Friday, February 19, 2010

The Dizzy Blonde Clause

My mother was too afraid of living alone not to precede my father in death, and so she did, by almost four years. But decades before this event ever happened, she made sure to look out for her three loser daughters (financial losers, if nothing else) by making my father add to their will what we all came to call the Dizzy Blonde Clause.

“The minute I die, your father will marry some dizzy blonde,” she used to warn us pretty much daily. “And that dizzy blonde will get all your money, unless I nip this right now in the bud.”

Nip it she did, which explains why I get to be crazy, but nonetheless--as long as I don’t buy anything or go anywhere--clothed, fed and housed. In this regard, I’m obnoxiously blessed. And since the money regard is the only regard that makes any real difference, you might even say I am totally blessed. They say good health is the one thing that matters, but if you have no money to treat your afflictions, you can’t have that anyway, unless you happen to be some bionic, affliction-free Viking. Plus, if you have to live without money, your zest for said living (99% of which will be devoted to fretting), might very well wane.

So I thank my mom every day for protecting me (so far at least) from dying alone in a boarding house a la the tragic and young Lily Bart. (See Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, a novel no girl should Leave Home without.) And back when I thought I was Edith Wharton (or at least sane enough to finish a memoir) I gave some thought to the Dizzy Blonde Clause and wondered if the blonde in question really had to have vertigo, and if she could just as well have been a brunette. What I wondered most was whether my mom had plucked this suspicion directly out of the paranoid blue, or if she’d known something about my dad that I didn’t.

And then I remembered my first cousin’s wedding, which took place in Brooklyn about forty years ago. My cousin, whose father was brother to mine, looked at that time exactly like Heathcliff (i.e., like Laurence Olivier) except about a hundred feet taller. We all flew east to watch him be wed, and my dad brought his movie camera to record the festivities. Since, even at age 17, I knew I’d rather be murdered than filmed, I spent the reception getting drunk behind drapes, thereby protecting myself from showing up later in Dad’s evil footage.

Let me just say that I needn’t have bothered. Neither my mom nor my sisters hid behind drapes and they weren’t included in his footage either. Nor, indeed, was the nuptial couple. No, neither Heathcliff of Harvard nor his young bride of Radcliffe showed up on screen, not even once. And this was because Dad had turned his lens on one person only: the youngest and dizziest blonde in the room. Possibly, since we were the only guests from California, the only blonde in the room. I recalled all this as the first time it had really occurred to me that my dad might be, well, you know, insane.

A few decades after that wedding, as I grew more mental and ever more doubtful of my own perceptions, I decided I had made it all up, that no man, even my dad, could have been so obsessed with one gorgeous blonde. But since I doubted all my perceptions, including that one, I had to watch one more time to make sure. And there she still was: In a mini-skirt yet. All by herself. In every frame.

Then I did something so nuts as to prove beyond doubt just how insane working on a memoir can make you. I sent an email to the publisher of the great Francine Prose. Reminding her that I was first cousin to her first husband, and had once, long ago, even been to her wedding, I told her I was writing a book and asked if she remembered that Blonde.

Prose, a prolific genius, is also exceedingly kind. She wrote back immediately and told me not only the name of that blonde (a good friend who, though blonde, had been with her at Radcliffe), she affirmed that I wasn’t insane for thinking my dad was, plus she was very encouraging about my dumb memoir.

Her attention filled me with both joy and hubris. Oh goodie! I thought. Maybe she’ll blurb the back of my book! And then, of course, I couldn’t write it. Which is partly because I’m not all that smart, but also because, afraid of being filmed as I was and remain, I knew I couldn’t promote it without hurling myself from the world’s highest bridge.

And so once again I give thanks to my mom. She wasn’t a paranoid, she was realistic. She’d made my dad add the Dizzy Blonde Clause even before we went to that wedding, so I guess she’d been used to fending them off. I can see those blondes now, spinning before her like Olympian skaters as she pours hot grease all over the ice. For herself, of course, but also for her failed writer daughter, who will live off the D.B.C. evermore. 


  1. I'm so glad you are writing again, or at least where I can read it.

  2. Keep writing, someone will pick you up on a syndication deal. You write from the heart and that's something I appreciate. By the way, were you an Erma Bombeck fan? I think she is the godmother of all of us who write or thinking about writing about the absurdity of the ordinary.

  3. I'm getting tired of waiting for the next post.

  4. Linda, you're always so tired.
    Maybe lay down and take a nice nap.


  5. But Fogman, it's been almost a week since the last post.

  6. But Linda, no one seems to complain except you.
    Poor dear, you must be absolutely fatiqued standing alone on GonickWatch for all the rest of us. And for that you have our undying gratitude.
    Carry on.


  7. Dear Mary Ann: I am glad too!
    Dear Lily's Mom: Yes, I was a Bombeck fan (as was my mother) especially when she said she was sure dogs took the bus to get to her house just to knock down her garbage can. But truthfully, I'd rather be waterboarded than syndicated as I can't endure one iota of pressure. Not that there's any danger of syndication. Thanks for being there!
    As for Linda and Fogman, calm down and make nice! I've posted already. Love always,

  8. Linda, please talk yourself into being glad dear Ms. Gonick has returned to her loyal readers at all ... you think a week is a long time? Remember the years between her last column and her first post? I'm just sayin' ...