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Every job I’ve ever had is the worst job I’ve ever had.
So, as it turns out, everyone really does have a job. Even people who seem like they don’t have jobs, like the President and Ryan Seacrest, do. Sometimes you can’t tell that someone is actually at work, but they totally are. Like lifeguards and taxi drivers. I was starting to notice that the pool of my friends that could meet me for lunch at 3:00 p.m. on a weekday was drying up. There were days when I literally called everyone I knew within a five-mile radius to see if they wanted to get lunch with me, only to be met with defeat. It was becoming a real issue.
Should I get a job? Why do people really have jobs? Does no one value free time? I wonder if I’d like working. Wouldn’t that be so weird if that’s the turn my life took right now?
I knew if anyone could help me figure out what I should do, it would be my shaman, Steve. Since I’d never had a job, I didn’t have a clue as to what profession would best suit my talents, and I trusted Steve to pull it out of me like only a shaman can. He shook his rattle over me and asked, “How does your father spend his days?” I explained that my dad was the entertainment attorney to the stars, and Steve replied, “Your soul rests in your father’s footsteps, my friend.”
OMGivenchy, I’m a lawyer.
After an intense no-contact massage, I walked myself out of Steve’s shaman den with all the certainty in the world. I had found my calling. When I asked my dad if I could join his firm, he was thrilled and told me to arrive at his offices at 8 a.m. Monday morning. Cheryl, his secretary, would set me up for my new, entry-level position, which I’m pretty sure is how all new partners enter a law firm. I went straight to Barneys to find the perfect work bag and an ensemble that proclaimed: Power.
I arrived at my dad’s offices in Century City at 8:45. Turns out, rush hour traffic is a real thing. I thought it was just an urban legend. Then, of course, there was no valet, so it took me ten minutes to find parking. Unscathed by the morning’s obstacles, I strutted into the office with my latte in hand, ready to take on the day. I was wearing a printed Balenciaga shift dress, an oversized Yohji Yamamoto blazer, six-inch purple suede Yves St. Laurent pumps, and a massive work Birkin. Today, I was all about the power of positivity, so I approached Cheryl’s desk with a warm smile.
A little background: Cheryl has been my dad’s secretary since I was a baby Babe. Whenever my dad brought me to the office, she was in charge of keeping me happy, be it taking me shopping at Barneys when I was four or ordering my ahi tuna salads when I was seven. Basically, she hates me.
“Hi, Cheryl, how are you? Long time no see! Cute boots.”
I was lying. Cheryl’s boots were an epic disaster, a tsunami of the 2012 variety. Think patent leather, with a kitten heel, and not a Prada kitten heel, but a kill-yourself kitten heel. Her personal style has always screamed Shania Twain summering on the Jersey Shore circa 1998, and I just don’t get it. After all these years working around chic individuals, you’d think that Cheryl would have figured out how to present herself in a way that says, “I may be kind of fat and rude, but at least you’ll think I’m cute from twenty feet away.”
“You’re late,” she said, flatly.
“I’m so, so sorry.”
Another lie. I am a lawyer!
“Traffic was awful this morning, as I’m sure you noticed.”
“I’ve been here since seven-thirty.”
“Oh. Hate that for you.” I cringed thinking of Cheryl in her sensible Toyota. “Why so early?”
“Because you were supposed to be here at eight o’clock.”
“Oh yeah. Which way to my office?”
“Excuse me? Your office is right over there.”
Cheryl pointed to a boxlike structure that couldn’t have been bigger than three- by four-feet.
“That’s funny. I’m not really good with confined spaces. Where is my real office? My interior designer and my feng shui master will be here any minute, so I should get a feel for the space before they arrive. I’d also love to check out the blueprints for the building. Will there be a zoning issue for a small koi pond?”
Cheryl smiled. I noticed that she could really benefit from laser whitening, and she should focus on opening her eyes more when she smiles, to make them look less beady. Also I couldn’t really put my finger on what her hair color was trying to say to the world, but it wasn’t happy.
“This is your desk.”
“But my dad told me I’d be an entry-level, so . . .”
“Welcome to entry-level. There’s a partner meeting at nine-thirty. You’re in charge of picking up the coffee every morning. You can use the company card for that. You’ll also need to answer the phone and forward the calls to the appropriate extensions. You’re on mail duty every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When you get back from coffee, check in with me. I have a stack of license agreements for you to copy, collate, and file for the paralegals.”
I pointed to my latte. “Oh, I already got my coffee, so I’m all good, thanks. Also, I love that you just told me all that fun stuff, and you sounded really confident during your monologue, but do you want to just go ahead and shoot me a quick e-mail with all that info? Also, when you e-mail me, make sure to flag it as ‘urgent,’ otherwise I won’t even see it. You’ll get the hang of my nuances once we’ve been working together for a while. It’s so exciting having my own assistant!”
“No. Babe, you need to take the elevator to the ground floor, walk two blocks east to the Starbucks at the corner, and pick up the coffees for the partners. First you’ll need to take everyone’s order.”
Cheryl was clearly testing me. I understood, and I too could play this game.
I proceeded to make my rounds through the office and typed all the coffee orders into my BlackBerry, which took forever. Then I walked over to Starbucks. By the time I got there, my feet were killing me. I was cursing myself for forgetting to have Mabinty take my YSL pumps for a test run to break them in. We have the same shoe size (a must for a maid/best friend). It was 9:20 when I placed the order for eight coffees and was 9:31 by the time they were all ready. My BlackBerry started ringing. It was Cheryl.
“Where are you? The partner meeting is starting.”
“Um, how in God’s name do you expect me to carry all these coffees back to the office?
“Figure it out. Get here now please.”
She hung up. What the fuck?! Now it was 9:43. Ugh. After staring at the coffees for another five minutes, a barista offered me a couple of heinous beverage totes and sent me on my way. I limped into the office at 9:55. Cheryl was standing at her desk waiting for me. I approached her, glaring.
“Why did you hang up on me? You’re fired for that, but now I’m rehiring you because I’m all about second chances. That was your first lesson in forgiveness. So embarrassing that I’m late for my first partner meeting! Where is my seat? Do you want to take these coffees in?”
Cheryl’s face did its best impression of a confused gremlin.
“Babe, let me clear a few things up. You are not a lawyer. You don’t have an office. You are an entry-level office assistant. Assistants sit in cubicles, and assistants do everything I tell them to do. And right now you are wasting everyone’s time. Get in there, now and put the fucking coffees on the table!”
“Rude. Okay, fine. But you’re still on thin ice.”
So far being a lawyer was really stressful.
I finished handing out the coffees at 10 a.m. I was exhausted. Normally I wake up around ten, so it was extremely frustrating to have my sleep schedule thrown off just so I could get to this stupid office and deliver a bunch of wrinkly lawyers their coffees. Did anyone even care to ask me how I was doing? I mean, I was sweating for God’s sake! I knew lawyers had to be rude to do their jobs, but I didn’t think that meant they had to abuse the entry-level lawyers. I headed to my desk to take a breather and check my e-mails. I sat down and took three cleansing breaths. A fresh start.
I had canceled my appointment with the interior designer and the feng shui master, and was about to reply to a message from my astrologer, Jackie, regarding the Ophiuchus sign and how it would affect my menstrual cycle, when the phone in my cubicle starting ringing in the most jarring way. I turned and stared at it, hoping it would stop, which it did not. I got up and walked over to Cheryl’s desk.
“Hey, Cher-Cher, the phone in my office will not stop ringing, and the ringer isn’t really giving me the best vibes, to put it lightly, so is there any way you could order me a new phone? Oh and definitely order one for Dad too. Oh, and for sure order one for yourself. I think Bang & Olufsen should have something great.” Being a lawyer is all about delegating responsibility; clearly my strong suit.
“Are you kidding?”
“Are you kidding? It’s giving me a migraine.”
“Babe, you’re not getting a new phone. That was me calling you. When your phone rings, you need to answer it. Because you were late, you’re already really behind schedule. When I give you a job to do, I need you to get it done quickly and with a smile.” My migraine was so painful at this point that I lowered my head into my hands and focused on massaging my temples. I don’t remember exactly what else Cheryl said, but it was something along the lines of “Blah, blah, blah, rules are rules, you can’t tell me what to do. I’m power hungry and I wouldn’t be so mean if I liked the way I looked. You’re so pretty. I wish I could be you . . . etc., etc.”
Cheryl ended her rant by handing me a huge stack of files and telling me to get to work. I put them on my desk and took a much needed thirty-minute bathroom break. I met a little intern girl in the bathroom who was supercute in a J.Crew kind of way. She had this really eager look about her, so I felt comfortable asking her to tackle some of my duties.
“Hi, Jane, [I didn’t know her name, but trust me, she was a Jane] is there any way you could help me file and coagulate a stack of documents for Cheryl? I’m due in court in ten. Cute tie!”
“My name’s not Ja—”
“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver.” There’s no “I” in team, so why should “I” be forced to do any of this work by myself?
Now I was freed up to spend a couple hours doing what I should have been doing as a lawyer: getting to know my clients. I chatted with a glamorous lesbian couple (the DeGeneres/de Rossis) in my dad’s office, about the necessity of owning a property in Sardinia as well as a property in Dubrovnik. In case you don’t already know, Dubrovnik is the tits right now—previously war-torn but now it’s EVERYTHING (Google it).
Lawyers love power lunches, and I had planned on meeting my personal shopper at La Scala to split a chopped salad—that is, until Cheryl The Demon practically assaulted me on my way out the door and commanded me to stay at my desk and answer phones while everyone else in the office went to lunch. Even though I usually welcome a chance to skip a meal, this was downright rude. Had Cheryl forgotten about all those Hanukkah and birthday gifts from my father that I had picked out for her over the years? It’s not easy to find something chic for a dowdy secretary with small teeth/big gum disease. Where was her loyalty? How quickly they turn.
I decided that with everyone being out of the office for lunch, this would actually be a great time to meditate. Lawyers need to clear their minds every once in a while. I popped in my headphones and listened to the soothing sounds of monks chanting. I must have retreated to a deep space within myself, because when I opened my eyes, Cheryl was standing over me looking bloated and angry.
“What are you doing?”
“Namaste, Cheryl. I was meditating. You should try it sometime. It’s really good for people with low self-esteem.”
“Go home, Babe.”
“You have done absolutely nothing all day. Go home.”
“That is so not true.” I said, taking my headphones off. “I’ve been swamped. I got the coffees, and I entertained clients. You canceled my lunch, so I couldn’t do that, which was really stressful because Melania is really sensitive about me canceling plans at the last minute and—”
“Who is Melania?”
“My personal shopper at Barneys! Lest you forget, I also had to cancel with my interior design team, which is so unprofessional. Cheryl, I have been busting my ass all day at this firm being a lawyer, and I don’t think I need to explain myself to you any further.”
“Babe, you’re fired.”
“You can’t fire me. You’re my dad’s secretary. And I’m a partner, so you’re fired.”
“No! YOU ARE NOT A LAWYER! And yes, I am your dad’s secretary, but I’m also the head of HR, so you’re fired. Please leave the premises.”
I stared at her for twenty seconds, until she turned to walk away.
“No, Cheryl. Actually, I’m the CEO of HR, so you’re fired. I think you should leave.”
But she didn’t budge. How could she do this?! What the hell is HR? Obviously she was so jealous of me that she couldn’t stand for us to coexist in the same environment. I gathered my Birkin and my office supplies (headphones, iPad, BlackBerry, iPhone, white iPhone, and Montblanc fountain pen) and made my way out of the building.
I had tried so hard to be a lawyer, but the universe simply didn’t want my law career to take flight. The gods were against me. Nature was against me. Jane was against me. How could this be when I had been so convinced of my calling? Then I thought back to something that Ellen and Portia had said to me when we were talking in my dad’s office. They’d explained how they didn’t choose to fall in love with Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik had chosen them. It was the one place where they truly felt at home. There needs to be that special connection. Well, I had chosen to be a lawyer, and clearly, the law had rejected me. It was simply not in the stars. I don’t do “fired,” so tomorrow I would tell Cheryl that I quit.
After driving around listening to the entire Born This Way album, thinking things through, and stopping at Barneys to pick up a pair of Lanvin flats because my feet were killing me, I was back home getting a massage and trying to rid my psyche of the day’s horrors.
I showed up to the office to hand-deliver my letter of resignation to Cheryl, but she wasn’t at her desk. It was 9:15. Jane walked by with a pen and paper in hand. She was experimenting with a sweater-set-and-skirt-combo moment.
“Jane, are you doing today’s coffee run?”
“Great. Cheryl will have a venti, peppermint mocha Frappucino with three extra shots of sweetener, whole milk, whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate syrup, and white chocolate shavings.” (Estimated calorie count: 400,000.) I left my letter on Cheryl’s desk and got the fuck out of that hellhole.
After careful consideration, I have reviewed the pros and cons of practicing law, and have woefully decided the cons outweigh the pros. Please accept this as my letter of resignation.
P.S. I realize now that as a lawyer, it was my obligation to be under oath at all times. So yesterday when I told you that I thought your boots were cute, I perjured myself. Best of luck!!!!
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“Are you okay?” A woman asked from roughly ten feet away, downhill from where I stood at the tip of the highest peak in Griffith Park. It completely took me away from my moment, which I resented. The sun had just begun to peer its glowing globe of majesty over LA’s eastern skyline.
“Yes,” I responded. “Nosy.” I didn’t look at her. I’d seen plenty already when I side-eyed her stomping up the hill toward me a few seconds earlier. She was hiking, she was blond, she was thin, she was worried that I might be getting ready to jump off the edge where I stood and end it all. I got it.
“Honey, can I ask, what are you doing?” she said with hesitation, putting a hand on my shoulder. She stood right behind me now. Awesome. Getting rid of her was not gonna be easy. I was dealing with an out-of-work, B-list fitness model who was for sure on her daily 5 a.m. hike and was probably super concerned about the beautiful, young girl she just found standing at the edge of a steep fucking cliff, about to jump.
“I’m fine. You can go about your hike. Really.” “Are you sure?”
“Yes, lady,” I said.
“You don’t need to do this.”
“Okay, relax, you don’t even know—” “You’re a beautiful girl.”
“Thank you for seeing that beneath this neoprene face mask. You obviously have a great eye for eyes,” I genuinely offered.
“I have a daughter and, you know, she’s going through a rough patch right now, too. And I’ve been there before. Trust me. I used to live in Vegas.”
“Whoa. Ew. Okay. Stop. I’ll explain.”
“Yes, talk to me, mama. Let’s talk this out.”
“Well, first off, don’t call me or other people ‘mama.’ It’s insulting.”
“I just think it’s a cute thing to call my girlfriends.”
“Am I your girlfriend?” I said, trying to sound as nice as possible.
“I . . . guess . . . not.”
She looked genuinely hurt. Not my problem. I mean, I was the one offering her helpful advice.
“So,” I started, “this story begins on the day I auditioned to be Tom Cruise’s new wife, which was weird as fuck, but it was also a major big-deal day that in a strange way affected the rest of my life. Tom does that to people, I guess. It was post all the Kidman divorce drama, and Tom and his team were screening several young actresses and non-actress-but- still-attractive people—like me—for the role of his ‘wife.’
“I’d been a fan of his since the first time I saw Rain Man at age four, and I even thought he always seemed kind of cool and amazing and weird and rich, but I didn’t exactly see it working between Tom and me. However, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to meet him for dinner at a castle in Portugal, where he was filming something or whatever. I’m not much of a European castle girl because normally the water in the showers is soft water, which is bad for my skin and hair, but this one was so breathtaking that I didn’t even mind the water.
It sat on the gorgeous Atlantic coast, and we ate in a room with window-lined walls look- ing out at the bluest, most endless ocean I’d seen maybe ever. I don’t remember what we ate because I just don’t, but it was delicious. Tom looked handsome in the face, wore a simple white tee and jeans, brown scuffed Prada boots, and smelled like heaven took a shit all over his body. I asked him what cologne he was wearing and he said he wasn’t wearing any. So mysterious. So Tom.”
“So Tom,” said the ex–fitness model, whose name I decided was Mel.
“My lawyers have strongly advised me not to repeat exact content from the conversation Tom and I had that night. I can say, though, that it never went past just talk- ing between us. But I think I can tell you about one of the things we talked about that night. I mean, I had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but we all know those aren’t real, don’t we?
“On that blustery night, tucked away in a villa on the majestic Portuguese coast, Tom shared with me one of his ‘passions in life’: squirrel diving. Most people have never heard of it, let alone tried it because it’s so dangerous and chic. Squirrel diving is an extreme sport that requires the diver to don a highly technical suit made of fiberglass, neo- prene, and stingray skin. Built into the armpits is a sheet of webbing, like a flying squirrel, giving it its name. Duh. How Mission: Impossible is that? He said never to try it because I would ‘probably die.’ His concern was sweet but only made me want to do it immediately. If you don’t want me to try something, especially a drug, don’t entice me with the threat of death, Babe rule number one.
“Well, a few years passed by, Tom married Katie Holmes, Katie Holmes divorced Tom, I lived my life, shopped a lot, went to rehab, kept being a mess, traveled, wrote two books, fell in and out of love with my soul mate, Robert, and ended up back in LA.”
The woman’s expression hadn’t changed since I started my story.
“So, so, so cool,” she said.
I looked at her for a long time and thought about the daughter she probably has, sitting at home thumbing through Tinder, alone.
“So I’m gonna go now,” I said, turning toward the vast view of Los Angeles, mentally preparing to jump. She still stood like a statue, lifeless, roots a mess.
“So why did meeting Tom change your life?” she asked. “Oh, because now I’m conquering one of my fears slash completing a goal of mine that I’ve had for years. I’ve always wanted to jump off a cliff and now that I’ve spoken with Tom about it in Portugal and watched a few chic yet informative YouTube tutorials filmed in the Swiss Alps and bought the suit and shit, I’m ready. So I’m gonna need you to back away a little bit because I need some room for my running start.”
I walked backward five or six steps until I had given myself enough runway before the edge of the canyon, pulled my goggles around my head tight with a snap against the back of my hair, and stretched my arms wide to check for tangles or folds in the underarm webbing of my suit. I was good. I was ready. I’d kind of done this before, I could do it again.
“You’re fucking Babe Walker,” I whispered to myself inside the tight and echo-y cavern of my fiberglass helmet. “You can fly.”
I took a sprinter’s position, felt the sand push against the pads of my fingers, looked out over the city one last time, and shot myself forward with every bit of strength I had in my well-toned core, butt, and thighs. After a few aggres- sive yet graceful steps, I was off the edge. Luckily, it was windy as fuck that morning, and I was immediately lifted skyward by a gust of generous breeze. God clearly wanted this to work for me, too. I could hear the hiker lady scream- ing behind me. She obviously couldn’t understand what was happening. She didn’t know that this was my thing. I had this.
The trick to squirreling is keeping your entire body stiff as a board and light as a feather, à la The Craft. With a slight bend at my elbow and a cupped swimmer’s hand, the air supply was able to tuck itself right under my cute, almost weightless body. I’d call it an extreme sport, but I don’t do “sport.” I will say, however, it’s extremely body-affirming. I mean, you literally have to be able to float. This is chic, no? I may be under the assumption that most people’s lives are more boring than not boring, but I doubt you’ve ever done anything as exhilarating as this, besides maybe cocaine. So I can’t expect you to understand the mind-splitting thrill of literally soaring above Los Angeles. It’s EVERYTHING. From about 1,100 feet above the ground I could see the In- N-Out Burger where I threw a Sprite in a blind date’s face for ordering me a Sprite, and the movie theater on Holly- wood Boulevard, where I gave the one with a ponytail from One Direction a hand job. The Scientology Centre was the size of a Fendi Baguette from up there, and I even saw the acting studio where I’d taken an improv class for fifteen minutes before getting frustrated, screaming “Clowns!” and walking out. A very This Is Your Life moment for me.
The birds flying past me were probably wondering, What the fuck, but I spiritually greeted them all with an open heart and thanked them for sharing the sky with me, just a girl with the simple dream of getting high on adrenaline and being more like my role model, Tom.
I leaned my right shoulder to the ground just the slight- est bit to set my trajectory westward toward the direction of my house in Bel Air. Well, more specifically my backyard, which would also function as my landing strip. Side note: Do you have a landing strip of hair above your vagina? If so: Don’t. I could begin to see the northeastern border of the neighborhood and followed the streets with my eyes until I saw my house and the yard, waiting for me.
I heard flapping sounds near my left-side ear but couldn’t see anything. The sound was loud and scary and so not cute. And it was only getting louder by the second. I couldn’t move away from it even though I wanted to because the thing about squirreling is you have to let the wind take you, more or less. A lot like life and anal sex. Then a hard whack slapped down across the top of my head. In a flurry of brown and white feathers and body and legs, I made out the form of a monster-sized turkey/eagle/hawk bird next to me, and it was trying to attach.
“Are you FUCKING JOKING?!” I screamed. My voice reverberated inside my helmet, which all of a sudden felt more like a cage.
Keep your form. Keep your form. KEEP YOUR FUCK- ING FORM. Tom says if you never lose form, you’ll never lose control. What the fuck, though? This is insane. I hate everything about this.
The albatross, or whatever it was, was now fully attached to my neck and no matter the quaking and shimmying I did to get shake it off, this mad bird queen was going nowhere.
I was going down. I’d lost control.
I’m sorry, Tom.
The city got closer and closer by the second. My vision blurred with the fact that I was already dead. This was it. I guess I’ve lived enough? I’d done everything I wanted to do in my short, blazing life span besides wear an armadillo McQueen hoof bootie to church in Rome and sleep with Leo DiCaprio. I’d have to come back and do those things in another life, I guess. I found peace in the moment. I had no choice. In my head I could hear Yo-Yo Ma playing Ennio Morricone’s The Mission. I guess this was my death music. The ground was like a wave swell, closing in on me.
Almost as if it was about to break and crash, falling onto me, and not the other way around. Wait, that’s a beautiful image. Then . . .
NOT TODAY. NOT! TODAY!
I’M NOT DONE YET.
I’d come so close to dying sooooOOOO many times over the years (heat exhaustion, overshopping, overdiet- ing, over-Pilatesing, stalkers, plane crashes, my failed and sloppy arson attempt), and there was no reason I couldn’t pull myself out of this.
“You’re fucking Babe Walker. You can fly!” I shouted, sharply twisting my shoulders.
With a deafening squawk, the bird let go!
But nope, that didn’t exactly help the cause. The problem was, I was then upside down with my back to the surface of the earth, then belly-down again; I was literally torpedoing. With a quick glance I saw that I was headed toward a one- story building in Westwood that had lots of glass windows. Oh God, please don’t let me die in a donation-based yoga studio, I thought. Just no.
I opened my mouth wide and from the literal seafloor of my soul released the loudest Mel Gibson as William Wallace battle cry. The next thing I remember is the sound of glass shattering, women screaming, a sea of aggressively bright yoga clothes, and the light aroma of eucalyptus. I figured this was hell.
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When I first got to rehab, I was morbidly obese. Not physically, but emotionally. I was angry at myself, angry at the world, and angry at my phone. But four months of rehabilitation for a (possible) shopping addiction and an (alleged) alcohol/drug addiction had brought me to a much more peaceful place.
Achieving inner (and outer) peace had been no picnic. Rehab basically sucked for the first three months. People passive-aggressively punished me for being pretty, I ate 100 percent more white foods than I would have liked, and I shoveled way too much horse shit, literally. Like, actual shit that came out of a horse, with an actual shovel. But then something changed. I couldn’t tell you why, but the last month at Cirque Lodge was magical; it was like the fog cleared and I suddenly understood why I’d made so many bad decisions in my life. I gave in to my own healing process. I wrote apology letters and made amends with some loved ones whom I’d slandered in the past, told a nurse with bad skin that she was smart, met my birth mother for the first time, taught myself sign language, and accepted that the real reason people hate each other is because they hate themselves.
I was unchained. It was like having a midlife crisis, except instead of being a sad, saggy forty-six-year-old with a botched face-lift, I was twenty-five and ten pounds lighter, thanks to a stomach virus and the medication I took to treat it. I was in the best shape of my life. I was a New Babe Walker, a glowier Babe, a Babe with goals and aspirations. As I looked out over the sprawling Utah mountains on my last day of treatment, I realized I was my own soul mate. I was ready to marry myself and take myself on a honeymoon to The Rest of My Life. In that moment of beauty and reflection, I could’ve never foreseen what was soon to come.
When Jackson, my rehab counselor, walked me out of Cirque and helped me load my fourteen suitcases (Goyard) into two idling black Escalades, I felt what can only be described as heartache. This was it. I was actually leaving the place that had been my sanctuary of cigarettes and fur for the last four months of my life. I felt like a delicate butterfly emerging from a chrysa- lis. The winds were strong, but I knew I had to be stronger.
“So this is good-bye, I guess,” I said, giving Jackson’s arm a gentle squeeze. I would have hugged him, but I’m allergic to raw lamb’s wool. “Thanks for helping me find me.”
“Babe, I was but an eagle soaring overhead, lovingly watching you scale the canyons of despair and the peaks of hope on your journey back to your true self.”
“Well, you’re the best eagle-man I’ve ever known. I won’t miss your almond breath, but I’ll miss your spirit.”
“And I’ll certainly miss your liveliness and your honesty, Babe. You can always call me if you feel like you’re slipping back into old habits.”
“Got it. I’ll text you when I get home and wanna do coke or buy an entire spring collection.”
“Alright. May your path be one of serenity and sincerity.”
“And may your path lead you to a Sephora, where you’ll discover that French shampoo I’ve been telling you about. Bye, Jackson.”
“Walk in love and light, Babe. Let the universe deliver.”
A single tear rolled down my cheek as the Escalade drove away from Cirque, Jackson getting smaller and smaller as I watched him wave through the back window, but I wiped it away with a sense of pride. I had set out to do something and I’d finished it. That felt good. I put my headphones on and listened to a playlist I’d curated of Tibetan monks chanting life-affirming statements, all the way to the airport.
In a few short hours, I’d landed safely at LAX and was in another Escalade (white this time) on the way to my dad’s house in Bel Air. Apparently rehab had worked, because I didn’t raise my voice once during the entire trip back home. A first for me. Thankfully, the flight was only mildly annoying. Some ogre tried to steal my window seat, but moved when I delivered an icy but kind stare instead of speaking directly to him. Then, when I was retrieving my luggage at the baggage claim, I mistakenly counted thirteen suitcases instead of fourteen, which would have been a disaster for Old Babe, but New Babe was all about grace under pressure and re-counting. The whole moment was diffused quickly with a few breathing exercises. Such a tough scenario, because baggage handlers can be so flippant sometimes—it’s like they don’t care about anyone’s needs but their own. But I guess everyone has a story.
Standing in the foyer of my dad’s house, I inhaled the aroma of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille candles—the quintessential smell of home.
“Welcome back, love!” my dad shouted from the top of the stairs. “You look bloody radiant.”
“Dad!” I exclaimed, climbing the staircase to hug him.
“Let me look at you. My God, I know five actresses and one pop star who would kill their firstborn if it meant having your glow,” he said as he kissed my forehead. “How are you, my sweet?”
“I’m good! I’m so glad to be home,” I said, looking around. “Did you get my email about moving out?”
During my last week at Cirque, I’d decided that the first order of business as “independent me” was getting a place of my own, so I’d informed all family members as well as the staff that I’d be relocating to our guest house. It’s important to have your own space post-rehab, where you can be still, reflect on life, and not get distracted by any personal family chefs you used to fuck or pets you don’t like.
“Of course, darling. Everything was moved this afternoon. Your new home awaits. I must say, I’ll miss you. This house won’t be nearly as loud or messy without you.”
“I’ll miss you too, Dad, but it’s for the best. Think of me as a delicate lotus flower. In order to bloom, my leaves have to float on the surface of the pond, but my roots will always reside here.”
Overcome by the power of my inner recognition, he grasped the banister for support.
“You sound like Keith Richards after he detoxed in 1977. I’m—I’m glad to have you home. Get settled—dinner is at eight.”
The main house on my dad’s property is a post-Gothic, ivy-covered precious gem. It’s huge but it’s cozy, and it’s cute but it’s cluttered. Great for Old Babe, but too much for New Babe. New Babe needed warmth, light, and space, which is why the guest house made perfect sense. It was originally a three-bedroom that belonged to our neighbors, until a dispute over a weeping willow in the backyard got ugly and my dad decided to buy their house out from under them so they’d leave us alone forever. Then we gutted it and turned it into a huge one-bedroom, complete with an enormous walk-in closet, state-of-the-art bathroom, solarium, and sauna/steam situation. Think French Moroccan meets Tibetan minimalism meets Mary McDonald.
I lost my virginity in this guest house, so it was a sentimental space for me. It had, however, been off-limits after a teeny incident during which the solarium burned down when I let my friend use it for her fledgling nail polish company, which turned out to be a cover for her boyfriend’s meth lab. So it was also a dark place for me. Lightness and darkness. Now that the solarium had been rebuilt, I had been rebirthed as New Babe, and my dad trusted me again, it was time for me to make the guesthouse my own. Little did I know, my safe space would soon be violated.
After I’d watched Mabinty, my Jamaican bff/confidante/ housekeeper, unpack my suitcases and smudge the guest house, I had a low-key welcome-home dinner with my dad, Lizbeth (my dad’s annoyingly beautiful, upsettingly tall, slightly too young, and far too nice girlfriend), Mabinty, Mabinty’s new bangs, and Mabinty’s new boyfriend, Carl (a fifty-eight-year-old white version of Randy Jackson . . . unclear). The lighting in the dining room was perfect, and the food was super fresh and low-cal. My dad made a typical dad toast to kick things off.
“When Babe called me to say that she was off to some rehab in Utah, I thought, Oh, here we bloody go. My daughter’s addicted to heroin. But then it turned out that she just had a bit of a shopping problem and I was relieved. Then, when Babe called again to tell me she was staying an extra three months at rehab, I knew it must’ve been heroin all along. As it turns out, she just wanted to put in the extra work. Proud of you, Babe.”
“Actually, I was addicted to coke,” I interjected, then waited a beat. “Just kidding.”
“I hear that, girl!” shouted Carl. Mabinty affectionately patted Carl’s back.
“My brother’s struggled with addiction for years,” Lizbeth chimed in, “but he’s not nearly as driven as you are to get his life together, Babe. It’s amazing how well you’re doing.”
“Thanks, Lizbeth. Addiction is no joke. But I was never addicted to drugs. I was addicted to shopping, and that made me feel so good that I wanted to celebrate by taking drugs.
What we resist enslaves us, but what we embrace, we become,” I explained calmly.
My dad went on. “It’s all very impressive, Babe. You know when enough is enough, you know who you are, and we’re so happy to have you back in our lives. Cheers!”
We all took a sip of sparkling water with lemon. Everyone was making a big deal of not drinking alcohol even though I said I didn’t care, and I could tell by the end of dinner they were all jonesing for a cocktail. Lizbeth, especially. She kept asking me if I was “okay” and putting her hand on my arm. Old Babe would have stared at her until she stopped talking, but New Babe was absolutely better than okay. I just used some emotional realignment techniques to center myself, smiled, and kept reassuring Lizbeth that I was “great.” This whole song-and-dance routine went on for half an hour, and by the end of dinner I was so exhausted that I decided to call it an early night and retreat back to the guest house to unpack my vintage archives, which had just arrived that evening from storage.
I must have fallen asleep inside one of my wardrobe boxes, because I awoke the following morning to a hard slap on the face from my bestie, Genevieve, who was kneeling next to me holding an iced coffee. Roman, my best gay, stood next to Gen.
They looked pissed. “Babe, get up,” Gen commanded. “You’re thinner,” remarked Roman. That got my attention. I rubbed my swollen eyes and threw my hair up into a high pony. “What time is it?” I asked. “I have no idea. Ten a.m.?”
“Who let you in?” “Mabinty. Why don’t you want to hang out?” Roman asked. “No, no, I do,” I said as my eyes finally unblurred. “Wow, you both look really slutty, but in a prude way.” “I genuinely appreciate you noticing,” Gen responded. “So,
how did rehab work out for you in the end? Was it worth it? You look great, but you missed an amazing winter season.”
“She didn’t miss anything. Stop fucking with her. We were lost without you, Babe. You’re a bitch for not calling us the second you got out.”
“Okay,” I sighed as I climbed out of the box, “I fucked this really hot guy named Paul.”
“Obviously.” Gen smiled. “Met my mom and her lesbian lover.” “You have a mom?” “Yes. I’ll explain later. It was kind of insane.” “Love it.” “Had an amazing rehab dog.” “Woof.” “Who unfortunately met an untimely death.” “Wooooooof.” “Had a terrific rehab masseuse. Learned a lot from her.” “Love.” “She also met an untimely death . . . unrelated.” “So much death. So dark.” “I know. Addressed some of my underlying abandonment/eating/drug/shopping issues.”
“Work. Okay, get dressed. We’re taking us to brunch.”
“Guys, just because I went to rehab doesn’t mean I eat brunch now.”
“I know, that was a joke. We’re going to Malibu. You don’t have to eat.”
“Okay, give me thirty.”
Two hours later, we all piled into Gen’s new Tesla Model S and headed off to Malibu. You leave town for four months and cars become slightly more expensive, electric, and have a huge iPad display thingy in the front dash? Unclear.
“How excited are you about Roman’s new single?” Gen squeaked.
“Quoi?” I squeaked back.
“You haven’t heard it? Romie, you didn’t send her the song? It’s everywhere, and it’s everything!”
I was confused. Roman didn’t sing. He refused to even enter a karaoke bar.
Gen continued. “Right after you left town he started recording some tracks with this DJ he knows.” She beamed. “It’s in the Top Ten on iTunes—”
“It’s called ‘Piece de Résis-dance,’” said Roman. “Stupid name, I know, wasn’t my idea, and it’s pretty much—”
“THE club song of the year. I’m so proud. We’re obviously going to listen to it immediately.” Gen started messing with the dashboard/iPad thing.
The song was heinous, but I could already tell I’d love it after a few more listens or a few hits of a joint.
“Wait—Roman, this is actually good.” I smiled.
“Thanks. I mean, it’s whatever. Also . . . Gen just found out last week that she’s being made senior vice president at her firm,” he announced.
I was annoyed that the focus wasn’t 100 percent on me and my struggles, because I’m pretty sure I was the one who just got back from rehab, but I just smiled and nodded. Neither of their successes was surprising. Roman was a club promoter, he knew every DJ in town, and was one of the best-looking gays in LA, if not LA and New York. And Gen had been working in real estate ever since her parents put her on Adderall at age ten.
“Congrats. I’m so happy for you both. Isn’t it nice that we’ve all come so far in the past few months?” I continued. “Roman is a YouTube celeb, Gen got a promotion at work, and I’ve been emotionally promoted to a higher level of existence and understanding about life.” I knew that was kind of rude, but I’d just reemerged into the world and was finding it hard to be genuinely interested in someone else’s moment.
We drove around for a while, smoked cigarettes, watched people brunch, and went to Gen’s parents’ newly renovated Malibu house, where she and Roman revealed their plan to throw me a proper welcome-home party.
I accepted their offer because rejecting it would have made me look like a cunt, and I may be a cunt, but I sure as fuck didn’t want to look like one.