Before I begin my rant, please note, that of course I understand that not all moms who live in East are psychos. No. There are some perfectly well-adjusted, normal, kind moms (like myself. Ha!) who do not fit this description. What I’m ranting about is that peculiar monster, the East Mom who is augmented, enhanced, and breathes invisible fire of disapproval if you were not born, bred, and then reproduced in the 49506 zip code. They eat little, shop a lot, and talk almost nonstop. On phones at least.
I’m talking about that monster as terrifying as any Sasquatch: The East Psycho Mom or EPM.
I moved to East after leaving my husband because I wanted to ensure my kids got into a good school. We had Louis enrolled in Grand Rapids Montessori, but with funding cuts, we weren’t sure the program was going to continue. And by my moving into East, I’d essentially not have any argument from my (at the time) husband. It’s a safe area, close, clean and would ensure that he could still walk to see them when he wanted. It would keep our kids in the same neighborhood and not disrupt their life. So we enrolled Louis into the Young 5’s at East.
I had sensed shadows of the EPM at D&W or while running around Reed’s Lake. These were moments where I felt I was being watched, judged, perhaps about to be pounced on and devoured. East Moms are very good at hiding, but if you have keen eyes (mine are very keen after years of training hunting morels) you will see them. When they exercise, they wear running gear that is color coordinated. And makeup. And their hair in a perfect ponytail. And the DON’T SWEAT. At the local grocery store, they look at labels and tend to buy something that’s more expensive because it must be better quality. They like packaged goods and organic vegetables (that they don’t cook). And if they should happen to bump into you, they smile a wicked smile that says “Get out of my way, bitch” and then prance on their way while talking on their cell phone and following their child (who is dressed entirely in Gap or JCrew or something like that). They shoot lasers at you if they can smell you’re not from the area.
I don’t pass often for an EPM. I’m too voluptuous. I don’t wear things that match. My hair is often on the frazzled side. My kids run around pretending they’re aliens and/or murderers. When we go to D&W, we have conversations about what kind of bugs eat bodies as they decompose. Sometimes, though, if I’m coming from work and am in professional mode, one of the EPM mistakes me for One of Them.
This happened once at Louis’s school. Only once. A mom approached me to chat while we waited for our kids. She was so exhausted because her husband (a doctor) was working all the time and they were trying to get ready for their trip to Colorado to go skiing. They’d be there for two weeks. And the kids were so excited that they were driving her mad. It was a good thing she was bringing their nanny with them. Then she paused and asked me what my husband did.
“Oh, I’m divorced.” I said. She blinked as if she didn’t understand. Her whitened teeth flashed. “Yep. I’m a single mom,” I continued. I wanted to tell her that my ex was already secretly engaged though we’d only been separated for two months, but I refrained. Didn’t want to cause a heart attack.
“Oh? Really?” She looked around frantically until she caught another EPM’s gaze and she released me.
I’ve got to learn how to get along. I’m going to have to deal with these people for the next 12 years. Somehow, I know I’ll never measure up. Nor will my kids. We’re going to have fight the disapproval, be gutsy, and keep on our path of reckless creativity and individuality.
I guess you can say I’m being judgmental too. That I’m jealous of their perfect pert bodies and long straight hair. That their kids seem perfectly behaved. That they have perfect homes and marriages where they’re perfectly content, sometimes even passionate. I guess I am. Maybe. But sometimes, when I talk to an EPM, I see beneath her plastic gaze. And there’s something under the surface, some kind of deep sorrow, that is quickly covered by a smile. I was almost an EPM, you see, where my whole identity was tied to my husband and kids. But I escaped. Now I’m that colorful, rare creature in East: The Single Kooky Mom (or SKM). I get to be the balance to their obsessive-compulsive behavior. I get to be the mom that is flighty, and witty, and creative, and always has her roots showing. And my kids, they’ll be a bit of a reflection of me.
And I am perfectly okay with that.