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By Des Jedeikin

There are plenty of reasons I enjoyed having young parents. Sipping Mommy's lime daiquiri while we watched The Muppet Show together. Frankenberry for breakfast, Booberry for lunch and Count Chocula for dinner whenever Daddy was in charge. Sitting at the bar enjoying all-you-can-eat tacos and maraschino cherries, while my mom worked as a cocktail waitress at the Monday Night Football happy hour in the Jacksonville, Florida hotspot, Bombay Bicycle Club. "Partay!" my mom would say after she told me the babysitter had canceled and I would have to go to work with her! And how could I forget the excitement of cable television, staying up late with Daddy, who let me eat Cremora powdered coffee creamer straight from the jar, as we watched Porky's: The Movie. "Look at the size of those pig's balls" he'd scream with laughter, as I looked at him adoringly.

These things still amuse me. Other parenting decisions they made, although enjoyable at the time, have begun to seem a little more questionable. These decisions range from small (letting me eat people's discarded fried shrimp tails at a BBQ, taking pictures of me when I was a toddler wearing a stuffed bra) to large (waking up one morning to find Mommy and Daddy passed out naked and in the 69 position, letting me have a wild raccoon as a pet). In a childhood of American cheese tacos and a disturbing awareness of un-groomed hippie nudity, perceptions of normalcy are oddly skewed.

Another point to be made about having immature parents is that while they score high marks in the playmate department, they usually flunk out when it comes to actually teaching their children how to grow up. Their emotional maturity gets stunted at the level it was when they had you, making it extremely possible to eclipse their maturity level as an elementary school student. I was a gifted child and managed to become the adult of the house at age five. I confess that I did reap a lot of benefits by being able to outwit and manipulate my parents, but there were times when I could have used someone with a few more leadership qualities. It is one thing to get out of trouble by promising to share your Halloween bounty, but when some serious shit goes down, you don't want someone who thinks it's a good idea to remove a loose baby tooth by tying it to a doorknob and then slamming the door.

While my dad had a laissez-faire parenting style, my mom had an inkling they should be doing something to guide me. Her primary method of "guiding" me through transitions or trauma was to take me to Red Lobster, and give me the good news/bad news option. The good news/bad news option was always a frightening prospect coming from a former knocked-up high school dropout who survived off the glimmer of hope that any remotely good news might bring her. With my mom it was always more of a bad news/ "look-on-the-bright-side less worse news" choice.

When I was eight years old my mom came up with an amazing good news/bad news scenario. I knew it was bad because not only were we having lunch at Red Lobster, but I was finally allowed to order the surf and turf (my first dream come true!) and I was even allowed to get a Shirley Temple (I had already decided that if ever I was on death row this would be my last meal -- with a Dairy Queen banana split for dessert). When she asked me which news I would prefer to hear first, I stared blankly, my brain short-circuited by the enormity of the possibilities. It was very difficult to concentrate because I had run out of my melted butter-like substance. As I tried to get our waitress's attention, Mom decided it was best to tell me the bad news first. I could tell she was serious because she had the pained expression of thought on her face and the scent of crème de menthe on her breath (my mom only drinks daiquiris and grasshoppers). I felt slightly underdressed in my halter-top short set, for what was sure to be an important life moment.

"Punkin', I have some bad news," she said with all the learned feeling of a TV mom on a very special episode. "Daddy and I are getting a divorce."

She looked like she really felt bad for me, so I knew that I was supposed to be traumatized by this news. But quite frankly, I was an extremely jaded eight-year-old. I knew how to play the game.

"Nooo!" I said doing my best, wounded prime-time moppet imitation. I knew I was expected to be really upset, but my child survival instincts kicked in and I thought about what I would ask for to make me feel better, all that cheap junk that is a waste of money -- Wacky Packages trading cards, Chunkies, and real "Day of the Week" underwear, not the cheap Pic-n-Save brand that she bought me, the ones that included the inexplicable "'weekend" pair. I was so busy planning my life as a spoiled divorced child, with parents buying my love with Cabbage Patch Dolls and Pound Puppies, I completely forgot that I also had some "look-on-the-bright-side less worse news" coming my way.

"But don't be too upset because the truth is he's not your real father anyway."

I have pinpointed this as the exact moment when I started eating for comfort.


My mind was flooded with questions. No fight for custody? No loser parent kidnapping me, dying my hair and changing my name to Jennifer, convincing me that it's all some exciting game of playacting? Does this mean I can't watch the basic cable premiere of Motel Hell this weekend with "him?" In my head I was franticly screaming these questions. For a moment a look crossed her face, a look that said, "This kid is fucked," but the look faded as she nervously sucked on her Alaskan king crab leg in an attempt to reassure me that everything was fine as she waited for the hard-hitting questions of a child scorned.

"Can I have your hush puppies?" I said.

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