I. Email to Dad, November 25th:
Hey, if you like, you can contribute to the absurd family drama by announcing that your daughter has joined the crew of this year’s “Slutcracker” as a burlesque dancer! Ah, it’s hilarious, and it’s true. Blog post pending.
II. Time to Call Mom:
“Hey mom,” I chirped. “Just calling you back about Christmas.”
“Oh hi honey!”
We talked for a while about Memphis, Little Rock, marriage and impromptu holiday celebrations in the deserted house we’d be staying in. Then she asked me what I was up to. Like, right now.
“Ah, sorry about the traffic noise — I had to call you on my walk home from yoga, since I’ll be leaving right away again and won’t get back until late, and –”
“Oh, yeah? Where are you going?”
Christ. I forget that I get this from her. Always with the follow-up questions.
“Oh! Um. I guess I haven’t told you about this yet. . . . So, say, have you read my blog lately?” (Fun fact! Just a few weeks earlier, I’d actually joked with friends that, clearly, the most politic way to inform my parents about my new aspirations in titty dancing would be through a post in my online journal — but apparently that was actually happening now.)
She considered. “I suppose . . . three days ago was the last time I checked.”
“Ah, so you haven’t read it yet . . .” awkwaaard! Everyone knows before you! “Okay, so . . . well, I’m in a show, it’s a Christmas show, aburlesqueversionofTheNutrackerand I’mgoingtorehearsalrightnow.”
A truck wheezed by, its metal weight shifting loudly over the asphalt.
“. . . It’s called The Slutcracker.”
“Oh, geez,” my mom said, letting out a somewhat nervous, somewhat aggravated laugh. It was the same “oh geez” she’d used when I’d called her six years ago, to exclaim into the phone “mom, guess what I lost over the weekend? My virginity!” “Are you trying to upset me?” she’d asked me then.
III. The boyfriend’s family:
“Adrianne has to leave on Friday,” Jurvis announced over a table of Thanksgiving leftovers, “because she has rehearsal.” I looked up at him in alarm.
“Ooo!” his sister Justina cried. “You’re in a play? I love plays.”
“Kind . . . of,” I said. “You know that link I posted, that you mentioned in the car?”
“I never did get into theater,” his mother said.
“Neither did I,” said his stepdad. “I was in one play once, and boy do I remember it.”
“You’re in The Slutcracker?”
“I just stood on the stage, and froze. I didn’t say a word!” he howled with laughter.
“What’s the matter with The Slutcracker?” Jurvis bristled.
“Nothing . . . nothing . . . I just thought . . . I think it’s crazy, the ad for it, with that nutcracker staring up that lady’s dress and everything . . . it’s crazy the ads they make these days. So you’re in that?”
I eyed the door, and leaned in to Jurvis’ ear. “I’m going to grab my knitting,” I whispered.
IV. Time to Call Dad
“So, dare I ask, how risque is this performance?” he asked.
“It’s . . . you know, about as risque . . . as is legally possible.”
There was an awkward pause.
“Let’s just say it involves adhesive,” I said genially.
“Ah, well. It usually does,” he replied.
V. Honorable Work
“You know, I think I’d feel weird about it, if I were getting paid. But this is like, volunteer-work, mom! I’ll be in pasties, it’ll be hilarious, whatever.”
“Oh, geez” she said.
VI. After the Feast
Later, my boyfriend’s mother and I sat together in their living room. The television was on, and I was staring intently into my knitting needles, wondering what was becoming of my life, my reputation, my scholarly ambitions. Suddenly she looked up at me.
“I think it’s really great you’re willing to try new things like that,” she said, “to put yourself out there. I admire that about you.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thank you.”
Over the weekend I bought hair spray, eye liner, lipstick: things I have not purchased in years. Every product I’d ever come to trust and love in the past had of course been discarded, reinvented several times. (Lipfinity! Why did they abandon you? You could eat an entire loaf of crusty bread with that crazy shit on, and emerge smiling photo-ready, your perfect crimson lips reflecting semi-precious stones.) Today I got my wig, orange velveteen flats, sequined pasties.
Tomorrow we’ll have our first dress rehearsal, scheduled four hours before curtain call.
The eight-hundred seat theater has already sold out for opening night.