Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Boot Camp for Lost Boys

I live in a city of over 300,000 people, but in a way, none of us really live in the same city. We see our different parts of it, live our different lives in it. We all have personal landmarks, and they're rarely shared, communal ones. Other people don't drive past the Chatterbox on France and think, "That's where I had what I thought was my best date of '08. Man, was I wrong about that." Other people don't see the Figlio billboard and remember their awkward dinner with a burly guy who not only finished a plate of pasta so enormous it could feed a small village but who roughly stopped the waitress from taking his CLEARLY EMPTY plate by spouting through a mouthful of bread, "No! I'm DIPPING!" And I'm guessing (though I could be wrong, of course) that not a lot of other people think, every time they drive past that big house on Emerson, "Heh. I was deflowered there."

I was out with Carrie last night and we found ourselves stopped at the traffic light beside another of my personal landmarks. It was the corner where I had my first (and thus far only) truly angry, yelly, incredulous breakup. Previously, my only reference point for the restaurant on that corner was that it was the venue for my urban family's second annual Easter Orphans and Heathens Brunch. Now it will always be the place where I stood chastising a soulless, unrepentant manchild in the cold while his new girlfriend watched from a bar stool inside.

I'm talking about Jimmy, of course. The pothead. The damn Buddhist. Remember him? Remember what a sweet story it was originally but how spectacularly it went awry?

I still sort of can't believe that happened. It's absurd, really, and as such, I have to laugh at it. Or maybe not laugh, but at least shake my head and roll my eyes. I'm not angry anymore. I knew I wouldn't be. There's no reason to stay upset over losing a person I'm better off without. But I do still think about him. I do wonder what he's doing. And though I'm not hurt anymore, I'm also not perfect, so when I wonder about him, I'll admit that I hope he's not doing well.

It's not [entirely] that I'm bitter. It's that I honestly think the man needs to hit rock bottom. He has been down, yes. He has been broke and destitute. He's even spent the night in a jail cell at least once. But I don't think he's ever really gotten it. I'm not sure he's realized that any of it is his own damn fault. And I don't think it helps that through all of it, he's always had someone saying, "You are awesome, Jimmy. You're a great person." And I think he needs to stop hearing that. Because he is NOT awesome. He is a flake. He is a fuckup. He is a great big irresponsible child. And you know what? Children get reprimanded when their behavior is inappropriate. Children get punished when they misbehave. Jimmy got fired, skipped out on his rent, lied to his friends, and vanished on me, and what was his punishment? Free room and board with a new girlfriend and a free vacation on said new girlfriend's dime.

I really didn't mean to go into so long a rant about someone who's worth so little energy. I didn't mean to launch into a similar rant when Carrie and I pulled up to that stop light last night. But Carrie, no stranger to fuckwits and manchildren herself, didn't stop me. No, instead, she joined right in.

"It's too bad there's not a boot camp for lost boys," she said. It was a flash of brilliance. Yes! A boot camp for lost boys! We can probably all think of a few candidates for new recruits.

"Do you think it would really work as a boot camp, though?" I asked.

Carrie: "What do you mean?"

Me: "Boot camp is a short-term program for immediate results. Lost boys are driven by instant gratification, but they've also got short memory spans. We need to shoot for long-term change. It might need to be a reform school."

Carrie: "Yeah. They need to go AWAY. Maybe for a long while."

Me: "Or at the very least, an ongoing outpatient program."

Carrie: "Like social work. They'd be assigned a case number."

Me: "And a case manager. They'd have to report in on their progress. And the case manager would talk to their friends, too."

Carrie: "And their parents!"

Me: "None of that manipulating and revising history and skewing the story to make themselves the victim. The case manager would need context. She'd talk to the people who actually KNOW the guy so she'd know what's really up."

Carrie: "But the lost boys would have to meet with each other regularly, too, right? Like an AA meeting?"

Me: "Definitely. And they'd go around the circle.... I'm Adam. I'm a lost boy. It's been six weeks since my last irresponsible, capricious act. And a chorus of lost boys would reply, Hi, Adam. Oh! And they'd get chips after each milestone!"

Carrie: "Chips? People in AA get chips?"

Me: "It's like a little medallion to mark an accomplishment. 'One month sober,' 'One year sober.' That sort of thing."

Carrie: "Oh, so they wouldn't cash them in for anything... not like poker chips, or skee ball tickets..."

Me: "Ha! No, but that would be awesome. I applied for six jobs this week. Here is my chip. I would like to trade it in for that bottle of Jaegermeister."

Carrie: "Nooo! We'd have to take their alcohol AWAY, not reward them with it! Their cigarettes, too. Maybe even movies."

Me: "They definitely wouldn't be allowed to watch Swingers or Fight Club or Reservoir Dogs. And nothing that glorifies life as a manchild."

Carrie: "Would there be twelve steps? And the Serenity prayer?"

Me: "They should at least have some sort of creed. I will not be careless with hearts. Or finances."

Carrie: "I will do no irreparable harm to women."

Me: "I will take responsibility for my actions."

Carrie: "We should totally transcribe this conversation and put it on the Internet."

Me: "I'm way ahead of you on that."

Of course, gauging success in the lost boys program might be difficult. An alcoholic measures progress in concrete milestones that are easily quantifiable. "I haven't had a drink in thirty days." That's clear cut. Black and white. But "It's been six months since I frustrated a woman to tears in the privacy of her own bedroom"? "It's been two months since my mother silently wondered to herself where she went wrong with me"? These things are harder to verify. Still, it's an idea whose time has come, I say. Any social workers out there looking for a new project?


3carnations said...

At least if those boys got sent away, you wouldn't have to worry about running into them at Target. Heh.

-R- said...

For some people, I think even if they hit rock bottom, they would still believe it was someone else's fault that they hit rock bottom.

Also, who doesn't wish bad things for people from time to time? I don't want to be friends with someone who always does the right/perfect/super-nice thing.

Sauntering Soul said...

I have no desire to be the social worker who has to try and fix these guys, but can I nominate my ex-husband to attend this brilliant program? And I also would like to nominate the guy I dated about 4 years ago who, just before he left Atlanta to go to Colorado for a temporary job, called me up and asked me if I would lose a certain number of pounds so he could marry me when he came back. You know, he was the guy who I had not even seen for 6 months prior to this conversation and who I had never even dated exclusively nor had any talks about the future. I'm not surprised I never heard from him again after the things I said to him in response. Jackass.

Jess said...

Oh man. Yes, it would be nice if someone dealt with them. But on the other hand I agree that they aren't worth the time. And why should someone sit there trying to deal with them and fix them when they don't even perceive a problem to begin with? They say an alcoholic can't be helped unless they want to be helped, you know? Same thing with this.

lizgwiz said...

I think it's perfectly natural for you to wish ill on Jimmy. Heck, I wish ill on him, and I don't even know him.

Shelly said...

I'm with Jess - until they want to be fixed, there is no sense in trying to help them.

badger reader said...

Some folks have no rock bottom and some folks will never accept responsibility. That said, I would totally nominate some fellows.

Carrie said...

Oh, those meltdowns in the privacy of one's bedroom. You say so many things so well, Stef. I'm still feeling the therapeutic effects of our conversation.

Kate said...

This is the funniest post I have read in ages. And oh, so true. Thank you.

abbersnail said...

My friend, you should start this. It might just be your million-dollar idea!

nancypearlwannabe said...

Stef, you and Carrie are geniuses. I will help you get this idea rolling. Oh, if only I lived in Minnesota! But I can definitely submit recruit names, starting with the married man who kissed me last Saturday, whom I called an ass yet whom still continues to text me despite the fact I have not responded in two days.

steve said...

I probably should have attended something like this pretty much throughout my twenties (and maybe into my early thirties).

That said, I can think of more than a couple of women I have dated who could use a similar program - men, sadly, have not cornered the market on douchebaggery.

Whiskeymarie said...

I would be happy to teach a class or two for you (free of charge) as I lived through WAY too many of these dudes in my 20's. Now older & wiser, I can take a "mother hen" approach with them, lull them into a false sense of security, then smack them over the head with a dose of tough-love reality.

A few class possibilities:

RealMan1540: "How to say what the hell you actually mean, and not just what you think she wants to hear so she'll stop talking"

RealMan1541: "Getting in touch with your inner asshole: how to finally see yourself the way others do" (Prerequisite for this class: "You're not as cool as you think you are: an introduction to narcissism and no-cluedness in the modern male"

RealMan1542: "How to use the damn phone: a guide to actually doing what you say you're going to do"


RealMan1543: "Growing up 101: topics in personal hygiene, the laundry arts, job longevity, clothing selection, appropriate behavior at family/social events, grocery shopping, bathroom cleaning, communication with ex-girlfriends/wives, and breakup etiquette."

Let me know if you need my resume.

LaraBoBara said...

I really, really love the treatment program idea - especially the creed. I think you're onto something here, Stef. And then, after they graduate and move on to REsponsible Living and eventually get married, you can send them to me to officiate at their weddings! Squee!

Also, I still would like to kick Jimmy in the teeth. Or perhaps somewhere more painful.

Allie said...

Ooh! I have a couple of old friends I would happily enlist. :)

courtney said...

This is a fantastic idea. People who act like children deserve to be treated as such. People like you, Stefanie, deserve to be treated like princesses. :)

michelle | bleeding espresso said...

Ohohoh do I have some candidates for boot camp!

I missed all this going on at the time as I've been "off" blog reading for far too long...I'm catching up now, but even before I begin, sorry you had to go through it. We all know that we need to experience certain things blahblahblah...still. Sucks. Boo.

flurrious said...

Somehow I missed this post until now, and going back and rereading the awful ending to the Jimmy story, I realize that at the time I spaced that his new girlfriend was there. I suddenly feel a renewed dislike for Jimmy.

I think the Boot Camp is a splendid idea. There should also be some kind of aversion therapy included, wherein every time they do that thing where they pretend that your crying is so unwarranted that they find it completely inexplicable and thus a little bit humorous, someone runs out and kicks them in the junk.