Friday, March 30, 2012

The Straight--Laced Life of 2 Punkers, or Why My Ex-Husband is Still Cool.

My ex-husband, Craig, wore a cardigan, Mr. Rogers-esque sweater to go see KISS with me on the first reunion tour back in '96, I think it was. We were newlyweds, I'm sure of that. That was back in the still-coming-out-of-grunge, resale shopping-popular days. Not that he didn't have a cavalcade of more rock-concert appropriate shirts he could've worn; he just wore that dippy cardigan and I'll never forget it. He was being true to himself, I suppose, so I can't fault him for that, though I cringed in embarrassment. Being true to oneself is hugely important to me.

As I write at this moment, I'm wearing one of his old t-shirts that became too small for him and fits me like a big potato sack, but is comfortable and fuck you, I'm recovering from major surgery. It's a My Bloody Valentine "Loveless" shirt back from when we met in 1992. MBV was an alternative band. I wouldn't part with it for the world because a) it's hella cool and b) it has unparalleled sentimental value.

When I was taken away by ambulance the night I was released from the hospital after the hysterectomy (all of the doctors, except for the gyno, agreed that they should never have discharged me 24 hours after the operation, as I was in pretty bad shape) after the complete dehydration/too much Dilaudid in my system pass-out, the fucking paramedics cut my clothes off without abandon, right down the middle, jaggedly, which almost gave me a heart attack when my mom took my clothes out of the "patient belongings" bag. What was in there? My vintage Vic Firth drum sticks t-shirt that my friend, Amy, gave me, that I loved. My favorite bra. My favorite sweatshirt that says, in Latin, "If you can read this, you're over-educated." All my favorite loungewear. Jesus H. Christ. Would it have been that hard to just pull all that shit over my head? I'm all about maintaining an airway, but it's not like they were planning on intubating me. All of that leaves me with 2 pull-over sweatshirts that are not hoodies, both of which were Chris' and are gnarly, in both body and soul and also fit me like a giant potato sack. I *do* have something like 14 hoodies I could wear, but for lounging, I dunno, I guess I prefer a pullover. Time to go thrift-store shopping?

Anyway, Craig is not-so-secretly steeped in alternative culture, or sub-culture. He writes for Pop'Stache Magazine, an online zine for alternative rock/pop. He has a radio show on, and plays punk and alternative music, chiefly, with some tolerable oldies and rarities mixed in. (Check his show out, his DJ handle is Craig Reptile, and he's on from 6-9pm every Saturday night.) He regularly can be found hanging out in punk and alternative clubs in the city. You'd never know by looking at him, though. He's a very straight-laced, "normal" looking 40'something who holds a straight job and sings in the church choir. (He even converted to Lutheranism, a more conservative denomination, from Presbyterianism, a more liberal one, after we got divorced, which STILL puzzles me.)

He's very much what one, on the surface, would deem a typical suburban dad. Sort of like my Tatus. But the old adage is so very, very true: You can't judge someone solely based on how they appear. Only Tatus is open to new, weird experiences and Craig rebels against my rebellion into social conservatism and keeping up with the Joneses.

Craig hated my first eyebrow ring back in '99. He knew I'd threatened a tattoo for years, and cringed at the thought. When I got the 2 tattoos, 2nd eyebrow ring and 2 cartilage rings with Tatus a couple months ago (already!), he just shook his head and rolled his eyes when he saw me. He may think alternatively and liberally and you'd think he'd be more than comfortable with quirky, punky looking people. Alas, when it comes to his former beloved, that is not the case.

Visiting me in the hospital, he saw the specimen jar that held all of my body jewelry that was stripped off of me after they put me under, after I could put up a fight, which I still think was REALLY rotten of the doctor and nurses to do. Underhanded. I told Craig I planned on getting re-pierced ASAP and he tried to talk me out of it, citing that if, for example, I chose down the line to get a straight job, excessive body jewelry would perhaps be frowned upon, to which I said I honestly didn't fucking care. He just threw up his hands at me, again.

If either one of us looks like they belong in alternative culture, it's me, not Craig. In alternative culture, I'm more or less at home, and I walk the walk, but I can honestly say, I don't talk much of the talk, musically anyway, while Craig does. Yes, the Flaming Lips are my favorite band. But The Beatles are my other favorite band. Yes, most of the music in my iTunes pre-dates 1995 (except for the Lips stuff, and I really like Adele, and Dhani Harrison's band thenewno2 is fantastic). I like off-the-beaten path places to visit and to eat at, as opposed to chain restaurants or the "hip" places to go. I STILL like resale shops. But yes, I donated every Polo shirt I owned in an effort to not dress so overtly SUBURBAN while keeping all of my edgier, cooler-looking, yet femininely pretty threads. And I play the drums....but in a church praise band. I've held down straight jobs my entire adult life, even with one eyebrow ring. "Yes, but now you have FOUR piercings in your head. Do you have to get them ALL done?" Craig said. And so.....what?

My plan is to finish my doctorate before embarking on any new career--that my "career," as it were, for the next 5 years will be that of a full-time student. Even after I graduate and get a job, the clientele I will most likely work for and with won't mind a psychologist who has tattoos and piercings. If anything, they'll feel less alienated. Who knows. What matters most is that from the inside-out, I've walked down the roads my future clients have walked down and survived. I keep continuing to almost die and keep living because there's a helluva lot more for me to do in this life. And by God, I'm gonna do it "My Way:" the Sid Vicious version, not the Frank Sinatra version.

When I went to see live blues with Tatus, I had NO idea what to wear to fit into that culture. I ended up wearing something more suited for a Flaming Lips concert, colorful, mismatched and bold, though what Kate and I call "come fuck me boots" capped off my ensemble. (No, I don't wear them because I want to fuck the person I'm with. They're just our nickname for sexy boots, of which I own many a pair. Trust me, none of them make me look like a hooker. I do have a modicum of taste.)

My piercing artist, Hank, said to come in and get the re-piercings ASAP, so I called Craig to ask him if he could do me a favor and take me one night next week. I'd have asked Tatus, but it's Holy Week and he's Catholic, so I assume he has to spend all his free time at church. Hell if I know. He hemmed and hawed, but said he had nothing else planned for Wednesday night. I did ASK him for this favor, of which I knew he opposed, and I'm sure the thought was looping through both of our heads, the most oft-asked question asked of me for which Craig is renowned:

"What are the chances of you shutting up until you get exactly what you want?"

My answer is always "Slim to none." And thus it has been for the 20 years we've been in each other's lives.

If there are 2 things that grate the worst on my nerves, they are a) hemming and/or hawing and b) wishy-washiness. Craig is a major hemmer/hawer and wishy-washy as all get-out. I am a "need-to-know now," instant gratification personality, which drives Craig insane. I'm always somewhere early while he's always running late. Luke is a combination of both of us. Craig said to me on the phone, "Jesus, what is it with you and Luke that you NEED to know things IMMEDIATELY?" To the contrary, when it's 7:30 and I still can't get Luke out of bed because he's dilly-dallying, I accuse him of acting like his father. Luke hates his Polo shirts/khakis combinations I pick out for him for school and prefers the t-shirts and ratted-at-the-edges jeans that reflect his unique personality, which is totally fine by me. I'd rather Luke be comfortable being himself instead of looking or acting like a robot who was dressed like a JC Penney's mannequin. It's amazing to watch your kids, as they grow, which personality traits they inherit from each parent. Everyone says Luke is growing to look more like me and unlike Craig, who was his clone as a youngster. Luke still makes "Craig faces" and whines and moans when he coughs or has a cold like his Dad, but his personality is a LOT like mine, which is probably why Luke drives Craig crazy so easily. Luke is way more punk than his father. Or "emo" as they call it at his age. Anyway, he and I both march to our own beats, which are very similar.

But I digress.

I told Craig that I could probably persuade Tatus to take me. Oh, Tatus would DO it, eventually, but it would require laborious planning and schedule maintenance, neither of which I had the patience for at the moment. I feel utterly awkward and naked without my piercings. Craig said, "You can't MAKE anybody do anything." Clearly, Craig hasn't spent much time observing myself with my Tatus. Not to say I emasculate him in any way, or that I wear the pants in our friendship, but suffice it to say, he gives in if it means a lot to me and I always appreciate it. But he's a frantically busy physician and Craig had a night free, so I jumped on it.

Craig asked a series of questions. "Where are we going, again?" (The Tattoo Factory.) "Where is it?" (On Broadway, in Uptown.) "Is there a Reckless Records nearby?" (I was on my phone sitting in the parking lot of Osco waiting for my mom to get my antibiotics, how the hell would I know when he's sitting in front of a computer at home?) "Can you provide me with directions?" (Yes.)

Then he said, "Wait. Luke wants to talk to you." (I'm so sure he did.)

Luke gets on the phone and starts blabbering about cheesy breadsticks, and I'm saying "Yeah, yeah, what is it? I still need to talk to Dad." Then I told Luke, "Tell Dad if he doesn't take me on Wednesday to get pierced, I'm putting OM stickers on both he and his mother's cars." (I got a sheet of 20 of them in the mail today! Luke wants to put one on his XBox. Solid.) Luke told Craig what I'd said, with Craig responding, in the background, "Why do you two always think that threatening me will get me to do what you want?" Collectively, Luke and I said, "Because it works." Craig's trying to teach Luke patience. I'm teaching him the far more practical, if not less ethical art of blackmail. Hey, everybody's got their own style. So kill me. At least when Luke's with me, I am tough and strict enough to get him in the shower by 10pm with lights out by 11pm, if not sooner.

Craig got back on the phone and begrudgingly agreed to take me Wednesday night at 7pm. "Reckless Records is 3 miles away. I'll be waiting in the car for you." I told him if he didn't have the stomach for it, he could just peruse the tattoo art on the walls, which he refused. (His description of my c-section with Luke? "There was SO. MUCH. BLOOD.") "You owe me gas money," he said. Yeah, Craig, I'll get right on that. "Fine," I said. "How long is this gonna take?" he asked. "I don't know, 15-20 minutes?" I answered. (A lot will depend on if I start profusely bleeding out my eyebrow again, like Hank managed last time.) "I hope you're not planning on getting another one of those 'THINGYS,'" Craig said, referring to another tattoo. "Not until my 40th birthday," I said. "Great," he said in his harsh monotone of disapproval that I'm quite used to.

Tell me which of the two men, Craig and Tatus, said each of the following statements to me at some point in our lives, and which one sounds more fatherly and which one sounds more like someone I would marry during the course of my life:

A) "Whatever makes you happy, sweetheart."
B) "You have to learn to accept the consequences of your actions."

If you answered "A" for Craig, you are incorrect. Craig is very, very nice. Very polite. Very quiet. Very milquetoast. Very passive. He neither drinks nor smokes, though he's tripped on LSD in the past and I haven't. Craig is neither reckless nor rebellious. He has a very dry sense of humor, if you can get him to even open up to have a casual conversation. The only times he shows any sort of temper are when a) Luke has gotten on his last nerve or b) during March Madness, or if it's our own kid's basketball game. So why did he decide to obligate himself for the evening to take his ex-wife to The Tattoo Factory? It's not because I said "PLEASE!!!!!!!!" to him like 20 times and he gave up, at least knowing him as well as I do, I doubt that's the reason. He will take me because he loves me and wants me to be happy, much like my Tatus. And I love him for that, all of that. But Craig is Craig. He has to draw a difficult line (i.e. waiting in the car the whole time and not coming in the studio) just to make a point to me that he opposes the situation. John and Yoko "sat in" for peace. Craig sits in for dramatic effect.

Apart from a mutual passion for music, Craig and I had little in common, personality-wise, to draw us together for life, which is but one of many reasons why we are no longer together. Now, at least, we share a child, so we have a mutual goal in life who needs both of us, though I think we'd both agree that staying together just for Luke's sake would've been a very unhappy place where nobody's soul was thrilled anymore. Clearly, these two love-struck 19-year olds evolved in polar opposite directions and while I grew more punky, outspoken, liberal and free, comfortable in my own weird, psycho skin (Tatus wants me to quit referring to myself as "psychotic," because he thinks I'm being too hard on myself, but if the boots fit, I'm wearing them), Craig (despite his love of punk/alternative music and liberal stance on political and socio-economic matters) became, essentially, a suburban dad who just doesn't care for golf.

I draw out both the best and the worst in Craig, as he does in me. I think it'll always be that way. In any event, I'm thankful and grateful for the ride to the studio next week and I love him for it. And yes, I'll offer gas money, but will probably try to charm my way out of it anyway...

PS--Purely an aside. Ms. Blog Stalker? That new web browser you're using to get to the blog? Yeah, I can see that too. Keep working on that anonymity thing, sweetie. Facepalm!

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