Dysfunctional Family Unit


I felt like I was having an extended bad acid trip that just kept getting weirder and weirder. It started when my dad came out of the closet and waltzed into our family living room wearing a black cocktail dress of my moms and declaring that he was not gay, but a cross dresser, and that we would have to deal with it. He ruined Thanksgiving.

From that day forward, he insisted on having “girl talks” to me about moisturizer, makeup, hair products, and shopping. I don’t think he really understood how difficult it was for me to view him in this new light, when he had always been the one to fix my car and help me with my apartment renovations. I needed a dad, not a cackling schoolgirl wannabe. It was like he had regressed by 35 or 40 years, suddenly he had this “belle of the ball” attitude and acted like one of those horrible sluts on Girls Gone Wild videos. He even started frequenting some of the same clubs as me prompting me to leave the nightlife scene all together.

And my mom… She just pretended like it wasn’t happening. Kept getting more and more into her Tai Chi, Yoga, and new age self-help therapy books in search of her “true self”. No longer could I have a straight up conversation with her, it was all energy this, and spirit that, and chi… whatever the fuck that is. She was turning into a total flake and she started buying pot off of my friends too. She had changed her wardrobe and stopped shopping at Northern Reflections and Reitmans. Most of her clothes came from China Town or new age yuppie shops that sold lots of Linen and Hemp and CDs with relaxing sounds of nature and harps and shit.

Mom and dad appeared to have completely different lives and completely different personalities in the matter of 3 months. I liked the old them… the mom who wore pleated pants that were tapered at the bottom, tried a new recipe every week for kicks, and went to the same hairdresser she’d been going to for 15 years every 6 weeks to get her short cropped hair cut and coloured. The dad that found things to fix in my apartment, suggested ways to increase security at my East end downtown apartment, or invited me over for barbecues every Sunday.

Something had to change. I needed to call in reinforcements. I arranged a web conference with my brother who was in Thailand and my sister who was at Michigan State University on a women’s basketball scholarship.

“Hi guys – Thanks for coming. We have a problem”

The slow pixelization and bad lighting of the web cams my brother and sister were on made their smiles change to a look of concern in slow motion.

Sister: “What’s going on? Is everything okay?”

“No!! It’s not… You two should have been home for Thanksgiving!” I broke down crying

Brother: “Oh my god!! What’s going on?”

“Dad’s a cackling cross-dressing freak who wears Blue eye shadow and dresses that are 3 sizes too small for him and mom’s a flakey new age pot smoking space cadet who only knows chi.”


Sister: “I’m coming home.”

Brother: “We need to do something”

“That’s why I’m calling you guys. I’m sorry to have to be the one to deliver the news that your parents are completely fucked and have regressed 35 years and are no longer your parents. Dad doesn’t even barbecue anymore, and he smokes 100s with a filter now. Mom gave up bridge and doesn’t shop at Price Chopper anymore, now she goes to WHOLE FOODS… Can you believe that? She used to be so anti-Whole Foods. Used to say that it was all a marketing ploy to get yuppies to spend more at the grocery store.”

Sister: “This is bad…”

Brother: “Have you talked to nan and Grandad?”

“Oh yeah, like those two raisins are gonna do anything…They can’t even remember our names half the time. Nan put ketchup on her chocolate cake the other day.”

Brother: “Yeah, but maybe the presence of their parents will trigger them to realize how they’re acting and change back into responsible parents again.”

Sister : “OR… Maybe the presence of their parents will trigger them to regress even further and solidify their existence back in time 35 years. It could become worse.”

“I’m thinking we need to resolve this ourselves, as an immediate family. I was watching intervention the other day and a family had an intervention for this crack head son who was on the verge of being homeless and had lost everything. It really seemed to work. Maybe we can do an intervention for mom and dad. What do you think?”

Brother: “I can’t afford to come home, do you realize how much it would cost me for a flight?”

“Oh okay, so you’re okay having a cross-dressing dad and a pot smoking flake of a mom?”

Sister: “Look look. I’m not too far, I can drive… Maybe we can pool our money for a flight.”

Brother: “I can get it back to you in a few months… Things are just tight right now.”

“Can you guys get home by next Sunday for an ambush barbecue? We each need to write something about how it makes us feel to have a cross-dressing dad and a pothead flakey mom… Really get inside their heads, tell them how disturbing it is for us.”

We all agreed to pour our hearts out on paper and prepare a letter to address the concerning behavior of our once normal and quite boring parents. I decided the best way for me to do this was to hang out with them instead of avoiding them.

I took dad shopping for earrings, wigs, and makeup and then went with him to get his legs waxed. I went to a Buddhist Temple with mom and then smoked a fattie with her in the car on the way home where we did some deep breathing and meditation (basically just trippy stoner stuff). I embraced their uber extreme transformations and respected their desire to explore this new side of themselves. All in the hope that it would make me write a better intervention letter.

But that’s not what happened.

I actually started seeing them as people instead of just as “my parents” and realized that this childish behavior of theirs, regardless of how off the wall and uncharacteristic it is, is obviously making them happy, so who am I to tell them how they “should” be acting.

I started feeling guilty.

The barbecue was scheduled for the next day, my sister would be arriving any minute and my brother later this afternoon. I felt sick. My parents were going to freak… They had no idea that either one of them was coming in from out of town and would be caught off guard and worried by this.

First my sister arrived; she opened the front door of my parent’s house and yelled “SURPRISE”! Dad went running down the stairs in his undergarments and panty hose and wrapped his arms around her. Mom stubbed out her joint and came in from the patio.

 They both looked at her happily perplexed as if to say “what are you doing here?”

 Sensing this she said “We wanted to surprise you… I hope that’s okay. Boy, you guys are looking really errrm different.”

Phew. I was relieved that she didn’t say something like “I’m here to take part in the intervention we’re having for you tomorrow silly.” I knew it was going to be more difficult to explain my brother’s homecoming from Thailand, especially because they knew he was living in a hostel and selling beaded necklaces on the beach for money.

Thankfully when he arrived, mom and dad were both out, leaving the three of us to co-ordinate the intervention. We all sat in the front room of my parents house with our intervention letters in hand to read to eachother. I looked at the two of them and down at my letter and felt sick.

“Guys… I’m feeling a little guilty about this whole intervention thing… I mean, I know it’s fucked… It’s SEVERELY FUCKED… But I can’t help but notice how happy they both are. And, they’re never happy. They’re always at each others throats bickering and complaining about insignificant meaningless things. They don’t do that anymore. And I guess I couldn’t look past the panty hose and pot, but now after spending a few days with them, I’m starting to get it.”

Brother: “So what are you saying, you want to just call it off? What are we gonna say, about why we’re here?”

Sister: “Yeah that’s what I was wondering…”

“Look, let’s just play it off as a family reunion of sorts, and not get into any specifics.”

Just then, dad came through the front door and mom’s car pulled into the driveway. We sat quietly in the living room until they were both in the house, and we jumped out and simultaneously yelled “SURPRISE!”.

Mom started to cry “You kids remembered. You remembered our anniversary?!”

She looked at dad, something she hadn’t done in months, and for a second, I saw a glimpse of my old parents, only happier. They hugged, and then came to kiss and hug each of us.  

We spent the afternoon in the backyard listening to one of mom’s spiritual sounds of nature CDs and drinking Chai Tea while dad did his nails.


6 thoughts on “Dysfunctional Family Unit

  1. well beverly, your comment says it all. 🙂 thank you! that’s exactly what i hope for when i write.

    thanks for reading!

    enjoy your day.

  2. “Dad’s a cackling cross-dressing freak who wears Blue eye shadow and dresses that are 3 sizes too small for him and mom’s a flakey new age pot smoking space cadet who only knows chi.”

    Lovin’ it … I love any story with parents more messed-up then mine 🙂

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