Some people spend the holidays doing charity work. Others spend it in glamorous locations. This year, I went hardcore: I spent time with very aged relatives. The only way I can do this is to bring my own special brand of magic to their settled lives. To prepare myself, I first look at the ad on the back cover of an old issue of Reader’s Digest which shows the director and producer of The Women (2008) hugging each other yet looking narked: the film should have been really good but just WASN’T and it is the other one’s fault. (And the producer is wearing spectacles you can buy at Wal-mart for $82.)
So, I call my aunt, who is 91, but cool. She bought me my first suspender belt when I was 14. ’89,’ she says to me, ’89 sounds better than 91, don’t you think?’ Yes, I say, 89 is definitely SEXIER than 91. 89 you can still be hot. 91, maybe not so much.
‘You know those old people who get in front of you and go very slowly at the shops?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘Well,’ she says, ‘Be nice to them because I am one now.’…
Bless her. But I still can’t leave her to wait for peaceful death in her own little living-assisted flat. She looks like Katharine Hepburn – she always has – and her pals up and down the corridor call her Kate. ‘Auntie,’ I say, ‘Do you know Hepburn AND Tracy were probably bisexual if not gay?’ Silence. (I know she’s not anti-gay: her favourite grandson is gay. So… what?)
The next day, I call her up while she’s watching Frasier. ‘Auntie,’ I say, tuning in to the same station she’s watching two towns over, ‘see Frasier’s dad there on the right? The actor’s gay in real life.’
‘OH,’ she says, ‘between your revelations about Hepburn and Tracy and now this guy, I’ll never be able to look at them the same way ever again.’
‘Auntie,’ I say, ‘life is messy. It always was. We just have to embrace people for who they really are.’
You know, I think it is important to have those illusions ripped away, no matter how young you are. Trouble is, she really likes Tom Cruise.