Learning English

by Marinka on January 22, 2014

I went to the dacha this past weekend with my parents and my mother’s sister, who is visiting from Russia. She has been taking English classes in St. Petersburg so we were excited to practice the language with her. Unfortunately, shortly after her plane landed, she took a vow of silence where English was concerned and will only answer us monosyllabically.

When we all went to Jamaica after Christmas (oh yeah, sorry I forgot to tell you about that trip! TL; DR: It was great!) the kids really enjoyed trying to engage her in English-based conversation by prompting her with yes/no questions like “Do you like kittens?” and “What about people who murder kittens?”

But now we were at the dacha and my aunt revealed to us that since arriving in NYC, she has been studying English by reading articles in English. More specifically, the recent Vanity Fair article about France’s most famous, and being in her 80s, I’m guessing most geriatric, dominatrix.

“From what I understand,” my aunt told us, in Russian (I will indicate the Russianness of her speech but taking out all articles) “She is crazy. She whip people and one woman, younger woman loves her. Younger woman wrote old bat letter that she devoted to her. Why, I do not know. Maybe I misunderstand.”

“Why is she crazy?” Papa, who has never met a sentence he didn’t want to argue, asked. “Just because she whips people? Because you don’t like to whip people and she does, suddenly you are sane and she is not?”

I really admired Papa’s coming to the defense of a woman he has never heard of, and was not at all worried that I was surrounded by lunatics.

“Not because she whip people, but because she has crazy expression in her face,” my aunt held her ground and displayed her obviously impressive diagnostic skills.

“Look!” she shoved the magazine at Papa. “She has crazy eyes.”

Papa studied the 80something.

“She has good features,” he said. “When she was younger, she was very beautiful.”

Then there was a discussion about beauty vs. crazy. Finally, Mama piped in.

“I wonder which one of them does cooking,” she said.

“What?” I asked, excited that we had moved away from the whole crazy-dominatrix thing.

“Old whipper or young girlfriend. Who does cooking?” Mama asked.

Because when reading about an S&M geriatric lesbian couple that is the first question that comes to mind.

(The article mentioned that the 50 year old is an excellent cook, so I’m guessing she does the cooking.)

There are many reasons I love being with my family. Blog fodder is just one of them.

One year ago ...

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

anna whiston-donaldson January 22, 2014 at 9:28 am

Excellent blog fodder. BTW, I read that article during M’s soccer practice. I found it more than a little disturbing. I usually LOVE the level of detail in VF articles; this time, not so much.


Susan Weinstein January 22, 2014 at 4:50 pm

You neglected to say whether the Dominatrix pair was in it for pleasure or money? Was the business an economic choice, though the elder who started it would rather be a doctor or lawyer or oil mogul? It could just be another feminist issue of poor prospects.
Or maybe they had an artistic vocation? And this was the best outlet they could find to make it pay? What they actually do, is probably a skill used by bad hair dressers in every nation.


Deb January 22, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Finally, Mama piped in.“I wonder which one of them does cooking,” she said


January 23, 2014 at 11:28 am

I cackled.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes January 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I would like to say something smart/funny, but am too busy laughing!


dusty earth mother January 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm


This for whipping old lady, not Marinka family.


anymommy January 24, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Never, ever disown your family. I would be bereft without these stories.


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