I read somewhere that the real story of a person’s life is the story of their humiliations. Well:
When I was 5, I forgot to wear underwear to school, and you can be certain I went on the monkey bars and sat cross-legged during show-and-tell.
When I was 6, I told my first-grade teacher, “You have big bosoms,” and she said, “What?” and I don’t remember how I answered that question, which has become a harrowing gap in my memory…
Oh Gid, this one was the worst. I was 10. We were at a famous actor’s house for dinner. It was a three-act symphony of nightmares. I can’t yet tell it…
In sixth grade, my father drove Rachel Combs and I home from school. She was beautiful and her parents were the youngest in the class and her dad wore turquoise rings. My father, who smoked, started to cough at a stop sign. Rachel laughed, hard. So I did, too. I didn’t know what else to do. I only know it meant something because I’ve never forgotten it. In seventh grade, Josh Haskell told me I smelled bad. The worst part: I had no idea.
And remember that time I told those boys at my new school, “I’m a softball girl”? Remember they prank called me that night and I mistook them for a friend of mine? They asked me if I used a Thighmaster and I thought they were giving me a compliment? Remember?
I had this notebook in sixth grade that said “Girls Rule and Boys Drool” on it. I wrote a love letter to a boy in it to that said: “ I totally understand if you don’t like me because nobody ever has, but I really like you. You’re nice, cute, funny and everything else that’s good. I’m not very used to writing these letters so this may seem odd, but I just wanted to know if you liked me. I’d appreciate if you answered back but you don’t have to. (and here’s the kicker) Signed, the girl that made a half-court swish yesterday”.
When I was 10, I went to a dinner at this actor’s house with my parents. There is no escaping this. I wore: wide-leg JNCO jeans. My father’s old Hawaiian shirt, which had only one functioning button (for which I am eternally grateful). Yellow smile-faced Joe Boxer shorts, showing well above my jeans. And: A BROWN NEWSIE CAP. I was the only “kid” there. I sat next to Nathan Lane.
Here’s what happened: This actor was saying he was jealous of my father’s accomplishments. He was naming them – “He’s written a book, he’s done comedy, he’s painted!” I wanted to make everybody laugh— and now I can see its because I wanted to show I was like my father—I wanted to be self-deprecatory, witty, adult. The actor said, “Something something and Martin’s already old!” and I thought it was my chance to poke fun at my misfortune, that my father was so old, like I live in a retirement home, haha, so I said, “And he has a child!” And the actor was kind enough to take me seriously and said, “Yes, and he has a child.”
But, you see, it was an insult, what I said, because the actor didn’t have children. Because it was awkward, and everybody around the table knew it and saw this 10-year-old girl in her f**ked-up boy outfit, who doesn’t realize she stinks like puberty, who just outwardly insulted her host’s shortcomings, and everyone thought, Jesus Christ, this girl. And maybe you can’t understand why this was so bad, because the story doesn’t even make sense–but it was bad and oh my God oh my God oh my God, how could I say that, how did I say that, it wasn’t me, it just couldn’t have been me, right?
And most recently, there was the time that I wrote out my humiliations, thinking that by confessing them I would be releasing them, that I could rid myself of my own history, thinking that by doing this I am becoming a better, newer person, and that it will make me live a little bit fuller and that it will take me a little bit further from mortality. No. This is my greatest humiliation. That I am hopelessly mortal, and that I would like to believe I am not.