While stepping into my mother’s shower, I was reminded of my adolescent days when I would keep the fan off, letting the steam fill the bathroom. This way, when I stepped onto the bath mat, I wouldn’t see my body and facial acne on my naked reflection in the vanity mirror. My sensitive skin has always been a burden and my laziness has always been my downfall. Even into my thirties I struggle. I usually know how to help my skin, but I just don’t feel like it most of the time. Booze, no sleep, and how I look with makeup on the next morning when waking up next to an almost complete stranger are too irresistible.
The steam from the shower would provide two buffers:
1. Against my insecurities
2. Against the death grip that a South Dakotan winter takes.
Dry as dust and fucking freezing, my life was yearly miserable for 27 years. When I moved to New York I found out the characters from Seinfeld truly had no reason to bitch about absolutely anything at all. People in NYC would comment on how I seemed to fit into the scene effortlessly. First of all, a party girl fits in everywhere no matter where she’s from, and secondly, it’s because once you survive a midwest winter, homeless people shouldn’t scare you. Lastly, this is not something to be proud of.
When I saw my adolescent silhouette in the foggy mirror, I would admire how my shape was developing as I entered my teens. Skinny, feminine, and high cheek bones hold great promise in a highly marginalized female world, as long as I didn’t turn the fan on or open the door to the cold reality waiting outside my bathroom. Every single skin remedy was tried in my youth, and my twenties, and even now I could be fooled by some silly lotion or vitamin, but the truth of the matter is, we are who we are. Accutane DOES NOT last forever. I will never forget crying before the All State Choir concert in a hotel room surrounded by my sympathetic tenth grade cohorts, ashamed of how my skin looked in my silky pink dress. A year later Kelly the bitch would remind me of how bizarre that incident was, and then breeze on to complain about how people make fun of her for being too skinny. I wanted to tell her right then and there that she should worry more about how her blond head bobbles jerkily when she sings high notes, when she actually hits them.
I just wanted to wear a tank top without feeling self conscious, or no makeup for once. When I looked at myself, I only saw ugly red, painful bumps. Looking back I realize I was and am still incredibly vain and shortsighted. My stupid problems haven't developed, unlike my perfect breasts. I still leave the fan off in the bathroom to enjoy the steamy glow it gives me in the mirror.
A fog is a fog is a fog.
Summer can arrive and bring humidity and clear my skin, but I can still try to drink away my problems into a forgetful fog. I can still endlessly work a job I hate because if I keep working I can buy things I don’t need to make me feel better about the life I don’t have. A sale at Nordstrom Rack or DSW is no different than the bargain bag day at my mother’s beloved Padres. Compulsive shopping is a family trait, as I’ve mentioned before. My grandmother would insist on stopping at each dinky garage sale on her block in Sioux Falls to buy some silly trinket no one in their right mind should own. Even when I stayed with her the summer before she died, we’d have to go to the Goodwill in Yankton, SD or the thrift store in her new hometown of Scotland, SD (yes, there’s a town named Scotland in South Dakota. The capital is Pierre. Don’t blame a bunch of farmers for wanting a little culture), and her basket or cart would be filled with china or candlesticks or faded framed pictures. Like a cycle, I’d have to put some of it back, she’d buy a few things, and I’d have to clear it out later. Her house didn’t need five fourth of July commemorative plates or a new set of tea towels with the days of the week embroidered in pinks and yellows. Sadly, she always forgot she bought them the next day. Instant gratification is fleeting.
The same traits can be seen in my mother, my aunts, and my uncle. “Collectors.” Don’t get me wrong, My mother and Aunt Janet have made a pretty good side business out of selling other people’s junk, but they all take it too far, with Mom in the lead. Of course she has been supporting a lot of our family for quite some time. Where is the help in return? She is alone on this heap of land covered in junk and jungle. I guess if I wasn’t desperate for change, I wouldn’t be here either. All I can say is I’ve been here for her in the past, and it’s time for the rest of my family to help.
Although I did jack shit yesterday. I think I slept a total of 900 hours and watched too much Charmed to be deemed an adult. I’d look at my room filled with boxes and bullshit and felt exhausted. This room isn’t even that bad, but the burden of each room after this one rolled over me like the time my friend’s car rolled over my foot in the parking lot of my high school. I knew I was ok because my shoes were too big for me, my toes safely a half inch away from the tire, but the panic of a possible broken foot still made me yelp. Mom is a reasonable person, but she will not make this easy. Her sentimentality will guilt and argue for the value of each item, valuable or not, and the idea of that makes me want three bottles of Chenin Blanc available at all times.
A bad habit is a bad habit is a bad habit. Just feel it roll over you.
I learned the cats names today. Mitsy has grey and white mottled spots and seems nice enough. My uncle named the other cat Carmelita, a brown and white creature, but my mom doesn’t like that name. I don't blame her, doesn't exactly roll off the tongue when you're yelling at the thing to stop scratching an antique chair. So we call her Carmen, a great improvement, especially when I lose my mind and start dressing up the cats. I know I'm not allowed to dress like Carmen San Diego in every day life, but I won't deprive the cat.
Simone, the third cat, is probably about 17 years old. I feel like I’ve known her my entire life and therefore she must be one hundred in cat years. Not sure about the science there, but Simone hasn’t changed since my childhood: fun and frisky, a bit mean, and aware of how beautiful she is. Grey and frothy, like the Hudson River. She has little white hairs speckling her coat now that she’s older, but she’s seems to have embraced her role as the matriarch of the Mitsy and Carmelita. Her hiss is quite powerful. You know, if these kittys weren’t fixed we’d have quite the brothel in our home. Madame Simone with her lovely ladies Miss Mitsy and Señorita Carmelita. AND all the way from the Big Apple we have City Slicker Strong for your entertainment this evening folks! Serenading your while our lovely pussies meet your every need. Tomcats everywhere couldn't resist.
If I’m truly going to dive into this mess with my mother, I might as well dress my newly acquired cats up as hussies.
Once on vacation in Custer, South Dakota, we were planning a wild west photo shoot for the family. I was reading in the midcentury cabin style motel we always stayed in, near a window overlooking the small but surprisingly scenic parking lot. My father, always the constant contemptuous being, asked me, “So, you want to dress up like a hussy, do you?” His tone was joking and disapproving at the same time. Me, barely understanding what the word hussy meant, quietly defended myself. I wanted to dress up. Dressing up in costumes is fun. He didn’t push the issue, nor stop us the next day, although he could never allow himself to look like he was also having fun. His two son’s choice to dress as gunslingers he most definitely approve of, however. Honestly, a good father would have openly persuaded, “Why not dress as Calamity Jane? Women were also badasses then!”
Alas, if he had been trying to teach me about early sex workers, or opening up my young feminist mind with his snide comment, it hadn’t worked. I, at 13 years old, felt pretty in my corseted dress with feathers, happy as ever. As was my 5 year old sister standing next to me. Don’t blame the children, blame the old timey photo store for having children sized hussy costumes.
While washing the dishes after a fine meal of grilled chicken with curried couscous surrounded by some old records my mom bought while visiting my sister in Boulder, Colorado (she assumes the guy died because the collection is stellar, and I agree since no one alive would ever give up Purple Rain) and testing all three giant bottles of long opened wine in the fridge (Wine lesson: if a merlot is very cheap, it will probably taste fine after being refrigerated for a week or two. A tangy sangria of sorts. Add some cherries and Cocoa Cola and you have a midwestern masterpiece.), I listened to my mother watch Wheel of Fortune. After taking a sip of Sauvignon Blanc (freshly opened, still not good) I start lazily scrubbing a piece of gristle off a plate. Suddenly Mom yells, “Sweet potato biscuit!” and gleefully giggles when the contestants still aren't able to figure out the puzzle, despite her outburst.
What will happen when the hosts of Wheel of Fortune retire? Or die? Can they die? Bots and computer programs are taking jobs, but I don’t think an android could do theirs. Pat and Vanna have to be delightful to people and we all know people to be the absolute worst. The sheer amount of people in this world is throwing everything off balance, how's anyone to reason with let alone be delightful to masses of people who don't listen. Not to my mother yelling at the tv screen, anyway.
These hosts look exactly the same as they did twenty years ago, so they must be making bank. Do they get laid constantly? They must, what good is being famous if you can’t get laid easily. Even if their conquests are mostly elderly. An adoring fan is an adoring fan is an adoring fan.
Maybe I’ll start watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune every night like my mother and grandparents and every person without Netflix does. I might become more intelligent, but I’m worried the onslaught of commercials every 3 to five minutes might be detrimental to my mental health. Better to stick with mainlining Charmed into my sockets with a snort of Instagram memes.