“…here, hold the other hand of Ariel doll so she’s between us. So, I don’t wanna be Brave for Halloween, I’m gonna be a witch, but a smiley one. With a stick. I mean, a broom. And you should be a witch, too, but a lil-bit-mean one, ‘cause sometimes I hear you say bad words on the phone…”
My daughter Lina was chattering lightening-fast as we walked to playground, where parents dropped off their kindergartners before school. It was 7:45 am, and I’d heard this Brave/witch monologue six times since breakfast, but I was fascinated, really I was, because I adore my daughter -– I live for her. She’s clever, kind, kickass, and hilarious; and even though her face is a Xerox of my ex-husband’s, she’s a flawless angel. I swear I was held rapt by her Halloween speech.
Yeah, no. I was totally preoccupied.
Because above her head, a whole other thing was happening. A grownup thing. I was inciting a small riot, and I was doing it on purpose.
Once or twice a week, I show up to the kindergarten drop-off in vampy, plummy-maroon lipstick. The application is a whole ritual: First I outline my lips with a pencil, then fill in with the matching lipstick (the dead-sexiest are Lancome Rouge in Love High Potency Lipcolor in Fiery Attitude and Nars Pure Matte Lipstick in La Paz, and then layer on a shiny clear gloss. Obviously, the color’s far too brazen for the hour and the occasion. It’s ridiculous, come on. But I do it for the daddy double-takes.
Don’t judge me.
You should see them, though. The drop-off daddies look at me with this wide-open combination of surprise and lust that’s…well, it’s addictive. I see you seeing me, scruffy Brooklyn-hipster freelance screenwriter dude with the fading sleeve tattoo from your days as Yale’s moodiest poet. You just forgot your kid’s name. You’re thinking about the black chick you made out with from Abstract Expressionism 201 and wondering if it would be the same with me, but just remembered that she had dreads –- and wait, does that makes a difference? After this drop-off business, you want to follow me to the café across the street and ask me a million questions but the crucial ones -- can I…please can we...how much time do I have to put in before you let me…? But no, you only get to look.
I know, it’s bad. It’s cheap. It’s small.
But look, life is hard. I do it because the doctors can’t figure out why I have daily, debilitating migraines. I do it because North West could buy and sell me. I do it because my ex-husband’s live-in girlfriend is eight months pregnant and Lina’s in love with her. I do it because of these 12 grey hairs. I do it because dating at 38 is demonic. You need to grab your highs where you can get them.
And for those 15 minutes, my power is palpable. I’m the Venus of the Drop-off, the Lusty-Lipped Jezebel Mama, and no one can mess with me. And it feels so, so good.