How A Dump Led Me to Stand-up
It is 2010. I am a serial dater but not by my choice. I want commitment or at least I think I do, but no one really wants to commit to me and honestly, some of the men I am dating...no one should ever commit to them either. I am losing this battle of wanting love and chasing it so hard that I am accepting dates from men I would never have accepted dates from if I didn’t have my friends encouraging me to give some weirdos a chance.
And then I think I have finally found myself a normal guy. He pursued me years prior when I first started working at Hooters and now after leaving an abusive relationship and returning to my orange shorts, our paths are crossing again. This time around I find myself more attracted to him than I had been in the past. He is older than me but he still likes to party and go out every night. He sells cars and is a homeowner. In my eyes, he is a real man unlike the freeloaders and drug dealers I am used to dating. We spend time together often and I even bring him lunch some days.
But then I begin to see pictures of him online with another girl...another girl with the same name as me. I even see pictures of him kissing her. My heart breaks. How could he do this? We have a history. Who is she? She doesn’t know him like I do. She doesn’t have the same friends as us. She doesn’t bring him lunch to his job.
HOW DARE HE!
I confront him. I don’t want to be too confrontational. Maybe he is trying to get rid of her.
He tells me he’s not.
I am stunned. There are too many times in my life when I not only, get my heart broken, but I get so stunned I am at a loss for words. What can I say? After all, she’s prettier than me. I have to move on, but how?
I am beginning to lose faith that men are a caring and compassionate species. In fact, I start documenting my trials and tribulations in dating. I decide I will write a book about my failed attempts. I title it, “I Should Have Ran”.
Surely, men regret breaking up with authors...especially if she became a New York Times Best Seller! I write the story about how I went out with a man who worked at my friend’s gym when I was twenty years old. I write about how I have no interest but my friend won’t stop hounding me about him. He has me meet him at his house before taking me to his high school reunion. When I arrive at his house, he and a group of other guys are passing around cigars. He explains to me the cigars are laced with opium and he is part of an opium trafficking ring in West Nashville.
I should have ran then, but I didn’t. I stayed for the date.
Later throughout the date, someone breaks out some aluminum foil and eventually I agree to smoke some of his opium with him and his friends. I get sick to my stomach right away. I have made a terrible choice. I want to go home and go to bed, but he insists on introducing me to some girls from his high school. He even drags me to an after party where I spend the whole time dry heaving in the host’s bathroom as the other party-goer’s look at me with disgust. The next day, I can hardly move out of the bed. I am told later it was black tar heroin I was free basing with him. Our date makes chapter one of my book.
I write more about my on again/off again love affair with a man who has a child with another woman. I write about her calling my phone 20-30 times a day from blocked numbers...for years. Yet, I still love him. I write about the time a guy dumps me in a text message so he can reunite with his ex who has just been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
I figure all of these stories are unique and engaging. I read my draft in preparing for this podcast and it made me cringe. I was an amateur writer getting way too personal for her first book. I send this book to a publisher I had met years prior.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” he writes. He isn’t impressed and honestly, he shouldn’t be. I know I have a little chance of it getting accepted, but it still hurt. All rejection hurts even the rejection you prepare for hurts. I am convinced these stories have to be told! Where can I tell my bad date stories?! They’re not even stories—they’re jokes!
No, I could never...
For years, my friends are telling me I should get into comedy. I am great at entertaining them, but comedy is different. You have to write jokes in comedy. I can’t write a joke. Jokes are hard! “Who cares?! You’re funny! You can do it,” my friend encourages me.
“I work at a bar that has an open mic every Tuesday. You should come out! You’re funnier than those guys,” offers my manager.
I need a vacation.
As I am still licking the wounds of my most recent dumping and now the rejection of my book, a friend of mine flies myself and my best friend to LA. I have never been to LA. On the plane ride, I read Russell Brand’s, “My Booky Wook”. I have never seen any of his standup, but I love to read and I relate to Russell Brand so much- his problems in relationships, his love affair with substances. Heck! If this guy can do stand up, why can’t I? My coworkers seem to think I can do this. After all, I did spend two years writing and producing short films for school. I’ve got some experience in story telling.
Meanwhile, I am loving LA. I am jealous that I am only here for vacation and not living here as an entertainer pursuing some wide-eyed dream. I would love to come back one day with a talent. I don’t know what that would be. I’ve only acted in theatre classes in high school and college. I want to belong here but I don’t know how I would. What if I pursued standup? If I was in Hollywood, I wouldn’t care about a guy anymore. I would be making dreams happen for myself.
On the flight back, I daydream about a career in comedy. I don’t know any stand ups. I have no idea what life as a comedian is like other than what Russell Brand has written in his autobiography. My manager conveniently bartends at an open mic...that’s an interesting coincidence. Maybe I’ll just go and check it out. See what it’s like live and in person. I haven’t seen stand up in years.
Well, maybe I should write something...just in case. I could prepare some material in case they call on me or in case I get the nerve to do it. What will I write about?
I guess I could write about these guys poking me on Facebook....they seem relatable. Maybe throw in a joke about being a survivor of domestic violence. They’ll love me. Someone there might see me and sign me. So I get on my computer and start writing jokes.
Here’s the first joke I ever wrote...something I would never joke about now. I’ve come a long way. “Either way I really hate people touching me. I mean what are you assaulting me now, but you are doing it on the internet so that makes it okay? You do realize we just met and already you are putting your hands all over me, right? I mean this is not a good start for us. I usually like to wait about three months into the relationship before I let you start exhibiting any signs of what could be potential violence. I had to tell my boss the other day to quit trying to wrestle me because I was getting the wrong idea.”
Now I need someone to go with me. I can’t go by myself. I know..I’ll invite my friend, Burnie, my last dump’s roommate. He’s a fun guy. He’s encouraging and if I do well, he will tell a certain used car salesmen we both know who will then regret dumping me. He will have no choice but to fall madly in love with me for I will be a STAR.
I am noticing a trend within myself-after some painful dumps, I use them to drive me. I don’t know how healthy this is, but then again if it wasn’t for heartbreak, we may not have this podcast...
It’s a Tuesday night and I pull up to Burnie and my dump’s house. Burnie gets in the car, “WHAT UP AB?! COMEDY NIGHT? YOU READY?!” I truly adore Burnie. He is more than just some guy I dated’s roommate in my eyes. He is a friend. Someone who has this incredible way of uplifting me and convincing me I am the most important woman in a room even when I feel painfully invisible.
I hand him a script of jokes I have written to read. He reads them and laughs as I drive us to south Nashville.
“This is really good stuff! I’m proud of you! You’re going to kill it!” “Oh, I don’t know, Burnie. I don’t think I’ll have the nerve to actually go onstage tonight. I kind of just wanted to check it out. We’ll see how it goes,” I tell him. When we arrive to the bar, I don’t know anyone. I order several Tequila Sunrises. I am a nervous wreck. There’s no way I can do this. I get up to use the bathroom.
When I get back to the table, Burnie says to me, “Hey, I signed you up while you were in the bathroom! Go kill ‘em, AB!” Oh, wow. I guess I’m doing this. He sees the look of fear across my face. “I can take your name off the list if you want.” “No, no. I can’t do that. I’d regret it.”
I go onstage with my jokes about guys on the internet and how confused I am when it comes to men...and people laugh at me. It feels incredible. The tequila also feels incredible. “You killed it!”, Burnie says to me when I get back to my seat. I have a fan. I am not even thinking of my last dump anymore. I am thinking how I have to do it again and again and how one day there will be nothing but this.
In November of 2019, my dear friend Burnie passed away. While he was cheering on myself and so many other people, he was losing a battle himself. I had fallen out of touch with him over the years, but I always attribute the first time I got onstage to him. He was the first one to read my jokes and tell me they were good. He was the one who signed me up at my first open mic. He saw me more than just a top-heavy blonde chick. He saw me as a comic. I think that’s a beautiful gift he had: the ability to see in others what they couldn’t see in themselves and encourage them to pursue their dreams despite the loneliness and fear they may have felt. I never reconciled my relationship with the car salesman, in fact, I stopped wanting to reconcile it. It turns out I needed a friend and an outlet more than I needed a boyfriend.
And once again, another surreal experience happened as I prepared for this episode. About a week after I wrote this essay, said used car salesman called me. We haven’t seen each other probably since 2012 or 2013. Turns out he loves the podcast and recognizes the growth in this reformed train wreck. Thank you for listening. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for dumping me.