My Parma Past

I met Stanley off OkCupid about 5 years ago.  I had just turned 30 and I was out of the most devastating break up of my life at the time. I was drinking a lot and I was dating a lot because that seemed like the only thing I knew how to do at the time to cope with sadness and loneliness. Stanley was not exactly my type but his profile was funny and I was bored and wanted a drinking buddy and to see where the night would take me. He was older than me, maybe early 40’s.  He had a goatee and seemed like he would be the weird, alternative dude in the office that would corner you in the break room to talk about his extensive record collection while you slurped your Cup O’ Noodles and plotted an escape.

We met at the Beer Engine in Lakewood.  I ordered a giant meal while he drank and watched me eat.  He was very chatty and I listened to him talk and tell me how hot he thought I was.  I don’t hear that very often, so that was why I stuck around for the rest of the night.  About 20 minutes or so of getting to know one another he excused himself to the rest room.  When he came back I continued my talk on my mental health struggles (I always like to lead with that on first dates) and I think I had made him comfortable enough to tell me “Yeah, I get prescribed Adderall and I love abusing it.  I take it while I’m drinking for a balanced high.”  Those were pretty much his exact words.  I respected his honesty and replied “Ok, cool.  Maybe you shouldn’t be doing that but whatever.”  And I continued eating my food.

At one point he said “Man, you look so good.  Can I take a picture of you?”  And, well, I’m a Leo with no self esteem and codependency issues.  Need I say more?  I posed, he snapped the pic and showed it to me and I’ll be damned! It was one of the best pictures I had ever taken in my life!  I looked effortlessly both cute and sexy .  All my dreams coming true in an instant via a picture on a strangers phone.  I’ll have another beer, please and thank you very much!  Do you have a dessert menu??   WHO WANTS TO CELEBRATE WITH ME?  It doesn’t take very much in life for me to want to reward myself.

We went outside for a cigarette and that’s when he grew solemn and confessed to me that he had trouble finding a woman that could love the real him and see beyond his giant cock.  For a split second I felt genuinely bad for him because I imagined it was one of those really giant penises that can’t get hard and just like flop around because there isn’t enough blood in the human body to make it fill up so it is just kind of this beautiful, sad mess with so much potential.   I imagine the little pee hole slit is always frowning and saying “Welp” in a tiny worm’s voice.

He must have noticed he had touched a weak place in me as my eyes glazed over at the thought of whispering “It’s okay” to his poor big floppy penis that shielded him from the rest of humanity, so he grabbed the opportunity to lean in and kiss me.  I didn’t want to be kissed so I pushed him away and did that girl giggle thing that looks like we are playing coy but really means “Please don’t follow me back to my house and murder me.”

We go back in and finish our beers and just as I think the night is over and I am free to go home to the safety of my bed and cats, he grabs the check and pays.  In my head I do a slow motion “Noooooooo.”  Out loud I say “Oh, let me pay for my half please! I mean, I totally ate a meal and had like 3 beers.”  To which he says, “I got it, let’s head across the street and you can buy me a beer at the Mars Bar” and I go “Um, yeah sure.”    Before we leave, Stanley says, “Hey do you mind if I send your picture to this other girl I’m seeing?  You’re really cute and she likes girls, too.”  And I go “Sure!” stupidly flattered because I didn’t get enough attention in my childhood (and it was a really good pic, I think, as I make a mental note to tell my friends to use it for my obituary photo.)

We head across the street, I buy us some more beers and we take a seat outside on the patio.  At this point, the Adderall must have really kicked in, because Stanley just could not sit still.  He was zooming around the place. Back and forth. Back and forth.  He was constantly going to the bathroom and to the bar to get us more beers.  I made quick friends with another man on the patio who was out for an evening stroll with his dogs.  He was celebrating the news that his wife had just found out she was pregnant.  He asked me how long my boyfriend and me had been together.

I scoffed “Oh that’s not my boyfriend, we just met tonight.  Actually, I’m kind of terrified of him.  Will you please just keep talking to me?”

Then Stanley bolted out of the door, talking manically on his cell phone, shouting at me through gnashed teeth “Alright, Jen.  Lisa thinks you are cute.  Here!” And he hands me his phone.  I hesitate for a second and then all the sudden, my compulsive need to be liked kicks in and my voice turns into that of a horny college co-ed.   “Hi, um, Lisa? So, um, how do you, um, know Stanley?  Oh yeah.  This is SO weird right? Ok. All right.  Maybe.  Ok.  Byeeeeeeeeeee.”   I hand the phone back to Stanley and they hang up.

“Are you ready to roll? We’re heading to Parma”, he says.

::the record playing (probably Rihanna “We Found Love In A Hopeless Place” because this was 2011)) in my head screeches to a halt::

I turn to him and say, like my shit has never stunk a day in my goddamn precious princess life because I take one goddamn good picture and I have’t stuck any pills up my nose yet: “UM, I don’t go to Parma.  And I definitely don’t go to Parma for threesomes.”

The funny part about what I said was that it was a complete lie.  I was trying to sound classy but let’s be real.  This wasn’t the first time I was about to be a part of a forced threesome that is so grotesque no one really wants to be there.   The smell of sour cigarettes and unflossed teeth haunts me still.  And this ain’t my first hoorah in Parma.

There are a few things you should know about me. I grew up on the west side of Cleveland. I had not seen a front lawn covered in GRASS, not gravel, until I was in 7th grade and took a school trip out to North Royalton. I didn’t know families had multiple bathrooms and some even sat down and ate dinner together with maybe even their parents.  I didn’t know you weren’t really suppose to add a cup of sugar to the Kool-aid packet because it was ALREADY sweetened.  I didn’t know what skim milk was or even 2%.  Blech.  I had never even went to the dentist until I was an adult and I was only then able to run my tongue along the backside of my teeth and feel the ridges that separated them for the first time after a cleaning.  I didn’t know a lot of things.

When I was a teen, I thought you had to be rich to live in Parma. They had lawns! They had the money to buy fake geese for their lawns AND special seasonally appropriate clothing to dress them in. One time I made my grandma (with her pocketbook clutched to her chest and her special red babushka tied tightly under her chin)  take the bus with me out to Parmatown mall to go see a VERY hilarious movie (Curly Sue) and I swear it took us 3 hours to get there and I felt like we were rolling into Beverly Hills!

In Cleveland, one of my favorite childhood past times was sitting on our front porch with Grandma and watching the hillbillies and the Puerto Ricans get into street fights all summer long and having my Pappy yell “Come on inside now, you hear!”. But my Grandma was so nosey we would still peek out the front window to see what was going on. My Grandma always made everything fun. She would also shamelessly flirt with our bug exterminator, Ed, (who looked just like Tom Selleck) and tell us kids how she wished she would have never had kids so she could have been show girl in Vegas.  She did have beautiful legs which I was lucky enough to inherit.

So, the suburbs were just classy to me! I didn’t know that Parma would one day grow to become an embarrassing place for people to ridicule, known mainly for it’s questionably high Juggalo identifying population, pierogies and racism.  Unfortunately, I have too much evidence that I was living a Juggalo lifestyle a long while before they had even coined the name.


I spent the better part of my teenage years eating from the Blimpie inside of a BP gas station and listening to the Marshall Mathers LP, bleaching my hair that shade of white trash yellow that I thought could pass as “blonde” and fantasizing about the full back tattoo of fairy wings I was going to get someday but settling for a tongue piercing because it was cheaper and totally sexy. There was definitely a moment in time where I was always smoking weed and braiding some strange boys greasy hair while watching TV at 7 am because we hadn’t gone to sleep yet.  I listened to a lot of Henry Rollins spoken word cds, dropped out of Tri-C about 75 times and almost had my roommate/BFF bash my skull in with a hammer over an argument over who stole whose weed (Answer: We both stole each others).

I went to see Kid Rock and The Bare Naked Ladies (twice) in concert AND I liked it. I just didn’t know any better, ok??  HOW IS ONE SUPPOSE TO KNOW THERE IS A BETTER LIFE OUT THERE IF THEY ARE NEVER GIVEN PROPER EXAMPLES?? I ASK YOU THAT!!

It would be offensive and rude of me to compare my time in Parma to that of, say, a war veteran. But don’t think that over the years I haven’t had to fight the good fight to assimilate back into regular society. I may hide behind these bangs and hip eye wear but please know whenever I see a severely angled bob with chunky highlights or an eyebrow ring or a chain wallet, I am taken back to that far away land. The Land of Parma.

I’m not sure at what point I decided I didn’t have to live that life anymore or if it just naturally faded out of me by the grace of God. It closed up inside of me just as quickly as the hole in my tongue did when I removed the barbell. Only a slight indent to give you any indication it was there in the first place. You’d have to have already known about it to see the signs it was once there.  That I was once there.

Now, let us return to our original story:

Obvi, the lady doth protest too much.

If I had about 4-5 more beers , I am sure I would have been well on my way to a threesome in Parma (Heck, I’d probably even go to Painesville. Fuck it, right?). But since I sensed danger in the beginning of our meeting, I paced my drinking a little more cautiously than normal. Stanley became more and more agitated after that, barely coming out to the patio.  (Let me be clear, I could have left at any time but for whatever reason I chose not to.)

He told my new friend and me about how his testicles never dropped until later in life and he had pretty much an empty ball sack for a long while and that really informed his emotional development.  He tried to put his arm around me at one point and I told him to please not touch me.  With that he shut down completely and stood up.  And like a robot he started picking up the empty chairs on the patio.  At first I thought he was going to throw them at us so I winced and almost ducked but he was clumsily and nonsensically trying to balance them on top of the patio tables.  The last moment I saw Stanley, he farted really loudly and then walked backwards into the bar.

I seized my moment when I could because I knew after the chairs and fart it was time to go.  I thanked the stranger on the patio for sitting and talking to me and I ran across the street to my car.

With my heart racing, I bolted through my front door, logged onto my computer and deleted my OkCupid account.

About a month later Stanley texted me to see what I was up to.  I panicked and said “I’m in Florida, actually!”  And like he somehow knew I was lying, he texted back “So am I!”  I shut my phone and never responded.

But a few months later, I started thinking about that picture he took of me.  It was so good!  I felt enough time had passed that it was safe enough to text him.  Casually I texted, like nothing weird had ever occurred between us, “Hey Stanley.  It’s Jen, From OkCupid!  Hey, remember that picture you took of me the night we met?  Could you send it to me?”  And he texted back as friendly as could be “Sure, you looked really great that night!”  And sent me the picture.

We never spoke again.

Fast-forward to just a few months ago, I was late night creeping on Facebook and I saw Stanley’s picture pop up in a friend’s news feed with the caption “RIP.”  I looked at the date and I calculated he died about a year after we had met.  He looked so sweet and like a regular person in the picture.  My heart felt heavy.  I assumed the Adderall and booze had caught up with him.  It may make for some great stories, but addiction is a real bitch and a killer.  I only hope he didn’t die while he was in Parma having a threesome because no one deserves that.


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