Everyone has dysfunctional family members (except for my husband Tom, whose family is a kind of Brady Bunch hybrid - a kindred of happy, stable folk with good jobs and no tendencies toward alcoholism), but if there was some way to measure dysfunction, my clan would rank in the 97th percentile.
While Parker was telling her friends that she was the cousin of 70's heartthrob "Shaun Cassidy", I had lowered expectations. I told all my classmates that Paul Lynde was my uncle. Paul Lynde? For those of you who don't know, Paul Lynde was a comedian in the 70's and a staple on the original Hollywood Squares. To say he was gay would be to putting it mildly (not that there's anything wrong with that), but as a child I was oblivious to his sexuality. Why I had selected him to be my 'pretend-celebrity-uncle', I'll never know. Perhaps it was that contagious chuckle and those amazing multi-colored ascots he always wore. Needless to say, my friends were not impressed.
I stepped it up a notch when John Belushi died in the early 80's and I also adopted him as my "uncle" as well. Clearly, this was more impressive, and with his scandalous drug overdose at the Chateau Marmont, I knew I'd be admired for being related to a celebrity icon. Now that's messed up.
Perhaps it was my constant need for attention that caused me to brag about uncles that didn't exist. Either way I can always place the blame on my mom, who has a flair for drama. Mom came from a long line of dysfunctionals - an alcoholic dad who was rumored to once be engaged to Lana Turner and was good buddies with John Wayne (Mom used to sometimes hang with John Wayne's kids growing up). While I could write for days about Mom's shenanigans, some of her highlights include getting angry with my dad at an upscale wedding reception and throwing her shoe at him from across the room, hitting him in the head. Did I forget to mention the time she had my dad served with a subpoena at my own wedding reception? I guess you could say my Mom has flair for wedding etiquette.
In High School when my parents weren't going through one of their many "Trial Separations," they were out of town every other weekend on business. I responded by having small get-togethers for 250 at their house. Not to worry, if things got out of control, as they often did, my best friend Parker was always on hand to play the bad cop. During one over-the-top party, Parker stood on the kitchen counter in her Zodiac boots, with a turkey leg in one hand and brandishing a butcher knife in the other screaming at the crowd to "GET OUT" (I know I've told this one before, but it bears repeating). My parents would inevitably return the following Monday, and never seemed to notice the smell of Teen Spirit and stale beer - they had their own issues.
My sister avoided the drama altogether by taking to her room during her junior year and staying there, bedridden with migraines for an entire year. I have little memories of her during that time except for occasionally opening her door, seeing a tuft of black hair under the covers and hearing her yell "GET OUT".
I can't forget my dear brother who, when I was 10 years old, brought me in his room to tell me in great detail that he was a regular pot smoker and then proceeded to show me how to load and use his 4 foot bong. I stood there with a look of horror and nodded incessantly as he showed me the difference between a bud and stem. He stopped just short of asking me if I wanted a "hit". Once again - so messed up.
In order to list all of my dysfunctional "life-moments" I'd probably be better off writing a memoir. For the time being, I'll have to just be content that against all odds, I turned out somewhat normal.