They kicked me out of Brownies when I was seven. Not because I had done anything wrong – in fact, I single-handedly pushed more cookies on my neighbors in three weeks than Mrs. Fields does in a year, or an hour, or whatever. No, the reason I got the boot is because of what my mother did. Or didn’t do, depending on how you look at it. She worked full-time and in 1983, this was pretty unconventional and apparently unacceptable to the Other Moms that not only ran the Brownie troop, but the entire school.
The Brownie troop met after school and every meeting a Brownie and her mother had to put a craft together for the whole troop to do. My mom worked downtown (we were in the burbs) so she couldn’t be at any of the meetings with me. Work-life balance and the flexible work schedule hadn’t been invented for working moms yet, so she went ahead and blazed the trail and did her best to have a career for herself and raise a Brownie (who, by the way, could sell the shit out of Thin Mints. Did I already mention this?).
My mom had arranged for my daycare provider’s daughter to pick me up as soon as she got out of school, but that still meant that she came nearly 15 minutes after the Brownie meeting had ended. That was unacceptable to the Other Moms. The Brownie Moms. The Moms that Ran Effing Everything. So after one meeting while I was waiting for my ride, they told me I wasn’t welcome back because my mom didn’t come to meetings. I was expelled in no uncertain terms. They didn’t even talk to my mom about it or send a note home.
And the lesson I learned was that I was undesirable. An untouchable. A Bad Kid with a Bad Mom.
But you know -whatever – I wasn’t into Brownies anyway. And it turned out to be a growth opportunity: I moved on from selling cookies that practically sold themselves to more ambitious endeavors: like selling the shit out of wrapping paper and frozen pizzas. Still, the experience was kind of traumatizing, though I’m only now realizing the extent of it.
I learned that the Other Moms, the moms that spent all their time at the school making everybody’s lives miserable, were scary. And mean. And everywhere. The Other Moms got to decide everything from the plaid of our uniform skirts, to the color of the lockers, to how much Skittles in the vending machines cost. And apparently, who needed to be expelled from Brownies.
So fast forward to 2011 and here I am, an adult and a professional full-time working mother, like my mom with a kid about to be seven. But when it comes to Other Moms, my mind hasn’t left ’83 – they fill me with the kind of dread cows feel when Lady Gaga needs a new outfit. I volunteer at my son’s school and I go to all the family events– but the emotional and mental torture that occurs in my head before any of these occasions is as ferocious as Sarah Palin is on Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden. What if I unwittingly run into one of the Other Moms and I’m not wearing the right jeans? Will I ruin my son’s chances to play on the school baseball team? Will they crush the pie in my Market Day order? Will they arrange to put me in charge of the fundraising committee?! These, and several other terrifying scenarios run through my head as soon as I get within 50 yards of a school. I’d rather be mauled by a bear than engage in “polite conversation” with the Other Moms.
And yet, I complain that since we’ve moved out the burbs nine months ago, I haven’t made any new friends. I’ve tried finding them at Home Depot (“Wow! What a cool light fixture – can I help you install it?”), Super Target (“Gee, I’m sorry they are out of the gorilla Pillow Pets, but you can come to my house if you want to see one! ”) and Chuck E Cheese (“I have a flask in my purse. Meet me in the ladies room in 5.”), but somehow none of these clever lines has scored me a BFF yet.
So…I’m starting to think that maybe, just maybe, my obsessive preoccupation with the Other Moms that cut my career in Brownies short in 1983 needs to be re-imagined. Perhaps next time I go to the school, instead of seeing every woman over the age of 18 as a potential assassin, waiting to feast on me and my children’s futures, I could see them as potential Oprahs to my Gayle. Maybe I’ll meet somebody who is super busy and super exhausted and doing the best she can who got thrown off cheerleading by the Other Moms in ’87, and is still pissed about it. Maybe there are a lot of them out there.
But if I let my guard down, I feel like it might turn out like one of those Planet Earth montages, where the baby seal is swimming merrily in the sea, on her first foray out into the ocean and everyone at home is smiling and clapping merrily at her funny seal antics, when suddenly a Great White comes up from below and devours the baby seal in a single gulp and everybody at home is all, “WTF?” but the more they think about it, the more they want to go back and see it four more times.
Okay, so I’m digressing in a big way. Was anyone else traumatized by the Other Moms? Are they still in control of every school? And do they still regularly crush children’s dreams for the sins of their mother?