There's a theory about fame: the moment it strikes, it arrests development. Michael Jackson remained suspended in childhood, enjoying sleepovers and funfairs; Winona Ryder, an errant teen who dabbled in shoplifting and experimented with pills; George Clooney, a 30-year-old commitment-phobe, never quite ready yet to settle down.
[Mom] said she didn't want her youngest daughter dressed in the thrift-store clothes the rest of us wore. Mom told us we would have to go shoplifting. "Isn't that a sin?" I asked Mom. "Not exactly, " Mom said. "God doesn't mind you bending the rules a little if you have good reason. It's sort of like justifiable homicide. This is justifiable pilfering.
I feel moderately bad about this whole thing. On the one hand, I am providing myself with urgently required survival skills. Other lessons in this series include Shoplifting, Beating People Up, Picking Locks, Climbing Trees, Driving, Housebreaking, Dumpster Diving, and How to Use Oddball Things like Venetian Blinds and Garbage Can Lids as Weapons. On the other hand, I'm corrupting my poor innocent little self. I sigh. Somebody's got to do it.
I've found, though, that people are more likely to share their personal experiences if you go first, so that's why I always keep an eleven-point list of what went wrong in my childhood to share with them. Also I usually crack open a bottle of tequila to share with them, because alcohol makes me less nervous, and also because I'm from the South, and in Texas we offer drinks to strangers even when we're waiting in line at the liquor store. In Texas we call that '_southern hospitality_.' The people who own the liquor store call it 'shoplifting.' Probably because they're Yankees. I'm not allowed to go back to that liquor store.
So now, not only did my best friend leave, but the cheerleaders and their mindless followers assumed I was personally responsible for the petition (which, yeah, I was) and started being openly rude to me - shutting doors in my face, leaving nasty notes on my desk and in my locker, making fun of me when I could obviously hear them. That's when I started keeping really quiet in class, and finding ways to show the other kids I wasn't afraid of them - like staring them straight in the eye when they looked at me, taking a step toward them when they talked to me, or walking right up to them and getting their personal space if I heard them say my name. Saying the meanest things I could think of whenever I had the chance - repeating rumors, embellishing them. I found out Kira Conroy had been arrested for shoplifting at the mall, and made sure everyone knew about it. The girl who burped in a boy's face during her first kiss, the girl who tripped and fell off the stage at the Miss Teen California pageant - I shared those stories the moment I heard them. All's fair in war, right? Suddenly I wasn't a nobody anymore. I was a somebody. Somebody everyone was afraid of.
When I am high I couldn't worry about money if I tried. So I don't. The money will come from somewhere; I am entitled; God will provide. Credit cards are disastrous, personal checks worse. Unfortunately, for manics anyway, mania is a natural extension of the economy. What with credit cards and bank accounts there is little beyond reach. So I bought twelve snakebite kits, with a sense of urgency and importance. I bought precious stones, elegant and unnecessary furniture, three watches within an hour of one another (in the Rolex rather than Timex class: champagne tastes bubble to the surface, are the surface, in mania), and totally inappropriate sirenlike clothes. During one spree in London I spent several hundred pounds on books having titles or covers that somehow caught my fancy: books on the natural history of the mole, twenty sundry Penguin books because I thought it could be nice if the penguins could form a colony. Once I think I shoplifted a blouse because I could not wait a minute longer for the woman-with-molasses feet in front of me in line. Or maybe I just thought about shoplifting, I don't remember, I was totally confused. I imagine I must have spent far more than thirty thousand dollars during my two major manic episodes, and God only knows how much more during my frequent milder manias. But then back on lithium and rotating on the planet at the same pace as everyone else, you find your credit is decimated, your mortification complete: mania is not a luxury one can easily afford. It is devastating to have the illness and aggravating to have to pay for medications, blood tests, and psychotherapy. They, at least, are partially deductible. But money spent while manic doesn't fit into the Internal Revenue Service concept of medical expense or business loss. So after mania, when most depressed, you're given excellent reason to be even more so.
Kay Redfield Jamison