When I was fifteen I was a bit of a gawky kid. Slightly overweight, my wardrobe piece of choice was either a black rain hat that when pointed up made me look like a witch, or fire engine red lip color. Usually, the lip color was smeared, and the hat didn’t help matters. My activities included volunteering at the public access television station or writing death poetry for the literary magazine. When I wasn’t doing that, I was performing ventriloquism at the local nursing homes or writing articles for the youth page of the local paper. English teachers loved me, and my history teacher adored me.
Guys didn’t. It seemed they spoke this weird language of grunts and stupidity that seemed lost on me. My friends went nuts over them, one going so far as to have her mother drive past the house of a boy she was in love with everytime they were on a shopping errand. Other friends carved boys names on notebooks in red marker with hearts. That wasn’t my tune or my scene. One guy I liked a little said I was angry. Translated, he wanted a dumb bimbo with a popsicle stick body who nodded and smiled.
One day, my mom took me for our usual walk after school. We discussed my day and my life, which friend was doing what. My mom was always supportive of what I did as far as the creative endeavors went, and I believe we were discussing something of that nature when my mom breaked and asked, “April, do you know what a man likes?”
“A girl with a personality and a brain?” I asked. While I knew in my heart it wasn’t true I wanted to believe. I had seen these movies where guy gets girl, and the girl he was usually after wasn’t the pretty, heartless, iced queen, but the bookish girl. The one everyone made fun of, the one like myself.
“NO!” My mom exclaimed. This woman, not even five feet tall, was all fired up. Working as a fitness instructor, she was missing her whistle. If she had it at that moment she would have given it one big blow.
“What?” I asked.
“T and A!”My mom shouted.
I shook my head. My mom explained, “April, guys like T and A. Yes, the T and the A. The tits and the ass. That is why it is important that you stand up straight and continue to work your pecs in the gym, and also that you keep running to tone that butt. Because first the guys look at the T and then their eyes go to the A.”
A saddened look came over my face. What about looks not being everything? What about a heart and a personality? Did those count for nothing. When I posed this question to my mom she said, “Not really. They are nice to have but T and A. T and A, guts like T and A. And as your new personal trainer, starting today we are shaping up your T and A.”
To make matters worse for my young self, my mother kept shouting, “T and A!” Going down the block I wanted to bury my head. Maybe I would move to the island and get six cats. Seven hundred pounds later after three published novels, I could say I died a smart and learned woman. I posed this to my mother, but the shouting did not cease it only continued.
Finally I said, “Mom, I get it. T and A. It makes me more cynical about the world but I get it.”
Then my mom said, “Good, because if you keep up with that rotten feminazi attitude you will be wearing flat shoes and wear no makeup and no one will want to be around you. Now let’s talk about the exercises one can do to tune up their T and A.”
Just as I thought I was going to be subjected to more torment, a group of guys one class up from me appeared on the horizon, fast approaching. I wanted to bury my head in the proverbial sand. “Say hi.” My mom commanded.
“No.” I snapped.
“I am your mother and I am giving you’re an order.” My mom commanded.
“Then you say hi.” I told her.
“The Commandments say honor thy mother and father. God wouldn’t want you disobeying your mother because that would mean you would be going to hell.” My mom told me changing her tactic.
“Assuming there is a heaven or hell.” I countered.
“Do it or you are taking out the garbage instead of your brother.” My mom snapped. Somehow that got me. I hated the garbage and it was my brother’s job. For the past few weeks I had to do the dreaded task because the week before my sister and I got into a heated fight over a brush, and the week previous to that my brother had a physics exam and claimed he had to study.
As the boys approached, I recognized the three. The first was Dan Howard, a member of student senate. The second was Bob Davies, track star and boyfriend of Denise Unkler, female track star with perfect body. The third was Preston Sewars, tennis team member and perpetual lady’s man. All were good looking in that Abercrombie and Fitch sort of way. We didn’t associate and I wanted to keep it at that.
“Hi.” I said sheepishly.
“Oh hey Brucker. Saw the article you wrote framed in the writing center. Good job.” Dan said. He was referring to an article I had written for the local paper that had won an award. While my teachers were proud, the student body was seemingly apathetic. Maybe they weren’t after all.
“Yeah. Good job Brucker.” Preston said.
Bob sort of shook his head and then added, “Oh, hi Mrs. Brucker.”
“Hi.” My mom said, as if she were an innocent little woman approaching fifty, not as if she had put me up to this errand of hell.
Then the three were off. Leaving me with my mother who somehow I actually did not want to strangle. To tell you the truth, the whole thing put a smile on my face. Maybe guys weren’t these stupid cave creatures who spoke in grunts, but rather things I could approach if I simply said hi and smiled.
“Was that so bad?” My mom asked.
“No.” I told her. And we both laughed about the whole encounter. Perhaps my mother, for as crazy as she could be, knew how to bring the best out in people. In those little bones there was a big amount of knowledge, and a certain kick butt that could never be rivaled.
And my mother was right, men like T and A. Once you know that the journey gets easier from there.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom.