His name was Duke. A delicious, twenty-something tall drink of London with dirty blonde hair, emerald eyes and sun-kissed abs. I usually dug the Mario’s and Antonio’s of the world, but with Duke, I made an exception. He was the precursor to David Beckham, only without the tanorexic Spice wife, four kids and bank roll. I’m not even sure he played soccer – football – whatever. But that accent. The cocky attitude. As soon as he said my name, I was all in.

As if his royal dreamyness wasn’t enough, he was the hottest new waiter at the club. If he wasn’t already shagging my friend, he would’ve been perfect. Fucking hot guys. Always gay or married.

Duke and Maddie weren’t technically married, but they shacked up just days after they met. She chose “Madison” as her stage name, honoring her mid-western roots, and if possible, was even more stunning than her English prince. It’s fascinating to watch two beautiful freaks of nature meet for the first time. It’s like they know – they’re born with winning lottery genes – but only really appreciate it when locking eyes with fellow ticket holders. So annoying. Even more so, when they end up being really cool. I wanted my aesthetically gifted friends to be assholes, just so I could hate them.

But I adored Maddie and Duke. And as much as I lusted after his piping hot, witty, heavily accented bounce-a-quarter-able-ass, I never broke the Stripper Sisterhood code of: Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Fellow Pole Dancer’s Penis.

So we became tight friends. I looked up to Maddie, who was a couple of years older and light years wiser (must be that Wisconsin upbringing) than me. Duke quickly morphed into the eccentric older brother I never had, and served as a kick-ass wingman.

One night, after a particularly grueling shift, shelling out watered down draft beers to belligerent customers, and listening to us girls bitch about how men totally suck, Duke hit me up for a drink.

Hanging in our usual VIP digs up the street, Duke quickly witnessed yet another one of my glorious mini-meltdowns fueled by too much blow and way too little self-esteem. The drama was always the same: my dude du jour was ignoring me. Sure, he was banging half the club – but why the fuck was he shining me?

Am I too fat? Too thin? Not tall, short, funny, pretty, happy, sad, ugly, scary, quiet, enough? What’s wrong with meeeee?

In typical form, after my fifth vodka cranberry, I went all Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction on his ass.

I won’t be IGNORED, Dan (nothing says “come take me” like a desperate coke whore going off).

This was always followed by tears (and more blow) in the bathroom, pulling my hot-messy-self together, and heading back to my seat – to find a new “Dan”. And Duke was always front and center for the fun.

This revolving door of, “Come be my no-strings good-time fella  – that was fun – wait, where are you going?” went on for years. I could never understand why, after our headboard-bangin party-fest, these guys didn’t fall head over stilettos in love with me. I guess a hot mess stripper with a coke problem, low self-esteem and abandonment issues wasn’t their thing. Assholes.

“Stephanie, love, can I be honest?” I always hated when people started sentences this way – and more so, when it came from Duke, because I knew he’d cut to the brutal chase.


“You’re a jellyfish, doll.”

“A what?”

“A bloody jellyfish. You’ve got no bloody spine!”

I hated when he was right.

“Fuck you.”

We shared a laugh and Duke flagged down our waitress. Then we both heard it. By some cosmic force with a wicked sense of humor, the song Linger by The Cranberries began to play through the speakers. Perfect.

“Do you hear this song, doll? These blokes you party with, they’ve got you wrapped around their fingers – or cocks, love. You’ve GOT to get a bloody clue!”

My poor English wingman. Always trying to help.

But I couldn’t get a clue. It would take years for me to even wrap my head around just how much I needed one.

Blink, 1993 is now 2013.

It’s been decades since I’ve pulled any Fatal Attraction scenes, but the memory of my self induced drama still leaves a bit of a mark. Mostly because I can see so clearly now, how every choice I made was textbook behavior of a gal who just needed to believe in herself – and not look for validation in men.

Why is it that the things we need to learn the most are right in front of our eyes, but it takes so much fucking pain to see it?

I lost touch with Maddie and Duke later that year, after they broke things off and split town. I heard Maddie headed back home to get her masters degree, and I have no idea about Duke. He’s probably a retired English Supermodel living on the French Riviera, endorsing a skin care line for men. Or maybe he’s a crispy, balding, beach bum with a hairy back, wearing Speedos. Either way, I wonder if he ever thinks of the Jellyfish Sister he tried so hard to help. And if he realizes now, how my glorious spine is helping me write all about just how far I’ve come.

17 thoughts on “Jellyfish

  1. Your honesty is great! I was recently contemplating the question itself of ‘what’s wrong with me’ and it’s interesting that it shows up in this post! It was like a nice high-five from the universe reminding me that we are all in the same places from time to time.
    Also part of the end of this reminded me of a line in a Bob Dylan song,
    “Here I sit so patiently,
    waiting to find out what price
    you have to pay to get out of
    going through these things twice..”
    for some reason. Maybe because of the pain that it takes to get places that we get. But then we share, like you share, and other people can see their reflections in our words and grow spines and confidence from them. Love it, good for you on the book!


  2. It’s beautiful. It’s frightening. It’s irresistible. It’s fucking fantastic. Where’s the rest of the book? I need it. I want it. Do it!


  3. I love your honesty and you know I love your writing. I also love the fact that you do not close the door on your past. Acknowledging any shortcomings proves only to me that you are on a damn good path!


  4. Jellyfish ? Yeh, you may have been once, but now ? No frickjn way. People seem to come into our lives for seasons and or reasons, duke, glorious duke, although only for a season, planted the seed of a reason to change and even though I don’t know him, I’m so glad he did. I’m taking this to work with me, just to remind me self respect means standing up for myself.

    In the (not quite) words of the movie top gun ” I wasn’t #girlcrushing on you so much, you could be my wing-girl anytime. “

    Liked by 1 person

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