Photo by Rebecca SchoenkopfSay you happen to be at a wedding so Republican that Karen Hughes, the woman who gave us George W. Bush, has flown in from Texas to give one of the readings. (From the Book of Ruth, actually, one of my faves—you know, "Whither thou goest, I shall go," etc. It's a terribly romantic bit of Old Testament and more nuptially hopeful than Leviticus 20:10: "If [there is] a man who commits adultery with another man's wife, one who commits adultery with his friend's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.") Now say that you are pretty much the only person at this elegant and heartfelt union who is—how shall we put it?—French. By which I mean not French, but communist.
Then you should be very, very careful not to say to the junior bridesmaids (from Dallas, no less!) while showing them how to dance to Van Halen, "You just kind of make a stupid face. You know, like you're on drugs!"
You and your moral relativism will be reported to John Ashcroft immediately.
Now, it doesn't matter if you realize your mistake faster than you can say "public lynching." What you've just done is the equivalent of saying hell to an old southern lady—which, we learned one night in Jackson, just ain't done.
And it doesn't matter that you're making fun of Hessians by saying they have the same stupid face you might see on people who use drugs—that you're not actually recommending drugs or their use. You have said drugs to nice girls from Texas.
And it doesn't matter that you blurt out, "Not that any of you would ever do drugs." There's no damage control now. You have said bomb on an airplane. Would you care to make a Hitler joke in a Miami convalescent home now?
"I need to get a drink of water," the oldest and most glamorous of the quartet will intone prettily (and Dallas preteens can be glamorous indeed) before leading her charges off the dance floor and over to the chaperones, who have clearly (and successfully) coached this young lady in how to deal with peer pressure and iffy situations—iffy situations like you. "Talk to your kids about drugs," say the ads. "They'll listen."
Clearly the Office of National Drug Control Policy is right on target about this; clearly it works; and just as clearly, you have just been reported. You are being watched. You are the Jerk at the Wedding—the Jerk that in better days you used to smirk and titter at and gossip about—and you're so mortified with yourself you could just about catch Ebola and die right there, bleeding from all your bits. Ann Coulter, Miss Social Graces herself, could shriek that you're a scandalous traitor, and she'd be right. Ass.
Also, whatever you do? Don't say ass.
Ass, ass, ass, ass, ass.
A Tender Moment
Feeling like an embarrassed bit of toejam plucked from the un-American foot of the Green (Communist) Party, I headed home to the kid. The party had been lovely, the weekend perfect, the wedded couple beautiful and touching, but I was subdued. Am I a bad mother, a slob, a moral relativist? Am I inappropriate and vulgar with children? Do I not give My Little Buttercup the guidance he needs to grow into a fine citizen, a fine man?
I pondered this still while we smoked some family crack.
No, I decided. I'm fine.
Then I sent the boy to buy more crack. Frankly, I don't like to go to the crack dealer's house myself since it's pretty sketchy and gross. But since Jimmy turned nine, it's about time he pulled his own weight.
We Head to the Festival of Children.
At the Mall.
You Know. For the Kids.
I don't know about you, but when I want a special day with my lovey son, I like to head to the mall!
And that's what I did on Sunday! Just in time for the Festival of Children! At the mall!
Now, I took French lit and urban studies like the rest of y'all; I realize the new habitat of les flaneurs is the mall, and therefore the mall is not a hopeless pit of consumerism's sad, empty calories —the empty calories that come from trying to replace the love and affection that are missing from your cold, convenient marriage with Dolce, Bulgariand Baccarat—but rather is society's new meeting place. A meeting place of ideas, even!
Or a meeting place of women and Cartier.
But this Festival of Children was to be a meeting place for children's charities; according to an old issue of Coastthat's posted on the web (Festivalofchildren.org), Sandy Daniels Segerstrom her bad own self—of the fabulously wealthy Segerstrom family that owns much of what's worth owning in Costa Mesa—realized that every charity in the damn world was aiming to make life better for the kids (it's always "the kids"!), and yet they were all going after the same pile of dough! How about a little dtente? A rap session between the competing charities like those old summits between the Crips and the Bloods? It would be just like the Congress of Vienna, except with socialites instead of Prince Metternich! Dawg!
And so were born all the information tables with the bored-looking staffers cluttering up Jewel Court (that's the wing of South Coast Plaza near Nordstrom) and Carousel Court (you already know where Carousel Court is). Really, the staffers looked near suicide. It's a lonely business, sitting behind a table while people meander by, looking in the windows of Armani instead of at your very nice pamphlets explaining how to tell when you're the victim of spousal abuse.
We missed what actually looked like a whole bunch of cool events; we had been getting a dose of birth controlat the Costa Mesa Chuck E. Cheeseinstead. There was "Experiencing Blindness Through the Eyes of a Child"—that would have been a blast! There was a performance by the Ukulele Club of Ventura County. There was the Ocean Institute Tide Pool Experience. Those are all pretty cool things—for reals!—but we were busy laughing at the toddlers who were shrieking their brains out at the sight of the giant rat in the bowler hat. Frightened children are hilarious.
By the time we got to South Coast Plaza, it was us and the clinically depressed doling out the straight dope on shelters and hunger and cancer and Kidsingers™. That's harmony for a better world!
Plus, there was a little performance by a little someone named Bridget Brigitte!
And Brigitte, who should have been just terrible—she has that name, first of all, and secondly, she had pink pigtails and sat at a keyboard while a fancy boy in purple played flute—was actually kind of lilting-cool adult-alternative packaged as kids' music. Sure, she mighta been a little Enya—her CD's called Where Birds Meet in the Rain—but what can you do? The backside of the stage had cool quotes by Mark Twain, Ben Franklinand Whoopi Goldberg. Meanwhile, toddlers were standing and shaking maracas, which wasn't nearly as funny as watching them cry.
Frankly, I was starting to get impressed. That wouldn't do at all. Maybe somebody rich would start beating their kid right in front of me. Or just, you know, neglecting them and withholding their love. It was getting harder and harder to make fun of this thing.
We started to look for more material among the information tables. Luckily, one reminded us and other South Coast Plaza shoppers that "the average cost of childcare can consume up to 60 percent of a single parent's minimum-wage income" because I'm sure most South Coast Plaza shoppers are very, very concerned indeed about the plight of minimum-wage earners. Wouldn't you say so, Consuela?
Minimum-wage earners are hilarious.
It was time to go home in a funk, and then send the kid out for crack and wait for the hilarity to ensue.
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"Mom," said My Buttercup, with his usual wit and hilarity. "Please don't make me go buy crack anymore."
Kids say the darndest things!
If your mother makes you go buy crack for her and her name's not Rebecca Schoenkopf, there's a place where you can be safe. Call the Orange County Child Abuse PREVENTION Center at (714) 543-4333.