My family is big on traditions. Probably not the same ones that your family practices because, well, unless they make Shwetty Balls* for Christmas, it’s likely that ours may be unique to our twisted family. One of the more innocuous ones happens to be the Chicago Auto show, which comes to town every February like clockwork, and like a well oiled machine, some members of my family always go.
It’s mandatory for some, optional for others.
Members of my family have braved blizzards, ice storms and power outages to make it out for the auto show. It’s just that important. I’m surprised that Mr. (Dr.?) Darwin doesn’t have something to say about that, but let’s just leave it at stupidity clearly being genetic a genetic trait and move on.
As for me, like my parents’ anniversary, which has always ended in disaster one way or another, I tend to keep it OFF my calendar because Something always comes up. That Something changes year to year, but it’s safe to say that I’ll probably never get to go again. And not, like you may imagine, because I want to avoid it.
I do happen to have a vagina and I do happen to like both power tools and cars (lest you think me a closeted lesbian, I also like Chanel bags), and the auto show is always a blast. But many years ago now when I was 16 or 17, I went with my father and my uncle out to McCormick place and oogled cars.
Nothing like looking at cars can make a person work up an appetite, so afterwards, we traditionally go to China Town for lunch/dinner (linner?). It’s been awhile since I’ve gone with (for the aforementioned sinister-sounding Something has kept me apart) but I’d bet you that there’s a traditional restaurant they eat at every year as well.
The year I’m talking about, though, it was just my uncle, my father and I that went. My brother was off being Continental and/or Worldly and I was just pumped to be able to take a day off from high school where I didn’t have to have one of my friends call me in. And going to china town had a specific mission for me: I wanted a Kimono top.
(seriously, knock that judgey shit OFF, I was COOL)
My uncle had begged off, perhaps to go meet up with one of his motor head buddies–he’s an AVID Corvette Guy, which should mean something if you know any other Corvette People–so it was just my dad and I together in the store.
My father, I must explain, is one of the most modest people about the human body that I’ve ever met. I was an OOPS baby, I have an MUCH older brother, and I’d be willing to bet that my father had never imagined having a daughter, much less have to deal with her when she grew boobs. As a teenager, whenever I’d pop back downstairs on the way back to bed in an oversized shirt (nothing, I should add was hanging out), he’d scream, “ACK, PUT SOME CLOTHES ON, REBECCA!” Then he would cover his eyes dramatically and refuse to open them again until I went upstairs.
And they say drama doesn’t run in families. (don’t they?)
He’d carry on whenever I was nursing one of the babies like I was flagrantly prancing about the room in pasties and a g-string trying to give my relatives a lap dance, and it’s grown to be sort of a joke. Aren’t you glad that YOUR family is so normal now?
But the fact that I had boobies now made him uncomfortable, and while I certainly didn’t really worry about my dad seeing me in my bra since he had, at one point (although, I should mention, not for many years) changed my poopy drawers, I respected that.
So he stood very uncomfortably at the front of the woman’s clothing boutique in China Town while the owner, a very nice lady, was trying to fit my decidedly Western shaped frame (which, doesn’t Western-shaped give you the mental picture of a cowboy boot or the state of Texas? Because it does me) into a Kimono top. I probably tried on 10 or 15 until I found one that didn’t make me look stupid.
I told her I’d take it, the beautiful dark blue silk shirt with those crazy-cool clasps at the neck, and she took it up front to the register to ring it up. I finished piling my layers of winter clothes back on and carefully made my way back to the front of the store. I had to contort myself into all kinds of odd angles to get past the wall-to-wall racks of clothes, but finally there I was, at the front of the store. My dad looked relieved and somewhat red-eyed from the incense that was filling the room with sweet smelling acrid smoke and he whipped out his wallet and handed me some bills.
I went up to the register, where the lady had packed my new shirt into a plastic bag adorned with the store’s logo on it and looked at my total. As I was combining bills to pay her, she leaned forward, conspiratorially about to tell me something. Wondering if she was going to mention that she had an excellent supply of either opium or switchblades, I leaned it too.
“So,” she began, quietly but excited. “Is that your boyfriend?” Hand to God, she gave me a wink as she said boyfriend. She said it with unabashed glee, like a gossipy girlfriend who is about to tell you HOW FUCKING LUCKY YOU ARE to be dating the quarterback, because, like, he’s SO hot.
My mouth flopped open like a carp and I gaped openly at her. My BOYFRIEND?
“No,” I caught my tongue. “He’s NOT my boyfriend. He’s my father.”
She stared at me, I stared back and quickly paid. I guess there’s nothing like finding out that someone thinks that you’re
a) 20 years older than you are
b) that your father is 20 years younger than he was
3) People my age could actually manage to date guys my dad’s age.
I’m pretty sure when I told him this in a furtive whisper as we left the store, that the remaining half of his hair just went made a FUUUMP sound and all popped out of their follicles in one big bang. Had I been in the process of balding myself, I have a feeling my follicles would have let ‘em go too.
I was thinking of reminding him of this story until I remembered that he’d probably forgotten this one on purpose and am leaving it at telling The Internet. Because obviously.
Now YOUR turn, Internet, come sit next to Aunt Becky here on the couch *pats seat.* I want to hear some crazy awkward stories as I address these envelopes for all of you. If you haven’t heard from me at all or sent me your address, shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am on the edge of my seat here, itching to know what you are going to come up with.
Well, I’m not technically ITCHING but, you know.
*beats “no cowbell” for best SNL skit by a mile