I’m sitting in my truck, parked outside Madonna’s house. The Madonna. I look down at my hands. They’re shaking. Before I drove here, I downed a glass of wine. Don’t judge me. It was one glass, and besides, how many times in your life are you about to drive to the Madonna’s house to have dinner with the Madonna? It was a Pinot Grigio. When I bought it, the man ringing me up at Ralph’s told me it was a good choice because it left a hint of sour apple on the tongue. As I gulped it down in between applying mascara to each eyelid, I decided it left a hint of sour ass on my tongue. But, I didn’t have time to consult a sommelier, I needed a buzz and sour ass did the job.
I’ve been cast as Madonna’s best friend in a feature film. The role I’ve been waiting for my entire life. My break-out role. The role I was meant to play. The pain, the suffering, the rejection, the poverty, the desperation is finally… over. She has asked me to dinner, so that we may “bond” before the shoot begins. Life is great. I love my life. I have a wonderful life.
I check my watch. Crap. 9 minutes left before I’m supposed to be there and my sour ass buzz is wearing off. I can’t meet her without a buzz. I’m not pretty enough, I’m not fat enough and I’m not gay enough.
I’ve been getting all sorts of advice from friends and family on what to talk to her about…
“Tell her your mother died. Her mother died, Rosie’s mother died. You’ll have something in common.” That’s a great idea. Then we can form the Dead Mother Trio and travel all across the country entertaining America’s Daughters of Dead Mothers.
I breathe in through my nose to the count of 4 and out through my mouth to the count of 6. I do this 3 times. It’s supposed to relax you. I pull up to the foot of the driveway. I roll down my window and press the fancy buzzer-intercom thing. I look up at the hidden camera that isn’t really hidden, nestled in the perfectly pretentious bushes framing the driveway, and wave hello.
Jesus Christ. I’m not off to a good start.
“Drive on up.”
The intimidating gate opens and I drive on up, intimidated. In through my nose to the count of 4 out through my mouth to the count of… Oh fuck it. I ring the doorbell next to the too tall glass door with the wrought iron designs and feel uncomfortable knowing that anyone inside can see me standing outside. I try to look interesting.
An assistant type opens the front door. “M is in the shower, make yourself at home.” Sure. That shouldn’t be a difficult transition. Coming from my one bedroom apartment to this chateau in the hills… I’ll make myself right at home. I loiter uncomfortably in the hallway trying not to touch anything. Then I hear a voice. It calls out to me. I turn around and there she is. Right out of the shower and looking radiant. I’ve always envied those women who could get ready like a man. Shower and go! Go away is what I say.
Her hair is damp, she smells like expensive soap and she’s not wearing an ounce of make up. She’s dressed casually in a tank top and trousers that hang low around her rock hard abs. The first thing that comes out of my mouth is: “Can I touch your arms?” What in God’s name is wrong with me? I should just leave, but I’m not sure I can feel my feet. Then, to my surprise, she smiles, holds her arms out towards me.
I walk toward her and place my hands around her biceps. I give them a small squeeze. They’re extraordinary.
“They’re my litmus test” she says proudly. “If a man doesn’t like them, I know immediately he’s not the one for me.” Things are going very well.
“So… do I call you Madonna? M? Joyce?”
I get no laugh on the Joyce bit. I put it behind me. I move on.
We sit down at a long, beautiful table for dinner. One of her private chefs opens a bottle of red and pours us each a glass. I begin to relax. The salads are placed down in front of us and she proceeds to eat her salad — with her hands. She asks me all about my life. I launch into my spiel. She’s giving me a lot of eye contact and head nodding. I start to feel fascinating while simultaneously trying not to stare at the raspberry vinaigrette dripping through her fingers and down her wrist. I gulp down some wine. Gaining confidence, I throw out a cute anecdote.
“ So… when I was in high school, we all dressed up like you.”
She shovels some arugula in her mouth, stares at me blankly and says, “How tragic.” Not the reaction I was hoping for. Two steps forward, one step back.
Another Chef brings our main course, some fish cooked without oil or preservatives. It tastes amazing. She uses her fork to eat her fish and begins to open up. As I watch her, I’m amazed. She is nothing like who I thought she’d be. She has this whole persona, this don’t f*ck with me thing, but one-on-one, she’s quite vulnerable. Almost fragile, like at any moment, she could begin to cry. Not out of sadness, but because she seems to have a sea of very complicated emotions just below the surface. It’s very endearing. I suddenly feel like kindred spirits, for I too, have a sea of very complicated emotions… just above the surface.
Our plates are cleared and I’m a little disappointed because I wanted seconds. Tacky to ask for a doggy bag? We have dessert in her living room. I’m feeling nervous again. We’re in a new room, there’s no candlelight or table to hide behind, and… we’re sitting on a couch. I don’t have a good couch body. You need a long torso to look good on a couch and I don’t have one. When you’re short-waisted and sitting on a couch, your breasts land dangerously close to your hips giving your body a very unflattering boxy appearance. I try to lengthen my torso by sitting on my feet. Why in the world would I hide my long legs? My legs are the only things I have going for me. I take my legs out from under my ass and extend them proudly. Too proudly. I bring them back in a skoash. I know. I’ll sit on a pillow. Now my breasts are dangerously close to my hips, only I’m higher up. I’m towering over petite Madonna, so I take the pillow out from under my ass and put it in front of my stomach. I hug that damn pillow like it’s a seat cushion doubling as a flotation device. I say out loud, not meaning to, “There.”
She gives me a, ‘Seriously. Are you retarded?‘ look. I jump in with a desperate, “My mother’s dead, too!” It hangs in the air. An eternity passes. Then… she responds.
“Don’t you hate mother’s day?”
Ka-ching! Dead mother gold! I’m back! I push my legs out half an inch! Look at those freakin’ gams! Long, dead-mother-having, gams!
We finish our dessert and she gives me a tour of the house, showing me all of her magnificent art. I try to sound casual. “Sure, sure. Picasso.” We continue the tour in to her bedroom. Maybe we can have a sleep over I think for a moment. I know some great ghost stories…
But before I know it, she walks me out of her bedroom, goes directly back into her bedroom and closes the door behind her. I am left standing alone in the living room. What in the holy hell just happened? I’ve been dismissed by a closed door in my face. No good-bye. No “I’ll see you on the set.” No, “Let’s be BFF’s.” Nothing. Was it my short torso? Have I stolen something unconsciously? Maybe I crapped myself without knowing it? I divert my attention the seat of my pants. Dry.
In the coming days, weeks, months and years that I’m asked to describe what meeting the Madonna was like, I break it down a little something like this:
She eats salad with her hands.