FRESH YARN presents:
I'm looking at my Cabaret Singer-In-Law's vagina. My Cabaret Singer-In-Law is actually my Mother-In-Law who dreams of being a cabaret singer. At 70, she's still "hoping to have her moment." Regardless, right here, right now, I'm looking at her vagina, which she has "accidentally" shown to me by way of lifting her dress to show me her shoes.
"Look, my first Jimmy Choos," she says as she parts the thigh high slit of her dress to reveal her newest accessories. Unfortunately, shoes aren't the only accessory she has revealed. While she has been thoughtful enough to wear underwear, they're the lacy and sheer kind, worn more for decoration than for the coverage they provide.
Personally, I would understand her revealing her privates while showing me her shoes were she a midget or a woman suffering from Dwarfism, but my Cabaret Singer-In-Law is a 5'4" Manhattanite. Her shoes and her labia aren't that close together.
I can guarantee you that most humans have some idea when a private, rarely seen the light of day body part has been let free, but apparently my Cabaret Singer-In-Law's vagina is immune to temperature changes, breezes, and the beating sun. So that's how, in Mexico, on my wedding day, I am looking at my Cabaret Singer-In-Law's vagina.
Now, two years later, I'm standing in my Cabaret Singer-In-Law's Manhattan townhouse and that story comes to mind. My husband and I have brought our son to New York to visit his grandparents. Unfortunately, my Cabaret Singer-In-Law isn't happy. She's not spent her pre-decided, yet undisclosed to me, amount of time with her grandson. She's angry. She's frothing. She's yelling. I fear she'll break into song.
It all started with me asking my Father-In-Law if he wanted to go for a walk with the baby and me. "Nope," he says without looking up from his newspaper. "I don't want to spend time with you." He pauses and then reveals the conspiracy theory he's concocted that I've kept his grandchild away from him. "I woke up at 8:00 this morning just to spend time with the baby," he tells me.
"Remember," I tell him for what might be the 30th time, "the baby is on L.A. time so he sleeps until 9:00 am here." Thinking this will end the conversation and my Father-In-Law will apologize for assuming my child and I should have developed some form of telepathy and gotten up earlier to play with Grandpa, I turn to leave the room. But my Father-In-Law is dead set on telling me that I've kept the baby from him. Fine, everybody is entitled to his or her opinion, they're just not entitled to my baby.
While my Father-In-Law is animated, he's not personally attacking me. But animation turns into a Me Crusade when my Cabaret Singer-In-Law enters the room. She doesn't just want to tell me that she feels like she's been kept from her god-given right to spend all her time over-stimulating my child, she wants to tell me what's wrong with me as a human. As an aging housewife long since suffering from empty nest syndrome, she's spent her later years trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. In addition to singing she's tried various hobbies, careers, and groups hoping to find her place. There was her stint in an Off-Connecticut play which she quit due to "creative differences" with the director. She tried being an extra in films, but was fired after telling the star "he didn't seem emotionally connected." And she searched for answers in a new age church, but left after remembering she's Jewish Finally, at 70, she's figured out that the best way for her to spend her life is telling others how to fix theirs.
"You're very tightly wound," she begins. "You're very defensive and you're rude."
Stunned by her outburst, I attempt to keep my cool and respectfully reply, "I'm just trying to do a good job for my baby and at the same time be a good houseguest and stay out of your way."
"Well you're a terrible houseguest. You're rude." In addition
to being rude, she tells me, I have obvious issues with life and obvious
issues with my child.
That's when my ears go deaf, my vision gets blurry and I start a whole different conversation in my head. You see, you can express yourself and while I may not agree, it's your right to express yourself. And when you start getting personal, I'm gonna bite my tongue and picture your vagina playing Peek-A-Pube with me ten minutes before I walk down the aisle. But when you attack me as a mother, when my worst crime is keeping you from my baby, you've got a problem. Low blow, unfair, all bets are off.
She's still rambling but I've already got my retort brewing in my head and it's good. I've got a genius Cold Open, an elaborate story arc, and a tear-rendering TAG at the end that will humiliate her for years to come. I've thrown in some obscenities, have cultivated the best way to throw in some family secrets, and have emptied her closet of all skeletons. I'm going to tell her that after first meeting her, I strongly considered not dating her son. I'll tell her that if I'm rude and tightly wound, then her son has definitely married his mother. And I'll top it off by telling her that a thriving Cabaret career would be in her future were it not for two roadblocks -- lack of talent and stage presence --otherwise she's a fantastic performer. But then I stop and surprise myself, which seems to be happening a lot lately.
The biggest surprise I've faced as a new parent is how often I surprise myself. I'm surprised by how much I love my little guy. I'm surprised by how much time I can spend watching him roll and squeal with delight as he discovers a new toy or texture. I'm surprised by how protective I am of this delightfully charming new person. And I'm surprised by how much need people approach a baby with. At seven and a half months, a baby isn't responsible for fulfilling anyone's life. He's not responsible for waking up early to play audience for a retiree who misses the thrill of the office. And he's not responsible for being the glue that keeps a distant family together.
Standing in my Cabaret Singer-In-Law's Manhattan townhouse, I've surprised myself again. I arrest my desire to slay her with the zingers I've conjured in my head. I stop being a writer and remind myself I'm a mother. What would my son say if I stooped as low as his grandma and dwarfed her with insults? He wouldn't say, "Mommy she deserved it." But he just might say, "Mommy you should do better."
Like my Cabaret Singer-In-Law, I'm a mother of one son and I too have spent much of my life trying to have my moment. As a creative person, I've fumbled through a failed acting career, a temporary personal assistant career, and an upstart writing career that feels like it just might be something. But honestly, the only thing I've done really well is create a charming little baby who will someday be humiliated by something I do at his wedding. And as much as I want to make my mark, my son might actually be just that. He might be the accomplishment in my life. He might be my moment. And when I see him walk down the aisle and take the hand of some wonderful girl he's crazy about, I hope I won't be standing in the wings showing off my accessories. I hope I'll be reminded that his happiness is my mark on the world.
So instead of slaying an aging dreamer with insults, I take the high road with a simple, "Well it sounds like we could all do better."
I walk out of the room, husband and baby trailing closely behind. With tears streaming down my cheeks. I head for the airport where in six hours, two taxis, and one incredibly over stimulated baby later, I'll be back at home, with my husband, my baby, and my issues all to myself. And the next time my Cabaret Singer-In-Law asks to show me her shoes, I'll simply say, "No thank you, I have a pair of my own."
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission