Happy FOMO to you

Ever since I could remember, birthday parties were my thing.

These types of parties are not your regular breed of group celebrations, as they generally end in tears, bruises, and paranoid delusions – especially when you weren’t invited in the first place.

FOMOthday

Chapter 5 – Fear of Missing Out on Birthday Parties

In grade school, I had a friend that was a Jehovah’s Witness, which at the time I thought was a branch of the Witness Protection Program. One that protected children, not from “bad guys,” but from Halloween candy, Christmas presents, and, most often (and apparently most dangerous), the flames from candles on a birthday cake.

It was difficult for me to understand why she needed protection from parties. I also couldn’t understand why her mom sewed all her clothes. Yet, nothing was crueller than watching an adult swoop her out of the room (much like the federal agents did to Elian Gonzalez) every time a cake was wheeled in.

It is with much thanks to that little girl that I learned to savor every single birthday party. She is the reason I never turn down an invitation. And, it’s because of her that I tend to invite myself when my name doesn’t make the guest list.

INVITED FRIEND

“I can’t hang out, I have that birthday party tonight.”

ME

“Perfect. What time shall I be there?”

Sure, I’ve occasionally invited myself to the less-than-desirable parties in honor of friends’ grandmothers, children, and bosses, but at least I was there. I didn’t have to hear about it from a secondary source. I saw that long white hair on grandma’s chin touch the frosting on the cake with my own eyes. I also know exactly which of the moms and dads were smoking “funny smelling cigarettes” in the park, while a clown distracted the kids. And, I was one of five people who showed up to the douche bag boss’ birthday after he rented out an entire VIP section of swanky night club.

But, I heard somewhere that for every three-hundred shitty birthday parties, there is one good one. One that ends with skinny dipping and/or the threat of divorce.* And if my math is correct, I think I’m almost due. So, you see, I can’t stop going to them now.

*Find the “Blame it on the FOMO” chapter for more on this.

A few years back, I tried to speed up this karmic process by organizing my own birthday extravaganza. I embarked on a four-month expedition of intense research and took an online course in event planning. I shopped venues like a finicky home buyer. I contracted break dancers, only after actually dancing with them. I hired bartenders based on their ability to never use enough mixer. I coordinated three outfit changes that perfectly matched my manicure. And, finally, I spent countless nights compiling the perfect mix of guests that would simultaneously bring elements of class and trash to the party.

As the RSVP’s trickled in, there were inevitably a few declines, but one in particular, irked me to no end. It was that of a dear coworker, whom I had grown very fond of. A delightful woman from the accounting department that showed no hesitation to jump in the pool, fully clothed, during a company retreat. But, as it turned out, she too was a Jehovah’s Witness.

I immediately remembered that little girl from grade school and how powerless I was to help her. But, now I was an adult and could actually do something for that woman who needed saving from her anti-birthday God. So, the morning after her denial, I marched right up to her cubicle and pleaded my case.

“Hey, so I saw you can’t make it to my party.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I don’t celebrate birthdays. It’s against my religion.”

“Yeah, but notice I didn’t say it was my birthday party. It’s just a party. It just happens to be near my actual date of birth.”

“No, I really don’t feel comfortable with it.”

“I’m not having a cake. No one will sing. I’m not even accepting gifts.”

“I appreciate it. But, really, I can’t.”

“I didn’t make it clear in the invitation, but it’s not really a party, it’s a performance. You people go to shows, right? Don’t you have plays at church? Well, it’s the same thing.”

“I’m not feeling comfortable with this conversation anymore.”

“I’m not feeling comfortable with you missing out on my birthday party.”

 “So it is your birthday party.”

“You know what? Yeah. It is. And there will be cake. And candles. And breakdancing. And adult party favors. And booze. And someone will eventually puke in a palm tree. The devil is going to be all up in that place, stealing souls and shit. And you’re going to miss it all. All. Of. It.”

Later that day, we both met with the Human Resources Director who, I might add, accepted my birthday invitation, and we eventually patched up our tiff. And, the following month I did celebrate my birthday, which was…okay. But, I know it would’ve been better if only a certain Jehovah’s Witness would’ve shown up and torn the place down. Eating cake with her hands and shit. Grinding on the dance floor. Covering her bare body with confetti. All while screaming, “I LOVE BIRTHDAYS!”

Fame FOMOnster

It could’ve been my big break.

An opportunity to rub elbows with celebrities and the upper crust. There was no way I was missing out on the chance. Even if it meant tagging along with an ego-maniacal hair-dresser.

paparazzi

Chapter 3 – Fear of Missing Out on Fame

It was two hours before the party and I was still trying on clothes at a Burlington Coat Factory. The occasion was a Valentine’s Day celebration in the South Miami home of a power lesbian couple I had never met. The temperature was prognosticated to drop into the low seventies, which is why I was shopping at the only winter clothing store in Miami.

The winning outfit: fancy silk pants with embroidered tulips from a designer label, at a drastically reduced price, with a gold sweater. A sparkly gold sweater.

Make no mistake; the outfit was as ridiculous as it sounds.

Back at home, my hand shook while applying eyeliner. In my mind, I had likened this party to the yearly Carrie Fisher and Penny Marshall joint birthday extravaganza that hosts everyone from Elizabeth Taylor (God rest her violet-tinted soul) to John Travolta (God rest his hair).

I had only partied peripherally with celebrities. Meaning, I had been in the same clubs or events, but never at the same table. I had worked with their publicists, and accommodated all of their requests, but, like a good PR girl, I always stood 40 feet away from the constellation that is composed of the star and the people who kiss their ass.

But this time was different, because now I was a member of the entourage of a celebrity stylist.

The residence was surrounded by a flock of luxury vehicles, so I parked my freshly washed, decade-old Jeep Cherokee exactly a block away. As I made my way toward the house, a black Mercedes SUV suddenly pulled up on the sidewalk, disregarding the nicely manicured shrub belonging to the hosts’ neighbors.

The door popped open, letting out my supah-star. You know, it’s true what they say about celebrities. They do walk in a weird glow. And, to make sure that his glow was in full effect, he wore white leather cowboy boots, ripped white jeans, a white sequin belt, a white bedazzled buttoned-down shirt opened all the way to his belly button, and one very large white cowboy hat.

He pivoted out of the car and let out the official gay call of the wild:

“Haaaaaaaaaaaay girrrrrrrrrl!”

And, my heart melted.

We had only known each other for a month. A chance meeting through my line of work. He had an expired voucher for a cruise and I was helping him get an extension. When the voucher wasn’t honored, I offered him my employee rate and he was touched by my kindness. We became fast friends. He would invite me to his place of business to gossip like two little girls. One time, he even forced me into his chair and snipped my split ends. And, when I tried to pay, he gave me the stereotypical gay-man-glare and handed me a bag of hair products from his newly launched line.

So, when he called me up to invite me to this party, I was thrilled. I considered it my try-out for a permanent position in his entourage.

I basked in the glow of his outfit as, I and three others, walked up to the house for our collective 2-hour-delayed grand entrance. And, it was exactly how I envisioned it. People fawned. Drinks were handed. Kisses were given. Compliments were exchanged. But, forty-five minutes into it, I  realized that the party goers were not other pseudo-celebrities, but a grand collection of geriatric homosexual nobodies. No sign of the Estefans. No sign of the Gibbs. No sign of the Iglesias.

He must have caught my disappointment, because he made his way from across the room to tell me that we would be leaving to go to the real party now.

I was instantly relived. Until I realized the real party was at a gay male strip club.*

At the club I stood against a wall and watched the spectacle of orifices being filled by appendages and/or beverages and/or white powdery substances. A friendly bartender took pity on my and poured amaretto in my glass both as an apology to what I was witnessing and in an effort to erase it from my short-term memory.

Under the blinding disco lights and thundering bass, I recited a mantra in my head, in the hopes I would remember it the next morning over the haze of a sweet liquor hangover: Fuck Fame.

*I believe my irrational fear of sitting down on surfaces for fear of impregnation came about as a result of this outing.

That was the last time I saw my celebrity friend. We spoke sporadically on the phone, especially whenever he was going to be on T.V., as a reminder to watch him. He would always extend a vague invitation to hang out again, and I would sound enthusiastic, but only as a polite gesture. Eventually, the phone calls ceased and I carried on, content with my mere mortal existence.

Until he showed up to my job coked-out of his mind.

At the security desk, he demanded to speak to my boss, so they dialed her up and handed the receiver over to Edward Scissorhands. Little did he know that our office was no more than 10 feet away from security, so I could not only hear his aggressive rant, but also the sound barrier blasts made by his flailing hands.

In his monologue of bullshit, he spat out accusations, saying I exchanged haircuts for free cruises, and demanded I owed him $400 for services rendered. After his shouts became belligerent and incoherent, the security team took away the phone from his ear and escorted him out. After the shock dissipated, my boss called me into her office and demanded an explanation.

“Is what he’s accusing you of true?”

“Of course not,” I responded.

Without using the term FOMO, I tried to make her understand my curiosity for celebrity. And, when that didn’t work, I tried to come up with some sort of excuse for his behavior.

“I think he is just lashing out because I didn’t catch his QVC special.”

Without flinching, like a true PR professional, my boss instructed me to fix this mess.

And, so I did. I had my lawyer send a nice cease and desist letter with a threat of a restraining order and I never heard from him again.

Hello FOMO

Preface

“Stories of FOMO” has been sitting in my laptop for a little more than two years. And now, I’m ready to share it. It’s never been read or edited, so feel free to add your comments below.

Introduction

Hello. My name is Mari, and I’m a FOMOsexual, FOMOaddict, FOMOolic, and a FOMOker (more on those topics in chapters four, nine, two, and seven, respectively). I suffer from a condition known as “Fear of Missing Out” or better known in hipster circles by its acronym F.O.M.O.*

Mugshot

*This is the first and last time the acronym will appear between periods. It’s an homage to the raging FOMO I experienced as an adolescent while waiting to menstruate. So, when you look at the acronym and wonder where the periods are, you can empathize with the 14 year old version of me. 

Chapter 1 – What the heck is FOMO?

The first I heard of this condition was from a couple I was hosting in the Canary Islands.** She was an accomplished business owner and athlete, and he was a well-known writer for an award-winning publication. They were the Brangelina of the group: nauseatingly good-looking, intelligent, and funny. You know, the type of people you meet and instantly want to be with all the time. All. The. Time.

I guess now is a good time to mention I have stalker tendencies.

One evening, I took a select group, including them, out for a night of mayhem and drunk dancing. Like a good enabler, I got them so drunk they pulled a chair on to the dance floor, as they could no longer stand on their own two feet. When she started to nod off and he became deaf-mute, I put them in a cab and sent them back to our hotel.

The next morning we (me and the couple turning me into a polyamorous lesbian) were chatting over breakfast about the drunken stumblings of the night before, when she dropped the F-bomb:

“I had so much FOMO when I got back to the hotel. What time did you guys get back?”

“FOMO?” I asked with the worst possible morning-after raspy voice.

“Fear of missing out,” she said with a mouth full of eggs.

I instantly knew what she was talking about. I had always been afflicted with this terrible fear of missing out of fun or debauchery or a fight or a hook-up. I foam at the mouth when someone starts a conversation with the phrase, “You missed it!” I am always the first one in and the last one out to never have to hear anything from a secondary source. I make myself sick every morning with the thought that I could’ve taken another route to work that perhaps would’ve been better. And, I watch TV to change channels, even though I have a DVR. I know that’s not really FOMO, but I’m sure it’s the spill over from it, like Tourette Syndrome is to OCD.

Anyway, back to my favorite couple.

“I have that,” I said to them in the same tone of voice I would’ve used to share that I had contracted Herpes from a circus performer.***

“We do too.”

They flashed their million dollar smiles (for a combined total of two million dollars) and I swooned into my cup of coffee.

Like the underwear to my pants, this FOMO business stuck with me. Not only did I feel the need to write about my experiences with this god forsaken disease, but I also wanted to classify the types of FOMO, like Fame FOMO and Smoking FOMO. Only I didn’t.

Writing is hard for people with FOMO. Think of everything you miss out on because you’re writing.

FRIEND ON THE PHONE

“Hey, we’re all going to Taco Bell, are you coming?”

RESPONSIBLE-WRITER-ME

“Ugh. I can’t, I’m writing.”

To the average person, the above exchange may not give FOMO. After all, it’s just a quick car ride with a couple of friends. But, what if, let’s say, during the car ride Sophie B. Hawkins’ hit single “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” were to come on, and, for argument’s sake, two of your girlfriends start singing this to each other. Sure, it’s just a song, and their pitch might be a little off, which can be annoying, especially if you’re trying to order a Chili Cheese Burrito with no cheese. Annoying until she, perhaps, jumps on her lap and they start making-out while waiting for the Mexican Pizza at the pick-up window.

Obviously, I chose Taco Bell over writing this book at that stage of my life. I couldn’t miss out these types of situations and predicaments by becoming an award-winning author and going on endless book tours. So, I waited until now. Because everyone knows nothing happens in your mid-thirties.

**I used to make a living vacationing with strangers. Sure, sure, I know you’re thinking everyone vacations with strangers, unless you’ve leased out an entire island for just yourself. But, my expertise was in assembling a group of unsuspecting reporters and/or business people and taking them to remote locations, giving them their fill of free booze and food so they will like (and by like, I mean Facebook like) whoever is signing my check. 

***I do not have Herpes and I do not have FOMO from not having Herpes.