Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Bette Midler Sweetheart Soap Kind of Day



1960
Kalamazoo, Michigan

I am in my yellow bedroom with the Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater and Jack and Jill pictures.
It is bedtime.

I hear Mama yelling.
She tells Daddy that he thinks he is special because he has a penis in his pants.
He says something, but I can't hear.

The bottom drawer of the stove opens.
I know that sound.
Mama's goin' at it with the pots and pans.
Bam on the black and white speckled linoleum floor.
Bang come the lids. I hear one rolling on its edge.
I wait until I hear it fall over.

A door slams.
Mama is crying.

I tell my friend about what Mama said to Daddy about the penis in his pants.
I ask Mama why my uncle smells like New Year's Eve in the middle of the day


You don't get to talk truth in our house.
If you do, Mom takes you to the powder room
and she holds your head
over the lavender sink
while placing a bar of Sweetheart Soap in front of your mouth.

"Bite", she says.

And I do.
And I get the bad words washed out.
Mama's always telling me to "put a little sugar in my voice."

So see truth is not good, I figure.
It is something only for the grown-ups.
Not nice little girls like me.

Nice girls don't tell the truth.
They play by the rules of how a young lady is supposed to act.

Young ladies don't get mad.
Young ladies speak in soft voices.
Young ladies don't let themselves get dirty.
Young ladies ask; they do not state.

Mama hands me a booklet called You're a Young Lady Now.
It's got pictures of something called Kotex.
And a real ugly lookin' thing called a sanitary belt.

Book says I'm gonna be changing soon.
Book says things are gonna be different now
And that I will like it.

The young lady life don't seem fun to me-
well the pretty clothes part- but that's it.
I don't wanna be a young lady.

I wanna be my own girl.
I wanna wear my little mouse shirt that has snaps on the shoulder.
Mama says I'm too old because I have little bumps on my chest now.

She says that I am a young lady now.


Down and Dirty with Bette Midler
Johnny Carson
1984


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