by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
Last week I ran into one of my neighbors I barely know at the local Trader Joe’s. She didn’t recognize me so I introduced myself. “Oh yeah, I think I remember you. Weren’t you supposed to get the fire truck for the block party a few years back?”
I live in Encino, California. Although it’s a good ten miles from Hollywood or Silverlake or any other hip suburb where people are known to have “family tattoo night” or shop for kitschy Jesus candles, it’s still LA, so a neighborhood such as mine you'd think would be a freaking goldmine of fun moms, moms as laid back as a Darma after a nice "emeter" session at Scientology. But this is sadly not the case. The case is, the moms here are stiff. I'm sorry if any of them know that this is me writing this but let's face it, you're boring. A few of you are exceptions and if you're reading this then you know I'm not speaking about you. But the rest...lighten up! I think I may just not be uptight enough to deal with suburban life.
The first time I knew I was in over my head was less than two years into the neighborhood (the first one spend holed up in my house pregnant and sick) and less than one year into motherhood. I found out about the local Block party happening on my street and like a good neighbor volunteered to help out. I didn’t realize I’d have to join a committee but by then it was too late to back out.
"Stefanie, you are in charge of face painting, temporary tattoos and making sure that the local fire department sends a truck at 3 o’clock for the kids to climb on. We do that every year.”
“Okay. Done.” Sounded easy enough. I called the firehouse and asked if they could send a truck for some of the older kids. Mind you, my daughter at eleven months old couldn't give a rat's ass about fire trucks, hoses or hard hats, but I don't have a problem helping out and it was not hard to give the old fire station a ring and ask them to bring their shiniest truck. The fireman in charge sounded downright delighted and said they’d absolutely be there at 3 o’clock on the nose barring major emergency. I sent a reminder email the day before “just in case.” I’m responsible like that.
The day of the party came and while I tried to have a good time and make small talk with women about scintillating topics like kids’ craft classes, the difficulties of trying to change commercial agents for a seven year old who is going through an awkward phase and the merits of breastfeeding. Although I was practically bored into a coma, I thought I was doing an okay job integrating myself into my neighborhood and hoped I’d come out of it with a few friends or at least friendly acquaintances. Meanwhile, 3 o’clock rolled around and the fire truck hadn’t shown up. I kept peeking down to the corner at the place it was confirmed it would show up and it wasn’t there. At 3:10 p.m, the questions started: “Did they say they’d be here for sure? Are you sure you called the station on Balboa? Did you make sure to speak with Carl?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I think it was Carl. He said they were coming unless there was a major problem. Obviously there was some sort of problem.” I stated for the record.
“I didn’t hear any sirens,” a blond Stepford wife, who’d clearly gone through the trouble of setting her hair in hot rollers before the block party, helpfully chimed in. At 3:30 dirty looks were being thrown my way full force. By 4:00 I was a pariah and practically planning to move –had we been able to afford it. I walked home fuming mad. I couldn’t believe people could base friendship or potential friendship on a person’s ability to magically make a fire truck appear that is possibly at a fire. These people were not going to be my friends. I'm not paranoid. I don't have that disorder where I think everyone hates me. I can tell when people are not into my brand of sass or outspokenness or as I like to call it "eccentric sense of humor." I'm not weird. I'm not into voo doo, hell I don't even do yoga but I'm just not all about block parties, kids’ soccer, kids’ karate, kids, kids, kids. The worst part is, when it came right down to it, these women weren’t even seeing me for the “not being interested enough in discussing kids’ activities ad nauseam.” They only saw me as the women not capable of getting the fire truck to the block party. And apparently they still do.
Hmm…I wonder if there are any good rentals in Hollywood.