After Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley were divorced, my mom decided that he would make my perfect spouse. Unlike my father and I, my mother actively disliked most celebrities, and wasn’t star struck. As my mom was the most practical person I knew, I couldn’t understand where this was coming from. Though she was losing her sight she could still somewhat see then.
“Uh, why do you think I should marry him?”
“He looks like such a nice Jewish boy. You like musicians and you should finally meet one with some money.”
My mother had absolutely no Yiddish inflections in her voice until after she was 70. I didn’t know or care to know that Billy Joel had any Jewish blood. I was curious as to her sudden interest in him
“Why do you think that he’s Jewish?”
“He comes from the Jewish area of Hicksville/Levittown.”
This too was news to me. Hicksville and Levittown were to the south of our community. When I was in high school, the unspoken rule was to never say that you lived anywhere near Hicksville. Actually it might have been a school rule; my school was both pretentious and snobby, and liked to pretend that it was a private school.
“And that makes him Jewish?”
“I know X. She knows his family.”
X’s nephew was in prison for killing his parents but everybody knew that he had been framed. This was beginning to make sense. My mother was part of Long Island’s very tied in community of Jewish mothers. If somebody was from the Island and became famous odds where that my mother knew their mothers, a relative or close friend.
“Have you seen him recently?”
“He looks nice.”
“Your sight’s getting worse isn’t it?”
“So why should looks matter so much?”
Couldn’t fight that one.
“Just curious. How am I supposed to meet him?”
“He’s a musician; you can meet him.”
This was true. If there were a hundred guys in one place and only one was a musician, I would meet him. The same held true for lawyers with advanced science degrees, but they weren’t usually as much fun.
“You know that he dropped out of high school?”
“So, that was a long time ago; he’s very rich now.”
“You don’t like most rich people.”
This conversation went on for awhile.
When I had been in high school, Billy Joel played in a group called The Hassles. They had played at many Sweet Sixteens in our community. I hadn’t been invited to any. My boyfriend had been a 28 year old hippie truck driver. I couldn’t help but think that a Jewish high school drop out musician probably would have been an improvement in my parents eyes.
My parents had never stopped me from dating anybody as they assumed each boyfriend was just another passing phase. But guilt was still my middle name, and I suddenly felt very guilty for not having been been friendlier with the girls in my town, meeting Billy Joel, dating and marrying him. If my mother said that I could have done it, I could have done it.
My parents aren’t even alive anymore and yet just writing this makes me feel guilty. Yes, mom, I should have married Billy Joel. But I don’t think you would have liked his amazing ability to smash cars.