I’m watching my stepdaughter scrimmage on the soccer field when a mom standing beside me asks, “Which one is yours?”
“Number 28,” I say, smiling proudly.
She takes a step back and gives me the once-over. “Oh. You’re the stepmom.”
“Uh, yeah,” I say.
“And this one,” she says, pointing at my 2-year-old, playing in the dirt at my feet, “She’s yours?”
“Yes, she is.”
“And I hear you’re expecting another one.”
Hmm. News travels fast among the soccer moms. “Yep.”
“So.” Her eyes narrow. “This one and the one you’re pregnant with, do they both have the same daddy?”
Now let’s hit pause for a moment. The retelling of this scene has played and replayed among my friends like a lost Elliott Smith track, and I’ve gotten plenty of good advice on what I should have said. Like: “Well, I think so, but of course we won’t know for sure until the paternity test results are in.”
Or, “Actually, this one is Johnny Depp’s. But I’m trying to keep it under wraps because of that damned Brad Schmitt.”
Or just a straightforward: “Why you all up in my grill, Mommy? You don’t even know me.”
Instead, I stared uncomprehendingly for a few seconds, then said, “Eee…yes!” before turning away, red-faced.
Welcome to the Second Wives Club.
Although the club has neither membership fees nor monthly meetings, members are encouraged to learn the rules to the How-Many-Ways-Can-I-Say-Bimbo-Without-Using-the-Word Game, since it will be played against them on a regular basis. And with a constant rotation of First Wives Club competitors, a second wife must always be on her guard. Babydaddy Mom’s insults, for example, are totally different from those of Loudtalkin’ Mom, who likes to pretend that I’m not only dumb as a rock, but also hard of hearing.
“I HEAR you’re taking SIX RIDERS on the FIELD TRIP next week!” Loudtalkin’ Mom, spoke extra-slowly to me as we waited for play practice to end. “You will NEED YOUR SUV! So that you can FIT SIX RIDERS! Not YOUR HUSBAND’S CAR! Which SEATS FOUR!”
“Uh, duh,” I said crankily, once my ears stopped ringing.
She frowned. “I was TRYING to HELP,” she blustered. “I KNOW you’re NEW AT THIS!”
“Yeah, I’ve only been chaperoning field trips for five years,” I muttered as she walked away.
To their credit, the nice moms totally outnumber the mean ones. Still, I run into a Second Wife Hater just often enough to remind me that some women will always be convinced I’m the Hester Prynne of West Nashville.
For years, I’ve tried to ignore the put-downs. But when I walked out of a parent meeting recently and heard one of the moms inside loudly snort, “What is she, 12?”, I finally decided something had to give.
Grimly, I ordered my own version of the scarlet letter: a T-shirt emblazoned with the words Trophy Wife. When it arrived in the mail on the same day as a scheduled booster club meeting at my stepdaughter’s high school, I put it on and headed out, a stepmom on a mission.
“Well, I thought I’d seen it all,” said an older woman who shook her head angrily at me as I walked down the hall toward the meeting room. “Puritan!” I murmured piously as she huffed past.
Once inside the meeting, several of the parents read my shirt and quickly looked away. After a few minutes of business, there was a commotion in the rear of the room.
“Three cheers for the trophy wife!” Anne Peterson stood up from her desk and pointed at me. What was this? Anne Peterson (a.k.a., Something-Smells-and-It-Must-Be-That-Second-Wife Mom) hated my guts.
“Hip, hip hooray!” Grace McKay stood up beside Anne and threw her hands in the air. Before I knew what was happening, all of the moms had gathered around me and lifted me into the air. “Tro-phy Wife, Tro-phy Wife, all hail the Tro-phy Wife,” they chanted, marching around the classroom while their husbands clapped to keep time.
“…Lindsay?” I was distracted from my daydream and looked up from where my eyes had fixated on the words You’re trippin carved into my desk.
“You are still willing to help with Senior Night, aren’t you?” Jeannie Taylor tapped her clipboard impatiently.
“Uh, yes,” I said quickly. “Of course.”
Beside her, Anne Peterson grinned at me. I like your shirt, she mouthed, pulling on her own shirt and nodding.
I sat up straight and smiled back.
Hey, if I couldn’t get a parade, a grin would certainly do. I did a quick tally in my head. One Mean Mom down, 200-something to go.
Clearly, I’ll have to wear my T-shirt more often.