When I moved back to Cleveland from Beverly Hills, a lot of people who know me were understandably confused. The details are long and covered more in my novel, which I am forever in the process of editing, but the short version is that I went out there for a relationship with a man, to whom I got engaged, right in that little park across from the big, pink Beverly Hills Hotel, and … well, let’s just say it didn’t work out. At all. It was a nightmarish time, one of the worst in my life while also being one of the most bizarre chapters in my unusual history.
During a visit home after I had been out there a little over a year, some good friends of mine and I went out; a very small, close group of friends, one in particular who knew me almost better than anyone. They could see collectively that it was not a good situation for me, that I was not mentally or physically healthy because of it. My one friend in particular pushed me about what was wrong with me, repeatedly, and I finally cracked and told them all how bad everything was, in all the gory detail. It was dangerous and bad and I was sick. Through my tears that night, my friends formulated the plan that would get me out of there and back home. In 30 days. They saved my live and my sanity in one fell swoop, gave me no choice about getting out, or they would have come out and gotten me. And they would have, absolutely.
At my job in LA after I had given my notice, I remember waiting for my car in the valet line at the end of a work day; the building where I worked was all valet, you weren’t allowed to self-park, and parking was included with the job. One of the guys I worked was also waiting, and said to one of the parking attendants, “Can you believe she’s leaving LA?” “Where’s she going?” said the parking guy. “CLEVELAND!” he said, shaking his head in disbelief, “Can you believe it?” “Ew, why would you go there?” said the parking attendant. I looked at them both, trying to hide my annoyance but not doing a very good job. “If you don’t know,” I said, “I certainly can’t tell you.” They didn’t understand why I was leaving any more than a lot of people back home understood why I was coming back. I wasn’t up to explaining it to a lot of people. It was a bad time and moving back was very logistically difficult as well as heartbreaking. Not only was the situation out in California a bad one, I *missed* Cleveland, and so many things unique to Cleveland – the non-fake people, the grittiness, the rust belt beauty. It was truly when I moved to LA and got my 90210 driver’s license that I feel I became a real Clevelander in my heart.
I remember going out with a couple of women friends shortly after I returned, and one of them saying, “How bad could it have been? I mean, it’s Beverly Hills!” “Right,” said the other one, “Just go shopping or something, you know?” “Retail therapy!” said the first. I just looked at them like they were aliens. They were very interested in the size of the engagement ring I had been given, which I gave back, and talked about how they wouldn’t have returned a rock like that.
I no longer talk to those women.
I met with a group of male friends I used to kick around with before I left – actors – my people, who were very glad to have me back in town. We all went out after a show they were in and we were sitting around and someone said, “So, why did you come back?” I paused and then simply said that I had to. It wasn’t a good situation for me and I had to. They were silent a moment and then another guy said, “Well, if you say it, that’s good enough for me.” “Yeah,” said another, “We’re just glad you’re back.”
This is part of the reason why the heavy preponderance of my friends has always been male.
“If you say it, that’s good enough for me.” Nobody wanted justifications or explanations. They knew me. I am not stupid. I don’t make a lot of rash decisions, though moving out there was probably one. There went on to be many of these types of situations and conversations when I first moved back. One person who had ramped up their contact with me while I lived out there basically completely quit talking to me once it was clear they would not be going to a wedding at the Beverly Hilton after all. My group of friends completely changed those first few months back in Cleveland. If you “got it,” we stayed friends – the guys I mention above, I am still friends with to this day. If you trusted me that when I say it was bad and I had to leave there and you didn’t need anything else, that’s great. The others were not welcome in my life.
I am lucky to have good friends like these guys I describe. I have so many more friends and a lot of “acquaintances” now that I did not have way back in 1998 when I returned to Cleveland. Many are people who “get” me, while others seem to regard me like a circus sideshow. Soon it will be time for a reorganization. I’m middle-aged. I’ve had a lot of physical problems. I’ve faced a number of new and difficult challenges this year. I need support, love and friendship. I have a lot of love and friendship to offer and I want my life to be fun, active, good quality and full of evenings with good conversation, a good drink and dear friends, as much as it is full of runs in the park with my boy, or dance parties he and I have in the living room.
I wonder, reader, which category are you?