Sunday, February 28, 2016

Another true anecdote:

Another true anecdote: one that takes too long to set up, too many parenthetical asides and one that ends quite suddenly Once upon a time, a certain celebrity gave birth and her issue, in the manner befitting a contemporary famous person, was featured on the front of a magazine. At the risk of seeming uncharitable, let's just say this particular celebrity's infant was homely. Seriously homely. As in looked like one of those Eastern European vampire babies that swoop up into your headlights on a rainy night homely. (OK. Scratch the word "seeming" from the previous sentence: We'll own that our comment was plum mean. But if we were full bore mean, we'd give identifying info so that you could see what we're talking about.) In addition, the magazine in question was an odd choice for a famous person's offspring to appear. The usual tabloid suspects were not even close. It was more like a hobby periodical, by far, than any glossy doctor's office chat rag. Although the mother in question is famous, she isn't an entertainer in the strict definition of the word. She's formidable in her field of endeavor, one mostly filled with men and, although we don't care for her, we empathize with the sexism inherent in many attacks made on her. (Those in her profession were not once likely to be famous, but reality TV has given kleig lights to nearly anyone with a business card and a craving for ignominy.) To further cement ourselves as a generator of unkind remarks - at least several years ago when this happened - make note, please - we are aware of this defect in ourselves. It was bad. That we'd be catty not only about a person we never met but , worse, even about the looks of this stranger's blameless child: a three-month old infant who was pasty enough that he seriously resembled a cross between Boo Radley and Anastasia's little brother. We stopped short in our gleeful observations when our mother entered the room. Her admonitions to be kind to others very much covered the sin of gossip. This last we directed mostly at her oldest daughter. Our personal impressions of the nature of karma were cemented painfully in later years. Until we were famous, our tendency to gossip was a thing we minimized at every opportunity. We were, we were truly convinced, just helping people when they were not in the room. The great big barbed wire fencepost of fame shoved up our ass sideways might've served as a reminder that talking about strangers is evil, lightweight and, if nothing else, a poor tribute to a single parent who had tried to raise us much better. By way of example, early in our bout with fame, with tabloid reporters hounding us, etc. we whined about it to our mother who was not unsympathetic. We sniveled, "But Mama, they go through our garbage!" Her response was immediate and in her usual soft, reassuring voice. She simply said, "Well, honey, make them think you have cats." Because we earn our living stating unequivocal things often in equivocal ways, we greatly admired her finesse with that suggestion, which was both vivid and offensive in its intended result. Look. Maybe someone this sweet and elegant had to be our mother for comedy - that thing best borne of juxtaposition, want and agony, to take hold. Yet she is no namby pamby commentator, either, someone devoid of visceral opinion. This next is such an example. When Mother realized the person about whom my sisters and I were speaking, we paused to see if she had anything to say. We're being careful now, for fear of exposing the person to an audience after tarring and feathering her in our own prejudice. Without saying a single word, we could tell at once that this celebrity was on Mom's bad side. She then explained that the reason for her antipathy was directly tied to a public debacle in which our mystery mother had not only treated someone badly, but had done so in error and refused to apologize. With this knowledge at hand, we gently proceeded to comment on the poor little infant of infamy, if you will. After all, a very famous baby on the front of the equivalent of a stamp collecting magazine was catty enough an observation. Perhaps seeking to mitigate the meanness of her oldest sister's comments, our youngest sister tried, if not to change the subject, at least soften the punches. As it turns out,, the pregnancy itself was apparently a real surprise to baby sister and she exclaimed, "I didn't even know so-and-so was engaged or married, much less a new Mom!" It was then that our own dear Mother, long parodied among her daughters for her soft appraisals of even folks who were unrepentant jerks, both shocked and delighted us with not only a very rare negative comment about a person, but one so artfully made that it took us all several seconds to realized that's exactly what she did. She spoke precisely, "Having a child proves nothing more than so-and-so is proficient with a turkey baster."

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