Put Your Best Face Forward

Janelle Garcia



It’s time to pick up your three year-old from the preschool you enrolled her in after being wait-listed for over six months. Snuff out your cigarette and rinse with Listerine before you go. No self-respecting mother smokes anymore, at least not openly.


Arrive five minutes before pickup time and not a minute later. Only mothers who send their kids to school in stained Elmo t-shirts and dingy socks get there after school lets out.


Riley’s mother is waving. She’s going through a divorce and is notorious for unloading all of her baggage on anyone who’ll throw a ‘how are you’ her way—give her a nod and move on. Don’t feel bad you didn’t stop and listen to her sob about her husband’s affair with their nineteen year-old neighbor, that’s what therapists are for.


Smile at Francesca’s mom, but don’t look too eager; last time you got chatty, she looked bored and put-upon. All it takes is one wrong move for you to be written off by one of the few normal-looking moms in the entire city, so avoid acting like a weirdo for once in your life.


Don’t start feeling sorry for yourself. You’re not the awkward eleven year-old who couldn’t find favor in anyone’s eyes despite desperate, pathetic efforts, so give it a rest.


Madison is holding up today’s coloring page; forget for a second that she’s the only kid in class who can’t color inside the lines, and give her your most proud smile. Teach her how to color inside the lines tonight, because it’s embarrassing. You’re a stay-at-home mom, for Pete’s sake. Stop watching court T.V. and teach that girl something besides the Sesame Street theme song and Dora the Explorer’s broken Spanish. And while we’re on that topic, teach her a second language too. Start with something easy, like Spanish, then work your way up to French. That means you’ll have to use the computer for something other than playing solitaire, and order some language courses online.


Tell Madison, yet again, you’re not buying McDonald’s for lunch. Explain why it’s important to begin making healthy choices at an early age, and say it loud enough for the other moms to hear. Once you’re out of earshot from the other moms, tell her if she continues to ask about Happy Meals at school, you’ll have to stop taking her there.


Francesca’s mom turned you down for a play-date next week. Don’t let it ruin your day. Remember, you have enough to do with teaching Maddy how to color and roll her R’s.


Pretend to be engrossed by Madison’s rendition of the Good Morning song as you pass Riley’s mother and forgive yourself for avoiding her eager, entreating glances. Just thank your lucky stars the pathetic creature—who almost makes you cringe whenever she searches your face, looking wounded or smiling too wide—is nothing at all like you.


Janelle Garcia is pursuing an English M.A. degree at Florida Atlantic University. Her short fiction has appeared in online journals such as Antimuse, Espresso Fiction, and Verbsap. Several works are also upcoming in Lachryma: Modern Songs of Lament, Underground Voices, and The Binnacle. She writes from Palm Beach, Florida.


Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime.


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Fiction Copyright © 2007 Janelle Garcia. All rights reserved.