4 min

Your mom told me

Hey, cuz, about that new job…

Credit: Xtra West files

Dear Cousin ella; I talked to your mom the other day, and she told me your news. She also asked me not to tell your brother, or my mother-your brother because your mom said she wants to tell him herself her way, and my mom because she’ll be all judgemental about it all, or so your mom thinks.

What I didn’t tell your mother is that I’d already heard all about it from my mother who is not so quick to judge you as your mom thought she would be, or at least she didn’t sound like it to me on the phone. My mom told me not to tell your mom that she knew already because our aunt told my mom everything last week when she first heard about it from your mother, but our aunt told my mother not to tell your mom that she said anything about it because our aunt thinks maybe your mom is ashamed.

I reckon maybe my mom isn’t as judgemental as everyone seems to think she is, and maybe your mom isn’t really ashamed after all; maybe it’s just that our aunt thinks your mom should be. Or maybe the truth is it’s our aunt who would be ashamed if you were her daughter but you’re not, you’re her niece. Maybe our aunt thinks her sister would feel the same thing she would feel if she were in your mother’s place. But our aunt only has one kid, a son, and these kinds of things rarely happen with boys, and when they do, everyone handles it all much differently, the world being how it is and all.

I must confess I did break down and tell your brother before your mom got around to it but that was only because he asked me directly how you were, but I did ask him to pretend he didn’t already know when your mom finally told him herself, her way. I never was as good at keeping secrets as the rest of the family seems to be, and I can’t bring myself to lie to your brother, because he’s my cousin.

But just so you know, I know already, and just for the record, I pass no judgement on you whatsoever, nor am I one bit ashamed that you are now working as a stripper. Do you prefer exotic dancer?

I actually figured a while back that it would be the next logical employment opportunity to come up for you after the novelty inevitably wore off of being a scantily clad mud-wrestler, as I hear the money is better and stripping is a lot easier to clean up after. Easier on the wardrobe, too, I imagine.

I, for one, have completely accepted your choice of job, aside from a brief bit of reorganizing in my mind due to the fact that the last time we spent any serious time together you were five or six and I was ushering you out of the bathtub and into your jammies for bedtime stories. Remember how I used to break gran’s rule banning unnecessary use of appliances, and I would pinch bath towels from the clothesline and heat them up in the dryer and wrap you and your sister up in hot towels like little kiddie burritos and hug you until you said you couldn’t breathe? My god, you were cute when you were little.

You are 19 years old now, though. You’re not a kid any longer. I need to start thinking of you as a young woman. You always did like to dress up, I do remember that.

Your brother had a bit more of an adjustment period to work through, as you are his baby sister and all, and I think the casual little conversation you had with him last week about your blanket routine kind of threw him for a bit of a loop.

I don’t know for sure if either he or I will be there for your set at The Cecil next month, but I know we’re both glad to have another artist in the family. He says he really feels you should hire a better photographer before you print up your next batch of key chains and lighters and posters, but I couldn’t say because I haven’t seen any of your merchandise yet, and I sometimes feel he borders on being a bit of an art snob when it comes to that kind of thing.

I had an interesting talk about it all with our aunt last week when she came through town, and I told her “who am I to judge?” Look how I make a living. You and I, we’re both entertainers, just with me it’s more my heart that undresses and how is selling your heart and your secrets on stage any ethically superior to taking your clothes off?

I blame it on us all being Catholic in origin. Many Catholics are fucked-up when it comes to sex and nudity and what’s a sin and whatever, especially with women; that is no news flash. How come nobody in the family gets all high and mighty when one of us takes a job where they have to suck in toxic fumes or paint cancer-causing chemicals onto things in factories for nine-and-a-half bucks an hour? The aunts and uncles all take drags off their smokes and say, “Well, at least it will put food on the table and keep the roof over her head. Everyone’s gotta eat.”

I figure, as long as you stay away from the hard drugs and you’re happy, then I reckon I’m proud of you for making that kind of money without a college degree. Just don’t forget to put a little aside for RRSPs, because it looks like the silver spoon kind of jumped right over this family, our inheritance has always been being able to take care of ourselves. Remember how gran used to keep a sock full of dimes and quarters and dollar bills in the freezer? She called it mad money. For a rainy day, or to get yourself something special every once in a while.

That reminds me, it’s your brother’s birthday coming up. Wanna pitch in and get him something really nice? I hear you’re pretty flush these days.