I live in one of those little towns next to a big town. The taxes are high, the schools are great, and every family has an SUV or mini-van with a sticker that has their kid’s name and the sport he or she plays. Most moms stay at home because their husbands are officers in the military (and I never met an officer’s wife that had a job) or big-wigs in the airline industry. Most moms spend their time volunteering for school functions. Most moms wear velour track suits from Victoria’s Secret with rhinestones across the boobs or butt... or both.
My ex and I moved to the little town right before Bug started school, six years ago. I divorced him about four months after we bought the house and I went back to the big town and lived with my mama. Then I rented the house next door to her. But we have 50/50 custody and we agreed to let Bug use his dad’s address so he could go to the better schools in the little town and I’d just drive out there on my days to drop him off and pick him up. since I work in the big town, it was a long drive out there and back six times a week.
I used to live in the big town. My kids couldn’t go outside and play, it was too dangerous. The kids next door stole Bug’s PSP and I swear one of those bitches took a package off my back porch when Fed Ex dropped it off. (It was a whole new wardrobe from when I gained a bunch of weight and I know I saw the chick from a few houses down at the gas station wearing one of the tops. I disputed the delivery and got my money back, but still...)
After I remarried, my husband (JM) and I bought a house in the little town. It’s not just “a house,” it’s my dream home. It’s in a new housing development, the kids can play in the street and we’re so much closer for our commute to the good school. (Bean started the good school this year, too.) It's got a fireplace and a double vanity in the master bathroom, hell it has a MASTER bathroom, and a kitchen (that I rarely use) that opens into a big dining room and living room and the bedrooms are big and there's a big yard and a deck and a garage and my laundry room is upstairs and I LOVE IT!!!!!
So as a new “little town mom,” I’m expected to comply with certain standards, as I mentioned above. However, we can afford my dream home because we both work. We can afford my dream home because we don’t have a $500/month SUV payment. I have a school sticker in the back glass of my Dodge Stratus (insert Will Ferrell quote from the SNL skit with Sarah Michelle Gellar here: “I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS!”), but it doesn’t have either child’s name on it. And there’s no effin way I’m wearing a velour track suit. You put rhinestones across these boobs and someone’s going blind, I’m not kidding you.
So without the proper job title, vehicle, decal or wardrobe, I needed to assert myself in another way. This way was more beneficial to all involved, anyway; I chose to volunteer at the school.
I put my e-mail address on the volunteer form and sent it in. When volunteer opportunities came around, I would use my vacation time from work to go help out. I usually went in my uniform (a lovely grey and green camouflage pattern, I’ll have you know), since EVERYTHING they needed help with HAD to be done between 7:30am and 4:30pm. So right away, you know I’m being judged. The officers’ wives knew I was enlisted by my rank insignia and was therefore beneath them. The stay at home moms wondered how I could bear to leave my kids if I had to “go to war” (which I did once, for six months) and judged me for not making myself available to my children 24/7. (granted, I’m kind of judging them for doing the opposite, but—two things: 1. My judgment is pretty lenient in that I will change my mind quickly and easily once we’ve had our first conversation and 2. It’s okay when I do it.) I also made myself indispensible to the secretary who would send projects home with the kids for me to do in the evenings and on weekends. Cutting out laminated decorations and teaching aids, mostly. She was very appreciative and I felt like I was doing my part to fit in as a “little town mom.” I even made friends with the mom of one of Bean’s friends, who is also not typical “little town mom,” but she does drive a mini van and has a hubby who’s a big-wig aircraft guy. She works because she loves it (she’s a nurse) and we now even text just for conversation, not only to arrange our girls’ social calendars. And she’s not a rhinestone kind of girl. JM and I had our special “little town” Mom and Dad outfits (no rhinestones on these, either) for school functions and we thought we had arrived.
Until...The school was doing it’s biggest fundraiser of the year. All the teachers picked a theme and each student was asked to bring in a new item that fit the theme. The like-themed items would be combined into a basket and auctioned off at the school carnival in a silent auction. (Examples: sports teams, gardening, road trips, chocolate, arts and crafts) They e-mailed the volunteers and asked for help assembling the baskets. The chairperson e-mailed me directly and told me she was having a hard time getting help. I arranged with my supervisor to get some time off and told her I’d come in. She wrote me back with many thanks and said, “BTW, I heard you lived in the neighborhood. Would you be interested in being on our bunco sub list?” Now, being new to the “little town mom” club, I had no idea what a bunco sub list was and at the risk of making a total fool out of myself, I told her as much. She replied, “Sorry!! This must be the first organized sub division you've lived in. Bunco is a dice game based on dumb luck, that 12 women play one evening a month. It is really an excuse to leave the kids w/ husband and gab over a glass of wine.” First red flag goes off: I’m a beer drinkin girl. But I’m committed to my new life as a “little town mom” and I’ll drink wine if it’s required of me. However, my “organized subdivision” couldn’t possibly be the same as hers, because my “organized subdivision,” while in the same little town, is zoned to a different elementary school than the one the Bug and Bean go to. They’re still using the ex’s address so they don’t have to change schools. So I explain to this woman, as she sits at home in her velour “PINK” track suit from VS and I labor over the right words to say so that I explain myself but don’t alienate myself, that I’m sure I’m not in the same neighborhood as her. But I close my e-mail with, “If being in a different neighborhood precludes me from being a sub for your games, I understand, but if not, I'd be happy to come anytime you need another player.” The chairperson doesn’t reply. When I’m introduced to her at the basket-assembling session, she doesn’t mention the bunco, or our e-mail exchange. A few days later, volunteers are needed to work booths at the carnival. I’ve already been signed up to host the karaoke booth ALL NIGHT, because I’m a karaoke queen. (I signed up months ago at the Bingo Night where I sold T-shirts for two hours and they passed around a big poster and let us pick the booths we wanted to work. I SO got this!) I get the mass e-mail saying “Carnival Volunteers still needed, here are the booths we need covered.” JM agrees to work in the silent auction for a bit and also the will-call booth where the kids can get tickets for the games. So I e-mail her and say, “My husband will work the basket auction from 6-7 and the will call booth from 7:30 to 8, if both positions still need filled. We'll see you there; I'll be in the karaoke room!” She replies with “I've had you soooo confused w/ another person!! I just figured it out. if you received the volunteer scheule and your not on it, please forgive me. Thanks for everything you’re doing!!” (sic) (Question: If you can get “your” and “you’re” correct in one part of the sentence, why can’t you get it right all the time?)
I actually never did receive a “scheule,” but I’m on the big poster. This I know to be tru and correct. I'm running the karaoke booth. Me. I'm the only on signed up from 6-9. I drew a line under my name with an arrow that went straight down to 9pm. Me. Working the karaoke.We show up at the carnival and the karaoke booth is not expecting me. Since my kids are running around with their step-mom (it’s “daddy’s night” and for some reason my son thinks he can’t show me any affection on his “dad’s days,” he told me that once; never mind the fact that their dad was at home*, not spending his day with his kids; honestly I share custody with their step-mom), I’m not doing anything so I relieve one of the ladies to go play with her kids. I end up having a great time listening to all the kids sing and I even found out which little girl Bug has a crush on. (she came up to me and asked where he went when he left the room and would he be back because she was going to sing! she told her friends that I was Bug’s mom and I was “really cool!”)
So I might never be on someone’s bunco team, but dammit I do my part and my kids know I’m there for them and helping their school and they love me for that. And they love me for so many other things. And there ARE moms like me in this little town, I’m just going to have to look harder. If I can see past all the rhinestones... (seriously, they’re everywhere... track suits, purses, sunglasses—God the HUGE sunglasses with the rhinestones... all over their cell phones, on their daughters’ rolling backpacks...)
So, the morale of this story is: Even if you’ve got your Dream House, you don’t have to turn yourself into a Barbie.
Little Town Barbie: The modern day homemaker Barbie is available with Ford Wind star Minivan and matching gym outfit. She gets lost easily and has no full-time occupation. Traffic jamming cell phone sold separately. (www.harmoniousposh.com)