I saw the film, “Showgirls,” with a friendÂ in 1995. We wereÂ alone inÂ the theater. I loved the movie from the get go, my instant-fierce love. The filmÂ received terrible reviews though;Â everyone said how bad Elizabeth Berkley was as Nomi Malone.
I’ve seen the movie dozens of times.Â I own it. Nomi isÂ breathtakingÂ every time. You know the poem by Robert Frost? The road not taken is never too far from the one you took.Â Nomi was a sad person,Â but she laid the mask on thick:Â falseÂ eyelashes andÂ lipstick. She was neon and pissed.Â Â I identified with her anger mostly, all that defiance and glare. I was afraid of her too. The road not taken. Her name was Nomi Malone. Nomi. Like, no me. Or every one.
Nomi spent a great deal of time in the film insisting, “I’m not a whore.”Â Except she was.Â
When my mother was young, right after she left my father, she was onlyÂ twenty at the time, she joined a rock band and went to California and tried to become aÂ star. She never talked about the experience.Â I don’t think there was much to tell.
I joinedÂ a rock band once.Â Two weeks later,Â IÂ returnedÂ to waitressing. IÂ was nineteen andÂ booed off stage in Gunnison Colorado. Two years later, I went backÂ asÂ Miss Coors Extra Gold and signed posters and posed with college boys for pictures and was almostÂ mobbed.Â I liked being a model. I liked the male gaze on me.Â After a while, you’re a prisoner though: how important the pretty was.Â In the movie,Â Nomi Malone told a male dancer, “You can fuck me when you love me.”Â Who loved her though?Â Maybe Gina Gershon’s character. Ultimately. They recognized one another, like looking intoÂ a mirror.Â Â Â
When my mother left California, she returned to Colorado. Her family was in Utah. My father was in Colorado. They ran into each other in a Dennys. HeÂ sat down on a stool beside her.Â They started to talk.Â Pretty soon a secondÂ man sat on the other side of my mother. SheÂ left the restuarant with him.Â In Colorado,Â my motherÂ got involved in drugs and prostitution.Â SheÂ was on a “Most Wanted” list. My motherÂ was busted for “solicitation and possession with intent to sell.” She worked as a hooker for an unspecified amount of time, a year or two maybe.Â She went to prison. And we all make mistakes.
Also, how do we differientiate?
When I was in college, a young manÂ told me writing erotica was equivocal to prostitution. I’d just begun publishing stories in erotic anthologies andÂ was proud of my publications. ThisÂ guy burst my bubble.Â ”You’re selling sex,” he said. “You’re a whore.”
If that’s true,Â I wonder how I justifyÂ punishing my mother with her past the way I did?Â There’s more to it,Â actually, but I can’tÂ tellÂ who’s reading my column anymore. People who could useÂ information against me. I know that.Â And you wonder why so many women use pen names. Boom!Â MaybeÂ I’m paranoidÂ becauseÂ I used my mother’s past against her.Â I judged her; IÂ punished her, and so why wouldn’t someone elseÂ punish me?Â Hey, it’s already happened. We judge each other all the time.Â Therefore I remainÂ veiled and hypocritical. I suck.
Years ago,Â I hadÂ thisÂ reoccuring nightmare: aÂ mob was stoning me to death.Â But maybe I wasÂ the mob and the woman we stoned to death was my mother.Â I didn’t want anyone to know who she was or how she left me, how abandoned I felt. I didn’t want to be her either. I didn’t want anyone to think that of me.Â Big fucking whore. Well, what if I was?
Last week, my father said I was a product of my environment, not genetics. InÂ ”Showgirls,” Nomi Malone’s father shot her mother in front of her then shot himself. She was a product of violence. This is supposed to explain her.Â I could explain my mother too. She never knew her father; she had more than oneÂ stepfather, and herÂ mother was so oblivious and checked out most the time,Â one of those stepfathers raped my mother when she was a child.Â That’s what she said. My motherÂ married my father to escape. My mother was a life long escapee.Â
“I’m a rogue,” she told me once. She was on the run. A consummate drifter. No roots. No ties, nothing. I think she was pissed; I thing she was confused; I think she was afraid. A No Me. Really.
Last weekÂ I read this article in People MagazineÂ about a woman who wrote a memoir about forgivingÂ her stepfather for molesting her. I wonder if my mother forgave the man who raped her? The article demonstratedÂ a problem of language though, specificallyÂ a problem of distance, soÂ ultimately a lack of responsbility. The sentence wasÂ written in the passiveÂ voice andÂ went something like,Â ”She woke one night to her stepfather’s hands feeling her.” No. She woke one night and felt her stepfather feeling her up with his hands. Big difference.Â I’ve been thinking about this. How do you forgive someone’s hands?
In the past I’ve written, “My mother abandoned me to become a hooker.” Not, “After abandoning me, my mother became a hooker.” There’s aÂ difference. In the first my motherÂ left me in favor of life as a hooker.Â In the second, she left and became a hooker. So I guess it matters, and then it doesn’t.Â What I mean is,Â when my son was born, I took one look at him and fell madly in love. When I was born, my mother didn’t fall in love with me. She didn’t experience the same rush of hormones, all that biology. Is that her fault? A woman who lacks the maternal instinct isÂ unnatural, right?Â Big fucking whore. Â
I’ve spent my lifetime seeking a mother. The one I could model myself after. My Genesis, aÂ teacher, myÂ mirror.Â You know how important it is? The Mother. I’veÂ rejected her, time after time, one after another.Â I go through them. I’m disappointed. Like feelings of abandonment, she’s a ghost.