Or, my mother used to look like Sarah Palin, back when my mother was forty and thin. She had the cheekbones, the wide, slightly open-mouthed smile, the big eyes behind the big glasses, and especially the hairdo, the one she'd been wearing since the early seventies, after she cut her long, flat-ironed Crystal Gayle hair; a betrayal, somehow, at which I'd cried and cried. The hair then became a Jiffy Pop bouffant in the back, and two sculpted swoops in the front, framing her gorgeous face, and it stayed that way until the mid nineties, when she gave up. It took hours; she had to shower the night before and spend half an hour with her curlers and pins and setting spray to put it in place. Then she slept with this acrid wire cage on her head; then it was another half hour in the morning blow-drying it, unrolling it, fluffing it, spraying it with Aqua Net, always with the Merit 100 burning on the edge of the sink, threatening to incinerate the apartment. Sometimes women on the street would stop and ask her where she got her hair done, and she would brighten -- "I do it myself!" The color and everything. She had naturally dark auburn hair which she brightened with dye, sitting in front of her heat lamp with her cigarette, her hair slathered into a purplish, sideburned mohawk. The women who asked always had lipstick outside the borders of their lips.
My mother looks less like Sarah Palin these days, though she agrees with her one hundred percent. I get into my mother's car, on the way to take her to the neurologist, and her radio is tuned to right-wing talk. The host is talking about "Obama," and his eyes are rolling so hard it almost gets gutteral for a second, "Obghama." He's making fun of the "way...Obama...talks sometimes...," which, truly, can be ponderous, but oh my god are you fucking kidding me? After that moron Bush, who couldn't spit out two words without mangling them and draining them of meaning, you're complaining about how Obama talks? This is the reality in my mother's car: Left is right, up is down, good is bad, and we have always been at war with Oceania.
At the neurologist, the doctor has her say the date, the year, count backwards from 30, spell her last name, identify the president, and tell her something that's going on in the country right now. "Well," says my mother, confused by this last one, "Obama's ruining the country."
The doctor happens to agree. They both look sideways at me like they know I'm one of them. Enough said; my mother is lucid, if not sane.
Later, she tries to drive the wrong way down a one-way street, gets lost driving in the town she's been living in for eighteen years. She hasn't cut her toenails in months; I saw them in the doctor's office, they're gray and yellow and fungal. She has twenty-four cats and she doesn't always remember all their names. But Obama's ruining the country.
I really detest Sarah Palin. I hate her willful, blithe ignorance; I hate her arrogance; I hate her insistence that you don't have to be good at anything, or know anything, in order to be politically influential. You just have to keep that wide, open mouthed smile going and your hair plastered in place.