Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mean Girls: The Reunion

I was a Square Peg in high school, an introverted and painfully shy wallflower who hid behind a gregarious and fun-loving best friend. (I still am today, except now I hide behind my husband…and the computer.) Being a poor kid and always trying to hide the fact that I was a poor kid meant that I carried around a suitcase full of self-esteem issues. Furthermore, my looks were marginal at best, and, no matter if you like it or not, being pretty sometimes matters in high school. I had to work hard to be attractive, and I never felt like I truly fit in with the circle of kids who went to cotillion and had parents with summer homes on the coast. I always felt awkward and goofy, and the words coming out of my mouth always, always, always sounded wrong. I never felt good enough. Even in my forties, I’m a hermit who avoids being social at all costs. It’s a defense mechanism that’s working for me so far.

When I was sophomore, a new boy in town walked into my life. It was my “Sixteen Candles” moment. I was the geeky girl with an enormous crush on this impossibly handsome football player who didn’t even know I existed. I admired his chiseled bone structure and delighted in the shape of his very athletic butt. I scribbled his name over and over on my notebook. I planned our wedding and named our children. I made every effort to be in his universe even though I knew I was invisible to him. I watched him from afar with his beautiful, sun-bleached-blonde girlfriend. (Praying she would be run over by a dump truck.)

Ah, yes…his girlfriend. She was not only pretty, but she came from one of the nicer neighborhoods in town (only child = Princess). She wore the best clothes. She had a flawless face that never saw a day with a zit and looked gorgeous without make-up. Her hair was thick, shiny and always perfect, a direct contrast to the mousy brown Aqua Net hair helmet I was sporting back then. She spoke with a confidence and self-assuredness that I don’t even have today. In other words, I really hated that bubbly little bitch.

Kent and Barbie dated for a while, but their union came to an end when Barbie started cheating on him with another good-looking stud. (How slutty awesome that she had the pick of the litter!) Although I was thrilled that that they were no longer together, I didn’t hold out much hope that I was next in line. There was an entire cheerleading squad with first dibs on him. Besides, what could he possibly see in me, a band geek with stringy hair and fingernails bitten down the nub?

I still remember so clearly the night Kent called. Our only telephone hung on the wall in the kitchen, and in the days before caller ID, it was always my assumption that every call was for me. I dashed to the phone and breathlessly answered. A soft-spoken voice replied back to me, “Lynda? This is Kent Brockman….Hi.” I grabbed a chair to keep from collapsing. (Twenty-eight years later, I am blushing at the memory.) I stood there, twirling the cord around my finger and trying not to stutter. So many things went through my head. “How did he get my number?” “Was someone pulling a prank on me?” “Did I die and go to heaven?” I managed to squeak out a conversation, and that phone call lead to a date, which lead to several until we were going steady.

I was so proud to be Kent’s girl. I watched him practice with the football team (on the nights when it didn’t interfere with marching band). I still scribbled his name on my notebooks, but this time I could believe that “Mr. and Mrs. Kent Brockman” might actually come true.  We talked for hours every night, but a couple of months in, he started to be "too busy" and would "forget to call".  After going two days without hearing from him, I decided to do the unthinkable - call him.  You see, I kind of had a sneaking suspicion that Kent had taken Barbie back.  I didn't have concrete proof, but her sideways glances and whispers each time she passed me in the halls were cause enough to investigate.

I called Kent, but his line was busy over and over and over again.  Then, I had an her. I looked up Barbie's phone number and dialed it.  I sank down onto the floor as the busy signal from the receiver resonated like a trumpet in my ear.  I was convinced they were talking, and I was right.  Kent called and broke it off with me later that night.  He admitted that he was back with Barbie and apologized for crushing my tiny fragile heart into a trillion splintered pieces.

When the Perfect Couple was together once more, Barbie proceeded with a Hate Campaign against me.  She flaunted her relationship with Kent, and, as if the Universe felt the need to punish me as well, we shared a class together and were forced to sit side by side.  She used this opportunity to publicly announce her love for Kent and generally make my life a living hell.  I was an easy target - the Dorky Girl.

We went our separate ways after high school, and although we live in the same town, I have managed to avoid her for twenty-five years...until now.  I was invited to a friend's house for drinks, something I rarely do, but this friend knows me, knows I'm shy, and she goes out of her way to watch my back. It was a mixed group, with half being folks I didn't know.  As I was sipping my wine and making polite conversation, the hostess said, "Oh, good!  Barbie's here!"

What. The. Hell...

I immediately started looking for the back door.  You mean to tell me that I have successfully lived Barbie-free all this time, and now we're face to my FRIEND'S house?  

I didn't look up when she walked in the door.  She greeted her adoring fans, and I never even gave her a glance.  I could feel her eyes on me, recognizing me immediately, I'm sure.  As we gathered around the bar, she was literally two seats over.  We sat there for more than an hour never acknowledging each other, never once making eye contact.  What do you say to someone who made your life miserable and caused you to feel like your teenage heart had been cut out of your chest with a dull knife?  I could feel my Inner Redneck rising up into my throat, but I washed her back down with a big swig of Merlot.  Out of respect for my friend, I didn't say what I really wanted to say. (And out of respect for my no-F-bomb-blogging, I won't repeat it here either, but I'm sure you can imagine.)

She left the party first, and that was it, completely anti-climactic.  Neither of us had the balls to confront the past, and neither of us was woman enough to make a friendly gesture.  I let my friend in on the back story after Barbie was gone.  We laughed about it and drank a little more.  Even though I never got to tell her what I had wanted to say all those years ago, I'll let you in on the best part...her ass is about six or eight sizes bigger than mine.  THAT, my friends, is the sweetest revenge of all....

Friday, September 16, 2011

If I die young...

I have this thing about crying in front of other humans.  I don't do it.  I didn't even cry at my own mother's funeral.  Of course, I sobbed like a baby in the bathroom when no one was looking, and still break down randomly when I'm alone in the car, but cry in public? Never.  I am one pale-faced, PMS-ing pillar of strength, my friend.  They have yet to make a sad-puppy-animal-shelter commercial that could penetrate this steely fortress clad in capri pants...but this week it almost happened.  This week a teenager died, and my throat is nearly exploding as it holds back the sorrow I feel over this absolute tragedy.

I'm going to be brutally honest here.  Whenever a parent hears of an accident involving a child, the first instinct is to account for your own, and then send up a silent prayer that your kids are safe.  It can't happen to you.  You won't even entertain that idea because it's the kind of thought that makes you feel nauseous and weak.  It happens to other families, and you pray for them, send them a covered dish of fried chicken, and offer to be there if they need you, and your life goes on.  You'll whisper at the grocery store to your neighbor about how awful you feel for the family when, inside, you're actually screaming, "Dear God, please don't ever let this happen to me!"

I didn't know the handsome young man who died this week, but I know his friends.  I know the parents of his friends.  I know that a tight-knit community was just sucker punched and isn't going to be steady on its feet for a while.  A group of bright, athletic kids who probably felt invincible and safe just got schooled in one of life's toughest lessons: death is real and permanent, and my heart is breaking for each and every one of them tonight.

I left my office this afternoon for home, and as my route took me past the church where the funeral was about to commence, I slowed for traffic, this sleepy little town now mobbed with family and friends making their way to remember a boy who should have been planning his Friday night date and not being laid to rest.  My lip quivered, tears fell, and the scary realization hit me that we can't protect our children forever.  I thought back to this morning as I was primping in front of the mirror, preparing to head off to work.  A silly pop song (that I hate) came on the radio, and my daughter raced into the bathroom where I was standing to belt it out with more enthusiasm than should be allowed at 6:25am.  She sang...

"If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh and
Life ain't always what you think it ought to be, no
Ain't even grey, but she buries her baby"

Knowing how I feel about this horribly depressing little ditty, my daughter turned to me and asked, "Mommy, why do you hate it so much when I sing this song?"  I told her she would have to wait until she had a little girl of her own before she would understand...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Because I thought he needed to know...

I came out of the shower a few nights ago to find my son in my bedroom, riveted to the television.  I opened my mouth to ask what he was watching, but as soon as I saw what was on the screen, I knew immediately.  We all know the picture. It's the backlit image of the three mangled pieces of the World Trade Center jutting up from the remains of the building like crazy candles on a birthday cake.  He looked at me and said, "Mama, did you know that the terrorists practiced cutting the necks of camels so they would know how to kill the pilots?"

Major. Parenting. Fail.

Or was it?  My first instinct was to tell him to turn off the TV and go to bed.  I didn't want him to know the terrifyingly brutal details behind that horrible day.  An eleven-year-old boy doesn't need to know that Satan's minions planned to slit the throat of an innocent passenger on each plane and leave them bleeding, dying as a warning to keep the others at bay.  I didn't want him to see the devastating images of desperate people jumping to their deaths from the windows of the World Trade Center.  Then, he told me that he had been watching the National Geographic channel's series on 9/11 all week.  "It's history, Mama.  I need to see this." Against what my heart was telling me, I reluctantly agreed.

I sat down with him, and we watched together as rescue workers pulled bloody victims from the Pentagon.  He was stunned to learn that the terrorists lived among us and even passed through our state as they traveled around the country preparing for their demonic deed.  He asked seemingly simple questions that are still difficult to answer.  "Why didn't anyone find their weapons before they got on the plane?"  "Why would they want to crash into buildings that just had businesses in them?" "Why did they do this, knowing they were going to die, too?"  The question that hit me the hardest was, "The people on the planes didn't have a chance, did they?"

We talked later about where we were when it happened and how it has changed our lives and the country as a whole.  He doesn't seem to be any more afraid now than he was before he learned the awful truth of that day.  True to his problem-solving nature, he kept trying to figure out ways the victims could have survived because the magnitude of the disaster was just too huge for his brain to comprehend.  Slowly, he is understanding what this day meant to our nation.

I'm sure there are plenty of other parents out there ready to shame me for letting my son see the gory images and hear the heart-wrenching sound bytes that are familiar to us but new for him.  I felt like he was ready to hear the whole story.  So, now he knows, and I'm okay with that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

45 is NOT the new 25

Look around your circle of friends these days, and I bet you'll be hard pressed to find a grown up.  Sure, you might have a gaggle of girlfriends squarely in middle age, but no one is bold enough to act like it any more. These days my world seems to be nothing but a sea of low cut tops, men playing video games, and women showing their asses like they're at a frat party. Well, I'm over it.  We have been brainwashed into believing that acting your age (if your age is over 25) is taboo.  I'm calling bullsh*t on that notion.  I hate to break it to you, but 45 is NOT the new 25.  I don't care what Sheryl Crow says.  I'm taking back adulthood one Bunco party at at time, and here are some rules that I plan to live by for the rest of my days...

1. No bikinis over the age of 40 - I'm starting with this one because I'm guilty as charged.  I thought the fact that I exercise regularly afforded me the privilege of showing off the goods.  Well, I finally accepted the idea that I'm missing something that girls half my age possess: elasticity.  That's right, when my feet stop walking, sometimes the thighs and belly do not.  There isn't a P90X workout in the world that will put the snap back into those areas that time, childbirth, and gravity have removed it from.  I solemnly swear to wear nothing more risque than a tankini.

2. I will not answer the door or do yard work in only a jog bra and shorts.  I'm constantly reminded of our former (big chested) neighbor who was apparently so hot-natured that weeding her garden made her shirt come off every time she was within our view.  It's never a good thing when your celebrity doppleganger is Jabba the Hut.  Take comfort in the fact that I will always grab a shirt before you lay eyes on me.

3. I will never flirt with my children's friends or boyfriends.  I honestly do not care if teenage boys vote me into the MILF category.  I have never aspired to be a cougar or the Most Popular Mom in the Carpool Line.  Unless you are a man older than me with a reliable job, unlimited credit, and a nice, padded bank account, I don't give a crap what you think.  Besides, my heart belongs to Harry Potter.  Just kidding!!...(sort of).

4. I will never wear a skimpy sundress with cowboy boots and braids in my hair.  I'm not Taylor Swift and neither are you.  Enough said...

5. I won't pretend to like my children's music so they will think I'm cool.  First, they don't know anything about good music, and second, I don't care what they think.  I get so sick of watching moms fake-listen to Lil Wayne and feign a deep appreciation of his lyrics.  What the hell?  Just admit that you haven't been up to date on the music scene since Cyndi Lauper was a headliner and move on.

6. I will not dress from the Junior's section at the mall.  I'm just going to break your heart right now.  Your thighs will not fit into those junior jeans.  Go ahead.  Try them on...don't let the dressing room attendant see you cry when the circulation to the lower half of your body is restricted and you come to the stark realization that childbirth does indeed reshape your body.  Stop trying to look like you're buying a prom dress and not an outfit for your 25th high school reunion.  It's okay to be in your forties.  There's no curfew here.

7. I will not try to out-drink a college kid.  Even though this doesn't really apply to me, Facebook has made it apparent that it DOES apply to some folks I know.  Here's the thing:  that college kid/friend of the family you're tailgating with?  His full time job is playing drinking games. Oh, and another thing...he isn't on high blood pressure medicine and anti-depressants.  It's a game you can't win, my friend.  Act your age.  Beat him at the game you can win: Who Has a Higher Credit Card Limit.

8. I will not be the BFF to my children until they are gainfully employed adults living outside of my home.  This is a tough one for parents to follow today.  It's cool for your kids to like you, right?  WRONG.  How do you punish your friends?  Do you regularly go to your friend's house and tell them to clean it up or else?  Hell, no.  Somewhere along the line there was a catastrophic breakdown in the wall separating parents from their children, and those children got uppity, thinking they actually had a voice when it comes to what is best for them.  I always hated it when my mother said, "Children should be seen and not heard".  Now, I see where she was coming from.  Until they stop wanting to wear princess dresses to school or listen to K$sha, I will make the rules, and they will follow them.  Period.

I'm taking back adulthood, no Justin Bieber fans allowed.  Now, go take off the flip flops and Hollister tee shirt and put on some real clothes.