To read Part One: Welcome to Weston click here.
To read Part Two: Welcome to Weston click here.
I’m no spring chicken when it comes to friendships. True, Esther had been the first one in since my middle school drama whom I'd had to break up with—delete her contact information from my Blackberry, not invite her kids to my kids’ birthday parties, forget her Starbucks “usual,” go out of my way not to be stuck in an elevator with her, etc.
But during those years BE (before Esther) there were plenty of friends who I drifted apart from. Usually it was just a matter of changing circumstances. We went to different colleges, changed our majors, went to different graduate schools. I moved, a lot, and so did they. Some of them were married and pregnant before I was even engaged; some of them were breaking off engagements when I was having kids. Every now and then the drift would be due to something more personal—I’d be seized by a moment of, “Who needs this kind of emotional complication? Life is too short to deal with HER crap!” But even that would just be a phase—it would just mean I’d call the emotionally complicated friend less often, until I missed her and realized the occasional histrionic phone conversation was a small price to pay to have someone special and genuine and passionate around.
So yes, I’d been around the block when it came to girlfriends. But Esther truly was the first one since my Clearisil-and-training-bra days who got the real heave-ho...the don’t-let-the-door-hit-your-Gap-drawstring-pants-covered-ass-on-the-way-out.
Back to the days when I did know Esther’s usual Starbucks order, and she knew mine: it had been so nice to find a kindred spirit so soon after moving to Weston, especially after meeting a bunch of Stepford wife types who seemed offended by the word “puke.” Not only did we have so many resume-type-things in common, but she also seemed to just get me. And that was what had sealed the deal.
(I was a married woman with two small children, not a lovestruck teenager passing poetry to the James Dean-like slacker in my English class. You wouldn’t think I needed to be “got.” Well, I guess I did need that.)
She understood, for example, that I as happy as I was to chat about the latest stroller gizmo or the joys of potty-training a toddler while moving him across country, I was also a nerdy bookworm type who enjoyed movies with English subtitles and subscribed to The New Yorker.
Wouldn’t you know it? Esther subscribed to The New Yorker, too. And she was proudly at least as nerdy as me, if not nerdier. Would the similarities between us never cease?
One night, after sneaking out of a Mom’s Club happy hour and fleeing to our favorite Starbucks, she reached across the table, warmly squeezed my hand, and said, “There’s no one else like us in Weston, you know?”
I laughed a little nervously. “No one? What do you mean by that?”
She pushed her thick glasses up her small nose. “Everyone in Weston is stupid.”
Ah yes, this was the snarkier side of Esther that seemed to be coming out more often now that we were spending nearly every non-diaper-changing moment (plus some of those) together.
“When we moved here,” I told her, “we looked up the demographics. Weston has a very educated population. Lots of college graduates, great schools, a lot of professionals live here.”
“Have you been to the book store yet?” Esther asked me.
“What book store?”
Then Esther locked her crafty little cage around me by informing me that not only were Westonites dumb, but the women who belonged to the synagogue we were in the process of joining—the synagogue that housed the preschool my then-three-year-old son, Jacob, was about to start attending—were especially dumb. Dumb as dirt. Plus rude. Snobby. Illiterate. Oh, and shallow.
“You see them in workout gear every morning,” Esther hissed, letting go of my hand and taking another long slurp of her coffee. “It’s like that’s their job. To look good. They all have had major work done.”
I frowned at this. I actually worked out almost every day myself—not because I thought it was my job to look good (ha ha ha)—but because I had just three more pounds to get to my pre-baby weight and because I enjoyed the adrenaline rush of working up a sweat.
Esther laughed that off. “Trust me, they don’t work up a sweat. They just dress like that to look cute in their little shorts and belly shirts. You will have nothing in common with them.”
Not in any shape to be wearing little shorts and belly shirts myself—“pre-baby weight” for me was, oh, a bit sturdier than 95 pounds—I had to explain to her that much sweating had to be involved for these synagogue moms to wear clothes that skimpy.
A comment that only served to irritate Esther. “You’re missing the point,” she snapped.
Then began her tirade: “You go in there every morning and you see them, just yapping away, kissing up to all the preschool teachers. I don’t even know why they put their kids in school when they stay there all day. You know who the smart moms are? The ones who drop their kids off. They actually have a life, and somewhere to go. Trust me, you don’t want to be one of the moms who walks her kid in every day. You read, you exercise, you go places.”
As much as I didn’t want Esther to be right—I wanted to make new friends, and I wanted them to be smart and down to earth and not the vapid trophy wives she was describing—I couldn’t help but follow her logic. (And, her assessment of me as having important things to do, considering I was a little uncomfortable with my stay-at-home status, was flattering.)
I nodded, slowly: Dumb moms went into the school and gossiped with the teachers all morning because they had nothing else to do. Smart moms blew a kiss from the carpool lane and didn’t come back till three. Don’t walk your kid into school—don’t meet the other mothers who care enough to chat with the teachers and find out how their kid is adjusting to life in preschool.
Yep, that made sense.
And that, incidentally, is how Esther brilliantly—and I do mean brilliantly—managed to make herself my only close friend in Weston for the next few months.
Poor Jacob. Luckily he’s always been a mellow, easygoing child, and I at least had the sense to call his teacher regularly and occasionally brave the workout-clothing-clad throng of mommies with their Gucci and Tory Burch tote bags—who, fitting in with Esther’s description of them, did seem quite chatty and chummy and not very much like The New Yorker readers—to drop in on his classroom.
But it wasn’t until I met some of these “trophy wives” and found quite a few doctors, lawyers, Ivy League graduates and just all-around nice, friendly people among the Spandex that I realized how tainted my first impression of them had been.
By then, though, I’d been drifting apart from Esther for other reasons. She was my first emotionally complicated friend who was not worth all of the crap she put me through.
More on that in a bit...