Domestically Disturbed

article placeholder

Topher Payne: Learning to love the order of a happy home

Playwright and writer Topher PaynePreppy and I had to have a little family meeting about the state of our house. My tendency is to leave dishes in the sink for several days, or remove my underpants and leave them on the dining room table. So when my husband gets up in the predawn hours, he’s dodging dog treats and toys, plus my shoes and various home electronics I left on the floor.

Not much can be done about the dog’s inability to pick up her stuff, so the responsibility for improvement falls on me. It’s your basic chaos vs. order scenario, with me representing chaos. So, I have to learn to love order.

I’ve only seen a couple episodes of “Two and a Half Men,” in syndication, back before we got cable, but I got the basic gist of the premise. Charlie Sheen, boning anything with a willing orifice, is chaos. Jon Cryer is order. Flaccid, pasty, unfuckable order.

article placeholder

A little dirty talk from John Gidding gets me all hot and sweaty

Playwright and writer Topher PayneCritics claim that viewing pornography on a regular basis will eventually distort perceptions of realistic human behavior. The theory is that the first time you see that GayTube video of the UPS guy delivering a surprise package, you’ll recognize it as fantasy. But after you’ve seen 30 or 40 of those scenarios play out to delightful results, it seems a lot more credible.

Advocates argue that watching porn is more like an instructional video: We have much to learn from Matthew Rush. Instead of touching yourself, you’re supposed to be taking notes. I’ve begun to suspect the critics may be right. Porn may have caused me to completely lose touch with reality. But my porn does not feature the UPS guy. It features John Gidding on HGTV’s “Curb Appeal.”

article placeholder

Faggot: From schoolyard taunt to America’s most expensive word

Playwright and writer Topher PayneOne of the things I’m really gonna miss about Oprah is her unparalleled agility with a public shaming. Ms. Winfrey had a knack for bringing unsuspecting public figures on her program, thinking they were there to plug their memoir/project/plastic surgery nightmare. The conversation would breeze along, then it’d take an unexpected turn, as it would slowly come to light that Oprah was very disappointed in you.

There are few experiences, I would imagine, more painful than realizing you’ve disappointed Oprah. Back in Bible times, God would express disappointment through burning bushes and worldwide floods. These days, God subjects you to an Oprah Shaming, and the person on the receiving end likely wishes they could just be turned into a pillar of salt and be done with it.

article placeholder

Ten years after cancer diagnosis, a few thoughts on survival

Playwright and writer Topher PayneWhen I was 21, I went to the doctor because there was a problem with my balls. Men do not go to the doctor; it’s not ingrained in us. But a man will go to the doctor if there’s an issue with his junk, because we’re very protective of that area.

I came back with a diagnosis of Stage Three Lymphoma. That means it started in one location, and was on the move. Stage Four means it’s everywhere. There is no Stage Five.

Science says we know more about cancer than we used to. We understand how cells metastasize, how to detect it earlier, how to fight it faster. This sounds reassuring, but as a slasher movie geek, I know that giving the killer a more elaborate backstory doesn’t change the motive. It kills because that’s what it was designed to do.

There’s no logical plan of attack. People with Stage Four go on to have healthy lives. People who catch it at Stage One will be inexplicably resistant to treatment, and dead in 90 days. You can’t predict it.

article placeholder

The enemy of my enemy actually is my friend

Playwright and writer Topher PayneThe story was compelling: Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to protest the funeral of Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Rogers in my home state of Mississippi. Staff Sgt. Rogers was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. The wackadoos from Westboro were demonstrating, as usual, because the death of American soldiers is the result of God’s persistent discontentment with the gays.

I don’t think their rationale gives God enough credit. I think if God was really so single-minded on an issue, He wouldn’t distract himself with churning up tsunamis, slaying soldiers, and bringing down the Twin Towers. Go back and read your Old Testament — if God gets the notion to punish you personally, he lets you know.

Anyhoo, an article detailing Westboro’s Mississippi protest plans ran in the Jackson paper, and folks back home were not pleased. They began making plans of their own.

article placeholder

Does choosing time apart mean you’re growing apart?

Playwright and writer Topher PaynePreppy had been out of town for about eight hours before I completely reverted to bachelorhood. I stayed up until three in the morning watching horror movies. I used every dish in the house and washed none of them. I sat on the porch smoking like a freight train and didn’t dump the ashtray until it actually caught on fire. I stopped shaving. I drank a lot. He was gone for a week. If he had been gone for two, I would have transformed into late-career Ernest Hemingway.

Preppy takes trips with his friends. They go to the beach, to the mountains, and various concerts performed by jam bands whose songs are each a half-hour long. I don’t begrudge these trips, because he works incredibly hard at a job that exists in normal society, where there are hours, and one is aware of when the work day is complete. I am a writer. I do not have hours, I have deadlines. I have no idea how long it will take to complete an assignment. That’s like asking someone how long their emotional breakdown is going to take. It’s just done when it’s done, man.

article placeholder

Learning to wait for the command to move

Playwright and writer Topher PayneI never spend less than an hour in Pet Supermarket. We’ve had our dog for over a year now, and I’ve developed the ability to pick up a toy and envision exactly how Daisy would destroy it in less than five minutes. She’s a chainsaw with fur.

So I’m in the toy aisle, stress-testing the joints on a stuffed cow, when a guy enters with his dog. It’s a beagle, just like Daisy. But the breed is where the similarities end. This beagle is not on a leash. The fella says, “Sit,” and the dog actually sits, patient and content.

There are literally hundreds of distractions surrounding the animal, and he couldn’t be less interested. Daisy would have pulled down a display and eaten a cockatiel by now. I am green with envy. I want a Stepford Dog, and I need this man to make it happen.

article placeholder

When it’s time for the end to begin

Playwright and writer Topher PayneMy husband doesn’t know he does this, but when he introduces a game-changing conversation, it invariably begins while I am preparing food. I have no idea why that’s his arena of choice. I have knives, right there. But he takes his position at the bar, and exhales deeply. It’s the equivalent of the podium in a briefing room.

If he’s coming directly from work, he will either change into his jammies before the official statement (big news, but not life-shattering, keep chopping), or he will enter and go directly to the bar while still in his business casual (big news causing possible breakdown, let’s put the knife down.)

On this night, he came straight to the bar.

article placeholder

Confessions of an unapologetic insomniac

Playwright and writer Topher PayneI’ve never particularly cared for sleeping. It’s a ghastly waste of time, all those hours spent doing nothing, discovering nothing, accomplishing nothing.

When I was in Mrs. Martin’s kindergarten class, we would follow our snack time of Kool-Aid and Nilla Wafers with “rest time,” which was a flawed plan from the start —pump a bunch of five year-olds full of sugar and tell them to go lie on the floor. But each day, we’d all unfold our paper-thin vinyl mats and have our restful moment.

Twenty of us, lying prone on the floor, a tableau of tiny bodies littering the linoleum like the victims of a sniper attack. And I would lay there, wide awake, amazed by the classmates who were able to actually go to sleep in public. In what sort of homes were they being raised that they were allowed to just drop to the floor and lose consciousness? We were not housecats. This was not something to be encouraged.

article placeholder

Sex & Dating: Learning to negotiate sex after marriage

Playwright and writer Topher PayneA few years ago, on the road trip leading up to our marriage, I made a significant sacrifice. It happened on the New Jersey Turnpike. That was the moment when I deleted all the pictures of penises from my phone.

It wasn’t much of a collection. My pal Mandy has an impressive menagerie of penis pictures sent to her over the years. Men love photographing their junk. The reason we’ve seen such rapid improvements in the cameras on mobile devices is because guys over at iPhone keep asking, “How can I take better photographs of my junk?”

Although I didn’t have many junk photos, each never failed to bring a smile to my face, amongst other physical reactions. Removing them was a symbolic gesture, making clear I had selected the manly parts I would like to gaze upon for the rest of my life. I could go in the kitchen right now and request to view Preppy’s junk, and though he might be confused by the sudden demand, I could score a quick peek if I asked nicely.

article placeholder

The fight moves to print on a lawless snow-covered street

Snowpocalypse turned out to be a welcome vacation at our house, for at least the first few days. Unencumbered by work responsibilities and forced to clear our calendars, my husband, my dog, and I settled onto the sofa and got caught up on TV shows.

There are some programs we watch together, and then there’s each other’s favorite shows that we just can’t agree upon — like my love of National Geographic’s Lockdown, which he can mock all he wants, but if we ever wind up in prison together my working knowledge of the hierarchy in The Yard is gonna come in mighty handy. I’m learning potential life skills here. I’ve learned how to make a shiv out of almost anything. Just give me some downtime and a few raw materials.

While my husband might not share my interest in getting to know prison gangs, he does monitor another unstable posse closed off from society: The Kardashians.