My daughter’s school year is winding down and as such the days are filled with Big End of Year School Events. Among them was a recital: she participates in an extra-curricular choir, and all the children were scheduled to stand up at 3.30 in the afternoon in their finery (black tie) and sing Baroque cantatas.
I’m kidding. They wore clothes pretty much like they wear everyday, and they sang the kind of simple rounds that little kids always seem to learn in school.
My daughter loves her music teacher, who is a young woman I’ll call Ms. Kneecap. She’s had trouble with her leg this year and it required her wearing a series of braces and things to keep her leg in certain positions. Most recently I saw her wearing a black and white checkerboard knee brace and though this was not the most sympathetic reaction, the very first thing I said to her when I saw it was, “Oh my god, that’s so cool, it’s like Rick Neilsen’s guitar!” Fortunately, she’s a good egg, so instead of snapping, “What is wrong with you, you heartless jerk?” she laughed. I quickly added, “I don’t know if you know who Rick Neilsen is.” She said, “I totally know, and you’re totally right!”
As I helped my girl get her crap together from her cubby, Ms. Kneecap came over to me. She leaned in and said, “I don’t know if I should tell you this, but your daughter said the funniest thing in class today.”
She told me that she had, during class, out of pure curiosity, asked the kids, “What do your parents do for work?” In my daughter’s classroom, the answers range fairly widely, as these things go, but it is certainly the case that the overwhelming majority of parents a) work and b) work at fairly high levels of skill and knowledge. There are quite a few college professors. There is one woman who runs a high end makeup artist business — she gets called in to do photo shoots for actors and is not exactly running your small-town Curl Up & Dye shop. And in the middle of all this, my daughter described me as “an ordinary housewife.”
This is, on the one hand, completely true. I am a housewife. But on the other hand? Fuck that shit.
I laughed to Ms. Kneecap and said, “It’s true, I’m a housewife.” She said, “Is that true? Because, it’s funny, I thought you were a writer!”
I think she genuinely had me confused with a friend of mine who is also a stay at home mother and who has a novel that came out last week, but — who knows.
What I do know is, I said, “I don’t know how ordinary I am, but I’m definitely a housewife.” And when I was thinking about this, later that night, I dug up her email address from the depths of my inbox, and I sent her a link to my Housebitch post. “You don’t have to read this if you don’t want to,” I wrote to her, “but you might find it of interest.”
The next time I saw her, we were crossing paths in the stairwell, each of us in a genuine hurry, but she grabbed my arm and said, “I loved your” — she paused; she caught herself before using bad language at school — “your blog,” she ended, rolling her eyes at herself. I laughed and rushed to get my daughter.
“But where,” asked my friend the novelist, when I told her this story, “where did your daughter learn the phrase ‘ordinary housewife’?”