I wrote this piece about 7 years ago.
We’re barely moved in. Yet, my Barbie of a mother’s already decorated a sizable corner in our house to show off her gaudy pageant winnings from back in the day. She once told me her favorite award was a dark blue ribbon that read Most Poised in golden cursive stitching.
She’d say with a gratified grin,
“Even without a crown, royalty must have poise. Poise is the most important virtue of any important person, you know.”
Flash forward to now, as my mom scurries around like a little squirrel. Poise. Please.
“Get the boxes in the study first, Rainn! Bring them up to your room, immediately!”
Mom pushes a big desk towards the hallway with all her might and I hear her squeal in despair. She could obviously use some help. I’m sitting on an uncomfortable step, doodling in the notepad she gave me for cursive practice as if I were writing something of importance. I’d help out but I can’t stand, my legs won’t let me; Possibly because I didn’t want them to. Ok, so I didn’t want them to. The stairs were hard wood and shiny like their second function was a convenient mirror for the ever- vain. I see why my parents picked this house.
It’s nothing like the old house, and I’m not sure if I like it yet. She’s calling again, like a screeching alarm on a school day. What’s the point? I thought. Just because my bags are unpacked doesn’t magically make this place my home. I set down my notepad, full of doodles and four letter words. I’m 15 and a girl but I have this thing for vulgarity, in spite of that fact. I’ve been told 15 year old girls should refrain from this sort of behavior. However, I pride myself in surprising my teachers with loud, spastic bleeps, Tourrets -esque if you will. My mom used to hate leaving her in-house work space to bail me out of the principal’s office.
She writes. My dad reads. For a living, I mean. I think that’s the only reason my mom got published, even though she swears her book was “worth every sparkling review.” It’s ironic how much positive reception she gets for writing about raising the perfect child.
I think they secretly wanted me to move from my old school. I had made such a name for myself; I don’t think they could bare it. Heaven forbid their flawless reputation be on the line. It’s a day’s drive to my old home. I guess I shouldn’t call it home anymore. I hate my dad for getting promoted.
I had a best friend. Dagan. Ok, only friend. He taught me everything I know about cursing and sneaking live rats into certain punk’s lockers. My parents hate Dagan. Or I should say hated, since they probably won’t see him for a while. I think that’s secretly a reason for our move, too.
My new school reeked of plastic charm and good will. Uniformed robots would smirk and murmur as they passed me down the hall to the lunch room, with their neat little brown bags full of organic, jicama tossed-salads packed by their perfect littlerobot parents. I’d come home every day with my mom and she’d ask,
“Have a good day at school?”
I’d always give her some smartass remark like,
“Oh, mother, you know every day is a good day when you’re given the privilege to learn!”
She’d get annoyed with me then and stop talking. Sometimes she’d gather up the brass to critique my attire or my hair.
“Rainn, honey if only you would wear those dresses I bought you. They’re in the catalog! Just like those ridiculous slacks you chose to throw on instead. I’m sure the girls at school would be far more receptive to you.”
She goes on but I tune out by then. I’d stare out the unblemished window of my mom’s vintage Beemer into an abyss of chic boutiques and five star restaurants; the kind you need reservations months in advance to get in. Mom loved those.
I’m standing now, on those hard steps, contemplating my next move like my life depends on it. Mom still shouts as if I hadn’t heard her the first thirty times. I always wished for siblings. Not because I want automatic friends for life (not that I can’t use that). No, I want siblings so they can help carry the load of my parents. How do they manage? My parents, I mean. All of the time and dedication it takes for them to put on such a show every day. It seems impossible, if you don’t have a backstage pass, like me.
I see all of those faulty ropes and curtains separating them from reality, and I wasn’t fooled. Honestly, I didn’t get how other people didn’t see it. I mean they weren’t’ the best actors in town, that’s for damn sure. But somehow, some way, people did fall for it. And I was stuck, by default, playing their perfect little princess. That was my role, even if I didn’t want it. And trust me, I didn’t want it.
Sometimes they’d even try to fool me, like I was some idiot sitting in for the day in place of their daughter. They’d do this thing where they shared what could be a perfectly normal, spousal love-peck on the lips. It would be that, if of course they actually loved each other. But instead they looked like what I’d imagine the adult form of my robot classmates would look like if they had a mission to save their planet and the only way they could is by touching together on the lips in an odd, yet simulated-romance kind of way. Why did they feel the need to perform for me? Once, I caught my mom fishing for a compliment from dad.
“Oh, I feel old honey, I think I need botox. Should I make an appointment?”
He didn’t say what he should have. He told her to get the botox. Ouch. If anything I think my mom wishes she was still that pageant girl. So she could at least present some sort of beauty to the world, even if she didn’t feel it. I think that’s when their relationship started dying. She tries so hard to be like her trophies, it’s ridiculous. Botox day is when I acquired this X-ray vision on fakeness I’m so glad to have now. I go out of my way to be the opposite of how one would expect the only daughter of Harold and Blair Swenton to behave. You could call it a rebellion. I call it survival.
I went down the steps, slowly but surely. I spotted those auburn curls as my mom marched grumpily to the front of the stairwell and plopped a box twice her size at her feet. She just missed them. I think to myself how funny it would be if she did.
“Rainn, this is unacceptable! I’m tired of you mopping around like the world is against you. You sit around like some miserable homeless child. You are far to privileged to be so ungrateful! Now get down her and gather these boxes with me!”
I never understood what she meant by that. You sit around like some homeless child. She acted like just because she and dad had some cash, I should be floating around like some graceful Disney princess that just found out her father is secretly the king of Happyville. I’m supposed to be happy now? Really?
I say, “I think I’d rather be homeless than living in this lie of a family!”
My mom’s really pissed now; like she truly values our mother, daughter relationship; or the lack thereof. I laugh in her face, but regret it immediately. A laugh, not in an amused way, but in a sarcastic, mocking sort of fashion that makes parents want to slap their children. Only, parents usually don’t go that far. You know, wanting to but not actually doing it. But at this point, I’m in perfect slapping distance, and she smacks me one good. It should hurt. I feel nothing.
I don’t even want to hit her back. She doesn’t deserve my energy. In a weird way I feel like she didn’t mean to do it. I think she’s mad, but not at me. She’s mad because I’m right. At least I want to think that. I walk away. She shouts back to me but all I hear is
“Wawwawawwa.” like from Charlie Brown, except worse. Dad’s home. Mom runs to him like she’s the child. I see them from where I stand, in a corner full of tiaras, like I’m giving myself a time out.
I hear her talking about me. Like she was the teacher’s favorite little tattle tale. I don’t care what she said. I don’t care what he said. I don’t care. He calls me. No use hiding anymore, I think. He nags and nags and calls himself punishing me.
“No TV, no computer games, no art class, this week, or next week, or the week after that!”
He goes on and on through a list of things he thinks interest me. I wish I could say he’s wrong, but he not. I’ll miss those things for sure. Way to make your kid hate you more. I don’t even tell him about Mom. It won’t make a difference anyway. They’re a team, and I’m the outsider. I don’t want to play their game and they punished me for it.
I wonder if Mom’s right. That I should be happy, because I go to one of the best private schools in the country, and I live in a house that’s ever ready for a Better Homes photo shoot, and my parent’s wealth and prestige automatically make me a shoe-in for the best prep SAT courses in town. Not to mention in spite of my defiance I’ll maintain all As just to piss off the teachers that hate me. This would lead me into a fine, prestigious university where I’ll double major in something like Classical Civilizations and Anthropology. My fake parents would be so fake proud of me. I’d be considered an accomplished young woman. My successful parents could brag about their little girl.
“She’s gonna’ be a success, just like her old man.” He’d say with a boisterous laugh to his country club buddies.
“I always knew she’d grow out of that awkward phase!”
She would say with a tint of blue charm her fellow, wealthy housewives so admired.
That would be my initiation onto their team. I’d be blue like the ribbon my mother won for Most Poised and anyone that wasn’t would envy me. And I could look down at the jealous ones on my charming, blue pedestal. One could assume I’d be happy there. If only they don’t see behind that charming, blue curtain.