Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Friend Zone: A Survivors Guide

Enter at your own peril.

Unless you are an incredibly attractive and lucky person, or a complete shut-in, you've probably dealt with the dreaded Friend Zone at some time or another. In our attempts to couple up with someone that we desire, they place us in a different category and we enter into a world of pain. It's a treacherous place full of feelings and more bullshit than a political caucus, yet nobody ever treats it as the serious problem that it really is, until now. You're welcome.

The four people reading this that understand me know that I fall in love every week. It's a curse of my artistic temperament, some psychological crap, and a combination of curiosity and near desperation. I have always been like this. As a child I once accidentally saw another seven year old flash me her naked chest and I spent every day after that doing my best to be next to her during snacks or during nap time. I still remember my first crush's name, Sara, and her early 80's haircut sitting in front of me in elementary school. I spent more time fantasizing about the softness of her neck than listening to the teacher, and I am completely positive that she never once knew my name. When I got to the age where the boys and girls chase each other, literally, around the school playgrounds, one of them let me catch her, most likely out of curiosity, and I spent an awkward four minutes desperately trying to find something to say that would convince her to let me catch her again (I have never been fast). She never did. And neither did anybody else until I was nineteen years old.

For some reason, women don't find whining about it attractive however.

Fast forward to now. I'm 36, twice divorced, openly bisexual, and almost all of my non-comedian friends are women. Most of my relationships are short, sexual based affairs, casual to keep my mind and heart intact, broken up only by intense, whirlwind relationships that carry me two to three years into the future, always depositing me in the same Elephant's graveyard where familiar pieces of myself are still strewn about. But on the way to and fro through this pattern, I am still frequently struck with the occasional passion for a dark haired muse with a bold profile or a fresh faced, talented personality with more charm than sense. I am easily distracted from the ennui that constantly burrows into me, and beauty or the promise of attention are my two favorite aphrodisiacs. And since my parents let 80's culture and the Bible form most of my opinions about relationships, everything I was working with was based on He-man cartoons, virgin births, and Pete Cetera lyrics.


No seriously, I used to sing that song out loud while I cried myself to sleep at nights. And now it's stuck in your head forever as well. Suckers.

Now that I'm an adult, sort of, things are more complex and a LOT more comfortable. Most of my female friends are married, many of them with kids, and I have evolved into the supportive, almost-gay friend who actually enjoys listening to their problems and experiencing their company for the benefits that it provides without wanting anything in return. But it was a journey to mature to this point and I did it without a map, something even Bilbo took with him, and he forgot his pipe.

First off, let's be completely clear: I hate the term 'Friend Zone'. I find it to be a gross over-simplification of all the nuances that go into interpersonal relationships. I've always hated it. Labels irritate me in general, but this one more than most. Also, if you aren't trying to be some one's friend as well as their partner, get out of the gene pool right now, because everybody deserves a partner who is doing their damnedest to be the best friend to that person that they can be. Life is brutal for almost all of us, and you are going to need some one's heart and brain to be on your team more than their junk. When times get tough, and they will, it's friendship more than anything that can carry you through to the other side.

Secondly, most of what people call the friend-zone is just them not understanding the language that the other person is using to communicate while simultaneously being too selfish or ignorant to understand that other people are mostly obsessed with their own concerns and desires in which they don't have to take a priority.

Hey look, you aren't the center of their universe and you don't have to be!

I know that's hard to swallow, but it's the same for everyone and none of us are special. Even the person you want has been there, might still be there. And do you really want them to settle for you when you deserve so much more? Good relationships can be a lot of work, but they are much easier when both of you secretly thinks that they won by finding that other person. So the first thing you need to do is get a good understanding what's actually happening on the ground instead of in your head. Also, miscommunication will happen, and doors open and close all the time. Life isn't even remotely fair and it doesn't always have to make sense. And sometimes getting what you want doesn't always work out. I once dated my best friend and I got there by being a nice guy...

It only happened to me once that way guys, but it can happen.
True story: I met a girl back when I was promoting myself on Myspace. I was sending out hundreds of cold friend requests in an attempt to be the first comic in Idaho to get to 1000 friends for the bragging rights. I know, my life is that exciting. Also, nobody else knew we were competing, so I won easily. She sent me back an email asking me what my deal was, I was honest with her, and it lead to a conversation. Now, I wasn't trying to get laid or meet people, I was playing a game with myself, so I was very casual and friendly. Turns out she had just moved here to Boise and needed friends, so we started hanging out. We ended up having some chemistry (I'll get back to this part later), which led to us almost kissing in the park one day. The next day she told me that she was still involved with a guy out of state and she wasn't ready to move on yet, so I did the right thing and respected her opinion. It didn't remove my attraction to her and it didn't stop me from wanting to be with her, but I chose to look at it from the perspective that I was lucky just to be her friend, and I had long since gotten used to the pain of being unwanted, so I let things live there for a while.

Now I want to stop the story right here to point something out. By the definition of the term, I was friend-zoned pretty hard right there. But I always take the responsibility for my own decisions, and since it was my decision to continue the friendship, any pain I felt after that conversation was my own fault and not hers, which is the biggest difference between approaching this like an adult and acting like a selfish child. You can end friendships whenever you want to. If somebody wants something different from you than you want to give them, be it friendship or a relationship, or whatever, and you decide to continue onward as things are, you have to learn that it's your own decision making that's keeping you there. Life is too short to torture ourselves.

We continued to grow closer as friends. We had similar interests and I started dragging her to all the open mics where she made friends with most of the comics in the group and started hanging out with the lot of us. Then something happened. My gallbladder started producing copious amounts of bile whenever I ate something and I started going to the emergency room once a week to get my body pumped full of morphine. The first time I drug myself to the ER alone, because I am a stupid, typical man, and when I told my friend about this, she yelled at me. She was right, it was silly of me to endanger myself when a good friend lived so close to me, so I let her take me every time thereafter. This brought made us even closer friends. As I was laying there squirming in pain while nurses tried to hold me down long enough to check my vitals, hers was the only face looking on me with genuine care. Later, after my surgery, I wasn't allowed to work at the prison for a few months so I started to fall behind in my bills. Her mother moved out of state, leaving her needing a roommate, and me needing a roommate, so we became roomies.

This is where I hit friend-zone level 99. We both loved to talk, all day, erryday. We would hang out together all day, then literally chat in bed together until we passed out. I started sleeping in her room. Now, I knew the score, and was content with the way things were. I hadn't stopped noticing other people, but most of my time was consumed by being with my best friend, and we were having a blast. I had some pretty strong feelings for her, but they were firmly rooted in the reality that she was still in love with a man that she couldn't have and so everybody was in the same boat. Life is fun like that.

Then, one day, we came home drunk together after a great night at the comedy club. I helped carry her up the stairs to our apartment where she demanded that I give her a bath. Now, despite our close living arrangements, I had always been very respectful of her privacy and had never seen her naked, even accidentally, but she stubbornly refused to come to bed until I did her bidding, so I embraced my masochism and got to work. Now, if you've never tried to bathe a drunk adult, I highly recommend that you never do it, because it is horrible. It wasn't sexual at all. I immediately got irritated with her and eventually got frustrated with her attempts at trying to drown herself. She wouldn't even let me dress her, demanding to be left in the tub all night. The best I could do for her was to drain out all the water that she'd let me (almost all of it), and I eventually passed out watching over her like a drunk guardian angel.

Three hours later she woke up and decided to have sex with me.

Yes, we were both still a little drunk, but the amount of investment and honest friendship we had poured into our time together took us to a level of intimacy that I have still never found with anyone else. The tension that had become background noise for me, like living next to an airport does to the sound, had been working out while I wasn't paying enough attention and I was not prepared for how powerful it had become.

After we were done she felt guilty and left me there to go into the living room to call her boyfriend. Eventually we started dating, later we cheated on each other, and now, an eternity later, I see pictures of her and her lovely family. Sometimes getting what you want is a curse because why you don't have it in the first place exists for good reasons. Her and I are still friends, although we are both too busy to talk much, and seeing her smiling face run through my timeline on social media only ever brings me happiness and good memories, but that's not why we're here. See, it turns out she was right in the very beginning. Her instincts to end our burgeoning relationship were spot on and, while that isn't always the case, if I had known that I was going to break up with her a half-dozen times in the space of less than two years, I probably would have skipped it myself.

Sometimes it even happens to aliens.

So now, when I meet someone and I am attracted to them, I do things to communicate that interest while simultaneously doing my best to listen to what they are trying to tell me. I embrace the power of solitude, I spend a good amount of time focusing on myself, and I fill up my time with hobbies and interests, some of which make me a more complex and interesting person as a side effect. I exercise, I try to become a better person, I find my limitations and try to move the line. Occasionally, I find someone in my life compelling enough to lift me outside of my comfort zone, but like most people with a tendency towards cynicism, I take my sweet ass time about it. At times people are interested in me, it's happening right now, and I do my best to communicate where I'm at to them, because I've been them before and we're all only human. I do my best to try and understand that it's not all about me, and I have discovered the fact that life is far more rewarding when you treat your relationships with other people in the least selfish way possible. I do my best to be a good friend and a nice guy, because while a lot of dudes out there will tell you to pretend to be an asshole to trick a girl into liking you, they have exactly zero chance of building a healthy and adult relationship with someone that is going to have any longevity by following that strategy.

So here I am, currently listening to opera, having spent all day in the Halloween pajamas that I have been wearing all Summer, slowly sipping on vodka and juice, about to wrap up another blog post before I spend another two hours playing Lord of the Rings Online, and I am being completely open and honest about all of that because, while who I am is not for everybody, for the right person, I am becoming exactly who I need to be. And that's how you survive the Friend-Zone. You outgrow it.

Silly Elf, if I were as pretty as you, I wouldn't listen very well either*.
So if your long term struggle is that nobody wants you, make yourself a better person. Not for them, but for you. Enjoy yourself, find things, friends, and passions that set you on fire and knock down the walls of your perceptions and limitations. Eventually a side effect of this life long journey will be that somebody else heading the same way will find themselves desiring your companionship and you guys can go slay some metaphorical Balrogs together.

Man, I really need to stop playing so many video games. Just kidding, GAMER FOR LIFE, YO!

On a final note, an intelligent woman on my friends list posted this while I was writing this blog post and, since it's relevant, I'd thought I share it with you...

Deal with it.

*- Alternate caption: How can he be deaf with ears like that?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


A few weeks ago, a good friend asked me why I don't have any children yet. Here is his answer. 

And it starts with me being homeless. 

Hobo beard, Oct 2011. Hi Olek!

I first became homeless two weeks after my 18th birthday. It was early Summer in 1995 and I had been out playing basketball with one of my church friends when I came home to find all of my belongings stuffed into large garbage bags and thrown out on the front lawn. My parents had gone through the trouble of collecting some phone numbers and had called around so all of my other friends had beat me to the scene, my future brother in law had even defiantly parked his pick-up truck on the front lawn. It was a strange moment being a half dozen teenagers trying to make the mature decision of what to do with the virgin ginger who sang on the church choir. Fifteen minutes into our deliberations, my parents continued to hide in the darkened house and sent out my baby brother and mentally challenged little sister to tell us that if we didn't take my stuff off of their lawn soon, they would be forced to call the cops. So I left.

I spent a few months hopping from bedroom floor to bedroom floor, all of my friends were from church and I had earned a reputation with all of their parents by always being polite and for cleaning up after myself when I came over for supper, so it wasn't a hard sell. It wasn't that bad, actually. My life was mostly awkward moments and a complete lack of privacy, but I had a roof over my head and food to eat. However, to this day I sometimes still sleep on the floor just to keep in practice, like I might need to get used to it again someday.

So much of my life has been running away from that moment, chased by the most common phrase I remember hearing from my mother;  not an "I love you", but a resentment flavored "The day you grow taller than me, I'm going to chop your legs off", repeated weekly from the time I was six until I grew too strong for her to bully me anymore. And like a lot of survivors of domestic abuse, every intimate relationship I have tried to forge since then has been covered in her hand prints and I have always struggled to wash them off.

She was rarely physical with me, she didn't escalate into that direction until she started abusing my younger brothers and sisters. Not often, but she would sometimes trade slaps with my sister for up to thirty minutes at a time and she wasn't above using her weight to try to crush one of us if we wouldn't obey. Her cruelness was casual and beastly, usually a lash out for some perceived slight to her fragile ego or limited intellect. My father was frequently stressed and angry, joining in the continual shouting, but he is a genuinely nice guy who only recently started to realize the damage my mother did to all of her children, so I try not to hold onto that. He did apologize for my childhood last month, so that's something. He's trying, and that's all anybody could ask for.

Or you could ask for a cat, some drugs, and a balloon necklace, whatever really.

I once estimated that I had fought with my mother an average of once per day from the age of five until I was 18. That's almost 5000 arguments, blows, thrown objects, broken doors, missing hugs, and one six foot bookcase that I pulled off of the wall in front of my mother so she would stop following me around the house screaming in my face when I was 17. I knew this wasn't normal, I became the perfect guest at the houses of my friends so that I could praise from at least somebody's mother, but I didn't realize what was being done to me.

Even I didn't figure this out until just recently.

My sister and I got married at about the same time. She had been dating one of the guys, the one we nicknamed 'Biff', and had been kicked out of the house at 17 because they told us that my sister had become infected with her boyfriend's "evil spirit". I let her stay at my apartment for a while, the one I was finally able to afford after getting hired on at McDonalds (my parents wouldn't let me work when I was at home, so I had no money), but eventually her and Biff got together and she had a couple of girls. Neither marriage survived. My sister dedicated her life to her children, finally marrying a good man who treats everyone better than they treat him, and having three more boys, the last one is only five weeks old. I met him on the Fourth of July at a friend's BBQ where my sister had taken her kids. And they are beautiful. All of them, really. My oldest niece is an introvert who was hiding in the car reading a book, my youngest niece, finally a teenager, loudly announcing to the room how I am her favorite uncle made my heart happy in a way that is unreachable except by the words of children.

And I have always loved the girls, probably more than they know, but I missed something with them growing up. When 13 first learned to walk she would hug everybody. And I mean everybody, we were positive she would get kidnapped, if you can call it that when it looks like she's volunteering. It was harrowing for her 21 year old mother. 13 stayed equally as friendly as she got older, which I always took as good news. I hope that no matter what happens to her in life, that the warm core of her heart that constantly reaches out to people always has a chance to flourish, it is a beautiful gift. Granted, it's easy to get along with kids when you're an uncle, but the oldest nephew, who looks like me a bit, has been trying to help his mother with the chores since he could stand. He used to throw clean clothes back into the washing machine because he thought it was helping. HOW ADORABLE IS THAT YOU GUYS?

Almost this adorable.

Even then I missed it. Until the BBQ, when I was sitting with my curly headed, two year old nephew for the first time. We were watching He-Man on VHS and I casually observed what a chill little dude he was. He was leaning into the corner of the couch, hands draped comfortably across his lap, when he nodded and gave me a smug look. And that's when the last piece of the puzzle I didn't even know I was trying to solve fell into place. Because I sure as hell didn't invent the smug look, but I perfected it on my branch of the family. And the one thing everyone is so surprised about when they get to know me is fact that I'm surprisingly kind and nice to the people I care about. Somewhere, at the core of me, is the same heart (almost) that beats in my niece, that beats in my nephews, that beats in so many of us, and why I had assumed otherwise is just another reminder of how much there is to learn. My sister and her husband have worked hard to be good parents to all of them, but I know these kids. They are good people.

And, I guess, so am I.

At my heart I am an incredibly nice guy. Almost disgustingly nice. I used to think it was a weakness, a desperate attempt to gain attention, but this last year has been full of self-reflection and self-improvement and I am going to be entirely honest about myself here when I say that that's the kind of person I genuinely want to be. Nice.

And a crazy pirate. I would love that job.

Gone are my years of accepting any attention I could get from someone, no matter what the cost to me, and I have finally managed to rebuild enough of myself that there haven't been any new burn marks in years, but in looking forward to the rest of my life all I see still are hard choices. I know things will get better because I am making that happen with a tremendous amount of work, but when the life of the Normies calls out to me, like it did at the BBQ, an old tendril of mood strikes out at me and drags me below for a bit to be with her.

"I have never loved you." The giant says, with cold blue eyes and clammy, pale skin. "No one will ever really love you." It doesn't matter that she never says these words, that she is incapable of being this precise with her hatred, but with lifetimes trapped with her inside me, it can be hard to move. My arms are too short to make her love me, if only I could hold her one more time maybe she could love me.

But now I know how my mind works and I can navigate out of that. I have been forcing a lot of change upon myself lately, all for the better, with the intent to manifest a different destiny than the one I was working towards. Things are going well, I've lost a considerable amount of weight and have recently gone through a growth spurt on stage that made it so I could quadruple the amount of time I had for standup. I'm happy most of the time and that's as good as things can be. I am positive.

Yet inside are wastelands of pollution, and minefields hidden in every direction that brings me close to people. Domestic abuse tries to multiply by changing you into the kind of monster that puts it into others. And I am not blameless of this, I have enjoyed hurting many people in my life, and I am sure none of them truthfully deserved it. I have always been terrified of seeing my mother in the mirror, so I have avoided it. So when you ask me why I don't have any children, when you follow it up with the compliment that I have so much to give someone as a parent, it breaks my heart because I do. I know I do, but there is a wide chasm between me and the type of person I need to become to trust myself, and I don't know if I will ever be able to build a bridge large enough to cross it. I want desperately for someplace to feel like home, but it never has, and I'm sometimes afraid that it never will. I try so hard to build things only to watch them burn to the ground time and time again, always leaving me homeless and alone in the cold.

Thanks Mom. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Suicide Story.

I wrote this story over Christmas.

One crisp summer morning, I was driving a patrol truck in circles around a prison when the clock hit 5 a.m., I pulled over to the side of the road, and I put a loaded .38 right next to my eye.

It was quiet.

This quiet.

Nothing but the ambient desert, and the psychic weeping of 1200 men locked in a government cage. Then I started to count.


Everything turned black and I could smell my mother’s hair. Back before I was five and we became enemies, back from when everything could still be okay. I heard once that we used to be a happy family, but I’m the first born and I don’t remember it. My radio squawked and I looked up as the other patrol truck drove passed me, but I was invisible and he saw nothing.


Everything went black again and I remembered my cousin’s funeral. At 21 I was less than a year from my first divorce, when he received a phone call from his young wife. She and their new baby were at the airport. My cousin said he would be right there, but instead he walked into the backyard and put a hole right through his brain. At the funeral his mother dropped to her knees and begged me to treat my own mother better.

But what does she know? I hate my mother.

I don’t even know the baby’s name, but my cousin’s widow married his best friend and they wrote a new story together. I never got to read the note he left us. I wonder if he remembered me before he did it.

Probably not.


I opened my eyes and noticed that the night was fleeing from the sky. I blinked once, twice, then watched as everything turned to ash then faded away. I was the last man on Earth. I could feel everything retreating from me, all of the pressure and weight of reality slipping away. It felt like I was falling asleep. Drowning myself to sleep. Even her voice was finally gone. The only voice that I have ever loved.  There was a pregnant emptiness, and all I could hear was the sound of my own heart.

I looked at the gun.

Is this all that’s left of Fantasia? Is there where the dreamer ends?

I closed my eyes for the last time and listened for my final heartbeat.


Go back.

They had started a new story.

And this is when being a procrastinator saved my life.

I was born in 1977 to a deaf woman and a man so nerdy that he was already a computer programmer in the 
70’s. By the time I was five my mother already had two new babies and had completely forgotten about me. My second earliest memory is being left alone in my grandparent’s back yard for hours because my grandfather was sick and couldn’t handle having me inside. This happened all summer when my grandmother was out globe-hopping with the rest of Mensa and my mother was forced to come over to take care of my grandfather. We never had sunblock, so I spent a lot of time wandering amongst the roses avoiding as many blisters and bee stings as possible. Inside, their house was always decorated with African touristy stuff, and I spent as much time as I could touching everything I could get my hands on,  until my grandfather would sing me old songs from the 40’s, then kick me outside,

 “Oh, Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey, A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe?”

His voice was gravel and reeked of medication. My Grand father. I remember his A&W diet root beer, the stale, wooden scent of his pipe, and the fact that he was the only person who ever wrote me a letter. Until he died of a heart attack when I was 11, a handwritten note would come in the mail several times a year with my name on it. My grandfather, a 350 pound WWII vet would tell me that he loved me and how much he missed me, and he always ended by asking me to write him back.

My mother thinks I hate her for the summers of blisters and bee stings, but the real pain lies in the fact that I never answered him.

I don’t know where it started, but I know that it never ended. In the second grade I kicked over my school desk and threw all of my books at the teacher. In the third grade I convinced my teacher that I had been kidnapped when she asked me to step outside of the school gym and I decided to walk home. That’s when the state of Washington decided I needed to see a therapist. By the fifth grade, living back in Idaho because of my grandfather’s death, I argued with my teacher about the correct way to use the N word, I was wrong. At a parent-teacher conference later that year, she lied about me to my parents. In the sixth grade I was forced to switch classrooms to Mr. Budzianowski, who doubled as my basketball coach, where I was forced to run laps whenever I acted up in class. He also nicknamed me the fastest hands in the west, both for how quickly I would answer his questions, and sarcastically for how badly I passed the basketball.

My parents started homeschooling all five of us after I finished the sixth grade, and that’s when I really started getting angry. I fought with my parents almost every day. I wasn’t the only one they couldn’t manage, but I was the first. They did their best to control me, and I did my best to make it difficult. They’d kick me out of the house then lie about it when I came home with the cops. They wouldn’t allow me to get a job or learn math, I used to punch holes in their walls, they would buy food that the older kids weren’t allowed to eat, I would steal it when they weren’t looking.  By the time I was eighteen, it was no surprise to find all of my things in black garbage bags out on the lawn when I came home from church one night. All of my other friends were from the same church and seventeen, but we collaborated and I lived on the floor of their bedrooms until I got a job at McDonalds. I got fired from McDonalds two years later, only three days after my first wedding, for kicking a Mexican. Don’t worry, she had it coming.

I met my second wife on 9/11. That 9/11. She was a cutter and a stripper and the closest thing I’ve ever had to a soul-mate so you have to know, we never could have been happy. By the time my second wife lost her mind, I had been working at the prison for over three years and I didn’t know if I was more fat, sick, or lonely. I had been angry for so long that the world always seemed to be on fire.

And eventually that fire burned everything else away and left me standing alone with only one way out, that .38  

But they had started a new story.

I slowly opened my eyes, gently put the gun away and looked at the clock, it was 5:01.

I spent the last 30 minutes of my sixteen hour shift like every other; I traded places with the next officer, I walked through a lot of gates, then I drove home to pass out.

I woke up in a new world.

It was just like the old world, almost. At first I thought everything was the same. The people were the same tired people that I knew, and the daily rituals echoed the ones before, but something was very different, I just 
couldn't smell it yet.

Time passed.

Two months later and I was already bored with Alcoholics Anonymous. I had only wanted things to be different, I had only wanted to start a new story, a story with a better ending, but this was worse than any hell. My sponsor was an ex-meth dealer, a more lucky version of the same kind of guy I was used to babysitting, he meant well but endless repeats of, “It’s all dope, man.”, didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

And I was filling with something.

Things in this new world were clear to me in a way that they never had before. Everything made sense; the one thing that I would have wished for was finally real.

I could see.

I could see that everyone was struggling, and that everyone was doing the best that they could. I could see that most of the things that we thought were important were just illusions created by us to fill the real void we carry within. I could see that the only things that really matter are loving when you can and always trying to do your best. I could see all of this and that none of it would ever matter.

When you look into the abyss long enough, it stares back. Then it goes out for pizza and forgets to invite you because the abyss is a giant dick and once you realize how big everything everything EVERYTHING really is, you start to realize how pointless everything is.

And that was it.

This new world was hilarious and not to be taken too seriously. Depending on how you define ‘you’, sometimes you win and sometimes you were never born. The universe is an infinite place and you’re not usually in it.

I’m not going to stand here and tell you that I’m never angry anymore, and I’m not going to try and sell you on the snake oil of positive thinking, but every day when I wake up I have a choice of what kind of world I want to live in, and today, I chose this one.

In this world, the unbridled laughter of children is the perfect music, and all the colors of the rainbow are my favorite, and sometimes when you fight against depression long enough, it gets better.

Sometimes, it gets better. Sometimes you can fight your way through to the other side. Not everybody makes it, not everybody can, but sometimes you just get lucky.

And that’s why I’m still here.

Thank you.