My mom Melinda died when I was 8 years old and Marv, my barely-there father, was saddled with a child who he barely knew: me. Marv was essentially MIA before my mom died. He liked cars, boats, and hunting… not kids. So as we stared at each other across the dinner table every night–over a pizza box or mac and cheese usually–we were likely thinking the same thing:
“Who the fuck are you?”
I was a tiny perplexing clone of Marv–tall, skinny, almost black hair, instinctually stubborn–and that may have fascinated him for a moment. But then Marv realized I’d be sneaking out of the house, having periods, and frenching boys at school dances. He wanted no part of it. A month after Melinda died Marv’s serial womanizing ways kicked in, creating an incessant shuffle of women into and out of our lives. Here are my 15 moms that I remember.
1. Myrtle aka Megan
Myrtle changed her name to Megan when I was 6 years old. Myrtle is such an ugly name, right? Megan was my thirty-something babysitter who lived across the street from us. She would greet me at her door after school wearing a silky robe and slippers most days–like Zsa Zsa Gabor. Megan frosted her hair to “look like Farah Fawcett” and lavished me with gifts for no reason. And then a few years later I heard the news from the daughter of a nosey neighbor–Megan was screwing Marv while my mom and her husband were at work. So I peed in her swimming pool whenever I had the chance–for about 2 years.
Marv brought Brenda home a month after Melinda died. She was the wife of a co-worker. She was still married. Brenda and her young daughter must have thought it would be so sweet to put up our holiday decorations while playing my mom’s favorite holiday records–Elvis’s Blue Christmas, for example. No, this was not sweet. They were taking a shit on Melinda’s sacred terrain. Like a wrecking ball, I ripped down the decorations within minutes while screaming (1) “Get out of my mom’s house!” and (2) “Get away from my presents!”
Susan was our first housekeeper and the first of the moms who I cared about. She had an amazing asymmetrical haircut and took me to her punk hair salon. She introduced me to mythology and literature. We saw The Hunger. I fell in love with Bowie–the first glimpse of my blood red lipstick-sealed fate as a teen goth. I heard Susan fighting with Marv one night while I was watching Square Pegs on my very own TV, in my own bedroom. I woke up the next morning and Susan was gone. I never saw her and her Human League hair again. Still love Human League, though.
Marcy spoke with a lisp and waved her too-long Crystal Gale hair everywhere like those women who own horses, smell like Love’s Baby Soft, and participate in 4-H. “Marv, get me some Attthti,” she would hiss with spit showering from her mouth. Asti Spumante–the cocktail of whores. Marcy’s teenage daughter confided to me that her mom hit her with a ladle a lot–as well as other kitchen utensils which included a whisk and a spatula. Marcy took my stuff without my permission–like my pinstriped jean jacket with puffy shoulders. I was 13. She was a fossil. A fossil wearing the clothes of a teenager.
Dad was triple-dipping with Marcia (see above), Cindy, and Gay (see below). Butch-looking Cindy was going through a rough divorce. Marv smelled it a mile away and went for the kill. Down-and-out Cindy and her 7-year-old son went to Disney World with us for a week. I remember going to New Smyrna Beach and watching Marv hit on the virtually topless biker bitches while Cindy trudged along in the sand to a concession stand for his corn dog.
I couldn’t get over the fact that her name was Gay. Come on, I was 14. Gay was tall like a viking with freckles and a strawberry blond mullet. She came over to our house just 3 times. Since Marv “staggered” his dates, I was responsible for lying to these ladies on the phone so that he could hook up both “morning” and “evening” visits. On a typical Saturday, Gay had the second shift visit while Cindy had the first shift. Yet the plan went terribly wrong when Cindy instigated a state-of-the-union “where is this relationship going?” argument with Marv, clocking in an extra hour on her timesheet. As Cindy reversed her Mazda hatchback down our driveway to leave, Gay’s Subaru slowly coasted in front of our house. For the five minutes that followed, Gay kicked the shit out of our front door. My dad yelled through an open window, “Cindy, relax!” The pummeling stopped. A silent pause. And then Gay wailed, “Who the hell is Cindy?” Realizing his fumble, Marv said, “I call everybody Cindy!”
7. Shelly #1
Jailbait Shelly was my brother’s age. My brother was fucking 21 years old at the time. Marv was 42. Shelly had a 1-year-old baby who Marv liked to shove off on me–his 15-year-old daughter–so that he could fuck Shelly. Nice.
She had a technicolor blond bob that looked like 1-2-3 Jell-O. Margaret’s first son had drowned, so she smothered her second son by home-schooling him–kind of like Flowers in the Attic minus the arsenic doughnuts. Marg was a haughty feminist and gave me my first copy of “Our Bodies, Our Selves.” She also informed 15-year-old me that Marv had given her a yeast infection. Not knowing what that was, I had to look it up in the book.
Diane had a Masters in Psychology… and a PhD in stupidity, apparently, for dating Marv. Maybe she was dissociating, projecting, or displacing. She looked like the Log Lady from Twin Peaks—tall, husky lumberjack, blunt bob, big 80s bifocals. My log saw something that night. It saw Diane sobbing, yelling at Marv: “You said you wanted to marry me! How many people do you say that to?” Ah, Marv’s Dangling Marriage Carrot technique.
10. No idea
This lady stayed the night when I was 16 years old. For one night only. No, I don’t know her name. I woke up for school to a note that said, “Pam, your dad showed me pictures of you. You have pretty eyes.” Who the fuck is Pam?
11. Shelly #2
Marv called her Sweet Shelly. She was straight from the sluttiest gutter. She had a friend named Joanne (see below). The ladies would come to our house and sunbathe on our lakefront property. Shelly rocked a 4-inch wall of bangs lacquered with Aqua Net hairspray. She loved Whitesnake. She also left tampon wrappers on our bathroom counter. Dad wanted Shelly to live with us. But that didn’t happen because when Shelly called one day, I told her that Joanne had been at our house for a week.
This woman was also from the same gutter as her best friend Shelly #2. Joanne’s cellulite-covered thighs are burned into my skull to this day. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t want that on me–ever.” I came home one late Friday night to a trail of clothes, fuzz on the TV, and a videotape sticking out of the VCR. Marv’s bedroom door was shut, indicating company. I sat down on the sofa, hit ‘play’, and stared at the porno that lit up the dark room. All it took was 10 seconds of moaning and a barefoot, robed Marv scrambled out of his bedroom, fumbling to cover the TV screen which prominently displayed Jenna Jamison getting some double “p” action.
Marv was diagnosed with cancer when I was 17. Krissy was dad’s oncology nurse at the local hospital. She informed me that Marv refused chemo so that he could still have sex. With her. One day as I was putting away laundry in his closet I found a large Olan Mills-style portrait of Krissy, sitting in a wicker chair–legs spread, sporting cheap red lingerie, and hooker heels. I wonder if Krissy wore this outfit for her husband.
14. Veronica & 15. Peggy
Marv dated sisters. At the same time. He met Veronica and her older sister, Peggy, at a local VFW hall where he would douse his problems alongside other post-traumatic products of the Vietnam War. When Peggy discovered that Marv was keeping it in the family she didn’t seem to mind. Because he was going to marry her (see Dangling Marriage Carrot technique above). Peggy informed me that she was going to be my “new mom” one morning during breakfast. I laughed in her face and said, “That’s what Veronica said last week.