About a year ago, during a visit to my mother’s house, I discovered a secret stash of videos so dark and hideous that upon first sight of them I nearly crumbled where I stood. I checked the stairwell. I was alone. Turning back to the small collection of tapes, I picked them up slowly, testing the weight of them in my hands. With my soul blazing like sterno, I locked the door to the basement. What I did next…what I did next.

Just me,

alone,

Sweatin’,

Supersweatin’…

to the Oldies.

You see, Richard and I have history. When I was little, my mother would flip on the television just in time to catch the opening. She wore her stretchiest pair of polyesters. I wore yellow legwarmers and a knock-off belted Units top. Together we grapevined our way to the left, cha-cha-cha’ed our way forward, and then rocked and tapped, rocked and tapped.

Sweatin’ to the Oldies, with Richard Simmons.

Glowing with a sheen as if we’d both recently been spritzed or possibly received microdermabrasion from one of those places in the mall, we paused for a straw-full of water from our pink and blue Walkman canteens as Richard told fat women how much he loved them, just as the Deal-a-Meal hotline would flash at the bottom of the screen.

Eventually, Mom would go upstairs. Pots and pans would clang and the fragrance of chicken thighs and Sizzlean would soon fill the air.

I would manually change the channel to Gilligan.

So, dear TNBers, on this our 5-year anniversary, I leave you with this brief reminder of less complicated days. Days before we worried about global warming, Chinese paint or how tacky it is to order merlot at a fancy restaurant. Days before we worried about how to comment and what to post. Days before…TNB.

Less complicated – yes. Half as classy – no.

Brad Listi, I thank you for your brainchild. This thing called TNB. It’s given me voice, it’s given me a community, and it’s given me a chance to exercise my writer’s ass off. If TNB were a famous celebrity, I dare say it would be Richard Simmons. It’s sassy, sharp and just a little androgynous.

So, to all of you TNBers out there who I adore (too many of you to list): Happy belated birthday. And like Richard Simmons’ endless supply of tank tops, this post has been bedazzled just for you.

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ERIKA RAE is the author of Devangelical, a humor memoir about growing up Evangelical (Emergency Press, December, 2012). She is editor-in-chief at Scree Magazine and nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Erika earned her MA in Lit­er­a­ture and Lin­guis­tics from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong and to this day can ask where the bath­room is in Can­tonese, although it is likely that she will not under­stand the answer. In her dream world, she fan­cies her­self a kung fu mas­ter clev­erly dis­guised as a gen­tle moun­tain dweller, eagerly antic­i­pat­ing dan­ger at the bot­tom of every latte. When she is not whipping one of her 3 children and denying them bread with their broth, she runs an ISP with her husband from their home in the Colorado Rockies.

46 responses to “TNB at 5: A Belated Bedazzled Birthday”

  1. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Bedazzling and Richard Simmons! How old *is* TNB, anyway?

    I say that knowing full well better. It all refreshes in this world of ours. You know what? Maybe TNB needs a blingee fad 🙂

    http://blingee.com/

    • Erika Rae says:

      You know, Uche, I might’ve done just fine without ever knowing about blingee.com. I might’ve done even better without ever knowing that YOU know about blingee.com.

      Wow.

      Bedazzling and Richard Simmons are practically timeless, you know. Have you seen recent pics of him? Wow. Still fuzzy.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Me not know about blingee.com? But then how would I be able to do proper justice to BFF portraits? You and me next, Erika. You and me next. I just need to find the right starter photo.

        I used to occasionally read Wonkette, where they make pretty effective use of blingees. Their blingees of Peggy Noonan are true cultural treasures.

        • Erika Rae says:

          I’m in. Let’s wear ninja attire for the photo. There’s a diamond and emerald crusted gold dragon pendant I want to be immortalized that one of my old masters used to wear. We can represent our chi pellets with a rhinestone array emanating from our minds. Two classier ninjas have never yet graced this mortal orb.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Uche,

      I can never get you completely in focus just because of stuff like that there.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    Zara Potts had the best bedazzled shirt ever – that HAS to be the best tag ever.

    I want to knock up a rhinestone beauty for you right now…

    • Erika Rae says:

      The photo alone of you in that bedazzled shirt…

      http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/zpotts/2009/07/regretsive-had-a-few/

      Beyond words, Zeed.

      • Zara Potts says:

        I was obviously emulating David Byrne in his “Stop Making Sense” phase, given that the shirt is about fifteen sizes too big for me.

        Good lord. Someone should really fine me for wearing that.

        • Erika Rae says:

          Oh man, Zeed. You’re not alone with the oversize stuff. I have a picture of me wearing a dress in 1990…It’s so big, you could have fit 2 of me in there.

          Wha? Wha? I feel a ‘yo mama’ joke comin’ on.

          “Yo mama so fat, every time she wears a Malcolm X shirt, some fool tries to land a helicopter on her.”

          Yeah. That was pretty much all of us in the early 90s. What were we afraid of? The actual shape of our bodies? Cutting off our circulation? Was it that we realized obesity was on the rise so we were giving ourselves permission and room to expand?

          I’ll never forget the first time I bought a “tailored” coat. I went to Burlington Coat factory with my mother and bought a black pea coat. My mom was verrrrry concerned that it was too small for me, but I was determined and so I bought it. I like to pull it out every now and then just for giggles. The thing swallows me whole.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I know! What was that about?? Don’t get me started on the hair do’s.

          The best piece of advice I ever got was: Don’t ever buy jeans a size up – because you will fill them if you allow yourself more room.

          This advice has kept me trim ever since!

        • Erika Rae says:

          Thanks to you, I’ve finally had a revelation about why our 1980s/90s hair was so big. It had to keep up with our clothes. Er, wait – or was it that our clothes had to keep up with our hair?? Oh, crumb. Thought I was having an epiphany there.

          That’s excellent advice on the jeans. Daily battle zone in that region. I do sit ups daily. I won’t lie. Plus, I’m too poor to buy new jeans. These are my weapons against obesity. Obsessive exercise and poverty.

          Wow, I bet we looked weird to aliens spying on us in the 90s.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Here’s a little treat for you:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iaTEgoezNQ

          This is the latest safety video from our national airline. You’ll never guess who’s in it…

        • New Orleans Lady says:

          Ok, on the jeans advice…what if I buy one size smaller? Will it make me shed some pounds? Just curious?

          *online shopping…ready, set, go!

        • Erika Rae says:

          Regarding the video, I was reeeeally hoping I’d see Zara Potts in the background. “We’re pumping up!” So awesome.

        • Simone says:

          Zara, that video is priceless!

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        How did I miss the post about the bedazzled shirt?!

        So funny.

      • Irene Zion says:

        I’m blind!

        • Irene Zion says:

          Okay, now that one above was supposed to appear under the reference to Zara in her bedazzled shirt. Now it makes no sense at all and it only made a little sense when it was correctly placed.

  3. Dana says:

    I’m wondering what your mom did with the chicken thighs and Sizzlean. I wholeheartedly support your excessive bedazzling.

    Happy belated birthday TNB!

    • Erika Rae says:

      My mom was a master at blending the unthinkable. This dish involved something in the oven that included broccoli and cheddar cheese. There was probably some sort of brown rice on the side.

      I was sort of disappointed that my bedazzling came out the way it did. Apparently, WordPress does not approve of my insertion of jewels throughout the text, thus it all ended up scrunched together on the left margin. Bummer. It was classy, I tell you.

      Thanks, Dana!!

  4. J.M. Blaine says:

    I knew a superstar preacher once who sat next to Richard Simmons
    on an airplane
    “Thought he was this ridiculous fairy before,” preacher said. “By the time the flight was over, I loved that man with all my heart. I knew I need to be more like Richard Simmons.”
    “What you mean?” I asked.
    “That guys loves people exactly where they are, the way they are and you don’t have any doubt in your mind that he cares. In the end, that’s all that matters.”

    I met people at TNB that
    love me
    & I love them
    with all my heart.
    People like you, Erika Rae.
    and in the end,
    that’s all that matters.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I’m glad to hear he’s a stand-up guy. I’ve heard he can also be quite rough and rude – so that warms my heart a bit. Of course, I can be rough and rude, too – so no judgment.

      Aw. That’s just about the sweetest comment ever. Love back atcha, JMB.

    • Gloria says:

      That’s the best Richard Simmons anecdote I’ve ever heard.

  5. Sweatin’ to the oldies is fine, Erika. But what I really wanna see is you in those yellow legwarmers and knock-off belted Units top performing some ass-kickin’ Bruce Lee-style kung fu moves. Yep. That sounds like a perfect way to celebrate TNB’s anniversary if you ask me…

    • Erika Rae says:

      I’m thinking a little kung fu action a la Olivia Newton-John off the counter at Whataburger. Whatdyathink?

      October’s coming, Rich. October’s coming.

  6. Simone says:

    Erika, i remember when Richard’s excercise videos were aired here in SA just before (or after) the morning news, they would play this song to introduce him:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcRnMfZyYrw

    To this day, everytime I here this song I think of a curly haired, spandex clad, energizer bunny.

    Nice bedazzling by the way! 5*****

    • Erika Rae says:

      Beat-beat-beat-beat-beat boy, beat boy, hit that perfect beat boy.

      WOW.

      Where are you in SA? How did I not realize you live down there?

      • Simone says:

        I live in Johannesburg. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it much here.

        • Erika Rae says:

          Fascinating. Did you go to school there, too? One of my best buds is from there and just moved back to Denmark, actually. Not that I would expect you’d know him. Just sayin’. And now I can read your posts with your accent in mind! Lovely.

  7. I just want to pet Richard Simmons very gently on his poofy hair. Is that so wrong? I know it would be ever so soft and hardly crunchy at all. I also hope that below, out of frame in that picture, he’s wearing the red and white-striped hoochie shorts. Those are my favorite.

    Great bedazzling. Piecedazzling? Postdazzling? (Just no vajazzling. Please.) With all of the sparkly gems included, this is officially the fanciest writing ever on TNB. You win Most Fancy, Erika! (:

    • Erika Rae says:

      If his hair turned out to be crunchy, I would spin out of control into a disillusioned vortex of doom.

      Those shorts were (are) key. Nobody could pull those off like he can. Heh. That could be taken two ways. And now I’m feeling just a little queasy. I’m also for some reason now stuck on my disappointment that there is no ‘z’ in queasy.

      I’m totally tripping. Too much bedazzling.

  8. Gloria says:

    Bob Ross and his happy little trees – that’s where my happiest childhood memories of time with my mom lie. If you think about it, Bob Ross and Richard Simmons have similar poofy hair. Maybe that’s a sign of all things good in men.

    Happy Bedazzled day to you, Erika Rae.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Now *that* is a connection I have not yet made in my life thus far. Bob Ross and Richard Simmons – they’re like…brothers! Twins!

      Sigh.

      Man, how I loved Bob Ross, too. I used to haul out an easel and try to keep up. Think how much easier that would be now with Tevo controls. Watch – pause – paint – watch – pause – paint – pause – go to the bathroom – watch again…

      I know what I’m doing this weekend.

      Thank you, Gloria Harrison!!!

  9. “Days before we worried about global warming, Chinese paint or how tacky it is to order merlot at a fancy restaurant.”

    Were those the days we worried about neutron bombs, who killed Kurt Cobain, and Pokemon? Yes, those days were special, but thanks to TNB, all our worries can be voiced.

    Oh, Erika, you with the most German of names, love and bedazzlement to you!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Als ich ein kleines Madchen war, war mein Name “Erika Schmidt”. (Mein GroBvater war ein Deutscher von Russland), auch meine Mutter sprach ein bischen Deutsches mit uns zu Hause. Was? Bist du uberrascht? Ausgezeichnet. heh. Ich wunsche dass ich es besser sprechen konnte…aber ich kann ein wc finden in Deutschland oder in Osterreich. (Und das ist wichtig, nicht?)

      Viel Dank, Stefan!

      OK – here’s a fun game:

      Richard Simmons is to America as David Hasselhof is to…

  10. Jessica Blau says:

    I love imagining you shakin’ it to Richard Simmons. Does this mean your mother still has a VCR player?!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Oh yes indeed-y. She searched far and wide for one that has both the VCR player and the CD player together when her old one broke. There might have been tears. She also has a stand-up stereo complete with turntable and 2 tape decks – one for recording off the other. So old school.

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