Last week, Smartmom called Best and Oldest to see if she wanted to meet at Dashing Diva for a pedicure. Decadent and fun, the best and oldest friends like to do this sort of thing from time to time for the chance gossip and gab. Plus, they get their toenails cleaned and polished — a win-win for all involved.
Best and Oldest liked the idea, especially because her daughter Bee was set to hear whether she got into Brown University (early decision) that very afternoon. At exactly 5 pm, Brown was going to send out the acceptance letters by e-mail.
Best and Oldest wanted to be home when Bee checked the computer. But as Tom Petty wrote, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
Best and Oldest was such a jittery wreck that she figured it would be diverting to have her toes done.
So there were B&O and Smartmom, sitting on the high banquettes at Dashing Diva with their toes in steaming hot water and trying to talk about anything but Brown. Every time B&O’s cellphone rang (she still had the “Obama, Obama” ring tone on it), Smartmom jumped.
“No, it’s too early,” B&O explained. Bee and her best friends, three other high achieving girls, who had also applied to hard-to-get into colleges on early decision, were going from house to house checking their mailboxes. Schools like Amherst, Wesleyan and Carlton still send their letters the old fashioned way: by snail mail.
Finally, B&O did hear from Bee. None of the other girls had gotten their letters, so they were back at her house waiting for the verdict. Bee thanked her mom for the homemade brownies that were out on the kitchen table. (Nice touch, thought Smartmom. Brownies for Brown.)
B&O did a good job of pretending to pay attention to whatever Smartmom was talking about (she is her best and oldest friend, after all), but Smartmom could tell that she was extremely distracted.
Who wouldn’t be?
Brown is considered one of the best universities in the world. The odds of getting in are like, well, astronomical — roughly equivalent to the odds that Dumb Editor, himself a Brown graduate, will actually put his Magna Cum Laude Russian Literature and Language degree towards any useful purpose someday. (Dumb Editor’s note: Since when is Brown one of the best universities in the world?)
Brown is where Bee wanted to spend the next four years of her life. Her heart is set on it. And Bee deserves to go to Brown as much as any other smart, highly motivated, hard-working high school senior. But it’s a longshot.
The pressure was on, and B&O was stressing — but she did seem to enjoy her pedicure even if her in-grown toenails hurt when the pedicurist cut her cuticles. For her part, Smartmom loved having her feet rubbed and the smell of the orange aromatherapy cream.
The situation brought up a host of issues for Smartmom. Secretly, she considered choosing bright green nail polish to symbolize the jealousy she was feeling toward B&O.
Smartmom’s son Teen Spirit has had, shall we say, a completely different relationship to academia than Bee. While there’s no denying that he’s a very smart guy, he’s never been quite as gaga about classes and studying. Music is his thing — it’s his passion and he’s applying to music schools now and planning to take a gap year before going to college.
Smartmom tried to imagine what it would be like to have a son or daughter waiting to hear from Brown. That would be a real mitzvah. Isn’t it every parent’s dream to have a high-achieving child who qualifies for the best colleges in the country?
Getting your kid into a top school is certainly one iteration of the American dream — and it means, on some level, that the parent has done his or her job, prepared your child for the dog-eat dog world out there and given him or her a great start in life.
Smartmom nearly choked on the metallic odor of the nail polish. She decided on a deep red to signify her mix of free-floating anxiety and excitement.
Sadly, Smartmom felt like her usual B-list self. She has multiple family members who went to Brown. In fact, her uncle was a football hero at Brown in the 1930s, and most of her first cousins and their kids went to the uber-university.
Talk about having a Brown complex. Smartmom was more of a state university kind of gal. She went to SUNY-Binghamton, which one of her friend’s calls the Schmatta League. These days, Smartmom satisfies herself with the fact that the school is really hard to get into nowadays (but it ain’t Ivy, the other part of her brain reminds her).
The Ivies. Now that’s cool. But it just wasn’t meant to be for Smartmom’s boho, intellectual, Tom Dylan Bob Waits wannabe son.
Talk about pushing Smartmom’s buttons. Or toenails. Yeah, sure, she wanted Bee to get into Brown. But she wasn’t without some residual jealousy that her kid just wasn’t going down that privileged road.
OK, OK. Smartmom wouldn’t be Smartmom if she didn’t have mixed feelings about the whole thing. What would there be to write about?
At 4:45, B&O ran off. “I’ll call you as soon as I know,” she said as she scurried down Seventh Avenue on the rainy night.
Smartmom felt her heart race. Even if she did feel slightly envious of B&O, she hoped with all her heart that Bee did indeed get in.
And guess what dear reader? She did.
Shoulda gone with the green nail polish!