Friday, February 6, 2015
I'm posting a short-short I've recently written. Hope you like it (if you do, let me know ;)
The opening credits roll by and my mother appears on the screen. She’s wearing a shiny, lime green jacket.
“Is that satin?” I whisper to my father, not wanting to drown the sound of the television.
The seams on it are very stiff, making it look almost as if the shoulders are padded, and although the neckline is quite high, her breast are accentuated by darts that run all the way down until they disappear in a black patent leather waist. Below the waist, the jacket flares out in an almost obscenely large peplum. The matching skirt, by contrast, is almost boring. It simply runs down in a straight line until it ends just below her knees.
The camera zooms in, accentuating the details of the fabric.
“Yes, it’s definitely satin,” I say in disbelief, and my father raises the volume. The camera also accentuates the details of my mother’s face. Despite the masterful touch of the makeup artist, the teeth of time have left their traces. The skin on her neck is no longer taut, there are tiny wrinkles around her eyes, and the lines around her mouth make her cheeks stand out like pouches. She looks strict and severe, even with her blonde hair framing her face and ornamenting the shiny green shoulder. Yet somehow, she radiates an air of warmth. And her outfit with the almost embarrassingly effete peplum, and bright green shininess, does not so much clash with the look of the dignified lady as much as adds to the warmness she projects on the screen.
“It’s not satin,” my father whispers in response, “Brushed cotton, more likely.”
For a split second, my eyes meet his. Then, we turn back to the screen, shaking our heads in disbelief that so much unwarranted kindness is radiated by the same woman who rules our lives with an iron fist.
Ever since she has begun her broadcasting career, my mother’s contracts have always specified that the clothes she wears on camera become her private property. During her years as a newscaster, she’d bring home the clothes that would get phased out of rotation every once in a while. Ever since she started hosting her own show, she has brought home the full outfit each time. In a way, that was to be expected. As a newscaster, the majority of her clothes were mix and match items that could make up different outfits. With her new show, her clothes soon became much more flamboyant, much more noticeable, so that she simply couldn’t dress twice in the same clothes. And while they had less use in the daytime than the inconspicuous business-like clothes from her newscaster days, she certainly had no reason to leave them in the network’s wardrobe. My mother has taken good care of her body, but still, the time goes only forward, and she certainly didn’t want the same outfits worn on camera, in different shows, by other, younger, sleeker, taller or bustier women.
There is another reason why my mother insists on bringing home her clothes, however, which is why my father and I are so interested in them. It is because we know that one of us will be wearing them tomorrow, when we attend the weekly tea party of her social club. Usually, that honor used to be bestowed upon my father whose closet is where my mother’s clothes have been ending up since her newscaster days, but since four months ago, it is an even chance that I will have to put them on.
Ever since I can remember, my mother has been making my father put on her clothes. While it was clear that he didn’t really enjoy it, and that it caused him a great deal of embarrassment, he pretended that he was going along with it on his own volition, rather than risking a confrontation with my mother. From time to time, he did try to talk his way out of it, but he always backed down before his pleads could develop in a serious argument with my mother. Instead, he’d puff theatrically, “Oh, all right”, as if to say the thing he puts up with for the woman he loves, and then he’d emerge from their bedroom minutes later, dressed from the skin up in my mother’s clothes. “Just a bit of fun,” he’d say, although there was probably nothing fun about cleaning the house in a tight dress and high heeled shoes.
Looking back, I guess he was avoiding an open confrontation with my mother because he knew that she’d have her way in the end. Eventually, my mother managed to force him to rebel against her. The breaking point came when my mother brought home a ball gown had worn at an awards ceremony and told him to wear it for his birthday party. As outrageous as her demand was, my father’s resistance was an even bigger surprise to everybody. This had infuriated my mother so much that she staged an impromptu, but nonetheless formal feat-of-strength, with both of my grandmothers as referees. Not wanting to fight, my father hid in their bedroom. My mother was adamant – when he came out she’d fight him whether he fought back or not. The only way she’d leave him alone was if he came out wearing the gown. After a brief intervention by my two grandmothers, my father put on the gown and formally accepted that from then on, he would wear what my mother wanted, when she wanted and where she wanted.
On the screen, my mother walks across the studio to welcome her first guest. From the side, the tailored jacket nicely accentuates her slim figure. The same slim figure that has caused my father so much grief. Unlike her, my father’s metabolism is much more prone to putting on weight, and she does get more exercise than him. To make sure he continues to fit in her clothes, she has him keep a very strict diet.
“Isn’t that great? I can eat just about anything and not gain a single ounce,” she’d often tease him, wolfing down steaks, potatoes and deserts while my father nibbled on a salad.
He keeps his hope alive that with age, she’ll eventually start gaining weight which will allow him to eat a bit more as well, but so far, she has managed to keep her figure.
She walks across the studio coquettishly, the flared hem of her jacket dancing under the bright lights with her every step. Is it my imagination, or does she does that on purpose? Is she taunting us with the overly feminine detail of her outfit that tomorrow will serve to even deepen the embarrassment of one of us?
Unlike my father, I was allowed to live as a boy, and, except for the dresses I had to wear to frankly not very frequent formal visits of my maternal grandmother, I was free to wear whatever I wanted. Yet I never felt quite free and my father’s fate was a constant reminder that kept me in line, well into my early adulthood. It wasn’t until college when I moved away from home that I gained independence from my mother. Sadly, that only lasted one semester.
When she learned about my failing grades, it was decided that I’d stay home until she was convinced that I had the determination to finish college. Three days later, I was having tea at my mother’s club while the other members couldn’t agree which one of us was more embarrassed – my father, who for the first time in years had to wear a dress he’d worn before, or me, wearing my mother’s on-screen outfit that should be rightfully belong to my father.
It is during the first commercial break that we allow ourselves to take our eyes away from the screen. My father gets up and paces nervously around the living room. He is wearing the dress my mother wore last week, a knee length, straight skirted creation made of mocha-colored sating, with a black lace overlay that just about covers his breasts, and leaves the dress above them bare. He has pulled his hair in a tight bun at the back of his head, just like my mother wore last week. His breasts, which I can’t help but to admire how they push forward the bodice of his dress, are part hormones, part implants. Mine are silicone breast forms that feel both alien and disturbingly natural bouncing around in my bra.
I keep looking at my father and I simply can’t help but to wonder how it must feel like, to have them under your skin, a part of your body. How does it feel like when you don’t have to worry about buttoning your blouse all the way up, or to wear a low-cut top. But then I look down at my own and I can’t help but to admire the dance of the light, reflecting from the bright red satin of my dress with every breath I take.
The commercials are over and the screen again fills up with that sleek, shiny lime green fabric.
“Are you sure it’s not satin?” I ask my father, but he just shushes me into silence.
“I sure hope it’s satin,” I mutter for the last time until the end of the show.