I pulled into a parking spot at my son’s preschool, to my left was a blandly colored, imported, luxury SUV. To my right, a domestic minivan in metallic, cornflower blue. I was hoping the people that drove these vehicles were already inside waiting for their children and I would be able to avoid the awkward, walking-through-the-parking-lot-together, conversation. If the speakers of my factory installed radio weren’t blasting N.W.A at a ridiculously loud decibel, I might have been more aware of the disapproving glances I was receiving from behind the tinted windows on either side of me. Not that noticing them would have made turn my music down, or change the station to Radio Disney, but it’s always a good idea to take note when you are being judged. I tossed out my cigarette and rolled up my windows to the tune of MC Ren encouraging me to “F*ck tha Police”.
I may have been sitting in the middle of a manicured suburban landscape, but in my head I was straight outta Compton. As I got out of my car, the drivers’ side doors on either side of me opened, too. “This is just effing perfect,” I thought, as I faked a smile at the mothers of my sons’ classmates. Since my son developed the ability to repeat things, I am no longer capable of using the queen mother of all curse words in anything but its abbreviated form…not even in my head.
“My, your music choice is interesting today” the WASP who pilots the SUV cackled. While my brain said “I hate you”, my mouth managed to fake a laugh. “We’re having our Women’s Group on Saturday at my Church, if you’re interested” she offered for the 2000th consecutive time. I wasn’t interested. There is nothing about my personality and outward demeanor that suggests I would be remotely attracted to sitting around with a group of medicated housewives, reading the Bible. I’m not knocking religion or the Good Book here, but social functions at places of worship haven’t been my thing since the ill-fated “bobbing for apples” incident, during a Catholic Church Halloween party in 1987. I showed up to the party dressed as Cyndi Lauper, circa: “Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun”. I was really enjoying myself, until I fell, head-first into the large vat of water and red produce. The moisture predictably caused my neon pink, spray-on, temporary hair color to run into my eyes and burn with the heat of 1000 suns. I left the party dressed as Cyndi Lauper, circa: blind, wet and mortified.
I don’t know why, but her invite caught me off guard. I didn’t have an excuse prepared for the pushy, Bible-beating, soccer mom in khaki walking shorts and intent on fixing me. I blurted out the first activity that came to mind. “Oh man, Kristi. I can’t. My kitting circle is Saturday”. Yeah, I used the words “knitting circle” as part of my clever ruse to get out of going to church. She pressed further, “Well, what time is it over? Maybe you can still make it?” “Um, it’s an all-day thing. Yeah, it’s our…Knit-a-thon. We do it every year…to… raise money for the Humane Society. I’m already committed to bringing the fruit salad and bottled water”. I fumbled. I guess she bought it, she didn’t proceed with the inquisition, leading me to believe her life must really be as boring as I’d like her to think mine is.
I wanted to be honest and tell her Saturday was my designated day to be drunk and watch College Football, but I knew that would prompt a more aggressive soul salvation campaign. I lied because it was less confrontational than revealing that her repeated invitations irritate the piss out of me. I was hoping that I would be able to keep up the appearance of someone who wouldn’t tell a woman of God to go “eff” herself, for the duration of the school year.
I was relieved when the Asian woman who dives the Ford Windstar and claims her name is “Sally”, broke in to the conversation and started talking about preparing for college. At least, that’s what I think she was talking about. She speaks about as much English as I do Chinese.
I have often wondered why the Chinese, when adopting names that can actually be pronounced by their American counterparts, pick monikers normally reserved for the Irish. I have known more than a few Kevin, Molly or Maggie Chung’s in my day. I’d be willing to bet large sums of money that the potato never makes an appearance on the dinner table.
Speaking with Sally, although physically exhausting, is usually amusing. I try to use a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions, while talking loud and slow. Many of us do this when we encounter someone that doesn’t speak our native tongue; it’s a wonder that we aren’t depicted on foreign T.V. as screaming, sloth-like, pantomiming mongoloids.
Due to her very poor decision making ability, she had kind of adopted me as her gateway to all things American. When not talking about pushing her son “Aiden” to exceed and achieve his goal of being a “Biotechnical Engineer”, she asked hilarious questions about my way of life. Well, to be fair to Sally, these questions are only hilarious to me. They reminded me of my high school interaction with a Japanese foreign exchange student named “Mikki”. Mikki could only say the following three phases in English: “I like chicken fingers”, “I want an American boyfriend” and “I have a hamster named Toshi”. It still amazes me that she didn’t return to Tokyo pregnant or 100 pounds heavier, from a steady diet of deep fried, poultry phalanges. To my detriment, whenever Sally asks a question about hair salons or tutoring programs; I hear Mikki’s voice, talking about her hamster, in my head.
For the record, I don’t buy that Aiden wants to be a Biotechnical Engineer. When I was his age I wanted to be a Singing-Princess-Veterinarian or a Roller Derby Queen. There was no way he picked up this term on Sesame Street, but if she wants to delude herself with predictions about his career path at four- who am I to stop her? My predictions about Aiden are quite different. I surmise that his head will explode from all the information being forcefully shoved between his ears… and by age 14 he will be dressing in black, skinny jeans, sporting a haircut that can only be achieved by going to a blind beautician, and yelling “You don’t understand me” whenever Sally comes into his room to put away his socks. But, hey- I’ve been wrong before.
We had all made it in to the pick-up area by the time our children were lead out, smiling, wearing construction paper headwear created in the image of those circular metallic disc things doctors used to wear on their heads (I looked for the actual name of these antiquated medical tools, but, apparently, Google doesn’t know either). “You’re a Doctor!!! Just like Daddy!!!” the WASP exclaimed. In addition to trying to recruit me as member of her Southern Baptist cult, baking cookies and implying that she was better than me; she also informed every one of her husband’s profession anytime she could. While being a doctor is admirable, with all the studying, life saving and what-not, I couldn’t figure out why she insisted on talking about it all the time. It wasn’t like she donned scrubs and requested 20 cc’s of saline, STAT; the only thing she did was lay in the missionary position and disappoint his parent’s because she wouldn’t convert to Judaism. Hell, I could do that with my eyes closed.
My son was very proud of his hat, which was held together with staples and scotch tape. I debated suggesting that they use a more updated symbol for the “Doctor” next school year, thinking perhaps a trophy wife made out of pop-sicle sticks and pipe cleaners or an Italian Sports Car would be more appropriate. I thought better of it, and left with my bouncing little physician in tow, before I had to decline an invitation to the park