Archives For Sad

So yeah, I haven’t been around for a while. This is why.

Over the past several months my dad braved a massive onslaught—the evil ravages of severe COPD, liver disease, bladder cancer, and a handful of other medical problems. He had an astonishingly strong constitution but he was so tired from fighting such a difficult battle. Dad died on Saturday morning, October 11th, 2 months and 13 days short of his 76th birthday.

I was with him during his final days. We talked, we even laughed a few times, and I told him everything I wanted him to know. I also said I’d be pissed if he didn’t stop by every so often to haunt us and fuck with our lights.

We weren’t with him when he died—I think he wanted to check out on his own, without us hovering. I know he’s happy to be free of all that illness bullshit. I know because when my mother called to say he had just died, I felt a cloud of energy wrap itself around my head and shoulders like a shawl—it was full of happiness, relief, love, and peace. It was Dad, without a doubt, letting me know he was fine now. I couldn’t stop smiling for several hours after that. That was his final gift to me.

Everything looks strange, as if viewed through a filter or from a warped angle. I can look at something blue and know that it’s blue, but the color doesn’t look right somehow. Objects appear closer or further away than they actually are. My normal surroundings look familiar but foreign. The reality sometimes slams me out of the blue: Dad is really gone. It helps me to know he’s okay but it doesn’t keep me from crying.

Anyway, enough about me. This is about my dad. And in honor of his 100% Irish ancestry, his twisted sense of humor, and his fondness for the occasional cocktail or two, I’m holding a virtual Irish wake for him, where we’ll eat, drink, celebrate his life, and tell some stories. He’d like that.

So help yourself to some refreshments, mingle with the other guests, pour your favorite tipple—gin, tea, soda, beer, whatever—and let me tell you a few Dad stories.

For starters, Dad had the best poker face of anyone I’ve ever known. It’s a shame he didn’t actually play poker because he could have cleaned up and retired early. Between the poker face and the gravitas in his voice, he could have you believing almost anything he said.

When we were at restaurants, he liked distracting me during dessert so that I’d look away. When I looked back, my dessert would be gone. As I got older I became wise to this ploy. Mostly. One night he sat across from me and stared behind me. With a perfectly straight face and a calm voice he said, “Isn’t that strange…a three-headed man just walked in the door.” Mind you, I wasn’t a little kid at the time; I was about 16 and knew there was no such thing as a three-headed man. I said to myself, I am not turning around, he’s just messing with me again, I am NOT turning around…  But his expression of curiosity and confusion would have convinced even a seasoned FBI profiler to check it out. What choice did I have? Of course I turned around. And of course there was nothing there. When I turned back, Dad had my chocolate pudding and a shit-eating grin on his face.

Then there was the time he had Army recruiters calling me. Those of you of a certain age will remember those business reply cards inserted in magazines, where you could send away to the Army, Navy, etc., for information on enlisting: Yes, please send me some materials on joining the United States Army. Dad filled one out with my name and contact information. I was 12 at the time. He figured they’d send me some brochures and it would be a good laugh and that would be that. Little did he know then that the gag would go even better than he expected; one night I received a call from a sergeant at our local Army recruiting office. I stammered through the call, trying to discourage the sergeant from having any further interest in me without disclosing that, you know, I was only 12 and my dad was just fucking with me. Dad was tickled pink that his prank yielded a bonus prank. He would talk about that sergeant for years. “That poor bastard…” he’d say.

Like most dads, mine had many words of wisdom. One of my favorites was the way he explained why he didn’t put any stock in UFO sightings:

“Think of the advanced technology required to travel light-years to earth. Now if you’re an alien that advanced, why would you fly all the way over here just to fuck around and play UFO??”

He was nothing if not practical.

Dad was a good-natured guy and very charming when he wanted to be. The nurses in the ICU said he was their favorite patient because he was pleasant and funny and never complained unless he was really in discomfort. That’s how he was. He didn’t make a fuss and he didn’t need anyone fussing over him.

Two days before he died, he said Mr. Weebles and I should have some fun while we were there (my parents retired to Florida, as all New Yorkers are required to do). He told us to go to Universal or Disney but urged us to avoid the new Harry Potter rides at Universal because he heard they were still ironing out some mechanical difficulties. Unbelievable. The Grim Reaper was pulling up to the curb and there was Dad making theme park recommendations. As if I’d leave him to go stand on line with a bunch of sniveling kids, obnoxious adults, and teenagers wearing TURN DOWN FOR WHAT t-shirts. As if I’d leave him to do anything.

For as long as I can remember, every phone call with my dad concluded with both of us saying, “Okay, talk to you later. Hug.” I don’t know how it started but it lasted right up to our last phone conversation—with him being 75 years old and me 46, we still said, “Okay, talk to you later. Hug.”

Here’s to you, Dad. Here’s to everything you were, and are. I love you, and I miss you. Talk to you later. Hug.

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I don’t want the comment thread to turn into a pile of maudlin. I’d rather continue the celebratory vibe, so I invite you to share a funny anecdote about one of your dearly departed loved ones.

Also, what’s that fragrance you’re wearing today? I find it especially provocative.

What you don’t see

Madame Weebles —  January 8, 2014 — 398 Comments

The other day I was minding my own business, waiting on a subway platform. Three girls, about 15 years old, were about to pass me, and they were looking my way. One of them pointed at me and said, “You’re FUNNY looking!” She and her compatriots roared with laughter because this was the most hilarious thing ever.

Fortunately for them I was caught off guard and I didn’t react. If I had, their delightfully charred remains would have been scattered across the third rail. Alas, I hadn’t expected to be zinged by a trio of idiot adolescents, so I was unprepared. I just stood there, speechless and confused.

I confess, I do not have a thick skin. What can I say, I might be foul mouthed and full of piss and vinegar, but I’m also a dainty little blossom. (Fuck you, stop laughing.)

And because I’m a delicate flower, my first instinct was to cry big sobby tears and hide my face in shame.

"Hello. My name is Madame Weebles. I am very pleased to meet you."

Hello. My name is Madame Weebles. I am very pleased to meet you.

My second instinct was to come out swinging.

"I'm funny looking how, I mean, funny looking like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny looking, funny looking how? How am I funny looking?"

I’m funny looking how, I mean, funny looking like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny looking, funny looking how? How am I funny looking?

But by that time it was too late to do anything. The train arrived and that was that.

For the record, I don’t think I’m funny looking. I don’t have any extra limbs, and my eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are all in the proper places. I don’t notice too many people shrieking and recoiling in horror when they see me. However, I am almost criminally self-conscious about my looks and I always have been. Critiques of my appearance, whether insults from strangers or insensitive comments from people I know, wound me deeply. It’s my Achilles’ heel. I’ve battled with it for as long as I can remember.

I know that looks are the least important thing about a person when it comes right down to it. But for so long, I truly believed that my appearance rendered me inferior, that my value as a human being was directly proportional to my physical attractiveness. I’m fully aware, incidentally, that my mishegas is insignificant in comparison to the difficulties of those who are judged because of their race, disability, sexual preference, or something else that people shouldn’t give a fuck about. And this incident got me thinking about how freaked out I get. It also reminded me of this fantastic post written by the divine Jen Tonic back in 2012, in which she listed five things she loves about herself. It all started coming together for me as I tried to think of even one instance where I benefitted from someone approving of my looks. And you know what? There aren’t any.

I know now what would have been the appropriate response to those silly little creatures. I would have started with a sarcastic slow clap and then launched into my reply:

That was an amazing jab. Well done. You are shockingly clever. Really, congrats.

I don’t give a flying fuck if you think I’m funny looking, dear. I don’t know what you see when you look at me and frankly, it doesn’t matter. Because here’s what you don’t see:

I have a big heart, and I’m caring and kind. So kind, in fact, that I’ve decided not to shove you onto the tracks. I’m a loyal and fierce friend and if you hurt someone I love, I will cheerfully cut out your heart and jam it down your throat. I’ll help people whether I know them or not. I’ll offer my time, energy, money, or a sympathetic ear and/or shoulder to cry on. I don’t care which. Whatever helps, I’ll give.

I’m successful. I don’t mean that in a financial sense. I mean that whenever I’ve put my mind to something, I’ve done it and I’ve done it well. Sometimes I fly by the seat of my pants, but my pants have always landed me in the right place because they’re very good navigators. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, both personally and professionally.

I’m funny. Not funny looking, just funny. Whether I’m writing or talking, I can make almost anyone laugh. I take great pleasure in this. I have a good sense of humor and great comic timing. By the way, your fly is open. Ha, made you look.

I’m smart. As in, answering all the questions on Jeopardy! smart. Finishing the NY Times Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle in pen smart. I know a lot of shit. And if I don’t know it, I learn it really quickly.

I’ve worked hard to improve myself. I learn more every day about what’s important, what isn’t important, and what I’m here on earth to do. I should add that a lot of the credit for this goes to my therapist and to Ben & Jerry. The value of the insight found at the bottom of a pint of Chubby Hubby cannot be overstated.

So go ahead and have a laugh at my expense, Miss Thing. I have a good life and wonderful friends, and I’m going home to my comfy apartment to see my adorable cats and my fantastic husband who loves me no matter what I look like.

And even though looks truly don’t matter, I’ll have you know that strangers often stop me to compliment me on my hair. I have pretty eyes, a hot rack, and an engaging smile, and even though I’m 46, I have not one wrinkle. NOT ONE. Let’s see if you can say the same when you’re my age, little girl.

So put that on your lollipop and suck it.

Lonely among us

Madame Weebles —  December 3, 2013 — 209 Comments

The holidays. For many, they’re not cloyingly sweet happyfests like on the Hallmark Channel. No, for a lot of people, ’tis the season to be lonely. Loneliness is probably as old as time itself but I suspect it’s more virulent now than in days of yore.

First, let’s get one thing straight: Being lonely is very different from being alone. You can be both, but not necessarily. You don’t have to be alone to be lonely, and you don’t have to be lonely when you’re alone.

Loneliness hurts, emotionally and physically. Several months ago, Mr. Weebles was telling me about a thread on an online forum he reads regularly. This particular thread was about doctors who work in the ER. One post was from a doctor who had a patient come into his ER at 4am with a triage complaint of “lonely.” That broke my heart—the idea of someone suffering so much that they needed to go to the ER. Were they in that much pain? Or were they desperate for someone to talk to, for any sort of companionship? Or both? I don’t know what happened to this person but I hope he or she is okay.

There have been times when I’ve felt so lonely that I thought it would crush me. Sometimes while I was living by myself, sometimes while I was living with others. I can’t decide which is worse. On the one hand, when you feel lonely and you live alone, the isolation adds to the feeling that you’re the only person left on earth. On the other hand, when you feel lonely and you live with other people, their presence only exacerbates the pain and disconnection. It sucks no matter what.

Technology has been a major contributing factor in making this modern scourge, this loneliness, so nasty. We’re competing for attention with iPods, smartphones, video games, and the internet, and we’re losing.

Admittedly, through the internet I’ve met excellent peeps I never would have known otherwise. The flip side is that although it can bring us together globally, it separates us locally. We stare at our phones instead of engaging with the humans around us (I have been very guilty of this). We play Candy Crush and send lives to our friends instead of looking people in the eyes and talking to them (again, mea culpa). Blogging, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, internet surfing, IM, texting, whatever. And how many of us have felt lost in the vast sea of statuses and comments everywhere? It feels terrible to be overlooked, and it can happen so easily when people have an unending feed of info. It’s a wild paradox, isn’t it, connecting with others and being completely disconnected at the same time.

Here’s another downside of the internet. It’s VIRTUAL. It’s as real as it can be under the constraints of the various platforms, but it’s not real life.

The virtual world gives you the luxury of portraying yourself as you want to be seen rather than as you are when you’re in the same room with someone, talking in real time. You can choose your words wisely. You can post only about the great things going on in your life (by the way, fuck you, humblebraggers), share inspirational quotes like you’re gunning for Deepak Chopra’s job, and craft beautiful bon mots that showcase your creativity and humor. They don’t tell the full story.

That’s the problem with social media. Unless you’re a witless putz or you genuinely don’t care how you’re perceived, you’re going to put your best foot forward. Anyone who has an online presence isn’t showing you the real deal, no matter how forthcoming they are. Because real life is messy and unedited. You don’t see them struggling for words and saying the wrong things, and you don’t have to experience their unpleasant moods. Take my posts, for instance—I’m generally not an ass online (shut up, I said generally). I may occasionally air my dirty laundry here, but I’m going to make sure it’s well-phrased dirty laundry, and I’m not showing you all of it. I still control what you see, even when it looks as if I’m baring a lot. Like a good strip tease.

Recently I saw a quote that said, “We shouldn’t compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reels.” But that’s exactly what happens: We compare our everyday lives with those highlight reels—the happy photos, the carefully cultivated personas, the thoughtfully written posts, the pithy tweets. It’s easy to start assuming that everyone else has it better, and at some point it might make you feel kind of shitty. And lonely. It’s not that misery loves company; it’s that nobody wants to feel like the only one not invited to the party where everything is amazing. We want to know that we’re not the only ones, that we’re understood and acknowledged.

As I said, the internet has served me extremely well overall. I’ve found so much wonderfulness in the friends I’ve made online, many of whom have become closer to me than people I’ve known for ages in real life. But technology facilitates feelings of rejection and neglect in a way that wasn’t possible before we were all connected by—and to—so many devices. So surf carefully, look around you occasionally, and take everything with a few grains of fleur de sel.

This has been a public service message from the Weebles Wellness Committee. Because Madame Weebles cares and doesn’t want you to wind up in the ER.

Here’s my problem. It’s about the Hershey bar.

Hershey bar

It’s about this.

Like most other red-blooded Americans, I grew up loving Hershey’s chocolate. Regular Hershey bars, Hershey’s with almonds, Hershey miniatures, Hershey kisses, etc. I wasn’t proud, I’d take any variety that crossed my path.

I was indoctrinated at a young age. As a little kid I visited Hershey, Pennsylvania, and toured the factory. I knew S’mores weren’t complete without a few squares of Hershey’s chocolate. And I saw the commercials proclaiming Hershey’s “the Great American Chocolate Bar.” Mr. Hershey put a lot of effort into creating a delicious, affordable milk chocolate bar for us. He was a true American hero.

Original Hershey bar

Giving America cavities since 1900.

So back to my problem.

After more than 20 years of devotion to Mr. Hershey and his fine products, I went to live in London—a Hershey-free zone. I had to go without my favorite chocolate bars. But you know what they say: if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. So I hooked up with Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.

My British friend with benefits.

My British friend with benefits.

My relationship with Mr. Cadbury’s confections felt perfunctory. Mechanical. Our encounters were zipless fucks.

One day I received a package from a friend at home who took pity on me and my Hershey-less existence. He sent me a big box of Hershey bars and Oreos (another delicacy not found in the UK). I was in heaven. And I wanted to share my bounty with my flatmates. One was from Malaysia and the other was from Greece. Neither of them had first-hand knowledge of the joy of the Hershey bar, although they had certainly heard about them. It was my responsibility as a good American to show them some confectionery examples of our global superiority. We went into the kitchen to enjoy the contents of my care package. There was a Dairy Milk bar sitting on the table so we added that to our feast.

It would be the first time I ever tasted the two chocolates side by side. I ate a piece of Cadbury’s first and then reached for a Hershey bar, fully prepared to bask in smug contentedness.

In stark contrast to the Cadbury chocolate, the Hershey bar tasted like what I imagine passed for chocolate in the former Soviet Union. It wasn’t creamy, and it tasted sort of sour and “off” compared to the smooth sweet flavor of Cadbury. How had I not noticed this before?

I was horrified. Was America’s favorite chocolate bar nothing but a poser? I glanced at my companions, hoping they hadn’t noticed my confusion and despair. But they had. They looked at me with the sort of wincing pity usually reserved for someone who just got an awful haircut and wants to be reassured that it doesn’t look that bad.

I felt duped. I had spent my whole life in the North Korea of chocolate, unaware that a vast, glorious world of better chocolate was out there. I had drunk the chocolate Kool-Aid. The Chocolate Emperor Had No Clothes.

But I knew I couldn’t swear off Hershey’s completely. Eventually I’d go back home and it would be everywhere. The honeymoon period was officially over but that didn’t mean we couldn’t still be together. Instead of looking at Hershey bars with blind adoration, I’d treat them as longtime foil-wrapped little spouses. And you don’t leave foil-wrapped little spouses just because they aren’t perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, I still keep Cadbury around. I’m only human, for crying out loud.

The baby squirrel

Madame Weebles —  January 30, 2013 — 218 Comments

It happened on my way home from work one summer night.  I was around the corner from my building.  There were about eight people crowded around a spot on the sidewalk.  I went to investigate.  They were all staring at this little creature, no more than 2 inches long, barely moving.  I couldn’t tell what it was.  A baby rat?  A baby mouse?  Then I heard someone say it was a baby squirrel who had fallen from his nest.  Apparently the squirrel’s nest was on a fire escape several floors above us.

Everyone was just standing there.  Nobody was doing anything to help this poor little thing.  Some evil bastard suggested that someone should stomp on it to put it out of its misery.  I didn’t know what to do but I was furious at how everyone just stood there, staring.  I wanted to scream at all of them:  “What the fuck is wrong with all of you??  This is a living creature who needs help!!”  I don’t remember what I actually said, but I yelled something as I shoved people out of my way to get to the squirrel.  I had some tissues with me and I gently picked him up and wrapped him up in the tissues to keep him warm.  He was so light.  His eyes weren’t open but he moved every so often.

So there I was with this injured baby squirrel.  Now what?  I frantically searched for a working pay phone (this was 1999, pre-cell phone days).  When I found one, I called the ASPCA.  I spoke with a very nice woman who apologetically explained that they didn’t accept squirrels.  I asked if she could suggest somewhere else, but she didn’t know of a place that might be able to help.  By this time I was almost hysterical and I was crying.  I didn’t want this baby squirrel to die.

Then I saw a woman who lived in my building.  She said, “Oh, you know who helps squirrels?  Bernie Goetz.”  Bernie Goetz???  The Subway Vigilante??  The guy who shot some would-be muggers on the subway back in 1984?  My neighbor said Goetz lived nearby and that he was known for rescuing squirrels.  Who knew?  I needed to get his phone number.  Back to the phone booth.

While I was on the line with the operator, I noticed that the baby squirrel had stopped moving.  I looked more closely at him and realized that he was gone.  I thanked the operator and hung up.

I suppose I wasn’t really surprised that the little guy died.  I don’t know how far he fell, but it was far enough that his injuries would have been severe.  I had hoped to get help to him in time, but I couldn’t.  At least he wasn’t alone at the end.  Even if it was a giant creature holding him in a tissue in her hand, he wasn’t alone.

I walked over to Washington Square Park and found a nice tree.  I dug a small hole and buried him.  I’m so sorry, little squirrel.  I wanted so badly to save you.  I’m so sorry you fell from your nest.  I hope you didn’t suffer too much.  I tried, I really did.

I said a little prayer over the tiny grave and cried all the way home.

Weeble Storm Warning

Madame Weebles —  October 28, 2012 — 144 Comments

We interrupt our regular blogging to bring you this special bulletin:

Frankenstorm/Storm of the Century/Stormageddon will be hitting the NYC area tomorrow night and into Tuesday.  Until it hits, I’m going to be spending a lot of time shopping for tiny little life vests for all my Weebles.  Because Weebles wobble but they sink like a stone.

There’s a nearly 100% chance that I’ll be without power for at least 24 hours after the storm hits, and I’m already going into Internet withdrawal just thinking about it.

To everyone living in the path of this little weather phenomenon, stay safe!