I was getting dressed to go to the funeral service of a friend's dog when the phone rang. I glanced at caller ID. It was my mother. Normally, I don't answer calls from my parents without a drink in hand, but I needed to hit them up for some cash to fund the purchase of a parcel of highly undesirable property. So, I answered the phone with such an abundance of good will that my mother was left wondering aloud whether she had called the wrong number.
After we established the fact that she was speaking to her daughter—'Yes, Mother, it's me, your only daughter. The one who refuses to let you drag her to Elizabeth Arden. The one who sold your mink coat on e-Bay and donated the proceeds to the World Wildlife Fund. The one who insists that you refer to her dog as your grandchild.'—I made the mistake of telling her that I was going to a dog's funeral.
There was an extended sigh at the other end of the line followed by the sound of vodka splashing over cracked ice. 'A dog's funeral,'she said finally, taking a meaningful sip of her drink. 'This is what happens when you don't have children.'By this, she meant: 'This is what happens when you're a lesbian.'
My mother has been a good sport about my lesbian nonsense. I came out to my parents a few years ago at a carefully orchestrated dinner at my uncle's restaurant. I figured that my parents would be reluctant to kill me there. After I stumbled through my announcement, my mother shot my father a look that said, 'Behave yourself.'My father, who looked like he wanted to brain me with a bottle of Chianti, silently seethed and didn't speak to me the rest of the evening. Later that night, my mother pulled me aside and said, 'Don't worry about your father. He'll figure out a way to blame this whole thing on me, and you'll be off the hook.'
The one thing my mother has not been able to accept about the lesbian lifestyle is our tendency to treat pets like children. When I was about 10 years old, she caught me cuddling our dog and she said, 'Don't get too attached. We may have to eat that animal some day.'She never offered any circumstances under which this might happen.
I think her harsh attitude toward animals has something to do with the fact that she's Danish. The Danes have a fondness for eating not-quite-dead fish. Every mealtime with her is like feeding time at the seal aquarium. Just flip her some raw herring and she's happy.
'So, what are you wearing to this dog funeral?'she asked.
'An old t-shirt and those cargo shorts that you hate,'I answered, and she groaned in response. I could have lied and told her that I was wearing the pink linen suit she forced upon me the week before. However, I enjoy irritating her.
Suddenly, I remembered how graciously she's received the girlfriends I've paraded before her over the years—treating them even better than I treat my beloved dog Maximus—and, so, I softened the blow.
'But I am wearing lipstick,'I said.
'How about heels?'my mother pleaded. 'If you won't do it for me, do it for the dog.'