ETTA IS BETTA
The closest thing I have to a male role model is actually a female - our elderly, black housekeeper, Etta, who is warm in ways that mom is not, and seems to be more involved in my day-to-day life. Etta takes me to White Sox baseball games on Chicago’s south side, and she teaches me the finer points of the game. Etta coaches, encourages, and helps me to become a good little athlete and a big sports fan. I follow Chicago sports teams in the paper, listen to games on the radio, and master an impressive array of statistics. Etta has extremely mangled, arthritic feet, and she asks me to rub lotion on them. Etta’s are the only unattractive feet I ever touch, and I’m happy to do so.
I am aware that mom is a big fan of plastic surgery, so I ask her if that kind of thing could help Etta’s feet.
“It’s sweet of you to think of that, Duffy, but I doubt plastic surgery could help Etta… though it might work wonders on your nose.”
“My nose? What’s wrong with my nose?”
“Nothing, sweetheart. I was just joking. You have a gorgeous nose.”
Maybe mom is just kidding, but I take it very personally, and I run with the comment. It almost seems like I want to create pain for myself. I never thought anything was wrong with my nose, never thought about my nose… period. But, displaying the hypersensitivity that would become a defining trait of mine, I allow mom’s minor joke to set off a major campaign of self-inspection, as I now spend hours examining my nose in the mirror, along with my eyes, ears, lips, skin, hair, and everything else.