I was prudent in the selection of my seat. My back was to the window, ensuring I wouldn’t get too warm and could face the room; near the head of the table, at the end closest to where the server would appear, allowing me to catch his eye when necessary, such as when cracked pepper was desired or when it was time to bring out the cake.
I was glad Jane had chosen Solare, an Italian restaurant in Liberty Station. Not only because I enjoy their fine fare, but also because it meant I wouldn’t have to deal with chasing after her and her friends into any clubs. The last time I’d partied with the ladies at the table was for my sister’s big 4-0. I knew firsthand how messy some moms can get when given a break from parenting. As entertaining as it may be to watch MILFs Gone Wild, I wasn’t in the mood to babysit.
As is customary when a group of moms gets together, the conversation veered mostly toward kid talk. When we were last together, their children were newborns, and I got to hear all about how often the mothers were puked on and pissed on. Now the five mothers at the table were comparing and contrasting their children: which tots could say their ABCs and when, toddlers’ favorite words, the usual riveting stuff that makes a childless woman consider ordering a cocktail to give that glass of wine the extra oomph it suddenly requires.
I welcomed the appearance of a magician at my side. He said his services were on the house and went straight into a series of impressive sleight-of-hand coin tricks. I assumed he’d been sent to distract us from the fact that our food was taking awhile or that he was there to entertain special-occasion tables (I’d informed the house we were celebrating a birthday).
I grew irritated when our food arrived and, rather than performing one last disappearing trick and allowing us enjoy our meal, the man continued with his set. Sensing I was no longer smiling up at him, he went to stand by Jane’s side and persisted in performing tricks while everyone smiled politely and waited for him to go away. When Jen enlightened me to the fact that tips were expected in the coin purse the magician had set on the table, my irritation bloomed into red-hot exasperation. Why don’t they send over a lady hawking roses, I thought. While I was busy being annoyed, Jen did the decent thing and slipped some cash into the coin purse on our behalf.
I concentrated on my salad as the kid-talk droned on. As we were enjoying the last few morsels of our appetizers, my ears perked up at the sound of a wicked laugh. Marissa had a story to share, and if the look on her face was any indication, it wasn’t about her favorite way to take her children’s temperature. I gave her my full attention.
“Is this about Bella being kicked out of the kids’ gym?” Jane chimed in. Marissa slapped her for revealing part of the story and went on to tell it.
“The funny thing is,” Marissa said to Jane, “you weren’t even embarrassed about your kids getting kicked out of the gym. You were so matter-of-fact about it — like, ‘Bella got kicked out, we’ve got to go, see you soon.’” At our urging, Marissa colored in the details for the rest of us.
Jane and Marissa had met up at 24 Hour Fitness, which offers a babysitting service Jane calls “kids’ gym.” After her name was announced a number of times on the PA system, Jane wrapped up her workout and reported to the children’s enclosure. A frustrated supervisor told Jane she had to collect her girls and go. Bella had gotten in trouble for “not listening,” but that’s not why she was being kicked out. After being reprimanded, the eight-year-old walked over to a punching bag, turned to the supervisor, said, “This is you,” and then started wailing on her makeshift effigy.
“The girls had to pee, so I brought them to the bathroom,” Jane interjected. “And while we were in there, Marissa, who was taking a shower, pulled back the curtain and was all, ‘Hey.’”
Laughing, Marissa continued, “Jane said, ‘Bella got kicked out of kids’ gym. I’ll probably meet you at Starbucks,’ and I said, ‘Sure.’ But then, like, 15 minutes later, I get this text that says, ‘Here at Starbucks. P.S., trim the bush.’ She saw me for only a second, handling both of her kids, getting kicked out, and through all that, the one thing she concentrates on is my bush.” By this time, the entire table was laughing along with Marissa.
“Did you trim it?” I asked.
“Of course I did! Soon as I got home. If it was enough for Jane to notice in that split second, clearly I needed to do something,” Marissa said.
Jane is notorious for her belief in maintaining a meticulously groomed muff. Marissa’s story reminded Jen about Jane’s “bush encounter” with another friend of theirs from high school (who wasn’t at the table with us). “There you were, in the delivery room, she’s having a baby, and all you could think about was the fact that you could see her bush over her belly.” Jen broke off into hysterics.
“Her husband was videotaping the whole thing,” Jane said. “I’m just saying — trim the hedges, especially if you know you’re going to be on film.”
The laughter tapered off as our entrées were served ninja-style, by a young busboy who seemed to be trying hard not to listen to us. The ladies returned to their discussion topic of choice, and I turned my attention to my short-rib ravioli with mushrooms. While they spoke of their mini-thems, I reflected on the previous conversation and made a mental note to not take off all of my clothes during the couple’s massage I had scheduled with Jane for the following week.