Between a Blog, A Tweet, and A Status Update: My Weekend Upstate

I hate to have an extremely terse blog. Yet a long series of tweets or status updates seems unreasonable. There needs to be a made-up inbetween. I have no choice but to let this ditty ramble to the point of being a bona-fide entry.

I spent the past weekend with family, upstate, in the muddy lawn of my parents’ backyard, celebrating my granddad’s 80th birthday. My father insisted upon leaving the tent up from my sister’s graduation party earlier in the month, meaning that the lawn chairs were set in the middle of a clay-filled swamp. This same lawn brought upon humiliating experiences for me at the age of 8, when we relocated to a different school district and I entered my new school with five inches of mud and clay surrounding my boots. Some days I would lose a boot or sneaker in the quicksand action of my parent’s lawn. The same suction can be found over a decade and a half later. So when the median attendee’s age to this past weekend’s bash was in the mid-70’s, it was no matter of time before a few of the seniors took a tumble in the mud. One poor old chap took a seat in a metal folding chair and the legs sunk six inches before he was catapulted into a puddle.

My great aunt, always fashion-forward and well-groomed, decided to sport her white slacks and a white blouse. She barely made it to the picnic table before mud splattered against her snow-white attire. She was accompanied by my often-absent great aunt, who embodies the image of an upstate-hick with unfaltering dedication. She, on the other hand, came in typical sweats and an oversized t-shirt, opting to sit in the bouts of rain and sink in the mud in perpetual bliss. My great aunt-in-white, always self-deprecating, took the matter to heart.

“I’m so stupid. I’m so stupid! I should’ve known better than to dress up,” my aunt-in-white declared.

“Hell, you’re not stupid! You’re American! Just like the rest of us,” my other, rain-embracing aunt replied with nasal resonance and bounce. And so the party began, with me feeling the same special fondness and warm glow that was always brought on by my rainy-day aunt.

My grandfather, truly embracing his 80th year, was more than happy to issue a few demands while he could. For one, he insisted that I make an apple pie. I’ve never baked for the man before but decided to give it a go, as finding a present was near impossible. I was proud to present my first attempt at lattice work on an apple pie, accompanied by streaks of caramel that became crisp and beautiful like the top of a creme brulee. I thought the pie was meant to be shared, but upon presenting the pie, my grandfather insisted, “Hurry up. Take that to my trunk. Just open the door and pop the trunk. You know how to do it.”

When I ignored the first request, he fumbled in his pocket for the car keys and showed me the “open-trunk” icon. “There you go. This’ll make it easier. Hurry up and put that pie in the trunk.” I followed his orders, partially fearing that after all the party-gluttony, this old man with cardiac problems would go home and eat an entire pie before the last of his arteries hardened beyond repair at the cost of my birthday token. 

The worst thing about visiting home, combined with a life of working in the entertainment industry, is that everyone is full of advice, demands, and insight. No one tells my sister how to deal with her mentally-challenged, enervating consumers that she works with daily. Nor do they tell my father how to inspect cars and write insurance claims, or my brother how to progress his career as an electrician-carpenter-jack-of-all-trades. But me? The suggestions are boundless, from telling me to get someone famous to record my songs, to get myself on Regis and Kelly so I can really become a hotshot and sell a million albums, or to take the ultimate step and get myself on “one of them singin’ reality shows.” And if that’s not enough, I have to explain all I’m doing and offer proof. God bless my poor aunt-in-white, one of my most ardent supporters, who just wants a piece of something to show off to her friends and enemies. I was meant to do a barely-paid shoot with moderate exposure for a bridal magazine a few weeks ago. My aunt has been picking up every bridal magazine since I told her casually about my work schedule three weeks ago. Of course, the shoot was scheduled by a demanding, psychotic designer who would not adjust call-times amid a week of other shoots and bookings, all while my bathroom was completely demolished and refused to give me a few hours leeway to arrive after the other models. Not to mention, the shoot was to take place on the hottest day all year, outdoors, in bridal gowns. So, I canceled the shoot. Wouldn’t you know, it’s the one booking my aunt fixated on, hoped for, and made me promise to save her a copy of this non-existent magazine. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I turned down the job.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of bookings offered to me recently involved full nudity, simulated sex scenes, and many other unseemly acts. I’ve declined every one, but can’t help but wonder if my aunt-in-white would proudly boast of such featured work or just encourage me to throw in the towel. She might just be upset that it could interfere with my chances to appear on her beloved Regis and Kelly. The hardest thing to explain to my family members, and goes without trying, is that when it comes to being famous, I stopped giving a shit about two years ago. Once everyone tried to nab their ten or twenty minutes of fame, it began to lose the luster for me. And I began to yearn for a fulfilling life chocked with great experiences, little pressure, fun, and freedom. I’d love to make something impactful and creatively-fulfilling and financially-successful, but it’s going to come in its own time and frankly, I’m just going along for the ride. 

As I’ve noted in this blog, many, many times in the past, the subject of my weight is a constant topic. Granted, the majority of my family members are obese and/or morbidly obese. My boyfriend, after a day spent with some family members, looked at me completely flabbergasted and inquired, “How did you end up with the good genes? You’re so lucky to be thin.” It’s not luck, it’s lifestyle, and judging by this party, it’s easy to see how each member got that way. And in their eyes, I’m considered anorexic. Maybe it’s because I don’t hide apple pies in my trunk.

One of my cousins appeared late at the party and watched me feed a piece of broccoli to my chihuahua (who is over-sized for the breed standard). She shouted to me later, “I was wondering who the anorexic dog eating broccoli belonged to and then said, ‘that dog must be Michelle’s.” So maybe size and eating habits do run in the household. Although if that’s the case, I’d find a hard time justifying my boyfriend’s decision to make country-friend ham and onions for dinner. 

The perfect closer to the day upstate was with my brother, who was lucky enough to get off from one of his thirty shifts of the week at one of his underpaid jobs (how I feel for this kid) accompanied me and my pup to the nearby lake. It was my dog’s first swim, and with some encouragement from my brother, little anorexic Jack instinctively began to doggy-paddle, gliding across the lake faster than a water bug. It was more survival than fun for the little guy and he swam much faster than me, as I tried to get away from his insistence on using my head as a flotation device. Hopefully the experience wasn’t too traumatic and he will learn to enjoy the evening summer swims with me and my kid brother. Hopefully, the same can be true for my boyfriend, who is more reluctant to dip into the waters of upstate New York. But, all in due time.