Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Telenovela That Has Become My Life, Starting With The Prom: Part One

A few months ago I accepted an invitation to the prom. The boy who asked me was not the man of my dreams, but he was considered by most to be out of my league-- not so far out of my league that I had reason to suspect his invitation occurred as part of a bet or a dare, but he was a more prestigious date than I would have anticipated at least for this year. By this time next year I may have started to grow boobs, so the outlook may be brighter in the future.

The boy who invited me to the prom is a baseball teammate of my brother's. No one has mistaken him for Taylor Lautner or Zac Efron, but he'd have to be rated better-than-average in the dating pool at my school. He's a decent student. Since I accepted his inviation, we've spent time together at school and at social events in groups, and he's come to my house a couple of times each week to work on calculus assignments. My parents don't let me single date yet.

My brother broke up with his most recent girlfriend in early December. He always inexplicably manages not to be seeing any girl on Christmas, Valentine's Day, or at the time of her birthday. (I'll allow you to do the math here.) A girl who used to be a cheerleader but whose GPA was too low even for her to remain on the cheer squad invited him to be her date to the prom. He accepted her invitation.

In the event that this blog ever becomes public knowledge among my schoolmates, I need to be discreet here so that I will not someday find myself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. How's this by way of an anecdotal illustration of my brother's date's intellectual prowess? (If it's true, it cannot be considered libel, as I've learned from my TV judge friends.) Bimbo, the name by which my brother's date shall heretofore be referred, was hired (predictably by a male bank manager)to work as a part-time teller. She required almost constant supervision for several months, which was hardly cost-effective for the financial institution employing her. (Yes, she's that pretty.) Eventually she had to be given some degree of independence on the job. One day soon after Bimbo was allowed to work without her keeper, a premium account holder came in to get travelers' checks, which were to be provided free to holders of premium accounts. You, I, and just about anybody with even half of normal cognitive function would understand this to mean that the service charge for the travelers' checks would be waived, but that the face value of the travelers' checks would need to be covered by the account holder. Bimbo, unfortunately, was not privy to this apparently well-kept secret. Free meant free as far as Bimbo was concerned. When the premium account holder realized what a great deal he was getting, he increased his order to something in the neighborhood of twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of travelers' checks.
It probably goes without saying that Bimbo and the financial institution soon went their separate ways.

I found it mildly incongruous that Bimbo and my twin brother would be attending the prom as a couple, but his life is his and mine is mine, and we try not to interfere excessively other than to occasionally poke fun or hurl insults in the direction of one another. That is what siblings do, and we do it at least as well as anyone else.

Then one Saturday morning our family of four was seated at our breakfast table. Everyone else in the family stuffed themselves with pancakes and butter-pecan syrup while I tried to surreptitiously feed most of mine to our golden retriever. Despite my nickname of Anorexis, I do not have an eating disorder. I just don't like to eat very much food at a time. I learned before I outgrew my high chair that it's easier to feed the dog than it is to argue with my parents about how much food I need to eat. My parents have never figured out why every dog we've had has bordered on morbid obesity. Anyway, as we were breakfasting together on that Saturday morning in February, my dad said, "So how would you two like to go to the prom together?"

My brother and I looked at each other with horrified expressions. I noticed my brother peering at each of my parents alternately. "Is there anything you two haven't told us?" he asked slowly. "Like, are you two related or something, and you're just now telling us that we're expected to follow the family tradition?" The question wasn't necessarily as stupid as it sounded, because my parents do look alike. They both have medium thick medium brown hair and the exact same shade of light blue eyes, which both my brother and I also have. We all have the same medium fair skin that will tan if we're gradual enough in the process. The only real difference is that my brother and dad are tall and skinny, while my mother and I are short and skinny. My mom looks like my dad's sisters, and he looks like her brothers. It's a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a nutshell, to plagiarize the late Winston Churchill.

Aware that we had misunderstood his offer, Dad said, "No, I don't want you to be each others' dates." Twin Bro and I each breathed an audible sigh of relief. "I want you to double date." The sighs turned to unison gasps.

"No freakin' way!" my brother yelled.

"Hell, no!" I hollered at the same time.

My dad's mouth was full of pancake by this time, so he pointed at me with his index finger, then motioned with his thumb in the direction of the stairs. I walked hurriedly up the stairs, hoping that for once I would get to my own bedroom before my father recovered his ability to speak and sent me instead to my parents' study for my obligatory time-out, but it wasn't to be. Just before I reached my bedroom door, my dad swallowed his bite of pancake and called out to me, "Into the study, Alexis."

Even with the door to the study closed, I could hear the argument my brother was continuing to wage. "It just isn't natural." "The other kids will think we're freaks." "She is a freak, and the other kids will think I'm a freak if I'm seen with her."

At this point at least my mother rose to my defense and said, "Don't flatter yourself, Matthew. She doesn't want to be seen with you any more than you want to be seen with her." As much as I didn't want to attend any function, much less the junior/senior prom, with my twin brother, I didn't appreciate his playing the "Im such a cool guy and Alexis is a complete nerd" card. He looks sixteen, while I can pass for as old as eleven only on a good day, but the truth sometimes hurts.

Each of the next several meals our family consumed together became one more battle in The Great War of the Prom. My parents have always been over-protective, but this latest move took over-protectiveness to never-before-seen heights. Beyond that, my parents could not offer up a single solid reason as to why this freakish Deliverance twist on the prom needed to happen. Tempers were flaring, and I was spending the majority of the waking hours I was home in time-out. I appealed to my Twitter friends, Judge Alex and Russ Carney. Russ was totally sympathetic and posted his support. Judge Alex was sympathetic as well, but was again caught in that good-parent thing of not wanting to second-guess another parent's ruling.

Then on a weekday in March my dad signed me out of school right before lunch. He took me to a really expensive restaurant -- one for which I was not dressed nicely enough, but the host looked the other way as he escorted us to our table. We ordered our food, then Dad told me what was going on. My mom is a high school counselor in our district but not at our high school. Even though she doesn't work on our campus, she has many friends who do. These friends serve as my mother's spies. Neither my brother nor I can as much as sneeze without my mother learning of it, usually within fifteen minutes.

Bimbo, it seems, may have had a more future-oriented purpose than just the prom in mind when she asked my brother to be her prom date. If the rumor mill is to be believed (I can never figure out how my mother hears rumors from my high school, occasionally directly pertaining to me, long before I hear them), Bimbo plans to become pregnant by my brother on prom night and to bear his child approximately nine months later. Her rationale in choosing my brother was in the hope that the child would inherit her looks and his brains, and that Matthew is probably nice-looking enough not to mess up the child's appearance. The problem herein lies with the counterpart genetic equation: while my brother may be attractive enough not to interfere with the baby's good looks, the same cannot be said regarding Bimbo's intelligence not being so low that it would scramble the poor baby's brains. This was, after all, the same Bimbo who gave away twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of travelers' checks. I choked on a piece of zucchini when Dad told me this, and he came perilously close to performing the Heimlich Maneuver on me. Once my airway cleared, I asked my dad, "You don't honestly believe any of this is true, do you?"

Dad answered, "I certainly hope it's not, but I'm not sure we can afford to take any chances."

I gave him my opinion that, even though I'm obviously the brighter twin, my brother isn't that stupid. My dad answered that if she drugs him, his level of stupidity may not be a factor. I told dad that he and mom had been watching too much Law & Order SVU. He just looked at me. I told him that I think I'm going to sit the prom out this year. He told me that sitting the prom out is not even an option for me.

I knew my father would never drag me into a formal dance screaming and kicking, but he would take advantage of every opportunity to make my life a living hell if I failed to do things his way. My only prerogative was to negotiate the most favorable deal I could get. I did just that. The deal was that daddy would pay for everything: my dress, my shoes, my hair and nails (I can't have long nails because of my musician jobs, but I would still get a full manicure and pedicure), pictures, the restaurant meals, the limo, and anything else I forgot to include. He totally caved to all my demands, and gave me no limits. I had already purchased a dress, but I would return it and get a better one. It was still a stupid junior bridesmaid dress and not a real prom dress, but if I had to wear a stupid junior bridemaid dress (in a size ten, to add insult to injury, and not a misses 10 or a juniors 9/10, but a little girls' size 10) it would be a damn expensive one.

I asked Dad why he and Mom didn't just tell Matthew that he couldn't go to the prom with Bimbo, except I didn't call her Bimbo when I talked to my dad about it because I didn't want to risk having my mouth washed out with soap. My dad said that a counselor at my school had called her into the office and had asked her point-blank about the rumor and her prom-night intentions. Bimbo denied everything. The counselor sensed that she was lying but couldn't know for sure. My parents thought it would be wrong to say Bro couldn't go to prom with Bimbo on the outside chance that she might not have ever said anything about making a baby with my brother.

At this point I gave my dad two alternate suggestions, both of which were exemplary in their problem-solving potential: Solution Number One was that I, Alexis, would generously purchase a package of condoms for brother, and parents would tell him that he absolutely must use them if he were to engage in any unsanctioned extracurricular prom-night activities. This solution was immediately rejected without consideration. Solution Number Two was that father, a licensed physician, would prescribe chemical castration pills for brother just for the seven days prior to the prom. Father would tell brother that the pills were, in fact, anti-acne meds, because no one wants a zit on prom night. Bro would swallow those pills by the handful. Dad didn't go for this solution, either, though he laughed and said it showed creativity.

So we inked out the details on a kiddie menu that the waiter brought to our table because he thought I was a kiddie. Limo would pick up Bro and me, another couple on which we would need to agree but which would surely be my best friend Megan and his best friend Josh, Bimbo, and my date, who would later be known as Baseball Bean Boy for reasons that will later be made clear. My job, with the assistance of my best friend Megan, who is incredibly bossy, would be to supervise Matthew and guarantee that he did not leave the restaurant during dinner, did not leave the restaurant during the after-prom dessert, and did not fornicate in the limo. Mom's friends, the spies, would take care of babysitting Matthew and Bimbo while at the prom.


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