The Other Woman: A Tale of Stepmotherhood (Part 2)
Here we continue where we left off at California State University, Los Angeles …
The first day of class I arrived late because the universe was messing with me again. I parked my car without buying a parking pass because I was already five minutes late and I despise being late. Being late makes everyone turn and look at you as you clumsily try to find a seat while panting from taking the four flights of stair two at a time to get to class. Which is exactly how I entered the room. Slightly sweaty armpits, heavy breathing, and large thighs in a room full of twelve-year-olds. Seriously, I think they are now letting junior high kids into college, and the guy who sat behind me had braces. The guy who sat beside me has just hit puberty because I kept hearing his voice crack when he talks. It appears that the adults in the room will be played me, two old guys, the teacher and TOW, who was sat three rows over oblivious (or pretending to be) and reading a book. I wish I had thought of that. Then I would be the one who got to say, “Oh, I didn’t even notice you come in. Are you still in this class?”
She was wearing her typical motherly attire of a white blouse and, let me guess, a denim knee-length skirt. Brought to you by Eddie Bauer. Or Tar-jay. Or (fill in any generic white middle class women’s clothing store). Note to self, throw away khaki capris because we will not share cars, colleges AND clothes. Neither of us have especially striking features. We both look like women in our thirties (well, people often tell me I look MUCH younger) with the standard mom short haircut. We both apparently frequent the optometrist and wear dark framed glasses.
Our teacher, who looks to be exactly my age and seems to shop at the same generic white women’s store as TOW, explained our first writing assignment. A paragraph analyzing a part of The Wanderer. And it happens to be due on the day I will be missing class. I have a conference in San Francisco and the hotel and airfare have been booked and paid for by my work. I am starting the semester out by making an excellent impression.
A few days later I was working on the five hundred things I am juggling at once (you know eating, playing on the computer, and managing my iTunes) when TOW called. My stepson had forgotten a book at my house. I told her I would drop it off when I turned in my paper on the way to the airport at school. I know, it’s already started. We’re talking about school. Soon we’ll be sitting together in class, asking about each other’s homework and reading each other’s papers—hold on. That sounds like a bad idea. And just as I thought that to myself while cradling the phone to type profanities about step parenting on my blog, she suggested I drop it off at her house. You know, so I don’t have to drive all the way to school before I go to the airport. As if I am going to fall for that.
“Just drop it off with Mark’s* book and I can turn it in for you,” she said cheerfully. And she would, because she’s nice 85 percent of the time. But in the back of my mind a little voice was shouting to me NOT to do it and waving its arms wildly. It’s not that we have this horrible relationship and she will take my paper to her shredder after I drop it off. In fact most of the time she’s fine. I paused to picture her in her cramped kitchen, lighting my paper on fire over the sink. No, that’s not her style. She’s a little more subtle than that. Instead, I could imagine her and her well-read husband dissecting my sad analysis and laughing riotously together about my naïve understanding of literature. They quote lines from my paragraphs that cause fits of laughter throughout their day. Tears stream from TOW’s eyes as she pleads to her husband, “Stop … stop.”
“Well, I’d have to drop it off fairly early in the morning.” I say unable to lie. I am the world’s worst liar and have the inability to say no (which is how I ended up pregnant at sixteen but that’s a whole other Oprah).
“No problem.” She keeps using her helpful and cheerful voice. If I say no, do I just seem petty? Does it seem like I am so much less mature than she is, because I am freaking out about letting her turn in MY writing? My head keeps telling me to say no, but the wuss that I am, I agree. And then I spend the next two hours rewriting everything I wrote to sound SMART. And maybe that was her master plan all along, because that was way better than actually doing something to me.
*Note, names and places have been changed.
(Part 1) | Part 2