Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When you're a Dork Mom

I have never been The Cool Mom, even though for years it was something I aspired to.

I always thought Cool Mom status was something you could attain through hard work--things like baking cookies and attending sporting events and loaning out your car. (Or taking an entire day off from work to create an extravaganza of a cake featuring Teddy Grahams in frosting bathing trunks and bikinis cavorting on a cookie-crumb sand beach and floating around in Gummi-Saver innertubes in a lake of blue Jello.)

But no matter how many cookies I baked, or how many soccer or field hockey or softball games I shivered through, or how often I got in my car and didn't complain about the gas gauge perpetually pointing to "E," I never quite made it onto the Cool Mom pedestal.

Maybe it was my total disregard for fashion, or my dislike of shopping. Certainly my years of carrying around one or more volumes of The Tightwad Gazette, and announcing at random moments, often when my kids' friends were present, "Did you know you can save $17.81 a year by washing out baggies?" didn't help my cause.

Maybe it was my fondness for country music, especially country oldies and stuff that even nearly-normal people who liked country music had never heard of. "My mom only listens to old guys and dead guys," one of the kids lamented, describing my CD collection, which runs heavily to Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Johnny.

Or maybe it was that time in a department store lingerie department when I waved a handful of brightly-colored bras in the air and hollered across the sales floor to Caitlin, "These look fun! Why don't you try these on?"

Whatever the reasons (and I'm sure there were many) that kept me from being the Cool Mom, I resigned myself years ago to Dork Mom status. I had plenty of company with the other Dork Moms, the ones who didn't know enough not to use pet names for their kids in public, who couldn't stop themselves from reaching out to straighten a collar, the ones who forgot to blend invisibly into the background in public places. (I have a friend who once--and I am not making this up--committed the trifecta of Dork Mom offenses when she called out to her high school senior son across a crowded dining hall at lunchtime, "Come here, Kane-O, and let Mummy fix your tie!")

When you're a Dork Mom, you come to accept your complete and utter lack of coolness. After a while you stop trying. You make peace with the fact that you'll never read the right books, listen to the right music, wear the right clothes, or eat the right foods. You stop caring that you'll never learn to behave properly in public, and that you're an embarrassment to your children. Eventually you even develop a defiant little attitude about it--a "this is who I am, so take it or leave it" kind of thing.

But then, it turns out, something peculiar happens. Your kids grow up and leave home and once in a while they call you and ask for your blueberry muffin recipe, or they want to know how to wash a sweater, or whether you can still eat leftover chicken after five days in the refrigerator. You're still a dork, but now you're also a valuable source of information.

A while later, you start to realize that your kids are asking to borrow the books you're reading. Or they go with you to a Kris Kristofferson concert and decide he's really pretty incredible. They solicit your advice about things even more important than potentially hazardous leftovers, and sometimes they even follow it.

Eventually you might notice that your book list on overlaps your kid's by 37.34%, and that your ratings for the 59 titles you have in common are 78% similar.

All of this has happened to me, but I still never dared to hope that I might have started to attain Cool Mom status...until I got a phone call the other night from Cait, who said something like this:

"Hey, Mom, I was just reading your blog and laughing my ass off, and I was thinking, you know, I read your blog, and my friend Ashley reads it, and my friend Brian who you've never even met reads it, and some of my other friends read it, and Katie and Annie and Annie's boyfriend read I was just know how Debbie was always the Cool Mom because she talked to the girls about sex and let them drink beer in the house? [Aha! So that's what it takes! No wonder I never had a prayer of becoming the Cool Mom!] And you know how you always wished you were the Cool Mom? Well, I was just thinking about it, and I realized...well, now you're kind of the Cool Mom."

You hear that? I'm the Cool Mom! Well, at least until they read this post...

Addendum: Caitlin has just read this post, and called to inform me that, although the bra-waving incident was bad, it pales by comparison to the time Donna and I met her bus in Portsmouth, a bus filled with her high school freshman peers who were all returning from a two-week trip to Hungary, waving fluorescent pink and orange posters that said, "Welcome home, Caitlin!" in both English and Hungarian. Although I think, actually, I can blame that one on Donna. (It was also Donna's idea for both of us to wear "Hartwick Mom" buttons when we visited Cait at college for Parents' Weekend, and to introduce ourselves to her friends as "Caitlin's two moms.")

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