- My Mother’s Brutal Honesty: ***** / 5 stars
- My Brother’s Unbridled Laughter: 0 stars
- Molly’s Confession: 0 stars
- Pia’s Silence & Laughter: 0 stars
Was it worth it? Fuck my life.
Once, in my mid-20s, I walked into the living room of my mom’s house, where she was sitting on the couch, and asked her if she thought I was good-looking. She looked at my face, then somewhere into memory, because what she said was:
“When you was born, everybody say how beautiful you are. Such white skin, everybody think you so cute baby. Special. And . . . you was VERY VERY good-looking kid. I remember, I take you to my work, and all my co-worker say ‘Your son so cute! So handsome.’ I was so proud have good-looking son like you . . .”
At this point, there is a joy in my mom’s face rarely seen, save for when you catch her alone with a pint of strawberry Häagen-Dazsâ while watching a Korean game show. Still staring off into nowhere, she travels back to the present, and more to herself, she says:
“ . . . But then you . . . grow up. I don’t know what happen . . .”
I then remind her that I am still in the room with her, she snaps out of it, and she glibly offers:
“Oh yeah . . . you very good-looking.”
This is all to say that my mother is a terrible liar. Also, she is terribly honest.
[Note: My good friend Molly used the above story as the basis for a sketch she wrote while in The Second City conservatory. The sketch was titled “Ugly Doug.” It was a hit.]
For many years, my mom would pick up a few hours on Saturday mornings to make a little extra cash. Afterwards, I’d meet her downtown, we’d have lunch, then I’d drive her car back up to my place on the northside, and she’d make her way back to the burbs.
So, one Saturday in 2005, I’m just getting in the driver’s seat and Wanyu, my brother, calls. I say a quick hello and pass the phone to my mom, so they can chat as we make our way up Lake Shore Drive. As I’m pulling into a spot in front of my apartment building, my mom covers the receiver with her free hand and turns towards the window.
Mom: Right now? No, Wanyu. I don’t think it’s good idea tell him.
Me: What are you guys talking about?
Mom (again to Wanyu on the phone): Oh, God. He already look angry.
Me: WHAT ARE YOU GUYS TALKING ABOUT?
Mom (to Wanyu): See? I told you. Already angry. Hold on.
Mind you, she doesn’t hang up. She just holds the phone slightly away from her face, then says to me the words that will reverberate through my ears and mind and heart for a thousand years to come:
“Wancy . . . sometimes . . . you smell like poo.”
Me: WHAT? No, I don’t! What are you talking about?
From the phone, which is not on speaker, you can hear Wanyu dying of laughter.
Mom: Yes. Yes, sometimes you smell like poo. Your . . . breath.
Mom: Oh, calm down. If your mom cannot tell you, who going to tell? Wancy, it really smell like poo.
My mom then offers to buy me all means of home dental care products. From floss to mouthwash to a tongue scraper. She asks if we should go to Target. She’ll pay for dental visits. Whatever the cost, she says.
I am having none of this, grab my phone from her hand, hang up on my still laughing brother, bid my mother farewell, and head upstairs to my apartment. I head straight for the kitchen where I find my roommate Pia, washing dishes, and other roommate Molly, looking for something to eat in the pantry. I tell them that my mom has just told me I smell like poo, and the ladies have a good laugh about it.
Me: I mean . . . that’s not true, right?
Dead silence, everything stops.
Me: Oh my fucking God!
Molly collapses to the floor, in tears with laughter. Pia is about to break dishes she is laughing so hard.
Molly (through uncontrollable laughter): You know how you come into my room in the mornings? And . . . and . . . and I pull the covers up over my face ‘cause I say I’m cold?
I hate everyone.
From then on, I brush my teeth several times a day, buy back-up bottles of mouthwash when I’m halfway through the current one, and keep mints and gum handy (in my bag, in my car, everywhere).
What did I learn from this experience?
That you can’t trust anyone, and that I smell like poo.
Oh yeah . . .
- My breath: Obviously . . . ZERO STARS.