B*tches Be Crazy

So it’s looking like Dr. Sheldon Cooper is turning out to be an even bigger magnet for weirdos than I was in my youth. And I was an incredible weirdo super-magnet, believe me.  Plus. he’s starting with the weirdo magnetism way earlier than I did—in his teens, whereas I was such a wallflower, I didn’t start pulling them into my orbit until my early twenties! So kudos to Dr. Cooper once again for being an overachiever.

As for my personal collection of weirdos: first there was Ralph, your standard unemployed loser with a wispy mustache who lived with his mom. There was Jack, who played a mean game of darts but was mean in so many other ways too. A couple of dysfunctional married men, of course. And last but not least, Rich the Elvis Impersonator. Because how can you call your life complete if you haven’t dated at least one Elvis Impersonator? [Note: Rich was not nearly as cute as Drew Ahearn.]

But enough about me. We were talking about Dr. Sheldon Cooper‘s nascent love life. I say nascent but at the rate it’s going, it could in fact be stillborn. [Actual quote from Dr. Cooper—who is not very religious at all—after the latest “incident:” Maybe I should just become a priest.]

We’ve talked before about the tragic figure of Ophelia, whose ongoing battle with severe mental illness informs Dr. Cooper’s reaction to all “interested” females (for lack of a better term). When he met the new girl, who shall henceforth be known as Annie (after that famously self-involved neurotic, Annie Hall), things seemed to be looking up. They met at a school mixer and she asked for his number. This will be quick, I thought. Because I am OLD.

[Okay, I’m not really that old. But it was too entertaining to pass up. Thank you, Retronaut!] Back in my day – you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, wearing shoulder pads and really big hair, a girl would never have dared ask for a guy’s number. Then she would never have dared use that number. And if she had used it once, she would never have used it again, because she would’ve then taken the hint if he didn’t call her back. Even if he was just clueless and didn’t actually mean it as a hint to stop calling.

But that was B.C. – Before Cellphones. Now, with the joyous advent of mobile technology, you can politely give out your phone number to someone you barely know—and be pursued by them relentlessly for a year or more even if you offer almost no encouragement whatsoever.

And of course, that is exactly what has happened to Dr. Cooper. Both he and Annie are, frankly, remarkably lame when it comes to social skills with the opposite sex. So was I as a teenager, but without cell phones and Facebook, I had a lot less opportunity to display my lameness.

With almost no encouragement, Annie Hall has continued to text Dr. Cooper about her life on a semi-regular basis, clearly hoping at some point he will ask her out. Or something. Dr. Cooper confided that while he would like a “female friend” to invite to dances and other obligatory adolescent social events, he really does not want a “girlfriend.” And who can blame him after the Ophelia incident?

Over the summer, the texting stopped, but now that school has resumed, so has the texting. My theory? Summer romance gone wrong, Annie Hall has decided to target her back-up option. Mildly annoying but no big deal.

And then, last week this:



Well, it turns out that while Dr. Cooper was meeting with his algebra tutor (with phone turned off, of course, because algebra tutors are like that, especially when they’re also head of the school’s Discipline Committee)—Annie Hall had repeatedly texted him. The entire content of those texts: “Hello.” Followed by the ubiquitous and annoying, “Hey.” Apparently, his failure to respond solicitously was the last straw. Thus the searing wit of her “Waste of Time” missive.


I would like to say I found all this out because Dr. Cooper confided in me and asked my advice, but alas, he did not. Truth is, I snooped. Since the Ophelia incident, I figure my job is not to be his friend or his friend’s friend. It’s to proactively protect. Some experts might call it “helicopter parenting,” but that is because no one ever tried to commit bloody suicide while talking on the phone to their thirteen-year-old. Call me Tiger Mom. Rowr. Also, I pay for the damn phone, so I can look at whatever’s on it. After three or four days of Brooding Dr. Cooper with no explanation, I checked out the call log and discovered the message. But it turned out, that wasn’t what had annoyed him. What really annoyed him is that he thought the “Waste of Time” message meant she was out of his life. But of course, with girls and Dr. Cooper, it can never be that simple. Two days later, she had texted him while he was hanging out with friends at the Homecoming Game. 


And when he didn’t respond to that with a heartfelt invitation to come sit with him, she dashed off an irritable:


I’ve got a newsflash for Annie Hall: Once you call a guy a “waste of time,” it’s kind of over. Unless your next text is, “So sorry, it must’ve been the vodka and PMS. Forgive me.”

But even then, you might want to just delete that phone number from your Contacts List and find someone who gives a darn.

Here’s hoping that in college (if not sooner), Dr. Cooper can start attracting girls with higher self-esteem. And not so much of the passive-aggressive Bella Swan Velcro Personality Disorder so popular with teenaged girls these days.


The Syd Barrett Moment

We had one of our Syd Barrett moments this weekend. The inspiration for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is a biographical note I think most of us would feel better not having. And yet, in the end, that was Syd’s greatest claim to fame. But why he inspired that dark masterpiece is what concerns us here today. It’s because he was pretty much crazy.

Cast out of Pink Floyd, the band he’d help create, Syd recorded a couple of haunting solo albums, and then did serious time in mental institutions. It’s said that a visit to him when he was in one of those institutions reduced his bandmate Roger Waters to tears, and that Roger never went back. Some people think that sounds weak, but that’s only because they don’t have a Syd in their own lives. We do. Our Syd is a girl. Read more…

Syd Barrett in 1969
Syd Barrett in 1969 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We had one of our Syd Barrett moments this weekend. If you’re a “certain age” (like me), then probably the name Syd Barrett immediately conjures up slightly disturbing images in your head. The inspiration for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is a biographical note I think most of us would feel better not having. And yet, in the end, that was Syd’s greatest claim to fame. But why he inspired that dark masterpiece is what concerns us here today.

It’s because he was pretty much crazy. A physically beautiful young man and talented musician, Roger “Syd” Barrett got heavily into LSD and, as she is sometimes wont to do, the Acid Queen opened some doors for him that should never have been opened. Increasingly erratic, cast out of Pink Floyd, the band he’d help create, Syd recorded a couple of haunting solo albums, and then did serious time in mental institutions. It’s said that a visit to him when he was in one of those institutions reduced his bandmate Roger Waters to tears, and that Roger never went back. Some people think that sounds weak, but that’s only because they don’t have a Syd in their own lives.

We do.

Our Syd is a girl. We might want to call her Ophelia for the purposes of this story, since Ophelia, although fictional, is another fine representation of that scary moment when a sensitive, creative mind crosses some sort of line. Or opens the wrong door.

Ophelia was best friends with Dr. Sheldon Cooper throughout his time in middle school. They were both phenomenally talented musicians, members of the school theatre group and dangerously high-strung. She was also two years older than our young doctor and fashion model pretty. Except for the high-strung part, she seemed like a great kid. She reminded me entirely too much of myself as a teenager, and so I probably didn’t limit their time together to the degree I should have. Although, to be fair to myself, I remember thinking “loose cannon” the first time I ever saw her, and being convinced by the Man and other family friends that I was being a laughably overprotective mom. Besides, their time together consisted of going to movies with a group of mutual friends, participating in school activities, and talking on the phone. How dangerous could that be? A lot, as it turned out.

As time passed, we all began to realize that Ophelia was more than just dangerously high-strung. She was just plain dangerous. Her fondness for Dr. Sheldon Cooper turned into an obsession – a clingy, manipulative obsession that caused him to withdraw from us for many months before we fully realized what was happening. We thought his new silent, brooding personality had been triggered by some serious health challenges I was going through at the time, and no doubt that contributed. But the main problem was that his friend was going crazy before his very eyes and he had no vocabulary for it. Finally, the depth of Ophelia’s obsession made itself known when she attempted suicide while talking to Dr. Cooper on the phone one night. He was thirteen years old when this happened, and he’s still pretty stand-offish with girls as a result.

At the end of that year, we moved Dr. Cooper to a new all-boy school. He tried half-heartedly to keep in touch with Ophelia and his old group of friends. She was in an intensive treatment program and seemed to be improving. He joined her and the group for a nostalgic trip to the movies last summer. When I dropped him off at the theatre, I took one look at her and knew she was in another downward spiral. There’s a look that someone with a truly serious mental illness gets. I remembered it then from the schizophrenic friend I’d had in college. It’s a look that seems to be coming from a planet about ten light-years away. A look that says, “the voices in my head are more real than you are.” Because for that person, at that moment, they are. That kind of illness is different from being anxious or depressed, serious emotional problems that I’m familiar with from the inside-out. That kind of illness is the kind that leaves its victim detached from everyone around him or her. They become unreachable. In the end, all you can do is have a good cry and walk away.

A few months after the movie get-together, I heard that Ophelia had “taken another bad turn” and was in a local residential treatment center. Then she was back out and started calling again. Dr. Cooper became brooding and anxious. We blocked her number on all the phones but one – mine. Because I just had to know how she was doing. Is it because I’m nosey? Maybe a little. Mostly it’s because I remember being very close to opening that door when I was in my late teens, and again when I was in my early twenties. The first time, I walked away from it all on my own and went to England instead of trying to kill myself. The second time, a very spiritual friend (who I barely knew at the time) called me out of the blue and asked me to spend the summer with her in Arizona. I did, and her little gesture helped me be able to face the world again. But in the end, I think I was just lucky – or blessed. I never heard those voices that Ophelia hears or that Syd Barrett heard too.

We hadn’t heard from Ophelia since last summer, although we’d heard about her from mutual acquaintances. We were under the impression she was getting better and knew that she was supposed to start college this past January. We were busy with jobs, and school activities and new friends. Honestly, I don’t think Dr. Cooper had even thought of her in months.

Then this weekend came the call – the Syd Barrett moment. She said she was in a “boarding school,” which was weird since she’d already graduated from high school last year. Further talk made it clear she’s in another residential treatment center and that she’s had a “hard time adjusting” lately. She thinks in the fall she might get out and be able to go to a community college. Her parents always expected her to play in a symphony orchestra, but she tells me all she really wants to do now is knit and sew. Maybe be a tailor. She doesn’t want to be a musical genius, she just wants to sew a pretty dress someday. I wish her luck and tell her to keep in touch. Dr. Cooper refuses to come to the phone. I tell Ophelia he’s out at the library, studying for exams. She’s a little let down, but I get the feeling she’s not surprised he “can’t” talk to her anymore. At some point, he had a cry and he walked away, and he’s done now. They say insanity isn’t catching, but for some emotionally fragile people, it sure feels like it could be. Sometimes, walking away is about self-preservation.

I don’t know why some people never come back from that dark place on the other side of the door. Syd Barrett eventually closed the door and went home to live with his mom in Cambridge. The brilliantly innovative guitarist remained on the other side of the door, in the dark place. He went back to being just plain Roger Barrett and it’s said he found a measure of peace and contentment painting abstract canvases and tending the family garden. I hope that’s true. And may it be true of Ophelia too, and all who suffer as she does.

Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.

John Everett Millais - Ophelia - WGA15685

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program. Soon.

I hope.

I was really doing great with the weekly blogging thing for about five minutes there, but then some little thing came unhinged and then another thing and another and –. You get the idea. That’s my life all the time. Nothing’s ever really wrong, I just can’t seem to stick to a schedule very well. This is probably because I’m so busy managing everyone else’s schedule. And by everyone else, I really mean the sullen, Asperger-ific Teenage Taz, who craves structure and order more than a German traffic cop. Actually, when he was little we called him Taz because of how hyper he was. Then he settled down. Now we call him something else. We call him Dr. Sheldon Cooper. This is Sheldon Cooper:


You might think that is funny, but you try really living with it every day. Fortunately, I don’t really have to live it with it for very many hours a day now that he’s a teen, because he’s so busy with school, homework, band practice, play practice, and of course, texting strange girls. But he’s been on Easter break for what is starting to seem like forever and I’m lucky if I have the energy to take a shower by the time I’m done organizing him and helping him schedule his homework down to the minute a week in advance — because you certainly can’t just spontaneously pick a subject and decide to do it depending on your mood of the day. That would be chaos. Then aside from the whole scheduling thing, there’s the chauffeuring thing. This is one of the main duties of a mother of a teenager who does not yet drive. I would wish for him to drive, but that would be a whole new kind of chaos, and I’m not ready for it yet. Neither is the rest of the world, trust me.

Anyway, my series of Irrational Fears blogs will resume in a few days when all returns to whatever passes for normal around here. And by then I should also have info on the publication of the new edition of my romance novel, Love Capri Style. I got the rights back to it from my old publisher and I’m having a new edition issued. It should be available as an ebook in a few days and a print edition will follow soon after.

Until then — don’t sit in that chair!