A circa 1880's poster
with a picture of a can-can dancer in the midst of a high kick hung above my white-canopied
bed, on the green checked wallpapered walls of my girlhood bedroom. Every night, in the hours spent
dreaming, these words hung over my head:
She Dances, Recites Poetry,
She does it all!
Bucket O'Blood Saloon
Virginia City, Nevada
I'm Karen Suzanne. I basically became a can-can dancer, an actress, and
a writer of poetry and slightly amusing anecdotes.
On the walls of Palmer Chinchen's childhood house in Africa was a tapestry
of the last supper.
Palmer became a pastor.
My husband's boyhood bedroom walls were covered in all things Star Wars.
While my husband resembles Mark Hammil, remains jealous of Harrison Ford,
and still gets a little disoriented when you mention Carrie Fisher and gold
bikini in the same sentence, that's where the imprint ends. He does kind
of look like Mark Hammil though...
In my oldest daughter Hannah’s room hangs a painting of stripes in various
lengths and colors with the words "Be Original" along the bottom, a
poster of 12 distinctly different cupcakes, a few monkey posters and an
autographed poster of the Rockettes. Oh, on the wall opposite her bed, so the
last view she sees at night and the first thing she sees in the morning is a
mural I painted on her wall of a castle high in a cloud with the words Once Upon A Time...
Hannah wants to be Cinderella. She is hoping to attend Chapman University
when she graduates, partly because it's a 10 minute train ride to Disneyland.
Where she could get a job as Cinderella. (Ultimately, she wants to be an
occupational therapist…and a Rockette.)
Talia, my youngest daughter has the word hope in various sizes, shapes and
forms all over her room. Her middle name is Hope. Hanging directly above her
head board is a mirror that is surrounded with pictures of her friends, the
little pictures that you take in photo booths. Not one of them is serious.
Talia wants to be a neuro-biologist and a photographer, but after she is
married and has 3 kids. It’s not incredibly likely that one of the kids will be
On the top of the mirror in their bathroom is a quote by Ghandi "Be the
change you want to see in the world." I'm not sure they've ever seen it.
They're teenage girls... their focus is on who is staring back at them. As it
should be at this point. But, I have hope that one day they will look up.
When I was preparing their nursery, I agonized over paint swatch colors for
weeks. I asked anyone who seemed to have a reasonable handle on humanity what
color meant in the years spent forming an individual. I sincerely wanted a
color that would be both soothing and stimulating and would help guarantee the
inhabitant of the room acceptance into Julliard. The last person I asked for
input replied "I think you're asking too much of a color."
I settled on a kind of blue/gray with a classic Winnie the Pooh wallpaper
border. Pretty much the room became the hundred acre woods of Christopher
Robin's (and my) imagination. So far, my girls alternately resemble Tigger and
Eeyore with the occasional Rabbit thrown in during finals.
It seems to be critical what we hang on the walls of our homes, what we
surround our children with during times of innocence and rest. I'm pretty sure
my parents just thought that can-can dancer poster was funny. I loved it. For
about 12 years it hung right over my head every night as I drifted to sleep. If
my parents had hung a tapestry of the last supper over my head would I be
closer to God? A pastor?
Can these seemingly innocent acts form the course of our destiny?
If Palmer had had a can-can dancer poster in his home growing up would he be
throwing in a high kick every once in a while?
If my husband hadn't seen Star Wars...well, I don't have a comparison
It's too soon to know the lives my children will lead. I hope Hannah is
original and sweet and creative and delighted with small creatures, just like
Cinderella. She actually is already. I hope the best things happen to her
before midnight. I hope Talia never loses her hope to be - my hope, the hope of
her generation. She has the capability. And the humor.
I guess as parents we are just doing whatever we can to not only keep our
children alive, but guide them into the lives we hope they will lead. And maybe
all the kids have to do is survive through our preconceived notions as to what
will make a difference beyond survival.
It seems to me that if you have money, there aren't any inconveniences or problems to overcome.
Plumbing emergency? Call now. Fix now. Do not wait and cause more damage trying to save on the cost.
Drive one-day-old-brand-new-uninsured-car-you-never-in-a-million-years thought you could afford into the garage door while garage door is still opening? Buy new garage door next morning, fix car at the same time - do not fall apart, throw things, scream obscenities into the night and lay sleepless wondering how to pay for - anything ever again.
Sustain concussion while working coupled with stomach/intestinal virus? Go to the emergency room immediately, no waiting for a week trying to self-diagnose to see if it's worth a trip to the emergency room on Memorial Day weekend. AND! Frank, the ultra-sound tech would not keep asking you if you we're retired or if your 20 year marriage was your second marriage, because a face-lift would have already occurred at this humiliating life moment.
Throw back out trying to empty a kiddie pool? Just stop and hire someone else to do it. Or better yet, have a built-in pool already. With a pool cleaner.
There is no need to nag/threaten/bribe teenage children to study for finals in the hope of one day getting a scholarship so that college is even a remote possibility. No. All you have to do is feed them and let them do as they will. You can pay for college. Even if it's community college.
Husband leaving at 3 AM to drive to California with 80 high school seniors for the class trip
leaving spewing/injured wife at home to deal with teenagers, car, garage door and
plumbing? Well, that just wouldn’t happen to begin with…if enough money were to
be had elsewhere.
Money solves everything.
Money is the root of all evil.
Money is elusive. Even if you work to earn it.
And this was just Memorial Day weekend at our home.
Money cannot buy the gratitude that said home, car, family, were not lost in a tornado. No, that just comes from being a human being - even a human being living with the suburban blues.
We are grateful for our home - so we can run our car into it - and our children out of it.
Mom is caught between who she is and who she wants to be
I was supposed to be a trophy wife.It's what my mother trained me to do. (I hope she unknowingly trained me in this and
did not purposefully only give me the skills I'd need to trap keep a man.)
(I'll never know.)
(I suspect it was intentional.)
(I can't blame her though, growing
up I gave no indication I could survive on my own.)
I learned how to chemically improve my
hair, exploit the purpose of make-up, flirt…and take the path of least
Unfortunately, trophy wife-ism is
the only thing I fully trained for and now I'm too old to be one. I missed my
calling AND since I'm not doing it, I'm drowning in a world I have to run because
I have only useless skills to draw from. Smiling gratuitously does not help balance
It’s possible I have this all wrong,
but the thought process of the moment is:
Perceived Trophy Wife Skills
Maintain Improve Appearance
I am very
good at this on any budget level (currently I buy the fabulous $2 NYC nail
polish at Target, the wonderful store where a spray tan in a can is $8 on sale...impossible
to apply evenly, but it keeps me busy trying). However, I could actually look
like a trophy wife with a professional manicure, pedicure, spray tan, eye lift,
regular micro-dermabrasion and a daily massage. Now I use 20 gage sand paper in
an “at-home” dermabrasion technique along with Scotch tape to lift my eyelids
out of my eyes.
is though – I have the skills to stand in a spray tan booth and sit with a
I am very
good at staying in hotels. Plus, I speak French - which is useless unless you're a
trophy wife who travels. (Oh!! My mother suggested I take French!)
poolside, ordering dinner from the chef for children who are elsewhere, very
discerning with fine chocolate, wine, Tuscan cuisine. I’m pretty sure I can do
starving myself when the above get out of hand.
Good with men
I can make
a man feel - good. about himself. about me. That's the true calling of the
trophy wife. I think. We didn’t get that far in my training. I did learn how to dance,
laugh and smile gratuitously, and flirting with men are the only areas in which I have
found these skills to be useful.
Exciting previous career
I was a
Rockette and something like 99% of Rockette's marry millionaires. Seriously. I
am in the 1%. I did not marry a millionaire.
How did I miss what I spent my entire
life preparing for?
I know actually. I said no to
all the men who could give me a trophy
life and married the confident boy who wisely made me laugh out loud and
learn to like who I was underneath the $2 nail polish and $8 spray tan. And
he's younger...I guess that actually makes me a cougar
I said yes to genuine laughter and
joy - and a lifetime of luxury avoidance. I guess I'm deeper than my mother and
I thought at the outset. And my life is not completely devoid of hedonistic
richness, in fact, compared to most other countries – I live in the lap of luxury.
A small, comfortable lap.
So, what do I do with the skills I
have, but don’t need? How do I get the skills I do need? Is it possible that I already
have everything I need to be the wife of a teacher and a mother of two girls,
just not the capacity to recognize it?
Am I just confusing a trophy wife
with white trash? Am I just a white trash cougar? Probably.
Because if I was really trophy wife
material I would 1) be one and 2) yeah, I don’t have a 2). Trophy wives are
amazing now – they start multi-million dollar businesses. Gone are the days when
they only looked good. Damn! Again, I say, I missed it!!!
Ultimately, my soul is torn between
gratitude for our sweet, warm lives and the desire for lazy luxurious days. I
am so very grateful for all I’ve been blessed with and haven’t yet destroyed by
ignorance. Nothing changes that. Scared though, that the legacy I’m leaving my
daughters is the same soul-searching struggle.
My girls are almost grown. It’s
time. It’s just time, for me to become something more than a white-trash-cougar-trophy-wife-wanna-be.
I wanna be something good. And where do I go from here? I'm still floundering
around looking for something else I'm trained for.
Where is the job that calls
for a lazy, un-evenly tan, laughing woman with peeling nail polish and Scotch
tape above her eyes?
Is it possible the job is still at
home, guiding two teenage girls to come into their own 1%?
I hope I've trained them to say yes
to good things. To respect themselves enough to consciously choose their path,
not fall into it, maybe to find the boy who will help them change the world, or
make $30 million his first year out and still be able to genuinely make them laugh -
at themselves, and their mother. But, kindly, and while handing her a glass of Château Lafite and a box of Godiva chocolate- in Paris (and by “her” I mean “me”).
My girls are going to be leaving
home soon and I will have to find a paying job.
Where do the 1% go back to work?
I am seriously asking. Please feel
free to suggest.