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«Barrel Fever and Other Stories», David Sedaris

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To my mother, Sharon



I WAS ON "Oprah" a while ago, talking about how I used to love too much. Did you see it? The other guests were men who continue to love too much. Those men were in a place I used to be, and I felt sorry for them. I was the guest who went from loving too much to being loved too much. Everybody loves me. I'm the most important person in the lives of almost everyone I know and a good number of people I've never even met. I don't say this casually; I'm just pointing out my qualification.

Because I know the issue from both sides, I am constantly asked for advice. People want to know how I did it. They want to know if I can recommend a therapist. How much it will cost, how long it might take to recover. When asked, I tell them, like I'm telling you, that I have never visited a therapist in my life. I worked things out on my own. I don't see it as any great feat. I just looked at the pattern of my life, decided I didn't like it, and changed. The only reason I agreed to appear on Oprah's panel was because I thought her show could use a little sprucing up. Oprah is a fun girl, but you'd never know it from watching that show of hers, that parade of drunks and one-armed welfare cheats. And of course I did it to help people. I try and make an effort whenever I can.

Growing up, my parents were so very into themselves that I got little love and attention. As a result, I would squeeze the life out of everyone I came into contact with. I would scare away my dates on the first night by telling them that this was it, the love experience I'd been waiting for. I would plan our futures. Everything we did together held meaning for me and would remain bright in my memory. By the second date, I would arrive at the boyfriend's apartment carrying a suitcase and a few small pieces of furniture so that when I moved in completely I wouldn't have to hire a crew of movers. When these boyfriends became frightened and backed away, I would hire detectives to follow them. I needed to know that they weren't cheating on me. I would love my dates so much that I would become obsessed. I would dress like them, think like them, listen to the records they enjoyed. I would forget about me!

To make a long story short, I finally confronted my parents, who told me that they were only into themselves because they were afraid I might reject them if they loved me as intensely as they pretended to love themselves. They were hurting, too, and remarkably vulnerable. They always knew how special I was, that I had something extra, that I would eventually become a big celebrity who would belong to the entire world and not just to them. And they were right. I can't hate them for being right. I turned my life around and got on with it.

Did you see the show? Chuck Connors and Cyrus Vance were, in my opinion, just making an appearance in order to bolster their sagging careers. But not Patrick Buchanan. Man, I used to think I had it bad! Patrick Buchanan has chased away every boyfriend he's ever had, and he's still doing it. Patrick is a big crier. He somehow latched on to me and he's been calling and crying ever since the show. That's his trademark, crying and threatening suicide if I don't listen. That guy is a complete emotional cripple, but the other panel members didn't seem fit to speak on the subject. E. G. Marshall, for example, would talk about driving past his ex-boyfriend's house and calling him in the middle of the night just to hear his voice. Chuck Connors said he used to shower his boyfriends with costly gifts. He tried to buy their love. Chuck Connors wouldn't recognize love if it were his own hand, and E. G. Marshall if it were both his hands, one down there and the other gently at his throat.

I am in this week'sPeople magazine, but not on the cover. Bruce Springsteen is on the cover with whats-her-name, that flat-faced new wife of his, Patty Scholastica or Scoliosis something like that. In the article she refers to Bruce as "the Boss" and discusses what she calls his "private side."

If she's calling Bruce "the Boss," I can tell you she knows absolutely nothing about his "private side."

I was the boss when Bruce and I were together. Maybe I should give this Patty person a call and tell her how Bruce needs to have it, give her a few pointers and clear up this "Boss" issue once and for all. Tell her how Bruce groveled and begged for a commitment and how he behaved when I turned him down. I'd said, "What's the use of being a multimillionaire when you walk around dressed like a second-shift welder at U.S. Pipe and Boiler?" Bruce wants to keep in touch with his "people," which is admirable in theory but grotesque when you consider the fact that his "people" consume gasoline, domestic beer, and acne medication in equal amounts.

Bruce took it hard and picked up these women on the rebound. I remember running into that last wife of his, the model, at a party. It was she, I, Morley Safer, and Waylon Jennings. We were waiting for the elevator, and she was saying to Waylon that Bruce had just donated seven figures to charity, and I said, "No matter how much money Bruce gives to charity, I still say he's one of the tightest men I've ever known." It went right over her head, but Morley knew what I was talking about and we shared a smile.

I am in this week'sPeople magazine celebrating my love with Charlton Heston. There are pictures of me tossing a pillow into his face, pretending to be caught during a playful spat. You know that we can be real with one another because on the next page there I am standing on tiptoe planting a big kiss on his neck while Burgess Meredith, Bobby Packwood, and some other old queens are standing and applauding in the background. Then I'm in the kitchen flipping pancakes to show I'm capable. I'm walking down the street with Charlton Heston, and then I'm staring out to sea, digging my bare toes deep into the sand, in this week'sPeople magazine.

The press is having a field day over the news of my relationship with Mike Tyson. We tried to keep it a secret, but for Mike and me there can be no privacy. Number one, we're good copy; and number two, we just look so damned good together, so perfect, that everyone wants pictures.

Charlton Heston and I are finished, and he's hurt. I can understand that, but to tell you the truth, I can't feel sorry for him. He had started getting on my nerves a long time ago, before thePeople story, before our television special, even before that March of Dimes telethon. Charlton can be manipulative and possessive. It seems to have taken me a long time to realize that all along I was in love with the old Charlton Heston, the one who stood before the Primate Court of Justice in Planet of the Apes. The one who had his loincloth stripped off by Dr. Zaus and who stood there naked but unafraid. What a terrific ass Charlton Heston used to have, but, like everything else about him, it's nothing like it used to be.

In the papers Charlton is whining about our relationship and how I've hurt him. I'm afraid that unless Charlton learns to keep his mouth shut, he's going to learn the true meaning of the wordhurt. Mike is very angry at Charlton right now very, very angry.

Let me say for the record that Mike Tyson, although he showers me with gifts, is not paying for my company. I resent the rumors to the contrary. Mike and I are both wealthy, popular men. The public loves us and we love one another. I don't need Mike Tyson's money any more than he needs mine. This is a difficult concept for a lot of people to grasp, people who are perhaps envious of what Mike and I share. This was the case with Charlton Heston, who lost most of his money in a series of bad investments. It's sad. The man is a big star who makes, a fortune delivering the Ten Commandments one day, and then loses it all as a silent partner in a Sambo's restaurant chain the next.

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