Back in my wilder days in Hollywood, my best (now dead) friend Ben gave me a nickname. Here’s the thing about nicknames; you usually don’t get to pick yours and often, they’re not at all flattering. Think about it, didn’t we all go to school with a “pizza face” or the like? It’s like that old joke, “you fuck ONE goat, and for the rest of your life, you’re The Goatfucker”. Thankfully, mine wasn’t quite that terrible.
I got “Warhorse”. The Warhorse, if they were referring to me formally, just Horse for short. Isn’t that delightful? Years ago, as I prepared to go out for the night, my best friend Ben was flitting about my apartment, playing mood music and fixing us “primer coat” cocktails. You know, the drinks you have at home in preparation for the ones you’re going to have, when you go out. “They put a little glide in your stride, Mary”, Ben was fond of saying. He would perch atop my toilet and sip his vodka tonic as I plucked, sprayed, styled, contoured, powdered, and shadowed my face and platinum hair. The finale was always crimson-red lipstick, drawing yet more attention to my pale face and dark smoky eyes. I would contort and squeeze myself into dirty ripped jeans along with a midriff baring top and cowboy boots, and then adorn myself with every amulet, ring, and bracelet I could find. I fancied myself a bit like a younger Stevie Nicks.
As I was gearing up one evening, Ben took a long drag off of my Marlboro and looked me up and down. He twirled the cigarette from the top of my head to the well-worn tips of my boots (kicking the bar from many a stool causes this tip-scuff phenomenom) and remarked, “Jesus H. honey, you’re like one of those war horses in the movies – all painted up with metal shit hanging off everywhere, ready to ram your way into a fight” and lo, the nickname was born, and you know what? For years, I wore it proudly. I WAS like a Warhorse. I stomped and snorted my way up and down Hollywood Boulevard for years and often returned home limping and/or bleeding. One could say the bars on the Boulevard were drug and alcohol soaked battlefields in those days. In my memories, I was regal and magnificent – an independent strong woman who drank straight whiskey and didn’t need a man to buy it for her. Luck was on your side if I was feeling flirty but woe to the hapless patron who crossed me in those days. I was brutal, unforgiving, and hellbent on letting everyone know that I didn’t have a single fuck to give.
Nice, huh? This is probably a more accurate representation of my appearance.
I don’t recall thinking that the world owed me anything, but somehow I had tapped into the concept of unearned unhappiness. Looking back now with some perspective, I suppose my angst and bitterness simply stemmed from wanting to be different from who I was, or who I thought I was, I should say. I was a good girl. I was smart. I was loved deeply by my family and had a pretty healthy and supportive childhood. There was no abuse, no neglect, no abandonment. Ho-fucking-hum. I was SO white-upper-middle-class boring.
So, I became The Warhorse. The Warhorse wasn’t nice, OR a good girl. The Warhorse took no prisoners and left a lot of wreckage in her wake. She was ruthless, cutting and downright predatory, not a shy and timid Pollyanna. Over the years I’ve reconnected with folks from those days and they’ll inevitably mention a memory of my eviscerating someone in their presence, if not themselves. Naturally, this is mortifying and heart-breaking for me to hear, but I still need to hear it. More often than not their story will include whiskey, a fight and/or arrest or some other regrettable outcome on top of the initial castigation and I want to vomit right there on the spot. It’s just not who I am. . . anymore.
There’s a saying; “hurt people hurt people“. Simple, but accurate. It’s a vicious and terrible cycle, and one to say I’m proud to have broken. I’m not that
horse gal, anymore. I’m stuck with the nickname, however, so now my lifelong pals and I choose to have a little fun with it.
The Warhorse has been put out to pasture, and one could argue that there’s just a passive old nag left where the fearful beast once reigned.
Life is change, and that’s okay. . . the ride goes on.