Seattle, December 1984

I was a teenage art-geek. Frizzy-haired and studious, I hadn’t yet learned to work a prodigious vocabulary and ample rack to my advantage. But junior year at my strict Catholic high school, I finally had my first real boyfriend, Chris. Both of us loathed our surroundings and this intensified our bond. We discussed Dylan Thomas at lunch and at night, after we finished our reams of homework, he played King Crimson riffs for me over the phone on his second-hand Stratocaster. I was in love.

My Greek parents, like most progenitors of our nationality, were hardly laissez-faire when it came to their kids, particularly their young daughter’s newly acquired romantic interest. At that time, Dad was Supervisor of the Sentencing Unit for the Criminal Division and Mom was a Deputy Prosecutor assailing fraud cases. So when Mom and Dad insisted on meeting Chris, I balked, sensing they would terrify him and that this was their intent. I relented, however, when Dad threatened to run Chris’s license plates.

“This house is like living in a cop show!” I yelled, eliciting a bemused smirk from Dad and an eye-roll from Mom. I posed no more threat to them than a gnat to an elephant. Resistance was futile.

The next day after school, Chris loaded his books into my used Mustang, and we drove to my family’s large brick house, festooned with multicolor lights along its perimeter and holly and snowflake appliques in its dining room windows. It was two weeks before Christmas and I’d told Chris my folks wanted to include him in a traditional Greek holiday meal. Once inside, Chris and I sat on the living room couch by the Christmas tree. Mom and Dad wouldn’t be home for a few hours and I thought my brother, 18 months younger, was at soccer practice.

“You’re my other half,” Chris said and put his hand on my knee. As he leaned in to kiss me, a moaning sound wafted down the hall. Barely audible at first, it grew persistently louder. I realized it was my brother.

“It sounds like someone’s jacking off,” Chris said, alarmed.

At that moment, we heard the bathroom door fling open and my brother raced into the living room.

“Aaaahhhh!” he yelled and ran directly toward Chris. His hands were coated with a viscous white liquid and he waved them maniacally.

“Is he retarded?” Chris asked frantically, tripping over the hassock in an effort to get away.

“I want to give you my baby juice!” my brother continued, and chased Chris into the kitchen. I heard my mom’s planter knock into a wall.

By now, I knew what was going on. My brother, reflexively hilarious and the ultimate class clown, was hazing my new boyfriend. Said boyfriend, however, had no clue.

“Goddamnit, Greg! Leave Chris alone!”  I sprinted into the kitchen, grabbed Greg by his shirt and yanked. He stopped and burst out laughing.

“Oh, my god! You should have seen the look on your face!” he told Chris, who was visibly shaken. “Lighten up there, pal. It’s just Ivory Liquid. I would have had to crank it eight or nine times to get that much jizz.”  He said this as if it were clearly self-evident.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Chris wailed.

That night at dinner, Chris endured my parents’ inquisition with aplomb. He answered questions about his college and career plans and made polite conversation with my brother as though nothing unusual had happened.

Then, two weeks later, he dumped me for a cheerleader. He said it was because she blew him. Yet I can’t help but think Chris preferred his Christmases white, and not Ivory.


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LITSA DREMOUSIS' work appears in The Believer, Esquire, Filter, Hobart, The Huffington Post, McSweeney's, Monkeybicycle, MSN Music, Nerve, The Nervous Breakdown, New York Magazine, Nylon, The Onion's A.V. Club, Paper, Slate, the Seattle Weekly, on NPR, KUOW, and in sundry other venues. Her essay, "The Great Cookie Offering", appears in Seal Press' anthology, "Single State of the Union", she has a piece in Smith Magazine's HarperCollins anthology, "It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs" and she's completing her first novel. She frolics at on Twitter @LitsaDremousis and you can read her archived published work at http://theslipperyfish.blogspot.com/.

23 responses to “Ivory Christmas”

  1. I wanted to get this one up before the holidays, but my MacBook died on December 22, necessitating a trip to the Mac Store two days before Christmas Eve. I feel like that experience warrants a documentary.

  2. Laura Bogart says:

    Litsa, this is a wonderful belated holiday gift. “I want to give you my baby juice!” made me snort tea up my nose. I would totally read more about your family.

  3. Thanks, Laura!

    Yeah, there’s a reason they figure prominently in much of my work. I love them wildly, but they are the gift that keeps on giving.

  4. kate says:

    I love it.
    I like your brother.

  5. Charlie Smith says:

    Thank you, Litsa. When I was moderator for The Stranger forums we had a compulsive poster who was diagnosed as a paranoid schitzophrenic and he was convinced that “King Crimson” was plotting against him. That was the first time I had heard of the group. But that threat from your father–I knew him then, and I have a feeling he ran that plate before he threatened to. Did he ask when the family could celebrate his birthday, by any chance?

    • Charlie, I had no idea you were once a moderator for the Stranger forums. Outstanding! And while neither of us think the poster’s mental illness is funny, the fact he thought King Crimson was out to get him is darkly hilarious. Re Dad, it wouldn’t surprise me, either, if the plates had already been run. As we’ve talked about, Dad was super-protective of me. (Still is, though he’s also quite proud his “little girl” can take care of herself.) Funny thing is that “Chris” ended up becoming an attorney and his dad was one, too, so the whole thing is like kind of like the snake eating its tale.

  6. Matt says:

    OK, this is just hysterical.

    I like to think I’m the kind of guy who wouldn’t dump his new girlfriend *just* because her brother pretended to masturbate on me….but then that hasn’t been objectively tested.

    • I think we both agree, Matt, it’s for the best this question remains hypothetical for you.

      The City of Seattle runs a very good arts cable station, The Seattle Channel, that frequently spotlights local artists, etc. The storytelling salon here, A Guide to Visitors, had a regular program on the channel for years and in 2007 they chose a version of this story for their Seattle Channel show. But while the city allows for benign profanity (“damn”, “hell”), “jizz” was deemed unacceptable and I had to alter the story so that my brother chased me around w/ a brown-stained hand-towel b/c, in the “sanitized” version, he’d smeared a towel w/ chocolate Santas. I still don’t see how that’s better. Though being told I couldn’t say “jizz” on television remains among my favorite notes of my career.

      The episode, which included two other storytellers, ran at all hours for months. My brother, who’s still hilarious and the ultimate prankster, but is now a lauded school teacher and, you know, an adult, was not quite pleased. Hence, using a pseudonym for him here so this story won’t appear if someone Googles him. Though, as I’ve pointed out to him, don’t chase your sister’s first boyfriend w/ fake jizz dripping from your hands if you don’t want to hear about it again the rest of your life.

  7. Quenby Moone says:

    Holy crap, I love your brother!

    My husband, who I really, really wanted to stick it out with me, came back to meet my family for the holidays a few months after we met. My family, a happy band of freaks, was really into weird packaging: I knew this but apparently it slipped my mind until the morning we were going to open presents.

    There we were, all of us gathered around our freakish packages, and Lars got handed a nice little square box. It looked totally normal from the outside, and he opened it. Inside was a ball of fur. Not nice fur either; it was the fur from our cat who shed buckets of fine, downy, dandruffy fluff all over the house which had been collected and saved for this very reason for an entire year. Inside the fluff was a completely inconsequential present.

    I have a photo of him pretending to eat the ball of fluff.

    He is still married to me.


    • Quenby, that’s pretty fucking great. I have a hunch your family would be a total kick to drink with.

      And you and your husband are obviously meant for one another: if he not only hung on through the cat fur but jokingly pretended to eat it, he’s good people.

  8. Irene Zion says:

    Greg has got to be up there with the most wonderful brothers ever on earth, Litsa.
    I’m going to be laughing about this for days. Thank him for me!

    • You’re right, Irene: he’s pretty damned wonderful. And I’ll pass on your thanks! Our youth was filled w/ all sorts of tales like this and, as adults, we remain really close. The funny part? Now that he has a baby son, all the cousins tease it’s payback time. Things are about to get interesting.

  9. James D. Irwin says:

    The thing that strikes me most about this story is just how well executed the prank is in the set up— it verges on diabolical genius…

    • Exactly, James! My brother thinks several steps ahead in way that’s brilliant and awe-inspiring.

      Part of the reason the students at his school have voted him Teacher of the Year so many times is that he was the class clown and remembers what it was like feel bored. On his tests, he only gives short-essay or essay questions. He (rightfully) believes true/false and multiple choice teach kids nothing. He’s an original thinker. But he also knows there’s no reason not to have some fun while learning. Also, he’s incredibly compassionate and it’s really moving how many kids have come to him first after a parent has died, been incarcerated, entered rehab, etc.

      He’s definitely a diabolical genius, but for the force of good. And, of course, fake jizz.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few teachers like that, and they are not only the ones I remember the most fondly, but the ones I learnt the most from.

        I’ve recently decided that teaching is the only other thing I could do other than write as a profession. Your brother sounds exactly like the sort of teacher I would hope to be… Actually it’s because of the good teachers I’ve had that it has appealed to me a career.

        On multiple choice, I’ve decided I’m against it for two reasons— firstly, it’s easy to blindly guess, but more importantly I watch a lot of quiz shows and do a lot of pub quizzes. I tend to get most multiple choice questions wrong… I begin to doubt myself, or assume something sounds right… or the classic ‘well it can’t be C, because it was C last time…’ Something like Mastermind, with quickfire questions, most of the answers I can answer immediately and with certainty— i I know it, of course.

        • James, that’s wonderful you’re considering being a teacher. In addition to remaining a writer, of course. Echoing your point, my brother has had former students become teachers b/c they were inspired by him and that’s one of the best tributes of all.

          Also, I agree w/ all the reasons you list why multiple choice questions are bullshit. If more teachers felt the same way, we’d have more students who valued reasoning over guessing.

          • James D. Irwin says:

            I think realistically one really has to have a more concrete and stable career in mind, if nothing else to support writing. It would take a rare talent to be able to make a living off it from the very start…

            Many people have told me I would make a good teacher… and although I have always tended to dislike academia I dare say a lot of it stems from having dry, passionless teachers…

            I think having people try to emulate you must be wonderful, and incredibly satisfying…

            • You’re right: my brother finds it both gratifying and humbling that he has students who have emulated him.

              Huge compliment that many around you think you’d make a great teacher, James. It’s become such a cliche, but it really is one of the most important and difficult jobs and if you can do it well, you can literally improve lives. The fact you dislike academia might prove an initial roadblock, but if you can endure your requirements, you might find yourself in a position like my brother’s, where you can help change a scholastic system that desperately needs it.

              Either way, thanks for weighing in w/ a bunch of salient points.

  10. pixy says:

    this has to be one of my favorite christmas stories. greg could be the jizz-y ghost of christmas future because, well, the future was (figuratively) in his hands.

  11. If only Bing Crosby were around to croon about dreams of an ivory Christmas…

    Always pleased to come across one of your reliably hilarious romantic adventures, Litsa, here and over on Nerve as well.

    • Thanks so much, Nat! I really appreciate it! Funny how occasions that were mortifying at the time eventually lead to essays people seem to enjoy. As Carrie Fisher says, “Good anecdote, bad reality.”

      Hope your 2012 is off to a rollicking start! Cheers!

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