Oh, if I had a nickel for every time 3 a.m. has found me sleepless, recalling stupid things I've done! Replaying errors that can only remain errors, broadcasting reruns of ancient mortifications. It's an age-old human pastime, stewing in such memories, giving them undue weight. I've forgiven myself all kinds of major failures—diseased marriage, six-figure student debt—but wasted cumulative years regretting innocent missteps. Living a lie, mortgaging my future? Hey, nobody's perfect. That time in seventh grade when I wrote a terminally sincere poem about Kurt Cobain's death and, while reading it to the class, wept at my own profundity? I'm a wretch undeserving of love; do not look upon me.

Lately, however, it's harder to feed the 3 a.m. beast. So what if while working my retail job at 22, I fell backward into a giant box of Christmas lights in view of 50 customers? Who cares if my fifth-grade boyfriend greeted my gift of a Bryan Adams cassette with public mockery? Look, we've all broken an ankle jumping off the top step of our double-wide, or confidently insisted that Hall & Oates sang "Urgent" even though we knew, we knew, it was Foreigner. Yes, as a girl, I once asked a bemused male neighbor what a nocturnal emission was. Yes, I once thought "bath salts," the street drug, were, you know, bath salts, like for use in the tub, and said so aloud.

I suspect I am now bothered less by such things in part because of the fantastic array of idiotic blunders I've lived long enough to see other people make (we're all morons—it's so freeing!) and a general uptick in the maturity required to keep psychic torments the right size. But mostly it's because I've discovered a neat trick: I reduce my gaffes to their essence and thus rob them of power. I fell because I'm a person; people fall. My "boyfriend" was 10 years old and scared of girls. I don't care that I've lived in two trailer parks—I'm doing better than many who come from more. It did suck that Kurt Cobain died; plus, I was 12. Regarding wet dreams and hip drugs: I can't know everything. Hall & Oates? Plain old brain fart, enhanced by being drunk.

My bloopers are proof that I have a past. I've lived. Taking a swing—piping up with a comment, participating in the world's daily workings—means sometimes missing. You mess up and you say, "Hey, I tried." That time I was chortling with a wildly interesting filmmaker and writer whom I very much wanted to be pals with, and snot flicked out of my nose like a snake's tongue and landed on my upper lip? We laughed. It broke whatever friend-making ice was left to be broken. You think she's worrying about my snot a year later at 3 a.m.? No, of course not. I don't need to, either.

Recently, my pants split right down the back without my knowledge, and I walked around a friend's house for hours, mingling and refreshing my drink, before somebody said, "Oh, honey, is that your butt?" It was indeed my butt! I was wearing a brick red thong and a maxi pad that peeked out of it like a duck bill. Truly, it couldn't have been worse. And still I laughed. I was among friends. It would be a funny story later. The pants were getting old anyway. As was worrying about things that don't merit worry. Things that make me perfectly human.


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