I am 4 years old and in the midst of my very first identity crisis. My parents have enrolled me in Montessori pre-school, where independence and creativity are highly encouraged. I can read AND write the entire alphabet and I have a ton of friends. I am practically the mayor of Montessori!
But most importantly, I have an amazing boyfriend named Aaron. The first person I ever chose to love, he is adorable with his big ears, goofy smile and high pitched giggle. I am no slouch myself with my auburn curls and couldn't-quit-if-we-had-to dimples. We spend our time gleefully coloring outside of the lines and sharing a blanket at nap time.
Despite my popularity and academic success, I know that the real me has yet to be fully unmasked; like a piece of my puzzle hasn't been flipped over. The only time I feel unbridled wholeness is when I wear my Wonder Woman pajamas. They consist of blue underwear with white stars and a red camisole with a gold bustier emblazoned on it. Come to think of it, they're pretty seedy pajamas for a 4 year old. Nevertheless, they are fucking dope and they are my only chance at showing the world who I really am.
But how am I going to wear my Wonder Woman pj's to school without my mother knowing? She always chooses my clothes because she claims I “simply don't know what works.” Always at the height of fashion, my mother has impeccable taste – for herself. Never one to leave the house without a full face of makeup, she is the envy of the other Montessori mothers, with her penchant for high heels and Gucci bags. But it does not occur to her that she doesn't know me or what I like. Every night as I crawl into bed, the ritual begins: my mother goes through my dresser and picks out my clothes for the following day. She lays them on the rocking chair in the corner of my room where they hang lurk like a younger, yet no less acerbic, version of a Sweathog.
I can not let this continue! I need to discuss it with Aaron. His quiet strength is infallible and I have come to rely heavily upon it. The next morning we are playing in the sandbox. He is always doing something that just dazzles me and today is no different. He's making an enormous castle, complete with a drawbridge, while I let sand trickle through my fingers.
“Aaron, I don't like the clothes my mommy makes me wear.”
“You should do what she says. She's your mommy.”
“I know. But they're not me!”
“Your shirt today has a lion on it! That's you,” he says, while dragging his finger in the sand around his castle to make a moat.
“Thanks. The furry face is kinda itchy, though. I wanna be Wonder Woman. Do you like Wonder Woman?”
Aaron fills up his moat with water from a blue plastic pail, watches the water mix with the sand and says, “I love her.”
The next morning, I wake up before my Mickey Mouse alarm clock goes off. My pajamas still warm with sleep, I sit on the edge of my bed, head in hands, glaring at the ghost of Horshack present: brown corduroy pants and a mustard yellow turtleneck. My mother raps on my door, “Natasha, it's time to do your hair.”
I look at the clothes. I look at the door. In a flash, I throw on the clothes and zip up the pants just as she walks in. Standing in front of my unicorn mirror, my mother separates my curls into two uneven bunches, or “buffies”, as she calls them. Cringing as I watch myself morph into something I do NOT want to be, she pulls them tight and fastens them with mismatching elastics. I look like a very full colostomy bag. With crooked buffies.
I finally get to school and immediately run to the alcove in the back of the classroom; it's also where the mini-trampoline is. It faces the whole classroom and it's the perfect stage for my unveiling. I hop on it and survey my audience, searching for Aaron. I finally spot him fashioning a paper towel roll into a sword. Yet again, dazzling. I take a deep breath and slowly start to jump, my uneven buffies bouncing in rhythm.
I peel off my brown, corduroy pants and toss them on the green shag carpeting. Part Wonder Woman, part my mother's me, I jump a little higher, with a bit more confidence, my legs bare and proud in my blue starred underwear. No one is even giving me a second glance. That's the problem with Montessori. You have to do something pretty unorthodox to get noticed. I remove my mustard yellow turtleneck and fling it across the room, revealing my red camisole with gold bustier. The stale classroom air swells up under my arms as I jump higher. I close my eyes and tilt my head back, my crooked buffies tickling my shoulders.
All of a sudden, I am jarred out of my revelry by the crude poking of my ribs. I open my eyes to find that Dimitri Shedakis, an unruly classmate of mine, is jumping next to me. And he's poking me with his Cheetos stained fingers.
I am WONDER WOMAN! I rise women up and bring men to their knees. I fight for justice! And there is certainly no justice in allowing my moment of greatness to be tainted by some renegade with a Kool Aid mustache. So I push him off the trampoline.
“There's no ROOM!”
Justice served, I resume my jumping but keep an eye on Dimitri, who runs to our teacher's desk, grabs something off of it and scurries back to the trampoline. He stares right at me, his brown eyes snapping like two rabid Dobermans. His right hand, holding a stapler, is raised. I hold Dimitri's gaze while I continue to jump. He purses his lips like a duck and lowers his right hand to his mouth.
I slow my jumping.
His stare unwavering...Dimitri staples his mouth shut.
I stop jumping.
Dimitri tries to scream but he can't because he has STAPLED HIS MOUTH SHUT. He manages to squeak out a few muffled cries from a little unstapled pocket in the corner of his mouth. Aaron comes racing over to the trampoline and recoils in fear when he sees Dimitri. He looks over at me and does a double take upon seeing my Wonder Woman outfit. Finally! He gives me his trademark goofy grin, looks at Dimitri and then back at me. His pride for me outweighed by his fear of Dimitri, the look on his precious face clearly asks, “How did we get HERE?”
Our classmates rush up and form a ring around Dimitri, pocket full of crazy. Is this unorthodox enough for ya?? When everyone realizes what's happened, full on bedlam erupts. Dimitri is bleeding everywhere, kids are crying hysterically. But I don't move from the trampoline. And it's not because I'm worried about getting trampled by 20 rioting kids. I'm pissed. I'm pissed that after having the plums to show the world who I really am, it is eclipsed by Dimitri going Deer Hunter. I stand there, seething, when Aaron takes my hand in his. He doesn't get on the trampoline; he lets me be me. He stays on the green shag carpeting, intertwining his fingers with mine.
We stand together, holding hands and watching our Rome burn. Our teacher, Mrs. Shulack comes over, takes one look at Dimitri's stapled lips, gingerly cups his face with her hands and says, “Ohmygodwhatdidyoudowhatdidyoudowhatdidyoudo????”
Everything is a complete blur and the next thing I know, my mother comes running into the classroom and races towards me as fast as her wedge heels will allow, her gold crocheted top billowing behind her. The classroom looks like a war zone with blood splattered on the floor, bean bags asunder and parents swooping in like fighter jets. Aaron is terrified of my mother so he drops my hand the instant he sees her. She scoops me off the trampoline and darts through the minefield of blood droplets and smooshed cookies.
I am watching Aaron over her shoulder and see his mother fly in through the side door, yanking him to safety. My mother carries me to her maroon Chevy sedan, snaps my seat belt in and peels out, leaving a thick cloud of dust in her wake. Keeping one hand on the wheel and one hand on my leg, my mother's breathing evens as we get further and further from the crime scene. She looks at me, the sight of me in my pajamas finally settling in and I see her mouth begin to curl in anger.
I brace myself for what's about to come. But just at that moment, she notices a little smear of Dimitri's blood on my arm and shuts her mouth as quickly as she opened it. That’s right!! I. AM. WONDER. WOMAN.