“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”, Three Dog Night

Mama Told Me

I never went to parties in high school or college. I hated drinking and drugs and shit. My mama told me, and I listened. Actually, my parents never straight up told us not to do these bad things; we just knew not to. We knew what the consequences would be if we behaved like that. So my sisters and I just never did. We had the fear of Serbian parents—and, more importantly, grandparents!—in us, so we were pretty good kids.

I think it was during the summer before 8th grade that I was at my cousin’s house for a week, and we went to her friend’s house. It turned out to be one of those parties that I was not to go to. I didn’t see any drugs, but there may have been some. People were drinking and smoking, and we were playing quarters—rather, I watched some people play quarters. I did not like being there because I knew we would get in trouble if our parents found out what was happening around us. My cousin, who is a year older, wasn’t doing anything bad either, and I wondered why she had friends who did this sort of partying. To me, if your friends did that shit, so did you. None of my friends were like that, and that is why we were friends. A few people I had grown up with started smoking and shit, so our friendships sort of faded away. It wasn’t that I told them to fuck off, but they found new friends who like doing bad things, too.

Open up your window, let some air into this room
I think I’m almost chokin’ from the smell of stale perfume
And that cigarette you’re smokin’ ’bout scare me half to death
Open up the window, sucker, let me catch my breath

Don’t get me wrong: I wanted people to think I was a badass. A lot of people thought that burnouts were badasses. I always thought that, in comparison with the preps, they were way cooler because they did whatever the fuck they wanted; preps were concerned about image, wearing the coolest clothes, having nice cars, bullshit like that. Burnouts were the ones who at least had integrity in their scrounginess. They partied and everyone knew it; preps partied, but the teachers and principals thought they were model students because they looked like they showered.

Now I see things differently. Most people who have to identify with a certain clique are insecure. They all follow some sort of rules for how they should dress and behave. Burnouts wore denim or leather jackets and always smelled like cigarettes. They cut class, got suspended, and drove shitty cars. They got bad grades and didn’t care. They were in shop class. They fucked a lot of people. They did drugs. They passed out drunk at parties. Sometimes they got pregnant. Sometimes they had a friend kick them in the stomach to have a miscarriage. Sometimes they got STDs. They didn’t always graduate. They didn’t go to college. That’s the way you are when you’re a burnout.

Preps wore expensive clothes, whatever was in style. They wore perfume and cologne. They went to class. They drove nice cars their parents bought for them. They usually got good grades, earned or not. They never took shop. They did drugs. They passed out drunk at parties. They fucked a lot of people. Sometimes they got pregnant. Sometimes they went on a roller coaster hoping it would give them a miscarriage. Sometimes they got STDs. They always graduated. They always went to college. That’s the way you are when you’re a prep.

My point is, no matter how you dress and whether or not you reek of cigarettes 24 hours a day, you can be the kind of person who goes to the parties your mama told you not to. I never did that stuff. Not that I didn’t wonder what it would be like to be that scandalous. But I was far too scared of my parents finding out. So I stayed home.

Until I started hanging out with the gays. That’s when all those years of being righteous came crumbling down around me, and I indulged my inner party girl. I never did drugs, never wanted to. But I sure did like to drank! Still, most of my partying was not done at actual parties but in bars. I liked being out where I had the best chance of being seen by the most people. That way, my legend was sure to grow! The gays love them some straight girls who are both hot and messy, and I was the hottest and messiest around.

There was nothing I wouldn’t do for attention. I lived to be the most outrageous thing on two legs, especially if those legs were up in the air. “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” is told from the perspective of a guy who is experiencing his first wild party. He’s shocked. He’s scared. He has no idea what to do with himself. That was not my roles at such events. I was the reason a guy like that would be scared. And I loved every minute of it.

I am about to turn 40, and I have put that life behind me. It was a hell of a good time. I enjoyed myself and many others! During those years, I did not believe in putting limits on myself in any way. I wanted to experience everything I desired. And I pretty much did that. I was so free. Sometimes I wish I could be like that again, but then I realize that at a certain point, that sort of liberation becomes more of a burden. I did a lot of scandalous things. I was expected to do scandalous things. I wanted to live up to that reputation. And I got lost in that. I have been in seclusion for many years. I am starting to get antsy. But the more I keep to myself, the more I realize that limits are not such a bad thing. I have far more perspective on my life and the world than I ever have. That comes with age, yes, but it also comes from being sober and keeping your legs closed for a while. I have a clear head, and I don’t know that I ever really had that before, even before I started drinking. I have my obsessions to distract me from reality on occasion, but I feel much more secure and happy and divine right now. But none of the epiphanies I have experienced over the past five years would have been possible without the previous 14 years of going to those parties my mama warned me about.

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