ChamPAIN problems is a three-part series. This is part two. Click here to read part one.
It had been a strange day. I saw a therapist earlier that day. A warm blonde with an office full of incense and ratty looking meditation blankets. It was my first time ever attempting therapy. I was surprised I had worked up the courage to book the appointment. I guess I was desperate for help. The 20mg of Lexapro and the nightly buzz I had been relying on since I was a teenager weren’t working like they once had.
The hole was getting bigger and bigger and I was scared I was going to fall inside myself and never come back.
“I mean I don’t have any real problems…but I’m…I don’t know…sad. I’m scared. It’s stupid.” I said to the therapist as I peeled the remains of my gel nail polish off my fingernails.
“Why don’t you think you have any real problems?” She asked. She sounded like a therapist from the movies, removed yet deeply focused at once.
“Look, I never worried about having a roof over my head growing up. That’s a ‘real problem.’”
She raised her brow. “So because you’ve never worried about having a roof over your head your depression isn’t worth examining?”
The therapists’ words had stayed with me as I walked home. They followed me around like a shadow as I primped for dinner with Beatrix. I swiped a glob of mascara on my lashes. Why don’t you think you have any real problems? I slithered inside a taxi. So because you’ve never worried about having a roof over your head, your depression isn’t worth examining?
The waiter suddenly returns with our bottle of champagne. His face is grim as he gives us both the weakest pour I’ve ever seen. Doesn’t even fill half the glass. We wait for him sashay the fuck away before picking up our glasses.
Beatrix looks so innocent and so beautiful as she gleefully smiles at her glass. Her eyes are suddenly bursting with life. She’s sparkling and I begin to notice that people are looking at us. I feel that erotic rush of validation sweep through me, and I’m a switch flipped on.
I raise my pretty stem glass into the air and loudly sing-song: “To you, Beatrix. I fucking love you, bitch.” And I do love her. I love her so much because she and I are the same. The light I see beaming out of her is a reflection of the light I know I still have deep inside of myself. And the crumbling soul I see in her is a reflection of my own crumbling soul.
Beatrix clinks her glass against mine. “I love you.” And for a brief moment, I can actually see her. She’s even prettier stripped raw.
Beatrix and I both take a healthy gulp of prosecco. As the sugary liquid burns my throat I begin to wonder: How many healthy gulps will it take to forget about the Italian bartender who followed me home and forced himself inside my apartment the other night? How many healthy gulps will it take to mute my ever-growing attraction toward other women? How many healthy gulps will it take until I feel human again?
“Zara. I want to say that I haven’t been feeling great lately. I don’t want to talk about it, but I’m so happy to be hanging,” Beatrix chirps. Her eyes dart around the room like the bats in that dark glass cage in the Central Park Zoo.
“Honestly, I’ve haven’t been that great either.”
I think about telling her the truth. That I am pretty certain I’m a lesbian freak and every single time I have sex with a dude I want to peel off my skin and run for the hills, skinless. I think about telling her about how much I’ve been blacking out, lately. About my depression and what the therapist had said to me earlier in the day. I even contemplate asking her if she’s rekindled her toxic relationship with Adderall. But now I’m halfway through my glass and the fuzzy warm champagne buzz feels so good and so safe, I don’t want to crawl out of the cocoon and face reality.
That’s when it hits me. The therapist is right. I do have problems. Champagne problems. Only these champagne problems have nothing to do with Birkin Bags or private jets or summer homes. They involve actual pain.
A few hours later I’m back at my Williamsburg apartment, smoking cigarettes in the living room. I blast Amy Winehouse’s “Fuck me Pumps” on my headphones as to drown out the sound of my roommate Max and his boyfriend having sex.
Without girls like you/There’d be no fun /We’d go to the club and not see anyone Amy croons into my ears. I keep circling back to what the therapist said. I keep thinking about how much pain I’ve stuffed down throughout the years.
I realize that while Champain problems might not be as obvious as, say, black tar heroin problems, they are still fucking problems. One might have shinier packaging but a hangover is a hangover is a hangover. And all vices — whether it’s champagne, dope, meth, bad boys, or shopping for shoes you can’t afford — serve the same function. They numb whatever it is that’s hurting is.
Except, the denial of us champagne girls tends to run deep. That’s why we’re drawn to champagne in the first place. Champagne is an illusion. It means NOTHING IS WRONG. It means EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL AND NOTHING HURTS. Champagne is relatively low-calorie and made up of the sparkliest little bubbles you’ve ever seen and it’s such a chic color, isn’t it? Isn’t champagne blonde one of the most requested hair colors in the salon at Bergdorf Goodman? Isn’t champagne just the most special beverage in the whole wide world?
Yes. It is, indeed. And the girls who drink it when there is nothing to celebrate (only to mourn) are usually hiding from their bleak, painful realities. Champagne girls often look as pretty and as festive as the drink itself. We tend to be wizards with curling irons and brilliant makeup artists wearing fabulous shoes you didn’t even realize were cool until you saw us wearing them. But if you were to see a champagne girl the morning after a long champagne night you would see the truth. That pretty painted face doesn’t look so pretty at the break of dawn. Neither does her life.
Let me be real with you: if you detest charismatic girls who can’t help but burn every bridge in plain sight, consider yourself warned. If you loathe indulgent stories of girls who knew better but did it anyway, stories of girls who were born into better but destroyed it anyway, now is your chance to walk the fuck away. ChamPAIN Problems will have you hate-tweeting the masses before you sink your teeth into the first couple of sentences.
Because a ChamPAIN Problem isn’t about growing up without a roof over your head. A ChamPAIN Problem is about growing up with roofies in your drinks. A ChamPAIN Problem isn’t about starving because your parents can’t afford to put food on the table. It’s about starving because you’re convinced that no one will ever love you because “you’re fat.”
This story is not about crack. It’s about cocaine. It’s not about hypodermic needles. It’s about champagne.
ChamPAIN Problems: Part 3 will be released Tuesday, February 23rd.
My debut book GIRL STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP: THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR SHIT TOGETHER is available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and BAM! It’s also available as an audiobook on audible, google play, audiobooks.com, Itunes, and more! If you send me a screenshot of your order, I’ll send you free swag in the mail!