Good morning. This is the rant I delivered at The Paper Machete this weekend.
Every Christmas Eve my parents perform an annual rite. After we’ve escaped the children’s Mass at church and enjoyed an extra-fancy dinner prepared by my mother and served to us on Christmas-themed china in the dining room, we all retire to the family room with the dogs to drink wine, listen to Christmas carols and open presents.
The present opening is an orgy of generosity and paper-tearing that wouldn’t be complete without a bow being tied around the bigger dog or the smaller dog being placed in an empty gift-box. But the evening is not without its own particular brand of strife. Every year, my dad will lift a carefully-chosen article of clothing my mom has given him halfway out of the box, hold it up to his body, and say “Why did you get it in this size?” Then he’ll gingerly lay it back into the box. “See how he doesn’t even take it all the way out of the box? That means it’s going back,” my mom will announce. It’s a little awkward, but I guess being married for 40 years means you get to do without the niceties of pretending to like something your spouse gave you or pretending like you don’t see through your spouse’s obvious hatred of your gift.
I see this little routine as being completely avoidable, but in the big picture, it’s a small price of holiday tension to pay. I could be Amy or Anne Blagojevich, who may be spending their last Christmas with their father for a long, long time. I pity these girls in so many ways: for having a soon-to-be-absent father, for being thrust into the spotlight and for having jerk parents in general. Blagojevich, prior to his sentencing, used his daughters as a reason for why he should receive a light sentence. I, along with the judge and many others, said “If Blagojevich cared so much about his daughters, why didn’t he think of them before he did anything wrong in the first place?” Blagojevich either lacked the compassion to think what exactly would happen to his family if he got caught, or, more likely, just figured he’d get away with everything forever, which is a wonderful lesson and attitude to pass onto your children.
Then there’s Krista Keller, who’s noteworthy for being the mother of Courtney Stodden. Stodden made headlines this year for being a 16-year-old girl who married 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison, like it’s 1958 and he’s Jerry Lee Lewis or something. Stodden has also made a name for herself for her scandalous outfits, bizarre TV appearances (like a spot on Dr. Drew’s show to have her boobs scanned to make sure they’re real) and hilariously lascivious and alliterative Twitter account (a Tweet from Thursday night reads “Mr. Moist Saint Nick: As I magnetically dangle this magical mistletoe above my mere mysteriousness… I imagine your mouth smooching mine…”) Stodden’s mother, who is the same age as her son-in-law, has blessed the union as well as Stodden’s forthcoming TV show and has explained away people’s issues with her daughter as jealousy. I can’t help but think where I was at sixteen. I didn’t know who I was, and probably even shouldn’t have been allowed to have a driver’s license, let alone a husband and a house and a reality show and stripper-shoes. Assuming your sixteen year old is mature enough to get married means you probably thought your four year old was responsible enough to stay home by herself while you went out.
And I would be remiss in talking about the worst parents in 2011 without touching upon Casey Anthony. So now I’ve done that.
I’m the proud survivor of good parenting and I’ve been happy to learn that many creative, successful people also came to a fulfilling adulthood despite having parents who supported them the traditional, non-televised way. In Bossypants, Tina Fey waxes about how her father is her hero, and in Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? Mindy Kaling talks about how her parents’ marriage is her model for matrimony, seeing as how they’re buddies and all. On WTF with Marc Maron last week, magician Penn Jillette described that one of the reasons why he’s an atheist is because nothing was more provable to him than his own mother’s love.
I wish that my parents would figure out how to avoid their annual present fight, but at the same time, if that’s the extent of the annual Zulkey holiday drama, I can handle it. Because neither of my parents is going to jail. Because they would still tell me, gently, if they think I’m doing something that’s unwise. Neither of them think it’ll be a good idea if I publish my vagina in a magazine and neither of them is going on television to discuss my marriage. My parents being good parents may be what’s holding me back from being famous, but you know what, I really don’t mind.