The Locked Diary #15: We All Have Issues (Especially Me. Right Now. At This Party)
I'm so hellbent on finding the champagne, there's no emotional pain.
I am completely broken and on my way to a media event. On the cab ride there I do that thing. Youknow. That thing. That thing where your type-A brain screams at your clumsy heart, “DO NOT CRY! DO NOT CRY! DO NOT CRY!”
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Your heart—forever the oversensitive child eating the vulnerable tuna melt alone in the corner of the middle school cafeteria—she’s always eager to please the adult, by which I mean, in this case, your brain. “I’m trying my best,” she’ll manage, making herself as small as possible so she can squish down the shameful tears recklessly streaming down her swollen little face.
“Try harder,” your brain will clip, harshly, red pen in hand, ready to give your heart a big fat ZERO on the report card.
The heart will try harder. Genuinely. But her efforts will be fruitless. The harder she tries *not* to cry, the more *irrepressible* the flow of tears.
“What is wrong with you?” Your brain scoffs wickedly, lighting up a condescending cigarette, rudely blowing the smoke right into your heart’s ~already~ blood-red eyes, rendering them bloodier and redder than ever.
All of this will make the heart cry even harder. Where at first she was crying over the person who broke her—now she’s crying for a multitude of reasons: She’s crying because she’s being shamed and yelled at which makes her feel unsafe and helpless. She’s crying because she’s a blithering idiot who can’t regulate her dumb emotions. She’s crying because she’s trying hard not to do something—but she can’t help but continue to do it—and that’s making her feel out of control—and despite what you might have heard about hearts—they’re just like the rest of us. They like to be in control.
She’s crying because she’s disappointed her brain and she’s always been a big people-pleaser who hates to let anyone (or any body part, for that matter) down. She’s crying because she’s allergic to cigarette smoke, which confirms her underlying fear that despite her most grandiose efforts—she is and will always be super uncool. She’s crying because the brain just posed a very real, very glaring question: what is wrong with you?
The heart begins to spin like a dreidel. What *is* wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? Why do I always have to reveal myself like this? Why do I always have to make such a scene?! Why can’t I be more like THE BRAIN? Calculated, charming, articulate, and able to say one thing but actually MEAN another. Why do I have to be SO honest, so transparent, and so RAW ALL THE DAMN TIME!
And underneath the layers upon layers upon layers of self-doubt and questioning of her worth—sits the original wound, as gaping and as gruesome and as unhealed as it was before the brain started yelling. The brokenness didn’t subside just because the heart’s now got an additional swirl of insecurities swarming her, taunting her, like an even more twisted version of Lord of the Flies.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been here enough times to know that yelling at your heart doesn’t work. It’s simply not a smart tactic. It’s like parents who punish their children for wetting the bed. The concept of being in trouble with an authority figure renders them nervous and being nervous is precisely what causes them to wet the bed.
And I’ve vowed to never be that iteration of a parent—the kind that uses the threat of punishment and humiliation as a tactic to keep the child “in line.” Not just because I think that’s a cruel and unnecessary way to treat anyone, let alone a little kid. Not just because I inherently believe that the whole notion of “being in line” is what crushes spirits and drives people away from who they *really* are, which subsequently turns them into the kind of adults who are always tense and bitter and resentful of anyone who harbors the chutzpah to live free. Not just because I’m a gentle fawn at my core—I’d never yell at an innocent person or animal or KID, even if they were frustrating me to no end.
But mainly because I know all the way down in the crux of my gut where the deepest truths are stored—that beratement only exacerbates the problem.
But your brain isn’t as smart as she likes to claim she is. It takes her a long while to get things on a visceral level (“visceral” isn’t the brain’s strong suit). My brain still insists on verbally abusing my heart, holding onto the hope that she’s just one tiny hurl of an insult away from getting her to stop fucking embarrassing all of us with all that fucking ugly crying.
This is where shit gets complicated. I start to feel like I have Multiple Personality Disorder or something. For there’s my heart, my head, and moi, all shacking up in the small studio apartment that is my body. This is when it starts to get VERY LOUD. My heart is weeping with such ferocity snot is flying out of her nose and landing on the brand-new carpets. My brain is yelling at my heart to stop weeping and is stomping around in a rage bitching about the boogers littering the ground. I start yelling at the brain to stop yelling at my poor heart! “Let her let it out, DAMN IT!” I scream.
“WHAT ABOUT THE NEW CARPETS!” The brain belts, irate.
“FUCK THE CARPETS, THEY’RE JUST MATERIAL!” I’ll screech so loudly that the wallpaper will curl in protest.
The brain will pause before calling me out on my hypocrisy. “Look at you. You’re yelling at me right now! PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH, LEAD BY EXAMPLE, ZARA!”
Then I am left with no choice but to go into mediation mode. I try to reason with all parties. And my GOD is that overwhelming.
Having to counsel wildly different personalities that live inside of your own damn body? It’s been the catalyst for one too many cocktails, one too many times. Come to think of it, all the times I’ve over-imbibed have never been rooted in the desire to get drunk for drunk’s sake. The intention is always to quiet the chaos thrashing ‘round my head. And guess what? That never works out well, either! Drinking to numb instead of drinking for fun always backfires and you end up feeling the feelings you were hoping to avoid times a gazillion. It’s like throwing gasoline over all the flame you want to snuff out. What I’m saying is, I *know* self-medicating doesn’t work out in the long wrong. So does my heart. So does my brain. But we end up doing it sometimes because, at the end of the day, we’re all just very flawed, very human entities trying to survive in a cruel, cold world.
By the time the cab pulls up to the red carpet splayed outside of the event venue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I feel like I’ve stuck my head into a giant electrical socket. I have such a pulsing headache from trying to manage the wildly unhealthy, hyper-tempestuous, loud-as-fuck back and forth between my heart and brain—I’d willingly gulp down a cyanide-laced cocktail if it meant I could shut them both up for a little while. I need a vacation, I think, wistfully. I don’t have the money for one, but even if I did, what would be the point? You can’t take a vacation away from yourself. As they say in the ‘biz: “Wherever you are, there you are.”
The good news here is that I’m So Hellbent on Finding the Champagne, I Temporarily Forget All About My Emotional Pain.™ I practically leap out of the taxi, grow wings, and fly past the red carpet through the front doors, toward the bar.
Luckily it’s an open bar and the line isn’t so bad (at least by New York standards) so within minutes my fingers are wrapped around a lovely glass flute filled to the brim with bubbles. The drink feels like a friend. I feel less lonely when I have something to hold—don’t you?
I see the lesbian bar owner who officiated my wedding with Asa looming in the distance. One of the things I love about the lesbian bar owner is that she’s got this iconic, yellow-blonde mass of tightly wound curls. Each curl is so uniform you’d think she spent three hours twisting each lock of hair around a hot tong. But the truth is it actually dries like that. I saw it with my own two eyes when we all shared a summer house on Fire Island. Her hair is orchestrated into the same perfectly arranged barrel curls fresh out of the shower as they are during a night out. The lesbian bar owner’s ringlets are not just special and unique, they serve as a north star of sorts. Doesn’t matter how drunk you are or how lost you are. You could be washed away, swept up by a sea of strangers during New York City pride and you could still spot those curls from miles and miles away. As long as you walk toward the curls, you’ll find your way home. Because this lesbian bar-owner character, her social network is deep. It expands through multiple queer demographics, age ranges, classes, and creeds. So long as you’re LGBTQ+—she’ll know exactly where your people are located. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dyke in the entire tri-state area who doesn’t cite her as a close friend. In fact, Asa used to describe her as the Ellis Island for lesbians. “You meet her, you get a new name, and you’re in,” she used to always say. We’d all cackle every time.
I bound over to her. She’s networking with a woman I can identify from the Lesbian Instagram vortex. The woman looks like a classic indie film producer. She’s wearing a bow tie and plastic framed glasses and is wearing a suit jacket and jeans. That is the indie producer uniform, you see. Its intention is to assure the masses the person wearing it is both arty and friendly but also will be trustworthy with the money she’s going to ask you to invest in the documentary she’s producing about the devastating impact tampons wreak on the environment.
“Zara, have you met so and so?” The lesbian bar owner asks once I’ve made my way to their orbit. That’s another good thing about the lesbian bar owner. She’s a connector. She never leaves you hanging out to dry. The brunt of the productive networking I’ve done during my Manhattan tenure has been brought on by her inquiring if I’ve “met so and so.”
“No!” I say a little *too* brightly. “Nice to meet you!” I extend my hand out aggressively, like a used car salesman or a D-list talent agent.
The producer-looking woman in the bowtie politely introduces herself to me. She sizes me up. Her assessment must be that I’m too poor to funnel money into her movie, so she quickly spins back into the center of the party, her eyes stretched open wide like a giant bug. All producers have jarringly opened up eyeballs that rarely blink. I get it. One blink one second too long and you could miss catching an insect worth swallowing. I—on the other hand, keep my eyes closed most of the time and that, my friends, is precisely why I’m not as successful as I ought to be.
“I want you guys to work it out,” the lesbian bar owner says in that blunt loving way only gay women over the age of 45 can pull off, once the saucer-eyed producer chick is safely out of earshot. The lesbian bar owner is like me in that this isn’t her first rodeo, and we both have learned the hard way that it’s not only the eyes of a producer that’s actively on the prowl. Their ears are equally ravenous. And they tend to be big gossips. After all—producing is a yenta-ish job—if you ~really~ think about it.
“Me too,” I say. This isn’t a lie. Every single day I pray that someone very powerful will wave a magic wand that fixes this whole mess with Asa. “Are you going to the after-party?” I ask because I’m starting to feel the early onset of dangerous emotions that have no place being released in public, let alone at a party teeming with bitchy/professional cohorts of mine, half of whom would pay decent money to see me crack. (I acknowledge that this sounds very narcissistic and very paranoid. And maybe it is. Heartbreak can make you neurotic and self-absorbed. So can have been recently cyber-bullied by at least ten of the guests at this damn party).
“I have school tomorrow,” deadpans a raspy voice that doesn’t belong to the lesbian bar owner. It’s the kind of detached growl only possessed by a certain generation, a generation a uh, “tad” dare I say “younger” than the lesbian bar owner. That’s when I notice the bar owner’s very young, very beautiful girlfriend has entered the scene. She’s wearing oversized suit pants so baggy you could smuggle a litter of chihuahuas in all that negative space. Her hair is beachy and undone and she’s wearing a tiny maroon bralette beneath a blazer so big she’s swimming inside of it. She looks fucking fabulous.
“You look fucking fabulous,” I tell her. I am sure to make eye contact with her because I remember what it was like to be the youngest person in the room and how shitty it felt when the catty elders of the lesbian scene were dismissive of me.
Plus, I really like her. And I think she really likes me. This is why I don’t take the deadly glower she throws me in exchange for my soft eye contact and sweet compliment, personally. I *know* that glower. I could teach a college course in that glower! It’s the “I’m-fighting-with-my-significant-other-so-watch-out-or-you’ll-get-caught-in-the-crossfires-of-our-dysfunctional-dynamic-and-you-don’t-want-that-trust-me” glower that’s been perfected by pretty femme types since the dawn of time. I, too, am a master of this look.
“She’s got class at NYU tomorrow morning,” the bar owner confirms, emphasizing NYU, as if to clarify, “By school, she means COLLEGE. She’s an adult taking college classes. I don’t have issues.”
But the truth is, we all have issues. Especially yours truly, right now at this party. Where the walls are starting to close in around me, where my heart is starting to pound like a heavy metal drummer, where my vision is beginning to blur like the lines between friendship and romance and I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of seconds before I seize or faint or die, for that matter. I bolt to the bathroom because I don’t want to go out like that. In front of everyone. At the first industry event that I’ve attended alone for the first time in years. And by years, I mean, quite possibly my whole life.
At least in the safety of the bathroom stall, I’ll die privately, with my dignity intact. I realize right then and there that I’ve left my Chanel bag somewhere by the bar. It’s my mom’s bag and she’d shoot me if anything happened to it. Well, she can’t shoot me after I’m already dead, right? That is my last thought before my eye-line becomes peppered with so many black dots that I can no longer steady my feet against the floor. I drop to my knees in a loud, painful THUD.