My weekday mornings are solidly routine. I am up at 6:20 AM, making certain that everyone is moving about in a productive fashion. Back in the day (read: prior to FOW #2 getting a boyfriend with both a driver's license and a car,) I was expected to ferry kids to and from school. Now, because of their advanced age, Mom driving them to school would be as cool as... uh, I could make a really great allusion to some trend well beyond its prime here, but I think I'm illustrating the point I'm trying to make in not making it. Mom just ain't cool any longer, Daddy-O -- and that's okay. I remember not wanting my mom to drive me to school, but I had different reasons than they do. I hope.
On days that either my friend Maria (yes, of the basketball bag story,) or I didn't drive ourselves to school, our respective mothers would drive us. Mother O' Maria, who did not hate her daughter, would drive Maria to school without incident. My own mother? Well...
Seriously, I've been reviewing this for almost 25 years in my head, trying to make sense of it all, and I'm pretty sure my mom planned this stuff out with pie charts and algorithms( and this is entirely possible because my mother was a Math Goddess.) I know she started perfecting her "look" from the time I was in sixth grade and finally hit humiliating pay-dirt by the time I was a junior in high school. "How bad could it have been?" you might ask.
I used to beg to ride the bus if I couldn't get a ride from Maria or drive myself.
Let me paint the picture for you, and anything beyond this first phrase is just going to be overkill. Trust me. Are you ready?
My mom set her hair every night and slept in those damned things, which goes a long way to explaining why she was so angry all the time. Of course she was pissed at the world -- she never had a decent night's sleep. Every night at 8 PM, my mom would wash her hair, and then put it up in those curlers, and not the spongy ones with the clip that folded over. No, she used the two-part ones, made of hard plastic, that were cotton-candy colored. The former, while not pleasant to sleep upon by any means, were a damned sight better than the pinching pain of the latter. I really do know of whence I speak on this because, up until I was 10, my mom insisted on setting my hair every other night, too. The sleep deprivation I endured goes a long way toward explaining why I have no clear memories of my life until the age of 12.
If the atrocity committed by the curlers weren't enough to seal my fate, my mom also had this robe (you'll understand the emphasis on that in a minute,) that she liked to don for those special occasions when embarrassing me to tears was the preferred end result. It was terrycloth and it was from 1965.
I graduated high school in 1987.
Not that the robe was shabby or anything; no, quite the opposite. My mom took good care of her things. Her less, um... vibrant robes were tattooed with hair color and henna stains, but this one was, apparently, her "Sunday Go To Meetin'" Robe, because it remained pristine and Miss Clairol-free. I don't know if I can provide an adequate description so that you get the gist of just how heinously ugly it was, but I'm going to try.
The primary color that you noticed, when you gazed up this robe was what I'd call, "Retina Searing Orange," if I worked at Crayola and got to name the crayons. My mom could have gone hunting in this robe. She could have landed airplanes. She could have directed traffic. She could have done all of those things in that robe... at night.
There was a black lattice pattern crisscrossing the vibrancy of the orange and -- this is where it gets really good -- thereupon were flowers arranged "artfully." Said flowers were depicted in various hues unseen in nature, such as, "Wow! That's Giving Me A Headache Blue," "Opened-Vein Red" and "Angry Florescent Purple Bruise." This thing would have looked amazing in a black-lit environment if you'd eaten a handful of psychedelic substances. Or, you would have feared for your life. I can't rightly say. I can tell you that being driven to school by someone wearing it probably explains how I can still successfully tuck and roll out of a car going up to 15 MPH, a skill you might not think is all that important, unless you've lived my life.
So, curlers... robe... anything else I'm forgetting? Oh, yes. She'd wear the blue slipper-booties my grandmother had crocheted for her in the winter of 1973. The slippers, on their own, probably would have been the show stopper, but since they had to compete with the robe, they seemed shockingly benign in comparison.
Honestly, that robe was something.
The effect of everything, all together, was awe-inspiring. For real. But not the same flavor of "awe-inspiring" as, say -- a beautiful sunset or the birth of a child. More like, "Oh, that poor woman must be blind or too poor to afford a mirror. But look at the courage she shows by plugging along, in spite of those limitations. That, there, is true courage."
And, like I said: it would honestly not surprise me to discover that my mother had planned that outfit out to maximize the humiliation quotient of it for me. She had her whole life scheduled and organized out in such a way as to have plenty of time to work on the minutiae of destroying any wispy bits of self-esteem that I might have picked up somewhere. It was, like, her thing.
And because of her thing, I've always made a conscious effort to make certain that my own children can't argue with my appearance in the drop off line, no matter what their ages. I may not be totally made up and smoking hot, but I do not look like something Walt Disney threw up. When my daughter, in 8th grade at the time, told me that my Cartman tee shirt had to go, I took that to heart. When her brother said my sweatpants were passé, I relegated them to housework-only duds, because I love my children and I don't want them to have to explain what's wrong with me. Not that they could, mind you; just that I figure there are enough strikes against any kid in this day and age of Self Esteem At Any Cost, and mine are at a decided DNA disadvantage, straight outta the gate. Why add to that?
But, as I mentioned, I'm pretty much off the hook on driving them most mornings, which I'm sure they are happy about, even though I've taken great pains to not be an embarrassment. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, though, their school district does a block schedule change and school starts later for just about every student in the school... except for FOW #1, who is enrolled in a program of study that requires him to be in the building at 7:45 AM, no matter what day of the week it is. I thought maybe I could wheedle the Boyfriend into going in early on Wednesdays and Thursdays by citing how there's also academic support time offered before classes start and I know how he worries about his grades. No dice. My veiled threats about how I probably wouldn't want anyone dating my daughter who was lazy enough to want an extra hour of sleep also fell flat.
Thus, mid-week, every week, I get up and power chug two cups of coffee in preparation for vehicular interactions with the residents of Crazy Town and make sure I don't look like a doink. Then I load FOW #1 into the car and let the games begin. It's a 3.4 mile drive from door-to-door or, as FOW #1 likes to call it, "10 Minutes on a Magic Carpet Ride of Road Rage." People who can't drive (i.e., everyone but me,) piss me off; we've been over this already.
Unlike my mother before me, the dulcet tones of adult contemporary music do not spill out of my car when I drop FOW #1 off in the morning. I primarily listen to the local alternative station and every Wednesday morning, KRBZ (The Buzz) does something called, "War of The Roses." FOW #1 and I are totally into this, because it's a voyeuristic wet dream.
The premise is pretty simple: Every Wednesday morning, a woman (and, really -- it's hardly ever a guy who initiates these things,) calls in and gives all the gory little details about the amateur PI work she's done in determining whether or not her boyfriend is cheating. The stories range from the hard-core, white trash to the merely insipid, but they're fascinating in a Jerry Springer-Lite sort of way. The KC Metro seemingly abounds with Baby Daddies and horny boys who just can't keep it in their pants.
Once the woman has made her case, the deejay then phones the Rat-In-Question, posing as a florist who has recently opened a store in the area and is giving away a free dozen roses to drum up interest and business. She explains how there's no charge, they don't have to give any credit card or personal information and that the recipient will never know they didn't pay a red cent for these roses. This is the first thing that astounds me every week, without fail: These douche bags fall for it, every freakin' time. I've been listening to this show for five years now, and you would THINK that this scheme would be better known. One of these guys who's been caught should have said to his buddies over a beer, "Hey, just so you know -- if anybody calls you and offers you free roses, make sure you send them to your girlfriend, otherwise... woo, boy! There's gonna be a shit storm."
But, no... week after week, one of the seemingly never-ending supply of dumb asses agrees to accept some free flowers. Invariably, it's the part where the deejay mentions that the recipient will have no inkling that the roses are free that makes them bite the hardest at the bait. I'm truly astonished at how many guys in Kansas City are more than willing to be greedy and dishonest in that fashion. At this point, it's time to fill out the card that will accompany the roses, and that's when the fun really gets cranking.
Some guys actually do send the flowers to their girlfriends, because -- let's face it -- women can be incredibly paranoid creatures, even when they're in the most stable of relationships. BUT, and that's a HUGE "but," there is something to be said for Women's Intuition, because nine times out of ten, our hapless fella picks the wrong recipient.
And then everybody's life falls apart on the air.
It's sickening and wrong, and I feel like a filthy, dirty, shallow piece of shit when I listen to it. Because of the timing of the ride to school, the way they play a song or two between the "accusation" portion and the reveal, FOW #1 has no idea how these things turn out, and for some reason -- he really seems to care. In the same fashion that I would not wear an optical illusion disguised as a "robe," because I love him and I want to make him happy, my maternal charge is listening to the conclusion of these freak shows and then giving him a synopsis when he gets home in the afternoon; unless it's really juicy, and then I'm supposed to text "Yea" or "Nay," as to whether or not the guy was a complete tool.
As a sentient being, I generally listen up to the point where we've got the definitive answer and then I wander around the dial in search of something that doesn't make me feel like I'm hiding in the bushes, peeping into someone's window. This morning, though -- my god! This one was a doozy, let me tell you! The woman's working two jobs because the baby daddy/boyfriend lost his, and their six year old child started telling her, "Laurie's nice," and "Laurie came to play today."
I mean, really! Can you imagine? The whole thing was just horrifyingly sad and crazy. Not only did the P.O.S. she's with Fail (with a capital "F," too,) he also had a complete meltdown on the radio, in which there was a blitzkrieg of F-bombs directed at the deejay who, according to Mr. Winner, "ruined his life."
Now, maybe it's just me, but I'm of an opinion that being caught doing something isn't really what "ruins" a life; the ruination lies in committing the actual wrong, and responsibility should rest solely upon the shoulders of the fucktard who has the mother of his children working two jobs, while he sits at home on his lazy ass all day, when he's not doing it with some trampy whore named, "Laurie." Well, maybe she's named "Laurie." It's entirely possible she's named, "Lori," because this dumb shit wasn't even certain how to spell her name. I can honestly say, I have never slept with anyone whose name I could not spell (first and last.) I hold that same standard when introducing people to my offspring, as well.
I'm pretty sure we call that, "having morals," something my mother instilled in me, sometimes on those same car rides to school when I was trying to figure out how to melt into the seat, lest someone more popular than me got a load of my mom's "taste." And maybe it isn't as important that she sort of looked like an explosion of fashion diarrhea as it is that she took those moments in the car to talk to me about what was going on in my life and in the world, an intrusion I clearly remember resenting after a certain age. But I'm grateful to my mom, hideous, orange-robed rageaholic that she was, for demanding I have at least the sense God gave a goose. I realized that this morning -- my gratitude. Mind you, that doesn't mean I'm going to start looking like I got dressed in the dark on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, but I am going to be a little more grateful that I was raised to know Crazy when I see it.