"This is the true story... of eight strangers... picked to live in a house...work together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real...The Real World."
Kate: "What? It's perfect. We were strangers and then you weren't polite and then we got real."
Lydia: "We're not on tape. We don't work together. And, there's not EIGHT of us."
Kate: "There's two of us. And the kids, which is eight."
Lydia: "And husbands?"
Kate: "Uh...can you please just be bad at math. Gah. I'm writing this part. See? It has a fancy shoe. Those are my parts. Your parts are the ugly clog parts."
Lydia: "I'm gonna hit you with my ugly clog parts."
Kate: "Ewww, that sounded porny."
Lydia: "Shut it, Fancy. And let's get to the book already."
We actually really do hope you like it...
If you believe that first impressions are important then you should know this: my first impression of Kate was that I didn't like her very much. I might have been inclined to like her more but she was too pretty to be allowed and kind of a bitch on top of that. If I'm being honest, she was sort of a bitch sandwich of blondeness, expensive clothes and an inherent snarkiness that said: "Don't speak, Minivan. Just keep walking." I'm not being judgmental. She may not have called me MiniVan, but she may as well have.
One late fall morning at pre-school I saw her glide past in stilettos and a thousand-dollar trench coat (one that would have made me look like Inspector Gadget) and I made some comment like: "Hi Lefty's mom! You look great! Setting the bar a little high for the rest of us, huh?" And I smiled and pointed to my fabulous, dirty black yoga pants-sweatshirt-and-sneakers combination. She looked at me as if 1) she had never seen me before in her entire life 2) she had just been approached by a homeless person and asked for spare change and 3) was not impressed by the coffee stain on the boob area my sweatshirt. She said: "Yeah.... Thanks" and kept walking.
Well OK then. Why don't you have a fancy, bourgeois Starbucks with your bitch sandwich?
If this were Jane Austen novel, Kate would be Mr. Darcy. And that would make me Lizzy Bennet and I can live with that. My pride was stung in large part because I was (and am) unaccustomed to being snubbed. Usually, people like me and respond to my Golden Retriever-like enthusiasm and joie de vivre. So I decided she was not my kind of person. Like Lizzy Bennet, I would always be charming and polite but after that I had pretty much no use for her. Our children, in a class of twelve, had been dropped off and picked up at the same time for weeks. It was a small school and our children had attended it last year as well. But she had no idea who I was or why I was attempting to talk to her.
Even after I got to know her a little bit and had the opportunity to get a sense that she was not, in fact, a stuck-up snotty-pants and was actually really cool, I still couldn't quite shake the feeling that she had hurt my feelings was always thinking: "And you are?" Kate has this idea that people look at her and think she's vapid. Nobody thinks that. Nobody would look at Mr. Darcy and think - hmmmmm.... vapid. You see her and think this woman is attractive, shrewd and together and (scariest of all) she sees right through the crap. She is someone to be reckoned with. And like Mr. Darcy she is not the most accessible person. When she does take notice of you, you feel flattered because you can tell after about five seconds that she is someone who dislikes bullshit and wasting her time. So if she decides she likes you and puts you on her radar you know that she is being entirely sincere. She's like a cat – she doesn't sell out. But, even when she's trying to be nice, her intensity can be a little overwhelming.
Like the time before we became friends when she accosted my husband, Cap'n Coupon, in the preschool parking lot. If I'm being technical about it, she accosted him with enchiladas. I had broken my leg and was on bed rest for two months. The kind people at the school had created a schedule to provide meals for us. On the day that it was her turn, she created a tray of melty-cheesy-deliciousness that I still remember. But apparently she was a little aggressive about getting rid of it so she could get to work. It went like this:
Kate: [yelling across the parking lot] "You! Sir! Excuse me! Take my enchiladas!"
Cap'n: [wondering who she was yelling at, ignores he] "Huh?"
Kate: [hurries right over, holds out tray] "Here they are."
Cap'n: "Pardon me?"
Kate: "I have these enchiladas and you have to take them because I'm running late."
Cap'n: [slightly bewildered] "Ok. Thank you?"
Kate: "You're welcome. The cooking instructions are written on top."
Cap'n: [notes that the instructions are less than ten inches from his eyeballs] "Yes. I see."
Kate: "Good bye."
Cap'n: "Good bye, ummm... Ma'am."
So my husband's first impression of her was slightly odd (who is this woman throwing a casserole at me?) but positive (mmmm! enchiladas!). So it seemed strange to me that about eighteen months later, he asked me why I didn't like Kate. He said it was clear to him that I didn't like her. I sort of knew what he was talking about. A few minutes before he saw us chatting outside the church, I had run into her in the bathroom. She was wearing a very short dress with very high heels. I had to comment, so I said something like: "You look gorgeous but how the heck do you walk in those things?" She replied that she was very vain, loved her shoes and it was worth any discomfort they gave her because it made certain ladies in the congregation mad when she wore them. I got that, because some of those ladies were mean, old heifers. But I wasn't sure how I felt about her getting all dolled up in order to make other (less attractive) women feel bad. Maybe it was the fact that I was still wearing maternity pants six months post partum. Possibly.
I later found out that it wasn't actually "women" that she was trying to antagonize with her hotness. It was woman. One woman, who like Mrs. Bennet, felt she could say any crazy, hateful thing she wanted about Mr. Darcy, in front of Mr. Darcy. When I found out what that warthog of a busybody had said to Kate, I was ready to square up and kick her in the junk. But that came later, when I came to realize just how much I had misunderstood her.
So when the Cap'n saw us right after that moment in the bathroom, he was right (he usually is) that I felt a little conflicted about her. But a couple of things gave me pause. The first was having seen her in action ''mom-style" at a recent kid's birthday party. She had been hilarious and cool. The second was my husband's very apt observation that I was not giving her a chance. And I am, after all, a human Golden Retriever. It is not in my nature to be aloof. So I decided to be friendly, and if she was like: "And you are?" that would just have to be OK. Then I totally forgot all about it.
A few months later, it was the second week of September. It had been a tumultuous summer and now things were supposed to be settling down into a routine of serenity and order. I was back at the preschool. I had just dropped my son Hawk off in the same classroom where his sister had been two years before, when Kate and I had been not friends every day at drop off. I was sitting in my seven-seater Ford Tampon, new baby in her car seat screaming, contemplating just how much more it would take before I snapped.
The upside of the parking lot was the potential for adult conversation. The downside was the actual conversation. "Hiii-yeee! How are you? How was your summer? How does (insert child's name here) like school? Isn't it awful to have to get up so early? I can't keep up with all our activities! But at least with the kids back in school I finally have some time to myself!"
I just wanted to talk to someone. And say something good and real, like "It's 9:17 am and I am already done. Are you done? Because you look done." Instead I got vile, trite, disingenuous bullshit. The exact same conversation we had last year. That my grandmother had in 1953. Except my grandmother could smoke two packs a day and start drinking at noon. While pregnant. A few more years of this and I was going to need medication. Or a time machine.
And I was in no hurry to get home. The freedom provided by the kids being in school brought with it the expectation that I would actually clean the house. Or do something productive. I couldn't face it. Scrubbing toilets after three hours of sleep? Research new investment strategies for my meager retirement savings? No, no and no. What the hell was wrong with me? I wanted a third baby and now I had one. I wanted to quit my job and stay home and I did just that. I wanted to focus on my kids and getting my house in order, and I just couldn't find the energy. How long was I just going to sit there? Like a lump in a van in dirty, black yoga pants?
Then Kate walked by looking like she was a few minutes away from committing vehicular homicide or hitting someone with a bat. She looked DONE. I knew that look well because it was exactly what I saw when I looked in the mirror every day. Lately, what I saw looked alot like my mother.
So I rolled down the window and asked her if she was OK. And she really, really wasn't.
(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011
Part 2 continues tomorrow...
Part 2 continues tomorrow...