Monday, June 30, 2008


Some girl cousins I love.
My latest essay which appears in Chicago Parent ( has spawned a flurry of emails regarding go-go boots. Well, a flurry of emails from my friends and family anyway. It seems that almost every woman of a certain age has clear memories of her go-go boots, or the go-go boots she never had.

My cousin Beth remembers that she did not have a pair but our cousin Joette did and to make it worse, she lived down the street from Beth so she was forced to see the said go-go boots on a regular basis.

Of course Joette had them. She was the most glamorous cousin of us all. She had hair so blonde it was white, large wide eyes, and a smile that beguiled men.

This got me thinking about cousins and just what a special place they have in our hearts. I never had the good fortune to live in the same town as my cousins so I'm not sure my observations apply to those who are that close. But for the rest of us, whether we see our cousins weekly, monthly, or annually, I hold these truths to be certain:


1. Some cousins are always more glamorous and cool than you: Joette wasn't the only cousin I envied. I also envied Joyce, Jenice, and Beth. They were a family of all girls. They didn't have to put up with no stinkin' boy siblings. Jenice, the one just a year older than me, was the epitome of all that was cool. She wore short, shorts. She smoked cigarettes. Meanwhile, I was in the marching band and had braces. Though I knew that if we went to school together she would have had nothing to do with me, by virtue of our blood relationship, she not only tolerated me but took me under her tutelage. From her I learned that when you kiss a boy you should purse your lips like you're saying the word "prunes". This we practiced for some time on our arms. Never mind that it would be YEARS before I could put that information to use. I also learned that although the song "Sha Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye" sounded stupid to me, it was in fact, quite cool. Which is why I purchased the 45 and played it repeatedly one summer.

2. Some cousins always have better stuff and often better parents: My cousin Marilyn had a pink bedroom with a pink canopy bed. She had bee-yoo-tiful blond hair too which she put in pink curlers at night (curlers! how glamorous!). Her mother, my Aunt Dora, would get up every morning and go into the kitchen and put on an apron. Then, as you came into the kitchen she would smile and say, "What do you want for breakfast, honey?" Everyone was honey to her, and not that fakey grown-up honey but the real deal. She would make you ANYTHING you wanted. Even pancakes. On a Tuesday. Suffice it to say, that is not exactly how breakfast went at our house. That is why, when my sister learned that the contingency plan for us if something happened to my parents was to go live with Aunt Dora, she began to fantasize about my parents' untimely demise. Who can blame her? If you met Aunt Dora and Uncle Dick, you would too.

3. Cousins of the opposite sex are useful for learning how to flirt: This I cannot say I learned first-hand. All the boy cousins were much older: there was Rick Ross (I learned years later, not a blood relative) who was like a real-life Ricky Nelson and Mike McCoy who was like a young Elvis Presley but they were as old, and remote, and un-attainable as the celebrities they resembled. There were no boy cousins near my age to flirt with. Oh, wait, there was Tommy but he did not move me to flirtation. He moved me to beat him up whenever I could. But I have observed this flirting among my older siblings and cousins and now among the current generation of cousins. Sometimes my cousins would flirt with my brothers. This was weird. Last year, at a family wedding, I noticed that the two teen cousins of the opposite sex who live in different states kept sneaking off together. I assumed they were developing schemes to get margaritas at the bar and comparing MySpace notes, (which they were). But then I grew suspicious. "Hey, do you think they're messing around?" I asked my husband. "Of course they are. What do you think cousins are for?" Okay, ewww. He is from Wisconsin where they are a lot more open-minded about these things, I guess. He clarified, "Why do you think they call it kissin' cousins? It's not like they're getting married." Well, then, I guess that's okay.

4. Cousins are better than friends and siblings. Friends come and go and siblings are too familiar but cousins are just right. You share last names, facial features, and grandparents. They call your parents "aunt" and "uncle". How cool is that? They move away and do exotic things and take jobs you never dreamed of but they will always be in your life no matter what. And that's the best part about cousins of all.

To Joyce, Beth, Jenice, Nan, Denny, Joette, Tommy, and all the other fantastic cousins in my life. I don't see you often but you are always in my heart.


  1. Judy,

    Such a great article about "us cousins" Never knew about you and Jenice kissing arms. No one ever taught me that one!

    You are always in my heart, too!!!!

    Love you!


  2. Wow - the opitome of all that was cool? Sure felt 100% opposite to me. Now this, I have GOT to share with my son who thinks I'm about as uncool as they come. However, I DO recall "prunes". I never had go-go boots either (I wanted white ones). Nor was I premitted to wear pink fishnet stockings! Although you and I live many states away and we have families that don't even know each other, my treasured childhood memories definately include those with the Zimmerman cousins. I often think of how close we all were and how its such a shame my son sees his cousins in California but every blue moon. Sortof feels like I've cheated him.

    Love you cuz,

    PS Regarding your article about swearing, do you remember that my sisters and I were allowed to say "fart" and you and your siblings were not? Just another memory to behold :)