I was dreamin' when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin'
Coulda sworn it was judgment day.
Okay, I have waited a decade to get this one off my chest and now I feel it's time to come clean (no pun intended—okay, pun TOTALLY intended). My grandmother passed away in June of 2008 so it has been over a year since then and over a decade since this incident actually took place, even though it technically continued on for years. I often think very fondly about my late grandmother, but more so in the last month since a cousin contacted me on Facebook and we discussed our family histories together.
I feel enough time has passed that I can share this hilarious and disturbing debacle with the world and thus unburden myself once and for all without being too disrespectful to her memory. Regardless, that old bird had one hell of a sense of humor so I'm sure she will be laughing her gasoline ass off wherever she is. (She always joked that she had a gasoline ass since she was always on the move, even at the young age of 93 when she passed.)
Let me take you back to the year 1998. The country was gearing up for the release of another Farrelly brothers movie. It was the perfect time for it too; you could feel it in the air. Adults were starting to act just a little bit antsy and crazy because Prince/Symbol/whatever promised back in 1983 that there was a crazy dance party coming. It was almost like these people had lions in their pockets and baby they were ready to roar! They didn't know yet about the Y2K glitch and the electronic panic that was to ensue as a result, or maybe they didn't even care.
Whatever the case, there was anticipation and excitement in the air. Anything went, I mean anything. A movie could be released where a guy masturbates before a date and his "results" could end up as Cameron Diaz's hair gel. There were no limits, because as the song goes, "we could all die any day" so who gives a shit. Any lawsuits would never get resolved in time anyway; it was almost like people were begging to be sued if they went too fast or something.
My parents owned the movie theater in the town I grew up in and that meant Hollywood and the various film companies were always sending swag to our house to promote their latest movies. Usually this stuff came in the form of t-shirts that you would get mocked for when you wore them, or baseball hats that you looked stupid in regardless of what they said. For some reason, I look ridiculous in ALL hats—I think it's written into my genetic code or something.
However, in the summer of 1998, the boundaries were pushed far beyond t-shirts and hats. After all, life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last, so they had little to lose. A harmless little promotional bottle arrived at our house from 20th Century Fox that simply said, "There's Something About Mary Hair Gel" on it. My mother, not thinking anything of it, decided that she would send it to her mother-in-law in Philadelphia (my grandmother in case you missed that). You see, no one in our family used hair gel and my mother figured that it was wasteful to just "toss it" (yes, that pun was intentional too). So she decided that it should go to someone who would actually get some use out of it—in this case, Grandmom.
Now in truth this was in no way a mean-spirited act because keep in mind, the movie hadn't actually been released yet. No one had ANY idea yet what Something About Mary Hair Gel was supposed to signify, but by the time the movie was released it was too late. My little old grandmother had already used it all and had begun a hunt for more that would last until the day she died.
A decade people! For an entire decade my sweet little old grandmother scoured the planet trying to find more "There's Something About Mary Hair Gel" because "it worked really well" for her. She asked her friends, she asked her neighbors, she asked her church group for crying out loud, "Where can I find some There's Something About Mary Hair Gel?!"
Every so often when I visited, she would ask me about it and our conversation would go something like this.
Grandmom: Andrei, did you ever ask your mom if she got any more hair gel?
Me: It is really hard to come by, Grandmom.
Grandmom: I simply can't seem to get any!
Me: I'm sorry, and I'm SURE that's very frustrating for you.
(Thank god she couldn't use the internet.)
Grandmom: That stuff really did the trick for me and you didn't need to use much, just a little wad.
Me: I know Grandmom, it really did make your hair look spunky.
Grandmom: Yes it did make my hair look spunky didn't it?
Me: Too bad Grandpop isn't with us anymore because maybe he could have found some for you.
Grandmom: You know he used to sell that kind of stuff door to door.
(My grandfather was a door to door salesman of just about any household product back in the ancient days when that was a more common practice. He sold things like coffee, tea, soap, shampoo, etc.)
Me: Grandmom, maybe you should just give up your search. I'm pretty sure you won't get any ever again.
Grandmom: No! See that is the problem with your generation, you give things up too easily. If things don't come quickly then you move onto something newer, faster, and easier but far less superior. With a little extra effort you never know what will come.
Me: (muttering below the hearing level of a 90+ year old) Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph please help me! (Incidentally, I never have received an answer from any of them ever…. Gee I wonder why?)
That certain "come and get it" look.I never really knew what was in that little promotional swag bottle of hair gel. I can only assume it was just your basic normal hair gel, but then again maybe not. Whatever was in that bottle, it certainly did the trick for Grandmom—unfortunately, she never found any again. No one in the family ever told her and she never saw the movie. I don't think any of her circle of friends, neighbors, or her church group even knew about the movie.
But you know what keeps me up at night? I can't help think, as tenacious as she was, that she must have gone to grocery stores, drug stores, beauty salons, and various other places asking the young clerks for "There's Something About Mary Hair Gel." I hear the laughter of those clerks. I hear it late at night in my head, when I'm trying to sleep and frankly it fucking terrifies me. I'm not a religious person (mostly because I already know for sure where I'm going) but I can only pray that those clerks thought she was a really hip old lady trying to play a hilarious practical joke on them.
Regardless, I do know this much: when they laughed at her inquires for that elusive hair gel, she laughed right along with them, even if she didn't know what the joke was. If there was one thing that funny, self-sufficient, tough old bird with the gasoline ass didn't need any more of, it was spunk.
Doris Loretta Trostel, 7/28/1914 – 6/8/2008