Does her tattoo have the word fudge in it? 
I inched closer. 

 
Fudge me. 
It said something about…
… fudge me
 
That can’t be right. 

Can it? 
 
We stood in a foot of water at the edge of a lake. This was my first group-camping trip. Friends had invited us, and we knew they had invited other friends, as well. But those other friends also invited other friends, who invited other friends and relatives. The result was a colony of adults and kids camping along a reservoir. The fudge me lady represented the greatest degree of separation between me and any other member of this group. I wasn’t even sure of her name. 

But gosh, I thought, if she has a tattoo with the word fudge in it, she must have a great sense of humor. The top of her swimsuit obscured my full view of the words along her upper back. I decided I had to ask. 
 
“Excuse me, I’m trying to see your tattoo. What does it say? Something about fudge?” I smiled, as disarmingly as possible. 
 
“Oh, no,” she said. “The artist just kind of made it look wrong. It says judge, not fudge.” She held her swimsuit straps aside so I could see the full tattoo, which read Only God Can Fudge Me. I mean, Only God Can Judge Me
 
The lettering of the tattoo wasn’t poorly executed, but the selection of a flowery script combined with an unfortunately located freckle spelled disaster. Or, in this case, fudge. 

 
“Oh, yes. I see it now,” I said.
 
“Yeah,” she said, “so, you know, fuck off.” 

She smiled and laughed. 
 
Wow, I thought. This chick is impressive. I’d never been told to fuck off in quite such a masterful manner. She had a way of laughing and smiling as she said the words. She even nudged me like we were old friends sharing a joke. But the meaning was clear.
 
A little while later, I found myself floating on a raft, which was tied to three other rafts. All the moms of the camping group piled in to float lazily and without children, while the dads took over the parental duties on shore. 

Everyone had a beer in hand, and half of the moms also had their vape in the other. 


If you’re not familiar with a vape, this is the contraption that looks like a little designer crack pipe. Or perhaps a stylish plastic tampon. Though it’s harder to reconcile the image of someone sucking on a plastic tampon than a crack pipe. 
 
In any case, about half of the women had them. I wasn’t really bothered by this. It doesn’t emit the same odor that cigarettes do, because it’s water vapor as opposed to smoke, and if my kids asked about it, I’d just tell them that some of the women took comfort in sucking on stylish plastic tampons. 
 
At some point, my new BFF, the one who has an exclusive arrangement with God when it comes to fudging, took over the conversation. She became very emotional while discussing her relationship with her fiancé. One of the difficulties of the relationship was that the lucky man was behind bars. She’d met him while visiting her brother while he was behind bars. Which isn’t that atypical, if you think about it. Because basically that’s just like dating your brother’s roommate. 
 
“But it’s not his fault,” she explained. At this point she told a story I’ll refrain from exploiting in full detail. Suffice it to say that it involved a culture of violence in which her fiancé, at a very young age, found himself as both victim and perpetrator. “So he went in for ten years.”
 
“From the age of twelve?” someone asked. 
 
“Yeah. And then he got out.”
 
We were all silent, waiting to hear what put him back in. 
 
“But it’s not his fault that he went back in, either, because he stabbed some drug dealer in the throat but he didn’t even know the guy. He wasn’t involved.” 

She paused to cry and vape and drink.

This made me question how I define the word involved. I think when you stab someone in the throat, you are automatically involved, whether you want to be or not. And if they had no prior involvement, why the stabbing? Is this how people with no connection between them greet each other these days? Or did this man have a problem of stabbing random strangers in the throat and this particular stranger turned out to be a drug dealer? So many questions.
 
“And I know he’s a violent man. And I worry how my choices will affect my children.” She had a preteen and a four-year-old, who were thankfully back on shore and out of earshot. The fact that she felt some concern for how this would affect her children seemed a good sign. But of course, she ruined it by continuing to speak. 
 
“But even though he’s a violent man, he’s never been violent to women.”
 
I wanted to interject, “Well, he’s never been convicted of being violent toward women,” but thought better of it. She might try to stab me in the throat with her vape. “We’ve been together for six years and we have two more to go before he gets out. And the only reason this relationship has worked is because I’m so loyal.”
 
“So, you two just get to see each other on conjugal visits?” asked my friend, the one who had invited us on the camping trip and was increasingly feeling embarrassed that she had done so. 
 
My BFF stopped crying and laughed, the same way she laughed when telling me to fuck off earlier in the day. “Oh, we don’t get conjugal visits.”
 
“Then how did you get your four-year-old?” my friend asked.
 
“I cheated on him.” She was serious and somber again. I too strove for serious and somber, struggling not to remind her that she’d attributed their relationship “success” to her loyalty, not twenty seconds prior. 
 
Eventually we made our way back to shore, the sane ones among us waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out from behind a camper and let us know that we’d been Punk’d. 
 
When we reached the shore, we were invited to try the Shaken Baby. This is a drink, not an abused child, but I feel the same way about the term Shaken Baby for a drink, as I do about Wife Beater for an article of clothing. Is it funny? I mean, I’m okay with things that are wrong, even multi-dimensionally wrong, but they have to be funny, too. When it comes to shaking babies or beating wives, I don’t know, I just need an additional play on words or something. I guess I’m hard to please that way. 
 
I’m equally unimpressed with names of drinks like Sex on the Beach or Pink Panties. I get that they’re sexual, it’s not really… subtle. 
 
In any case, the drink in question is in a gallon-sized glass jar which is shaken and passed around the group and shaken some more. You don’t need to shake it violently, and the shaker more resembles a concerned parent than a child abuser when in charge of the jar, but I guess the name Soothed Baby wouldn’t be as seductive for the general public, which is apparently really hot for child abuse. 
 
My BFF approached the shore but was still in a foot of water when a guy from the group approached her and held up the jar for her to take a sip. I shuddered with the realization that the jar would be passed around for everyone to drink from. I’m pretentious and hygienic that way. 

Given my BFF’s emotional state of a few minutes before, I couldn’t help but view giving her tequila a lot like pouring lighter fluid on a fire. The guy holding the jar realized she was going to need to hold the jar herself. Her preteen stood off to the side. Her dilemma, one we’ve all faced of course, was that she wanted to get a drink from the jar, but she held her beer in one hand and her vape in the other. And she was standing in water, so she couldn’t set them down. At that moment, she needed a third hand. Then she looked at her preteen and realized that this is precisely why we have children. But the preteen didn’t jump to attention quick enough, so my BFF barked at her. “Hold my fucking beer!” When addressing her child, she didn’t have much of the finesse she’d had when telling me to fuck off, but really, the kid deserved it. I mean, shouldn’t she have immediately known to hold her mother’s vape or shitty American beer so that mommy dearest could drink sugary booze from a large vat? Duh. 


I completely support teaching your kids sign language,
but this might not be the message you want to send. 

The twelve-year-old calmly took her mother’s beer, set it on the bank, said “There’s your beer,” and walked away. Her reaction was practiced; I sensed she’d perfected the art of extracting herself from such confrontations to avoid a slap across the face. 

But here’s the silver lining, because I know that you need it right now: that child looked at her mother with disdain. And there’s a chance she was weighing her options, realizing that she had a choice to make of who she wanted to be.

I spent the rest of the trip considering the falsehood of my BFF’s tattoo. Not just the fudge me part, but how she intended it to read. Because in addition to the possibility of being judged by God, if that’s your belief, you can also be judged by friends, neighbors, strangers, the justice system, and your own children. Her tattoo was nothing more than a fuck you to the world, indiscreetly couched in religious pretense. 


The world of Mommy Bloggers has long been rising up against the culture of moms judging other moms for how we feed, school, and scold our kids. And I’m in agreement, because parenting is hard, it’s a different experience for everyone, and we do the best we can. But when you snap at your kid to hold your fucking beer, I’m sorry, judgement is creeping in. Followed closely by pity for all involved. I am certain that this wasn’t the first time the twelve-year-old had been screamed at to hold mommy’s fucking beer. I’m certain she’s endured much worse. I’m certain the same is true, and will continue to be true, for her younger sister. 


I’ve been sitting on this blog for some time, not sure whether or not to put it out there. Is it too serious? At times. Is it me being mean to someone with a difficult lot in life? Maybe. But if you tell me to fuck off and then hand me a platter overflowing with material I could never dream up on my own, chances are I’ll write about it. Will this come back to haunt me? It’s possible. But life is short regardless, so in the meantime, pass the fudge.