You’d think that fifteen years would be plenty of time to prepare, but it still comes like a punch in the face, the realization that being Mom no longer guarantees me immunity from criticism, no longer protects me from words designed to hurt, no longer marks me among the crowd as special in my daughter’s eyes.
She’s a great kid. It’s a phase. They all go through this. It’s normal. It could be worse. Parents of smaller children offer reassurance like a spell of protection against their own futures.
I know their words are true. She is a great kid. It could be much worse, grist for ugly memoirs or daytime talk shows. I will try to remember that the next time we’re yelling at each other about which one of us is full of shit. Did I mention, that really, she is a great kid? I’d hate to leave you with the impression that she’s anything less.
It could be worse. If you’d known me as a teenager, you wouldn’t have marked me as on the path to success. On the bed, yes. In the back seat of a Camaro, a Mustang, a Volkswagen Rabbit, ok, yes, there, too. Parked in the desert, stars Milky Wayed above so brightly as to make the moon superfluous. Air still as if the night was holding its breath, holding us outside the accepted sphere of manners and morals.
I remember starting evenings already drunk on sexual desire, but adding alcohol anyway, like a kid pouring sugar on his already glistening-with-sweetness Frosted Flakes.
There was Carlos, whose defining characteristic remains his green Karmann Ghia, the first car I ever drove, far outside city limits, no stoplights, no stop signs, just roads that stretched on and a rare light rain marking the occasion as even more special. Definitely more special than that other first, the one that took place in his parents’ waterbed while Tina Marie’s “Lovergirl” blared in the living room as other boys poured more 151 for other girls, hoping they, too, would be as lucky. Mostly I remember a sense of relief – at least that’s over with – coupled with the hope, the certainty, that it had to get better than that.
So there was Mark and Chris and Fernando and others in between, mouths and hands and beaches and motorcycles I rode barefoot and helmetless while the testosterone-impaired driver showed off just how fast he could go. I didn’t make what people would call good choices.
But luck held. The bad times could’ve been worse. The night my friend’s boyfriend’s brother swung my 1967 yellow Mustang around the corner and into a pick-up truck parked in our 1950s-style suburban neighborhood left me, the passenger, with only a bump on the nose and him with just a fender to replace. We’d been drinking the cheapest tequila, the kind that comes in a plastic bottle, with the grocer’s name on the label. He was the designated driver, but I guess the tequila got to him anyway. We both survived that night and even grew up to be respectable after a while, though his luck ran out a couple years ago, in a car collision that didn’t leave him with anything.
Remembering those boys, all those hands and mouths and new pleasures, being touched here and bitten there and oh god who knew that could feel so good don’t stop except we should stop but oh I don’t care just don’t stop and yet the end kept coming too quickly and at some point erotic turned into pathetic turned into just plain ick.
And then I met a nice boy, a smarter boy, a boy whose hands and mouth suggested, no, showed, that “boy” labeled him incorrectly, that I’d stumbled across a man. I literally stumbled across him the first time – he was passed out on the floor of a friend’s house. Green shag carpet, battered coffee table, 15 gallons of kamikazis in the kitchen, minus what he’d shot down before I’d arrived. The next time I stopped by, he was vertical, handsome, charming, all the things one hopes for in a man. We fell in love, had kids, got married, struggled, survived… and now I find myself half a lifetime later… in a land of trees and fog… muddling my way through parenting… with only desert memories to guide me.