Apparently Alcoholism is the Least of My Worries. And Carrie Bradshaw is the Root of All Evil.
I’m just going to say it.
Apparently I can expect a big, fat lump of coal in my stocking this year, because apparently I have not been a good girl.
In fact, not only am I writing this post on stolen property (this is Justin’s computer — mine is still kaput), but I’m also obsessed with sex and swearing.
This is what I’m told.
But the good news is, it’s not my fault.
Really, it all started with my mom’s vagina.
The Scene: Thanksgiving Day, 2011. My little sister’s adorable apartment is filled with smells from holidays past. Her culinary skills unthwarted by working with limited tools and nonexistent lighting, the turkey has been roasted to a goldeny perfection, and it’s literally oozing the butter and garlic she’s been injecting into it for the past 6 hours.
Our table is tiny, but it has all the necessities: Four plates full of Kelly’s avian delicacy, skin-on smashed potatoes, green bean casserole with fresh green beans, some kind of awesome stuffing I can’t even begin to describe, Mom’s homemade gravy, and my completely out of this world sweet potato casserole.
Except one plate — my brother’s plate — is missing the casserole.
I don’t want to talk about it.
But we also have wine. It’s good wine, and everything feels okay thus far because Ma had only just arrived, right on time to make her famous gravy using primitive cookware and completely sans tupperware shaker, oh miracle of miracles, and this night in Fort Lauderdale is the first time the 4 of us have been together in as many years. In fact, it’s the first time the 4 of us have been together unsupervised ever, I’m pretty sure.
I fill Ma’s glass.
So this is a family dinner, it dawns. The conversation is pleasant. We jibe and cajole — the things families do when it’s been a while, and the laughter is real. I look around the table and think about how different we all are, yet somehow the same. We siblings have the same sense of humor — it’s crass. But we make no apologies because life, after all, is too short. The humor must be genetic because we weren’t together long enough to learn it. Joel basically grew up alone with my mother, spending time with his father according to whatever arrangements the grown-ups had made, and then eventually my dad comes along, and Joel’s stepmother, and new families are created and he’s kind of stuck there in the middle dealing with that and who knows whatever else teenage boys deal with when the world is at its most confusing. He escaped when he was 17.
I managed to float through adolescence with nary a scratch. My father moved us to Nebraska (from Minnesota) when I was in 7th grade. I was awkward, to be sure — I never went to prom or involved myself fully at school, though my grades were superb. I flipped burgers when I was 15, then learned about the world of “white-collar” work when I accepted a 30-hour/week position at Best Buy during high school. Ironically, my co-workers at the one job for which I’ve ever had to submit to a urine test are the co-workers who taught me to smoke from a water bong. And the rest is a bit of a blur, until I emerged from the haze to attend college in Ohio, near-but-not-too-close to Joel.
Kelly is tough. Though only 4 1/2 years apart, it might has well have been the world for how little we knew each other. It seemed we were always pitted against one another — brains (me) versus beauty (her) in an all-out battle of who’s-gonna-make-it-out-of-this-with-an-ounce-of-self-esteem-intact? I’m pretty sure most women can relate.
We weren’t close. But then I ditched her for college, and somehow we became close, through the distance. And then when Dad left but didn’t physically leave, an event that gave our mom a proverbial eye twitch — a twitch that must have somehow sent electrical signals to the place in depths of her brain where all logic exists and shorted a fuse and suddenly everything was emotion — all emotion, all the time (can you really blame her?), Kelly begged me to come home. So I quit school, told Dad to move out, provided tissues for Ma’s spirals, and tried to convince Kelly that everything would be okay. That really, whose parents don’t get divorced anymore? But, at age 16, the damage had been done.
I’m pretty sure none of them remember any of it. That haze was far more potent than anything I might have smoked in high school.
But we emerged, mostly, and while the stale stench still lingers, we’re all creating lives. Pretty good ones, at that.
So we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table and I’m thinking about how the lines between blood and upbringing are blurry, for sure, and I realize it’s strange how the lives of 3 siblings could have been so diverse when, after all, we all came from the same vagina.
So I say just that.
Only without all of the background context and qualifiers, so it just comes out as, “Isn’t it weird that we all came from the same vagina?”
Sometimes my thoughts run ahead of my mouth and the actual words can’t keep up, so they paraphrase.
It doesn’t always work out.
For a moment everyone is quiet, of course, because who doesn’t want to take a moment to contemplate a thought like that while eating roasted turkey with cranberry stuffing and mom’s gravy and — “EWWWWWW!” (From my brother and sister simultaneously.)
Ma just looks at me — that knowing look — and says, “Katie, I know why you’re so obsessed with sex and swearing.”
Really? This is news to me. I mean, I like sex, and I have been known to cuss inappropriately from time to time (maybe more in front of Mom because I know it bugs her), but now I’m obsessed? This is how it works? You mention your mom’s vagina ONE time at the dinner table, and suddenly you’re a maniac? And certainly, while I mentioned a certain unmentionable body part, I was definitely not talking about sex.
“And I know it’s my fault,” she continued.
Now I’m intrigued. Because, while I’d argue ceaselessly about her use of the word “obsessed,” I’m willing to put that on hold to hear this.
“Well. Remember when I bought those DVD’s?” she asked, her voice losing its laughter and growing somber. “Those… Sex and the City DVD’s?”
“And you asked if you could watch them? And I let you, even though I hadn’t seen them yet?”
“And then, when I finally watched them, I couldn’t believe I’d let you watch them…”
Is this really happening?
“And now you’re obsessed with sex and swearing and it’s all my fault!”
I’m pretty sure, at that point, that some cranberry stuffing flew out my nose. We laughed. But hard.
“Well,” I retorted while taking a sip of my wine, “thank God I became an alcoholic too, so I could deal with all of the trauma! The trauma that was undoubtedly caused by Sex and the City!”
I mean, duh. Obviously it’s Carrie Bradshaw’s fault.
In fact, I’m pretty sure this excuse will now work for everything:
Honey, I know we can’t afford those $300 curtains. But Carrie Bradshaw made me buy them!
What? I know you wanted to save that nice bottle of Cabernet for our anniversary, but Carrie Bradshaw told me to drink it!”
Okay, I know I’m not supposed to talk about my mom’s vagina during Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s Carrie who tells me to do these things! She’s all up in my head!
And now, should I ever decide to see a shrink again, I’ll know who to blame.