When My Mother Was Eartha Kitt
Along the bottom of a forgotten banker’s box: a pair of black patent stiletto boots, knee-length and, somehow, once my mother’s. The woman who bought these boots: twenty and nubile, she smokes Capris and throws back her head, laughing at off-color men who broadcast their broken attempts to woo in languages just as foreign to her— konnichiwa, ni hao ma. She is impervious and breezy and says things like, “Now I bet you’d never try that with Julie Newmar!” Her world, onomatopoeic: heels staccato upon Detroit’s salt-ground pavement; men drop their highballs of bourbon—bam! Pow! Kaboom!—as her slight frame slinks past rows of wooden barstools. She purrs. When I found those boots in the sixth grade, I knew my own feet would never unlock their magic. My own body monstrous and lumbering compared to the petite contours from which I came. I knew men would never whimper to tongue my boots. Eartha Kitt mother, what would you say to the woman before you today? Would you understand your daughter’s self-fulfilling prophecies? Her need for distance, her proclivity for the third person. Her intoxication with the power of a man she cannot name emptying himself inside her, the hollowness of his embrace.