Last night AK and I had pizza and sangria at new friend/Homeboy volunteer Kendra’s house, where we snuggled her new dog and watched My Cat from Hell. Like all makeover shows, it’s not really the cat/dog/kid/house/restaurant who needs to be made over, but the couple trying to wrangle the cat/dog/kid/house/restaurant. And for some reason, the people we seem to trust most to administer the necessary tough love are burly biker dudes with shiny sunglasses (I’ve been watching Restaurant: Impossible at the gym). One part punk, one part military. Or if not them, flamboyant gay men or tough British nannies. Apparently meanness is acceptable from those types. We like it less on naggy (American) women. And we don’t like men who refuse to kick our asses, I guess.
I don’t know, this analysis may break down, since the main lesson of My Cat from Hell is Buy Your Cat A Cat Tree.
|There is a framed picture of a dog in the background. And you wonder why the cat is pissed?|
|Shake it like an Instagram picture.|
She took lunch shifts at the Capricorn, even though they paid shit, she said, so she could belly dance with Monsieur Alamy and his troupe in the evenings at a little studio sandwiched between a dry cleaner and a Subway. My grandma was against it, of course. She was against all activities that took my mom away from me for reasons other than earning money. She refused to babysit, and so my mom set me up with a Subway kids’ meal and a box of crayons in Monsieur Alamy’s studio.
I still remember how the grain of the wood floor made my drawings look like they’d been done by someone with Parkinson’s. The studio smelled like wax and spicy stew. Most of the other dancers were closer to my grandma’s age than my mom’s, Chuckwalla housewives who needed something to do while their husbands played cards, or divorcees who needed something to do while their ex-husbands played cards.
There were two other young women in the class. Even at five, I could feel how their energy was different, how they were like the princesses on the DVD’s I watched, and maybe Monsieur Alamy was a sort of schlubby Aladdin. My mom was the blonde, so I imagined her as Cinderella, a poor girl who puts her foot in the right kind of shoe (for belly dancing she went barefoot, her waitress feet free at last, calloused on the bottom and black from the floor). A woman named Gina had hair dyed as bright as Ariel’s and a pretty mermaid voice, too. Monnie, the brunette, would be Belle, I guess, although I suspected she didn’t like to read. She had a dullness about her that she could not shake away any more than she could shake away the ring of flab around her middle. Monsieur Alamy loved that ring; it was a thing, in belly dancing, to create the most dramatic tremors possible.
|Obviously they're standing in front of a pond that Ariel just happened to leap out of.|
I don’t know what happened after that. Only that my mom did not go on tour with Monsieur Alamy, and within a few weeks I was back watching Nick at Nite with her in the evenings, her belly hidden beneath a big gray T-shirt. There was no baby, either. The one she’d alluded to.
Once my grandma had said, They don’t...leave you alone, do they? Her words loaded with extra meaning in that grownup way. While they do...other things? she said.
Sometimes, I said.
This one time they let me watch three princess movies in a row. It was my one great day. All Ariel, no stupid crayons. Mmm, said my grandma.