I was one of the founding members of the “Joe K Loves Me” club. I didn’t know it at the time. Bram, Joe, Bob, Lori, Chanda, and Sandra had all started the theatre program the year before Janet, Kari, Aili, Kelly, Good Chad, Bad Chad, Sara, Sarah and I had. Joe was the same age as Bram, but Bob was a year older than me. He and Joe acted like best friends. They also acted like they were the ‘bosses’ of the department. They were really good at making other people feel small or uninformed or ridiculous. I know my acting suffered when they were around-I have been terrified of being mocked for almost as long as I can remember.
When I first met Joe I had a pretty deep crush on him. Ruth developed a crush on Bob. Bob never seemed to notice Ruth, so she got over her crush and moved on. After spending time with Joe and then meeting Bram, my crush on Joe went away. I was intimidated by Bob but still wanted him to like and respect me. To make him even more intimidating, Bob was a really great actor and I never got a chance to act with him. When I finally relaxed and stopped caring about Bob’s approval, I was no longer afraid of him and he turned out to be not so bad at all.
But Joe… I started to realize he thrived on drama and gossip. I became wary. To make it all more confusing, Bob and Joe were FUN. Actually I think Bob was fun and Joe rode on his coattails. Joe once asked me if I’d ever had to live through three very shitty months. I told him he had NO idea. I told him: don’t play Crappy Life Bingo with me.
The semester after Bram went away to become a philosophy major, we had a new batch of incoming freshmen. One of them was Janet’s best friend from high school, Betsy, and I tried not to be jealous. But I didn’t have to be jealous for long, because one of those incoming freshmen was Farrah.
I don’t know if Farrah set out to be a theatre major. She was a work-study student (like me!) and her job was to be the assistant to Paula, Conrad or Kevin. So she was always there at the Campus Players desk and we corrupted her. Farrah grew up on a horse ranch in a small town near Minot. I used to call it a horse farm to drive her crazy. She’d explain you don’t FARM horses. You don’t plant and water and weed little horse seeds and harvest horses in the fall. That makes Farrah sound so serious and without a sense of humor. That’s not at all what Farrah is like. Farrah knew I was teasing and she knew the expected response–it was like a script for our friendship.
Farrah has a terrific and warped sense of humor. She uses her humor and wit as both shields and weapons. But she isn’t malicious. She’s goofy and smart and loving and loyal and no matter what, if you’re Farrah’s friend, she has your back. Farrah is the friend who would carry you barefoot through a blizzard to keep you safe.
All that being said, I don’t remember becoming friends with her. She was just suddenly someone I didn’t want to live without. By the time Farrah arrived, Paula had kind of withdrawn from the costume shop and left me in charge. I couldn’t SAY I was in charge, but we all knew I was. Farrah joined the costume crew and she complimented me perfectly. My strengths were patterning and sewing. Farrah’s strengths were crafting and embellishing. I could make a costume in hours then hand it off to someone to hem and add closures, but the costume was done, not finished. Farrah could take that costume and paint it, bead it, trim it, glitz it up, so my creation became a work of art.
When I would argue with the props crew and tell them something was a prop, not a costume, because I didn’t know how to make it and didn’t have time to figure it out, Farrah was drawing up a plan before I finished the sentence. She could make hats, and jewelry and crowns…armor kind of threw us both for a loop but now Farrah can make armor like nobody’s business. Not only did she complement my skills with hers, she did it all while making stupid jokes, playing pranks, telling silly stories and just generally making me lighten up.
One time Farrah brought me a giant cup of ‘lemonade’ while I was working late. I thanked her and continued working. After a while she noticed I hadn’t had a single drink. She told me to drink my lemonade.
“I’m sorry Farrah, I honestly don’t like lemonade.”
To make her happy, I took a sip. It was a screwdriver. She’d brought me a giant, delicious screwdriver.
“ Farrah! I can’t drink this! I’ll either screw up the costumes or hurt myself. Maybe both!”
“Mm-hmm. And your point…?”
I gave up. I stopped working and went to play with Farrah.
I was elected president of Campus Players and while we were getting ready for the first meeting of the year, I told the group I’d advertised all over campus in hopes of attracting new people. I begged my people to try to behave and not act too weird. I told them, “Don’t scare the normals.” Right before the meeting started, Farrah picked me up and sat me on top of a stack of folding chairs and walked away. If I tried to get down, the stack started to shift. I had to lead the meeting trying to ‘act normal’ while perched at the top of a stack of folding chairs.
I loved Farrah because she made me stop taking myself so seriously. Without ever actually saying so, she was telling me life didn’t have to be so sad and serious. Janet showered me with kindness and love and made me safe. Farrah made me relax and have fun.
We had some other girls in our department: Dawn, who was tall and sweet and sewed as fast as I did. Nadine, who blushed at every innuendo or sexual word. Angie, impossibly pretty and impossibly nice. Missy, who sang like an angel and Sarah, who sang like a gospel star. Sara, who could fix anything. Kari, who was wholesome and funny and had a singing voice I would kill for. Sandra, even shorter than me and stronger than three men. Aili, Brams’ jerky, quirky sister. Kelly, Aili’s best friend who was too often eclipsed by Aili’s quirks. Chanda, beautiful and outspoken. Kristin who really wanted to act but was afraid to raise her voice, and Kristen who had no problem at all raising her voice even when you wanted her to change the subject. Lori, who prompted me to say, ‘if I were even half as good looking as Lori thinks she is, men would fall at my feet.” And Kim, who I thought was an agent of chaos, but who turned out to be a conqueror of chaos..
We had plenty of guys too, but I mention the girls because of the “Joe K Loves Me” club. Joe fancied himself quite the ladies’ man. His goal was to sleep with every female in the department. He was flirt, but he was no Burt. He had to rely on other methods.
Bram was at Concordia, in Minnesota, over 9 hours away. This was back in the olden days, the before times, when long distance calls could break your budget for the month. So no one outside of Bram’s family had heard from him all semester. When Bram and I had finally started dating, one of the first things we’d done was watch movies with Joe. When Bram wasn’t home when I’d arrived to pick him up one day, Joe-his roommate–kept telling me to be patient; he knew Bram really liked me. Joe knew I really liked Bram. He also knew Bram hadn’t consulted me before he left for Concordia.
One night at a party at my house, Joe asked if he could talk to me in private because he was really worried about Bram. When we were alone he told me he’d just said that to get me alone. In reality he was really worried about me. He knew how much I loved Bram and he was worried because he knew Bram wasn’t coming back. It upset him to see how hearing that upset me. The reason that it upset him so much was because … he was in love with me. I laughed and left the room. I was actually angry about the cheap trick he’d pulled to get me alone, and the blatant manipulation he’d attempted. I knew he wasn’t in love with me. He just wanted to get me in bed. By… appealing to my love for Bram? Weirdo.
At one of the parties at my house over Christmas break, Joe started a fight by suggesting to Aili’s boyfriend Derek that Joe and Aili had had sex all over the set of the play we’d just closed. A blatant lie, but still something Derek wasn’t going to let pass. I’m a little hazy on the exact details on who threw the first punch, because I was in the living room when I heard a scuffle and shouting in the kitchen. I jumped up and ran into the kitchen to find a cluster of guys at the back door, arms flailing, shouting. Oh no, they were NOT going to do this in MY house. I waded into the fight, trying to get to the center of the scrum. I got to the middle to find Joe and Derek furiously facing off with one another. Joe saw me. Instead of stopping the fight, he lifted me up, turned, and deposited me outside the group. He turned back to Derek. I was angry enough to breathe fire. I pulled out my most formidable weapons: my mom voice and mom face.
I didn’t even bother wading into the scrum this time; I simply told everybody to stop immediately and retreat to a neutral corner. Everyone obeyed without hesitation. My mom voice and mom face are forces to be reckoned with. I told everyone the party was over; it was time to go home. I told them this was the one and only warning: there would be no fighting in my house. EVER. If it happened again, parties were over forever.
I stood in the living room, handing out keys to those who were sober enough to drive, and arranging rides for those who weren’t. Most people expressed disgust for the fight as they left and promised to help me make sure it didn’t happen again. Derek appeared to be fighting back tears as he told me how sorry he was. He’d let his anger get the better of him and he swore it would never happen again.
I had to go find Joe and walk him to the door–he’d been pouring himself another drink, ready to settle in and enjoy it before he left. I took the drink from him and poured it down the sink. Pointed at the door. When I opened the door to put him out, he told me he was sorry, but he hadn’t started the fight. He wasn’t responsible at all. By this time I knew very well who had started the fight; it was the person standing in front of me, denying all responsibility. I told him to get out.
Oh yeah. Bram was home for Christmas. The last thing I saw as I closed the door was Bram outside, making sure everyone left, then taking a long look back at me before getting in his own car and driving away.
Of course, everyone had to talk about the fight and how it started. We heard enough that all of us girls sat down together to talk. What we found out was that Joe apparently was in love with every one of us. He’d asked each one of us separately to speak to him privately. He told Aili he was worried about Bram to get her alone. He told Kelly he was worried about Aili. He told Farrah, Janet, Kari, and Betsy he was worried about me. He found a reason to get each and every one of us alone to tell us he was worried about us because he was in love with us.
I can’t say for certain if he had any success. If he had, it was ruined by the revelation of his creepiness. The only girl he hadn’t tried it on was Chanda, who really did care for Joe, even though he constantly fucked her over. That was the end of Joe for Chanda too.
Several years later, Campus players past and present got together for our annual Christmas party. Joe still hadn’t managed to graduate from university; to my knowledge he still hasn’t. But he was still taking classes and he was still in Summer Theatre. At some point in the evening Jill announced she was a founding member of the “Joe K Loves Me” club. I was all, ‘hold up! The what now?” Jill–who is one of the wittiest people I know, and who graduated several years after me–told us how Joe had got her alone, and, well you know the rest of the story. He’d been pulling the same stupid crap on every generation of girls that weren’t warned about his shit. I told Jill I was actually a member of the club in long standing. We agreed we had to keep passing the story along in the department for as long as Joe was involved.
Joe’s foolishness wasn’t over but the last time I saw him, he acted genuinely fearful of me. So maybe we kept our club membership from growing. He’s about 50 now. I wonder if he’s still using this old ploy.