My first preschool tour was not a good experience. It was going okay until I realized I had dirty underwear balled into the leg of my pants. At first I thought the back of my leg was swollen, but then I felt the bump slide a little lower and realized what was happening. What was happening was that I had to get Eleanor into a preschool in San Francisco, which is like trying to buy kine bud in Utah, and having dirty underwear balled up into the leg of my jeans wasn’t going to earn me any points.
What could I do but pray my panties would’t make it down to my ankle? Of course I was wearing those damn cropped jeans. Fuck cropped jeans, I mouthed. The whole situation reminded me of when I used to pad my bra with those silicone bra stuffers and sometimes my bra would come unlatched and I’d have to use my biceps and my elbows to keep them in place until the situation could be corrected. Once, one of them popped out at a club on the dance floor and a guy picked it up and said, “What’s this!” My boyfriend snatched it from his hands like he was CIA and the boobie was the womb of an alien. “It’s nothing,” he said. “Just move along.”
Anyway, my first tour, as I said, wasn’t the best, not just because of the underwear thing (though I worried a dog would come up and sniff the back of my knee) but because tours are boring and parents ask stupid questions. This always surprises me–parental behavior. Why do mothers and fathers ask stupid questions or express any concerns out loud in front of the directors? On school tours we’re being watched, not our children. They’re assessing if we’ll be good volunteers, if we’re high-maintenance, pushy, illiterate. Do we read to our children? Do we feed them Twinkies for breakfast ’cause it’s got starch and built-in dairy? They’re seeing if we’re Black, Asian, Mexican, gay, divorced, rich, poor; disabled, emotionally crippled, or if we have personality B.O. I’ve found it’s best to be extreme in either direction, meaning you should either be an heir of some sort or you should be a gay, single, black disabled artist that has adopted kids. Try to be one of those.
Here are some questions/concerns/statements I heard on my most recent tour that, in my opinion, shouldn’t have been aired:
“They seem so independent. I can’t imagine my son functioning that way.”
–Do not advertise your child’s weaknesses to the director. She is now envisioning a robot-like boy looking around the classroom, sputtering, smoking, going in circles and saying in a scary android voice, “Too much. Cannot function this way.”
Director: “This is the shop studio where they made their own canoes.”
Mother: “Real canoes!”
–No, brainiac. Four-year-olds did not construct their own 22 foot canoes. They did not work with fiberglass. They did not shape an ama, a hull or install six wooden seats.
“What do you do about the child’s emotions?”
–This mother had grey hair, which was sort of rude, to me. I mean, why can’t she dye it? And I didn’t understand the question, which made emotions seem tangible, like something you’d put in a cubby. Apparently the director knew exactly what the old lady meant. She said, “We respect them. We respect all emotions. Even anger. If someone is angry, we’ll say, “Hey, when I’m angry, I like to throw a ball in an area where other children can’t be harmed. I just want to pick up a ball and throw it as far as I can, after first checking my space.”
“Are you a nut-free facility?”
–This was asked by the mom whose son would possibly not function. Obviously it won’t be a nut-free facility if he enrolls.
“What is the schools’ general philosophy?”
–Read the brochure. We’ve been here for an hour and I want to go. The schools are all going to say the same thing. They value the individual. They provide a supportive and enriching environment. They value imagination and a child’s uniqueness. At their school children thrive and grow, (as opposed to rotting and receding at those other schools.)
“What about separation anxiety?”
–I glare at this mother. Enough questions people. I’m a very quick person–quick to shop, make choices, quick to judge. My work day is quick, I read quickly, and talk quickly, using very few words. When things don’t happen quickly I get very anxious and I expect everyone else to sense this somehow, that I’m in a rush to go get something else over with.
The director’s answer: “Some children experience sadness because they miss their parents and so they wear a picture of their mommies and daddies around their necks so when they get sad they can just look down.”
I almost say, “My daughter does that when I’m drinking a forty and using her princess wand as a limbo stick. When I’m not myself I tell her, “Look down!”
My best advice: assume the expression you’d wear at a poetry reading and be quiet.
And if you happen to put on the same jeans you’ve worn the night before that have your dirty panties in them, simple finish the tour then limp toward your car. Clandestinely reach into your jeans for the underwear then put them into your pocket. It’s like a Saturday morning walking back to your dorm!
See Also: The Rumpus
See Also: BAD MOMMY Blog introduction
See Also: POST-YOUNG blog by Jerry Stahl
See Also: The Rumpus Interview with Margaret Cho