, manic-pixie-dream-girl. Later, I realized I was really doing it because I was deeply, deeply insecure and deathly afraid of actually just being myself. And that, despite all my efforts, I never achieved what I sought - I became a caricature of what I thought others thought of as a dangerously cool person.

I got some therapy, stopped the charade, and tried being me for a while. Now my life looks nothing like this, and yet I feel like I'm even more interesting because of it (I also have a lot more money now - interesting side effect). Now, this may not be the author's experience at all - maybe this really reflects their authentic selves at their most authentic. But reading this essay only made me tired, remembering all the work I used to do in an effort to be this fascinating muse - a mysterious, unique rebel.

alien_she

Sex work and drug use and eating disorders are so glamorous!

PatatasBravas

You're right! There is literally no way to read and enjoy this story without immediately losing my Feminist Card and signing up for a lifetime of domestic abuse.

iceberg

@alien_she @PatatasBravas oddly enough I appreciate both these comments and love you both for making them!

I think feeling that this story glamorizes those things is valid, although I'm not sure I agree.

queenofbithynia

@alien_she Yes; yes, they are, all three. Actually and really. That's why we have different words for glamor and health and morality, because they are three different unrelated things.

PatatasBravas

@queenofbithynia I AGREE ACTUALLY! I do think that there is sort of nostalgia for these dangerous days, or at least an extrapolation from their sisterly love to an affection for the sketchy-at-best choices they made.

But I also think that I can like the writing and not like the writing at the same time :D

Miss Maszkerádi

@alien_she Glamorizing isn't necessarily glorifying isn't necessarily prescribing.

Of COURSE sex, drugs and rock'n'roll are glamorous. Some of the best stories in the world are about some of the most fucked up people. Glorious wrecks. An appreciation for much of literature requires abandoning the (slightly Marxist, to my mind) notion that all literature should be or is by default didactic.

Veronica Lemmons

@alien_she Wow, I'm pretty floored by this type of reaction, which seems to be among the majority in the comments. Is it not crystal clear that the writer is examining her past self from a cold remove and with a critical eye? She's not saying I Was Anorexic and Glamorous Wasn't I Just Marvy; she's saying that, at the time, she was living out a fantasy of her/Tina's idea of glamour, and isn't it strange the way our perceptions of ourselves can become so twisted.

I think her writing is beautiful, and I like that she doesn't judge herself entirely one way or the other: In many ways, she was unhealthy and self-destructive and un-glamorous, but in other ways, she WAS free and sexy and mysterious. Why can't it be both? We all contain multitudes. And for you to aggressively dismiss her personal experience because it doesn't fit your holier-than-thou idea of feminism, because you can't empathize with someone who has strayed from the straight and narrow, is...sad. I'm astonished by the level of judgment, slut-shaming, and othering going here.

queenofbithynia

@Veronica Lemmons "fit your holier-than-thou idea of feminism,

When did she say a word about "feminism?" There's as much self-righteous feminism in her critical comments as there is "glamourizing" in the original piece, which is to say none, it is a cheap smear and also really fucking sad that "feminist" is what, a go-to sneer now?

Obviously I agree with the rest of what you say, because it's true.

Veronica Lemmons

@queenofbithynia I was referring to a different comment that said one can't read or enjoy the article would immediately losing one's Feminist Card. I mistakenly conflated two commenters' remarks, though they were in the same vein.

MilesofMountains

@Veronica Lemmons Not really the same vein, PatatasBravas was being pretty sarcastic.

Veronica Lemmons

@MilesofMountains Gah, right. Sorry, after cruising the comments my head was spinning from the dominant tone of cliquey disdain.

yeah-elle

I...didn't especially like this. The style was artful, more or less, but the content didn't mesh with me. Manic Pixie Dream Girls don't only exist solely in patriarchal bullshit rom-coms—they're here too. And while this takes time to mention the ugly under-belly of of living dangerously, I think it romanticizes it, too, romanticizes eating disorders, romanticizes being broken or damaged, is weirdly ambivalent about violence against women. Not my cup of tea.

iceberg

@yeah-elle But is it really romanticizing it? Or is it just not bothering to go over the same ground of like, of course eating disorders are terrible and harmful, and of course being emotionally broken is terrible, and of course abuse is terrible? I mean the story is about her and Tina and how they wound up friends and why she loved her and how she ended up leaving her, and it reminds me of that Rihanna song about finding love in a hopeless place - like, it was really awful and an awful time but here is this bright beautiful thing that was part of that time.

PatatasBravas

I didn't find it ambivalent at all: a habit was formed immediately: every line of prose, a new line of coke. SO ROMANTIC I AM SO BRAINWASHED.

Tracy

@yeah-elle I completely and totally agree with you and am glad you wrote what you wrote.

I wanted to enjoy this story and it was written with lovely wording and pacing, but I disliked the pride the author still (still!) seems to have at having been underweight and the harsh way she references whatever weight gain she endured afterwards. The belief that being thin is = to winning life is so poisonous to me that I can't enjoy (as an adult) reading anything that aligns with that. That said, I would have swooned for this in my very early twenties!

yeah-elle

@iceberg It read that way to me, at least. For instance, she highlights the elation of being skeletal, the ability to do that to oneself ("We could both do things with our bodies that other people could not.") and as readers we kind of fill in the horror that accompanies the elation. Which is fine. She doesn't need to be blatant with the "this is terrible and harmful" but she highlights the stuff that's morphed into being acceptable and hides away all the stuff that's horrible and terrifying. Addiction is so glamorous when it's all rock stars and partying, until you're stealing the money your friends use to feed their kids and spend it buying dubious drugs that leave you with seizures and shit in your pants.

I have the same issue with Rihanna's song, and the video, the same way I had issues with what it ripped off, Skins, and how they all glamorize addiction and illness. It's all sloppy glitter and flashing lights, and you never see how ugly it truly gets because even the hangovers are recreated with artfully placed smudged mascara.

It's not that it was really awful and an awful time and here was this bright beautiful thing—it's that it was really awful and an awful time, and here was this deceptively bright beautiful thing that was actually heinous and mutually destructive and codependent and supportive of all the poisonous crap that leaves you with a feeding tube running down your nose and bones that crumble at 30 and loved ones that will never trust you ever again.

lora.bee

@yeah-elle I am there with you, this did not blow me away.

Judith Slutler

@iceberg I agree and actually really resent the idea that people have to be super-careful about always speaking the language of recovery. A shit time in your life can definitely have that sorrynotsorry character to it and what is wrong with working in that mood?

Anne Wachtel@twitter

@yeah-elle Yep, internal eye roll indeed. I've written and re-written a response to this piece, and I can't do it without sounding bitter, because I am. I was in the direct aftermath of a lifestyle like this, that someone I loved forced upon my family and almost destroyed it. It hurts. I've never been "cool," but I'd rather be boring as hell, with my health insurance and early bedtime, than bring despair to the people that love me. I raise a glass to fellow Normal Functioning Women That Pay Taxes and Drink Wine Quietly to SVU Reruns.

finguns

@yeah-elle I enjoyed this essay, but your comment articulates the reasons I didn't enjoy it even more. To me, it came off more as a cautionary tale about the dangers for women in romanticizing the MPG lifestyle. The narrator sounds very self-aware about how invested she was at the time in the image she cultivated for herself and the lengths she went to to maintain it. I've always thought the MPG mythology is not driven just by the male gaze lighting on what it wants, but in part by the experiences of real women in their early 20's trying to be Winona Rider in Reality Bites or whatever current, super thin cultural touchstone is out there making it look easy to be slightly damaged in a loveable-but-not-needy way. I know a lot of women who were decently successful MPGs for short periods of time in their early 20's and were very invested in cultivating an image like the narrator. It's just that no one makes movies/write books about what happens 3 years later when the MPG figures out she's been working too hard on what other people want and decides to figure out what she actually wants, or when she graduates from college and has to get a real job with benefits and has to wake up and function all day un-hungover and sustained by more than just cigarettes to keep her health insurance. So I guess for me this essay sounded more a genre I'd like to read more of: MPG coming of age (better late than never) stories.

Daisy Razor

@yeah-elle I wish there was a "print out and frame" option for this comment.

iceberg

@yeah-elle Totally totally valid, I definitely respect your viewpoint and largely I do agree with you.

yeah-elle

@Emmanuelle Cunt I actually agree with you on this—that the language of recovery does not have to appear in works that attempt to remember and capture the "sorrynotsorry" parts of life. I find recovery ideology in these pieces to be kind of tiresome, even. But I think honesty is key, and this didn't feel honest to me. The true strength in depicting "sorrynotsorry" pasts is how little you can be sorry about the really unsavory parts—how bad things can be and how little you care about it. And this, to me, just glossed over the really bad parts.

Judith Slutler

@yeah-elle True. I think very few writers can actually push through to that. Was it David Carr who wrote that memoir about his addiction? I remember hearing him reading excerpts of that when it came out and just, damn.

queenofbithynia

@Emmanuelle Cunt yep. I have to be careful how I say this lest I come across as some kind of Catlizabeth Marnelwurzel person, but I don't want to read in a world where women have to grovel and apologize for every adventure they have and ritualistically display every wound they receive. Women can actually get hurt and still be ok in the end without being so many manic pixie broken blossoms.

lora.bee

@queenofbithnynia I agree with this, but this piece to me seemed less of 'here is an adventure I had' and more 'O! look at how young and tragic but beautiful and wild we were'. I feel like this is something I would have wanted to write about myself when I was fifteen, before I actually had an idea of what this lifestyle would be like. It reads a bit cliche to me (not so much the points about their relationship, but the writing). I think it's possible to be "young and darling and wild" without having to work in a strip club, have eating disorders, smoke packs of cigarettes, etc etc.

yeah-elle

@queenofbithynia I agree, but to me, this essay actually rang more on the side of the "broken blossoms" trope. I would have preferred that she unapologetically laid bare how bad it gets, how much she didn't care, rather than glossing it over in favor of "we drank so much wine, smoked so many cigarettes, I was so thin, the world was our reckless oyster of free drinks" flowery prose.

queenofbithynia

@lora.bee & I in turn agree with this! But I can't take any of that as a downside, I love all that shit. I really highly value writing about teenage-ish sensibility that doesn't protect itself with a distancing shield of ha-ha-look-how-dumb-I-was.

Miss Maszkerádi

@queenofbithynia "I don't want to read in a world where women have to grovel and apologize for every adventure they have and ritualistically display every wound they receive. Women can actually get hurt and still be ok in the end without being so many manic pixie broken blossoms."

THANK YOU. Exactly my reaction. My life is nothing like this piece and I don't think I would want it to be, but I'm not going to clutch my pearls over it and demand she think of the Message She Is Sending To Impressionable Young Girls or whatever.

iceberg

@yeah-elle I liked reading this but I also would like to read that.

Slapfight

@Countess Maritza Yeah, I really enjoyed the writing here. To me it read as darkly tongue in cheek. Like the abusive boyfriend basically said "she was jealous because she was fat," just came across as such dry commentary from someone who's not quite finished picking at her scabs.
Damn. The Hairpin's making me have so many FEELINGS lately. FEELINGS. Ew.

Slapfight

@Slapfight And obviously thinks he's a raging douche. He's rainforest fresh scent.

Liz81

@queenofbithynia Unrelated, but now I want to have a daughter and name her Catlizabeth.

frenz.lo

Oh, relax, everybody. It can't all be interviews with virgins around here.

frenz.lo

@frenz.lo Virgins interviewing Anne of Green Gables. About cats. (OK, well, I would read that, though.)

Emby

@frenz.lo Change that to "About Cat Marnell" and we've arrived back at this article!

frenz.lo

@Emby I tell you what, though, at least our girl Cat Marnell writes about herself (though perhaps it would be better if she did not, etc.) This, though. There is a subgenre of blog posts/articles/essays about "The Beautiful Doomed Friend of My Youth," which might be compelling taken one at a time but add up to kind of a boring trope if you spend too much time reading first person essays. I think there was one on here or the Awl not long ago, about "Bad News Brenda." All of our doomed and beautiful friends of youth are alike, you know? "X was soooo beautiful. People thought X was a slut...and I'm not saying she ain't!!! But she wanted to hang out with ME. Then I grew up, and X stayed behind in neverland, essin' dee and doing street drugs. I think there is a lesson in X's life for ME."
So, yeah, I think there are legitimate gripes with post (my own gripes, obviously, are legitimate, guys,) but the whole "Who even lives like this? They are doing unhealthy things!" criticism doesn't really resonate with me.

Emby

@frenz.lo Yeah, you're right. I think my (and perhaps others') reactions were a sort of piling-on directed at the trope of this. Because you nailed it, we've read this story before. Now, the writing itself is gorgeous. I'm actually glad to have read it. But I've also known people like this, and the barter system goes like this: For the price of being utterly fascinated by them, they will acknowledge your existence and worth.

queenofbithynia

@frenz.lo yeah I think it would be super super shitty to think you were somebody's trainwreck best friend and find out later you were just a catalyst for their personal development and a symbol of their youth. But I mean, Brideshead, like she says in the piece, right? Charles ditched Sebastian for Julia and not just because Sebastian fell apart and it didn't make a whole lot of sense there either. At least this boy she married wasn't Tina's beautiful brother.

frenz.lo

@queenofbithynia I would like to read the essay by someone about the mousy friend of their youth who followed the writer around wringing their hands and interfering with the writer's shoplifting. "The other day, as I was waiting at a railroad crossing in a burning convertible, a boxcar rolled by, and an old acquaintance yelled from the door that X works in HR for a credit card company now, and has a golden retriever. 'She is active in her book cluuuuuuuub,' I thought I heard him say as the train rolled out of sight. I shed a single tear, and reflected on the choices of our youth. Would we have chosen differently if we knew we were playing for keeps? Nothing gold can stay. Then I noticed my face was on fire, so I opened a bottle of indeterminate pills and went on about my day."

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@frenz.lo "She stopped drinking diet soda because of chemicaaaals..."

I think we've all heard this story before, and have been drawn to it. (Angelina Jolie won an Oscar for being this person in 'Girl, Interrupted.') What I enjoyed was the writing. It was snappy.

iceberg

@frenz.lo hahahahahhaa haaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh yes I loved this, but of course the beautiful crazy friend barely even remembers that the mousy one existed once she's out of their sphere. kind of like a wasted goldfish.

PatatasBravas

@frenz.lo You are perfect. Write that story? or that series of vignettes?

frenz.lo

@iceberg I don't know, the answer to how we're actually remembered would probably be pretty surprising to a lot of us. I think part of going through a wild youth like this is extreme narcissism in a way that can translate to not realizing how much impact you have on other people, so while you may think you're the moth drawn to so and so's beautiful flame, so and so might think you were the one who insistently copied her style and then started being kind of mean to her, and might remember you for that reason.

Veronica Lemmons

@frenz.lo Loving this comment...forever.

Michelle LeBlanc@twitter

@frenz.lo i guess i met her at the party pit
she said those kids she's with were sellin' it
and so we sailed off on some separate trips
and she got pinned down at the party pit

Slapfight

@frenz.lo You can keep your virgins. Give me all your sloppy messes. Thanks!

rockproblems

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter Oh my god yes, I was thinking of Holly this entire time!!

wee_ramekin

@frenz.lo She is active in her book cluuuuuuuub....

This might be the funniest comment I have read on the Hairpin in at least the last six months. When I read it, I was alone in my house, and ended up howling with laughter by the end. #WomanLaughingAloneWithComputer

Genghis Khat

I have no idea how the author identifies, but this spoke to me, as a straight woman about what it felt like to be a straight girl falling in love with women in my twenties. It wasn't sexual in any normal way, but it felt exactly like falling in love or having an insane, all-consuming crush.

And yes, these bonds were often intensified with alcohol and smoking ALL the cigarettes and mutually affirming one another's poor life choices.

I'm glad my life is less chaotic now, but I am still so very attracted to this kind of love. It's the most powerful and most reciprocated love I've ever had in my life.

thelittledeath

@Genghis Khat - Thank you! Me too! I had a relationship like this, as well. There was a moment that was akin to the author's crossing the street. You can never really go back after that. We were incredibly close for 6-7 years, and then it ended because of someone else's sabotage. I remember the feeling of complete and utter betrayal that the word of a mere acquaintance was taken over mine. Years later, overtures were made, apologies given and accepted, slates washed off (but never clean, not completely). We still chat occasionally on FB, and talk about how we really need to have a real conversation, but it never happens. She has good things happening in her life, as do I, for which I'm grateful.

highjump

@Genghis Khat Replace cigarettes with more alcohol and welcome to my life. I would like to dial back the instability in these kinds of relationships (as another pinner said yesterday, intensity does not equal intimacy) but I really don't want to give them up. Like, when I read above that the all in one bed like zonked out toddlers era ends it made me sad. I never want it to end! I guess it is good that my job makes these kinds of relationships highly likely, though for briefer periods of time than discussed here.

Genghis Khat

@highjump Yeah, there a deep part of me that does believe intensity=intimacy, but I have started to think it's a self destructive part. But I can't deny the appeal.

I loved the all in one bed toddlers thing too. I also really miss the physical intimacy. So much hair touching and cuddling. Sigh.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Genghis Khat It is intense and magnetic! That's the appeal. Double sigh.

sophia_h

@Genghis Khat Reading this was kind of insightful for me not because of my own teens and twenties but because I think this is something like how my younger sister's life has been. She doesn't do anything harder than alcohol and certainly would never strip, but I recognized friends of hers I vaguely know in here, and I think she's lived basically on the edge of this sort of enticing disaster always. She's got a pretty together and grown up life now, but some of those intensely-close friends of hers are still in the middle of it.

Mila

@Genghis Khat It is like the bestworst of friendship. I had a best friend at the end of high school and into college who I loved with such an intensity and it was in many ways very, very unhealthy and codependent. We were totally accepting of each other's TERRIBLE life choices, even perhaps encouraging of them. But we both were struggling with horribly dysfunctional homes, and connected at the low points of our depression/suicidal periods, and we saved each other from ourselves. And then we needed people to save us from each other, since what we had wasn't remotely functional either. Our friendship started to crumble when I met my husband, and she was so afraid I would love him more than her that she started pushing me away, and ended for good when she married her abusive dude and I let him pull us apart because I couldn't handle having a friendship like that anymore. We reconnected many years later when we were both a lot more sane (I HOPE!). Now we are just 30-something ladies exchanging baby pictures and parenting advice. And I still sometimes try to explain to my husband how that crazy, crazy friend he met a few times meant so, so much to me and how I am more grateful to her for loving me and making me feel worthy of being loved.

like a rabid squirrel

@Genghis Khat Truly, some of my biggest loves and heartbreaks have been these intense female friendships that I formed in my teens and twenties. There are some guys mixed in there but the ones that still smart are women who I shared my every secret with who then drifted away (generally because one of us was more "responsible" than the other and decided to take a different direction than whatever self-destructive bent we were on).

katieeitak

This is exactly what being in love and being in your early twenties and being pretty crazy is. I didn't do any of this stuff, but also I did.

MaxBraverman

I hope eating is fun and sexy for you now.

weebleswobble

@MaxBraverman

I like your username :)

gobblegirl

Ugh.

cosmia

@gobblegirl Haha, right? I stopped reading after the third paragraph. I could've played the "beautiful angry early 20s artistic angst" drinking game and gotten smashed by then.

LeafySeaDragon

*sobs*

this brought me so hard to a freind of my youth who i watched destroy herself. we were good freinds, but she'd constanty cycle me out to the second group because she'd be surrounded by fun crazy dangerous friends. she was so beautiful and crazy and fearless. to be fair i'm sure she didn't think much of my choices either.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

I enjoyed the writing. It's interesting how people dance around the line of loving and enabling a person. I think we all learn about this at some point or another.

Cawendaw

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Odd, my issue was mostly with the writing. It felt like Daria dressing up as Anais Nin dressing up as Walt Whitman trying to do an impression of Hemingway.

Cawendaw

Or possibly a pacifist Frank Miller.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Cawendaw Hahaha, yes, well, maybe some of us enjoy such layered costuming/cross-dressing.

Cawendaw

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose
"I've always wanted to fuck Anais Nin disguised as Virginia Woolf channeling Aphra Behn being mistaken for e e cummings performing a ventriloquist's doll of Sylvia Plath communicating the unsaid words of Audre Lorde through interpretive dance."
"Dahling, even if I had sex with men for money - like my dear friend Collette, there, who is closer to me than a sister or a lover in ways you couldn't possibly imagine - you couldn't pay me to fuck you if you were dressed as Ellery Queen aping Oscar Wilde imitating T. S. Eliot wearing a skinsuit made from Salman Rushdie, J. D. Salinger, and Ayn Rand."
"I don't know how I'd ever do something so gauche. Why, Ellery Queen was a collective pseudonym for-"
"Shut up and kiss me, you fool!"

aphrabean

@Cawendaw HA! I think I might love you.

jule_b_sorry

@Cawendaw I've changed my mind - I now like this essay, but only b/c it inspired this comment, which is just about the best thing I have ever read.

RNL
RNL

My Tina was called Nancy.

muggles

How intense of an Anais Nin costume would you have to have in order for someone to identify you as such at a casual Halloween party??

D.@twitter

@muggles Right? I'm sort of confused at the milieu...strung out and broke--but not THAT broke--and apparently well-versed in philosophy.

Cawendaw

@D.@twitter And how many philosophy professors could you realistically meet in one place?

martinipie

@Cawendaw and D.@twitter I take it neither of you went to a small isolated liberal arts college...

Miss Maszkerádi

@D.@twitter It slowly dawned on me that this all took place in Germany - gigantic stereotypes ahead, but I always think of Germany as a land of philosophy dorks, where a public figure getting stripped of their PhD is a major public scandal the madness of which can only be matched in America by sleeping with someone inappropriate.

Cawendaw

@Countess Maritza Wait, so it's a piece about a Manic Pixie Dream Girl she met while Living Internationally?

finguns

@muggles I've been to a few costume parties that sound similar in the town where I went to college -- parties where people might actually think it clever to dress up like Anais Nin or a moral imperative (seriously). They all had those "Hello my name is. . ." stickers as an additional clever, ironic touch, so it was pretty clear to everyone what your costume was.

Minx

@Countess Maritza But she said it was in Denver.

Angry Panda

@Countess Maritza Wait, this took place in Germany? That makes sense. I've been wondering why she used "borrowed me", which I've only heard used in Europe.

ATinySpark

@muggles @minx Totally not Denver, even though she says it was. More likely Fort Collins, where Colorado State is--there's a part of town there known as Old Town and no such place in Denver or Boulder.
--A Denverite

Miss Maszkerádi

@Minx I apparently fail at reading comprehension - maybe Tina was German. There were references to Germany and Tina being a good German girl. OK, going to go soak my head again.

D.@twitter

This is the sort of thing I would have /loved/ as a teenager, that age when you feel like you're just on the cusp of something grand. For the first paragraph at least. Now, I read this, and I think a) "Where were these girls' parents??" and b) you only have so much time to get your shit together before your beauty fades and your body breaks down. Take heed, Cat Marnell!
Finally--and this is awful and nitpicky of me, but the editor in me can't help it--the image of a magnet "sucking to" metal ruined the whole thing for me. Not just the inelegant phrasing, but the lack of meaning; I know this is awfully literal of me, but there IS no sucking force in physics. If you want to go that route w/ the metaphor, why not talk about irresistible forces or immutable laws or something?

Cawendaw

@D.@twitter Also, "strait out of Auschwitz" and "borrowed me her thong."
I honestly have zero issues with glorifying disordered living, but you'd better proofread it first!
ETA: Although, reading Countess Maritza's comment above, maybe English is not her first language? Still, if you're submitting something for publication you could have it looked over by a native speaker.

olivia

@D.@twitter Yeah this reads like something a high schooler writes trying to be deep.

lasso tabasco

@Cawendaw I don't think that's the problem. I live in the Midwest and it is common for people to say someone "borrowed" them something, instead of "lent".

sox
sox

@olivia Yeah, I think I threw away a couple notebooks worth of this sort of wistful, contrived stream of consciousness meets story.

Which brings me to: the wistful tone if this reminded me of all those Carrie Bradshaw wonderings from yesterday, and then I couldn't help but wonder (heh) if Carrie is something of a manic pixie dream girl with her habitual overspending on lavish fashion costumes and cocktails, contrasted by adorably Luddite tendencies and slightly flawed beauty... Or at least that there are levels of the MPDG idea and to see where I got caught up in the romance of it for that brief period of time when I watched the series.

But overall? In a constructively critical way, I don't think this quite lives up to the quality of writing usually featured here. It feels underdeveloped.

Cawendaw

@sox It Happened To Me: I Wrote A Piece Where I Told Anecdotes About My Friend Rather Than Examine My Own Behavior Or Give Any Coherent Idea Of Who I Am As A Person Not A Window Through Which We Might View My Beautiful Friend, And Also Refused To Really Examine Who My Friend Was As A Real Person Either, Preferring To Revel In Her Position As Goddess Of My Own Personal Mythology

sox
sox

@Cawendaw And that's when I clicked close tab.

Minx

@D.@twitter "Where were these girls' parents??"

Actually, from the little bit that I've observed people like this, it seems that part of the problem is precisely the lack of a stable family unit. There hasn't been a sound model for avoiding abusive relationships, caring for your own well-being, or living a more stable life.

cosmia

@D.@twitter Thanks for articulating all the reasons why I don't like and am sick of pieces like this in a way that's better worded than anything I could've done!

wharrgarbl

@Cawendaw It says "borrowed me a thong" though, so it's possible that Tina secured the loan of an appropriately-sized thong from another dancer.

Cawendaw

@wharrgarbl @lasso tabasco Ok, I guess borrow/lend is such a common goof when speaking in second languages (I've mixed it up, and so did a lot of my students) that I was primed to assume it was a second language thing.

Dimples

This story isn't bad, but it really needed an editor. I was intrigued enough to keep reading but found the ending too ambiguous. Someone needed to tell this fine writer that there were a lot of holes in the story, and the holes don't make it seem sophisticated. They make the piece seem amateurish. Signed, An Editor

melis

"Mr. and Mrs. Kerngall?"

"Yes?"

"You're Tina's parents, is that right?"

"Yes, that's right. How is she? It's been hours and no one will tell us anything."

"Mr. and Mrs. Kerngall - you are, I believe, aware that your daughter is a very beautiful woman?"

Mrs. Kerngall blushes, then goes white. Mr. Kerngall presses a hand slowly against his lips.

"Tina's pretty. She's always been pretty -"

"But just regular pretty, not beautiful, I wouldn't say too beautiful, no -"

The doctor raises a hand. "Please. Let's not mince words."

They fall silent.

"Your daughter is - was - always has been too beautiful to live."

"That's not true, it isn't true, she's a perfectly lovely girl but she isn't -"

"Mrs. Kerngall."

Silence again.

"You were very lucky to have had her as long as you did."

"No. No. No. No. No."

"We did everything we could."

"Oh, God. Oh, God. My baby. My baby girl."

"Her face was so symmetrical. Her hair was...those levels of volume and luster simply aren't sustainable. There was nothing we could do by the end."

"Tina!"

"She was too bangin' to survive. I'm sorry."

olivia

@melis LOLOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLL

PatatasBravas

@melis I'VE MISSED YOU SO MUCH

melis

@PatatasBravas sup pb how you doin

OxfordComma

...

I wish I did have a story like this, about being beautiful and thin and desirable.

If I did, I don't think I would want to be shamed by it--
at least, if I grew the fuck up after that period.

...

I think wanting to be desirable is a universal human emotion,
and that, any rate, is true in this narrative.
I don't believe it needs a Wheel of Morality in order to strengthen and/or excuse it.

Inkling

@OxfordComma
My boytoy's years-long toxic obsession was like this. One of those blonde ladies who are all lipstick and starlet sunglasses and cigarettes and crying while looking bony and complicated relationships with dead fathers and definitely beautifully dead before a gross age like 30.
Recently I felt jealous of that kind of lifestyle. I think it's the passion? Maybe we feel like we're not so passionate, at least not in society where people can see us being passionate.
Oh, and I feel like making incredible friends is greatly aided by experiencing danger, arousal rates going up, protecting one another, etc.

OxfordComma

@Inkling : Yes! It's a state of tension, wanting passion and impetuousness and danger, but on the other hand, knowing that we need to pay rent, bills, get a good job, save for retirement--be responsible and logical.

They just don't get along together very well, those things.

Inkling

@OxfordComma
Late reply to ya but Hootie and the Blowfish "Let Her Cry" just came on and that always reminded me of that toxic creature/girls like her. Is that like Their Song is there a better one??

machinesss

Mmm I keep trying to write a reply but I'm too tired to get my thoughts together. I had a period of my life that was very similar to this, and although sometimes I romanticize the events and the intensity, it quickly became painful and exhausting and empty and holy fuck I'm glad it's over.

Hellcat

@machinesss I was struggling with that same issue to say the same thing. And I too am glad it's over. I think if I were still friends with that person, I would never have gotten my shit together and neither would she (which she has since).

Minx

This felt like a shorter, contemporary version of Breakfast at Tiffany's, only not QUITE as well-written (some grammar issues and events that were ambiguous to the point of being confusing). But I did mostly enjoy it. It was sad though. Stories of adventurous but self-destructive people are always so sad. They're fascinating but they leave you feeling so empty.

MashaNigel

I know this isn't the sort of thing that comes with interview citations or cross-references, but it's bothering me how it's about Tina The Concept, not necessarily Tina, A Person. Especially the bit at the end where it's just decided that Tina never forgave her for (the thing the author has decided provides a dramatic breaking point), regardless of anything she did afterward.
I understand the impulse to sort of retcon personal history - really! And in the course of gaining that understanding, I got really quite sick of it. (really, literally, my-stomach-hurts-now sick of it.)

cosmia

Stories about people like this just make me want to take a nap and go grocery shopping. I've also never quite understood why people like this want to be walking cliches.

olivia

@cosmia YES. Walking cliche is spot on! Too lazy.

tea sonata

I like the writing. This piece resonated. However, it didn't grab me by the shoulders and shake me because it just described me age 16-22. I felt myself nodding, going "uh huh", "oh yeah", "mm hmm" too often.

My Tina's were Molly and Natalie, and they're still at it.

Diana

I can't think of a better example of how I have changed as a person than that instead of thinking, "Oh, this reminds me so strongly of the old Francesca Lia Block books I loved and aspired to when I was younger," I just thought, "What the hell has happened to the editing at the Hairpin? Typos and homophones abound!"

sparrow303

I loved this so hard!! I spent last summer trying to do basically your younger-self life, and I sort of succeeded? But like commenters above have said, it was tiring. As glamorous as I felt, making bad choices, I'm much comfier (and better rested) now that I'm being more of a homebody.

PS I am WAY too old to be able to write this comment. My wild period came after I was old enough to know the choices were bad? At least I don't regret them.

But anyway, I really enjoyed your writing, as well as your use of segmenting here.

catalina

THERE WAS SOMETHING IN THE AIR THAT NIGHT
THE STARS WERE BRIGHT
FERNANDO

THEY WERE SHINING THERE FOR YOU AND ME
FERLIBERTY
FERNANDO

resonant

ATinySpark

A) Totally not Denver, no such place as Old Town here.
B) The narrative arc here is totally lost in extraneous, repetitive "hot mess" details and parts told out of order, and not in a Tarantino way that leaves you saying "AH..." at the end. This could have been half as long and way more focused--it's going too many directions at once. Maybe that's the point? She's all over the place writing like she was an all over the place hot mess in her 20s? Still doesn't make for good writing.

'riel

I think I wanted this kind of lifestyle for two seconds as a teenager and then I read I Capture the Castle and everything tilted back correctly to its proper place.

I'd really, really rather have Cassandra Mortmain's romantic life than this jaded, destructive one.

rockproblems

Of all the typos in this piece, "white whine riesling" is my favorite.

AnalogMetronome

@rockproblems I didn't take that to be a typo, I thought it was a small glimmer of self-awareness disguised as a pun. Actually though.

PS - You have the best username/picture. A+.

wee_ramekin

"Picking the boy and leaving the girl."

This. Yup.

It broke my heart in my earlier twenties every time a friend got a boyfriend, because I knew that the friendship wouldn't be the same any more.

And I'd feel the loss of my friend so acutely, and I'd fume silently (and sometimes, not so silently) and sulkily about it. A good part of my early therapy sessions were spent raging against the inevitable truth that your friends are one day going to exchange the closeness and intimacy of your platonic friendship for a romantic relationship.

TBH, this feeling still happens now that I'm older, but on a much lesser and less intense scale. I've learned to accept it as the price we pay for being Grown-Ups; I'm not happy about it, but I know now that it's the way things are. I know it's childish, but I do wish we lived in a world where you didn't have to pick.

bananalise

@wee_ramekin Yessss this. I have been on both sides of this so many times, but primarily on the being-left side, so that the few instances when I've picked the boy I've felt...cosmically justified and forgiven? Or like it was inevitable?
Mostly, I'm constantly wondering why romantic loves always always trumps platonic love from the time you leave childhood to the time you enter old age. Like it's our mission to retreat from these friendships into our separate corners of us-against-the-world couplehood. It seems like we should have figured this one out by now.

Liz81

@bananalise I always hated this. I loved my college friends, and sometimes when one of us got a boyfriend, they'd disappear on the others. And that hurts.

But I feel like, as I continue into my early thirties, I've gotten a bit better at it. Once you're out of college, it takes a bit more effort to stay close with your girlfriends. But it can happen. And if none of you have heinous, possessive boyfriends/husbands who want to be EVERYTHING to their significant other, you can maintain both "boy" and "girl" relationships, and have strengths in both.

I live with my boyfriend. He's great. I spent a week with old grad school friends in January, am going to fly to see one over spring break (I work at a college--I'm not an undergrad in my early thirties, to be clear), and I'm going to another's out-of-town baby shower in April.

Sometimes I have to be the one to carry the contact. Sometimes I have to remember to make the phone calls to say hi, to send the emails. But that's okay, people get busy. I don't take it personally. Other times, they call me more often.

The one thing is, none of these women are dramatic, damaged sorts like Tina in the above piece. I don't think it'd be so easy to maintain a friendship when you've drastically changed what your lifestyle is like, and your friend hasn't. That's what I think is going on in this article.

Danzig!

I can't tell if I'm devastated more by the quality of this piece or the fact that it makes the one I've been slaving over for weeks silly and redundant

Time to drink

*e wow sometimes I forget how many bitter English majors lurk about on the Awl network. Dodging bullets today

Cawendaw

@Danzig! Actually, as I was recalling my various Best Worst people, I did find myself wondering how your fabulist piece was coming. So, I'm looking forward to it, at least.
Also from the quality of your comment writing I think you probably would know better than to write something like "I went to that black lit land where pale breasts bloom under strobe lights, multiplied and multiplied in a maze of mirror walls and slick reflective poles."
I'm sorry, I guess mean-spirited Wednesday came on a Thursday for me this week, and was entirely concerned with this piece.

Danzig!

@Cawendaw That is cumbersome language! But I can get plenty cumbersome myself, what with all my visual metaphor. I had a draft that I scrapped because it was like 60% imagery.

Also I was not aware that Wednesday was when you're supposed to be mean. I've been planning my sass by the wrong calendar, it seems.

Danzig!

@Cawendaw okay wait a second wait a second I sent this piece to a friend and she pointed out that the landmarks (Old Town, Tony's bar) in the article are from our town, and she thinks this IS about our woman. Seems a stretch to me, but man that would be a mindfuck.

Gonna see if I can't email the author to allay our fears.

Cawendaw

@Danzig! Whaaaaaaaaaaat

Danzig!

@Cawendaw It has to be. It HAS to be. MotherFUCKER

Cawendaw

@Danzig! *head explodes*
WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE ISLAND

Cawendaw

Well... I... but...
Now I want to read your piece even more, because as I posted I didn't like this one and would appreciate a piece about this person that was *actually somewhat about* this person, and also didn't make me groan, but on the other hand from an objective point of view it seems kind of eeegh to publish two pieces from two people about the personal demons of one person.

magnificentjane

So. Fucking. Good.

nomorecheese

For a few years, I used to live like this. Only I wasn't a sex worker, I was a college student. It rings very very true to me. I had those friends, and then not at all. That's how quickly those friendships dissolve once you cease to live the way they do. Now that I have a boyfriend and I've graduated, things are very very different. But not a day goes by where I don't go back to the summer of 2010 when I was 21, thin, free and heartbroken and doing whatever the hell I wanted to.

tuitui

This was me, 16 - 22 or so. Without the stripping but yes, this was me and my best girl friend. Then I was a crazy expat. Now I don't drink and I do yoga every day and I have a cute apartment. And I've loved all of these selves so very, very much!

kenterese

You describe this time--a time I think each one of us has had in our early adult lives whether or not we were a stripper or worked at a library (me)--the elation and the heartbreak so so so fucking well.

whimseywisp

This was wonderful. Thank you for sharing something so personal with us.

...
...

"When I saw her last she was stuffing flyers into envelopes for a living." = Tina now works at a non-profit. And maybe she has friends who realize that she's an actual human being.

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