‘Rocky Horror’ and the finer points of parenting

The midnight movie of choice

My younger Large Smelly Boy plans birthday parties with the frightening precision of an engineer. Felix Unger? Meet Martha Stewart.

He begins months in advance, poring over magazines and listing all the activities he wants to do and all the recipes he wants to make. He redoes his lists. He designs his invitations. He insists it won’t rain and that he will be the one to splay open the pita. What he doesn’t do on a spreadsheet he makes up for with a timeline.

So it went that on a recent day when my calendar was crammed to the gills I found myself in Craft Store Hell tracking down adorable sparkly gold drawstring bags that he insisted meant everything to his idea of Party Perfection.

Before that, it was Household Goods Box Store Hell and a phone conversation that went something like this:

Me: They have piñatas, which means we don’t have to make one from papier mache, right? Do you want one?

Him: (Evasive mumble mumble.)

Wait ... aren't pinatas from Mexico? Stan Shebs/Wikimedia CommonsMe: They have a pirate, a fish, a parrot, a mermaid and … let’s see … a penguin. Which one do you want?

(Evasive mumble mumble.)

Me: Do you want a piñata?

Me: This is your chance to get a piñata.

Me: You realize I’m not going to have time to do the papier mache, right?

Me: Do you want a penguin?

Me: I’m going to have to leave now.

Him: Wait! What do they have again?

Me: A pirate, a fish, a parrot, a mermaid and a penguin.

Him: What?

Me: A pirate, a fish, a parrot, a mermaid and a penguin.

I loaded a penguin in the back end of the Large Smelly Boymobile.


We bought three large bags of candy
for the piñata and for Halloween night. I casually say bought, for picking out just the right packages required a frenzied fit of worry. I’m still sort of amazed we didn’t spend the night surrounded by Snickers Bars and Butterfingers.

They only come in a package deal ...Who knew small packages of Reese’s Pieces don’t come in individual bags? They can only be bought in a mixture of candy. We discovered this only after looking over Every. Single. Box. Of. Candy. In. The. Aisle. Candy mixtures that include distasteful candies apparently do not equal Party Perfection. This is a problem. This requires looking through all the mixture bags to find one with the most Reese’s Pieces and the fewest distasteful candies.

A few days before the party I came home and the penguin was sitting on the dining table and the large bags were nearly empty of candy. The LSB had pawed through the bags, picked out his favorite pieces and stuffed them all in the piñata. Only the Twizzlers and Milk Duds were left.

This had been a giant mound of candy I had envisioned would be doled out among many dozen trick-or-treaters who could rampage at will through the neighborhood stoked up on high-fructose corn syrup.

Instead, now most of it was in the butt of a penguin that would be whacked open, and it would be divvied up among six Large Smelly Tweenagers who would be confined to my living room for several hours.



Salty bones (baked bread dough sprinkled with salt)
Doughnut holes (decorated like eyeballs)

I talked him out of the Cheesy Corn Kernels, which have different colored cheese melted on pizza dough to look like corn candy.


Party day early afternoon: We came home with bags of groceries. I took out a plastic bag of frozen bread dough and left it near the sink to thaw. We piled food all over the kitchen counter so I couldn’t see the bread dough. I forgot about it.

We decorated doughnut holes to look like eyeballs. We mixed two tubs of hummus with fresh spinach to make “grass.” Felix/Martha stuck vegetables and crackers in it so it looked like a graveyard. It was pretty nifty, actually, though it went untouched.

We piled dirty dishes all over the kitchen counter so I couldn’t see the bread dough. I forgot about it.

We ate pizza
We ate doughnut holes
We ate chips
We ate pretzels
We ate crackers
We ate cake

I gave up on the popcorn. Apparently too much trouble to hit ZAP on the microwave.

What are these strangely shaped objects?But I was forgetting something – I looked at his carefully lettered list. The Salty Bones! How could I forget the Salty Bones?

I found the bread dough that had been sitting for half the day on the counter. The bag was fat and bulging. Nearly bursting. I wondered how I could have casually flung it on the counter to thaw. How did I not realize there were THREE LOAVES OF BREAD in the bag? All that dough was now plump and risen and no way it was going in the fridge.

I turned on the oven and got out scissors. There’s something really satisfying about cutting up bread dough with scissors. I imagined sticky scissors and construction paper, flour paste and valentines. Glitter. But it was bread dough. That I was making into long gangly shapes with knobs on the end.

They baked up golden and made the house smell divine. Proudly, I showed the loaded plate to my current first husband. “What do these look like?”

“Penises,” he said straight out.

I took the plate to the Large Smelly Tweenagers.

“Dog bones!” they yelled.


Late night: The LSBs couldn’t decide on a movie.

“I don’t want to see Transformers.”

“I LOVE the old Scooby Doo cartoons!”

The options scrolled up.

“No scary movies!”

“Not The Blob!”

The birthday boy's pick lost out ...On and on, screen after screen. Putdown after putdown. I was getting tired of hearing it.

And then I spied one line. “Rocky Horror Picture Show! Have you guys ever seen that?”

Nobody had. They all looked at me goofy.

I remembered from college that it was a little racy, but it’s quite possible — probable even — that my memory of it is a bit fuzzy. I went to get a second opinion.

My current first husband was dozing and barely articulate, but he let out an expletive that I’m certain accurately translated as “Gee-whiz! Why not?”

So I went back and said, “Here, gimme the remote,” and hit BUY.

I can only guess that I was thinking they were on the verge of 12 and many other things.

The movie unfolded: The wedding, the funeral, a few song and dance numbers, the storm, the stalled car, the creepy castle. Pretty harmless, all in all.

One of the LSBs said, “So why is this rated R, exactly?”

As if on cue Tim Curry threw off his black cape to reveal a teddy, garters and fishnet stockings: “I’m just a sweet transvestite!”

With that I went to bed. For $2.99 I had done my irresponsible parenting for the night.


The next night at dinner:
Mr. Scatter said in a bright, cheery, attentive-Dad voice, “How was the movie?”

No, Mr. Scatter. Tim Curry is NOT a dentist. Wikimedia CommonsThe Felix/Martha Party Planner got a little glint in his eye as he nibbled cheese. He half-stifled a grin. “Step to the right. Put your hands on your hips.”

The cheery Dad voice again: “Whadja think of the dentist?”

I stared at Mr. Scatter across the table. “Dentist? There’s no dentist in it. It wasn’t Little Shop of Horrors. It was Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

He stared back at me. “What?” He blinked. “You let them watch “ROCKY HORROR?”

— Laura Grimes