Why did Salome want the head?

Contributor: Erika Price

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Sometimes you inherit your wants. It was for her mother, her mother who wanted to marry Herod (though most daughters despise parents’ suitors), that Salome wanted the head. Salome wanted the head because her mother wanted the head, and Salome wanted to please her mother more than anything. She wanted the first unmoved mover to be happy, and there wasn’t really any proper concept of ‘happy’ back then except to be wed. Barriers had to be squelched. Red tape severed.

And John the Baptist said unto Herod that schtupping his brother’s wife (Salome’s mom) was a total bro-code violation. And Herod was one of those dudes who was not trying to fuck with the bro code. Women will persuade you into all kinds of amoral things, being creatures of the earth and not Heaven, but John the B had internal consistency. Salome’s mom was just trying to persuade Herod that he wanted to fuck her. That it wasn’t borderline-incesty to till ground already plowed, to uncover seeds your brother’d buried. She was the one that wanted it. She was persuasive.

But John the Baptist was insistent, consistent, and his words were adhered to. Salome’s mom fumed and focused the way only a middle-aged preorgasmic mother of one can. She’d already made her daughter into a project, burned off a decade and a half of sexual frustration teaching the ninny to bow and twirl and leap, but soon it would be time for the well-sown seed to blossom and be plucked and wed and fucked on her own. It’s hard to be a pageant mom when your toddler-in-tiara was turning into a woman of the actual world.

Salome’s mom brushed her daughter’s hair and put it up in plaits and whispered in her ear. Then she sighed extravagantly. She draped herself over furniture and made a big scene of crying, ostensibly about her loneliness. Salome protested to her mother that she wasn’t alone, not at all— they had each other! They were mother-daughter BFFs in the Baby Spice, Gilmore Girls mold.

Salome’s mom just said: “Someday you will marry or someday I will die. I didn’t have you as young as Lorelai had Rory Gilmore, kiddo. You’ll have many years of solitude and spinsterdom if you stay single to keep me company.”

Salome said she couldn’t get married, she didn’t want her mom to be lonely. She was a stutterer but the passion behind her point was clear. If her mother was alone, she’d ride solo too. Salome’s mom said it was a shame, a real shame, especially with the solution so close.

Salome wasn’t skeeved out by the prospect of her mom shacking up with her uncle. I mean Christ, they were a beauty pageant family. Their standards were low in many ways. But she knew John the Baptist said it was verboten (though she didn’t know the word verboten; she took French). She leaned her golden head on her mother’s lap, for they knew no spatial or age-appropriate boundaries, and she asked her mom how it was they were ‘so close’ to a solution.

And Salome’s mom eventually told her the plan, flat out. Salome wasn’t bright enough to be tricked into thinking the idea was her own.

And Salome killed it on the dance floor.

When she took the entirely adult-sized crown, Salome was initially rapturous. She knew her dance had fucking slayed, especially the b-boying and cat-backing. Everyone hollered and roared. It was a large comfort, being so seen, but even larger was the comfort of doing her momma bear proud.

The wedding was tasteful. Salome’s mother wore a yellowy-cream colored dress, light enough to intone purity without actually being white. Salome danced with Herod (who insisted she call him Daddy 2.0) and gave her mother away, in a ceremony everyone agreed was understated, progressive, refreshing. That night, Salome’s mother screamed like a virgin and bucked her hips like a Lilith. Salome was moved to a separate wing of the house.

At first she found it difficult to cope. She’d never learned to braid her own hair, she didn’t know how to treat a cold or blister. The nights were quiet without their former nightly chatter about outfits, up-do’s, and pageant competitors they wanted to Nancy Kerrigan the shit out of. Suitors never called on her the way mother had promised. Salome watched The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood probably a thousand times, curled up in the guest bed, but it was little comfort.

She grew, however, to enjoy her new companion. She could try on clothes all night and he’d never be loathe to review an outfit. Salome’s mother hadn’t watched all her daughter’s dance practices, but Salome’s new companion did. He never grew bored with her or feared her abandonment. He didn’t lust. There were no physical contact or neediness taboos with him.

She grew old and grew to love him. The mother had been wrong; Salome never married. She curled around him with placid glee and stroked his thinning hair. She dreamed of times long past and dances she could no longer do. She whispered in his ear and cradled what remained of his neck. She had been a dancer, not a storyteller, but he didn’t care. When dancer’s bodies fall apart, they’re just husks with little conversational skill. But he listened to her. He stayed where she held him, transfixed by whatever nonsense she had to say.

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Erika D. Price is a social psychologist, writer, and eternal student living in Chicago, Illinois. She writes all her first drafts on the Notepad app of her iPhone, which sounds insane but is actually quite a convenient way to bang out ideas on the go while simultaneously looking like a vapid, perpetually-texting woman-child.
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