Yeah, so I didn’t plan a fancy trip to Paree or a three-week vacation in Hawaii. This winter vacation would be like any other — a slow and lazy drifting through three weeks at home in New York City.
Only this time, I had it made. Mom, Dad, and bratty little sistah were taking an eight-day trip to Boca to visit my grandmother, and for the first time in 21 years, they actually asked me if I wanted to go before buying the tickets. Now, while I’ve always loved spending time in Boca Woods, a gated retirement community for the Jewish and elderly (and I should mention, eight days there feels like approximately three months, two weeks and four days), somehow the promise of eight days with my own apartment in New York forced me to decline the offer.
It would be my Uppah East Side bachelor pad. It would be swinging. I’d throw a party, and not tell my parents about it, JUST to pull a stunt worthy of Zach Morris. I’d tear down the Upper East Side and stumble drunkenly back into my Phat-Cave at 2 a.m. — and instead of making sure I didn’t slam the door, I’d be screaming obscenities! I’d be messy, I’d be reckless, I’d be extravagant. I’d be free. I would be the King of the Castle. Glorious.
And it was. For the first two days — [censored.]
Then I got strep throat — yep, Christmas came one day early. I wondered, was this my coal from Santa Claus because I’m Jewish? I’m sorry! And here I celebrated Hanukkah with such fervor — and all my religious piety for naught! In the end, for his 2003rd birthday Jesus got to bite me in the ass. [To those who used to insist all the time that the millennium really started in 2001, please spare me if I’m one year off about the birthday thing.]
I was alone with a fever, constant dizziness, and a throat that was remorselessly red (the color of desire!), and suddenly my swingin’ week of freedom had a cloud hovering over it that was very black (the color of despair!). And all my plans of liberation and decadence were in the crapper.
I started waking up between 2 and 3 in the post-meridian, not going outside or even getting dressed for days on end — days spent in a slow, feverish haze where the only movement was the spinning in my head and occasional trudging between the bedroom, kitchen and TV room. I was restricted to a diet of herbal tea and Jell-O, with no doting parents to attend to my every need. For a while, I didn’t see anyone or even talk to anyone, for the pain of speaking was too much to bear. I began to realize that I was having long, detailed internal monologues about which of our two bathrooms has the best hand soap options. I started noticing when plates and glasses were out of place, tortured by the knowledge that I alone had created this entropy and then forgotten about it.
Perhaps I was just adjusting to a life of solitude, but it felt oddly like turning into my mother. And It was then that I started to watch every single movie on HBO.
Meet Michael, the lonely housewife.
But fear not! I was on the mend, thanks to my shiny new antibiotics. Solid foods made a critically acclaimed comeback. And then one day, I woke up feeling so much better that I decided to celebrate immediately by raiding the liquor cabinet, which I’d like to go down saying I’d never done before, but it finally fulfilled my Zach Morris fantasies of hometown hijinks and talking directly to the camera. I was no longer a sad, lonely housewife — I was a drunken housewife!
Yes, yes, a few shots of vodka and I was having the time of my stay-at-home life. Things were finally looking good — until I realized it was Dec. 30.
When I first heard the keys in the door, I was peacefully enjoying a rerun of “Saturday Night Live” and wasting away the wintry afternoon. At first I told myself it hadn’t happened — it only was the apartment next door (denial). Then I heard the sound of my name being called to me in that shrillingly familiar voice, and grew furious that it was really true (anger). I spoke to God, asking, “Oh please, if you give me just two more days, I’ll –” (bargaining). But when I remembered that I worshipped river spirits and wood nymphs, and not the Judeo-Christian God, I found myself suddenly plunging into the depths of despair (depression). By the time my first home-cooked dinner came, though, I had made peace with my failed attempt at living dangerously and settled into the second family-fun phase of my vacation (acceptance). Yes, they were home.
Well, this was quite a dilemma from your old would-be Donna Reed! Having become so accustomed to solitude, I was now constantly surrounded by the looming consciousnesses of three other people. Every half hour or so, my mom would ask me if I was hungry. My dad noticed that I’d taken a pen from his desk. My sister needed to do homework on the computer, cutting me off from my one remaining source of interaction with the outside world, the Internet. I’d try to leave the house, but a conversation like this would take place:
“Where are you going?”
“Are you seeing a friend?”
“Someone I know?”
I was under constant surveillance. Sometimes it would work out well — with a mere whimper, I could get a plate of crackers personally delivered from a cabinet five seconds away. Now that they had me at home to cater to, my parents turned into little robot servants. Servants, and yet masters. Do you see the paradox? DO you?
And that’s when I noticed, on the day before I left again for New Haven, that I had begun to disintegrate as my world of dizzying self-reliance gave way to a world of rules. I had become paranoid, haunted by omnipresent parental eyes recording my every move. And after spending three weeks trapped in one apartment, I had lost the ability to think outside my own front door. Hoping to anticipate my mom’s comments about bowls left in the sink or the innocent “What’s this?” when HBO was on, I had become hideously aware of my every move. I realized that I was now obsessively conscious of a threesome of Big Brothers, even when they were all out. Yes, I had become so neurotic that, that night, I somehow ended up conversing with my toaster oven and hallucinating that the walls were singing Gilbert and Sullivan tunes behind my back.
And that is how my winter vacation turned me into a crazy housewife.
Also, I was screwing the mailman.
Don’t worry — Michael Schulman is completing his course of antibiotics just like his mom told him to.