Sunday, February 14, 2010
People Don't Change
Boys call their mothers for all kinds of different reasons.
Sometimes we call our mothers because we've run out of clean socks or underwear or plates and we don't quite know what to do about that.
Sometimes we call our mothers because we're afraid no woman besides her will ever love us.
Sometimes we call our mothers in tears or in hysterics or in our boxers or in despair.
Sometimes we call our mothers because the world is mean and shitty, unfair and unkind, oppressive and fucked up.
Last week, I called my mother to tell her that my sister was selfish.
It wasn't some random comment that just flew out of my mouth when I wasn't thinking. I had just gotten coffee at Wawa and was on my way to pick up the work mail from the P.O. Box and I pulled out my cellphone on the way to the post office, having made up my mind to tell my mother that I thought my sister was selfish.
I was full ready for justifications and defenses and excuses and heavy sighs. Miraculously, at 60, my mother is still able to surprise me.
"You're right," she said. My jaw dropped.
"She's always been selfish, she's always been all about her, and that's the way she's always going to be."
"But I thought," I stuttered, "that, when she became a wife and a mother that she would..."
"No," my mother said flatly, "she won't. She's always going to be like that. Her selfishness is one of her most unattractive traits. You have some traits that are very unattractive, too, you know."
And then, for my benefit, my mother proceeded to list them for me. She's so thoughtful that way. But I was barely listening to her as she recited my personality flaws, so enrobed I was in the rapture of hearing, for the first time ever, my mother admit that my sister was selfish. It was like tasting Caffeine Free Diet Coke from the Holy fucking Grail itself.
"And you're always going to be like that, too," my mother said, interrupting my reverie, "people don't change."
I don't always agree with my mother, but I always like listening to her theories, especially about human nature and how my sister is selfish. That might be my favorite topic of conversation to date. I don't know whether or not I believe people change or they don't or if they're capable of change or if they change so slowly, so creepingly, so intricately that it's impossible to tell.
Maybe they do change and we just can't see. Maybe it's our fault. Our failing.
When I look at the people around me, the people I've known forever, I try hard to figure out if they've changed. I think I've seen changes in my father-- in some ways. He's become more of a pussy about the snow-- that's one easy thing to spot. This week, he stayed home on two weekdays. When I was a child, that crazy bastard would go to work in blizzards, he would shovel out the entire goddamn street-- the idea of staying home from work because of snow was about as crazy to him as suggesting that he dye his shoulder-hair pink and march at Mardi Gras in a pair of clear vinyl chaps. If my father knew what chaps were.
He's gone from not knowing how to pronounce "internet" to sending copious amounts of text messages from a smartphone every day. He's gone from tooling around in Oldsmobiles and Buicks to enjoying the leather-swathed surroundings of Saabs and BMWs.
But he's still the same old crazy Israeli motherfucker. He still has coffee flowing through his veins, he still threatens to grenade the cars of people who have the audacity to park in front of his house, he still calls his wife and all of his children "Mummy," and he still thinks it's acceptable to go out in public wearing "sveatpants," loafers with no socks, clutching an engorged wallet secured by a rubber-band.
Tonight, visiting Pittsburgh with my in-laws, I was in a car, wedged between the door and my wife, who was wedged between me and her brother. He demanded to be taken to an establishment that served milkshakes simply by repeating the word, "Milkshake" over and over again until his desire was met at a Cold Stone Creamery. At 10:15 at night. When my wife asked him what flavor milkshake he got, he turned to her and replied,
He's twenty-six years old. And, though I didn't know him back in the day, I'm told that he hasn't changed a bit.
"I'm still wild and hilarious," he declared with typical loudness.