So I’m standing in frozen foods, asking myself, “Should I get Hot Pockets or Lean Pockets? Or what about Croissant Pockets? Wait a second. Sub Pockets? How did I not know about these?” when I’m suddenly startled out of my reverie by what might as well be the sound of horns and the whoosh of a red carpet unrolling down the aisle.
“Presenting the Queen of Riverlake Pond Subdivision,” a voice behind me seems to say as I whirl around in confusion.
Stepping grandly down the carpet between what I imagine to be two trumpeting men in tights is my neighbor Margie. I sigh loudly and drop all of the Hot Pockets in my cart as the other shoppers around me sink into curtsies and deep bows.
“Hi, Margie,” I say tiredly as she sweeps past me in a leopard-print pantsuit. Her Brighton bag bumps me in response. “How’s little Amelia Jane?”
“Loving her private school,” she replies haughtily without so much as a glance in my direction on her way to the frozen pizzas.
“All hail, Queen Margie!” a mom beside me seems to squawk. I give her a withering look. “Well, she is the best Bunco player in West Nashville,” she whispers.
I shake my head and wheel my cart around, trying to maneuver over the carpet. “Damned suburban royalty,” I mutter to myself.
Whoever says we live in a democracy doesn’t know much about American subdivisions. Along with the lawn Nazis, the stay-at-home mommies and the power walkers, there is almost always a King and Queen who, by divine right of social standing and square footage, make it their business to keep the rest of the homeowners in line. Margie and husband Steve are no different from scores of royal families strewn across the suburbs of Middle Tennessee.
As a rule, the pedigrees of suburban royalty hold more Hatfields and McCoys than Windsors and Wessexes, but they cover up their lack of breeding with a long list of “achievements.”
“Steve is second vice president of his construction company and a member of the Titans Club,” Margie recited to me once, back in the days when she still deemed it safe to be seen talking to my kind. “He’s gotten three major raises in three years.”
“Hmm,” I replied vaguely.
“Amelia Jane was first runner up to Miss Pretty, Pretty Princess this year,” she continued. “And her dance team took first place in the Li’l Peppy Jazz Fingers competition in Birmingham. Hunterson is on the all-star T-ball team and he’s quarterback for the Mini Cougars.” She paused, eyes glinting like a newly polished shotgun. “What are your girls doing?”
“They uh…” I paused. What the hell. “Well, our oldest is working on a vaccination that would prevent the transmission of bird flu. She just had a major breakthrough last week, in fact. A bunch of Vanderbilt researchers have, like, totally taken over our basement. You wouldn’t believe how many peanut butter sandwiches I’ve had to make.”
Margie’s lip-lined smile wavered.
“Our 11-year-old will try again next month to circle the globe on a bicycle hanging from a bunch of Mylar balloons. You might remember she made it all the way to Nepal last time before the wind currents got the best of her. And our baby is collaborating with Bono on a song for….”
But Margie had turned on her Ferragamo heels and vanished back into the crowd of PTA members.
Not long after our conversation, Steve became president of the Riverlake Pond Homeowners’ Association. Immediately, he launched a successful campaign to outlaw longhaired cats. (He was, after all, allergic.) Soon afterward, he got another major raise. By the time the private school stickers were affixed to the back of the family Escalade, the couples’ once-tenuous rule over Riverlake Pond was cemented.
Although I still run into Margie and her royal entourage a few times a month, my stepdaughters’ public school status has wiped our entire family off Margie and Steve’s List of Peons to Acknowledge in Public Places. But I’ve contented myself with the knowledge that Margie’s sovereignty is hanging by a designer thread. Because soon after Amelia Jane left my stepdaughters’ school, I overheard a very interesting conversation during one of their sleepovers.
“Remember when we were all at Amelia Jane’s house?” one of the girls laughed, “And Amelia Jane took us to her parents’ bedroom while they were gone and showed us that pink pickle-shaped thing in her mom’s nightstand? And she dared us to touch it, but no one would?” The girls erupted in fits of giggles, and around the corner I rubbed my hands in grim delight. This information was worth its weight in homeowner association fees.
Although it’s been tempting, I’ve never mentioned my kingdom-crumbling information to Margie. I’ve even changed some of the details of this story to keep her identity anonymous. But if you think you see a little bit of yourself in here, then you might want to be nicer to the little people. Or at least put a lock on your nightstand.
Because if you’re being a royal pain, it just might come back to haunt you.