I made myself sick today in an effort to avoid one of the more terrifying events in Alecto's life: The Fairfield County Saturday Night Cocktail Party. Most of the time this is not even a question. I don't get invited to Fairfield County Saturday Night Cocktail Parties for the simple fact that I am about as anti-social as they come in this town. Also, I am female and I have a job outside the house, which labels me Instant Pariah. One time I went to a Christmas party at the neighbor's across the street but then I said something inappropriate and she actually stopped having Christmas parties! No joke! I would have simply stayed home next time, she didn't have to cancel!
I don't like cocktail parties because I don't know these people, I don't have anything in common with them, I'm tired of smiling sweetly when somebody actually reminds me (YES she diiiidd) it's time for dermabrasion or a face lift or a boob job or a trip to the gym or who does my hair or where on earth did I buy that sweater, or OMG you have a JOB???!!! Sigh. This goes way back. In my early twenties, the first time I was married, all the young wives liked to get together and bitch about their husbands and kids. The husbands got together and compared their penises, or something. I played with the kids. Duck, duck, goose is still fun for me.
We were invited to this cocktail party (and yes, it was actually referred to as a cocktail party, had a beginning and an end time and instructions on what to bring) because we have an Au Pair and this was the cluster meeting for the parents hosted by another set of parents. We went because we've been having trouble adjusting to our Au Pair (read: SUFFERING BRUTALLY) and thought it might be nice to talk to other parents. It might be supportive. It might be reassuring. It might make. me. feel. a little bit better.
Except I didn't really believe that. What I believed was that I'd subject myself to another bunch of Fairfield County SAHMs without enough time to care for their own children and nothing else on their minds except who their husbands are maybe sleeping with and who is the plastic surgeon de jour.
At 3 PM I looked beseechingly at my very social (but also very understanding) husband and said, oh, honey, please, why? Please, please tell me what would be the value of doing this? And being the really lovely human being that he is, he let me off the hook. Except I could hear the underlying conversation that went something like this... 'Alecto, sweetie, we said we would. Alecto, beloved, it's not always so bad. Alecto, my love, I know that I say I could take it or leave it but since I married you, I have absolutely zero social life and while I love and adore you, I would just about swoon if I could get out.'
Yup, that's what I heard. Might not have been what he was saying but it's what I heard. So I got up off the bed that I was hiding on (not quite in, but close) and marched off to the kitchen to make cheesy poofs because we're supposed to bring something to eat. I made cheesy poofs, ala Cartman's Mom and they were really fun to make too. Milk and butter hot, mixed with flour and then with eggs and a really sweet local baby goat Gouda and then baked on parchment paper for 15 minutes in a hot oven. I had nothing to bring them in. I don't do this kind of thing. I do not own mobile food conveyance. In the end I put them in one of Little Girl's shoe boxes (she's got a serious stash of shoe boxes) with some parchment paper under and over. I didn't want to lose a dinner plate. Call me crazy, I'm attached to them.
At 5:30 my little WASP internal alarm went off. It went something like this: It's 5:30. You are supposed to be one town over at 6. You are dressed to work in the kitchen (which I'd also been doing, the mashed potatoes were made and frozen for the week and the tomatoes for tomorrow's tomato soup were blanched, skinned, de-seeded, and chopped today) and even if you are wearing corduroys instead of jeans it doesn't count! You are going to a cocktail party and you have to leave in fifteen minutes and you need clothes and make up and yes, you have to comb your hair. And maybe even find some hairspray or something because one of your multiple cow licks got out of hand when you laid down on the bed and you have got nearly cartoonish bed head. This will not do. Your Granny, she of the engraved invitation / personal stationary and white gloves for lunch is currently rolling over in her Midwestern grave. It's all true.
Well, I don't actually own party clothes. It's the God's honest truth. I do own the following:
- One Sapphire blue ball gown
- Three white wedding dresses (SHUT UP)
- One LBD (Little Black Dress, and let me tell ya, it's O. L. D. but it fits. Again. Thank God.)
- Work Clothes (VERY, VERY Conservative, as in girls don't actually work here and you're an exception, corporate)
- Work Clothes (house, car, garage and garden)
Crap. I discover this at 5:35. Weeellll, I'm not gonna put on the ball gown, I don't even want to discuss the wedding dresses (except the last one but lets be serious, OK?) and this is not an LBD event so that leaves work clothes. OK, work clothes. I muster my girliest blouse (yeah, right) and a pair of pants. Grey flannel pin striped pants. I leave off the suit jacket. Sigh. Yup, this is me. I wore perfume (got some, yup). I put on make up. I forgot that I actually own pearls, would have been appropriate if I'd remembered. I wetted, sprayed and brushed down the cow lick and then sprayed it again (no helmet head, honest, I am good at this, got loads of cow licks). I even wore lip gloss and for any of you who actually know me, that's damned funny. I call it blushing bride lip gloss because that's what I bought it for and the last time I wore it. It doesn't appear to have curdled or anything!
5:50 - I am officially a girl and off we go.
6:00 - we are on time (because if you say six I'm going to be there at six even though I know that is wrong I simply cannot help myself, I do ON TIME). We drive past the house and then turn around and go back, even though we are first and even my husband is cringing.
6:01 - we enter the house of two perfect strangers.
6:01:35 - she says, delighted to see us, 'thank you for being on time!' (I love her instantly)
6:02 - I hand her cheesy poofs in a shoe box. Yup. I really did this. In Fairfield County even.
6:02:15 - blink, blink (her)
6:02:20 - thank you, they're lovely (her) (great save! I love her some more)
She, and he, and their two small children, were lovely to us for fifteen minutes until other guests arrived. And then we met the other guests. On the way over we joked about the probable percentage of moms with jobs with Au Pairs. We guessed maybe 48% and of that 48% maybe 5% had careers and maybe another 2% worked past 5 PM on any given day.
We were wrong wrong wrong. In this room, in this home in Fairfield County I met more working moms and dads then I could shake a stick at. And you know what? They had wrinkles, and fat, and neck stuff and they looked their age. Some of them had much longer commutes then we do. And they wanted to talk about their kids and their lives, not their jobs. I want to talk about my kids! I don't want to impress you with my job! I don't even want to tell you what I do, it doesn't matter, we will assume it's fulfilling and I love it. I will assume that your job is fulfilling and that you love it or you simply would not be so long away during the day from your family. I want to talk about my kids! With someone else who struggles to balance the mix and the need to be. OMG - I talked to these people about my kids!!! And their kids, and their lives and their balance. My job and my worth and value were assumed. A non-event and non-issue. My kids, my kids, my kids!!! Their kids, their kids, their kids!!!
None of them rush home to make organic, responsible meals for their kids. I got to be an actual example of what might be a good idea as opposed to a pathetic joke of a mother. Nobody laughed at me. A lot of people told me it would be all right and not all Au Pairs are quite that 'sassy'. Everybody was nice. Everybody seemed real. Their were no cliques. There was no judgment. There was a God awful amount of compassion.
I wanted to cry.
And you know what else I noticed? The husbands and wives? They seemed to actually like each other. There was a great deal of physical contact in the room between spouses. A nudge here, a safe shoulder there, a pat on the arm, a whispered affection, a drink procured, a plate filled and a lot of smiles. For me, this was nirvana. For the first time in maybe my entire adult life I felt like I might just not be a complete and total freak.
And if I am a complete and total freak, I'm not alone, there are others.