“Mommy! Bayleigh’s here!” My daughter, Hannah, squealed with delight.
“Great,” I muttered under my breath.
I had hoped for a quiet morning at the park playground, not a morning of small talk with the yoga moms.
“Hey, Tina, good to see you,” Bayleigh’s mother, Steffie, flipped her hand in the air, dismissively and halfheartedly waving at me. Steffie was tall, skinny, and blonde. One hand was always glued to one of those mega chai venti pumpkin latte things, and the other hand gripped a new, designer purse each week. Steffie always fished for compliments by complaining about how terrible she looked, knowing full well she spent two hours making her tousled locks curl into thick spirals before clipping her hair into a messy bun. The other two women who frequented this playground were both named Ashley. One was blonde, and the other was brunette.
Hannah ran to the swings to play with Bayleigh. Bayleigh was a nice kid. She hadn’t learned how to be a fake bitch like her mother yet.
“Tina, love your brown coat!” Steffie smiled at me.
“Oh, thanks, love your coat too,” I smiled extra big back at Steffie.
I sat down as far away from Steffie and the other model mommies as I could without being too rude. I had grown up with them, in this tony, New York neighborhood, and still lived in this area near them, but our childhoods had been so, very different. I had passed by them at upscale restaurants and country clubs occasionally growing up, but had never been one of them, never really fitting into their pedigree. Although my parents were wealthy, they were not billionaires anymore.
“It must be a comfy coat since you wear it every day,” Steffie said, her sneery, fake smile spread from ear to ear.
“Very,” I fake smiled back. That bitch had a closet for just coats, inside her closet for designer jeans, which was adjacent to two other closets, one for purses, and one for high-heeled shoes. There were whispers amongst the Ashleys that Steffie didn’t own flat shoes. “I’ve never seen you wear the same coat twice.” I smiled really sweetly at Steffie.
Steffie flipped away stray curls that were left down to look like she hadn’t planned for them to look so gorgeously messy. She smiled as she looked down at her god-awful designer jacket print. I guessed a rap star or basketball player designed it, because it looked like puffy, gold baby shit smeared on black silk.
“It’s an original Yak Puke print,” she winked at me.
I coughed on my spit.
“I love YaCute!” Ashley Blonde’s eyes got bigger than even Disney dared draw.
“Oh, YaCute!” I giggle snorted. “I thought you said Yak Puke!” I continued laughing, but they did not.
“Anyway,” Steffie curtly raised her voice to a high pitch, “Bayleigh’s acceptance letter to Yale Tots and Harvard Bound Babies came this morning,” Steffie gloated.
“I haven’t received Fawn’s yet!” Ashley Brunette squeaked nervously.
“Calm down, sweetie,” Steffie cooed. “Hopefully Fawn’s acceptance letter will come today, and if not, you can send her to that preschool Tina enrolled Hannah in downtown,” Steffie cleared her throat, “in the city,” Steffie didn’t bother hiding her grimace, “near the subway.”
Ashley Brunette turned her head slowly to look at me. Her lips looked like she vomited a little at the thought of sending her child to a school downtown, where the commoners dwelled.
“It’s not that I think I’m too good for that school, Tina.” Ashley Brunette’s pleasant expression did nothing to conceal the condescension in her voice. “It’s just that one of my nannies lives there, and I had to fire her because her clothes smelled like pee. I think it was because she took the subway. Of course, I don’t have firsthand knowledge of such places, but I’ve read that the subways smell like those plastic, portable toilets,” she quickly added, “though I have no firsthand knowledge of such toilets either.”
Steffie and Ashley Blonde made disgusted noises.
“Look, don’t take this the wrong way, sweetie,” Ashley Brunette made insincere doe eyes at me, “but remember when your dad stole all that money from Wall Street, and while the banks let him keep his penthouse here on the upper east side, you got kicked out of our preschool and were sent to kindergarten at a public school? I cannot let that happen to Fawn!”
Ashley Blonde gasped, “God no! I can’t let Leighanna Belle go there! I mean no offense, Tina, but kindergarten is where it all went wrong for you. You had to attend Stanford.”
I rolled my eyes.
“It’s true, Tina!” Ashley Blonde shrieked. “That’s when your future became set in stone! We went to Harvard,” Ashley Blonde pointed to herself and Ashley Brunette, “and Steffie had to go to Yale, because her father didn’t tip the president of Harvard well enough!”
“Yale is still distinguished!” Steffie screached.
“You three are ridiculous,” I scoffed. “After all these years, we’re still sitting in the same park, living in mansions, and surrounded by affluence. A preschool doesn’t matter.”
“It matters!” Steffie was so upset, she whisper screeched, and shook so violently, her chai latte spilled onto her expensive, ugly coat. “You have to be very careful about these things, Tina! If you don’t get Hannah into the best preschool, she’ll be wearing the same coat every day! It’s a slippery slope! Mark my words, success is planned from birth!”
I groaned. “Look at our daughters,” I said, wearily. Our four daughters were swinging side by side. “Sometimes, my daughter swings up higher than your daughters, and sometimes, when she swings backward, she never again gains the momentum to push forward to reclaim her title as highest swinger, yet nobody cares. Every week we meet, and each week, a different girl swings the highest. They take turns, and they’re always excited to see each other. They’re too young to care who’s in first place this week. And as far as their futures are concerned, the preschools they attend now won’t matter. Their great grandchildren are already recipients of our great grandparents’ trust funds. It doesn’t matter where they go to preschool. Like those swings, they’ll go up and down, backward and forward, and it doesn’t matter, because my great grandfather built a railroad, and your great grandfather’s axe pick accidentally dislodged a stone covering an oil geyser. They can all go to public schools and still wind up right back here, living in mansions and sipping on trust funds.”
For once, the yoga-loving, latte-sipping heirs looked thoughtful, as though they had more on their minds than designer purses and wealthy pretenses.
“You work part time at the art museum,” Steffie frowned, like she held a long-festered grudge against paintings.
“Yeah, I get bored sometimes, so I volunteer at the museum,” I shrugged. “And I like art.”
“You have to work because your poverty forced you to attend Stanford,” Ashley Brunette spat.
“Oh, no!” I mocked them, “I have to go to an art museum for two hours twice a week, and yet, I live in a mansion,” I laughed, exaggeratedly. “Get me out of this mundane roundabout full of brown coats and mansions!” I rolled my eyes at them.
They looked between themselves with knowing glances. They were uppity and enjoyed making others feel inferior.
“I’m going home.” Ashley Brunette stood up. “I need to check my mail for Fawn’s acceptance letter.”
“Leighanna Belle!” Ashley Blonde walked toward the playground. “Time to go!” She looked back at me, “I need to check my mail too, because no offense or anything, sweetie, but kindergarten was where you got off that roundabout and headed down the exit ramp toward downtown.”