The following is an excerpt from Tracy Beckerman’s new book, “Rebel without a Minivan.” The book is a collection of essays from Tracy’s award-winning, syndicated humor column, LOST IN SUBURBIA. In this hilarious romp through the well-manicured lawns of suburbia, Tracy Beckerman takes on everyone from psycho mall moms to sinister cappuccino barristers, and proves you don’t have to drive a minivan to make it in the ’burbs. To order “Rebel without a Minivan,” go to www.rebelwithoutaminivan.com or Amazon.com.
There was never any doubt in my mind that I would always be a city girl. I worked in the television industry, which clearly made me hip and cool, and needless to say, hip, cool people do not live in the suburbs. Women who drive minivans and men with comb-overs — they live in the suburbs. I clung to my convictions until I was seven months pregnant with my first child. Finally I realized there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d be able to get a Peg Perego stroller up a four-flight walk-up every day (although it might be a good way to work off the weight I’d gained without resorting to liposuction). Then I thought about rigging a pulley system through the window so I wouldn’t have to give up my rent-controlled brownstone duplex, but my husband pulled the plug on that idea.
So, ten months later, we moved to the suburbs of New Jersey. My eight-month-old son, the city baby, cried the first time I put him down on a patch of grass. And though he had endured earsplitting city noise, he was unable to sleep through the sonic boom of all the lawn mowers going at 6:30 in the morning. Eventually he adjusted to both the grass and the mowers. I, however, dug my heels into those well-manicured lawns until my neighbors and I were able to reach something of an understanding: They agreed to accept my short, spiky hair, my inability to get my children’s socks their whitest-white, and my refusal to wear makeup to go to the mall; I agreed to stop laughing out loud when they discussed household cleaning products, 101 uses for ground beef, and being kept awake at night by the sound of woodchucks mating in their backyard.
Obviously, no self-respecting city girl ever thinks, “Gee, when I grow up, I want to live in the suburbs.” It’s just one of those things that happens, like taxes and varicose veins. One day you’re running off to sample sales… the next day, garage sales.
For some people, it’s a seamless transition. “Okay kids, pile in the minivan; after soccer practice, we’re going out for a Happy Meal!” Wahoo!
For me, it was more like going through a car wash without a car.
And it wasn’t just the suburb thing. It was the whole, “married-mother-of-two-and-a-dog who moved to the suburbs” thing. I wondered: How did I get here? Where did all this cellulite come from? Who are these two children, and why do they keep calling me Mommy?
These are the questions that kept me awake at night (that, and the aforementioned two children yelling for drinks of water). I figured the only way I could get any sleep was to put a water cooler in the hallway and start writing a column for the local paper.
On the up side, it’s been a great way to get my ya-yas out. Like, when someone tries to sneak twelve items into the ten-items-or-less checkout line ahead of me, I can rat them out to 90,000 of their neighbors. Of course, on the flip side, when I experience something deeply personal and then have the stupidity to put it in print, the whole world knows about it — or, at least, my little corner does.
For example, one morning I went to get my coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Me: “Can I get a medium hazelnut, please?”
Coffee guy: “With sugar or without?”
Coffee guy: “Okay. And by the way, how did your boob job turn out?”
See what I mean?
What I didn’t expect, however, were the cheers from so many other moms on the playground. Although many of them looked the part of the typical suburban housewife, internally they fought many of the same demons I did. Who would have thought that “Mall Mom,” in her Donna Karan twin set and her mighty Town and Country minivan with the DVD entertainment system, also bore a secret tattoo on her butt from the day she turned 35 and was feeling old and defiant?
But could these moms relate to my suburban-induced angst? My ordeals in child-rearing? My husband’s inability to multitask? My seasonal woes and body-image neuroses? Apparently so. On the same school playground one day, a mom I’d never met before walked by with a double jogging stroller occupied by two drooling toddlers, leaned in, and whispered to me, “I sneak french fries, too!” If I hadn’t just written a column about my affair with french fries, I probably would have thought this lady had lost her well-coiffed marbles. But instead I grinned. We are all sisters in suburbia. Misunderstood moms. Rebels, with or without a minivan.