One Non Prom

1984 was my senior year at Tascosa High School, which is located in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo is where I was born and raised, and by the way, has been mentioned in many a country song because it just sounds like the name of a town that you would hear in a country song. I’ve said that before but felt like repeating it because it’s a good line, and what if someone didn’t get to read it the first time I wrote it.

I wasn’t a typical seventeen-year-old girl all aflutter about boys or going to football games or dances. Well, maybe the boy part, but attending school or any of its related functions did not hold my interest, which was a big factor in my being grounded my entire freshman year. There were many reasons for house arrest, including my hard head and sharp tongue, but basically, it was because neither my teachers nor my mother seemed to care that I already knew everything.

That isn’t an exaggeration either it was actually the entire school year. My sentence wasn’t handed down all at once. I was just never able to make parole. Which, unfortunately, helped prove my mom correct – she could indeed play the game longer.

My next three years of academia, if a public school can be considered academia, went a little more smoothly thanks to the lessons learned during my incarceration, which were “think before speaking because some people obviously don’t appreciate dry humor.” and “the importance of sitting quietly and pretending to give a shit even when you do not.”

Senior prom rolled around one month shy of my 18th birthday and seemed juvenile. It was only 26 days before I would be a grown woman, and so it seemed silly to go. Besides, I was bashful and awkward and pretty sure that no one would ask, which they didn’t, but it’s fine because that’s what helped me develop my theory that not going to the prom is a way more interesting rite of passage than going.

Imagine how many great love songs or works of art we’d have been denied if everyone fit in as a kid or went to their prom. Thank heaven Vincent Van Gogh was a redhead, which is never appealing to girls in their teens, so you know that guy didn’t go, and if he had, there might not be The Starry Night.

There had been talk about perhaps going as a group with my best friends Jo and Jonathon.

Jo and I had been friends since the 6th-grade. She was a tiny little cowgirl and was funny and sweet, with some rough-and-tumble thrown into the mix. Her older brother was a bull rider, so she spent a lot of time at rodeos and around cowboys. My mom always compared her to a Banty rooster, roosters used in cockfights because they’re scrappy and will fight to the death. That may not sound very flattering, but actually, it is and was a pretty accurate comparison. “Give in” or “Back down” were not phrases in Jo’s vocabulary.

We met Jonathon during sophomore year. He was our gay friend that we didn’t believe was gay despite having met him in drama club or the fact that he was designing his own clothing line at fifteen years old and wanted to be known only by his first name, like Cher.

We ended up not going as a group because Jonathon was asked to the dance by some random girl who also had no gaydar. I don’t know her name or anything about her, really, except that she didn’t lose her virginity on prom night.

Jo went with a guy that we knew from church. Hers, not mine. Jo’s family belonged to the Church of Christ, and mine were Methodist, but I’d tag along with them most Sundays because her parents would take us to eat at The Sizzler afterward.

Church of Christ is hardcore. They are rivaled only by the Pentecostals and those religions where you have to marry your grandpa’s best friend when you turn twelve years old or get your period, whichever happens first. So, I’d sit in Sunday school every week and listen to them tell me I was going to hell because I wasn’t baptized in their church, but then I’d get chopped sirloin and fries when it was over. So, it was totally worth it.

Initially, it was a shock because Methodists are a very mellow people who like to think we mind our own business. After all, it doesn’t count if you say it under your breath or out of the corner of your mouth. We enjoy a nice brisket and macaroni salad. And we love God, but come on, let’s not lose our minds about it. We sit quietly with hands folded, paying attention during the sermon so that we can be out of there by noon, and we just pray that nobody goes up to the front to accept Jesus during the benediction because that’ll tack on at least an extra 20 minutes.

May God be with you. And also, with you. Gotta run, see y’all next week.

On Prom night, I volunteered to work my boring part-time job at a clothing store in the mall and learned a valuable lesson that I wouldn’t really understand until years later. A dance is just a dance; it only lasts one night. But a job, no matter how boring, is something that, for the rest of your life, can be used to get you out of going to all kinds of undesirable functions like brunch and Christmas at your boyfriend’s parent’s house.

And The Livin is Easy

Remember when we were kids and thought that pistachio nuts were red? Then we found out it was because they were being doused in the cancerously delicious dye Red 40.

That was sure fun.

On lazy summer evenings, during that magical time when moon and sun simultaneously rise and set and your soul whispers that anything is possible, we’d hop on our bikes, with little red-stained fingers, and happily cruise along in the mist coming from the truck spraying for mosquitos.

So many fond memories and upper respiratory infections.

Twas a simpler time when it was safe to be outside from dawn to dusk. Just hanging out on the curb, waiting for your dad because he promised you could spend the weekend with him. And you could just wait and wait and wait until the night was as black as pitch and your mom would finally make you come inside because he didn’t show.

Ah, the carefree days of childhood.

Up from San Antone

From the time I was old enough to sneak into bars, all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a stand-up comic.

Life changed during the summer of my nineteenth year on this planet when the comedy boom of the 1980s hit and Jolly’s Comedy Club opened in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas.

That’s right, the Amarillo.

The one from Route 66 and Amarillo By Morning. It’s actually mentioned in a lot of country songs because it just sounds like the name of a town that you’d hear in a country song. A dusty, little cow town on the plains of Texas. I-40 runs right through the middle of it, leading anywhere but there…which is exactly where I wanted to be.

I hated small-town life. Dreaded the thought of getting stuck there, marrying a feedlot cowboy, and then dying. And not necessarily in that order.

My first time on stage during that open mic, Tuesday, June 22, 1987, 8:15 p.m. central time, (every comic can tell you their comedy anniversary) I knew things would be okay. It didn’t matter that there weren’t a whole lot of laughs, cause I was saved. No cowboy husband or a job slinging hash for me.

Onward and upward!

I performed secretly for months before telling my ridiculously overprotective, single mother and older brother that I wanted to drop out of Jr college and go on the road telling jokes. They took it surprisingly well. Probably because I prefaced it by saying, “I have something to tell you. I’m a lesbian.”
After a really long and incredibly awkward pause when it seemed like they both might burst into tears, I said, “I’m kidding, I’m going to be a professional comedian.”

“Thank you, Jesus,” was their heartfelt response.

That was when my brother revealed he’d been worried that I might not be straight because my roommate and best friend at the time was a hefty girl who played catcher on our church softball team.

If he’d ever paid attention to the way I played right field, his worries would have been laid to rest much earlier in the season.

As it turns out, my friend wasn’t gay either. She was just chubby.

And, by the way, my family doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with being homosexual. It’s fine. Just as long as it’s not one of us for cryin’ out loud.

Anyhoo, after religiously doing open mics and not getting laughs for another year or so, it seemed like the perfect time to hit the road. So, I then quit my high-powered waitress job at the Red Lobster, even though I’d just gotten my year pin with the diamond chip in it. (See how serious I was?)

By the way, when I say there weren’t any laughs when I first started I’m being only slightly self-deprecating. There were some but just not very many. As is the case with most new comics. Usually the audience members were people I knew. Some of them I’d grown up with, gone to school with, and worked with. Most of them just sat and stared.

Thanks, guys.

It isn’t easy trying to chase a dream when it feels like nobody’s rooting for you. It hurt my feelings at the time, but I’ve come to understand this; it isn’t that people don’t want you to reach for the stars because they don’t like you. Nope, that’s not it at all. Sometimes they don’t want you to do it because it means that they too will have to try.

And who wants to do that? I don’t blame them. Trying is hard.

Don’t let anyone kid you. It’s nothing like not trying.

And, so began the journey. July 3, 1988, I quit my day job and hit the road in my 1974 canary-yellow Ford Pinto. I was twenty-two years old, had zero money in my pocket, and even less of a clue about how the world worked. I know: awesome game plan.

It’s always felt like I was raised twice in my life. First, in a small town by a nice family who didn’t drink or smoke and a grandfather who was a Methodist minister. Then again in green rooms, showrooms, and comedy condos across the country by comics who drank, swore, did drugs, and fornicated with cocktail waitresses in the bedroom next to mine.

I must tell you, it’s made for an interestingly boring life.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: