I find myself rather amused with the publication day-eve public kerfuffle between best-selling author and sexual provocateur Erica Jong and her daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, who tells the press that she’s “anti-elder sex” (I am too, as long as we’re talking about the elders of the Mormon church.) I think that means that she wishes her famous mom would clamp her legs shut, even though her more-fabulous mom is the only reason the press cares about what she says anyway. Erica Jong is, of course, the author of the groundbreaking 1973 novel Fear of Flying, which follows protagonist Isadora Wing on a global sex romp that is hilarious and sad and would very much get a lot of panties in a lot of wads over the quantity (a lot) and quality (with strangers/her brother-in-law/more strangers) of sex Isadora has. Henry Miller praised young Erica upon the book’s publication. And really, it was groundbreaking. Few works of fiction back then spoke openly and freely of female sexuality that did not demand that the heroine be punished for having sex by dying at the end of the book. You should read it, unless the very idea o anyone over the age of 40 having sex makes you want to vomit, in which case, pick up one of those Twilight books. No elder sex in there, unless Edward’s advanced vampire age counts. Molly’s form of rebellion (still, at age 32) is to call her mom a slut in front of reporters while congratulating herself for being a big prude.
I admit it: I’m jealous that my own mother isn’t famous for anything, except for loudly sharing her astrologer’s predictions and not shutting the door to the bathroom at home. (It’s her house, she says.) So as I pursue my own success as a writer, not only can I not count on my mom to send my manuscripts to George Plimpton (who’s dead anyway), I don’t even have anything on which to vocally and vociferously oppose her for the sheer joy of rebellion. Our politics are the same and whether or not she is having “elder sex” is in no way my business.
Still, I am hungry for a publishing deal. So I called my mom and picked a fight:
MO: Hey mom!
MOM: Hello, Monique. How are you?
MO: I just want to say that astrology is stupid and wrong and you’re an idiot for believing it. In fact, I am so enraged at the thought of you reading dumb charts and telling me that Jupiter is in the second house and Chiron this and Taurus that…gosh, I want to spit! I demand you stop it!
MOM: What the hell is wrong with you?
MO: And if you don’t stop it, I will write a polemic against you! Did you hear me! A polemic! A vicious polemic! Maybe even a diatribe!
MOM: What is this really about, Monique?
(See, that’s the no-fun part of being the daughter of an unfamous woman. When she performs acts of mothering her adult child, Salon is not there to pick it up!)
MO: (Hangs up)
I further pondered what else I might use to publicly pillory my mother. It had to be a progressive idea, one that she fought hard for when she was my age, in a more oppressive era. I remember my mother having to wear dresses with nylons to school every day back in the sixties. When I was in high school in the nineties, girls had their tits popping out of t-shirts with the necks cut off, and that was just another day at school.
MOM: What? I’m watching Dr. Oz. Can this wait?
MO: (briefly considers insulting Dr. Oz just because her mother loves him) How dare you not wear dresses and nylons every day! The way you were expected to when you were in high school! Your insistence on wearing jeans and casual tops is immoral and disgusting.
MOM: You’re being an idiot. Goodbye. (hangs up)
Finally, I decided to just be real with my mom. She doesn’t deserve being treated badly, or having her need to analyze planet formations maligned. She’s a good mom. But still. I wanted something. Anything.
MOM: (irritated) WHAT?
MO: Can I ask you to do me a favor?
MO: I want you to call in a favor for me to one of your friends.
MO: Just…anything. I don’t care. Just prove to me once and for all that you have a phatty hook-up to SOMETHING! ANYTHING!
An hour later, she called back.
She’d called her friend at the Armenian bakery, who offered her a substantial discount on mail-ordered Armenian cracker bread. Did I want white or wheat?
White, I said.
It may not be the New York literati’s interest and blessing in whatever fool business falls out of my mouth, but Armenian cracker bread is damn tasty. Versatile, too.