Time Warp

10/26/2010 By Shawn Burns

Emily and I just finished watching Glee’s Rocky Horror episode together in the living room while the kids slept so soundly you’d think there was no such thing as transvestite aliens living in gothic castles throwing can’t-miss parties.

When did you first see Rocky? Were you a midnight-show virgin? Did you catch it on cable? Did you rent a VHS tape from a crumbling video store and giggle with your adolescent friends?

Did you watch it with your mother?

The first time I saw Rocky I was thirteen, living with my mother and sister in an apartment after my parents separated and we moved off the reservation. My sister was elsewhere for the night and my mother and I were at her boyfriend’s apartment, and he was working late at the restaurant that employed them both. For some reason that I don’t remember we picked up The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It couldn’t have been my idea. I know it was hers.

The lips started singing and my mother started talking. Telling me about seeing it when she was a teenager, letting me in to the world of the small town high-schooler in the 70’s. It wasn’t an experience for her this time, it wasn’t subversive, with so many years gone by. It was a comforting nostalgia swaddling memories of her younger self, one who wasn’t divorcing her high school sweetheart and who wasn’t in an alien apartment instead of her family home on the reservation.

The transvestites, gold bikini-bottomed male models, Rockettes in warpaint, and the creepy albino butler brought her back, and she brought me back with her. And I don’t remember any of the awkwardness that must have been present in the room during the sex scenes, gay and straight, implied and explicit. I just remember learning about her. I was thirteen years old and I didn’t know anything about her life before I came into it so suddenly, cutting her youth short. I was thirteen and self-absorbed and hurting and I didn’t understand the end of my parents’ relationship. But that night I saw a bit of the beginning, and I saw that my parents had shared experiences and weirdness and rebellions and that there was something more to them than the life they had with the kids.

It’s astounding.

I don’t know when Erin will see it, or when Adrian will. I don’t know if I’ll be the one to show them. But because of my own relationship with it I want them to see it. I just don’t know how to explain why daddy keeps yelling “Slut!” at Annie Savoy and “Asshole!” at Mayor Randall Winston.