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Foray into the Muffia

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Kate Reddy, the heroine of Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It , has a high powered job in the world of finance, a yen for a Yank that supposed to be a client, and an enormous guilt trip about leaving her kids so frequently. Her number one enemies, though, she terms the “Muffia,” the self-righteous, kid pushing matrons of her London neighborhood. Their lives sport drug problems and anorexia, and are far from perfect. Yet Kate feels obligated to them somehow, assuming that their ability to stay home with their kids makes them better mothers, even as her erstwhile paramour assured her that his mom, who’d bear the acronym “SAHM” on the internet, spent her days playing cards and swimming around the bottom of a martini glass with her friends.

All of this I consider as I sit in an overcrowded, stuffy walk-in clinic with a 5 year old who is probably suffering from bronchitis. A few Y chromosomes have made their appearance, but they’re pretty rare. And these men somehow manage to have a look of boredom in their eyes, as opposed to the women. These ladies faces radiate concern, aggravation. I’m starting to believe most of them are considering homicide in order to move up their place in the queue. Their cubs are sick, and they have lives, can’t the rest of us understand that?

I wonder who these women are. What do they do? I hear smatterings, bits and pieces of their lives. These two graduated from the local high school together, this one works 2 days a week at a hair salon, this one waits tables at a bar. They’re as different from Kate’s from the Muffia as Ness is from Capone…yet not. Woven in among the trivia, day care centers are compared, sicknesses (length, severity) made to measure up. It’s competition, just at a lower scale.

Written by Jen Szymanski

March 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

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Dance Moms

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Once, out of a combination of peer pressure and curiosity (I’m from Pittsburgh), I decided to  watch Dance Moms. Two thoughts. First, I want those ten minutes of my life back. Second, someone out there owes me some cash for mental pain and suffering.

Both of my daughters take dance lessons. Hence, by default, I get to share the title of “dance mom” not only with the trashy show, but also directly with about thirty other women, two days a week. And, since I’m writing this while the Younger Daughter is tapping her little heart out, I’m now going to take a good look around the room, to see if that’s all.

Yup, that’s all.

That and two X chromosomes.  (I assume.) Here’s a few things that I don’t share with these other women:

An inability to actually watch my kids‘ dance class

An ability to talk very loudly about every little detail of their houses for an hour straight

A French manicure.

I assume a higher tax bracket might also be included, but I don’t have any proof of this (just a suggestion by the manicures.) All of the above are meant without judgement – these are just observations.  But they must mean something, or they wouldn’t have merited my attention.

I guess it makes me wonder about out human need to fill space. When I was dating my husband, we spent a lot of time on the phone, sometimes two or three hours at a clip. I knew I was in love when I realized we’d sometimes go for ten minutes or more without speaking. We were in love, and the silence was comfortable. Clearly my fellow waiting room companions don’t find any comfort in silence. Instead, it’s a competition, with their kids’ ascent to the top of heap being fought out by proxy. And it’s time to be judgmental: it irks me…but not for the reason you think it would.

It irks me because I know why they do it. Because it reminds me that we share something very essential, these dance moms, and I. Because sandwiched in all of the very loud talk of grout, of preschools, of filthy bathrooms and constant laundry, of Broadway shows seen, and trips to New York City taken, there’s another quiet conversation going on. It takes place every week, and it never ends.  And it always starts with the same four words: “When I Go Back.”

When I Go Back. When I go back to work, to teaching, to being what I was before I became this person, this mom, this dance mom. Even, if it’s sometimes His Girl, His Wife. When I Go Back – whether I look forward to it, or dread it. When I Go Back Oh God things are going to be so different am I going to be able to do it or will I fail and if I do what will happen to me? It’s the whistling past the graveyard of the suburban set. I hear it. I recognize it. And it scares the hell out of me.

Written by Jen Szymanski

January 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm

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