Loathing: Who or what do you loathe and how have you expressed that in 2011?
The minute I first laid eyes on him, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. His scraggly hair was pulled into a greasy ponytail and a patchy goatee screamed TRAILERPARK! before he’d yet had the chance to mumble on and on about his big plans for the rusted out TransAm in the driveway. I could smell the stale beer on his breath from four feet away, and as I gave him that first cursory once-over, I couldn’t believe that my best friend had allowed his penis anywhere near her vagina without a condom, let alone long enough for his vile seed to knock her up.
When it comes to bad decisions about boys, my best friend J has the market cornered. Over the course of our 13-year friendship, I’ve watched her repeatedly slash and burn the good ones, only to take up minutes later with the closest dumpster-fire of a human being. She’s got an innate and masochistic need for emotional torture, and there’s nothing that anyone can do to convince her that she’s worthy of more than the string of self-centered, emotionally abusive and financially draining male succubi she so readily beds.
It’s no different with B, her most recent paramour and the sperm-donor for the now one-year old BAM.
She called me on my birthday almost two years ago to wish me well and break the news. We’d hit a rough spot in our friendship, allowing hearsay to get between our historically truthful relationship, and it had been a while since we’d talked. I’d known she was pregnant for a couple weeks prior, and had resolved to be supportive, so I was ready with surprise and excitement when she made the announcement. I’d never met the father-to-be, so it was with the enthusiasm and wishful thinking that I extended my hand to him for the first time that summer, determined to not make myself an enemy to him as I had with so many of her previous boyfriends.
He seemed harmless enough at first, and that should have been my first clue. His meek voice had trouble holding its own over our boisterous laughter, and there was nothing discernibly special about him. For the first 15 minutes of our meeting, I thought I might have been late to a modified game of Edward Forty Hands because of the way he never let go of his tallboy cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. “I prefer Coors Light,” says he, “but they’re so expensive!” I quietly began to hope she was playing a trick on me.
It was a short visit, and by the end, he’d been nothing but cloyingly solicitous of all of us. He had no opinions of his own, and frequently faded into the background, speaking only when spoken to and offering nothing of himself to the conversation. On the ride home, our friend T summed it up better than I could have myself: “He’s like a golden retriever puppy….totally harmless and dumber than a bag of hammers.” I think perhaps that was too generous.
Over the next year, my opinion didn’t improve. In a masterful stroke of stupidity, the plonker fell victim to a Craigslist scam, sending a massive amount of CASH to a PO BOX for a car HE’D NEVER SEEN. His list of jobs began to read like a blogroll as he left each new position for some imagined slight or injury. I could hear the exhaustion in my girlfriend’s voice as she drove to pick up her son at the end of one of her marathon days and tried to nonchalantly tell me about how he’d begun to pressure her to buy him a new car.
When I visited in October, it was curtains for him in my eyes. Fact after fact played out in front me and I couldn’t believe my eyes. A mountain of beer cans teetering in the kitchen. The way he ignored her and his son on his return home until after he’d opened and guzzled his first 20oz of PBR. The revelation that J cannot leave their son alone with him for fear he gets distracted and forgets to care for the child—that she can’t even leave long enough to shower because “B doesn’t like to hear him crying.” I was aghast. But nothing could prepare me for the performance at BAM’s first birthday.
I could recount the evening in gory detail and tell you that it was like pulling teeth to get him to watch his son so that my girlfriend could shower before the guests arrived. I could detail my amazement at the fact that the refrigerator door never fully closed before he was opening his next beer. You might be aghast to learn that he wouldn’t take pictures of his son opening his presents because he couldn’t hold the camera and his Coors Light (the good stuff!) at the same time, or begin to disbelieve my story at the point when he left in the middle of presents because he’d run out of beers.
But none of that explains the moment when my loathing took full effect; the second when, but for legality, my hands would have made it around his neck and squeezed the last noxious breath from his lungs:
The cake made it’s way out to the table, with me behind it, laden with million separate candles of different letters, together meant to spell out Happy Birthday B_______. I looked around the crowd of family and friends, and found B, sitting on the floor, lovingly caressing a brown glass bottle. The interaction went something like this:
ME: B, it’s time for cake, why don’t you come and put the candles on?
DRUNKY MCWONDERDAD: Um, no, I’m good right here. You do it.
ME: Are you sure? It’s your son’s first birthday…don’t you want to light the candles?
DMWD: No, that’s all right. I’ve got my beer. You go ahead.
ME: questioning look Ummmm, okay?
(I start to place the candles)
DMWD: HEY! Jen! Wait!
ME: thinking maybe he’s come to his senses What’s up?
DMWD: Um, you know how to do that, right? I mean, how to put the candles on? You’re not going to screw it up, right?
ME: pausing to see if I’ve really heard what I just heard No, I think I’ve got it. But if there’s a specific way you want it done, why don’t you come and do it?
DMWD: No, you do it. I just, well, you’re not going to mess it up, right? You think you can figure it out? Just don’t mess it all up.
(Right here, a hush fell over the room. There were about 30 people there, and all of them have known me for as long as I’ve known J. I’ve always been an outspoken opponent of her past boyfriends’ various flaws, and quite a few of them have borne witness as I’ve voiced my distaste. There was a collective intake of breath as everyone waited for me to LOSE MY SHIT. Instead, I opted for a dramatic pause and a look with the force of 10,000 daggers.)
ME: slowly turning my head back to the cake and barely containing my disbelief that this drunken, chromosome-lacking knuckle-dragger is speaking to me as if I were as dumb as he B, I’ve got to be honest, I’m not too sure. I mean, I graduated from college ten years ago, and never, until today, have I ever lamented NOT getting that degree in rocket science.
DMWD: blank stare
ROOM FULL OF FAMILY: snickering, snorting, almost silent laughter
(I finished placing the candles, but B obviously hadn’t finished with me. As I called to J that they were ready for lighting, he stumbled to his feet and looked over my shoulder.)
DMWD: exasperated and annoyed Awwwwwww, YOU FUCKED IT UP!!!!!
I looked at him agog as he tried to explain to me that no one could read it the way I’d placed the candles. (for clarity’s sake, picture a rectangular sheet cake with individual candles placed on the two sides and the bottom: H-A-P-P-Y going up to down on the left, B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y going up to down on the right and B___________ going left to right along the bottom).
DMWD: spitting mad and talking to me as if I were 4 years old People read from left to right, JEN. How are they supposed to read this? Happy B________ Birthday? Really? PFT. Doesn’t make any sense.
Here, I’m sorry to say, I lost my temper, and before I walked away, left him with a parting shot.
ME: in a deadly quiet voice impossible to hear except for those standing closest B, I am willing to bet my entire life-savings that I have a better understanding of reading and HOW PEOPLE DO IT than you do. In fact, I’m not entirely certain that you’d know I’d done it this way if your child didn’t bear YOUR name. So, once again, why don’t you put down your beer, and place your child’s first birthday candles on the cake any way you want them AS YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE???
And then I walked away.
Dear Reader, I’ve been hopping mad in my day. I’ve resorted to physical violence. I’ve let fly scathing harangue, but never in my life have I decided that the world would be a better place if someone were to suffer an unfortunate and deadly industrial accident. With every fiber of my being, I’m disgusted by this man-child. His ineptitude as a father, his alcoholism, his lofty pipedreams that hang on the financial support of my girlfriend…everything about him makes my skin crawl. I am convinced that if I’d canceled my return ticket and merely overstayed my welcome in the dank basement apartment that she struggles to pay for on her own, I could have driven him out. I look back on it and kick myself for not doing so. I curse the universal forces that brought him into our lives. I even sit back and wish for the glory days of the old boyfriend…at least he had a brain and an opinion and knew how to fight back. With B, it’s like winning a footrace at the Special Olympics.