Alexia possesses what every eighth grade girl thinks she wants: total, unequivocal control.
From my corner of the dance studio, waiting for my seventh grader to finish up her Hip Hop class, I watch “Queen Bee” Alexia (note: not Lexi) work it. Her boom box is jacked, and there she stands surrounded by her minions, caring less if anyone is disturbed by Pitbull pounding through the reception area as though it is Pamplona. All that matters is the I-Alexia Show is about to begin. Her presence mandates that everyone around her — watch.
As in now.
She smiles knowingly, arches her back, and begins to dance right there in the middle of the room. She is showing off, but she is good. No, make that great. She has the street thing going, with the crossed arms and head jerks, and in-your-face-bitch attitude. The girls circling her smile with unabashed green-eyed envy, hating her, yearning to be her. It is a popularity dance of sorts that I knew all too well.
Our eyes lock. And it’s all there in one fell swoop: Home sucks. Parents suck. Divorce sucks. Step-parents suck. Trying to pretend everything is okay when it’s not, sucks the most.
Alexia is me — rather the me I once was about a million years ago, but not the Me/Mom/Woman I am now. That girl back then was wrapped in a different package, years peeled off, but like Alexia, the center of attention, the anointed IT girl. What the WannaBees don’t know but I understand all too well as I watch the girl strut, and shake and move like she is possessed – Alexia the superstar is probably a comet, falling into the abyss when no one is looking. I bet she is working overtime to show she is the girl who has everything, but really has nothing behind all the hooplah.
Hmm, if I’m right I will get that afternoon mocha. If I’m wrong, I will clean my closets later.
So I wait for the sign. Alexia finishes her solo show, and joins the other dancers at a round table, eating an early dinner before her next dance class. I check my watch. Five minutes ‘til pick up.
“Of course!” I hear Alexia shout out from the table. “Look what she gave me to eat. Total crap. Figures. My step-mother made this for me.”
Her friends start giving her food from their own meals.
“Hey — at least you got food,” I call out from my corner of the room. I self-consciously cover my mouth. Why did I just say that?
Alexia turns, her shiny dark ponytail swishing behind her, and says bitchily, “Um, excuse me?” Translated in Alpha Female-ese as: Who the hell are you?
I try laughing it off. “I said, at least you got food. Some step-mothers would have sent poison.”
We stare each other down. Her eyes spoke volumes: You get me. All of the WannaBees turn to look with curiosity as Alexia gets up and walks toward me.
“Who are you?” she demands, caring less about our age difference.
I sit back in the chair. “I’m just a mom, waiting for my daughter to finish her class. I’m a writer.” I lean forward. “And you’re a good dancer.”
She nods. Tell me something I don’t know.
“I’m working,” I continue, “actually, I’m thinking about working on a blog about dysfunctional families, with a hard-hitting focus on kids of divorce. Not the standard blah-blah-blah type of blog, patting divorced parents on the back for keeping it together,” I say, leaning forward. “Rather the real thing. The untold story of what it is really like.”
Why was I voicing this to Alexia? The truth was as a kid I fantasized about writing a book about this subject every night of my life. I wanted to expose what was really going on in my house, and in some of my friends’ houses – the lies, the deception, the divorce dance that left us kids out in the cold, slammed against the pavement.
“You mean, what it’s really like in terms of how they are screwing us up?” Alexia corrects me angrily, still not caring that I am the parent, she is the kid. We both knew the ugly secret: Divorce is ageless and the pain of it has no boundaries.
“Exactly what I mean,” I say, meeting her cobalt gaze head on.
“Alexia, who are you talking to?” yells out one of the girls from the makeshift “dinner” table, who was wearing tight black boy shorts and a tummy-showing tank – a style that works equally well for a dancer or a prostitute. Clearly, the Alexia clone wants IN.
“Can’t you see I’m busy?” Alexia retorts, rolls her eyes, annoyed. Clearly, Alexia wants her Out.
A total bitch, I think. But Teenage Bitch is interested in what I have to say.
“Just do it!” she says firmly under her breath. “Tell the truth of what it’s really like.”
Our eyes lock. And, it’s all there in one fell swoop: Home sucks. Parents suck. Divorce sucks. Step-parents suck. Trying to pretend everything is okay when it’s not, sucks the most.
As I stare into the girl’s pained-yet-masked gaze, I see my own reflection. The blog, the web site are formulating. It is time to tell the truth, to expose the secrets of divorce, and other hell-in-the-household scenarios. And while I’m at it, I think, there’s an entire to-do list of suburban grievances that need some major repair.
My personal journey has taken me to Alexia. Please, tell the truth, she whispers (I’m taken aback by the added “please”) before pivoting on her jazz shoes and heading back to her posse, and her crappy dinner of frozen peanut butter and jelly that has not yet defrosted and a bag of goldfish.
Divorce is what happens in the home, but the fallout is what happens to kids when they leave the so-called Welcome! mat behind them. Kids like Alexia find superficial ways to hide the pain, and seem to “succeed.” This falsehood plays out in the world of Girl Drama. The roots are planted at home, the branches take form in school. If being a girl were a Singles Ad, it would read something like this: Adolescent Girls Seek Some/Any/A/ Morsel of Control.
But adolescent girls hiding unhappy homes can be dangerous to themselves, and in many cases to the community.
Girl Drama, and later Mama Drama, is all about the C-word: control, which in itself is a social cancer. I have found that in the bowels of suburbia, it really plays out because there is plenty of backyard space for the problems to grow and fester.
The question is, as girls (and even as women), how do we learn not to hurt each other in order to feel better about ourselves? How do we develop intimate relationships when we’ve experienced a world of broken ones? How do we stop tearing ourselves down, while the media and the likes of Facebook & Co. constantly tell us we are not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, or cool enough to go to that party.
In other words, the subliminal message is loud and clear: We are not enough.
Here’s where I’m coming in for a big-time intervention.
I am a writer, not a therapist. I am a writer, not a sociologist. But I am also a mother of three daughters in the trenches: 15, 13 and 12. In Girl World Lingo, it doesn’t get any rougher. In my husband’s world, “Get me the fuck outta Dodge.” But in my world: Welcome to the Suburban Jungle.
Yes, It’s time to fight back.
Tough times call for tougher measures. I’m going to put my own experiences on the line with GIRLilla Warfare, and share yours (anonymously, of course.) My end game: By exposing the truth, perhaps you and I can make a difference.
My mission is to laugh when necessary (hands-down the best medicine), but most of all, to create a forum in which we can work to together to raise emotionally successful children, create happier marriages, and unite moms who want to work with each other not against one another by tackling unhappiness at its root – the home-front.
No holding back here, folks. No tough subject will be left behind. Tighten your seat belt, because I’m about to let it rip…
- LB< back