Cue the ethereal moaning and roiling fog. Yeah. No. You can have your headless horseman and gnarled-handed specter. Tis the season, yet this ghost story is the stuff of legend. No disembodied voices from my disarming visitor.
It starts at an old hotel in the days leading up to Halloween. Doesn’t a disturbing-and-creepy story often begin in a refurbished historical landmark? Now, the lobby was fresh, and all the way up to the rooms, and the oh, so modern-day amenities. Guests like me enjoyed walk-in showers, Bluetooth Wi-Fi connectivity – all the latest gadgets and comfort at our fingertips. Yet, none of that erases strong cellular memory seeping from the marrow bones of a hundred years of life, love, and loss that was spread and layered over brick and mortar.
There’s no such thing as ghosts. Go ahead, dare them!
I was staying overnight before a job interview because my next day was set to start with a breakfast meeting at o-dark-thirty. That night, I just couldn’t sleep. Kept waking up and seeing the clock tick for minutes then hours; counting sheep didn’t help. We’ve all had those types of nights. Finally, I drifted off sometime around the witching hour.
Sometime around 5:30 in the morning, I woke to something shaking me at the foot of my bed.
I prop myself up on my right elbow, wiping the sleep from my eyes.
What in the … h-e-double-toothpick!
He was just there, standing beside me at the corner of my night stand, wearing nothing but a large, white towel wrapped around his torso.
Grey hair encircles his balding head, wrapping from ear to ear around the back of his skull. It stuck out every which way. He’d obviously just emerged from a sauna. His grey chest hairs covered him like a rug. I swear, I could almost see water droplets trailing down his skin.
“It’s time to get up!” he barks at me, one hand waving in the air. Oh, God in Heaven, please do NOT let go of that towel. Then he turns around begins walking away, shaking his grey head.
Kids, nowadays, I can actually feel him thinking. No discipline. I have a helluva job on my hands.
Hey, wait a minute. I’m not a kid. Uh, well, I guess to him I probably am just a toddler.
He stomps away from me; hard. Heel, toe. Heel, toe. His energy hits the floor with a thunk. Still gripping towel with his left hand, his back to me, he’s muttering things just beyond me – I can’t quite hear what he’s saying. He’s STILL shaking his head, reminding me more than a little bit of Mr. Wilson, the old curmudgeon from Dennis the Menace. He’s about to turn the corner and walk down the entry hall of my room.
I fling back my bed covers. My life depends on it (because it did) and follow him.
“It’s going to be a BIG day!” he squawks out. This time, BOTH of his hands go into the air as if they were exclamation marks. Goal Posts. A referee’s touchdown signal. You get the point.
I see his bare ass as the towel drops to the floor and he pads, scratching an itch right above his right cheek. I’m not kidding. He actually scratched his bare ass. He HAD to know I was watching. Both he and his towel on the floor disappear into thin air!
And, truly, it WAS a BIG day. Anything that happened at my job interview paled in comparison to his wake-up call for me. He is observation was absolutely spot on! I will always remember it.
So, yeah, during this nostalgic, haunted season, be sure to keep your sense of humor. You might just be surprised. And amazed. And laugh your bare ass off!
I sure did!
So, when I was in college, I learned early on that a hallowed sorority sister tradition is to attend Fraternity dances. One of my friends from my pledge class was dating a Sigma Alpha Super God and I was kinda dating another, so those guys all got together and with a few other of my sorority sisters we all went to their Sweetheart Swirl or some such thing that happened after the holiday season. Winter quarter at the university is the longest, and of course during the dreariest season in the Pacific Northwest, so these social “do’s” add a burst of light in a dark time of the year. Yay, us.
Another tradition of these events – one that I’ve adopted into my life, today – is the party-goer pre-function. OMG, these are like the hors d'oeuvres of a meal if applied to the concept an event. Meaning that sometimes the most fun and the best conversations happen at pre-functions, just like the truth that some of the most unique and delightful items on a restaurant menu are offered in the appetizer section.
And well, that was indeed true at this Sigma Super God Sweetheart Swirl event. The group I was part of, well, we held our pre-function in a very non-descript location…hilarious fact of pre-functions, they do not need to be held in fancy digs.
With that in mind we all gathered in one of the frat rooms, wearing our finest dresses. There we were, sitting on desk chairs or bunk beds, sipping cocktails and trying to play it cool. It was awesome. One of the frat guys was fully intent on being the star of the show at our-affair-before-our-affair. Of the frat guys, he may have felt he was in the lower position – he was amid a pretty stellar crowd. One guy was president of the fraternity, another a captain on the football team, and another was a Brainiac. All had bright futures – at least at the time we all thought so.
So, this guy made it his mission to steal the show. He yammered on about this or that and, as these types of guys find out, people started drifting away from him on center stage. We all talked among us girlfriends and got to know each other’s boyfriends. He did not like it one bit.
Reminds me of the story of the Cat in the Hat, funny. Remember, he stole the show by saying to the boy and girl, “let me show you another good trick that I know…” Oh, well, the road to Actual Hell is paved on good intentions. This guy decided to drive there with his foot on the floorboard, driving a ’69 Camaro full of specialty race fuel.
He whips himself over to one of the bunk beds and pulls a photo Christmas card off a corkboard. It featured one of his roommates’ grandmothers; she’d had professional portraits done and then turned one of them into a photo greeting for the holidays. Well, this frat guy...yeah, no.
He’d taken the time to draw a tiny little penis on a post-it note, then cut it out so this anatomically correct little penis, complete with ball sac and pubic hair was strategically placed next to the woman’s mouth on the photo. This guy had even made sure to draw his teensy, little penis on the paper over the sticky part of the post-it note so that it would press-apply to the picture.
He reiterated (for the third time, mind you) that the imagery was, indeed, correctly drawn. From my seat on the bunk bed, I could see the poor fraternity brother whose grandmother’s image was now marred by such vile graffiti. He was nearly chartreuse from embarrassment…or true rage. I’m telling you, if that were me, the only thing that would have kept me from actually decking the guy would have been the fact that there were lovely women present and those women were all dressed in their finest, excited for a fun night, ahead.
In a moment of what I’m sure was inspiration from someone’s guardian angel, an epiphany struck like a tuning fork. Ding. Ding. Here we go.
The words were out of my mouth before I realized they left the thought bubble.
“Well, of course he drew it perfectly,” I blurted out, as if what I were going to say next was a blinding flash of the obvious. “He just traced it.”
Drinks were spilled. Backs slapped. Omigod, the laughter was so raucous, loud, and spontaneous that some present asked for tissue because liquid was snorted up into sinus cavities rather than down the throat. As people mopped up and hiccupped in laughter, it was obvious the entire energy of the room shifted.
The frat boy who did the drawing slinked away. In the appetizer-portion of our night – at the height of our pre-function – this dude was served up his just desserts.
The anatomically correct penis drawing disappeared into thin air. Laughter echoed down the hallway while the frat brothers reveled in re-telling that little scene to those who heard the commotion and burst into the room. Everyone on that floor of the frat house knew the story in about five minutes, flat.
Meanwhile, the other frat brother held onto his grandmother’s photo, now completely penis-free, and quietly slid up to me.
He winked at me. I winked back.
I will go on record as saying that might possibly have been my first official Feral moment. And as we know from the Feral Glossary of Terms, 1st edition, it also marked my release from captivity. I had officially flown the nest. I was just waking up to my own, individual self and identity. It was my second year of living away from home – after that second year at school, I never went back, except for short stays. I was no longer simply a pretty face and Miss Perfect Princess.
I’d entered into the sullied world of well-earned revenge. And, fuck yeah, that felt good.
It still took another twenty years to figure my shit out and fully become my authentic self. However, there were bright moments, like this one. Every once in a while, I would experience brilliant inspiration, interspersed throughout my long gestation to awakening. Only eventually did it lead to pulling up my big girl panties and growing the hell up.
If you’re not there yet, throw a lot of grace around yourself. It’s totally okay. You’ll figure it out.
And it’s important to note that at least for a while, I could NOT take credit for these moments. I’m pretty sure that these were offered up on a silver platter by some guardian angel, spirit guide, or long-gone ancestor who used me as an all-too-willing pawn to mete out their moment in some form or another…even (or especially) at my own expense.
Looking back, I’ve learned that while there are times to bite one’s tongue, to bide our time, and to play the long game, some things just need said – or done. In the moment. Right-the-Hell-then. It’s a mark of true maturity to know the difference in timing of when to shut the fuck up and when to say what needs said or do what needs done, plain and simple.
This is a group of women who have seen some shit and done some shit and have worked their shit out (for the most part). Our pledge is "I promise to each and every sister that I will base our friendship on love, joy, and shenanigans. Alcohol may or may not be involved." Coffee and/or Tea are also perfectly acceptable among the Royal Order. As a helpful resource, this offers a primer of several common terms. I've been promising the sisterhood a compilation as a glossary. Without further ado, ahem, let us begin.
Feral: /ˈferəl,ˈfirəl/ Adjective (especially of an animal, of which, women most definitely are) in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.
"A feral cat, or woman. You decide." adjective
Feral Housewife: /ˈferəl, housˌwīf/ noun A woman whose main occupation is (probably still) caring for her family, managing household affairs, but who has figured shit the fuck out and is nobody’s doormat, and loves herself and knows her worth. And if someone else doesn’t know or appreciate it they can fuck all the way off. Not just a little bit but all the fucking way. Off.
"The term domestic housewife makes me think that there are feral housewives and now I have a completely new goal.” noun
Feralicious: / ˈferəlˈaˈliSHəs/ adjective. Something or someone who is highly pleasant to the taste. Also, the state of knowing one’s own worth, of loving and accepting oneself as is, and as a result, is delightfully attractive and comfortable in her own skin. These women have phenomenal internal radar guidance systems so, do not fuck with them. (See also, definition for fuck).
"Girlfriend, that is a feralicious dress and you are going to knock that first date outta the park." adjective
Fuck: /fuck/ Noun, verb, adverb, adjective. Can be used in multiple ways with myriad of subtle or specific extenders all centered around the basic premise of a ragged and course sex act. Done without love but not necessarily without passion. In fact, passion and heated intercourse may be the actual meaning.
"Fuck you." verb
"What in the actual fuck?" noun
“This is fucking ridiculous.” adverb*
“This is fucking beautiful.” adjective*
*In these two examples, the adverb and adjective are interchangeable.
Fuckalicious: /fuckˈaˈliSHəs/ adjective. Some thing or someone that is delightfully pleasant to the taste. This thing or person may or may not be actually good or appropriate for you, but what the fuck (see also, definition for fuck). Remember, the #1 truism is that not supposed to is the greatest aphrodisiac in the world.” NOTE: see Truisms in the Commandments section.
She knew he was fuckalicious and in the moment, that was an extremely good thing. adjective
Fucktastic: /fuckˈtastik/Adjective. Extraordinarily good or attractive OR extraordinarily horrible and distasteful. Depends completely upon tone and context. Excellent glossary word.
Oh, that’s fucktastic. adjective
Fuckinator: /fuckˈinādər/Noun. A person or thing that fucks something up beyond all recognition.
The fuckinator showed up at the wedding and proceeded to burn that bitch to the ground. noun
Fucktastrophy: /fuckˈtastrəfē/Noun. A person or event that causes cataclysmic and sudden damage or suffering; a complete and utter disaster.
And after that the wedding reception was a total fucktastrophy. noun
It is essential the reader please note that later editions will most certainly follow. As life gives us many opportunities to expand our feral vocabulary.
So, as a much younger ‘me’ I lived in the south. Of the YOU-nited States of ‘Merica. Hahaha. Good Law-hoard, I learned a lot from my neighbors and true bluest girlfriends. From my dear sister-from-another-mister, my next door neighbor, Teresa, I learned the truth that some friends are just gonna bless you by being in your life for-EVEH. But that’s another story. From my across-the-street neighbor, Tina, I learned another truism.
This one is about clothing.
In the Deep South, the summers are so hot and humid that if you want to breathe the outside air, it has to be in the earliest of the morning. Like before actual dawn. After that, get yourself back inside, girl, because it’s hotter and more humid than actual Hell. The Deep South, in the middle of July, is truly Hell on Earth and among other blessings, I learned to pray in true gratitude for the invention by Carrier…air conditioning. It’s just so hot. People stay inside like it’s winter during summer in the Deep South.
Well, being from the Pacific Northwest, I missed actual air and being outside because our summers are glorious…like 75-80 degrees and all the windows are flung open. Living in the Deep South during summer made me truly homesick. My neighbor, Tina, saw that I would go walking before dawn and took pity on me. That and probably it was a bit of a break from her two small girls and her hubsters.
Southern women really understand the value of friendship, that way.
She joined me one Saturday morning and there we were, puttering along in our little subdivision off Dorchester Road, behind the Rock and Roll-themed McDonalds. You know the kind, the type of early 1990’s house-jungles that featured big, cookie-cutter houses and no sidewalks because God knew that if he wanted people to walk anywhere, he wouldn’t have invented cars.
Tina and I were walkin’ along, makin’ good time, and she was telling me some such thing about one of her crazy daughters’ antics that we both agreed were the most adorablest things. Out of one house and into her driveway walks this neighbor woman that I didn’t know but Tina did because she knew everyone living in our subdivision.
“Hiiii,” she says, drawing what should be a one syllable word into at least two. I love my southern girlfriends. “How’re you?” And, she’s wavin’ because you can’t say “Hiiii” in the south without wavin’.
“Oh, Fii-inne. Just Fiii-iiinnne,” and our neighbor gal, she’s wavin’ back. She gets out, past her porch and she’s wearing a pair of pearl-sheen, passion pink, cropped, spandex workout pants, left over from the 1980’s, with some big white tennis shoes and a tight white sweatshirt that, I swear, shows every inch of her self, leaving little to the imagination. “My huhs-band and I are fixin’ to head to Wal-Mart. They got a big sale on craftin’ supplies. Want to get there ria-height when it opens.”
Just then, her huhs-band, Bubba. emerges from the house, wearin’ his trademark Nascar shirt and his trucker hat with the confederate flag on the front. I swear to the Law-hoard, you can NOT make this shit up. Do these folks not know that character actors seek them out, in Wal-Mart, just to study them?
I wave, Tina waves, “That’s great. Y’all have fun. Have a good day, now.” And we wave again and keep walkin’. It’s silent for a minute. The neighbors’ car starts up, backs out of the driveway and heads in the opposite direction, out of the subdivision past the Rock and Roll-themed McDonalds.
“Oh. My. Gawd,” says Tina.
“What?” I ask, truly mystified.
“Spandex is a privilege, not a right. She does not know this. Her mama obviously did not raise her properly.” And, actual fact. I just about keeled over, laughing, onto the road because there were no sidewalks for keeling over on. I laughed so hard, I almost peed my pants.
“Ok, duly noted,” I answer. “I will not wear spandex in public,” wiping the tears from my eyes.
“Girl, she looks about four pounds a puhtatuhs in a two pound sack. Does that woman not look in the mirror? Spandex should only be worn to and from the ladies’ gym and she should be issued an actual citation from the fashion po-lease. At least she put her makeup on before she left the house.”
I am forever grateful to my southern girlfriends. Their teachings were pure gold.
I have never worn pearl-sheen, passion pink, cropped, spandex workout pants. Out in public. And, I have always put on my makeup before I leave the house.
Promise on a stack a bibles and prayin’ to baby Jesus.
It’s probably due to the people we are drawn toward. For me, birthday season is typically in late June and early July, as well as from late August through all of September. Feels like every day I’m checking my calendar to remind myself who to send a little “love” their way.
With that in mind, the other day I called a childhood friend of mine who lives a couple states to the south so I could wish him a happy birthday. Here’s how it went down.
“So, what are you doing to celebrate your birthday, today?” I asked. I’d gotten the low-down on his classic car adventure from the evening before and wanted to hear a bit more before we hung up.
“No big plans,” he said, chipper, as always. Some folks are just good souls that way. “But I take my mom a bouquet of flowers every Saturday, so even though it’s my birthday, I’m doing that today, as well.”
I laughed. “Buddy, let’s re-phrase that. You’re taking flowers to your mom because it’s your birthday. Ever since I became a mother, myself, it’s totally reframed the way I see and celebrate birthdays.”
“How’s that?” he asked, kinda mystified.
“Well, given my experience there are two chief participants in a birthday. The baby and the one who delivers that little bundle…the mom. Do you actually remember what happened, when, and how it happened on the day you were born?”
“Oh,” he sat there a moment with the static from the long distance cell connection sorta rippling over the line. “Wow. You’re right.”
“Well, it’s funny, because for our whole lives we’re getting all the hoopla when it’s really about the mama who did all the work. That’s why they call it labor.”
We both laughed, out loud, at that. At the simple ridiculousness of the way birthdays are celebrated.
After we make our grand entrance into the world, it’s our mothers (and fathers) who are taking photos and ensuring we are safe and clean and fed and clothed and educated and prepared to tackle life as (sort of) an adult at some point in our lives. If they are (mostly) on it, they are checking all the boxes for us in Maslov’s famed hierarchy of needs. Yet we’re the ones that get the cake and presents. OMG.
The cake and crown are really due to our moms. Let that sink in.
Being born isn’t the job. And, yet, the person who’s born is really the one who gets all the credit.
Birthdays feel especially important during this season. This feels like one heavy, huge birthday season. From now, on, think about your mother and your mother’s mother. And then consider your daughter and your daughter’s daughter. Think about the choices that they will have to make from now, on, given this particular “birthday” season in the United States of America.
Yes, please bring them a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers on your birthday and their children’s birthdays. Maybe even hold birthday parties in THEIR honor, from now, on. Just think if everyone did that?! I might even consider becoming a florist. For sure, we’re going to be celebrating a lot more birthdays by this time, next year.