Sarah Fye – Starting

Here’s Sarah Fye with a humorous story about her relationship with her mother, told at January 2017’s theme “Starting.” 

I started to contemplate my word choices as I stood in my walk in closet covered head to toe in roughly 36 ounces of bright red cherry Sonic slushee. The other 12 ounces or so was splattered all over my clothing, shoes, and accessories. Only seconds after the freezing cold beverage came flying towards my head at lightning speed, I wiped the corn syrup and red number 40 infused beverage from my eyes to see my mom standing in the doorway of my bedroom with her hand on her hip. The words parted her lips like Moses parted the red sea, only this time the sea was made of frozen water, artificial flavors, and food coloring. Still, I’ll never forget the look in her eye when her message came through loud and clear.

“Clean it up.”

Now let me explain before you get the wrong idea. My mom is actually the best. She is in no way, shape, or form, a Mommy Dearest type. She is not a tyrant. In fact, she would go to the ends of the earth for anyone she loves.

She’s also a strong southern woman who doesn’t take any shit.

In reality, it was me who was the tyrant.

Imagine me, Sarah Fye, a 17 year old girl with a wild heart and adventurous spirit. Imagine also, me with quite the attitude. And lastly, imagine me, a 17 year old girl with a wild spirit and quite the attitude, living with full on teenage angst and residing with a mother who was experiencing the most extreme stage of menopause.

Hormones flying everywhere. My poor father.

It all started that day when I’d left dance team practice. I was parched from several hours of extremely energetic dancing. My team was quite good, and we were heading to Nationals in a few weeks. I was captain, so it was my duty to make sure the girls were really whipped into shape. You can imagine how hard I’d been working that afternoon, how physically exhausted I was, and not to mention thirsty. I stopped by Sonic and ordered the biggest slushie offered…the Route 44, cherry flavored-my favorite. The car hop quickly brought it out to me, I took one big gulp, and was on my way home.

Mama was taking clothes from the washing machine and putting them in the dryer in our laundry room when I arrived. I whizzed past her and down the hall to my bedroom. It was a Friday and I had planned on going to a movie with my friends that night, so I needed to get ready quickly and be out the door. I sat the giant slushie on my nightstand just beside my bedroom door and crossed the hall to the shower.

After cleansing away the sweat of the afternoon, I threw on a t-shirt and sweats while I dried my hair and put on my make up. Then I searched through my closet to try and find something suitable to wear that night. My crush would be at the movies and I wanted to look perfect. Just then, I heard her walking down the hall. At that point, I’d almost completely forgotten about the slushie I’d left perched atop the nightstand just by my door.

As I was rummaging through a closet with more clothes than anyone should possess at one time, my mother came into the doorframe of my bedroom holding a basket of laundry.

She prodded me a bit about filing my FAFSA. The deadline was coming up, and I was not excited at all starting college. She knew if she didn’t continue to question me about it, I wouldn’t get it done, and I wouldn’t be able to go to school the next fall.

“Did you fill out those papers yet?” she questioned from the doorway across the room.

My eyes didn’t stray from wardrobe search before answering her curtly.

“*Sigh* NO, I didn’t get to it yet.”

“Sarah Ann, listen to me. You HAVE to fill those out or you won’t be able to go to college! We don’t have the money to pay for you out of pocket.”

I popped back. “I know, mom! I’ll finish it this weekend!”

“You better!” she jolted back.

“Oh my god mom, I WILL!”

“Do it! And don’t get smart with me!”

As she walked away I mumbled what I though was beneath my breath, “Ughh. Betch.”

As soon as the breath floated from my mouth, I regretted what I said, for I knew there’d be hell to pay. I heard the laundry basket drop as heavy footsteps moved quickly down the hall. I knew I was in for it.

She stopped in the doorway and looked me dead in the eyes. I was standing across the room, still in my walk in closet when she spotted the huge slushie I’d left on my nightstand. I knew what was coming.

Picking it up and screamed like a Banshee (*Scream*) as she chucked it right my way. Her days as a high school softball player showed, as the red beverage came whizzing toward me, hitting me directly in my chest.

There I stood, like Carrie when she was covered in pigs blood at prom. Myself, my dignity, and the entire contents of my closet were covered in sticky crimson goo.

An evil grin came over my mama’s face; for she knew she had won this battle. She placed her hand on her hip, raised one eyebrow, and said those famous words I’ll never forget before walking away

“Clean it up.”

In that moment, my entire relationship with my mother changed. Soon after the initial shock and the frostbite wore off, I began to see my mom in a different light. She was just like me…full of sass and a total bad ass. And how hilarious was it that I be standing there, miserably covered from head to toe in the thing that afternoon which supposed to bring me delight? We stood there frozen in time for a brief moment before I began to laugh. She looked at me confused at first, and then SHE began to laugh. We laughed together for what felt like an eternity.

I didn’t make the movie that night. I stayed home with my mom. We made popcorn and watched The Nanny. And anytime thereafter we came to a disagreement, I would think about the time she threw a slushee in my face. And then I’d start to laugh. And so would she.

So in the light of a very thirsty afternoon after a long day of dance practice and a longer night of cleaning up a closet covered in slush, we started over. And our relationship was better for good.

 

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Sarah Fye – Alone

Tenx9 first-timer Sarah Fye took a step away from her usual standup comedy to deliver this moving story of her struggle to be comfortable alone, and the beauty she found when she gave it a chance. 

 

In the year 1990, the five year old version of me was staying the weekend at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel with my family. My mama held my hand in the lobby while she spoke to the concierge when suddenly I decided it would be a GREAT idea to jerk away from her grip and bolt in my hot pink swimsuit and cover up onto the nearest open elevator. Before she had time to realize what was happening, the golden elevator doors were closing shut and the stark realization that I was about to be all alone in a historic hotel was quickly sinking in quickly. “Sarah!” my mama cried just as the doors fell together and up the elevator shaft I flew.

Completely freaked out by my own actions but thrilled in a way by the independent and adventurous turn my five year old life had suddenly taken, I rode the elevator as the lighted sign dinged, floor to floor. Finally, it stopped on floor five. As my eyes widened and filled with tears, the enclosed space opened and I was set free. Frantic, I ran to the nearest person I could find, a maid who was elbow deep in changing the sheets of room 502. I tugged on her white apron, and as she turned to me I burst into tears. Though she spoke little English, she knew exactly what was going on. I was returned to my rightful owner who waited on me with baited breath, scolding me at first, then embracing me, happy to have me in her arms where we both knew I was safe.

Quickly, this became the formula of my life. Running away as quickly as possible from any sign of comfort only to realize that regardless of my inherent independent nature, I actually hated being alone. And of course, this has become most apparent in my adult romantic relationships.

“Ending Up Alone” was always a great fear of mine, and the idea that I was “unwanted” came around early in life. I was a huge kid, not fat, but very, very tall for my age. I hit puberty before any of the other girls at school. I started my period for the first time in the fourth grade, and I remember sobbing in the bathroom floor, asking god why he’d made me an overgrown kid who just wanted to be young and careless for as long as possible.

Often my appearance left me tortured by the boys at school.  One particular sad and lonely day, a very mean boy stood up in the middle of the cafeteria pointing at me and yelling at the top of his lungs, “Sarah, your last name is Fye, but you’re not!” I stood motionless as everyone in the room burst into laughter. He had meant that my last name was a new slang for “Hot” but that he and his friends actually thought I was disgusting.

As I finally grew out of my awkward pre-teen years and into a young adult, I found myself constantly seeking male attention…because attention felt a little bit like acceptance, and because acceptance felt a little bit like companionship, and companionship felt a little bit like love.

Fast forward to approximately one year ago, the night before a huge ice storm hit Nashville. Only recently had I ran away from the comforts of my almost five year relationship, and away from my former home of New York City, finding myself back in the arms of a guy I’d been in a tumultuous relationship with off and on for years. He was the perfect representation of the chaos my life thrived upon. He was there when he wanted to be but left me in solitude for long periods of time, generally long enough to feed both my independent spirit and my all of my insecurities about being alone, only to hurdle himself back into my heart with full force, making me crave him and then leaving me once more.

As the gentle sounds of Claude Debussy played from my ipod in my candlelit bedroom, he wrapped his long, lean arms around me and I began to wonder how much more of this erratic behavior I could handle. As a strong and independent woman as well as an extreme emotional weirdo, talking about feelings isn’t always easy for me. But for whatever reason at that very moment, I mustered up some courage. Rolling over and sitting up to face him directly, I looked him the eye and asked, “What do you think is better than me?”

He thought only for a brief second before looking up at me and saying, “I cannot think of ANYTHING better than you.” He kissed my lips and I fell asleep on his chest. The following morning, he walked out of my front door and out of my life. I haven’t seen him again.

It was in that moment I came to the realization that I needed to put myself on a dating diet. After all, it seemed I’d had some guy in my life in some way for about the past fifteen years: some guy calling or texting or not calling or texting or dating me or staying over or being my boyfriend or dumping me or taking a lot of my attention and energy for FIFTEEN YEARS! And still, there I was, single and clueless about the resolution to my problem.

I started thinking what I could do with all of the time and energy I spent worrying about men.  About finding the “one.” About not being alone. After all, if I had pursued any other endeavor with as much gusto and as little luck as I have finding the perfect person,  chances are I’d either already be famous or I would’ve given up being a performer a long time ago.

That was it. I was done with dating. I couldn’t take it anymore. And I couldn’t wait to feel what I would feel when I didn’t feel anything for anyone except myself.

For the first few months, it felt great! With no one to worry about but me, I found myself fretting so much less than usual. Detached from my cell phone and the wonder of whether or not he would contact me, (whoever “he” was at the former time), I felt an even greater sense of freedom and independence. I wanted to feel this free forever.

Then, of course, an obstacle. A very tall, very handsome man began working with me. The connection between us was palpable, but I quickly learned he was in a complicated situation with the mother of his child. While I felt a great deaI of adoration towards him, I couldn’t stand the idea of once more becoming attached to someone who didn’t have the ability to love me back. More importantly, I couldn’t stand the idea of being left alone again. So instead of allowing myself to be left alone, I did the only thing I knew to do. I ran.

Leaving my job and taking the summer to travel, I fled as frequently as possible. The times I spent alone in my one bedroom apartment in East Nashville felt like torture. I had to get out. So, I spent the majority of my summer bouncing from place to place. I toured doing comedy in Portland, Maine, Boston, Massachusetts and New York City. I took joyrides to Atlanta, Louisville, and Memphis. I flew out to Denver to stay with my best friend for two weeks, I traveled to Washington DC and Charlotte with the Chelsea Soccer Club fans of Nashville just because it was something to do to keep my mind off my single-ness, and I polished off the summer by taking the opportunity to stay at my friend’s beach house in Florida for a week.

Eventually I grew tired of living from my suitcase and was running low on funds, so the Sarah Does Summer American Travel Edition had to come to a close. I was forced to spend my time in the solitude of my apartment once more.  I wanted so desperately to reach out to someone; to have someone to hold onto. But because I had built such a big wall…because I had isolated myself and my heart for so long, for the first time, reaching out for someone else wasn’t even an option. And for the first time in my entire life, I felt a very cold loneliness.

But instead of running away again, I took the last few months of the year to ask myself what was so bad about me? Why did I consistently need to pull all my focus from myself and pour all my love and attention onto someone else? Was I so terrible to be around that even I couldn’t enjoy the pleasure of my own company? What was it about me that had grown in such disdain for me? Could I learn to nourish, protect, and love myself without the approval of an outside lover who may or may not be worthy of my attention?

The answer was yes.

On Wednesday, I’m going out on my first real date in a little over a year. And though it’s taken quite a while to get out of the darkness of my own heart, I am ever so grateful for my time alone. Because even though my heart grew dark, there was still a bit of light within my soul. After all, you only need a little light for reflection. And if you peer into the looking glass closely and for long enough, what you’ll find is beauty alone.