Slings and Arrows

Somebody’s balls were always hanging out in my house. The first thing pop did when he came home, any time, any day, was go into his room and shed his clothes. It was like we were counterintelligence unit, and he was ‘commando’.  Mom had tried for years to break him of this habit, but he was unwavering in his dedication to the cause.  When I was nine, she sat him down and explained to him that, aside from all of the other reasons that it was just not okay to be naked all the time,  it was especially not okay to be naked around a growing daughter  who would soon reach puberty.  His reply was “She’s my daughter; what’s there to be embarrassed about?’ But mom stood her ground.  Pop reluctantly donned a pair of Speedos—he had a different color for every day of the week—and full frontal nudity was finally banished from everywhere but the privacy of the bedroom.  Thankfully, my older brothers had never adopted my father’s nekkid needs.  I could always count on them to be modestly covered in a pair of white BVDs. I don’t know why no one’s underwear ever fit correctly, though.  To say that mom was OCD would be like saying a tsunami is just a wave; how she allowed the elastic around everybody’s legs to get loose still baffles me to this day.  The result was that even when everyone had their Fruit of the Loom loincloths on, somebody was always hanging out the sides. My mother and I were the only ones who ever noticed the testicular display.  I would look away while she said something to my father in Hebrew; he would tell her she was being uptight as he tucked himself back in. It got to where I would say,  “Brian, gross” to my brother so often that he didn’t even look to see what I was talking about; he would just absent-mindedly relocate his balls while never for a second taking his eyes off the television. I knew they would only fall out again a few minutes later. So, yes, our home lacked boundaries.  Actually, we had boundaries, they were just in reverse.  Instead of there being boundaries in place to help us learn appropriate behavior, our boundaries ensured that there were no boundaries. For example: we were not allowed to close our bedroom doors. We were a family, and thus there should be no need for privacy. All emotions, thoughts and actions were public domain. Why would we need to keep things to ourselves if we all loved each other?   A closed bedroom door would result in one or both parents telling the offending party that they had been insensitive. If we really loved them, we would never close them or our siblings out.  (Personally, I just didn’t want anyone watching as I spent entire afternoons pretending to kiss John or Paul — that would be Denver and Anka, not Lennon and McCartney–as I Iistened to their respective Greatest Hits cassettes). I began to figure out ways to beat the system.  If I stood at the foot of my bed, for example, I could keep an eye on the door for passing siblings and would be able to see them before they saw me.  If I turned to face the back wall it would look like I was playing with my dolls, although really I was smiling humbly as John invited me to sit next to him on stage where we would perform a duet of “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.  (I knew we would have dinner by candlelight after the show.) The only times that bedroom doors were closed in our house were when mom was pissed off or if my parents were having sex.  We always knew when my mother was pissed off because there would be yelling.  We knew if they were having sex because there wouldn’t be. When I got my first training bra, in the pastel colored dressing room at Bloomingdale’s I extracted a promise from my mother that she would not tell anyone in the family about this.  “Of course not, Tootsie,” she said.  “This is girl stuff.” The next morning I stood at the counter pouring out my Cocoa Puffs. My oldest brother Brian snuck up behind me. He quickly grabbed my bra strap and pulled back tightly, as if readying a bow for an arrow.  “Robin Hood!” he yelled as he let go, the strap stinging my back upon landing.  “I heard you got a bra”, he taunted.  I glared at my mother.  “Mom!  You promised!” I whined.  Mom glared at Brian. “Brian, you promised!” she yelled.  At which point Brian turned to me calmly and said, “She’s my sister.  What’s there to be embarrassed about?”


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This entry was posted on February 20, 2015 by in childhood, dysfunctional family, family, Random.
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