Until recently, I never really believed much in the generation gap. I figured, if you're young at heart (and I like to think that my heart is 19 years old, blonde, and gorgeous!), a person's age means little. But, after getting to know my downstairs neighbors, I'm starting to see why the old fogies get a little frustrated with young people: They can be pretty "out there" sometimes!
As you may recall from my last column, three college students, Greg, Sean, and Marnie, recently moved into my apartment complex. Upon meeting them, I discovered that they were Jeanketeers of the highest order–just about the biggest fans of my column I'd ever met.
And I'm not just whistling "Dixie" here! They could recite my columns, line by line, from memory! Not just the obvious lines, either, like, "Keep smiling!" but really obscure ones: "If only I had a brain... and a 23-inch waist!" "I just love horses! They're so beautiful, and they represent freedom." "Boy, I could use a chocolate bar the size of Delaware right now!" I was floored by the depth and breadth of their "Jeanspertise"! How many columnists can claim that kind of fan devotion?
When their school term ended in May, I started to see a lot more of Greg, Sean, and Marnie. (Or "The Three Jeanketeers," as I affectionately called them.) Greg and Sean worked at the same pizza place, and every night they'd bring over free leftover pizza and hang out with me as I waited for hubby Rick to return from Tacky's Tavern. Sean owned a Polaroid camera and had this hilarious idea to snap Rick's picture the second he would come in. Of course, Rick was always tanked to the gills, and most nights he barely noticed the flashbulb as he stumbled either to the toilet or the bedroom, but Sean got some really hilarious shots of him!
As the summer wore on, Sean started taking pictures of me. They were candid shots of me doing the most ordinary things, like washing dishes, feeding my cats, grocery shopping, or dusting my Precious Moments figurines. Now, normally, I just hate getting my picture taken. (Let's just say there's a little too much of me to photograph!) But since Sean was a buddy of mine and a real card to boot, I eventually got to the point where I actually started to enjoy it.
While Sean snapped photos, he asked me tons of questions: where I was born, what my family life was like growing up, my pet peeves, etc. So one day, I decided to turn the tables on him and ask him about himself.
I laughed when he said he put out his own magazine. After all, how many magazine publishers work at pizza joints? But then he told me it wasn't a "magazine" magazine, like People or Rosie, but a "'zine": a little booklet he writes and lays out on his computer and then has printed up at Kinko's. He said he's done four issues under the name SeanZine, but he was thinking of changing the name to Blossom Meadows, which is the name of the street where our apartment complex is. I told him I thought Blossom Meadows sounded a lot prettier, and he smiled and said, "Jean, you sold me. Blossom Meadows it is." I was happy to help out. I was a little worried, since, from what I understood, the magazine business is very cutthroat. But, as a creative person myself, I understood Sean's need to express himself, and I thought, if he wants to put out his little 'zine pamphlet, more power to him.
Though the Three Jeanketeers usually came up to my place, I spent some time down in their apartment, too. At first, I felt a little strange. The place is rather, well, let's just say, interestingly decorated. I mean, they had a lot of cute stuffed animals, but there were some pretty odd things, too. Like–I'm not kidding–a gynecologist's examining table! They were always encouraging me to sit in it, but there was no way on Earth I was going to slip my ankles through those stirrups! Greg had no problem sitting in it, though. With his long legs and–get this–purple hair, he was quite a sight! He'd just sit there, eating Fritos and acting like it was the most normal thing in the world! (And I thought I was out there!)
This other time, Greg and I made ice-cream drinks for everybody, and Sean had this crazy idea to blast Pink Floyd and watch projected scenes from old View-Master discs! We were getting pretty blotto off Pink Squirrels and Brandy Alexanders, and it was a strange sensation, looking at old fairy-tale scenes while listening to this loopy music! I'm telling you, it was the weirdest–and most fun–experience I'd had since inhaling "rush" at the old Free Wheelin' Roller Disco Rink 20 years ago!
Then, just yesterday, something bizarre happened. I still don't know what to make of it.
A pan of my infamous Four Alarm Double Mocha Chip Brownies in tow, I made my way downstairs to the Three Jeanketeers' place. But, as I approached their apartment, I could hear screaming. It was Marnie! I considered making a 180 back to my abode, but my nosy nature got the best of me, and I put my ear up to the door.
I couldn't hear everything that was said, but it sounded like Marnie was pretty upset at Sean. She was saying things like, "I can't believe I fell for your crap, Sean," and, "God, this is so embarrassing."
Then she really let him have it. "Obviously, you led me on, and you have the nerve to deny it? What am I, stupid? How could it have meant any other thing? Oh, do not give me that look. You smug, evil prick! God, I'm sorry I ever shared a sincere, non-sarcastic thought with you! You are so immature, Sean! Go to hell!"
Yikes! Great timing to step in on a lovers' quarrel, Jean! I had no idea Sean and Marnie were even involved! I started to tiptoe back upstairs when the door opened. Marnie emerged, holding a box of her stuff, tears rolling down her face. She saw me and sighed.
"Oh, God, Jean, please. Not now," she said.
"I brought brownies!" I exclaimed, not really knowing what to say. But she just hurried out into the parking lot. I followed her, asking her if everything was okay. She said no, obviously not, and told me she was moving out. I was a little shocked when she threw the entire box, which contained all sorts of great stuff, including a big poster of that dreamboat CHiPs star Erik Estrada, into the Dumpster.
"I'm getting rid of all the stupid crap and stupid people in my life, and I'm going to live like a normal human being again," Marnie said. "I should've done it long ago." She stopped crying, looked at me for a second, and fished something from her back pocket. It was a little stapled booklet, which she slipped into my hand.
"Jean, Sean didn't want you to see this," she said. You know his 'zine, Blossom Meadows? Well, he did an entire issue about you. That's why he was always taking photos and asking you questions. He was actually interviewing you for his 'zine. He never told you about his little tape recorder, either."
I looked at the 'zine. On its cover was a poor photocopy of one of the pictures Sean took of me at Carlton Cards at the mall. I'm holding a darling teddy bear and smiling. "Special All-Jean Teasdale Issue! With A Cameo Appearance By Hubby Rick!" the cover read.
"I think he should have come clean with you from the beginning, but he was being his usual devious, immature, holier-than-thou self," Marnie said. "He thinks he's this genius underground writer-provocateur, when he's really just an asshole with a computer who lives near Kinko's. Not that he has any money, but if I were you, I'd sue him for libel."
I was stunned by the contents of Sean's 'zine! He really did devote the entire issue to me! Many of the things I'd mentioned in our private conversations were quoted. And sprinkled throughout the 'zine were boldface "Jean Factoids": "Jean estimates she's spent over $800 on Precious Moments figurines in her life"; "Jean has always been 'a little chunky,' as she so diplomatically puts it, but did you know she put on most of that weight shortly after marrying hubby Rick?"
On top of that, Rick's drunken snapshots were all present and accounted for. And there was a little interview with Roz, my boss at Fashion Bug, in which she told Sean that I was "a good person, but she needs supervision because she gets a little distracted." Someone even drew a Love Is parody, with hubby Rick and me as the two little naked kids, only I was playing with my Miss Beasley doll while Rick tottered around drunk with a beer in his hand! My mind reeled!
At the back of the 'zine was an essay by Sean titled "The Tragedy Of Jean Teasdale." And, boy, was it a doozy! In it, he wrote: "During our long talks, I tried to plumb Jean's depths as best I could, but the task was almost impossible when everything that came out of her mouth was one cliché or another, distilled from something she'd heard on TV or read in Good Housekeeping. She seems as programmed as any robot. Meeting Jean, one is reminded of a lower-middle-class Stepford Wife. Yet, despite her ravenous desire to conform, she is perennially on the outside, lonely and condescended to when not ignored."
But wait, there's more! "Tragic as Jean may be, she's hardly unique. Anesthetized by the media and consumer culture, starved of meaningful human interaction, every day across America, millions of Jean Teasdales escape into their solipsistic inner sanctums, having long ago abandoned any hopes of greatness, instead embracing banality with something akin to fervor. What sets Jean apart from these pitiful creatures–and even this is probably inspired by her beloved confessional daytime talk shows–is her compulsive need to tell anyone and everyone who's willing to listen about her aggressively irrelevant life experiences, even at the expense of her own dignity. Clearly, her columns are a desperate cry for help."
Well, I have to admit, a lot of that essay went over my head. But I could tell it was pretty negative. When exactly did Sean observe this "Tragedy Of Jean Teasdale"? The night we made ice-cream drinks? Or maybe it was the time we went to the Junior Fair and ate elephant ears. Or the time we made Shrinky Dinks. We seemed to have a pretty good time that day, as I recall.
I couldn't understand it. How can you be nice to someone, practically worshipping the ground they walk on, and then turn right around and attack them? Then I thought, well, maybe this is a "Generation X" thing. Generation X is known for being kind of weird and offbeat. Maybe, instead of just confronting a person with their personality flaws, or just quietly tolerating them, they secretly publish a magazine complaining about them.
A few days after Marnie moved out, hubby Rick asked me why I wasn't hanging out with my "freak pals" as usual. I didn't tell him about Blossom Meadows. I just told him that me and the Three Jeanketeers really didn't see eye-to-eye on a lot of stuff anymore, and that they were kind of immature and dull, anyway.
"Christ, Jean, I could have told you that weeks ago," Rick said. "That guy with the purple hair is queer as a $3 bill, and the other guy's just a pussy. And the girl is a ballbuster if I've ever seen one. Forget about those dumbasses."
Now, usually, Rick's advice is pretty useless, but in this instance, it made sense. I'm trying to put it behind me. Still, I couldn't resist fishing that Erik Estrada poster out of the Dumpster before the trash-removal service came. I hate to see great art go to waste!