Angela, in form true to all friends I have kept for more than a few years (save one), is moving away. I’m trying not to take it personally.
I met Angela just before my life started to resemble some kind of bizarre roller coaster, in May of 2002. She joined the Dysfunctional Misfits at the Freakshow. For the uninitiated, this simply means that she came to work with me at the County.
At first – and she doesn’t know this- I didn’t really like her much. It wasn’t her fault; I actually don’t like most people when I first meet them. My oldest (and by that I mean the one I’ve known the longest) female friend only BECAME such after I went through a period of intense dislike. Angela, like many of my friends, fell into the category of people I didn’t like based on nothing.
Well, not nothing. She was (is) petite, blonde, and blue-eyed. She also has a waist to rival Scarlet O’Hara’s in the beginning of Gone With the Wind. She put photos in her office of her friends, most of which were also petite, blonde, and blue-eyed. For those of you who haven’t known me since I was 12, she looked better than most of the cheerleader/Yacht Club/ PAK sorority girls who, for some reason, couldn’t seem to tolerate me in high school. She reminded me (physically) of the my college roommate’s sorority sisters who completely ignored and disowned my roommate when she started to date a guy NOT in a fraternity. So, unbeknownst to poor Angela and without any provocation from her, I began to think of her as “Tri-D” (guess which sorority my college roommate was in?), something I don’t think Tom will ever let me forget. In typical human fashion of judging a book by its cover, making snap assessments, and not giving someone a chance based mainly on your own insecurities, I didn’t like her.
Of course, that lasted all of about two days. Ang was genuinely nice. Not “too” nice (something I instinctively mistrust), but nice. Plus, she made me laugh. Hard. So, despite my resolve to not like her, I wavered, then faltered. Soon we were sharing pudding cups in the breakroom at lunch. Then, the ultimate… we went bra-shopping together.
Now, I’m not one much into girl things (Really? you say in disbelief, your eyes widening at this shocking revelation, You? Why, I’ve never seen anyone more the ever-delicate flower!), but at a young(er) age, I -ahem- developed. And developed. And soon it became apparent that I would never again go braless without imposing serious consequences upon those standing close to me should I need to break into a run. So bra shopping about two times a year became something I had to do.
And I hate it. I hate every blessed second of it. I hate the padded bra bimbos in Victoria’s Secrets who try to convince me the heavy duty cotton bra reinforced with rebar is every bit as stylish and sexy as the wisp of blue lace peeking out from their blazer. I hate the crepey arms and wrinkled lips of the older ladies at Dillard’s who offer to measure me as impartially as a nurse inserting a catheter. I hate the wild goose chase of trying to find a bra in my size that looks like a bra and not something from the sporting goods section. Most of all, I hate the people at Hanes, Wacoal, Playtex, and every other lingerie line who seem to think that a woman with DD breasts must feel sexy all the time and doesn’t mind wearing something that looks as though it was made with surplus material from a sailmaker.
Needless to say, I welcome distractions when my two or three current bras break down from the stress and I need to buy new ones. One of the things I’ve discovered in TWENTY YEARS of buying bras is that the cheap ones do not last as long IF you can even find them in your size, so I plan on spending about $90 every time I buy bras. That’s a lot of money to spend on something that a) you know isn’t gonna last more than six months and 2) you don’t like buying anyway, but it’s worth it to only make two trips a year instead of four or five.
I don’t remember how I roped Angela into going, but we actually had a great time. We even closed down Dillard’s and had a wonderful time at the sushi place afterwards. She even admitted to me that she thought our boss was a little off. I giggled and proceeded to widen her eyes with a few tales of glorious times past at the Freakshow (I could recant some here by why ruin the chance of making you buy my future book?)
From that point on I thought of her as a friend. We survived the Freakshow (a totally different, more challenging type of Survivor- reality TV had NOTHING on us) and a couple of business trips. Now, here’s what a lot of you don’t know:
Angela changed my life.
That’s right, and you guys thought it was the divorce or quitting my job or the epic love affair that did it. Nope, it was Ang.
On our way to a business trip, she brought reading material. Cosmo. You know, the office slut’s magazine (no comments, please). And on the way to Orlando, she gave me that month’s Cosmo quiz. I remember it vividly; it dealt with change and how resistant to it you were. Somewhere between Lakeland and Kissimmee, Angela’s Cosmo quiz told me I would stay in a relationship and a haircut long past quitting time. The whole thing hit me like a wet puppy who has jumped on your chest at 5 a.m. and started licking your face: not wholly unpleasant, but it makes you reevaluate where you’re sitting.
For those of you who know what happened that weekend, yes, that was the weekend it all started. For those of you who don’t, suffice to say that Angela and her Cosmo quiz made me realize I’d been living in the shadow of what I wanted my life to be. I won’t go so far as to credit or blame her with my actions, but she did get the ball rolling. Thanks, Ang!
After that, we shared Thai food and a weakness for weird jokes. We also visited a palm reader in New Orleans together and went into our first drag club together. Here’s a great Angela story:
We walk into the drag club, buy the requisite beers, and watch the girls dance. Angela becomes fascinated- no, fixated- on the girls and where everything went (really short skirts). After a girl dressed like a nurse finishes her number, she begins working the crowd for tips. She approaches us.
“Could I have a dollar for my dance?”
It’s worth it, so I give her a dollar.
“You’re a very kind lady. Thank you.” She starts to move on, but Angela stops here.
At this point Angela says, “How did you know she was a woman?”
“Well, you can just tell.”
I feel feminine and reassured and wonderful. Of course she can tell I’m a woman; one drag queen can tell another one, right?
“You ARE a woman, aren’t you?” Her brow furrows as she looks me up and down, as if doubting all of a sudden.
I feel my self assurance slither out the door of the club ahead of me. Ang is kind enough to get a picture of me with another dancer, though.
Ah, yes, Angela. She came into my life just as it was reassembling itself. She has gotten a little tipsy at my house and played the piano with wild abandon (her husband didn’t even know she could play), helped me box up my office when I quit the Freakshow in what I call a “fit of self-respect”, and basically been a good friend who has appreciated my sarcastic wit (at least, I like to call it wit, that sounds so much better than “anger”), shared my love for Starbuck’s cappuccinos, and fueled my passion for Thai food.
She has taught me the “bed game” and that not everyone who has a baby goes completely over the edge. She has been invaluably insightful in puzzling out work-related challenges, and she’s the only person I know whose professional writing skills are as good as mine (no one tell Norm, the Comma Kid). Don’t I sound modest?
And she’s leaving. Her husband got a job in Wilmington, North Carolina. Which means that I’ll probably talk to her as much as I do know, but coordinating our schedules for lunches and dinners will be slightly (but not much) more difficult. I will miss her; she’s been fun to have around and a good friend.
It makes me think… this, even more than the mass exodus out of the Freakshow (everyone in the picture above no longer works there and we all quit within 18 months of each other), signals the end of an era. The Freakshow Era (not to be confused with the Bronze Age) will, with Angela’s move next week, officially come to an end. Even though many of us have quit, we’ve all still had our links. Angela did freelance work, and so does Tom. Norm used his experience in the Hall Of Doom to run for County Commission, and I’m sure he still tells Freakshow stories at dinner parties. Carla, Vestina, and Shan all still work there.
And me? I’m still profoundly affected by my experiences there. It’s the main reason I refuse to take a “grown-up” job again- fear of the office environment. And that’s ok. But recently Tom gently suggested I stop measuring my life by that place (that’s pretty much a direct quote). He’s right, of course. It’s one of the things that drives me nuts about the man, his frequent correctness.
So, in deference to Tom and because Angela and her Cosmo quiz WERE right, it’s time to change. I’m not going to stop calling it the Freakshow (it’d be like calling Christmas Easter) or anything, but I am going to have to let a lot of it go.
And I guess I’m gonna have to get used to the idea that Ang is gonna be quite a ways away from now on. Before I sign off, though, here’s my list of “things that will always make me think of Angela”:
“I see blonde people.”
The Bed Game.
Gap outlet stores
Strep throat… or whatever.
Vodka spilled in those same little purses.
And, of course…