Several months ago we got an invitation in the mail. The envelope was hand addressed but not by any hand I recognized. I opened it expecting it to be an insurance quote or something equally solicitous. Instead it was a formal invitation for our daughter to join the local chapter of the National League of Junior Cotillions. After I collected myself from the spontaneous laughter I burst into, I read further and tried to keep an open mind. See, we are not “Cotillion people” in the stereotypical sense of the word. I’m not a Southern Belle (I was born a Yankee), my outward demeanor has never once been described as “graceful” (lumberjack-y and awkward would be more fitting), and we don’t belong to a country club (we’d rather be camped out in the infield during a NASCAR race swilling Bud Light). However, after going through the description of the program, I began to see its merits. Not that the Foxtrot or Waltz have any real relevance in today’s society other than being a fun activity, but after sitting across from two children who eat dinner like cavemen, a lesson in table manners from someone other than me sounded pretty darn good. When my husband came home that night he took a cursory glance at the invitation and threw it in the trash. As he and I began to discuss whether or not it was worth his time to read about the program and consider it for our daughter, in walked the princess. Our ten-year-old was smacking her gum and digging for something that apparently had taken up residence deep inside her right nostril. “Whatcha talkin’ about?” she smacked. My husband fished the invitation out of the trash. Seemed he agreed that our girl could use a little refinement.
Fast forward to yesterday. It was her first Cotillion class and she was actually looking forward to it. In addition to this, Mary is also involved in another program this fall called Girls on the Run. This program is a wonderful way for girls to learn the benefits of exercise (specifically running) and discuss things like healthy body image, making smart choices, and respect for themselves and others. At the end of 12 weeks, they all run a 5K which I think is an awesome way to teach the concepts of working towards a goal and pride in accomplishing it. I wish they had had such a thing when I was growing up. The only exercise I got was when my mom put on her Jazzercise record and we did windmills to “Ricky Don’t Lose That Number”. That might have something to do with the fact that I hate exercise to this day. The reason I mention this other program is because once a month, it and cotillion happen on the same night. That means that she hops in the car after running, we fly home, she showers, gets coiffed and dressed and magically transforms from sweaty track star to a proper, graceful lady. If only she had a different family.
Coming back from Girls on the Run yesterday, I saw the cutest dog in a neighbor’s yard. It was the fluffiest thing I had ever seen and it was just sitting there attentively watching the cars go by. There were also two other dogs in the driveway hanging out, but I wasn’t so focused on them. As I drove by I let out a big “Awwwwww….” But, it was too late. Mary had missed the cuteness. For some reason (even though we were rushed) I felt the need to turn around so she could see it too. I will always regret that decision. As we came up on the house for the second time, there was the adorable pup just like before. But, those other two dogs? Yeah, totally going at it in the driveway like a sailor who had been deployed to sea for 14 months banging his hot 19-year-old girlfriend. I wish now I had paid more attention to their shenanigans when we drove past the first time. Maybe I would have been able to spot some foreplay going on and just kept on driving. Although, I’m not sure what qualifies as “foreplay” in the dog world. He certainly wasn’t buying her any oysters and I didn’t hear any Seal music playing softly. Of course, the hilarity of the animal antics weren’t lost on my kids- Mary in particular. She put one hand over her other hand in a pretty spot on imitation of what they were doing. Fantastic! This was going to be Mary’s first impression at Cotillion- obscene hand gestures reenacting dog sex.
I bit my tongue to keep from laughing myself and acted properly outraged. I was hoping that would be the end of it. At home, Mary’s transformation was complete. And she hardly complained when I burned her with the hair dryer like always – a miracle in and of itself. Looking at my beautiful daughter standing there with her clean, shiny hair, pretty dress and fancy shoes I realized I hadn’t considered that it was after Labor Day and her shoes were white! The horror!!! Since her growing feet didn’t fit into any shoes she owns other than flip flops, I decided to let that one go. What I couldn’t let go was what I looked like myself. Granted, I wasn’t the one going to Cotillion, but first impressions ARE important and I didn’t want to escort Mary in the t-shirt I had been wearing all day and had slept in the night before. So, I quickly slathered on some makeup, changed my clothes and put on a pair of cute wedges.
We arrived at the country club and luckily dropped Mary off without incident. I and all of the other mothers stuck around until the introductions were completed and the ballroom doors were closed. We all left the building in a big, proud gaggle. That’s when I stepped on a rock in the parking lot. Wearing the cute wedges I had changed into 20 minutes earlier. My ankle turned over and I almost fell flat on my face. I almost wish I had fallen just to get it over with. Instead, in an attempt to save face – literally and figuratively, I stumbled, and then stumbled again and then continued stumbling, my body pitching forward, my legs struggling to keep up, and my arms flailing trying to keep my balance. I’m quite sure I looked like a combination of Frankenstein when he’s faced with a torch full of fire and Whitney Houston when she’s high on “life”. Fire bad and crack is whack, y’all. Did I mention I’m not at all graceful? At least my son asked if I was okay before he busted out laughing and said, “Mommy, that was FUNNY!!!” I didn’t look back to see if any of the other moms agreed with him.
On the way home, I was ruminating about my parking lot performance and felt bad for Mary for being related to me. I have often said that I was absent on the day they went over “How to be a Girl” in school. Things that just seem to come naturally to other women don’t to me and I am intimidated by them. I muddle through make-up, generally opting for a minimal, “natural” look since the concept of a smoky eye baffle me and doesn’t sound like something I’d want whatsoever. I find the Three Stooges and basically any kind of stupid or sophomoric humor hilarious. I never wear polish on my fingernails and keep my nails short on purpose. (Mostly because of a complex I’ve developed after years of my mother patting my freakishly large “man hands” sympathetically and saying “You have Grandpa Charlie’s hands.”) For years I resisted a nighttime facial cleansing/moisturizing routine putting all my eggs in the basket labeled “My mom looks incredibly young for her age so I must have good genes”. Little did I know that she was spending $80 a bottle for anti-aging cream from Estee Lauder. Pretty much the only thing I do that’s stereotypically “girlish” is shop for shoes. And cry.
As all these thoughts were going through my head, I heard a noise come from the backseat. A low rumble, if you will. A noise such as that coming from a 9-year-old boy could only be one thing. “Woo!!!!! Talk to me about it!” Drew shouted. I presume he was speaking to his rear end, which is where the rumble had originated. I couldn’t help it and burst out laughing. Poor Mary. Horny dogs, a clumsy mother, and a brother who would fist bump his own hiney in a celebratory fashion if he could is what she has to contend with. This is why I wanted her to go to Cotillion in the first place. It actually has less to do with her needing refinement and more to do with the crazy people she’ll encounter in her life and being able to feel confident and comfortable in any situation. I have a feeling her family will give her lots of practice.