Life: Fail

I tried to file my taxes earlier today, (yes, it’s August, and yes, I still haven’t filed them), and failed horribly. Between forgetting passwords, lost filed taxes from last year, (filed in July), the amount I know I’ll owe, and my lost PIN number (what the hell is it?), I was defeated and overwhelmed by the process. Failing at the task made me feel ugly.

My hair felt scraggly, my jeans kept falling off my ass, and so my ridiculously pink underwear was showing. Just yesterday a little girl — about four years old — commented on this fact. I was unloading boxes of books from a truck, and instead of admiring my womanly strength, the little anti-feminist wandered over and said to me, “Your underwear is showing!” To which I replied, “It happens.” And then she said, “It shouldn’t.” And now the failed task of filing my taxes emphasized the ugly, made me take the frustration out on myself, and I think I’m ugly as my pants slip down a bit further.

I’m sitting at a coffee shop trying to figure out this taxes mess, and my friend walks in and slams her bag down on the table. “Dude! You’re computer!” I shout, not wanting her to break her lifeline. “It’s not in my bag. Someone stole it out of my apartment.” Ah, yikes. We’re two writers, the computer an essential element to how we justify our lives spent hours in coffee shops instead of doing something like a real job, and now her precious instrument has been stolen. I grimace with her and ask her how she’s doing. “I’m very cross.” Reasonably so.

She’s got a novel she was working on on that computer, now gone. I stare at my own computer, feeling guilty that I have it. Her stolen computer news distracts me for a bit from how I’m lost in numbers that don’t make sense and how I’m not able to find my W2s from the eight jobs I worked this past year in three different states. It’s a gray day outside, the Minnesota summer giving up on itself early, and the gray depresses me more, makes my pants slip off my ass just an inch further. “Let’s have a smoke,” my friend yes. “Yes, let’s,” I agree, feeling like killing myself just a little bit more is the best idea that has ever been proposed.

We go outside for a smoke break. On the street parked outside of our coffee shop is a black hearse, an unusual car to be found on this busy city street. We both spot the death car as we walk outside, and at first nothing is said. It fits in with this gray day, with our moods that are drowning downward as fast as my pants are falling off, as quickly as my self-esteem drops down to my ankles. Our smoke break conversation erupts quickly as it always does, breaking away from the mess inside of our heads as we chatter away, trying to avoid what’s been stressing us the hell out that day. I push back my scraggly hair from my face, hitch my pants up a bit, and breathe in the wonderfully toxic smoke. There is a slight break from our ranting as my friend looks at the hearse, looks at me, looks again at the hearse, and says the only thing that has made sense to me that day.

“Is that for one of us?”

And I snort at this. And in this moment I don’t care about my pants, I forget about the little anti-feminist who basically implied my ass was ugly as it hung out in the air yesterday, and I know I’ll put my taxes off for another month. Because, why the hell not? Because I can, because avoiding them somehow makes me feel like I’m in charge. And while, yes, I do feel like that hearse is for me, I know however stupid and ugly I feel right now that the hearse is not, in fact, for me, because I have been saved from the tax situation that makes me want to die by a friend who can get me to laugh, by someone who makes the gray day feel not as gray on my mess of a body, this lump of flesh I have to lug around with me each day as I continuously attempt to live like an adult, like a person who files her taxes on time.


Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, Stone Highway, Atticus Review, Sleet and Make/shift among many others. Her essay “BodyHome” received the Editor’s Pick 2012 Award from Revolution House. She is currently finishing up a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body. You can read more of her writing at:


Caroline was an organic farmer who had a song for every vegetable. She was couch surfing her way from Virginia to Oregon one summer, just flowing with the cosmic tide and taking her time. I had offered her to stay at my place for a few days, but she ended up being with me for two months. Like a dying beached whale, her over-welcomed presence was hard to ignore.

I met Caroline through my friend Pidge (short for Pigeon with an intentionally inserted “d,” or else she would have been Pige, which most likely would have been pronounced “Piej”. And that just sounds too Bourgeois. Not us). Pidge met Caroline at a Farmer’s Market. Caroline had intended to meander her way to Chicago by hitchhiking, but just outside of her hometown in Virginia she met an Australian woman and her girlfriend at a farmer’s market. They, too, were wanting to head out west like some depression-era dream. They also were planning on hitchhiking, but the three of them realized that with all of their money combined they could go in on a car together and avoid the potential dangers that female hitchhikers face.

As they steered their newly owned vehicle towards the Midwest, they all decided that making an out-of-the-way pit stop in Chicago was absolutely necessary, because none of these gay gals had been to a big city. So they veered north to head up to the Windy City. Here, they would inevitably decide to go to a farmer’s market (it was Caroline’s profession, after all), and Caroline would strike up a conversation with Pidge and her girlfriend, who just happened to also be there.

Caroline decided she wanted to stay in Chicago longer than her traveling mates did, so after Pidge introduced me to her one night over some beers, I drunkenly offered her my couch on which to crash. She was only supposed to stay for a few days. Caroline’s first week of stay passed by quickly. She cooked wonderful food and sang nonstop while doing so. The songs were somewhat entertaining, and I didn’t mind being fed fresh organic produce.

And then the second week passed by. And then the third. And by the fourth week every time she sang “Beets beets beets, they’re so lovely to eat!” I almost strangled her.

On the fifth week into her stay, and even though she had started to bug the shit out of me with all of her humming and singing, I did feel bad that she didn’t have a room of her own. Virginia Woolf was probably scowling at me in her grave. So when I went to leave to go on a week-long vacation to Colorado in order to visit my family, I offered Caroline to stay in my room while I was gone.

After a relaxing vacation, I returned a week later at 10:30 at night sleepy and with droopy eyes. When I walked into my apartment, I heard Caroline sing out to me, “Hello! It’s great to have you home!”

She was sitting at the dinning room table outside of my room drinking a glass of wine and humming to herself. Through all of the little things that annoyed me about her, I still appreciated her ability to drink a bottle of wine by herself (and often without the aid of a glass). This quality of her’s made my own accomplishment of the same task seem normal in my mind.

As I threw my luggage down, Caroline offered to pour me a glass of Merlot.

“Of course,” I said.

I didn’t really want to talk to Caroline, because at this point I was just ready for her to get out of the apartment. But I did want her wine, and it was mighty fine wine. So I sat across from her and plunged into the glass to catch up with her rosy cheeks. After one sip, I could tell something was up with Caroline. She was her normal overly-cheerful annoying self, but the cheer actually seemed forced.

“Chelsey. I have to tell you something.”

Shit. I had no clue what it was, but shit. Actually, I had this suspicion that Caroline had feelings for me, and now that she had been without me for a week, maybe she realized she couldn’t live without me. She had slept in my bed. She had smelt my pillows. And if she couldn’t have me, then no one could. I was suddenly suspicious of the wine. Did it taste funky? I wanted to take another sip to assess if there was poison in it. But if there was poison in it then hell no I didn’t want another sip. But I also just wanted to drink! Eek! I was starting to panic as my brain burst with indecision as to what to do next.

“Um, Okay,” I said cautiously. “What’s up?”

“I was going to wait until tomorrow to tell you this, because I was afraid you’d be tired tonight or something. But I can’t not tell you.”


“I melted your vibrator.”

I pause here for you to re-read what she said, because yes, she did say that. And yes, it did happen. You just can’t make this shit up.

Images of Caroline sniffing through my drawers to learn my inner most secrets, and then stumbling upon my vibrator made my skin creep. I was also suddenly aware of the fact that both of my vibrators were a ridiculously hot pink color. I was embarrassed by how girly looking they were–one with a butterfly clit tickler, and one with a rabbit, like some absurd princess toys for grown-up girls. But goddamn they got the job done. And now Caroline could attest to this fact as well.


After the initial shudder racked through my body, a wave of confusion came flooding in. How exactly did she melt my vibrator? Did she use it too ferociously for too long? Were pubic hairs now smoldering in the pink silicone? Could a pussy really get that hot?!?

“Before you say anything, let me explain.”

Yes, please do, my eyes begged. I had yet to regain my capacity to speak, but probably from the look on my face she knew to keep talking.

“Well. Oh, this is so embarrassing,” she blushed.

Tell me about it.

“Well I found your vibrator, and, well, um…then sterilized it for you by boiling it, and a part of it melted. I’m so sorry.”

“Well,” I breathed out, knowing it was my turn to speak. “Did you at least get off?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Then at least it wasn’t a lost cause.” Thank god for the wine and sleepy delirium. “Glad it could be helpful.” I decided to play the cool, understanding, sex-positive feminist and make it seem like this shit happened all the time.

But it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. And now not only was this couch-surfer turned house crasher singing about beets every day, but she was also literally fucking with my shit.


Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, Stone Highway, Spittoon, Sleet and Make/shift among many others. Her essay BodyHome received the Editor’s Pick 2012 Award from Revolution House. She is currently finishing up a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body, is working on a second collection of essays tilted There Is Nothing Else to See Here, as well as a memoir about being committed to psychiatric wards. You can read more of her writing at:


On April 3rd of any given year, and after a few margaritas in celebration of life, my mother is known to tell my friends that I shat on myself moments before I was born. This shitting caused complications. The actual name for these complications is Meconium Aspiration. Basically, I took a crap — my final goodbye to the womb I guess — and was in danger of inhaling said crap, which could thus injure my lungs. So with the crap lingering dangerously close to my face, Dr. Robert M. Shine took swift measures to save my life. He grabbed the forceps and pulled my shit-faced self out of my mom’s crotch.

Hello, world.

For the first week of my life my head and face were misshapen and bruised. One can only hope that this entry into the world — shit-faced and bruised with a fucked-up head — would in no way be a harbinger for the life I had before me.

Let’s just hope it’s a funny story.

But, alas, I have followed the premonitions of my birth. First the bipolar disorder (messed up head), then the alcoholism (shit-faced). I was a woman who stumbled around her life, trying to find a way to live that stuck. Nothing was sticking, though, as I only flailed about trying to hold onto something, anything, which turned out to be a drink.

I eventually turned to therapy where my shrink wanted to look at the ways in which my traumatic birth could still be affecting me. She told me her own story of how she was a butt-first baby, and caused a lot of complications for her mother. Now, she thinks of herself as a pain in the ass for her family. And I wonder about my own complications, how the drinking also messed with my head, how I constantly felt mentally bruised, or maybe that was just from the hangovers.

More about my birth: my mother felt me kicking away a few days before I was due to pop out into the world, and so she soaked in the bathtub and drank a glass of red wine, trying to get me to calm down. But I got so excited by that wine, wanting to taste it for myself, that I kicked away at her until her water broke, and I could finally be free to enter the world.

I entered the world on Easter Sunday weighing seven pounds and two ounces. And in my tiny ass town of Laramie, Wyoming, I was the first baby born on that day in 1983. In honor of Jesus, the Wyoming Wool Grower’s Association gave my family ten pounds of mutton as they left the hospital. My family hated lamb. But there they were, entering into a blizzard in Wyoming, holding in their hands more pounds of dead lamb than new baby.

While it took me sixteen years to be able to finally find my lips chugging down that taste of red wine, I quickly became as good at ruining my life with alcohol as my alcoholic father. For my second suicide attempt, I found myself in a psych ward with my father three floors above me in detox. We shared the same doctor. I think Dr. White found this amusing, as did my mother who could visit half of her family members in a one-stop trip. What happened: while I was chugging down a bottle of pills to do something to quiet the dis-ease I felt in my head, my father was doing his own chugging on a bottle of vodka. We were quite the pair, even though we dearly hated each other. And with him three floors above me, I sat in the psych ward trying to act not crazy so I could get back to my nightly routine of drinking a glass of wine in the bathtub. Perhaps I am more like my mother than my father.

After I birthed myself from the psych ward, I went back to my destiny of being shit-faced with a fucked-up head. Some habits die hard, especially when you are born with them.


Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, Stone Highway, Spittoon, Sleet and Make/shift among many others. Her essay BodyHome received the Editor’s Pick 2012 Award from Revolution House. She is currently finishing up a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body, is working on a second collection of essays tilted There Is Nothing Else to See Here, as well as a memoir about being committed to psychiatric wards. You can read more of her writing at: