I'm about to get married. My chosen life partner is kind, smart, hilarious, sensitive, and wildly handsome. I should be happy. Feeling anything else wouldn't make any sense. I am not a sad or angry person. Not anymore. I've had lots of therapy. And now I'm good. Like, really good! Really, really good. Except for the fact that at the moment, it's 3:30 a.m. and I'm out of my mind on drugs, crying hysterically in an alley behind what I will later refer to as "the VIP Fuck Room" at The Spearmint Rhino in Las Vegas.
But maybe I should start at the beginning.
The story begins when my fiancé leaves for his bachelor party in Las Vegas. Something inside of me doesn't feel right. But I ignore those feelings. Because I don't want to appear "needy." That would be the worst possible thing. To have a feeling that is uncomfortable and then to express it. So I smoke a joint with some friends and try to ignore the five-alarm fire that has started inside me.
I have an incredibly overactive imagination, which is great for my work as a writer but terrible for my actual life. I once jumped out of a moving taxi while it was turning onto the FDR Drive because I thought I was being kidnapped. I was not. It was simply the fastest way to get to where I was going. But my mother had warned me that I should never let a taxi driver take me on the FDR Drive, because he could suddenly decide to drive to G-d knows where, kidnap me, and chop me up. She was a single mom in New York City and just trying to keep me safe. For this I do not blame her. She was in pain after my dad left.
I start sending my fiancé sexy photos of myself. I want him to remember what he has at home. I want him to want to come home. If he sees what's out there, maybe he never will. None of this is about him. I don't know that yet. "What happens at strip clubs?" is something I start Googling. I've never been to a strip club. So I honestly don't know. And down the rabbit hole I go, until I find the answer I have been searching for all along: YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH.
Ah, fuck. I knew it. I guess I just forgot. And now I will have to go through a whole lot of trouble to cover it up. So annoying. But I have done it before. Many, many times. The trick is to forget that's what you are doing. And instead put your focus on something else entirely. Like a competition. A secret competition!
The trick is to forget that's what you are doing. And instead put your focus on something else entirely.
It's one month later, and I am touching down in Las Vegas. My bachelorette party was supposed to take place at my mom's house in Long Island, where the plan was to chill, cook, maybe do some yoga, but I rerouted. The new plan is to DANCE and "do all of the drugs," which I have never done before. I mean, definitely not all of them. "And if not now, when?" is something I say to the group of confused but very supportive girlfriends accompanying me on this trip. I'm going to make it worth their while. My childhood best friend is a holistic nutritionist whose dad happens to own all the clubs in Vegas. Out of everyone, she is the least excited about the change of venue. But here we are, with carte blanche to be the absolute best of the worst.
On the first day, I eat one weed gummy, drink two margaritas, smoke half a joint, do two lines of cocaine, and taste three small sprinkles of MDMA. At the pool. I keep waiting for the "good feelings" to kick in. I pretend that they already have. All the drugs seem to have canceled each other out, and I go to sleep at a reasonable hour. At 4 a.m., I find myself dry-heaving for a full 20 minutes, and I contemplate calling 911 but then decide that "not knowing if I am going to throw up or shit myself" is an unfortunate mystery, not an emergency.
On day two, I wake up at eight because I have a very precise internal clock. I chug a couple of bottles of water, head down to the spa, sauna, steam, handle it. I start thinking about all the photos I sent my fiancé yesterday. I just want him to know that I'm fun. But I am not being mysterious enough. I need to make him jealous. I have a secret competition to win.
So it's very fortuitous, then, that in the cabana next to us at the day club is one of the biggest TV stars in the world. He couldn't have been nicer. My friends start mingling with his friends, and now we are all friends. Someone passes me a joint. Fun! Within 20 seconds, I am surrounded by three security guards who inform me that the possession of marijuana in Nevada is a crime.
I've never even been pulled over. And now I am going to jail in a bikini. I look to the holistic nutritionist for help. She just shakes her head, like, "You're on your own." I make a mental note to get new friends who say things like, "Do you know who my father is?!" So it's a good thing that the head of security does know who her father is. He confiscates the joint and tells me that I am very lucky. I already know that. But now I know something else: I'm invincible.
So later, on the way to the nightclub, when someone takes out the bag of MDMA, I do it. I'm ready to dance! I hope they play Beyoncé. But they don't. All they play is EDM music. It is oppressive and scary. Like being stuck in a crosswalk as an interminable parade of emergency vehicles blast their sirens and horns for eternity. I think that maybe doing more drugs might help. It doesn't. Before I know it, I am crouched in a booth, ears plugged, begging to leave.
It's around 12:30 a.m. in Las Vegas, which is like 4:30 p.m. anywhere else, and we are on our way home. I feel such an incredible sense of shame. I am not fun. I am not down. I am not cool. I am maybe the worst person to do drugs with. And I have lost the secret competition.
Then, I see the famous TV actor standing next to the security guard who tried to arrest me earlier. I look at the security guard, mime smoking a joint, and wink at him. Because fuck the police. My friends are horrified. Then I scream the TV star's name and wave at him like a mom seeing her son across a parking lot on camp visiting day. My friends don't think he remembers me. But then he says, "Bachelorette! Hi!" So he fucking does. "Where are you going?" "Home." "No. You're not." "I'm not?! Where am I going?" "You're coming with me to The Spearmint Rhino." He runs over, grabs my hand, and pulls me into his limo. My friends follow right behind in a separate car. Secret competition, back on.
We pull up to a small awning in the back of an alley next to a dumpster. I assume this is the front of the strip club, as I have no basis for comparison. But it's not. It's the entrance to "the VIP Fuck Room." My friends have to pee, and actually, so do I, so we head toward the bathroom. But then I stop. I look around. I maybe even go up to a group of guys that I do not know and watch as strip-club etiquette, as I understand it, is being very much ignored. I realize that I have lost my friends. I have lost the TV star. And that I am standing in the middle of a strip club, watching a girl get fingered, alone. And that's when the worst possible thing happens. The thing that I have been trying to avoid for weeks. I start hysterically crying.
My friends find me and lead me out. I am shaking and crying and laughing. Somewhere inside, I know this is funny. I try to make it funny. But I can't get there. I feel devastated. And everyone can see. Another act of self-betrayal.
I feel devastated. And everyone can see. Another act of self-betrayal.
When I get back to LA, I plug it up. It's one thing for your girlfriends to see and quite another for the man you love to see. If he sees, he's going to run. I have a moment of clarity. I finally know the right thing to do. The thing that will solve everything. I am going to become physically perfect.
For the next few months, I do all of the stuff: working out, facials, eating clean. And to be honest, I look dope. I finally had the kind of body where I could wear jean shorts outside the house, a dream of mine since I was 12. Maybe now I was "enough." But then, a waxer pointed to my cheekbone and said, "Everyone has a little hair, fuzz really, right here. And if you get rid of it, on your wedding day, your makeup is going to look flawless."
A week before the wedding, I realize that I have not done the face wax. My makeup would not look flawless unless I did the face wax. I call the waxer and tell her that I need her to do the face wax, posthaste. I keep calling it that. A face wax. So when I get there, she starts slathering hot wax all over my face. I think to myself, She knows what she's doing. Immediately after, I drive for 45 minutes to a meeting on the other side of town. I check myself in the mirror before exiting the car. It looks like someone beat the shit out of me.
Unfortunately, that someone was me.
The wax finally revealed what was underneath: pain. And also: hives, a rash, and a constellation of cystic acne. My wedding is in six days. I'm inconsolable. I feel so ashamed. I cry in the shower. A lot. I'm not enough. I will never be enough. My fiancé knocks on the door. He wants to talk to me.
He says, "You know what? I am glad that this happened. Because I want you to know something. I'm not marrying you because of your face. Or because of the way you look. I am marrying you because I love you. Even the part of you that does stuff like this. I know who you are. And I accept you. All of you."
I do not know what to do with this information. It doesn't make sense to me. It goes against my narrative. I am completely naked standing in front of someone I love. Someone who sees my broken pieces but doesn't want to "fix me." Someone who wants to stick around while I put myself back together. It causes me to question the validity of the story I had been telling myself for most of my life. "The one where I am not enough." I realize that I had written the story when I was very little. Maybe it was time to hug the little girl who wrote it. Tell her that it's OK. Thank her for keeping me safe, alive, and thriving for all those years. She did a great job. But now it was time for a new story.
Nicole Shabtai is a writer, actor, and producer who got to do all those things on the upcoming Filthy, Preppy, Teen$, a new show premiering this spring on Fullscreen.