I don’t “get” the remote control. I’ll go further than that. Only if I have detailed written out instructions can I achieve both picture and sound on the flat screen that shines in the corner of the living room mocking me. Consequently, I don’t watch much television. Which is probably good. Though sometimes, I will download something from HBO and watch it here on my little computer screen. Back in the Dark Ages, I used to enjoy flicking the thing on once in a while, back in the days when all one had to do was hit a knob and there weren’t so many channels.
I remember a particularly wonderful Christmas Day years ago. Husband and son were off skiing. I was home alone, working on Lavina, and eating an avocado sandwich for Christmas dinner. The set we had in the bedroom wasn’t much bigger than a desk size computer screen. I switched it on to the old movie channel (no menu, no variety of dingus-es, to point and press) and there it was, “The Manchurian Candidate”: my Christmas present from the powers that be! Lawrence Harvey, Angela Lansbury with a side of avocados eaten in bed. Nothing like that will ever happen to me again.
I digress. I am not alone, in this mystification concerning the remote control. A mystification that I am sure Freud would have something topical to say about. For it is true: possessing a penis enables its bearer to wield better remote control action. Just as possessing a penis enables its user to pee with impunity in places where a woman would not dare. Just as possessing a penis enables its owner to head most corporations, direct most movies, wage a majority of the wars and to in effect: run the damn world. Badly, I might add.
I was having a real attack of penis envy during yoga late this afternoon. I couldn’t stop obsessing about the debates, and how I wasn’t going to get to watch them, as I couldn’t find my detailed instructions on how to turn the f’ing thing on. And, was too humiliated to ask my husband to walk me through the whole mind bending process once again.
“Marcus!” he had said the last time I called him at work and begged. “This is it! You have to learn. I’m done!”
And even if I could coax him into it, pretend to cry even, I would be diminished and have no moral high ground. Also, it would be highly detrimental to the domestic campaign I’ve been waging lately. One wherein I don’t make dinner anymore.
I further digress. The great thing about doing yoga at the end of one’s work day, is the physical and mental release it offers. You breathe, you move, you sweat and breathe some more, and it is just like the song says, “pack up all your cares and woe, here I go, here I go, bye bye blackbird.” Today, though the substitute teacher was great, I was sweating, the blackbirds were fluttering about, but I couldn’t keep focused with my breathing. All I could think about was how furious I was at myself because I still hadn’t learned to turn on the crappy television set. Something any of the males in the room could do without batting an eye. I decided I would go home, get Henry and we’d drive around and listen to the debates in the car. Penis envy be damned!
(Gosh I’m getting sick of the P word. It’s almost as unattractive as the V word. I further digress; how come some of the ugliest, creepiest sounding words in our language are ones attached to the sex organs?)
As it turned out, Henry and I didn’t have to listen to the debates in the car.
My phone beeped as I was driving home. After I parked the car, put up the sunshade in anticipation of tomorrow’s blast, I checked my texts.
“I left the correct remote on top of the latest NY’er on coffee tbl.. Press Power. Enjoy the debates!”
For a moment, I was absolutely sure my husband was having an affair. Why was he suddenly so solicitous?
Hillary was good. Bernie was good too and it was the first time I have ever seen him in action. A socialist anti-war Jew. Woo Hoo!
I just googled Penis Envy and in addition to Freud, Horney, Lacan and all the rest of them, there’s a whole to do about an eponymous hallucinogen.
Penis Envy Mushrooms—who knew?
Once in a while like today, I put on one of my “famous artist” shirts. I always keep them ironed and on hangers from the dry cleaners. One is from Turnbull and Asser, another is from Mr. Fish, and the third is from some Bond Street tailor and is actually bespoke. They are all I’m guessing from the 1970’s. Unfortunately the bespoke one has a small hole in the front. I keep meaning to ask my friend Valerie if she’ll embroider something over the hole.
H, who died several years ago, gave me the shirts. They belonged to her husband E, who was a well-known Abstract Impressionist from The New York School. She gave them to me after he died, because she said E liked me. I certainly liked him. He was charming, Spanish, funny and I loved his work. He was also very kind to me about my writing. Which I appreciated. He was close to a hundred when he died and was old enough to remember being in Paris at the same time as Sartre. He was always talking about Paris before the war and other topics of glamour at the dinner table. He spat when he talked and his accent was so thick a lot of the time it was hard to understand what he said. It would be a lie to say, I would rather have three of his old shirts than one of his paintings or collages, though I ended up with a collage that was hanging in my mother-in-law’s bedroom moldering away in a frame she bought at some art supply store. When she died, I got the thing reframed and it’s in my living room. It’s not, I must say, one of his best. My husband doesn’t like it at all, but I do.
H was totally impossible. But there was also something really cool about her. She had energy, she had a certain really crude integrity and she was funny. Even if her humor was always at someone’s expense. She had absolutely wonderful taste. She could cook. She could throw a very chic party. She could laugh and make herself the center of attention. And even though she battled fat all her life, she always looked snappy in her tunics and her one piece of important jewelry. I liked it that although she went to Europe every five seconds, had eight zillion bucks, and hobnobbed with art snobs, she never lost her Brooklyn accent.
I was for a time, one of her honorary “daughters” at least that’s what she told me. I never met the other two. Being one of her honorary daughters meant, she could call at any time of the day or night, she could yell at me, she could criticize my hair, my make up, body mass (I was always too skinny) and choice of undergarments (why do you wear a black bra under a white shirt?) It also meant that I would have the honor schlepping her about. Luckily we lived on different coasts most of the time, so I only had to schlep her when I was in New York.
Her real daughter killed herself. Just as her first husband had, and in the identical manner. Sometimes when H was being particularly hideous I would understand why her daughter committed an act that would permanently render her mother unable to hurt her ever again.
Like all true blue narcissists, she had the skill of the pointed jab, the knife in just the right place designed to hurt the most! And her voice could get really scary. She loved wielding that knife. And the power of the wound that came with it.
I was getting sick of the whole thing around the time my mother in law died. And stopped calling her back. H was one of her oldest friends, and I ended up with the nasty task of telling her, and which because she was old, I did in person. I didn’t drop her, instead, I schlepped her to and from my mother in law’s funeral, and a year later to the thing that happens then. And lots of stuff in between. Perhaps because I lost my own mother very young, I have always sought some disapproving elder in my life to take her place. And in fact, H was a lot like my mother. Though H was rich, my mother was poor; H lived a long amazingly interesting life, while my mother died young and broke in Shreveport, Louisiana. And never alas, even got to Europe.
Still, H was really really nice to my son. And for that alone, I’ll always think of her with a certain fondness. H adored handsome men. When he was at college, she let him stay at her fabulous apartment at Hotel Des Artists. And even to bring friends! And when E died, he got a collage in an archival frame. Probably if my son had been my daughter she would have gotten shirts like I did if she got anything at all.
H phoned me the day she died and left a message on the machine one I didn’t end up hearing until three months after she died. “It’s me,” said the ghost voice, in its strong Brooklyn accent. “I’m calling to say I’m mad at you. Where are you? Are we up? Are we down? Call me!”