What good is a manufactured man? Like dolls they are a dime a dozen. They come down, one by one on a conveyer belt in a Chinese factory and are then are packaged and shipped, with minimal care, to be placed on a toy shelf to please a bright-eyed girl for a little while, until the novelty wears off. Made of plastic, each one is shiny and new and hallow just like the doll. A plastic man can teach a girl as much about love as a plastic baby doll can teach you how to be a big sister.
And that’s why I asked my cousin Maksymilian (“Maks”) to tell us the story about the day my little sister, CNE was born.
Cashmere and opium perfume pulsated in lieu of her retort. Her blood sugar—normal at last check—okay, and no one was running late to a funeral. Mostly because there wasn’t a single funeral to attend that morning anywhere in Lake Forest, not even a Protestant one. She sipped her Diet Coke through a straw, letting her thick blonde hair tilt to a private thought.
The whole damn breakfast room was paneled wood, and quite frankly, it reminded her of a coffin. We looked at each other from across the table, the reflection of my suspenders’ framing an untouched plate of breakfast. Something about me sitting there made her smile.
I liked making Zaza smile because the screaming from upstairs was not going to stop. I knew it, Zaza knew it. Gigi could hear the screaming, but she only wanted to know how fabulous her 747 bow looked that morning.
Gigi, Zaza and myself were enjoying breakfast. Everyone else skipped breakfast and went to the hospital. JCE, my cousin and Gigi’s older brother, found attending breakfast an outrageous request. So he refused food and pitched a fit. Monitoring the birth your new baby sister has never been a civil right. I just think he panics when life abandon’s a pleasantly predictable pace. I haven’t seen him in years so I’m sure that’s changed.
Janina stepped away from the coffin walls and asked, “Please ma’am, about crying boy? Does he stay or should he go to hospital? You torture him.”
My mother brought Janina over to help when we arrived at the house that morning. That morning — the screaming, the chaos, my God mother’s kind smile as every domestic in their house partook in carrying her down the stairs. Giving birth can be the event of a lifetime, if you allow it, and we allow a lot of things.
That’s most of what I remember the day my youngest cousin was born. Well that part, and the part in the breakfast room.
My grandmother used to tell Janina that becoming one with the furniture was a virtue she lacked. A shays can’t repeat itself, but Janina could: “Does he stay or should he go to hospital? You torture him.”
Diet Coke makes a hissing sound when it lands too fast. When Zaza’s copper cup played gavel with the breakfast table, all that glass made a hiss.
“You torture him. Torture. Screaming.” Janina would have made a terrible shays.
Zaza studied German and spy novels in Paris. So when people give birth in our family, she has to watch the kids. Her blond hair straightened back up and then Zaza said, “Let the little f*cker go.”
“Pardon me ma’am?” Janina asked.
“Let, the little f*cker, go” repeated Zaza.
“Who is Little-F*cker” asked Janina.
Little F*cker–there are about 10 children and half a dozen husbands that may, or may not, earn (at any given moment) the right and honorable title of The Little F*cker.
That morning, I wanted to behave and Gigi was too involved with her 747 bow. And if Janina is the shays, that only left one person. That morning Little F*cker was JCE.
That was what Maks remembered but that wasn’t the point of the story and that wasn’t why I asked him to tell it. This is why this story is actually important.
Zaza was a woman of the moment. In this moment her charge was as follows: take care of the kids, everyone else will be at the hospital. My eldest brother, JCE, threw an enormous fit because he didn’t want her to go. After thirty or forty minutes of insane five year old screaming Zaza, flustered and angry said, “Just let the little fu*cker go!”
So, Zaza took Maks and I to the toy store. The idea being I would get a baby doll in order to make me understand that I was going to have a new sister. Part of me wonders if they feared me handling the real baby.
At the store I picked out my “baby”—and of course Maks wanted one too.
When we arrived home Maks and I found our grandmothers (my father’s mother and his father’s mother) conversing quietly in the living room. My grandmother was the quintessential, all-American Christian woman and Maks’ was a relic from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. We showed them our dolls and my grandmother asked, “What did you name your doll, Maksymilian?” and he told her, “Roberta.” Then she asked me and I responded, “Little F*cker.”
See, I wasn’t involved in my 747 bow over breakfast. I just thought that whenever we get a new baby we get to call each other little f*ckers.
Whenever I want a boyfriend, a boyfriend tends to appear. Now I don’t mean that I’m conceited, or full of myself, and that I can make boyfriends manifest at my heart’s desire. If I want a boyfriend, I turn my light on and settle down for however long that relationship suits me. When I say “I turn my light on” I mean Miranda-Sex-and-the-City “I turn my light on.”
A man is ready to settle down when he puts on his light, just like a cab. If my light is on, I’m available, I’m on the hunt. I usually have an idea of what I’m looking for in my next romance. The moment a man has those certain characteristics I approach the situation strategically. My careful tactics nearly always lead me right into a relationship with my target.
I met Grey while boyfriend hunting. I wanted someone in finance who was substantially older than me. Boom. Cue Grey. I met him in a bar, gave him my number and dated him properly for four weeks before ever letting him have my milkshake. Boyfriend. Done.
The birth of a relationship is like getting a shiny new baby doll. It’s someone new, untainted, and exciting. But if you force a relationship without letting it grow organically, eventually your baby doll, once dripping in novelty and flawlessness, looks like an ugly and worn out thing you found in the attic. Suddenly their personality flaws aren’t worth your time and effort. That’s not love. That’s not how love works.
I firmly believe that the right mindset in that moment when you meet your man is one of open mindedness. Allow him to demonstrate if he is the man who’s right for you. Simply wanting a boyfriend will never deliver the right guy. You can’t grow something strong from plastic beginnings, beginnings where the designer only ever intended it to look organic.
Then suddenly, you’re at a funeral. A tearful goodbye, or a hostile farewell, set to an old hymn that sings words of past failed relationships.
The death of another commitment, waiting in a paneled room at the beginning of each day. Your light goes off. You’re alone with nothing but the hiss of Diet Coke.
But look at this way: you’re single, you’re strong, you’re free. Who needs another little fucker?