I wrote most of this post inside Rhys Millen’s sweltering hot trailer located somewhere so off the grid we had to drop pins telling people where we were. Oh and I can also cross the life experience of “flipping a car” off my list. Oh and we caught the eye of the po po somewhere near the rim of the world (this is a thing) who then wondered why the word PENIS was written on my forehead. While I can’t say all of this attention was desired, it did at least inspire this post.
Maestro … https://www.youtube.com/embed/y3MjxWn5W9M?wmode=opaque
A few weeks back, I went as my brother’s date to his military banquet dinner. He’s now a full blown second lieutenant in the army (he just graduated from BOLC – for those who know what that means), and as his annoying little sister, I carry great pride in being his plus one. (And by great pride, I mean we’re both still single in our 30s, so yeah.) My brother is my dude, we’ve been thick as thieves our whole lives and as I’ve gotten older, I realize how special that is.
<tangent>I’m over telling this story, but I need to establish the background … but growing up, my brother was heavily favored in our family. Not by my parents, but pretty much everyone else. I still remember sitting on his bed at age 6? and touching his heart wondering what he had in there and I didn’t. My parents themselves had less than harmonious relationships with their siblings, so they made it a priority for us to at least “try” to get along. Like any other siblings we relentlessly tortured each other, but if anyone else tried to mess with either of us? Let’s just say, they did not have the best day.
You can read the story here, but when my brother was getting picked on in the 3rd grade (I was in 1st), I WWF style “off the top rope” threw myself into his bully and broke up the fight. (Hashtag: Learned behavior from Brett Hart, Yokozono, and Razor Ramon.) Even at that age, I never thought about it or batted an eye – I took care of the situation, and we take care of each other … fiercely … and always. </tangent>
Assisting in el brother-ino’s success (in whatever means necessary), I made sure to look the part, making my dress a top priority.
There is no better marketing than a woman in a beautiful dress.
Here’s what I wore to his first military formal …
I was a big. big. hit and baby had some serious back …
Sure he got shit from his colleagues as to how attractive his sister was, but he also made some fantastic connections and everyone anchored said success back to one thing – “that beautiful dress.”
Left to my own devices and operations, I’m a tom boy, but do I like looking nice for special occasions? Fuck yes! (Besides, I also need to refresh my dating profile pics every once in a while, so double yay!)
Did I mention that the dresses I wear are rented so not only do I spare myself the garment gluttony, but also the cleaning bill.
What’s that you say …???
When you’re wearing a dress that people admire, they come up to tell you. Of course, a microsecond after the compliment has been processed, I make sure to introduce myself while quickly asking if they had a chance to meet my brother as well.
<tangent> This is where men get it wrong with the concept of a “trophy wife/ girlfriend.” You have to find a woman that is confident enough in her own skin to know that she’s working a system, yet remembers to take care of her partner at the end of the day. Albeit that can mean different things to different people, but anytime a guy offers for me to be his “trophy” I laugh saying, I only like boys that shine mine. I’m a partner, not a puppet. </tangent>
I don’t mind attention, I just don’t need outside validation anymore. I genuinely prefer being the one behind the scenes, and working systems watching the people I’m supporting succeed all while going “excellent” in the key of Mr. Burns maneuvering work and life like a game of chess.
Shortly after my arrival in yet another “middle of nowhere” scenario, the Friels united and as I checked into my hotel room on the base my brother ran down the evening’s itinerary.
“This won’t surprise you,” he said continuing, “but you’re sitting at the head table with the colonel (an invited guest of my brother’s).”
“HA! I said laughing.”
“I’ve also been asked to MC the event, that means you’re going to mostly be on your own.”
Not a problem, I said with a smile happy to be there to support him.
<tangent> My brother and I often find ourselves in “adulting” roles. Anytime an actual adult needs to leave the room, or put someone in some sort of leadership role, there is a 99.999% chance we will be asked. So him being asked to MC was the equivalent of being told what day it was. </tangent>
Ready to rock and or roll at the early bird hour of 4:30, I met my brother in the lobby as we climbed into the colonel’s truck heading over to another part of base where the event was held. (He and his wife drove into Missouri from DC.) En route in, and still a little early, we toured the building where they had various uniforms, police cars, and general army memorabilia.
The colonel and my brother mostly spoke in acronyms that I didn’t understand. Bee tee dubs, talk about the boot being on the other foot – I’ve spent my whole life talking in tech acronyms watching my brother’s eyes glaze over. It was my turn to be confused, but like any true gentlemen, they were very open to answering any and or all questions I had.
The event commenced promply at 5, and the group paused before entering the room. My brother walked into the hall first and shouted ATTENTION!
Eyes as wide as saucers, I stared over at the colonel’s wife not knowing what to do next.
The colonel was the highest ranking officer in the room, and when they enter you show some damn respect. I might still be learning the traditions within military culture, but I have to admit, I admire what I’ve seen so far. For as “new school” as I may be, I was also raised with etiquette in a super old school Connecticut family. (If I cut my food and ate with my fork still upside down my grandmother would scowl saying I was “european.” Which btw, I learned on a date last year was a WW1 method of determining who was a friend and who was a foe.)
Anywho, emerging from behind the scenes inside a room called to attention, my brother organized his thoughts and presentation as I was introduced to his colleagues and their sig-o’s. Seeing this as an opportunity to muster up some dirt (for the upcoming holiday season), I asked for some embarrassing stories.
Not short on supply, they mentioned a few before one of his colleagues stopped saying, “I gotta say one thing though, Friel worked really hard.”
“His first week here, he didn’t pass a shooting test required for the course. Instead of just giving up, he spent every weekend there after at the gun range.”
“That’s Michael,” I said smiling knowing first hand how easy certain things come to him, but also how hard he works if he truly wants something. (My brother is actually so smart that he frequently finds himself bored.)
After months of hard work, he had to take the shooting test again, and not only did he pass but he qualified for a medal.
After dinner, we went back to the colonel’s hotel room for a night cap and a catch up as gentlemen, not officers. “You should come to the dinner in September, it’s for a three star general.”
I laughed saying, “I’m in as long as I’m not traveling to yet another ‘middle of nowhere’ type place.” (In the last year and some change for my brother I’ve been to Oklahoma, Georgia, and Missouri. Super happy to support him, but dear god I’d like a break from bumfuck.)
His wife then chimed in saying she was happy to make introductions for my brother. He thanked her, as I piped up saying, “I’m happy to make introductions specifically to any of the single soldiers. I’d truly like to thank them for their HARD work and tireless service.”
Everyone laughed as my brother and I departed for the next part of our adventure.
Compartmentalizing my own exhaustion from 12 hours of travel, we walked back to our hotel as I asked my brother what was next.
At dinner we had been invited to meet his team at a place called “Chicken Bones,” but again being cut from the same cloth (just styled differently) I knew that everyone else going somewhere would have little to no influence on what my brother actually wanted to do.
“Let me get changed, and we can head out to the bar with everyone.”
Done, I said.
I ran back to the room freshening up my own makeup, and a few moments later I heard a knock.
I opened the door still in my dress.
The photography doesn’t do this dress justice. Another lesson learned! 🙂
You’re going to go to the bar in THAT dress?
Without skipping a beat, I said, “this isn’t a dress, this is a sensation!” (Technically speaking I stole that line from the movie Sweet November, but damn did it work well in that moment.)
“Fair,” he said still in stiches.
Again I was in a situation where I could use this dress to my advantage. We’re in the middle of nowhere, and I’m going to walk into a bar in a damn ball gown. That’s attention level 100, and the social equivalent of leaving the barn door wide open. Whoever he wanted to talk to, he was going to talk to. As his little sister I was going to play any card I had to make sure that happened.
In the cab on the way over I objectively laughed at our circumstances …
As we walked into Chicken Bones located next to the fudge factory in Uranus, Missouri ::snicker snicker:: we were stopped at the door by the hostess. “Wow, she said, you are by far the hottest woman in here.”
Thank you, I said with a smile in the direction of my brother. Personally I registered it as someone shooting a fish in a barrel and displaying it on the wall, but again, not seeking the outside validation meant that I genuinely didn’t care.
My brother went to grab us drinks, as I sat down with his friends (who were playing pool). I was invited to play, but in that moment preferred to watch. My schedule has been the busiest it’s ever been, physically it doesn’t bother me, but mentally it does. I need a fucking vacation.
Moments into my stare off into space (I found a hockey game on), I noticed a group of douchey looking dudes giving the “come here” gesture. I laughed to myself continuing to ignore them focused directly on the TV above their heads. Are they out of their damn minds? If you want to talk to a woman, you politely approach. The “come here” might have worked in my 20s, but in my 30s that’s a boat load of hell to the fuck no. I’m a classy broad, and you better show some respect.
Frustrated at the lack of attention, they began to borderline on desperation conducting what one would call a “dance off” of sorts …
only they were clearly absent the day dance lessons were taught …
and their bodies flailed around mimicking one part seizure, one part “The Sprain” … https://www.youtube.com/embed/zxX-l6BVPBE?wmode=opaque
Attention was not won. In fact, there was not even a consideration of it being placed on the table.
Focusing on the only thing that mattered, my brother returned Chicken Bone Bar souvenir cup in hand (WINNING!). He then asked how I was “actually” doing. I laughed telling him the story of what I experienced while he was away, but then also said, “I’ve lived like Bethenny Frankel Season 1 and Season 2 of Real Housewives for a long time now. Today, tomorrow, and every day forward, I’m going to be like Bethenny Frankel Skinny Girl Boss Bitch.”
“I know, he said. I’m really proud of you. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are now.”
“Thank you,” I said, “but also for the first time in my life I can enjoy it.”
When I was hustling Talk Nerdy back in the day, I was constantly in this hyper sales mode. Now, I don’t have to do that anymore. With this new stage comes entirely new challenges and new standards, but I can also feel like I can breathe for the first time in a really fucking long time.
6 year old Jen said she was going to work in the entertainment industry (with tech as my fallback since it came so naturally to me). 32 year old Jen not only works in entertainment, but also in tech (which is becoming one in the same). I constantly placed myself in the right place at the right time without ever knowing it. I didn’t sleep my way “to the top,” I didn’t have to. I worked hard and threw down just as hard (if not harder) than the guys. I earned a lot of respect along the way, but most importantly from within myself.
Somewhere past our bedtimes, we left the bar and the next morning decided to pick a handful of spots in Uranus ::snicker snicker:: before heading back to St. Louis for my evening flight. While in more of a “typical Jen ensemble,” (translation: people are a liability and please for the love of god don’t talk to me) we stopped off at a winery en route to sample local flavor.
<tangent> I’m not going to change. After all these years and adventures, I’m pretty solid on the person that I am.
Exhibit A: Jen age 8, launched first computer “company” after numerous failed attempts at lemonade production/ driveway sales …
Exhibit B: Jen age 32 hanging with her big brother in Missouri …
As we walked up to the bar inside the winery, we were greeted by the bartender asking if I had dyed my hair.
What? I said genuinely confused.
“Did-you-dye-your-hair?” she said slower and with the same amount of confidence.
“Yes actually, but I’ve never been here before so you wouldn’t know that.”
My brother looked equally confused as she continued, “oh it’s okay, I just stalk you is all.”
Assessing the situation I could tell she was joking and being super friendly, but I brushed it off saying “oh I have plenty of those”(the inside joke not lost on my brother).
Six sips later, we grabbed the bottle we enjoyed and as we went to pay, we grabbed the attention (yet again) of our new friendly friend.
“I can take you over here,” she said.
I turned and smiled as we stepped out of the line.
As she rang up the bottle the computer erroneously double charged. My brother piped up saying “oh you mean we get the family discount! See, my uncle owns a liquor store and his way of taking care of the family is being charged twice.”
I laughed along and for the first time I realized how happy I am that my brother didn’t have to experience a perceived “void” that I had for so long (in terms of family). He doesn’t know what it’s like to feel like such an outsider in your own family, friends, and your own skin.
Finally, I smiled for a reason other than attention.
On our way out, our new friend invited us both to a screening of Rogue One later in the evening. Outside of earshot I commented that “she wanted me, but she’ll take you.” We laughed, and as he dropped me off at the airport hours later I told him yet again how proud I was of all that he’s accomplished.
He replied with, “same.”
Then, this past weekend (clearly ignoring my own declaration of avoidance of bumfuckery), I went up to Lake Arrowhead and then to somewhere called Soggy Dry Lake for a new off road racing automotive project.
See, I’m a workaholic, so anytime my friends say that they have an idea, I’ll think about it and process to see if there’s a way I can help. 99/100 times it never ends up going anywhere, but that once in a blue moon has kept my brain creatively satisfied for over a decade.
On the way to set in a pimped out Ford Raptor (we were shooting content for a soon to be launched new website), we caught the eye of the po po and his Kanye West style lights … https://www.youtube.com/embed/ila-hAUXR5U?wmode=opaque
As we pulled over, the driver asked for assistance in finding his insurance card on his phone while he spoke to the officer. Being a pro racer means that he has more than one insurance policy, and as I pulled up the (at least 20?) cars he had insured, I handed the phone to the officer confused saying, “I have no idea which car we are currently in.”
He looked down at the policy on the screen, and then mirrored back the confusion to what was on the top of my head. “Does your forehead say the word PENIS?”
Oh, I said laughing, the company is Chalkin Social, and these guys are like my brothers so we mess with each other as often as possible.
Hearing an officer outside of the “rim of the world” ask me why I had the word “PENIS” written on my forehead made every penny spent on the hat worth it.
An hour and some change later, we arrived on set. We were working that day with Rhys Millen, and