November 1998
s m u g
by Todd Levin


I'll Have What She's Having…
(and don't forget the little paper umbrella)

I have terrible habits. I pick my nose compulsively, almost unconsciously. I split infinitives. I always forget to wash my neck, back, feet, hair, genitals, and face (and sometimes chest). And I inherit bad habits from the people I love, respect or place under long-distance surveillance. Thanks to habits learned from my father, when I'm really depressed I will release a deep, pathetic sigh from the darkest place in my heart (fortunately I haven't inherited my father's habit of eating soup bare-chested. I suspect this habit is what keeps him out of expensive restaurants and makes him welcome only in buffet-style diners managed by hillbillies and unfrozen cavemen). Thanks to my oldest school friend (who was institutionalized after a brief nervous breakdown and now lives a pretty normal, though strictly medicated, life) I stuff my hat each morning with old newspapers to “jam the frequencies”. And thanks to my ex- girlfriends, I am known to order sissy-drinks.


I don't know when this particular habit started, but every single time an important intimate relationship in my life ends, I wind up inheriting that person's drink of choice. My friends seem to be split on whether this gesture is an homage to a forgotten heart or a textbook manifestation of severely latent homosexuality. And I seem to be divided over which friends I should stop inviting over for drinks.

I don't think this habit really existed until post-college, but I think it could have been something I was prone to long before that without any conscious recognition. This is a very plausible theory because, up until a certain age (around 24 – 9 if you are Drew Barrymore or any of the kids from A Family Affair) the drinking habits of boys and girls run pretty much in tandem. It's basically milk, soda, and bug juice. Exceptions to this rule include Dr. Pepper, which is a beverage that seems to appeal almost exclusively to boys and the strictly girl-popular soft drink from Amarillo, TX, Pheremone Enriched Diet Girlie McSissyFizzles*. (OK, maybe I'm about to beat a dead horse by continuing the Dr. Pepper thread, but I must confess this as well: my heart is usually foolishly defeated by any girl who chooses Dr. Pepper out of free will. Even to this day I have found, almost without exception, that if I see a grown lady drinking Dr. Pepper I can probably name at least five bands she likes and approximately as many movies. But that and much more will be discussed extensively in my upcoming Bantam book, All I Ever Really Needed to Know About Beat Happening and Hal Hartley I Learned from Women Who Drink Dr. Pepper)

However, after men and women get over the thrill of drinking with reckless abandon (mixing any available alcohol with any potential mixer in sight e.g. Jim Beam and Ovaltine shooters) they settle into their own social drinking patterns. I have never been a huge drinking aficionado --- I still get my kicks off the basics, like cough syrup and nail polish remover – so perhaps I'm susceptible to falling into line behind other drinkers. Maybe it's this apathetic attitude toward alcohol that lets me pick up my ex- girlfriends' drinks without really questioning my choice, allowing me to move (not unlike liquid itself!) from one drinking relationship to another with relative ease. I cannot think of any other way to explain why I would be seen strolling around a Manhattan bar with an “Itchy Vagina” on the rocks clutched firmly in my free hand. (The other hand is usually gesturing to the drink desperately, as my mouth pantomimes the words “it's a long story” to every sideways-looking person I encounter at the bar)

I've moved from “Seven and Seven” (sweet. We broke up because she lost the remote control to our toaster) to “Cape Cod” (that lady could really put those away! She was voted “Cleanest Urinary Tract” in her college three years in a row) to “Castor Oil Sours” (eating disorder – very upsetting and very long story). Now I'm hanging around bars, trying to get on with my life after a long relationship that I still think about quite a bit, and trying to maintain a tough demeanor (the spiked bracelets and belt are huge contributing factors to the execution of this demeanor). Unfortunately, my cover gets blown because I keep ordering those damn sissy drinks. I just shrug it off when my friends refuse to order one for me and choose to slug me in the stomach as hard as possible as an alternative to the sticky sweet concoction I crave. And as I lie on the floor of the bar, wishing I had a satisfying Singapore Sling instead of severe intestinal cramping and a possible ruptured kidney, I realize that this habit, while pathetic and probably rooted in some sort of unexplored psychosis too creepy to even share with my therapist (Gloria, my Therapaxx 3000 personal growth cyborg), still holds traces of tenderness for the people that, for one reason or another, are no longer in my life. In one sense, it's a way of drawing a sense-memory of them right across my lips so I can remember how I've grown with and without them. Whatever it is, I am certain of one thing: I hope the next woman I date isn't such an unbelievable pussy.



back to the junk drawer

and such
and such


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