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Synthesis - Columns

From 2008 to 2015 I wrote a weekly column for Synthesis Weekly under the name Zooey Mae. What started as an outlet to review graphic novels and comic books evolved over the years to cover everything from pop culture to whatever menial event was happening in my life. Looking back, I think I spent much too much time regaling Chico with tales of my allergies. 

My Big Fat Russian Dysfunctional Family

Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: November 2013

I’m currently sitting on the couch in my living room, and my roommate’s dog is dead asleep and making a sound that can be best described as strangled screaming. It sounds like a some kind of wispy little doggy demon ghost had been trapped in his belly and had finally made its escape. Maybe he’s having canine night terrors. Is that a thing? This is what comes up if you Google image search “dog night terrors,” so maybe that means they have nightmares about goats becoming mobile?

Before I was distracted by the dog making crazy dog nightmare noises, my attention was firmly fixed to the tv, as I’ve found a new terrible show to watch. I have to confess, I have a weird fixation with cultures that are foreign to me. Imagine my delight then, in discovering My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding. I don’t know if you’re familiar, dear reader… but, holy shit. If, dear reader, you’re unfamiliar with this show, you should check it out. These people are like the Jersey Shore mouthbreathers on steroids. Wait… Maybe I should choose a different analogy. They’re like the Jersey Shore folks taken to their logical conclusion. The women dress in exclusively tight, skimpy, tacky clothing with thick black eyeliner and gaudy accessories. Contrary to how it might appear though, most gypsy women haven’t even kissed a man until the day of their wedding when the priest utters the ol’ familiar, “you may now kiss the bride.” The chaste values don’t extend to members of the opposite sex however, with the men peacocking with their shellacked hair and spray tans, and competing for the attention of any female Gorger (their word for anyone who isn’t a gypsy) that passes by. The conviction that these people have in their culture and sense of identity is fascinating to me. Based mostly in West Virginia (shocker, right?) “family” is the value held above all others. And it doesn’t matter if they’re throwing a wedding for their 15-year-old daughter or punching the face of their second cousin outside that wedding… family, you guys — it’s what’s important. And spray tans.

Speaking of family, Thanksgiving is this week. This year I’m heading up to Ashland to spend the holiday with my dad’s side of the family. They’re definitely the more “well-adjusted” bunch, my mom’s side of the family is rife with Eastern European dysfunction. Buncha Russian weirdos… Anyway, if you’re spending this Thanksgiving with family, odds are that you’re going to want a little liquid stress reliever. If your family’s social climate requires that you lube your brain with alcohol a little more than might be deemed acceptable, then have no fear! The Book Safe with Flask is here to help. A hollowed out book (your choice of either thesaurus or dictionary, it comes with a flask inside. “What? Why am I carrying this book around? Well Grandma, you know those word-a-day calendars? They’re for pansies. I’m on a word-per-minute system that would blow your goddamn mind wide open.”

Arielle Mullen