Let me just say that I’m not Dolly Parton.
As a ten-year-old boy, I wanted to become Dolly Parton. I would tear into the brittle plastic wrapper of my mother’s Dr. Scholl’s heel cushions, later clamping them securely around my bosoms. The foamy mouth brushed coolly against my skin as the round, fleshly orbs protruded comically from my shirt like two deformed tits.
I craned my neck, giving myself the once-over in my mother’s armoire. In my mind’s eye, the faux boobage bloomed into perky breasts speckled in rhinestone. It was to be a living monument to Dolly Parton’s 1977 album, Here You Come Again.
I was gonna be drinking and laughing and having a party with my mother’s Dr. Scholl’s Heel Cushion for Women with the Sensitive Heel.
I jiggled the Dr. Scholl’s heel cushions and shot the armoire a plaintive look.
“Hmm. Would it be possible to gerryrig a contraption so that I could spout little rivulets of breast milk down the chins of my sister’s Cabbage Patch dolls as they licked their lips in childlike anticipation?” I wondered.
Who knew that Dr. Scholl’s Molded Cushions for the woman with the sensitive heel could in turn make me feel like a natural woman?
I yammered senselessly about my newfound idée fixe at Christmas dinner, providing my parents with a cringeworthy holiday moment for years to come.
“Remember that time your kid mentioned something about trying on a pair of titties that turned out to be your wife's heel cushions?" my uncle would casually remark in his later years. My Dad’s face blanched, losing all color. He barked a polite laugh and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He looked like he could shit a cinderblock.
The “incident” as it was later called happened at Christmas 1994. Ma in her kerchief and I in my Dr. Scholl Heel Cushion for Women with the Sensitive Heel.
Up from the plates arose such a clatter. I was like the CarMax salesman with the perfect pitch blather.
“They provide perfect suction on their foam tips and it makes it look like I have actual titties,” I recklessly explained.
Long silence. My Uncle Sluggo stared me down as he thumbed his utensils at his sides with a look as if I just announced that I had terminal cancer.
My Aunt Deb attempted to crush the ice into palatable mounds. “Oh, boys will be boys will be boys,” she carefully surmised.
But it was there amid the bowlfuls of cranberry jelly and the tufts of hardened turkey encrusted on Uncle Sluggo’s round belly, that a seed had been planted and it was sprouting into something fresh, strange and new. I sure as hell wasn’t Dolly Parton, but I also wasn’t similar to these people at all.
So what if I stood in front of an armoire punching my titties down into my mama’s heel cushions? Was that a marginally better life than sitting in front of the television’s incandescent glow watching NASCAR while chewing on turkey gristle?
That night I went home and took my mama’s heel cushions out of the shoebox. They glistened like two glittery orbs , beckoning to be touched, as a sliver of Tennessee moonlight peeked through my bedroom window.
I jiggled the Dr. Scholl’s heel cushions and shot the armoire a plaintive look. And somewhere, deep in the corners of my brain, I heard the opening chords of the Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil ballad Here You Come Again play on my granny’s scratchy RCA phonograph. It was clear as crystal. And Dolly’s warm voice was like an old friend.
And for a split second, everything seemed okay with the world.