“You and Kim will end up in your own ‘Grey Gardens’ one day,” a friend’s boyfriend whispered to me at a party a few years ago. The “Kim” in question was, of course, my mother.
At the time, I hadn’t watched the famed Maysles brothers documentary, but I was familiar with the gist of it: a mother and daughter, both single and unemployed, live together in a microcosm of their own at an eccentric estate, drive each other nuts, and do weird shit, like consult astrology and dance with their cats or something.
Obviously I love my mom and all, but even though we had just thrown a fairly successful sex party for friends of mine, a betrothed couple, at my parents’ house (which, coincidentally, or not, resides on a street that starts with “Grey”), wherein which my mom and I exchanged sex tips while passing around a large dildo and showed off our identical blue moon tattoos, I was downright insulted by the insinuation. Who was he to assume that just because my mom and I share a mutual adoration for Stanley Tucci and a disdain for a cubicle existence, I wouldn’t get married to a man or a career, or both? Who was he to imply that just because my mom and I routinely drunkenly passed out on her Queen-sized bed together during our annual Christmas party that our relationship was so symbiotic that we’d rather die together than live apart?
But, mostly, I was scared shitless of his remark because I knew it was true.
I’ve lived with my mom as an adult on-and-off for the past five years, and to say we are “close” is putting it mildly. My mom once went to a psychic and he told her that in a past life, we had been sisters – I being the older one – who worked on a vineyard in Italy. I think that best sums up our relationship: a sometimes-contentious-but-super-loyal-and-loving relationship with boundary issues that rivals the crazy antics of Trading Places in which the wine flows freely. It works for us.
The last time I moved back home, as I sat in the backyard with my mom, drinking tea and bickering about what we should eat for dinner, I remembered the ‘Grey Gardens’ comment, so I finally watched it on YouTube. I can now, finally, say, that my friend’s (now ex) boyfriend’s prediction is absolutely…correct (except Mom is way too tidiness-oriented to live in such squalor and my flag dancing isn’t what it used to be.)
If you’re unsure whether or not the relationship you share with your mom is “Grey Gardens”-like, I’ve compiled a list of signs (along with actual quotes from Little and Big Edie) that will either scare the shit out of you, or have you running to the nearest Goodwill to purchase scarves and kimonos.
“Mom wanted me to wear a kimono. We got into quite the fight.” – Little Edie
Mom and I can have quite the throwdowns. But when it comes to clothes? Red alert! We have the exact same taste in clothes, and it suuuuucks. You’d think American Eagle would be sacred, but no. And neither of us will budge. So, the other day, Mom and I showed up at a family friend’s house, dressed EXACTLY THE SAME. It was as awful as you can imagine.
“Oh, Edie! Are you around?” – Big Edie
I am always around for: computer and/or Android panic, grocery shopping, watching The Young & The Restless, going down to the basement to retrieve olive oil or mustard, opening windows to “let the breeze in,” drying dishes, drinking sparkling wine on the porch, getting the mail, setting the table. Basically, I am ALWAYS AROUND.
“If you don’t do what everybody else does out there…you’re written off as crazy.” – Little Edie
I just got my mom into watching, and figuring out how to watch, Netflix. Needless to say, she’s way behind in everything. That means no Breaking Bad, no Bates Motel, no Orange is the New Black. I resisted watching Season 2 of OITNB until Mom caught up (because, basically, every night is Netflix night with us) but then the spoilers came, and everyone’s asking, “Why haven’t you watched it yet?!” and “why do you have to watch it with your Mom?” I don’t HAVE to, of course. But I choose to. Because I want to. And if that means being ostracized and written off as “so analog,” then so be it.
“It’s true about old maids. They don’t need men if they have cats.” – Little Edie
We, indeed, have two cats. We talk to them. We sing with them. Yes, we even dance with them (see above.) We love animals a lot. At one point, we had three dogs and three cats underneath one roof, and we couldn’t be happier. There’s even an altar of urns filled with our dead pets, along with whiskers and old nail clippings. It’s soothing to us.
“Where the hell did you come from?” – Big Edie
As I previously mentioned, Mom and I can go all World War III on each other in the blink of an eye over ANYTHING. We fight over who makes the perfect cup of tea, going to great lengths to prove who’s the Tea Master (refusing to make tea-for-two, refusing to refill the milk, refusing to share cookies, etc.) We fight over our Netflix nights (OK, I had to watch Season 2 of OITNB without her, I had to!). We fight over who did or didn’t set the house alarm. We fight over laundry, dinner, The Bachelorette, One Republic – you name it, and we’ve fought over it. The reason for this is because, for the most part, we are not alike. I’m a Capricorn, she’s an Aries. I’m pragmatic, she’s passionate. I like cold water, she likes hot water. When I was a child, I wondered aloud if I was, indeed, adopted. But, then I remember that we’ve been in each other’s lives since the Italian vineyard days, and that we both adore Hall & Oates, and it’s all good.
“’Course I’m mad about animals, but raccoons and cats become a little bit boring. I mean, for too long a time.” – Big Edie
My mom and I spend many afternoons in our backyard with our summer cocktails – blueberry martinis – where we have named a large bunny, Carl, and have kept an eye on Eleanor and Leonard’s family (they’re robins.) It seems that Eleanor and Leonard and their babies have flown the coop, or, possibly, Roger (a squirrel) ate the eggs, and they’re in mourning. We are still hopeful for their return.
“I better check on Mother. She’s a lot of fun. I hope she doesn’t die.” – Little Edie
Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer, screenwriter and proud cat lady, based in Toronto. Three be the things she can do without: sexism, traffic and an empty bottle of red wine. Her work has been featured in The Frisky, Nerve, Creative Screenwriting Magazine, among other publications.