It Was the 1960s…

Alright, since you all seem to really like stories about my mom, I thought I’d give you one of my favorite ones.  Like I’ve said before, I had gone back and forth across the sexuality fence from about 19 until I met Wifesy around 35.  I do believe sexuality in women is a bit more fluid, or society is a bit more accepting, or gives less of a sh*t when it comes to female sexuality.  It’s one of those.  So, I never found this back and forth to be much of a problem.


My mom was aware that there were women in my life.  I don’t think she liked it, for god’s sake, but she was aware.


At the time, I had been waiting tables at this very waiter-centered restaurant.  I say “waiter-centered” because it was probably the best place to work – ever – if you were a waiter/ performer/ creative type.  The schedule was flexible, the staff was hilarious (some of them even made it to broadway.  seriously.), and the money was great.  The waiters basically ran the place.  I liked the gig – while it was run in the waiter’s favor, anyway – because I could be as crazy as I wanted with the customers.  Not rude or anything like that, but I could be funny without holding back.  This particular place actually saw that quality as a plus.  One time the restaurant ran a contest for the waiters.  The contest was whoever sold the most “souvenir” glasses would get a free dinner for two at the joint’s fancier, sister restaurant.  I worked my section, each and everyday, and over the course of the week, I won the damn thing.


I decided to take my mom to my prize dinner.  It was a fancy french place with a roast chicken specialty.  I knew mom would like it.  I thought after the dinner, we could go to a broadway show.  Oddly, my mom kept saying to me that she wanted to see, “The Vagina Chronicles.”  Now, of course, the name of this show was the “Vagina MONOLOGUES,” but Mom still has a touch of her Spanish accent from time to time and there are words that just won’t quite click.  For some reason, “monologues” was one of them.  I kept saying, “It’s not the Vagina Chronicles.  We don’t come back the next week and the week after to see what happens to the Vaginas.  It’s a one time only, Vagina performance.  Women get up and tell MONOLOGUES about their lady parts.”  And she would respond with, “That sounds wonderful.  Get tickets to the Vagina Chronicles.”


The fact that my mother wanted to see the “Vagina Chronicles” at all was interesting to me.  She’s not much of a feminist.  I watched a Gloria Steinem video recently and was amazed by the very forward thinking and activist women of that time frame.  My mom was definitely not one of them.  In fact, whenever I brought up something related to feminism, my mom would say something like, “Why do you hate men?”  I’m not kidding.  That’s what she would say.  And I would have to respond, “This isn’t really about men at all.  It’s about supporting women.”  The conversation would die there.  So, my mom requesting the “Vagina Chronicles” was very intriguing to me.


The awesome Gloria in her 60s glory.


I scored tickets and off we went.  First, was the dinner.  At that time, mom was a drinker.  I liked my booze too and it was New York city, so no one was driving.  We had a few with dinner and then a coffee-liquor-treat at the end.  It was nothing crazy, but enough to  feel a little buzzy.  At one point, mom seemed weepy.  Literally, weepy.  I asked her if everything was alright and she said yes.  But, the weepiness wasn’t going away, so I pressed on.


“Are you sure you’re alright?”  I asked.


“Yes,” she said.


“What is it?  Is it your health?”  I asked.


“No, I’m fine.”


“Dad’s health?”


“No, he’s fine.”


“Is it my brother?  Is my brother okay?”


“He’s fine.”


“Okay, what is this about?  Wait, a minute.  Is this about the gay thing?  Are you having a moment about that right now?  Is this about me having been with women?”


“Yes, yes,” she said trying to hold it together.


“Don’t worry, Mom.  I can handle it and it’s all going to be alright,” I said.


“I don’t know.  I don’t know,” she said.  “I don’t know if it’s right – two women living together with a Jeep and a dog!”


And at that moment, I had to keep it together and not laugh because the image was just SO specific and at the same time SO right when it comes to a lot of lesbians.  I mean she even got the Jeep part!  Mom was close to 66 years old at the time.


I tried to reassure her.


“I’m telling you, Mom, it’s fine.  Don’t even worry about it.  I have that under control.”


By that I meant, simply – I’m going to be me.  I’m strong enough to be me – regardless of what the world thinks.  It’s okay, you’ve done well by me.  I thought I was putting the matter to bed, so we could have a good time.  Then Mom said something I totally wasn’t expecting…


She put her drink down and bellowed:


“Alright!  It was the 1960s.  It was San Francisco.  There was one woman.  Maybe I loved her.  But, she was cutting herself.  THEY ALL CUT THEMSELVES.”


I paused.  I sucked all the air deep into my lungs as I do right before I’m about to spin off into another orbit.  I looked around the room to make sure I was the only one who had heard Mom’s declaration.  I let my brain digest it.  Did my mom just make an admission to an affair with a lesbian cutter!!!!!  Like Jenny from the L Word for god feckin’ sakes!!!!!  Yes, yes, indeed, she did.


“YOU WHAAAAATTT?!!”  I yelled back.


Mom began to repeat her statement.  I stopped her.


“Oh no, no, no.”  I said.  “I don’t even care if that’s true.  I never want to hear that again.  It’s hard enough to picture you with Dad and as far as I’m concerned, that’s only ever happened twice.”


Mom loosened up after I said that and started to calm down.  Me, I’ve never forgotten that moment.  It was hilarious and touching.  It was Mom trying to tell me she’s human too and it was her way of trying to understand.  It also grossed me out in that way kids always get grossed out by the sexual lives of their parents.  It proved to me – in one hilarious moment – that everything was going to be just fine.



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Photo creds:  Gloria, women’s march