It's Not Me, It's You: Subjective Recollections From a Terminally Optomistic, Chronically Sarcastic and Occasionally Inebriated Woman

BOOK: It's Not Me, It's You: Subjective Recollections From a Terminally Optomistic, Chronically Sarcastic and Occasionally Inebriated Woman
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It’s Not Me,
It’s You

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Wilder-Taylor, Stefanie.
It’s not me, it’s you: subjective recollections from a terminally optimistic, chronically sarcastic, and occasionally inebriated woman/by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
p. cm
Included bibliographical references.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4391-6432-7
ISBN-10: 1-4391-6432-0
1. Wilder-Taylor, Stefanie. 2. Wilder-Taylor, Stefanie—Family. 3. Women—United States—Biography. 4. Women comedians— United States—Biography. 5. Television writers—United States—Biography. 6. Los Angeles (Calif.)—Biography. 7. Wilder-Taylor, Stefanie—Humor. 8. Interpersonal relations—Humor. 9. American with and humor. I. Title.
CT275.W558614A3 2009

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It’s Not Me,
It’s You
Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo

’ll admit it. I can
on occasion
be a bit of a sucker: I once accidentally owned an aggressive dog that was half pit bull because he just looked so darn sweet at the pound. I also once or
spent more than a hundred dollars on an antiwrinkle cream because the salesgirl looked so horrified by my “laugh lines,” and I did take fen-phen for about three months when it was all the rage but I stopped not
long after I found out it could cause irreparable damage to my heart valves. But I’m definitely not a sucker across the board: I do not find Lance Armstrong inspirational—yes, I know he won the Tour de France like a hundred times with only one ball, but he also divorced his wife who stood by him through the cancer ordeal, broke up with Sheryl Crow, and seems to have topped off his douchery by allegedly screwing an Olsen twin. So no, Lance,
you’re not fooling me no matter how many damned bracelets you’ve sold. I’ve also never joined a pyramid scheme, bought anything from a TV infomercial with the word “miracle” in its name, or truly believed I’d come home ahead from a trip to Vegas. So it may come as a surprise that I once came a little too close for comfort to joining a cult.

I’ve never been approached by so many “culty” people than when I first moved to Los Angeles. It’s almost like cult members can sniff out a recent arrival’s feelings of displacement, need for direction, and lack of housing like those drug-sniffing dogs at the airport. I’d already fended off offers from Lifespring and the Forum for weekend “seminars” to improve my life. I’d turned down a “free personality test,” the results of which would definitely tell me that I have a strong need to join the Church of Scientology. And then there was the time I deflected a Hare Krishna who tried to startle me into shaving my head, selling flowers, and living on lentil soup by popping out from behind a bush to talk to me about the healing grace of Krishna. I might have even stopped to chat, but, unlike Natalie Portman or Sinead O’Connor, bald is not a hairstyle that’s at all flattering on me.

On this particular day, my defenses were down. I’d arrived in Los Angeles from Massachusetts a week prior with my friend Beth Moskowitz. Our original plan was to stay with one of my childhood friends, Tanya, at her aunt’s apartment in Hollywood. Tanya made it sound like we were totally set up with a place to stay for at least a week or two while we looked for our own pad. What Tanya failed to men
tion was that she was flat broke, unemployed, a hot mess, and not getting along with her aunt, who wanted her out as soon as possible. Tanya’s aunt begrudgingly let us stay there since her niece had promised, but she didn’t trust Tanya, who’d been freeloading off of her for months. Apparently, Tanya had been making long-distance phone calls and not paying the bill, so her aunt had taken to unplugging the phone and bringing it to work with her during the day. We were desperately trying to find an apartment of our own but had to make all of our classified section inquiry calls from a pay phone in front of the nearby Mayfair Market and then stand around waiting for apartment managers to call back. We had thought of buying a cheap phone and hooking it up while her aunt was at work, but Tanya’s aunt was one step ahead of us and locked us all out of the apartment during the day.

So we set up a makeshift headquarters in front of the bay of pay phones, making calls from one and waiting for call-backs from the other one, which entailed a strict enforcement of not letting anyone else use the phone. If a random passerby tried to pick up the receiver, we’d intercept immediately: “Is it an emergency?” one of us would ask, placing a palm over the coin slot. One man approached the phone quickly. He had a Dalmatian with him on a leash and he made a lunge for the receiver. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Sorry, sir, we’re using this one.”

“But you’re not on it.”

“We’re waiting for an important call.”

“Yeah, well I need to call my wife and tell her I found our dog. I’ve been searching for Bingo for two hours and my wife’s worried sick,” the guy said as he made another attempt to reach for the phone. But we stood firm.

“I understand your dilemma, but if we let you use the phone it sets a precedent. Then we’d have to let everyone use it. And then where would we be? Not in a two-bedroom apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting, a stove, and refrigerator. That’s for sure,” I explained, rationally. Bingo’s owner gave us a nasty look and shook his head but dragged his dog farther down the block to the corner deli.

Now, since Tanya’s aunt’s house was not working out, the situation was quite dire. Between the three of us, we weren’t the best credit risk. Unfortunately, we hadn’t thought of that. Just like it hadn’t occurred to us that when you live on your own you have to buy things like sponges and toilet paper. I somehow thought these items just appeared in the cabinets. Sure, I’d seen them in stores, but I had very few recollections of cash transactions taking place.

This particular morning it was above a hundred degrees in the shade and we were all awaiting death by sunstroke when two well-dressed ladies in their forties or fifties approached us. The more outgoing of the two stepped forward and introduced herself as Marcie Walters. Then, nice as can be, Marcie asked if we’d like to join them at a meeting that was being held right around the corner. I was immediately suspicious. I’d seen enough horror movies to know that you just don’t trust superfriendly strangers; they are scary and
probably want something from you. Like your unborn baby. On the other hand, the other woman was Asian and in my experience it’s rare to find an Asian woman who’s up to no good.

“What kind of
?” I asked, carefully emphasizing the word “meeting” for all I was worth to show that I’m not gullible. “It’s not AA, is it?” I wasn’t going to fall for that again.

“No, no, nothing like that. We belong to a group called Soka Gakkai International. We’re Buddhists.”

“Buddhists? Are you the ones who can’t drink coffee?” Tanya interjected.

“No, that’s Mormons.” Still, it didn’t sound good. I looked at my friends, who were staring at me like I was engaging in small talk with the Menendez brothers, so I turned back to the women.

“Sorry…I don’t think so,” I said sternly.

“There’s air-conditioning.”

Five minutes later, Tanya, Beth, and I found ourselves in the back of a climate-controlled living room seated on giant Oriental floor pillows, sipping Crystal Light lemonade and watching various people chant “Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo” over and over in front of a big shrine that had an apple in it. Every so often someone would ring a bell.

Marcie sat next to me and explained what we were seeing—apparently in code. “The workings of the universe are an expression of a single principle, which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra. By putting our lives in rhythm with this law,
we can unlock our hidden potential—and achieve creative harmony with the environment.” I had no clue what she was talking about, but I nodded my head like I was simply taking in a recipe for BBQ chicken.

“Mmmhmm.” I wondered if there was any sort of stronger refreshment option.

“We say the words while thinking of things we want. We can actually manifest these things into our lives just by repeating our mantra ‘Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo.’”

“You mean, like chanting for world peace or ending hunger in Third World countries?” I asked, pretty sure I knew where she was going with this New Agey business.

“No. Like a Gucci bag or a career in radio broadcasting.”


This actually made more sense, because her acrylic manicure with one gold pinky nail wasn’t really throwing off a spiritual vibe. Chanting for material things sounded wrong somehow, kind of antispiritual—who knew if I’d only repackaged the idea and called it
The Secret
I could be living in a solid-gold castle, with four entire rooms dedicated just to hats, eating caviar by the fistful and enjoying newly released movies in my giant screening room every night.

“Why don’t you give it a try?” Marcie nudged. At this point, Tanya and Beth had fled to the kitchen, where I have no doubt they were rummaging for cookies. But I felt it would be rude not to at least try to get into the spirit of the thing since I was in no great hurry to get back outside. I took a seat on the floor and chanted along with the rest of
the group. I felt a little self-conscious, but everyone else was doing it.
Please let me find a new apartment
, I thought over and over in my head. Since Tanya and Beth refused to have anything to do with this, it was obvious I would have to do all the heavy lifting. What was wrong with them? Did they think a new apartment was just going to magically appear? No, you have to work for things in life—which is exactly what I was doing.

When the meeting broke up, a few members, led by Marcie, surrounded us to ask for our information and see how we liked the meeting and to invite us to chant with them again. For some reason, I dutifully gave them Tanya’s aunt’s address and phone number just to get them off our backs but told them that although we enjoyed ourselves and appreciated their hospitality, we were in a period of transition and would just like to go ahead and chant on our own.

“Well, you’re going to need a gohonzon, which is the sacred scroll, and you’ll need a cabinet to build your shrine and a bell and special incense,” a guy named Atlas said way too intensely. “You can’t just use any old incense.” Since there was no mention of the shrine’s apple, I supposed it was okay to get one at the grocery store, but I had a sneaking suspicion it would need a special forty-dollar blessing at the very least. Then they told us about a meeting that was happening that very Sunday at their corporate headquarters, where we could get all the supplies we needed to be part of the SGI organization.

“No, thanks,” I said, shifting my weight back and forth.
I had to pee like crazy, but I was starting to have a creepy feeling they weren’t going to let us leave.

“You have to come to the meeting. We won’t take no for an answer,” Atlas said.

“Okay,” Tanya replied. “We’ll think about it. But we have to run.”

Atlas followed us out. “I’d really like to talk to you more about Soka Gakkai International and what it can bring into your life…” We broke into a run.

“What the fuck was that about?” Beth wanted to know on our way back to the Mayfair Market. “I can’t believe you were chanting. Those people were batshit crazy!”

Three days later, it was the weekend and we were hanging out at Tanya’s aunt’s house, enduring her glares, when the phone rang—a sound we rarely got to hear during the week so it was a bit startling. Tanya’s aunt answered it. “It’s for you guys. It’s the intercom. There are some people here to take you to a meeting?”

“Oh my God, they’re
? This is insane. We’d never agreed to go to the meeting,” Beth said, panicking.

“Just ignore them,” Tanya’s aunt said sensibly, although she was probably secretly disappointed that we wouldn’t be leaving the house for the afternoon and more likely helping ourselves to her sandwich supplies.

“Yeah, no shit. We’re not
,” Tanya added. “Hang up the phone!”

It immediately rang again.

And again. And again. And again. Like out of a horror
movie. I almost expected someone to scream, “Oh my God! It’s coming from inside the house!” Finally, I picked up the receiver. “We’re not going to the meeting so please leave, okay?” and with that I hung up. We nervously peeked out the window of the apartment building. From our vantage on the twelfth floor, we had a clear view of the driveway. There, pulled up to the phone used to call up to the tenants’ residences was a carload of people. A couple of them had gotten out and were walking toward the building—of course, Atlas was in the mix.

“Holy shit, they’re going to try and get in!” I yelled. We all stayed quiet, praying that no one was going to randomly open the front security door for a couple of seemingly well-dressed psychotics. I think at this exact point in my life I became completely jaded.
, I thought,
if you can’t wander into someone’s living room and chant for a while without being afraid of repercussions, what
you do?

Twenty seconds later there was pounding on the door. We stayed stock-still and waited for the terror to end. But it didn’t. The Buddhist zombies were now yelling outside the door about how we promised and that we should at least come out and talk with them. Finally, I yelled, “We are calling the police if you don’t leave right now! I mean it. The phone is in my hand.”

It got quiet. And then, slowly, we heard footsteps retreating from the doorway.

“I swear to God you need to find another place to go or I am changing the locks tomorrow,” Tanya’s aunt said.

The next day was Monday and from our spot at the Mayfair Market, we got the news that we’d been approved for an apartment
with a stove and refrigerator
and it was ready for us to move in. It was a huge stroke of luck—or was it? Just in case, I chanted, “Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo” all the way back to Tanya’s aunt’s.

BOOK: It's Not Me, It's You: Subjective Recollections From a Terminally Optomistic, Chronically Sarcastic and Occasionally Inebriated Woman
9.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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