Before I get started, I want to let you know I opened a submission box on the main page of this site. If there’s anything you want me to tackle, let me know over there. Even if you think it’s dumb, it’ll get back to you how I can. That and content is content.
My wife’s been watching that show Sister Wives, it’s about this Mormon Polygamist family. This guy had four wives and a literal bus load of kids, and it’s super wholesome, granted it IS tv and we only see what they want to show us, but it looks like they’re happy and well to do. But there’s something about it that irks me, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can put it in the ball park of resenting the upper class, or at the very least, happy families. Though the more I thought about what I was feeling, the less I’d want to be in that kind of situation.
I grew up with pretty big family on both sides. Granted I don’t talk to my mom’s side of the family, at all, including my mom, because while they’re not in a cult, they may as well be, and they take religion way too far. Like, egregious zealots, I wasn’t allowed to watch The Wizard of Oz because the villain in it promoted witchcraft, kind of zealots. Like I had to hide Def Leppard CDs because they were too hedonistic. For those of you who are too young to know Def Leppard, they weren’t egregious at all. Hell, I remember one time somehow I got ahold of a Steve Martin DVD and it ended up in the trash with “Jesus is King” carved into the back of it with a steak knife… then pretty much everything me, my brother, and sister just got for Christmas was burnt in the back yard to “purify the house.” That was around age twelve or thirteen. I remember that being not too long after 9/11 so that age range sounds right. Anyway, needless to say, we didn’t get out much while I was living with my mom. And none of that family did anything besides sit around tables and fires and have deep philosophical discussions about how dinosaur bones are the corporeal bodies of the demons God kicked out of heaven. These were accompanied by nightly sermons from someone in the family misusing biblical versus to slander the other people who may have been orbiting our lives, or to demonize the things we enjoyed. Nothing was safe. Not the books we wanted to read, music we wanted to listen to, our friends at school, or even what we wanted to do when we grew up. A special target for my mom’s side shit talking sermons was my dad, who according to my mother, sold drugs for cartels so that he could make money to buy guns, to sell to run a whorehouse. Everyone and everything about the world was wicked and evil and fell short of God’s graces. Slander wasn’t the end all be all it turns out, I remember at one point I had done some odd jobs around the neighborhood and saved enough money to buy a cheap motorcycle from someone down the street. When I say cheap, I mean that I got ONE of the pistons working with the help of my dad when he could sneak by without my mom knowing he was there, and that bike got me out of the house at the rocket speed of thirty miles an hour. I came home from school one day to find that it had been sold, and I never saw a cent of that. Then when I got ahold of a regular bicycle, that got chained up in a shed, and the keys were mysterious lost. Needless to say I haven’t talked to anyone in that side of the family since I was eighteen, and I hadn’t said anything to them willingly since about thirteen, which was roughly five years after my parents divorced. Nowadays, there’s a couple of those cousins I’m friends with on facebook, though they found me, and I haven’t actually seen them since they were like two. But I do have to admit there’s a bit of resentment when I see them post pictures of the big family, that treated my siblings and I like dirt, taking them on cruises, spending what looks like quality time with them, and not being giant, raging, redneck, fuck faced, cult, cunts.
My dad’s side was, is, a lot different. They’re religious, and for the most part tea tootlers, but they’re good people. Though I do suffer occasional bouts of eyerolling with that side’s cousins as well. Now, I love my dad, he’s been there as much as he could be, but on top of his love for putting his dick in crazy, I do think he was too young to have kids, and he hadn’t figured himself out before trying to start a family. He was that 1990s guy, recently single in his late twenties, dressed to the nines, and driving a muscle car around the city hunting for strange, while us kids got to live in my mom’s prison. The rest of my dad’s family didn’t seem to have that problem. From what I could tell, they got their shit together relatively young. I mean that as in I have one cousin who got a Mercedes for Christmas when she was sixteen, a full ride to college, had a cushy banking job when before she was twenty-five from my uncle’s connections, and frequently vacations in Europe. And for all you vets out there, she’s the kind of person who will write company newsletters in November displaying the valiantly of our men and women in uniform and she wears Navy Pride on her sleeve, despite not ever so much as met a recruiter in a mall. That and she’s one of those types that won’t drive twenty minutes to see you while you’re on leave and haven’t been in the state for two years. Then we have another set of cousins, who ‘earned everything they got.’ And I mean that as in when one of my cousins was in high school, he bought a two-thousand-dollar camera with money he earned himself… by selling the clothes he got for Christmas on eBay. Now, granted his photography is mediocre at best, but he was taking pictures in nightclubs in Havana at nineteen. It, at times can be hard to look at younger people in my own family, who seem to be a lot more well off just because they had parents who gave enough of a shit about them to set them up for a good life. Granted, none of any of the cousins mentioned have any idea what fun is, they’re abhorrently boring, snooty, and in general not the kind of company that I would keep. To use an analogy, they’re overproduced soap operas, and while not enviable in the slightest for their substance, I do have to admit that I’m jealous that my show, that’s on the same station didn’t get the budget or producers to hit the ground running.
With my homelife being what it was, when I turned eighteen, I packed my things and moved to Virginia Beach to finish out my senior year of high school. I was living with an aunt and looking into going to college because that’s what my aunt was pressuring me to do, but I spent most of my time running around with a girl I met at church and boning on the beach. I went and took the SAT and started applying to schools, but since I’d never cared about school, and neither of my parents cared enough to encourage scholarly learning, my grades were too terrible to even be considered. I figured that maybe I’d have to go to a community college first to bump myself up in the social standings, but since my aunt was about to move to Japan for my uncle’s PCS, I was about to be homeless. Now, I could, at the time have gone back to Ohio and lived with my mom’s family while I went to school, but I’ve already established their character, and that wasn’t an option. On top of that, I’d rather sell myself into slavery than ever step foot in Ohio again. There was also the option of going down to Florida to live with my dad’s family, but that never panned out. Keep in mind, this was 2006. Iraq is not only in full swing, but it’s plastered all over the news. Fallujah was in recent memory, we all knew there was still a war happening, and I figured joining the Marines was as good as an option as any. I went and found a recruiter and signed up to go fight.
I was at my high school graduation party, and by party, I mean a few aunts and uncles and my dad, and the ‘party’ was just dinner and a Walmart cake. My aunt asked what my plans were, and I announced that I’d joined the Marines and was leaving sooner than later. This revelation pissed off everyone, who got up and stormed out, besides my uncle who was an F-18 pilot in the Navy. He was excited that I was joining, especially because the Marines are a naval branch, but my “super-pro-military” aunt detested the idea, and my air force veteran dad didn’t appreciate it any more than she did. When they asked why I would do such a thing, they didn’t appreciate that one of my concerns was that I had nowhere else to go. They implored me to go to school first and join as an officer, when the war was over (Jokes on them, we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan as of writing this in 2021), but they didn’t like it when I reminded them that no one would be paying for me to go to school. So, having no real future prospects, and about to be homeless, I stepped on the yellow footprints on Parris Island, and became a United States Marine, which was the best decision I have ever made in my life, bar none. I go through recruit training, then Marine Combat Training, then head up to Fort Meade, Maryland to go through my MOS school as the last Illustrator (4611) that the Marine Corps produced before merging the field with Reproduction (4612). While I was there, I could still manage to see my then girlfriend who I’d met in Virginia Beach, and besides the standard woes of a private at an MOS school, things weren’t too bad.
When I graduated, I went to the First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, to work the print machines. Fortunately for me, most of the unit was in Iraq, and there were need of photographers, so I got handy with a camera, which enabled me to get out off the building and go hand out with the grunts. Around this time, I got Jodied. My VA Beach lady friend decided that she liked the idea of being with someone who seemed to have a brighter future, and had enough of his parents cash, to taker her out and do all the fun stuff in DC, and shacked up with the first guy she ran across in her first semester at George Mason, which she got into with daddy’s investment banker money. Admittedly it’s kind of hard to stack up to that when all you have to offer is parking lot sex and Tricare. Which now I’m glad she’s happy, but I didn’t take it well at the time, and I was a total cunt about the situation. Also, for the fans of my books, this person is who Satin was loosely based on. Break my heart in real life, I will you in a book.
Anyway, back to the subject of this, resenting the well to do. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, went to Afghanistan a few times with Seventh Marines, hopped over to a MEU (Ship deployment), and was a complete heartbroken hedonist when I wasn’t deployed. It turns out dating is one of the hardest parts of being a Marine.
All my friends at home, my cousins, the people on the street I’d meet out and about were all out having functional social lives, and dating whoever they seemed they wanted. I, on the other hand, seemed to always have a problem with this. While I didn’t have too much of a problem getting laid, it was hard to find or maintain a relationship because of my work. If a girl wanted to hang out on Thursday, I’d have to say no because for some stupid reason the entire Marine Corps locked up and cleaned until midnight on Thursdays. Or if a girl would ask if I wanted to make plans for the weekend, I’d have to tell her no, because I was going to be in the field for a month. Or the ever present “I’m sorry, I’ll be on barracks duty, sitting here watching paint dry.”
Now I can’t exactly blame these twenty-something year old girls for not wanting a relationship with someone who’s just not going to be around, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t suck, and my love life was effectively reduced to chicks who were okay with dingy hotel room one-night stands. Side note, I have never had an STD, and I’m shocked, considering how many randos got rawdogged in the beds of Ford Rangers in Oceanside parking lots. Again, I was living in the barracks, and I haven’t quite found anything that dries panties as much as saying, “How about your place, I live on base.” Believe it or not, “Let’s just do it in the truck” is leaps and bounds more desirable. Long story short, don’t get mad at Marines for bumping uglies with the local population in an Arby’s bathroom, more often than not they can’t afford a hotel, and the chick who still lives with her parents is above sneaking into base and banging in a barracks room, which by the way a Marine can get demoted for. Also, here would be a good place to point out that I don’t know how many times I’ve been scoffed at for being an Enlisted member of the military. Everyone thinks that there must be something wrong with you for having joined not as an officer. For these reasons a lot of Marines will give up on the indigenous wildlife and retire themselves to dating female Marines, however, this is not without its issues.
If your girlfriend has slept with fifty guys in the past, but you’ve never met them, that’s not a real issue. Those other guys may as well be figments of your imagination. However, if she’s slept with fifteen, and ten of them are people you either work or drink with, you inevitably end up hearing a lot of stories about someone else fucking your girlfriend. That takes its toll. Now let’s say you can get over that, that doesn’t alleviate the relationship problems that come with non-military women. I was dating this other Marine; things were going well, we’d been together for the few months I’d been back from my first deployment to Afghanistan, and I thought things were going great. That was until I got send to Mojave Viper, a month-long pre-deployment training exercise in Twentynine Palms, where amongst other things, you don’t have cell service for a month. The training evolution goes as it does, and when we got back to main side, I tried to call this girl, and she didn’t pick up. I took a shower, and my team drove back down to Pendleton, and I still couldn’t get ahold of this girl, until a couple days later when I got on Facebook and she had changed her relationship status to “Married” and it wasn’t to me. There was another woman who, to use a loose term, I was “dating.” We were doing alright enough, nothing official, but we were always with each other, going out and seeing movies, or driving around and talking about life, or getting food, or whatever it you want to call it, and we were also doing the nasty in the barracks. She starts pulling away, not as fast as it would have been in a break up, but since we weren’t dating my “What’s going on?” questions were met with “Nothings” and “Don’t worry about it, things are fines” until it devolved to just talking in the Smokepit and she’d show up wearing another unit’s shirt, and Brown University hoodies. Now, I can’t say for sure what that was about, but considering that she wasn’t in the unit whose shirts those belonged to and besides boot camp, she hadn’t set a foot on the east coast, I can make some inferences.
Now, with all this, I wouldn’t change anything about my past, even if I could. Without my past the way it was, I wouldn’t be able to make the art I make, nor would I be able to write the books I do. If I wrote at all, it would probably be either “non-fiction” narratives that jerked myself off, or even worse, ghost writing for spec ops dudes, jerking someone ELSE off. The butterfly effect is real, and every little thing adds up to who and where you are right now. Sure, if I was raised a bit better, I might be in a better financial standing, but the cost of that seems to be that I would be boring as shit and a drag to hang around. If I hadn’t gone through the relationship problems I did, and learned the lessons I did with shitty twenty-something year-olds, I very well may have settled for some ill reputable skank, instead of having the awesome wife I do now. And I wouldn’t know any better to appreciate things if they were just handed to me for free.
To the young Marines out there, sitting on a bench in front of the barracks, reading this on your cell phone, burning your fifth cigarette when you only came out for one; don’t be discouraged because your life didn’t start off well. This is America, and you can start from shit and build an empire out of it. It just might take you a little longer to get there, and in the end, you’ll be glad you took the journey you’re on now because you’ll have actually learned something valuable from your struggles, and you’ll be less likely to fall when faced with the perilous. Not everything good comes from suffering, but everything worth appreciating does. And don’t be jealous of the people with money from good homes, at least until you can find ONE worth sitting down and having a beer with.
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Author of Smokepit Fairytales.