When I was a little boy growing up in our ghastly tract house in Cherry Hill New Jersey, my mother would sometimes get angry at me for failing to live up to her stratospheric expectations. In those bewildering moments she would snarl at me, “You know Tod, some day, you’re going to have a child, and when you do I hope he grows up to be just like you!” At the time, I dismissed her ‘good wishes’ as one too many white wine spritzers, and thought she was paying me some kind of weird, left-handed compliment. Believe me, she wasn’t. But if you really think about it, despite her 70’s era obsession with pageboy hair ‘do’s’, tri-color shag carpeting, Lucite and chrome ANYTHING and unrelenting parental criticism she was incredibly prescient in what was to become of my life.
When not up to her ass in Ajax, my mother was the most glamorous woman at our predictably nouveau- riche, restricted-to-Jews-only country club. I came to call my mother ‘Liz’ as she managed to simultaneously lose her natural nose and Brooklyn accent, while laboring to cultivate the look, manner and affectations of her idol Elizabeth Taylor. Hollywood and Broadway obsessed, my mother raised me on a steady diet of celebrity gabfests like Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore.
Each Wednesday night, like clockwork, my mother would faithfully tune in to her favorite show, The Hollywood Squares. Her hair teased a mile high, buzzed on Pink Ladies, she would shout the correct answers at the screen before queeny center square habitué Paul Lynde could ‘flamboyantly’ respond to the obviously scripted question put to him by Peter Marshall, whose criminal sense of fashion consisted of a plaid polyester leisure suit! Oy Vey! Drunk, manic and lost in her Hollywood reverie my mother was the most glamorous woman I had ever known.
Is it any wonder that my mother’s only son, me (AKA the daughter she never had) would someday move to Holly weird and despite blatant and overt FABULOUSNESS, claw his way to the top of the Hollywood shit pile? I was the American dream incarnate – I owned a thriving business, possessed gorgeous PUBLISHED homes in Los Angeles, New York and Palm Springs, and even found a man to marry me despite my unmitigated narcissism. In the grandest of Hollywood traditions, I maintained a homicidal desire to not only keep up with Joneses, but to grind them into the dirt and destroy them. Despite all of the 'riches' in my life, I felt something was missing. Instead of taking up a hobby like gardening, stamp collecting, or golf, I decided that I should have a baby, as a newborn would give my life ‘meaning’ and would be the perfect accoutrement to my Brioni suits and Gucci loafers.
To my astonishment, the blond haired, blue-eyed ‘accessory’ who came barreling into my glittering egocentric life required not only the standard Hollywood parenting ‘necessities’ such as imported, lactose-free baby formula, cashmere receiving blankets, and round-the-clock Central American nannies, he also demand something of me that was virtually unknown to any of the cultured, effete men, I knew. Some kind of weird, new parenting fad developed by some Swedish doctor in the early 90’s called NURTURING…or neutering, or neutralizing I can’t exactly remember as I was pretty drunk at the time I heard about it.
I left the dragon ladies of Iowa in the church basement, an astonished look on their faces and headed upstairs to retrieve my husband. The funeral had mercifully come to an end and George was slowly walking by himself in the solemn procession that followed the casket. The grief of losing his grandmother had finally hit him and the tears that had welled up in his eyes rolled slowly down his cheeks. His eyes searched for me and when our gaze finally met, I decided to throw all this ridiculous caution to the wind and joined him in the procession. As we walked to the cemetery hand-in-hand, our baby gurgling, the townspeople regarded us with a guarded curiosity, but no malice. We took our place on the receiving line and as each of the dragon ladies politely shook my hand they congratulated George and I on the birth of OUR son. George's aunt, the beetle lady, shook my hand and whispered into my ear, "You're here! You're Queer! We better get used to it!" My son took that opportunity to projectile vomit all over my jacket. As I cleaned Ethan's vomit off my coat, I couldn't help laughing to myself as my mother's words rang in my ears, "You know Tod, someday you're going to have a child and I hope he grows up to be just like you." In that moment, I understood her words PERFECTLY.