I’ve dated my fair share of crazy women, or rather women who do crazy things.

I’ve been with a bulimic, an anorexic, a cutter, a girl who went on to smuggle drugs from Mexico into Texas and who went to jail for it.

I’ve dated poets, artists, hippies, Johnson & Johnson reps.

All crazy.

And when I moved to Fargo for grad school, I told myself I was done dating girls who I thought needed saving from their craziness.

But, of course, I found this to be impossible.

I should have known from our first encounter that Emma was not the girl I should have asked out for coffee.

We stood next to each other in the back room of a Moorhead bar, she was this tiny little blond hipster girl wearing a tight track jacket, and we watched a local band fizzle through a set. Emma and I flirted between songs, and before she left for the night I asked for her number so we could do the coffee-date thing.

And then she was gone and I felt all warm inside and the band played on.

But Emma reappeared 15 minutes later, tapping my shoulder.

And when I whipped around I saw there was mascara or eyeliner (all the same to me) all over her temples.

Not in a pattern that made me think Emma had been crying and wiping it onto her forehead, but more in a pattern that made me think she tried to apply her mascara/eyeliner without a mirror and someone kept bumping her elbow.

She craned her neck up at me and I recoiled at the black lines on her head, and in a squeaky valley-girl voice that I would soon come to hate, she asked: “Um, do you have any gum?”

So to recap: Emma left the bar, came back 15 minutes later with shit all over her face, and then asked me as if she had been standing there the whole time if I had any gum.

I didn’t have any gum.

And somehow I didn’t have the intelligence to call off our coffee date.

We went out twice before I told her that I think we should just be friends, and oddly enough she took me up on that friendship offering.

But like any opposite-sex friendship where there had been kissing and heavy petting at one point, there was always the possibility that it could happen again.

And it did.

Friends with benefits, I guess.

All this is to say that I spent a couple months hanging out with Emma, learning more about her family and friends, learning that her deceased father had left her a lot of money.

Like, a lot of money.

Which isn’t a big deal, except that I was pretty damn broke and she always made me pay for our friendly dinners, drinks, anything.

And this isn’t what made her crazy; this is what made her totally frustrating.

What made her a bit crazy to me is that she saw a therapist regularly and that she didn’t seem to change the things she was working on.

At all.

And there I’d be, home working on a paper and she’d call from her therapist’s office asking for me to pick her up.

And she’d say, “Pleeeeeeease. I’ll buy you some ice cream.”

Feeling guilty, feeling the need to help this girl like I’ve felt the need to help all these girls from their craziness, I’d go pick her up and drive us to the ice cream stand… and, much to the dismay of the moths in my wallet, she wouldn’t have any cash on her and I’d have to pay.

Emma often offered to buy me something, or offered to pay me back, but it never transpired.

And my resentment grew.

One night she called me saying that she was sick, that she had thrown up all over her bed and bathroom floor, and she asked me to go to the store for several items (that added up to nearly $35) that would help her clean up and and several items (that added up to $20) to make her feel better.

“I’ll pay you back,” she squeaked into the phone.

She never fucking did.

Near the end of that summer session, I tried hard to avoid Emma.

Didn’t return calls.

Didn’t answer the door.

Didn’t back down from the just wanting to be friends label I pressed upon our shoulders.

But one summer night I answered her call. She wanted to know what I was doing the next day, and I told her I was going to the Moorhead public pool. I had been spending a lot of time there since A) we were in the middle of a brutal heat wave and I didn’t have air conditioning, B) it was right around the corner from my apartment and C) it only cost a dollar to get in.

“If you want to come with me,” I said, “that’s cool. It only costs a dollar so you only have to bring a dollar.”

I mentioned that it only cost a dollar three times in our three minute phone conversation:

“It only costs a dollar so you only have to bring a dollar.”

“The great thing is that it only costs a dollar to get in.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow with your towel and the dollar you need to get in.”

I told myself that if she didn’t bring that fucking dollar, then she would be watching me enter that fucking pool without her.

Emma arrived the next day, we walked to the pool and I waited for her to approach the window first.

But she stayed back.

“Go ahead,” I said, ready to pounce.

“Um, I don’t have any money on me,” she said.

And pounce, I did: “Emma, what the fuck? How do you not have a dollar on you after I told you to bring a fucking dollar? Come on. It’s one fucking dollar that I asked you to bring for yourself because I’m done buying you shit all the time when I’m broke and eating Totino’s frozen pizza and drinking water every night.”

She stared at me on the verge of tears.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I guess I’ll go home.”

I slapped down two bucks and met her poolside, finding a way to relax, finding a way to not be annoyed by her voice.

We went for a dip, and I did what I do every time I leave my belongings unprotected: I kept one eye on my shit and one eye squinting into the sun.

Emma and I made it to the deep end, a couple of dolphins somersaulting and snipping at each other’s tails.

I made a regular belongings check and shook water from my hair like a dog and made another check on our stuff and… holy shit, two little kids were rifling through our bags.

“Some kids are going through our stuff!” I gurgled at Emma.

I splashed and dove underwater, resurfacing only when I had to.

I got to the shallow end of the pool where the two little kids were still digging around in our belongings, and I’m moving as fast as I can.

As fast as one can run through waist-deep water.

My arms, swinging wildly at my sides.

A teenage lifeguard up on her ladder saw me, we made eye contact, and I pointed to the kids and blurted “They’re stealing our stuff!”

I emerged from the pool like a cat who had fallen into a bathtub: claws out, scrambling for footing, hissing.

The little girl, Indian and cute and thin and maybe eight years old, was wrist-deep in the pocket of Emma’s jeans.

I grabbed her elbow and put my face inches from hers and tried to ask her what the fuck she thought she was doing, but all I could manage was “Blaaaaaargh!”

Batman, I am not.

She jumped out of her skin.

Eyes bigger than the red and white life preserver hanging on the fence.

The boy who had been searching my bag froze.

The lifeguard closed in, every sun-bather and swimmer at the pool turned to watch.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I finally managed to ask the girl.

She opened her hand to give me what she had stolen from Emma’s jeans, and that’s when I had this surprising moment of gratitude.

I was about to see how much money Emma actually had.

I was about to see how much of a dupe I had actually been those last couple months, paying for her top-shelf medicine and extra-large slushies with added strawberries.

I was about to see who was crazier, her or me.

Tell me she found a crumpled up dollar bill.

A mobster’s roll of hundreds.

A couple of twenties sandwiched between unopened packs of gum.

The little girl opened her palm over mine, tipped it, and out fell two pennies.

Two pennies.


I laughed right into her tiny scared face.

The lifeguard grabbed the shoulders of the little boy and we had our thieves.

The lifeguard wanted to call the police.

Apparently these two were part of a larger group of kids who had been causing trouble the whole summer.

(An hour earlier I had seen a few of them with their arms shoved up inside a Coke machine, hoping to get a paw on a loose can.)

I said that calling the police wasn’t necessary, but she called them anyhow.

When the male cop walked into the pool area ten minutes later and interviewed me from my beach chair–everyone watching, quiet, trying to hear–the cop ended by asking “And how much did she get?”

“How much money? Two cents. The little girl only found two pennies.”

He laughed and repeated, “Two pennies. Nice.”

And I felt sad for everyone involved, including myself, and I said, “The poor thing couldn’t have picked a worse person in the city to steal from. This chick I’m with is totally crazy.”

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GREG BOOSE grew up in northeast Ohio, got his MFA degree in Moorhead, MN, and now lives in Chicago. His writing has appeared on/in The Huffington Post,The Big Jewel, Yankee Pot Roast, Monkeybicycle, Opium Magazine, McSweeneys.net, Hobart, Feathertale, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, Chicago Reader, NFL.com and more. Along with his wife, he is the co-editor for BlackBook Magazine's guide to Chicago. He won the 2008 Readers' Choice Award and Editor's Choice Award for satire in Farmhouse Magazine.

You must be this tall to visit his website at gregboose.com.

Follow him on Twitter at Greg_Boose.

40 responses to “Trying to Decide Who’s the Crazy One Comes Down to the Palm of a Tiny Thief”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Geez, Greg, You certainly had your share of nut-cases before you found the love of your life, eh?

  2. Hey, hey…don’t speak so fast. I think I might be the craziest of them all.

  3. Matt says:

    Oh man oh man. So many potential comments here, but I’d just end up oversharing, not to mention cutting myself off at the knees regarding a TNB post I’ve been working on here and there.

    So I’ll just say this: been there, brother. And how.

    Someone should start a Crazy Girlfriend Survivor’s support group.

    • Greg says:

      Looking forward to your piece, then, Matt. I could use the company, fer sure.

      • Thomas Wood says:

        Adding to this idea: Rule one of the group (a lesson only half-learned by me) should be-“If you’re attracted to a girl, it means she’s crazy. The only guarantee that she isn’t crazy is if you’re not attracted to her. Of course then she might also turn out to be a guy.”

  4. Tom Hansen says:

    I’ve come to believe that they’re not so much ‘crazy’ as just operating on a different level, one where reason and accountability do not factor into very much. I’ve encountered quite a few like the one you did. I’ve usually taken your approach, the patience, kindness and consideration, but once I lost it and just to see what happened I said “If you don’t wanna fuck me, get lost!”

    Afterward I felt a bit bad about it, but my AA sponsor told me “That’s cool!”

  5. Joe Daly says:

    >>”The great thing is that it only costs a dollar to get in.”<<

    It was at this sentence that I began laughing out loud. Too funny. Ah, the choices we make and the illusions that prolong them. Been there, amigo, and I feel your pain. Great piece!

  6. Anon says:

    I enjoyed the whole thing but didn’t laugh out loud until I got to “all I could manage was “Blaaaaaargh!” The visual of a skinny little kid-thief being blaaaaaarghed by some dripping-wet vengeful savage…. *snort* And there I go again.

  7. Marni Grossman says:

    I think I’m all of your crazy exes wrapped into one Semitic body. Except that I always pay.

  8. Zara Potts says:

    “It only costs a dollar so you only have to bring a dollar.”

    “The great thing is that it only costs a dollar to get in.”

    “I’ll see you tomorrow with your towel and the dollar you need to get in.”

    These three lines made me spit out my coffee through my nose.
    Loved it!

  9. admin says:

    It’s like when I used to deliver pizzas.

    The best tippers?

    Other people who worked for tips.

    The best tippers?

    Other pizza delivery guys.

    The worst tippers, almost always: rich people.

    This isn’t to say that some rich people aren’t, as they should be, extraordinary tippers.

    But rarely is a minimum wage bastard a shitty tipper.

    That’s been my experience, anyway.

    And I mean yeah, if the pizza is an hour late, or the server is a lame, negligent, rude little brat—fine. No tip.

    But if the food is just late?

    I always tell myself they’re understaffed.

    I detest bad tippers.


  10. Thomas Wood says:

    Actually the dollar bit reminds me of a buddy of mine who was pulling the same crap for months. What’s funny about him though was that we all knew he had no money. He was living on my couch, had gotten himself fired, etc. And then we’d go out somewhere, a bar, grocery store, wherever and he’d always end up waiting until I was ordering a drink or paying for something when he’d say, “oh, hey, can you get this, I don’t have any cash on me.”


    As though it were a simple, white-collar error in accounting. As though there were some bearer bonds tucked away in one of his many safe-deposit boxes. He just hadn’t been to an ATM recently, that’s all. Left his wallet in his Armani suit.

    Thank god I love the crazy bastard.

    • Greg Boose says:

      Oh, man. You’re a bigger man than I am, Thomas. I would have started sneaking out of the apartment when he was on the shitter so I wouldn’t have to pick up his tab at night.

      But it seems like the guy was on some pretty hard times, so perhaps you have some karma in the mailbox. It’s most likely under the Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon.

  11. As always, Boose, a story well told. And what great subject matter, too. Ah, the crazy girls. God knows I’ve had my fair share of them. They’ve taken me high, they’ve taken me low. But I love them all to pieces.

    And crazy or not, looks like you landed the right lady, Greg. Claire’s a true beauty, in and out.

    • Greg Boose says:

      You are too kind, Rich. Always too kind.

      “Ah, the crazy girls. God knows I’ve had my fair share of them. They’ve taken me high, they’ve taken me low. But I love them all to pieces.”

      These could either be the first lines, or the last lines, in the next song you pen.

      And I definitely landed the right lady. You are right there.

  12. Simon Smithson says:

    Ha ha ha ha… goddamnit, Boose.

    “And when I moved to Fargo for grad school, I told myself I was done dating girls who I thought needed saving from their craziness.”

    Did you not consider that the gods of Fate and Irony would send a bevy of even crazier ladies your way as soon as they heard this thought echo through your brain?

    • Greg Boose says:

      You’re totally right. It’s like mentioning out loud that the pitcher on the mound is one batter away from a no-hitter and then he gives up a deep homer to left.

  13. angela says:

    i used to wonder why guys put up with crazy girls, and my boyfriend answered it for me: “cuz the sex is awesome.”

    stupid boys.

  14. Nice piece, Greg.
    Right on, Angela.

  15. Krissy says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t think she sounds very crazy? Maybe there are differences between what guys and girls mean by crazy.

    I’ve had girl friends like this, and know people who have dated them. Nobody referred to them as crazy, though. More, manipulative, inconsiderate users. Hustlers. Jerks. Compulsive liars. She was doing it on purpose, right?

    I felt sad for her and her make-up job, ’cause I can imagine such a thing happening to me…trying to impress a guy, not knowing I had eyeliner smeared across my head.

  16. Krissy says:

    One thing that always seems to be true for such people, be they boy or girl, BFF or bf/gf – they always claim to come from and have access to loads of money (that we never see).

  17. Becky says:

    A little kid once stole both my and my husband’s phones at a boat launch in Stillwater. He must have been a ninja because I was RIGHT THERE the whole time, just mildly distracted in the process of pulling the boat out. They were both in my purse.

    We got back to my folks’ and the phones were gone. Assuming they had fallen out of my purse, we went back to the launch (not far from the house). They were nowhere obvious. “Call mine,” I instructed my mom, thinking it might have bounced or slid into the weeds.

    She called it. There was a little kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old, standing guard over a small boat next to the launch. His pants erupted in the theme song from Indiana Jones. I was on him like a raptor. GIVE ME MY PHONE. RIGHT NOW. I pounced on him so fast, my personal space knocked him over. I didn’t touch him. Just my vibe did or something. My bubble. He froze and fell back on his ass in the weeds. He gave me my phone. “Where’s the other one?”

    “I don’t know.”


    “I don’t know!!”

    At this point his parents showed up, trying to rush to his aid. “What’s going on?” and all that. “Your kid stole our phones.”

    I was already dialing Palani’s phone with my phone.

    Sure enough, the kid’s pants went off again.

    “Give it to me now, you little shit, or I’m calling the cops and they’ll throw you in JAIL” I said to him.

    “Hey!” his parents said.

    “Shut up!” I said.

    He handed over the phone. We left.

    I probably could have skipped the “little shit” part. That was a bit much. I was pissed.

    • Greg says:

      Now this story makes me very happy.

    • Matt says:

      This is exactly why I never take my phone with me when I go to the beach. I’m pretty good about keeping an eagle eye on my stuff when I’m out in the water, but even if I spot someone rifling through my bag I likely won’t be able to get there in time to do anything about it. Best solution is just to not bring anything worth stealing.

      • Becky says:

        Yeah, but…the Stillwater boat launch isn’t exactly a San Diego-area beach. I mean, it’s a pretty small town, relatively speaking (though that’s changing). “Beware pickpockets” is not really something that goes through your mind there.

        We had been camping for 3 days on the river, so I had basically everything of any importance or usefulness with me.

        • Matt says:

          It’s actually relatively safe to leave your stuff at the beach, at least for short periods. I’ve never had anything stolen, nor has anyone I know. I’m just a bit paranoid about it.

  18. You know there are interesting not-crazy single women in the world! I’m friends with many of them. If you need help finding them, email me, and I’ll set you up.

  19. Tammy Allen says:


    Tip your pizza man.

  20. jmblaine says:

    Batman, I am not.

    If I saw that as the title
    of a book
    I would go straight for it.

    You really paced this well.
    These stories are so hard to tell right
    just the right mix of insight and cluelessness.
    Not being too much the shmuck or hero.

    The two pennies apex was just perfect.
    Boose, write us a bunch more stories like this.
    Do a whole series on crazy-ass ex-girlfriends.

  21. Erika Rae says:

    Batman I am not.

    That line made me laugh, too. What was up with the mascara, though?

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