Please Don’t Ask


STORY BY Christine Grillo      ILLUSTRATION BY Paige Vickers

1. Do we have any other food in the house?
This is the Number One question that needs to be banned from my life. It’s the triple-axle of evil queries, weaving together a complaint, a judgment and a passive aggressive request. I mean, dudes. I have bread, I have eggs, I have cold cuts. Mangoes, avocadoes, berries in the fridge. I have cereal—the healthy kind and the bad kind—and I have milk. You are not allowed to ask me about “other food.” If you very badly need flaming hot Cheetos and want to walk to Safeway, knock yourself out.

2. Do we have any clean towels?
Well, we have towels, and we have the technology to make them clean. They would stay cleaner longer if you didn’t leave them on your floor, wet, after your shower, but hey, that’s your deal. Don’t you dare touch my towels. Mine are purple. Yours are blue. Don’t get confused.

3. Can I use the car?
You may borrow the car, but I’m taking a picture of the odometer when I give it to you, and if I find out that you’ve gone off and driven 300 miles to Connecticut to visit your girlfriend at her grandmother’s house without asking me first, like you did that one time because I didn’t specifically tell you not to drive to Connecticut, your car privileges are over forever. Also, if you use my EZPass to pay a toll, I expect a cash reimbursement. Also, pro tip: the New Jersey Turnpike will bankrupt you.

4. Why does it smell so bad in here?
Oh, hello, are you talking about the fridge? Or the kitchen in general? Is it possible that it smells bad in here because the garbage can is full and no one has taken it out? I have an idea about how we can make it smell better. Stand still and let me paint a beautiful picture for you of how we can work together to make the house less stinky.

5. What are you, some kind of witch?
Yes, I had a solstice party, and I knit hats for you and your friends, and I make kombucha and bury the mother. I’m thinking about making a frog pond in the back yard, so sure, I’m a witch.

6. Why do you have to be so binary?
Fine, sue me. I’m in my late forties and I grew up in a world where “he” and “she” were the pronouns we used for singular people, and “they” was the pronoun we used for a group of people. I’ve got nothing against gender fluidity. Bring on the gender fluidity. What even is this oppressive construct we call “gender?” I’m not binary, you’re binary. But you have to understand about “they:” I’m middle-aged, and it’s going to take a while for me to get the hang of a new pronoun.

7. Are you for real right now?

8. You wouldn’t say the N-word when you’re singing along to rap lyrics, would you?
Damn, that’s cold. You people think I’m an actual moron.

9. Can I try on those pants?
No. You are not allowed to try on any more of my clothing, and the reason is that when you try on my corduroys or my mini-skirt or my leggings, I end up looking at you mournfully, in all your goddamned gorgeous glory and I think, “Oh, so this is how it’s supposed to look.” I frown into the full-length mirror and then you fuss at me for not being body-positive, which, by the way, is a great thing and I’m thrilled that your generation has it, but we didn’t have body positivity when I was your age. You’ll have to be patient with me and several million other women.

10. Why did you let him eat the ice cream I was saving?
Sweetheart, those beasts eat my good stuff all the time, no matter how masterfully I hide it. I’m sorry, and I feel your pain. Do you want to save up for a mini-fridge with a lock? Do they make those?

11. Can we go to the beach one day, just you and me, and work on our tans?
This, actually, is a question I’m not going to ban. I’m supposed to give you the talk about skin cancer and sunblock—but yes, definitely, let’s drive three hours each way and lie on the sand all day and fix that olive skin. We’ll ditch your brothers. I’ll spring for boardwalk fries. I’ll wear a bikini because even though my stomach displeases me, I want it to be tan, but I’ll be self-conscious, and you’ll say, “Stop it, Mom, you’re a total snack.” You might mean it. Let’s go! *

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