When you’re sixteen, you want nothing more than to fit in. You want to hang with the popular girls, know latest gossip, and have a bedroom filled with picture frames that spell out things like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “World’s Cutest Bestie.” You don’t give much thought to life after high school because life after high school doesn’t matter. But the social hierarchies you establish in your youth are the ones you subconsciously carry with you into the continuing chapters of your life. You may get into a great sorority, date a hot law student and even make enough money to finally own a Cabrio, but if you didn’t feel cool in high school, you aren’t going to feel cool anywhere, ever.
When I hit thirty, three things surprised me:
1. I wasn’t dead
2. My legs still looked okay in shorts, and
3. I still desperately gave a shit about what other people thought
Oh, and I guess:
4. I ended up marrying that guy that fucked the pie in those American Pie films (which in a way sort of negates number 3). Nevertheless, I was still pretty much the same girl I always was, minus the Cabrio.
When you’re married, you end up in a lot of situations you purposely avoided when you were single, like business dinners, kids’ birthdays, and game nights. But in relationships you’re forced to compromise. So instead of curling up in bed with season one of Revenge, you pop a Xanax, tell yourself that being unemployed doesn’t make you a failure, and you accompany your spouse to annoying, work-related events.
A few years ago, I was forced to endure a Mexican-themed BBQ at the home of a producer my husband was working with. Like all Mexican-themed BBQs, I had zero interest in attending, partly because it meant interacting with others, and partly because it stresses me out watching people consume massive amounts of carb-ridden margarita mix. But like a good partner, I went.
“You’re gonna owe me for this,” I said to Jason as we pulled up to the Valley of the Dolls valet.
“I promise, this weekend we can eat healthy and do whatever you want,” he assured me as he smacked my nails out of my mouth.
“I have social anxiety and disordered eating! If I want to bite my fingers down to the nub right now, that’s my business,” I balked, sticking my fingers back in my mouth and getting out of the car.
We walked up a long driveway to a gorgeous mid-century home covered in red, white, and green Christmas lights. Two mariachis offered us tequila shots and escorted us in. I slammed my shot and my husband looked at me, pleased.
“I drank a super strong cup of Dieter’s tea with senna in it so anything I eat is just gonna go straight through me,” I explained.
“That stuff makes you shit for days! I told you to throw that out,” he said as his eyes caught the first of many people he’d have to be fake nice to.
I tagged along as we made a loop through the kitchen, into the living room, past the game den, and outside to a long dining table covered in chips and various salsas. The people seated at the table were all notable in some way or another and since I didn’t have any cocaine on me to gain acceptance with, I had no choice but to try and socialize. Which might have worked, if I wasn’t instantly confronted with the question, “Soooo, Jenny, what are you currently working on?” I wasn’t working on anything. In fact, I hadn’t been employed in a year. Feeling more than a little inadequate, I devoured a fist full of carne asadas and tried not to cry.
By the time the dulce de leches arrived, I was three margaritas deep and sandwiched between the hostess, Marlene, and her stylish gay friend, Blue, who wouldn’t shut up about his workout regime.
“I’d be down to go hiking tomorrow morning,” Marlene said excitedly, like exercise was the most fun thing on earth.
“Sting and Trudy have a fitting I have to be at!” Blue pretend cried.
Having been awkwardly quiet for nearly fifteen minutes, I felt the need to contribute before looking like a creepy eavesdropper.
“I’ll go with you,” I clumsily blurted out.
Jason looked at me from across the table, shocked.
“Um, okay,” Marlene reluctantly agreed as she unconsciously looked down to appraise my handbag.
Once we’d left the party and I was home in my duvet cocoon, I started to panic. In less than twelve hours I was going to be hanging out with Marlene. ALONE.
“I’m really proud of you!” Jason exclaimed through his toothbrush, as he got ready for bed.
“What are we going to talk about? I’m totally not cool enough for her. I don’t even own a pair of work out sweats that don’t have period stains on them,” I lamented.
“She’s harmless. You’re going to be fine,” Jason insisted.
The next morning came too quickly. I set my alarm for six but was already up at five with a stomachache I attributed to stress. Marlene showed up at seven in a fitted Stella McCartney tracksuit that screamed “My husband has more money than yours and I don’t even give a shit.”
“You ready?” She asked without setting foot inside my house.
“Sure,” I said, trying to act normal.
We pulled into Malibu National Park, threw our purses in Marlene’s trunk, and started hiking into the abyss.
For the first fifteen minutes, Marlene rambled on and on about progressive schooling while keeping a pace that sort of implied she was trying to ditch me. In between breaths, my stomach grumbled with increasing intensity.
“You okay?” Marlene finally asked when one of my groans interrupted her diatribe about the importance of salad bars in schools.
I wasn’t okay. With each step I could feel the diet tea breaking down last night’s decisions. I tried moving faster in an effort to quell the now intense gargling coming from my intestinal region. Thoroughly weirded out, Marlene looked at her cell phone to check how much longer she’d be stuck with me.
“I think I’m going to–” I started, before lunging for the bushes.
Once hidden from view, I pulled down my pants and started spraying shit. Unable to make out what exactly was happening, Marlene called out, concerned.
“You, um. You want to turn around or something?”
“No! Just go ahead without me. I’ll meet up with you in a few,” I urged as a flood of macerated taco shells spewed from my ass.
When the shitting finally subsided, I looked around for some version of wilderness toilet paper but found nothing. The canyon was especially arid and the only option was a pinecone or a pair of sticks. Grabbing the sticks, I quickly tweezed the remaining feces strands out of my ass, pulled up my period sweats and climbed out of the bushes. Marlene was still standing there.
“Everything better?” she asked disgusted.
“Yeah, I guess, I just… Well I didn’t eat breakfast and…” I muttered trying to look for an excuse as sweat poured down my face.
Just then, a group of teenagers jogged past.
“It smells like shit!” one of the teens exclaimed.
Looking down at my shoes, I realized I’d accidentally Jackson Pollacked my toes with poop. If the teens could smell the shit, so could Marlene. I was mortified.
This time, instead of asking if I wanted to cut the hike short, Marlene just started heading back to her car without speaking.
When we got in the car, my stench only increased. Marlene rolled down her windows and cranked up the radio so we wouldn’t have to talk about why I smelled like poop. As the radio played, a flood of images went through my head. I remembered the time in fifth grade when a popular girl asked me to play after school but was instantly turned off when she saw that I was still riding a banana seat bicycle. I thought about the time in eighth grade when I went to school wearing a giant push-up bra everybody knew wasn’t my real rack, and I thought about the time in high school I was asked to leave a house party because I wasn’t invited. I would have gladly re-lived all of these experiences in exchange for never shitting myself in front of Marlene. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option.
When we pulled up to my house Marlene waved goodbye as I was still sitting next to her. Taking the cue that she obviously didn’t want a hug, I smiled graciously and got out of the car.
“We should do this again sometime,” I said nervously trying to gage if she hated me.
“Totally!” she agreed, in a tone that confirmed she hated me.
I never saw Marlene again but I’m sure she still thinks about me every time she wipes her butt. In a way, the experience opened my eyes to something I’d been refusing to admit since high school. Trying to be cool never ends well.
In retrospect, I should have just shat on Marlene.
Jenny Mollen Biggs is an actress and writer living in Los Angeles with two poodle angel muffins and an asshole miniature pinscher. She also has a husband. Keep up with her at IMDB or on Twitter @jennyandteets.
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Check out Jenny Mollen talking to Dan Savage for National Coming Out Day on Brain Food Daily