Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Eat Your Heart Out, Mister

My favorite cousin, stop schmoozing already, you’re not running for Miss Congeniality, sit your ass down next to me. So I’ll move Uncle Maury’s corned beef, how hard is that? Don’t eat that chopped liver, it’s dry. Did I say it wasn’t good? It’s good, it’s good. Aunt Florence made it, how could it not be good? All I’m saying is a little chicken fat never hurt nobody. 
So this is a nice idea, right? A do-it-yourself-in-the-living-room engagement party. I should have been so smart for my Miranda's bat mitzvah, we wouldn’t have gone into debt for three years. But she wanted a Hawaiian luau, so I made her a luau. In those days I wasn’t yet fluent in the word NO.
Show me your nails already, you know I always ask you this. Tsch, tsch, tsch. I’m disappointed in you. So go for a manicure once in a while, have some pride. Look at my hands, are they beautiful or what? This doesn’t just happen, kiddo, I go to a professional every Friday afternoon like clockwork. No, they’re not real, real nails don’t grow like this, for this you have to pay through the nose. 
Between you, me and the mini-knishes, I could take it or leave it. I only do it to make Barry crazy. He hates the way my nails look. He tells me it’s vulgar, three shades of red and fake diamonds on the tips. “A mother of four doesn’t need all this,” he says. I tell him “Eat your heart out, Mister.”
Don’t look at me like that. You are. I know what you’re thinking, don’t think it. Don’t look at me.
Did you see Aunt Jersey? She walked in, she had a shower cap on her head. Did I say a rain hat? No, I said a shower cap. As in: shower cap. That’s how she accessorizes. 

But we should be kind, she’s still in mourning for Phyllis. You didn’t hear about Phyllis? Your mother didn’t tell you? You see what happens when you insist on living upstate like that, you miss out on all the big news. 

I thought that bird would live forever. She had a little cold, but who knew it was serious. Phnuhh, phnuhh, phnuhh — that’s how she sneezed. Nothing is more pathetic than a parakeet with a head cold. 

So before you leave, you’ll say something nice to Aunt Jersey? Say how sorry you are. Tell her you'll miss your little feathered cousin. What, I have to tell you what to say? You’re supposed to be the writer.
But Aunt Essie looks good, doesn’t she? In those shoes you can’t see her bunions. She’s like a real person now that she moved to Manhattan. What’s it been, 30 years she wanted to move? I hear she’s still paying rent on that dump in the Bronx. Believe it. Minnie told Judith and Judith told me, she never gave up the lease. Essie says she needs the storage space, her new apartment doesn’t have closets. Can’t you see it? In the spring she’ll pack up her winter clothes and schlep them up to Fordham Road on the D train. 

Every family has one like this. We’re so lucky, we have two. Oh, well if you count Nina with her 7,000 stuffed animals, then we have three.
Did I tell you, I’m considering early retirement. Next year, when I turn 60. Of  course they don’t encourage it, my supervisor will have two coronaries. Ask me if I care. No, of course I don't care. You had to ask? Not everyone has to know this, but Atlantic City has been very good to me. 

I still go, of course I go, with the girls from my building, every Wednesday night. It’s one of the few pleasures in life. Gambling and manicures. That's it. Sometime when you’re in the city for more than two minutes, you should come with us. First we hit the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. Un-be-freaking-lievable. They lose money the second we walk in the door. 

Seriously, I’m very well set-up. Barry doesn’t know the half of it. I have my own bank account. If I wanted, I could walk out on him tomorrow, I could get a nice apartment on the Upper East Side, all the way over by the water, it’s quiet there. Lots of hospitals. They’ve got doctors and nurses coming and going all hours, I’d be perfectly safe. 
Barry still has his tuches buried in Brooklyn. I say enough already, I’ve paid my dues and then some. This is how I figure: a one-bedroom so the kids won’t want to stay with me, and a nice kitchen, not a galley, I want plenty of cabinets. 

Then I’ll start my own catering business. I know I’m a good cook, that’s what I’m telling you. My mother left me with two things: her acne and her recipe box. For the recipes, I’m thankful every day. When I make a chopped liver you don't have to wash it down with seltzer. 

Listen what I’m saying: if I moved out tonight, Barry wouldn’t notice I was gone. Between the baseball and the basketball and the football and all the other balls, what does he need a wife for? He’s got his 99 cable channels, his remote control, his 3-position recliner chair — the man is happier than a kosher pig in a shithole. You never heard that expression? It's famous. Or else I made it up. I can't remember.
Don’t say anything, Gaily's coming. “Hello Gaily, let me see your ring. This is gorgeous. What a gorgeous rock. You must be very happy. Show Cousin Zinnie your hand. See, she likes it too. Gaily, your mother’s looking for you, she wants you to help with the crudités. Bye-bye sweetie; bye-bye.”

You see that? That’s not a rock, it’s a pebble. Pathetic. I give them six months. Where did you hear he’s a nice boy, he’s not a nice boy, 
it's his brother who's the nice boy. But did the brother propose? No, he did not. Poor Gaily. I see right through this one. He’s only interested in her for one thing. Not that. It’s because she’s going to be a teacher. He’s already thinking how to spend her pension check. Trust me. Look at him over there, like a pasha, he hasn’t lifted a finger all afternoon. 
I would never let my Miranda marry a boy like that. Better she should be an old maid all her life. No offense. She brings home any losers, I’m putting my foot down so fast she won’t know what stepped on her.
Speaking of which, I tried on a pair of those shoes, the ones you recommended, they’re not for me. Because they’re ugly, that’s why. I don’t care they’re comfortable; they look like crap. My mother had bad arches all her life, she managed. It’s part of being a woman, you wear shoes that hurt your feet. 
So what, you don’t. You’re not a real woman. No no no no no no no. I didn’t meant it like that. You know me, I’m not prejudiced, no matter what your lifestyle, I’m used to it already. All I’m saying, until you get married — to a man — and you have children, no matter how old you are, in my book, you're not a woman, you’re still a girl. Little Peter Pansy, you will never grow up. 

But don't quote me to your mother. Never in the history of this planet has there been a woman like your mother when it comes to protecting you. I'm telling you. No, I'm telling you. This is the truth from heaven above. 
Look, Uncle Tiny’s gonna start in with the singing now. That kind of schmaltz we can do without. Come with me, we'll go out and get some air. I won’t blow smoke in your face. I won’t. I promise, I won't. 

I know how to behave, what do you think? Come on, let’s go while the going’s still good. In another second he'll be weepy from his own singing. It could gag you, this kind of emotional behavior.