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When Wade Rouse—a rural, public school graduate who grew up more Hee Haw than Dynasty—was hired as the director of publicity at the prestigious Tate Academy, he quickly discovered his real job was to make a few of the very pretty, very rich, very mean mommies of the elite students happy.
Enter former Tate beauty queen and sports star Katherine Isabelle Ludington—Kitsy to her friends—who went to an Ivy, married an Ivy, and made a lot of money. Now, she is Wade’s VIP volunteer and a perfectly coiffed nightmare.
In between designing Louis Vuitton–inspired reunion invitations, dressing as Ronald Reagan for Halloween, and surviving surprise Botox parties, Wade tries to tame Kitsy and her pink Lilly Pulitzer–clad posse while reclaiming his self-esteem.
Following a year in the life of the super rich and super spoiled, Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler is hilarious, heartbreaking, and deliciously catty.
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WADE ROUSE is the author of the critically acclaimed America’s Boy: A Memoir and has worked in public relations for some of the nation’s most prestigious private schools, colleges, and universities. He lives in Michigan.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Everyone in the (Car) Pool!
Deep cleansing breath iiiiinnnn . . .
Exhaling all the toxins . . .
Deep cleansing breath iiiinnnn . . .
Exhaling all the toxins . . .
Deep cleansing breath iiiinnnn . . .
I am wearing a Kenneth Cole suit, standing in the middle of my old, wide-windowed office at work, chanting and performing yoga breathing exercises. I am trying desperately to hear my inner voice, to hear only birds chirping and the sounds of ocean waves, but I can hear only the ringing of my phone. Blaring for the fourth time in less than two minutes.
I separate my hands, which are locked in prayer, and peer through them at the caller ID on my phone. Her again?
My knees creak as I sprint out the door, in a semipanic.
I’m already running late for afternoon carpool, running late for my mommy.
It is the first day of school at Tate Academy, one of the nation’s most historic and revered private schools, where I serve as “the mommy handler,” and working the carpool lane is an essential, occasional, yet ongoing component of my job, kind of like working a streetcorner is to a hooker. In truth, there are real similarities: Each of us doggedly protects our assigned turf and, by end of the day, each of us knows we’re gonna end up screwed. In completely different ways, of course.
While my official and politically correct title at Tate Academy is Director of Public Relations, I was told that I was specifically hired to be “the mommy handler.” Those were the odd but “secret” words that were used in my original interview not so long ago by someone who, of course, has since left the school. I know they were used somewhat facetiously, but there is still a ring of truth. And it doesn’t take a linguist to dissect that phrase.
I . . .
handle . . .
In essence, I am the bug guard on the institutional vehicle; I get whacked and splattered, take the hits, so everyone else riding in the car—the administration, the faculty, the staff, the students—stays clean and unharmed from annoying, stinging insects.
Working at a prep school, you see, is akin to being a beekeeper. You get stung enough times—like I have, like all faculty and staff do—and you always make sure to keep your protective gear on and zipped up tight. Frankly, you get a little paranoid. Because just when you are lulled by the sleepy hum of the buzzing or the richness of the honey— BAM!—the bees attack. It’s just the natural order of things here, the way of the colony: I am half worker bee, half eunuch-drone.
Today, this first day of school, I am on my way to get stung by the Queen Bee herself: Katherine Isabelle Ludington.
Mrs. Ludington is my new liaison to the parent group and alumni group, the two groups whose work I help oversee. She summoned me to meet with her for the first time just a few minutes earlier. The sound of her clipped, every-syllable-is-overenunciated voice this morning set off my yoga-induced chanting, my last-ditch effort to center my mind and body. It didn’t work, and I’m less than a day into the new school year.
I quickly snake my way along the worn brick path that runs alongside our cobblestone carpool lanes, sweating in the heat. It is 110 degrees in the shade. In the summer, the humidity of our city hangs in the air like fog—the result of being so close to a big body of water—and its heavy, hot wetness wilts you on first contact, making it difficult even to catch your breath in this American rain forest.
The reflection off the never-ending line of SUVs in carpool is blinding, and I did not bring my sunglasses—make that, would not bring my sunglasses—with me. Working at Tate Academy, I really need stylish new shades, hip shades, ones that make me look like I should be photographed on the town with my best pals Carson Daly and Christina Aguilera. The ones I own right now are from Target’s children’s section since my head is so small; they are the only ones I can find that fit. My sunglasses say “Sassy Girl” on the side. This just doesn’t cut it style- or genderwise at Tate, but it sums up the odd dichotomy that is my life here. In this river of money, I am the gay salmon swimming against the current. Except, I try every day not to make a splash, to fit in with the other, prettier fish—the ones going the right way in the current—even though instinct tells me to swim like hell in the other direction.
I approach the carpool lane and squint into the sunny, shimmery sea of idling, just-washed black Land Rovers, Escalades, Excursions and Navigators, searching for Mrs. Ludington. Tate’s carpool lane looks exactly like a new SUV lot, except for the fact that right here, right now every tinted window is cracked just enough to reveal a pink- clad Stepford army of tiny, tan blondes all riding high and gesturing wildly into Laffy Taffy–colored cell phones. Though this may sound like an overexaggeration, there is an eery sameness to this scene. And yet I can still easily pick out my speed-dialing mommy.
Mrs. Ludington has the dog who is dressed just like her.
I have seen the duo pictured together numerous times in the society pages of the newspaper at Humane Society fund-raisers and Animal Protection benefits. They come as a set—this blond heiress and her snow white sidekick.
The famed LulaBelle, Mrs. Ludington’s “showdog,” is a fluffy, white cock-a-poo-something-or-other for which I heard she paid ten thousand dollars. LulaBelle, who actually looks like a frayed athletic sock, is riding shotgun and yapping at anything that happens to move. Which is everything in carpool. LulaBelle is wearing pink doggles and a pink gingham bow on her collar, and a little pink tank top that says “My Dogs Are Barkin’.” Even her little nails are painted pink. If she had opposable thumbs, I am quite confident LulaBelle would be on a cell phone barking orders to her maid and sipping a no-fat Starbucks iced latte just like many of these mothers.
Pink is a primary color for many Tate Academy mothers and pets. Lilly Pulitzer pink, to be exact. Pink is not an accent color here. It is not simply a pop of pink, like a begonia in a window box. It is the color. Tate’s M2s (my secret acronym for the select few Mean Mommies with whom I am occasionally forced to work) will mix in a bright green with the pink—anything that looks like it might belong in a spring bouquet—but that is the extent of the fashion color wheel for the Mean Mommies here.
Oh, lipstick is pink, too. Specifically, bubblegum pink. The M2s still try to look exactly like they did in their high school senior class photos, the ones I make into blowups for their reunion parties. I am knee-deep in these blowups right now. Tate masochistically schedules its Reunion Week just after the start of school, just after the end of a peaceful summer. For me, the start of school every year is like luging without a moment of training.
Mrs. Ludington has summoned me from my office to discuss “a matter of vital importance.” That’s all she said before hanging up on me the first time she called. The second and third times she called, she asked, “You’re still not on your way? This is vital!” I turned to yoga and ignored her fourth call.
I will soon learn a lot of things from Mrs. Ludington, first and foremost being that every matter is of “vital importance” to her: the temperature of her water (room temperature, so her body can absorb it more quickly), the texture of the paper on which our alumni magazine is printed (not “buttery” feeling enough), the lack of chickpeas on Tate’s salad bar (“Wade, I mean, please, how could you overlook something like that? It’s a perfect food, like the blueberry!”).
As I approach her Land Rover, I can see her daughter being escorted to the mammoth SUV by an assistant teacher who looks like a Price Is Right girl. Many of our teaching assistants at Tate—the teacher’s helpers—look like Uma Thurman. Being able to look hot in trendy outfits and shoes while finger painting and wiping up puke is as important, it seems to me, as a teaching degree from a private university.
The little girl disappears into the back, in the third-row seating, behind the tinted windows.
I walk cheerfully up to the Land Rover, waving like a hitchhiking Moonie, and peek in the tiny opening of the passenger window. The little girl smiles at me from the back. LulaBelle tries to remove my nose through the crack in the passenger side window. By quickly comparing resemblances, I think Mrs. Ludington actually gave birth to LulaBelle and adopted the little girl.
“You’re tardy,” is how she greets me, like I’m a third-grader who forgot to get a bathroom pass. Still, I smile at this friendly welcome, like Dolly Parton has just welcomed me to her mansion with a big ol’ hug and a cup of moonshine.
Though I have seen Mrs. Ludington numerous times—in meetings, on campus, in the newspaper, on TV—this is the first time I have actually looked this closely at her.
She is pretty-ugly. Not pretty ugly, in the adverb-adjective sort of a way, but a combination of the two opposing looks. Her face is delicate, her features attractive, but her proportions are not perfect, some elements a bit harsh. From a distance, she looks great. Up close, she looks like a Cubist painting, where everything’s just a bit off.
Her eyes, however, are unforgettable; they are the color of a Blue Raspberry Mr. Misty from Dairy Queen. Her eyes have the ability to freeze you, instantaneously, coldly, like you licked an ice cream cone too quickly.
Mrs. Ludington is ensconced in a shrunke...
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Book Description Crown, 2007. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0307382702
Book Description Crown, 2007. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0307382702
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