Monday, September 28, 2009

Dirty Jobs ... Someone's got to do them

"All women become like their mothers.
That is their tragedy.
No man does. That's his."
Oscar Wilde,
The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

I would consider my mother a girly girl. When I was little (and not so little) I loved to sit on her bed and watch her get ready to go out. My parents party a lot but, usually at Christmas there were the mandatory office parties to attend. I remember that she had two really special dresses. One was red chiffon, with a full skirt that swayed back and forth when she walked. The other was her basic black cocktail dress. It was made of crepe, and hugged her curves in an A-line style. My dad had (has) a bit of a shoe fetish. Since mama was petite she would wear pointy-toed high heeled shoes, most often bought by my father. I think her dress up shoes were always black.

On the afternoon of her rare night out, Mom would primp. She washed and curled her hair in the days before blow dryers or curling irons. Over the years she used rag curlers, bobby pins, stiff scratchy rollers and soft spongy ones. She applied what little make-up she wore with the precision she'd learned as a teenager performing in Little Theater. Once that was done she'd pick out her jewelry. Before everyone pierced their ears, mom had earrings that screwed into the back of her ears. Like the shoes she crammed her toes into, I think the pain the earrings caused was the price women paid for beauty. A few of my favorites were the crystal stars andthe single pearl that dangled from a diamond bow. Each was part of a set that had a matching necklace.

Once her jewels were in place she would carefully pull on stockings. attach them to a garter of some kind and daintily slip on her shoes. Next came the slip then the dress. Once dressed, she pulled out all the rollers and brushed her hair. Unlike the coifs I ended up with after wrapping my hair around the same curlers, Mom's hair seemed to fall into place. Finally she gave herself a light spray of 4711.

Then came the bright Christmas red lip stick. First the top lip. Dragging the color from the outside in, she'd paint the left side of her mouth, then the right. The next step in the well practiced ritual was smacking her lips together, just hard enough for any excess from the top of her mouth to neatly outline the curve of her bottom lip. Then she'd fill in the holes with a few swipes from the tube, careful not to color outside the line. Finally, she'd grab a tissue, kiss it once and voila, there she was. Ready for Dad to come home, exchange his office shirt for his party shirt, have a martini and be on their way.

I learned how to play dress up from watching my mom. Mostly I wear blue jeans. I don't even own a little black dress, or a red one for that matter. But come the holidays, much as I dread parties, I yearn for a fancy dress to wear.

The same woman who could primp herself into a 1950's style diva, could also get down and dirty. I've seen her with her hands elbow-high in a turkey carcass. I've seen her pick apart a whole lobster and not leave anything behind but the empty carapace. Melted butter glistened as it dripped down her chin and fingers. She didn't wipe anything off til she'd eaten the very last big of lobster goo from inside the tiniest legs. Give the woman a plate full of raw oysters and she was seriously in heaven. My mom could go head to head with Mike Rowe (the Dirty Jobs guy) when it comes to cleaning up animal poo, vomit, dirty diapers (the cloth kind that have to be rinsed and swirled in the toilet before being laundered), bloody things and squished bugs. In the course of her lifetime she not only cooked but actually touched pieces of meat like liver, lamb kidneys, and tripe. In the years before she passed away when one of the few jobs left for her to do in the kitchen was feed her cat, I watched as she scooped up what wet, tuna-smelling food was left in the bowl with her bare hands. All for getting the job done, Mom shunned a paper towel, or the kitchen sponge. One, two, three. One minute in the bowl, the next all over and between her fingers. Gross.

Recently I had to take one of my cats to the vet. I was encouraged to add some wet food to his diet because a)he's a little on the thin side (which might have more to do with being pushed away from the food dish by his sister than what's in the bowl) b) it's a way of keeping him hydrated and c) it isn't as bad for his teeth as I'd been told. Needless to say both cats have blessed the day this woman became their vet! I bought a stack of cans, opened one up, put a dollop in two bowls and let them go at it.

To my surprise and chagrin the little feline prima donnas don't seem to like to eat protein-rich turkey, beef or tuna "fillets". They lick all around them getting the juice off (not unlike Patty the Lobster girl) then leave the rest behind. No problem, I have a food processor that will fix that. Whirl, pulse, voila - cat food puree. So the vet is happy and the cats are happy. In an effort to keep the dog from filling up on cat food, I picked up the bowls. Neither was empty. What the hell, I thought, reaching in with my unprotected hands unadorned or and scooped the fishy gruel. At that moment I could feel my mother's hand patting me on the back.

As a mom myself I've had to face a variety of dirty jobs. My hands, like my mother's, have gone places where brave men fear to tread. I've had to eat those words every daughter says at some point in her childhood - oooh gross, I'll never touch that. My fingers haven't fallen off.

But let me make one thing perfectly clear, I'm not now, not sometime in the future, not ever going to touch (or) tripe.

Hoping that you have a box full of plastic gloves for days when life turns a little bit dirty,

Merry ME

1 comment:

Fire Byrd said...

Well it's never to late to have a LBD or a red chiffon one. And just think you could wear it to clean something in to really do everything at once!!! Or not!!!