Have you ever looked up stepmother in Wikipedia? What you get is several paragraphs mentioning the instances of stepmothers in literature and one small paragraph about the stepmother on film. In short, according to the people who spend time filling data into this stew of information on the internet, stepmothers are one of two things; The wicked women in Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Snow White; or they are the perfect ladies in Yours, Mine and Ours and The Brady Bunch. That is the sum of all of those women, those stepmothers (go ahead, shudder) out there. I say all of those women because with the fifty percent divorce rate, I know they are out there. I am, and a few of my friends are, those women. People do re-marry and the kids from those broken marriages are bound to end up with one of us.
But this story isn’t about my life as a stepmother exactly, or about my stepson. It’s about TOW. TOW (pronounced like toe) stands for The Other Woman. I could use a variety of acronyms here like TRM (The Real Mother) or TEW (the ex-wife, but they were never technically married), because I have been made to understand MANY times that I am not a substitute for that. And you would probably agree, because you have probably seen enough of Walt Disney and heard enough of the Brother’s Grimm to believe that I am nothing more than wicked. In my defense I have not tried to send my stepson off to boarding school (as in Parent Trap circa 1998 with Lindsay Lohan times two), but I certainly entertained the idea. Because of you and all of your worldly ideas, I am forced to use the term TOW for the real mother, because it sounds ugly. It sounds like payback for all of us villainous women trying to like another woman’s child (and trying to get them to like us back, or at least to chew with their mouths closed).
If I sound like a petty bitch to you, then I am fairly certain YOU are not a stepparent and therefore you are not qualified to judge the not quite adult behavior that comes from trying to raise a child with three other adults. Adults who have three separate views on parenting with a side of baggage from old relationships, and in-laws. Mix in the dreaded you’re not my mother/father complex and things get pretty messy. When I moved to Southern California with my future husband, I welcomed this role as a stepmother with open arms, being some one who loves children yet not knowing how hard it would be. With the added difficulty of moving into TOW’s life (or her Southern California) while leaving most of my life back in Northern California, I began to compare myself to her. She happened to be the only woman I knew in Southern California with kids and a mixed family. It was a commonality we could relate to, but we found we had some other commonalities and some glaring differences. Comparing myself to her is a very difficult habit to break, especially when she shows up in places so unexpectedly.
To the rest of the world I might be considered the other woman because I am the stepmother therefore I am secondary. As in I came second, and not first ( But I will remind you that I am LAST, well not to my stepson). And TOW is she who came first in my story. Despite what you may be thinking, this is not about how she came first to my husband. Primarily it’s about how she came first to my stepson BECAUSE SHE GAVE BIRTH TO HIM. I can’t tell you much unnecessary information I learned about TOW because my stepson talked about her for THREE STRAIGHT YEARS. Like the fact that when TOW was a kid, she called a cow a moo. Also TOW was first to the earth, because she is older (Now there’s a stereotype I am happy to fill). First to Southern California, where I moved to eight years ago. First to publish a story, first to buy a silver Honda Civic (which I feel the universe should have given me, because frankly I deserve it), and now first to California State University, Los Angeles.
Which where you will find the two of us today, TOW and I, pursuing the same degree in English. I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the third grade. Even though I cannot prove it, is a first that I am going to own. TOW recently published a short story and decided to get her Bachelor’s degree in English. The short story was in the genre Erotica Romance, so I am fairly certain I don’t have to take that seriously. Never mind that it was actually pretty good, and yes, I do have a copy of it. Around the same time I took up writing again and decided that with my part time career in saving the lives of kids with cancer (a blatant plug for me), I could afford to pursue my FIRST love of writing. I decided to return to school to get a degree in English, Creative Writing. And of all of the campuses in the world … well you can guess what happened next.
But sharing a college campus would not be the end of the joy in furthering my education, because as luck (such a dirty word, isn’t it?) would have it TOW and I are in the same class this semester. I was hoping that would be avoided, as she is slightly ahead of me in classes, but the world of British Literature is not big enough for that. This summer, while dropping off my stepson at her apartment in (insert Upperclass Southern California city here), I learned of the fall quarter to come. We both were enrolled in British Literature, she explained to me from her two-bedroom apartment teeming with books from every inch of the soft blue painted walls. She leaned on her thrift store purchased card catalogue cabinet (which proves she may like writing more than I do, or she is planning on becoming a librarian). I debated changing my schedule, ultimately decided against it not wanting to be the more immature one in our game of chicken.
Part 1 | (Part 2)