They only just stopped grumbling about it when paychecks started coming in, and particularly when I started writing them checks for rent, even though they always protest.
But I insist on paying rent. I'm not a complete slacker, I'm just half of one.
Occasionally I'll hear one of them mutter something about getting a "real job" under their breaths, but for the most part they try to put up with their daughter's weird work habits.
Just like I'm trying really hard to put up with their Big Damn Country Dinners.
My parents both grew up in Iowa and, as such, they never shook the whole "come in from a long hard day of work on the farm and eat a huge meal at 9 p.m." thing -- even though neither of them has ever been on a farm, ever.
They also are really big on "eating together as a family," which pretty much translates to sitting around the dinner table and listening to my dad rip on the President for an hour. (Sorry Democrats.)
So every night around 9 p.m. or sometimes even 9:30 p.m., we sit down to a HUGE FRIGGIN' SPREAD that starts with cocktails, then progresses to some type of giant hunk of meat, some form of potatoes (always potatoes), butter-soaked dinner rolls, about 19 different vegetables -- half of them creamed, wine (thank God) and dessert.
By the time we put it on the table, eat it and clean it up, I kid you not it is 11 p.m. You can ask my SL friend Heidi Halberstadt, who often gets subjected to my IMs about "Late-Night Steaks and Trying to Digest Them."
(We're getting to Second Life, I swear!)
So lately for the sake of my thigh size and my digestive tract, I've been trying to find ways to duck out of Family Dinner Time at least twice a week.
A few nights ago my mom came in the kitchen and busted me making Kraft Macaroni & Cheese at -- GASP! -- 6:30 p.m. and asked me what the hell I was doing.
"Well, I'm eating now because I'm meeting my friend Jon at 9 p.m." I said.
"You're meeting a man like THAAAAAAAAT?" she screeched.
"Like thaaaaaaat" was a pair of ratty yoga pants and -- for reasons I'm not gonna drag you into but they involve a two-year-old -- a giant Sesame Street T-shirt (hell yeah, you can buy them in the men's section of Target), a Flinstones (Pebbles)-style ponytail sticking up out of the top my head and little Tina Fey-ish glasses. Sexy. Cough.
"No, not in person -- I'm meeting him online."
"Like . . . on eHarmony?"
"No Mom. You know how sometimes you talk to Aunt Janet on AOL Instant Messenger? And you know how sometimes you get on Pogo or whatever the hell that Web site is called and play Monopoly with people? Well, it's kind of like combining those two. There is this . . . uh, like a massive Web site . . . called Second Life and I can meet my long-distance friends there and we hang out as avatars."
"It's called an avatar -- it's like, a virtual representation of yourself?"
She looked at me blankly.
"Like, I create a little . . . cartoon person . . . and she can move and talk and go places on this . . . Web site."
"Do you and Jon play Monopoly?"
"Sometimes we play a game called Zyngo," I said, "But lately we've just been sitting on a couch or a bench somewhere and chatting."
"Well why the hell don't you guys just call each other on the phone?"
. . . . . . . (Why does she always have to hit me with these deep, philosophical questions?)
"Mom, I don't know. It's more fun this way because we can kind of 'see' each other, you know?"
"Wait, what do you mean you sit on a couch?"
"Well, I have a house there."
"On a Web site?"
"It's kind of like, you know, a virtual dollhouse? I can decorate it? And hang out with my friends there?"
Suddenly my responses were sounding insecure and defensive? With question marks on the end?
"And you call them what? Atavars?"
(No mom, those were characters on an episode of "Buck Rogers," Season 2.)
"Avatars," I said.
"Well, maybe I'll make an avatar," she said.
"Maybe I'll make an avatar . . . and come to that place and tell you to get off that couch and go find a real job."
Ha ha ha.
* * * * * * * *
A couple of days later she walked by me while I was on my laptop and saw me hunting for eggs somewhere.
"Is that the Second Place?"
"It's called Second Life. Because my first life sucks right now."
"Is that person right there you?"
"You named yourself after a casino?"
"Mom, I didn't come up with that last name, actually."
A contemplative pause.
"Her chest is a lot bigger than yours."
"Yes, I live out my cleavage fantasies here."
"If she's really supposed to be you, then why isn't she wearing sweatpants?"
"Ha. Mom. Ha. Ha. Ha."
"Well, I'm glad to at least see you're wearing lipstick in this place."
(My mom thinks that "just a little lipstick" will solve all my problems, even if I'm not even leaving the house that day.)
"So what is she doing?" My mom was really fascinated at this point.
"I'm on an Easter egg hunt, except there are clothes in the eggs, not candy."
"Yes mom, because see, I can change her clothes and her hair and her face when I feel like it."
"So basically you are [30-something] and playing Barbies and living in a dollhouse . . . but online."
[Yeah, and I also have a Ken doll.]
"MOM, I don't know. It's just something to do."
She continued to lean over my shoulder.
"THERE'S AN EGG!" she shouted triumphantly.
LOL and sheeeeeesh! Now we know where I get my hunt enthusiasm.
"Thank you, Mom."
She moved in closer.
"Uh, Mom, do you mind if I get back to this now? Like, by myself?"
"But I want to help you look for eggs!" she protested.
"Yeah, but that kills the fun for me. I thought you were gonna play Monopoly with your friends on your laptop today."
She wandered off.
Later that night, when a rack of lamb was simmering on the stove and way too many potatoes had been peeled and mashed and we were easing into "cocktail hour," she came into our sun room, where I was -- GASP! -- reading a book and said, "Can I use your laptop?"
"Why -- is yours broken?"
"No but I'm bored with Monopoly. I want to play your Egg Game."
"Egg Game" - ha ha haaaaaa!
You know, maybe we should call it that, now that Second Life has seemingly become one endless hunt.
Any day now, my mom is gonna snag this laptop when I'm not around, figure out how to log on as me, and then God only knows what disastrous things she'll unwittingly do.
Just an advance warning.
If you run into me somewhere and I seem like a Pod Person from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," it's probably not really me. It's probably my mom.
And meanwhile, now I kind of want to change the name of this blog to "Emerald's Egg Game."
But then only the few people who make it alllll the way to the end of this epic post would get the reference.
And if you happen to be one of those people, you get a cookie!!!