The Ego Hangover
Saturday, 8 a.m. My head throbbed. “What did you do last night? What did you do last night? What did you do last night?,” chanted the hamsters running on the wheel in my brain.
You guessed it. A hangover. But this wasn’t your average, too-many-Chardonnays- at-the-Joneses hangover. This was an ego hangover. Ego hangover? You know, that yucky feeling that comes after you get blind drunk on the sound of your own voice.
Well maybe you don’t know. So let me tell you how I came to be in this pickle.
It started slowly. Someone at the party said something mildly amusing and got a big laugh. The attention junkie in me lept up. “I wanna’ piece of that!” she demanded. I obliged, immediately launching my best story, or “anecdote,” as I like to think of it (makes me feel more like Mark than Shania Twain). No matter that it was totally unrelated to the topic at hand. It was a great story and I knew it by heart. Every inflection, every pause, every gesture. It flowed with a beauty and grace usually reserved for a sonnet. Sure, the story had changed some over the years. Less-than-flattering facts had been eliminated, titillating new tidbits were added, and boring bits were embellished. This was a sonnet, for Pete’s sake. Poetic license was mine.
Laughter filled the air at the punch line. I almost expected applause.
That was the first cocktail of appreciation and, dare I say, adoration. It went to my head. I was a little dizzy but still clear enough to thumb through my mental catalog of treasured tales. I could see the titles flipping by like juke box cards at the diner. “Bad Haircut,” “Sister James Michael,” “Heel Caught In Sewer Grate.” My short-term memory may be fading but I can remember every detail of that embarrassing but hilarious high school escapade.
Before I knew it, I’d bellied up to the bar again and was excitedly recounting another rip-roaring episode in my rip-roaring life. More laughter. Was that “Encore! Encore!” I heard from the back of the room?
My head was spinning. I tried to stop, or at least slow down, but I couldn’t. My heart was beating faster, my voice was getting louder. I may have been frothing at the mouth.
Suddenly, my neighbor Fitz broke in to tell his story on the same subject. I recaptured some dignity and listened quietly, appreciatively. But then my foot began tapping uncontrollably and I thought I’d go berserk if he didn’t shut up and let me talk. Now. Seconds felt like hours. My top lip quivered as it struggled to keep an angry mob of words contained and orderly. A low, guttural sound was coming from somewhere inside me.
Fitz took a breath (he had “amateur “ written all over him) and I jumped in. Words rushed out so fast that the candles on the buffet table, three feet away, were extinguished. My best friend and hostess, Linda, intervened with a melodic, “Who’s for coffee?” I’d been flagged. And rightly so. Friends don’t let friends talk drunk.
The tap was closed. There was nothing to do but slink home and hope that I didn’t bump into any of the other guests for at least six months. I fell into bed with a groan as I re-lived my recklessness. I slept fitfully, the words I was forced to swallow battling each other over an escape plan.
I woke up and took a vow of silence along with my aspirin.
The phone rang. Well, I’ll just say “hello,” I thought repentantly. It was my mother asking about the party. I told her about the candles. She laughed. I told her about Fitz’s deadly pause. She laughed again. I felt much better.
I cancelled my 28-day rehab at the local monastery. Instead I wrote this.