Psychos: A White Girl Problems Book
FLOAT IN THE LIGHT.
When I first got to rehab, I was morbidly obese. Not physically, but emotionally. I was angry at myself, angry at the world, and angry at my phone. But four months of rehabilitation for a (possible) shopping addiction and an (alleged) alcohol/drug addiction had brought me to a much more peaceful place.
Achieving inner (and outer) peace had been no picnic. Rehab basically sucked for the first three months. People passive-aggressively punished me for being pretty, I ate 100 percent more white foods than I would have liked, and I shoveled way too much horse shit, literally. Like, actual shit that came out of a horse, with an actual shovel. But then something changed. I couldn’t tell you why, but the last month at Cirque Lodge was magical; it was like the fog cleared and I suddenly understood why I’d made so many bad decisions in my life. I gave in to my
own healing process. I wrote apology letters and made amends with some loved ones whom I’d slandered in the past, told a nurse with bad skin that she was smart, met my birth mother for the first time, taught myself sign language, and accepted that the real reason people hate each other is because they hate themselves.
I was unchained. It was like having a midlife crisis, except instead of being a sad, saggy forty-six-year-old with a botched face-lift, I was twenty-five and ten pounds lighter, thanks to a stomach virus and the medication I took to treat it. I was in the best shape of my life. I was a New Babe Walker, a glowier Babe, a Babe with goals and aspirations. As I looked out over the sprawling Utah mountains on my last day of treatment, I realized I was my own soul mate. I was ready to marry myself and take myself on a honeymoon to The Rest of My Life. In that moment of beauty and reflection, I could’ve never foreseen what was soon to come.
When Jackson, my rehab counselor, walked me out of Cirque and helped me load my fourteen suitcases (Goyard) into two idling black Escalades, I felt what can only be described as heartache. This was it. I was actually leaving the place that had been my sanctuary of cigarettes and fur for the last four months of my life. I felt like a delicate butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. The winds were strong, but I knew I had to be stronger.
“So this is good-bye, I guess,” I said, giving Jackson’s arm a gentle squeeze. I would have hugged him, but I’m allergic to raw lamb’s wool. “Thanks for helping me find me.”
“Babe, I was but an eagle soaring overhead, lovingly watching you scale the canyons of despair and the peaks of hope on your journey back to your true self.”
“Well, you’re the best eagle-man I’ve ever known. I won’t miss your almond breath, but I’ll miss your spirit.”
“And I’ll certainly miss your liveliness and your honesty, Babe. You can always call me if you feel like you’re slipping back into old habits.”
“Got it. I’ll text you when I get home and wanna do coke or buy an entire spring collection.”
“Alright. May your path be one of serenity and sincerity.”
“And may your path lead you to a Sephora, where you’ll discover that French shampoo I’ve been telling you about. Bye, Jackson.”
“Walk in love and light, Babe. Let the universe deliver.”
A single tear rolled down my cheek as the Escalade drove away from Cirque, Jackson getting smaller and smaller as I watched him wave through the back window, but I wiped it away with a sense of pride. I had set out to do something and I’d finished it. That felt good. I put my headphones on and listened to a playlist I’d curated of Tibetan monks chanting life-affirming statements, all the way to the airport.
In a few short hours, I’d landed safely at LAX and was in another Escalade (white this time) on the way to my dad’s house in Bel Air. Apparently rehab had worked, because I didn’t raise my voice once during the entire trip back home. A first for me. Thankfully, the flight was only mildly annoying. Some ogre tried to steal my window seat, but moved when I delivered an icy but kind stare instead of speaking directly to him. Then, when
I was retrieving my luggage at the baggage claim, I mistakenly counted thirteen suitcases instead of fourteen, which would have been a disaster for Old Babe, but New Babe was all about grace under pressure and re-counting. The whole moment was defused quickly with a few breathing exercises. Such a tough scenario, because baggage handlers can be so flippant sometimes—it’s like they don’t care about anyone’s needs but their own. But I guess everyone has a story.
Standing in the foyer of my dad’s house, I inhaled the aroma of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille candles—the quintessential smell of home.
“Welcome back, love!” my dad shouted from the top of the stairs. “You look bloody radiant.”
“Dad!” I exclaimed, climbing the staircase to hug him.
“Let me look at you. My God, I know five actresses and one pop star who would kill their firstborn if it meant having your glow,” he said as he kissed my forehead. “How are you, my sweet?”
“I’m good! I’m so glad to be home,” I said, looking around. “Did you get my email about moving out?”
During my last week at Cirque, I’d decided that the first order of business as “independent me” was getting a place of my own, so I’d informed all family members as well as the staff that I’d be relocating to our guest house. It’s important to have your own space post-rehab, where you can be still, reflect on life, and not get distracted by any personal family chefs you used to fuck or pets you don’t like.
“Of course, darling. Everything was moved this afternoon. Your new home awaits. I must say, I’ll miss you. This house won’t be nearly as loud or messy without you.”
“I’ll miss you too, Dad, but it’s for the best. Think of me as a delicate lotus flower. In order to bloom, my leaves have to float on the surface of the pond, but my roots will always reside here.”
Overcome by the power of my inner recognition, he grasped the banister for support.
“You sound like Keith Richards after he detoxed in 1977. I’m—I’m glad to have you home. Get settled—dinner is at eight.”
The main house on my dad’s property is a post-Gothic, ivy-covered precious gem. It’s huge but it’s cozy, and it’s cute but it’s cluttered. Great for Old Babe, but too much for New Babe. New Babe needed warmth, light, and space, which is why the guest house made perfect sense. It was originally a three-bedroom that belonged to our neighbors, until a dispute over a weeping willow in the backyard got ugly and my dad decided to buy their house out from under them so they’d leave us alone forever. Then we gutted it and turned it into a huge one-bedroom, complete with an enormous walk-in closet, state-of-the-art bathroom, solarium, and sauna/steam situation. Think French Moroccan meets Tibetan minimalism meets Mary McDonald.
I lost my virginity in this guest house, so it was a sentimental space for me. It had, however, been off-limits after a teeny incident during which the solarium burned down when I let my friend use it for her fledgling nail polish company, which turned out to be a cover for her boyfriend’s meth lab. So it was also a dark place for me. Lightness and darkness. Now that the solarium had been rebuilt, I had been rebirthed as New Babe, and my dad trusted me again, it was time for me to make the guest
house my own. Little did I know, my safe space would soon be violated.
After I’d watched Mabinty, my Jamaican bff/confidante/housekeeper, unpack my suitcases and smudge the guest house, I had a low-key welcome-home dinner with my dad, Lizbeth (my dad’s annoyingly beautiful, upsettingly tall, slightly too young, and far too nice girlfriend), Mabinty, Mabinty’s new bangs, and Mabinty’s new boyfriend, Carl (a fifty-eight-year-old white version of Randy Jackson . . . unclear). The lighting in the dining room was perfect, and the food was super fresh and low-cal. My dad made a typical dad toast to kick things off.
“When Babe called me to say that she was off to some rehab in Utah, I thought, Oh, here we bloody go. My daughter’s addicted to heroin. But then it turned out that she just had a bit of a shopping problem and I was relieved. Then, when Babe called again to tell me she was staying an extra three months at rehab, I knew it must’ve been heroin all along. As it turns out, she just wanted to put in the extra work. Proud of you, Babe.”
“Actually, I was addicted to coke,” I interjected, then waited a beat. “Just kidding.”
“I hear that, girl!” shouted Carl. Mabinty affectionately patted Carl’s back.
“My brother’s struggled with addiction for years,” Lizbeth chimed in, “but he’s not nearly as driven as you are to get his life together, Babe. It’s amazing how well you’re doing.”
“Thanks, Lizbeth. Addiction is no joke. But I was never addicted to drugs. I was addicted to shopping, and that made me feel so good that I wanted to celebrate by taking drugs.
What we resist enslaves us, but what we embrace, we become,” I explained calmly.
My dad went on. “It’s all very impressive, Babe. You know when enough is enough, you know who you are, and we’re so happy to have you back in our lives. Cheers!”
We all took a sip of sparkling water with lemon. Everyone was making a big deal of not drinking alcohol even though I said I didn’t care, and I could tell by the end of dinner they were all jonesing for a cocktail. Lizbeth, especially. She kept asking me if I was “okay” and putting her hand on my arm. Old Babe would have stared at her until she stopped talking, but New Babe was absolutely better than okay. I just used some emotional realignment techniques to center myself, smiled, and kept reassuring Lizbeth that I was “great.” This whole song-and-dance routine went on for half an hour, and by the end of dinner I was so exhausted that I decided to call it an early night and retreat back to the guest house to unpack my vintage archives, which had just arrived that evening from storage.
I must have fallen asleep inside one of my wardrobe boxes, because I awoke the following morning to a hard slap on the face from my bestie, Genevieve, who was kneeling next to me holding an iced coffee. Roman, my best gay, stood next to Gen.
They looked pissed.
“Babe, get up,” Gen commanded.
“You’re thinner,” remarked Roman.
That got my attention. I rubbed my swollen eyes and threw my hair up into a high pony.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“I have no idea. Ten a.m.?”
“Who let you in?”
“Mabinty. Why don’t you want to hang out?” Roman asked.
“No, no, I do,” I said as my eyes finally unblurred. “Wow, you both look really slutty, but in a prude way.”
“I genuinely appreciate you noticing,” Gen responded. “So, how did rehab work out for you in the end? Was it worth it? You look great, but you missed an amazing winter season.”
“She didn’t miss anything. Stop fucking with her. We were lost without you, Babe. You’re a bitch for not calling us the second you got out.”
“Okay,” I sighed as I climbed out of the box, “I fucked this really hot guy named Paul.”
“Obviously.” Gen smiled.
“Met my mom and her lesbian lover.”
“You have a mom?”
“Yes. I’ll explain later. It was kind of insane.”
“Had an amazing rehab dog.”
“Who unfortunately met an untimely death.”
“Had a terrific rehab masseuse. Learned a lot from her.”
“She also met an untimely death . . . unrelated.”
“So much death. So dark.”
“I know. Addressed some of my underlying abandonment/eating/drug/shopping issues.”
“Work. Okay, get dressed. We’re taking us to brunch.”
“Guys, just because I went to rehab doesn’t mean I eat brunch now.”
“I know, that was a joke. We’re going to Malibu. You don’t have to eat.”
“Okay, give me thirty.”
Two hours later, we all piled into Gen’s new Tesla Model S and headed off to Malibu. You leave town for four months and cars become slightly more expensive, electric, and have a huge iPad display thingy in the front dash? Unclear.
“How excited are you about Roman’s new single?” Gen squeaked.
“Quoi?” I squeaked back.
“You haven’t heard it? Romie, you didn’t send her the song? It’s everywhere, and it’s everything!”
I was confused. Roman didn’t sing. He refused to even enter a karaoke bar.
Gen continued. “Right after you left town he started recording some tracks with this DJ he knows.” She beamed. “It’s in the Top Ten on iTunes—”
“It’s called ‘Pièce de Résis-dance,’?” said Roman. “Stupid name, I know, wasn’t my idea, and it’s pretty much—”
“THE club song of the year. I’m so proud. We’re obviously going to listen to it immediately.” Gen started messing with the dashboard/iPad thing.
The song was heinous, but I could already tell I’d love it after a few more listens or a few hits of a joint.
“Wait—Roman, this is actually good.” I smiled.
“Thanks. I mean, it’s whatever. Also . . . Gen just found out last week that she’s being made senior vice president at her firm,” he announced.
I was annoyed that the focus wasn’t 100 percent on me and my struggles, because I’m pretty sure I was the one who just got back from rehab, but I just smiled and nodded. Neither of their successes was surprising. Roman was a club promoter, he knew every DJ in town, and was one of the best-looking gays in LA, if not LA and New York. And Gen had been working in real estate ever since her parents put her on Adderall at age ten.
“Congrats. I’m so happy for you both. Isn’t it nice that we’ve all come so far in the past few months?” I continued. “Roman is a YouTube celeb, Gen got a promotion at work, and I’ve been emotionally promoted to a higher level of existence and understanding about life.” I knew that was kind of rude, but I’d just reemerged into the world and was finding it hard to be genuinely interested in someone else’s moment.
We drove around for a while, smoked cigarettes, watched people brunch, and went to Gen’s parents’ newly renovated Malibu house, where she and Roman revealed their plan to throw me a proper welcome-home party.
I accepted their offer because rejecting it would have made me look like a cunt, and I may be a cunt, but I sure as fuck didn’t want to look like one. Especially not fresh out of rehab. Post-rehab, you want people to think that you’re better but not completely healed of your special sickness, whatever it may be. If you act like you’re totes fine and nothing happened, then people will think you’re insane and you will have zero sex. Trust. I may
have only been in rehab for four short months, which is nothing by LA standards, but I knew my shit.
Anyway, the next day they both came over to sketch out the broad strokes. After careful consideration, we decided to have a small dinner party in lieu of a massive blowout. They didn’t want me to, but I insisted on helping and went ahead with curating the guest list, floral theme, and scent story. Roman smoked a joint, Gen got annoyed at him for being stoned, and then Roman showed us the people he was “seeing” on Grindr.
I spent the next morning aggressively texting/inviting/guilting my desired ten-person guest list to come to the party. They all eventually agreed, thank God. I then went about locating and booking rare tropical birds to make up for the party’s otherwise lack of wildlife. No post-rehab bash is complete without a few representatives from the animal kingdom. They elegantly remind us that we’re all animals on this earth, constantly evolving yet eternally caged. At Cirque they told us that having animals in our lives would keep us grounded, and that caring for another living thing releases oxytocin in our brains and that’s, like, as powerful as doing a line of blow or something. I didn’t totally get it, but I was going with it. So the party needed birds.
Planning this event was proving difficult. Gen was “too busy at work” to return my texts, so I couldn’t even get an approximate pool depth for my exotic fish guy, which meant there would be no platinum arowanas (google them) spicing up the otherwise boring backyard. Also, my orchid dealer was too busy planning Demi Moore’s new boyfriend’s bris to handle putting
together centerpieces for my intimate soiree. Hydrangeas would have to suffice.
On the day of the party, I found solace in a kale lollipop for lunch, went for a quick jog down and then back up my driveway, showered, and then napped for twenty-five minutes. When I felt rested enough to be nice to my hair and makeup people, they came over.
Mabinty and I were sitting in my bathroom while Hair gave me a blowout and Makeup worked on dulling my forehead shine. I would usually learn their names, but I was under a lot of stress that night. I really didn’t appreciate the fact that I was going to have to eat in front of people again to fully display my recovery. Oh, and yes, I have forehead shine. I’m human, get off me.
“So,” I said to Mabinty, “when I walk in, should I just go straight to the head of the dinner table and begin the toast I wrote to myself? Whoa, easy with the powder up there.”
“Sorry, Babe,” whimpered Makeup.
“You’re forgiven.” I turned back to Mabinty. “Or should I greet people and act as if the party’s not all about me? Like, be totally casual? I’m glad it’s going to be intimate, but that almost makes it more awkward to navigate.”
“Yuh gwan be fine. Don’ overtink nutin’ tonight. Be yuhself, that’s what yuh friends be missin’ the past few months. So, give dem Babe Walker. Don’t worry what dey tink,” advised Mabinty, the wise one.
“Oh. Okay, I’ll just completely disregard what anyone thinks about me. That’s really easy to do, Mabs.”
“Yuh bein’ a bitch.”
“Mi know,” I muttered, closing my eyes and rubbing my temples in an attempt to center my thoughts.
“If yuh dun know by now, we rootin’ for ya, gyal. Yuh need a smooth transition back into yuh life here in LA.”
“Mi know,” I said.
God, I’d missed my sweet, cunty Mabinty.
“But yuh gwan be fine. Bettah than fine. Yuh’ll be great again. While yuh were away, mi started meditatin’ like yuh always told me to do.”
“Mabs! Bless!” I turned to Hair. “I’ve been telling her to get her zen game together since I was eight. So stubborn, this one.” Hair just nodded. “What time is it?” I asked.
“Seven fifteen,” said Makeup, glancing down at some kind of plastic Michael Kors watch, I’m sure.
“Fuck. Okay, we’re done here. I need to get dressed. Cocktails started at six, so people are probably showing up there now.”
I’d sketched out a few looks (like I always do, as mirrors are not to be trusted) and decided on my party outfit: a vintage Pucci jumpsuit, a vintage Judith Leiber Buddha Bag, and purple Prada platforms. I slowly walked toward the front door of Gen’s parents’ Malibu manse feeling powerful yet likable, expecting to simply float into a manageably small and chic gathering; I stepped through the front door only to be confronted by a very, very harsh reality. It was packed. Hundreds of people. Strangers. It smelled like sugar and beer, which was alarming because I’d designed a lavender/old library scent with my aromist specifically for the event.