I felt bad not going home over Thanksgiving, especially since this was my mother’s first Thanksgiving without my father. So, I’m excited that my mother is coming to LA in two weeks for Hanukkah-Christmas.
Even though Sophia lives in Redondo Beach and I live in Los Angeles (about 35 minutes away), we thought my mother might actually be more comfortable at Sophia’s. Despite our marital problems, Sophia and my mother get along great. I’ve learned that being friends with a member of an ex’s family is not uncommon for her. In fact, one of Sophia’s good friends is the mother of her ex-boyfriend.
However, before they met Sophia, my parents were not very gung-ho about our relationship. This was mostly because I called them in New York one day and told them that she was “Russian.” All sort of scary scenarios went through their heads.
Dad: “Is it possible… just possible… I mean she might be a very nice girl, but… can she be doing this to get a green card?”
Me: “She’s been a citizen for years. She doesn’t need a green card.”
Dad: (whispering to my mother in the background) “She’s Russian.”
Mom: “Give me the phone. Artie, give me the phone!”
Dad: “I’m on the phone!”
Mom: “Neil, listen to me. She’s doing it for the money!”
Me: “Tell Mom she’s acting crazy, Dad.”
Mom: (grabbing the phone from my father) “You can tell me yourself. But you’re the one who’s crazy. I read all about this in New York Magazine. These Russian golddiggers in short skirts marry Americans for their money.”
Me: “She must be a very stupid golddigger to pick me because I have no money.”
Dad: “Neil, this is your father. I’m on the other line.”
Mom: “I’m talking, Artie. Get off.”
Dad: “Neil, some of these Russians, as pretty as they are, used to be prostitutes. It’s a tragedy, really. Such pretty girls. Thank God we’ve been lucky to be in this country and make a decent living.”
Neil: “Dad, I really doubt Sophia was ever a prostitute.”
Mom: “How do you know what she was in Russia?’
Neil: “She’s been out of Russia for years. She was in Israel.”
Mom: “There are prostitutes in Israel, too. It breaks my heart. Jewish prostitutes. Who would ever think?
Dad: “Maybe you can ask her about her past… in a nice way…”
Me: “Dad, we’ve gone on two dates. What do you want me to do? “I had a great time tonight, Sophia. By the way, were you ever a prostitute?”
Dad: “Have you met her parents? Is she Jewish?”
Neil: “No, I haven’t. Yes, she is. Feel better now?”
Mom: “A lot of these Russian Jews are different.”
Dad: “That’s right. A lot of these Russians Jews are involved with the Russian Mob. Did you see that movie on HBO last night?”
Neil: “They’re not Russian mobsters…”
Mom: “Again… how do you know?!”
Neil: “Well, I don’t really know, but…”
Mom: “So this is my punishment for sending you to Columbia. My in-laws are going to be members of the Russian Mafia!”
A few days later, my father sent me an article cut out of the Daily News about a beautiful Russian woman who married an American in the Upper West Side, then murdered him for the insurance money.
Things settled down until a couple of months later when Sophia came down with a mysterious case of hives. Sophia would get hives all over her body. At times, she couldn’t walk. We went to the emergency room three times. She was hospitalized for a week. The hives would disappear, then reappear again a day later. It was painful. It was awful for her. Sophia went to several doctors, but none of them was ever able to figure out the cause.
Then one day she went to a “hives expert” in Santa Monica. After the appointment, she called me up, sounding hopeful for the first time in weeks.
Sophia: “Great news!”
Neil: “What did he say?”
Sophia: “At first the doctor said that chronic hives were unpredictable and usually untreatable. But he was a doctor in Vietnam, and remembered seeing cases like mine. He said they were able to treat it. I am so excited!”
Neil: “Wow. That’s great.”
Sophia: “Isn’t it? I’ll be so happy if I can get rid of these hives. Of course, it’s only treatable if… if…”
Neil: “If what?”
Sophia: “Well, if it’s a symptom of syphilis.”
Neil: (gulping and choking) “Syphilis?”
Sophia: “Oh, he said not to worry. Syphilis is completely treatable nowadays. I’m actually hoping to have syphilis! I’m taking a test tomorrow. Isn’t it the best news?”
Neil: “Uh, yeah…well…syphilis, huh?”
Sophia: “Of course, since we’ve had sex, you have to take a test, too. I might have given it to you.”
Neil: “I might have SYPHILIS?!”
Sophia: “Don’t tell me you would rather I have these painful hives all over my body than have a completely cureable little ailment?”
Neil: “But syphilis? Didn’t people go crazy because of that? Can’t my penis shrivel up and fall off?”
Sophia: “You are such a baby. You should be concerned about me and my health, not your precious cock. No wonder you were a virgin until you were — !”
The next day, my father called.
Dad: “Hello, Neil. It’s your father. How was your day?”
Neil: “Actually, I had to go to the hospital.”
Dad: “Oh my god, is something wrong?”
Mom: (in background) What’s wrong? Is something wrong? Is Neil in the hospital?!”
Neil: “Tell Mom it’s nothing. I just had a test. It’s nothing to worry about. There’s just a little tiny chance that… remember those hives Sophia had…”
Dad: “Oh, no, is she very ill? Do you want us to fly out?”
Neil: “She’s fine. She’s fine. It’s just the hives she has… may be from…”
Neil: “May be from… from, uh… syphilis.”
Mom: (in background) “Syphilis! Syphilis! What are you talking about?! Gvie me the phone, Artie. Give me the phone! Neil, don’t tell me you have syphilis?”
Neil: “Well, right now, we don’t know…”
Mom: “I knew it! I knew it! My son got an Ivy League education to date a Russian prostitute and now he has syphilis!”
Sophia ended up NOT having syphilis. And can you believe she was UPSET at not having it?! This would have meant that her problem could be cured.
Her hives continued on and off for a couple of years, then disappeared. We never found out why she got them.
My parents finally met Sophia when they visited Los Angeles, and fell in love with her.
Sophia was never a prostitute. My mother still thinks that some of Sophia’s relatives are part of the Russian Mafia.