Barrel Fever - By David Sedaris



I WAS ON “Oprah” a while ago, talking about how I used to love too much. Did you see it? The other guests were men who continue to love too much. Those men were in a place I used to be, and I felt sorry for them. I was the guest who went from loving too much to being loved too much. Everybody loves me. I’m the most important person in the lives of almost everyone I know and a good number of people I’ve never even met. I don’t say this casually; I’m just pointing out my qualification.

Because I know the issue from both sides, I am constantly asked for advice. People want to know how I did it. They want to know if I can recommend a therapist. How much it will cost, how long it might take to recover. When asked, I tell them, like I’m telling you, that I have never visited a therapist in my life. I worked things out on my own. I don’t see it as any great feat. I just looked at the pattern of my life, decided I didn’t like it, and changed. The only reason I agreed to appear on Oprah’s panel was because I thought her show could use a little sprucing up. Oprah is a fun girl, but you’d never know it from watching that show of hers, that parade of drunks and one-armed welfare cheats. And of course I did it to help people. I try and make an effort whenever I can.

Growing up, my parents were so very into themselves that I got little love and attention. As a result, I would squeeze the life out of everyone I came into contact with. I would scare away my dates on the first night by telling them that this was it, the love experience I’d been waiting for. I would plan our futures. Everything we did together held meaning for me and would remain bright in my memory. By the second date, I would arrive at the boyfriend’s apartment carrying a suitcase and a few small pieces of furniture so that when I moved in completely I wouldn’t have to hire a crew of movers. When these boyfriends became frightened and backed away, I would hire detectives to follow them. I needed to know that they weren’t cheating on me. I would love my dates so much that I would become obsessed. I would dress like them, think like them, listen to the records they enjoyed. I would forget about me!

To make a long story short, I finally confronted my parents, who told me that they were only into themselves because they were afraid I might reject them if they loved me as intensely as they pretended to love themselves. They were hurting, too, and remarkably vulnerable. They always knew how special I was, that I had something extra, that I would eventually become a big celebrity who would belong to the entire world and not just to them. And they were right. I can’t hate them for being right. I turned my life around and got on with it.

Did you see the show? Chuck Connors and Cyrus Vance were, in my opinion, just making an appearance in order to bolster their sagging careers. But not Patrick Buchanan. Man, I used to think I had it bad! Patrick Buchanan has chased away every boyfriend he’s ever had, and he’s still doing it. Patrick is a big crier. He somehow latched on to me and he’s been calling and crying ever since the show. That’s his trademark, crying and threatening suicide if I don’t listen. That guy is a complete emotional cripple, but the other panel members didn’t seem fit to speak on the subject. E. G. Marshall, for example, would talk about driving past his ex-boyfriend’s house and calling him in the middle of the night just to hear his voice. Chuck Connors said he used to shower his boyfriends with costly gifts. He tried to buy their love. Chuck Connors wouldn’t recognize love if it were his own hand, and E. G. Marshall if it were both his hands, one down there and the other gently at his throat.

I am in this week’s People magazine, but not on the cover. Bruce Springsteen is on the cover with whatshername, that flat-faced new wife of his, Patty Scholastica or Scoliosis — something like that. In the article she refers to Bruce as “the Boss” and discusses what she calls