This afternoon I was in the check-out line at the grocery store. The woman in front of me was chatting with me about the rag magazines near the check-out lines. She was buying fresh flowers and two huge party platters of fruit. She was beautifully coiffed and she was wearing a pressed white blouse, khaki slacks, and cute little flat shoes with flowers on them. I was buying twenty cans of cat food, cat litter, and a 3-way light bulb. I was wearing sweat pants, black clogs, and a black t-shirt covered with—what else?—cat hair.
My purchases rolled along on the belt and I had a sudden objective view of myself that made me shudder. I saw myself as a disheveled, crazy old cat lady.
Last week I watched an old documentary film,
Grey Gardens, about a mother and daughter, relatives of Jackie Kennedy, who lived in a run-down, formerly grand house in East Hampton. They lived in squalor with a bunch of free-range cats on their beds and raccoons in the attic. The mother (Edith Bouvier Beale—Big Edie) and the daughter (Edith Bouvier Beale—Little Edie) were beyond weird. Were they totally nuts or just incredibly eccentric? Probably both nuts and eccentric. I felt almost hypnotized watching Little Edie, a former debutante and failed actress, who wrapped her head in turbans that appeared to be made out of drapery panels and old sweaters. She paraded through the film in a variety of costumes, danced, marched, and hammed it up for camera close-ups. And she tore up entire loaves of Wonder Bread to feed to the resident raccoons. There was a mountain of empty cat food cans in the corner of the living room.
Lord help me, I’m turning into Little Edie.