Diane Vadino Smart Girls Like Me

ISBN 13: 9780312385521

Smart Girls Like Me

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9780312385521: Smart Girls Like Me
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This is a story about what happens when you are twenty-four years old and it is 1999 and you are quite certain that everyone on the planet has been invited to super-fun New Year's Eve orgies, except you. There is sex, albeit awkward and tentative. There are drugs, however illegal. There is very little rock and roll, but there is, of course, a wedding, and possibly a heroine: Betsy Nilssen, who, daily, finds herself in the sort of Manhattan workplace frequently filled with fashion models. She has a best friend named Bridget, and all Betsy wants is to escape Y2K by fleeing with her to New Zealand, where they could kayak through fjords and make out with surfers.

But two things happen: Bridget deserts Betsy―if by that we mean that Bridget accepts her boyfriend's proposal of marriage―and Betsy meets the man of her quite literal dreams. This is a story about what happens when you love tremendously, and desperately, and occasionally unwisely. And it is a story of that one friend: your phone-a-friend with the definition of a tangelo at the ready, the one you call when the world is ending, the one you need, finally, more than any other person on the planet.

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About the Author:

Diane Vadino was the inaugural main staff person at McSweeney's; she has also worked as a waitress, Daily Show intern, and professional shampoo-ist. Her writing has appeared in magazines including Marie Claire, Spin, Good, and Allure, as well as in her fashion blog bunnyshop.org, named by Real Simple as one of the Web's best. She lives in Brooklyn.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1 The beautiful girl takes a step forward, a step back, rocks her hips left and right, acres of white silk billowing beneath her. She is performing an aerobics routine I remember from high school. She is missing the samba shake between the steps, and she is waiting for me to speak, which I do not want to do, because I do not want to make this moment any more real than it already is: It is real enough, Bridget getting married. My approval will just prod this moment along to its conclusion, and Bridget’s wedding will arrive even more quickly than it already promises to, and then I do not know who I will be anymore, except myself, without Bridget, which is to say, myself, only less so.
I lean back on my stool, which is so narrow it seems like it was designed punitively, for stepmothers and wicked children. The wall is farther behind me than I have judged, and I nearly tip over. “What?” I say, recovering. “Did you say something?” Soon enough this ruse will not work, and we will be forced to leave the relative comfort of this dressing room: We will open the curtains and invite the opinions of Bridget’s bridal party, waiting outside, and it is all I can do not to simply speak more slowly, in an effort to make these moments stretch on as long as possible.
Bridget tilts her head, licks her lips, tosses her hair back, like she is in a chewing gum commercial set in California. A corner of her mouth rises. She is seducing the mirror. “I don’t know what to say,” she says.
“Just practice saying your vows,” says Tracey, Bridget’s wedding stylist, whom I have, as a rule, ignored since she popped out of the BMW convertible she drove down the parkway from her Battery Park apartment to this bridal shop in Margate. “It’ll make the moment more real.”
“I take thee, Bridget Callahan, to be my ever-wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, forever and ever. Amen,” she says. “Like that?” She removes the tiara from her head and hands it to Tracey, who replaces it with another, a double row of golden flowers across the band.
“Is it weird that when you say your vows you use your name instead of your boyfriend’s?” I say.
They ignore me. We are settling into comfortable patterns, the three of us, and this is one of them. When Tracey looks at me, her gaze always manages to begin with my feet and work its way up to my ankles, where it stops. I think she interprets my flip-flops as a sign of my casual disregard for this wedding. If she swapped “casual” for “determined, hopeful,” she would be closer to the truth.
“That’s the Venezia collection,” Tracey says. “Baby gold roses with diamond dewdrops, handblown Murano glass beads, pearl sprigs. Thirty-seven hundred dollars, but I think it’s totally worth it.” Every purchase Bridget makes goes through Tracey and includes, I have learned, an 8.5 percent surcharge that’s paid directly to the wedding stylist. Tracey will make more money designing Bridget’s wedding than I will in six months. I hate Tracey.
“Glass beads can’t be blown,” I say. “They’re rolled.”
“Is that true?” Bridget asks, her eyes meeting mine in the mirror. “You’re making that up.”
“Maybe,” I say. “But thirty-seven hundred dollars is a lot of money.”
“I can’t believe I’m wearing anything that costs thirty-seven hundred dollars,” Bridget says. “You can buy a car for that much money.”
“A really good one,” I say. “Like a used Saab, I bet, or a—”
Tracey inserts herself into our conversation, something that is proving to be one of Tracey’s top skills. “It’s your special day,” she says. “It’s only once. It may seem like a lot of money now, but you’ll be thinking back on this day for the rest of your life, and I know you want it to be perfect in every way. And your father gave us carte blanche. What a wonderful father you have.”
I don’t think Bridget can hear the desperation in her voice, or the greed. And from where she is standing, looking at herself in the mirror, Bridget cannot see me roll my eyes so emphatically that my entire head bobs up and down. Tracey and this “special day” speech have already cost me and the four other bridesmaids $650 each, when she convinced Bridget that only the Vera Wang gowns would do for such a special day.
“Well?” Bridget says to me.
“I think what we need to ask ourselves is, what would Grace Kelly do?”
“That is a really good idea,” Bridget says, before she turns around, smirking. “I don’t think you meant that sincerely,” she says.
“Grace Kelly,” I say measuredly, eyes wide, “wouldn’t need handblown Murano beads for everyone to know she’s a princess.”
“Well, she did have the advantage of actually being one,” Bridget says. “I always wanted to be a princess.” She slips the more expensive tiara off her head and replaces it with the simpler one. “Now?”
“Now,” I say. This is true, and this is not what Tracey wants to hear, and I am not too concerned about which motivates me more to say it. I look over to see Tracey frowning, and I hope she is calculating the commission she just lost.
“Are you sure?”
“I am absolutely sure,” I say, and she settles, loosening her shoulders, relaxing her gaze. This is and always has been my currency with Bridget: She believes me, because I tell her the truth, and I believe her, because she does it for me.
“I always wanted to be a princess,” she says again.
“If you were an Indian princess, you could come in on an elephant,” I say. “And wear a veil made of diamonds.”
“I saw that on a TV show,” Bridget says, considering. “I would like to have an elephant.”
We say nothing. I am holding my breath. I can live in this moment. It is all the ones that will follow that terrify me.
Tracey misinterprets our silence and looks up from her clipboard. “Do you want me to see about an elephant?” Bridget is no longer the girl I grew up with, talking to her bridesmaids, pliant, cheerful, deferential, but neither am I the girl she knows: I am scowling Betsy, the unexpected competition for maid of honor, quiet and grudging. I wish I could pull off a mask—preferably made of human skin—and scare them into silence. They have something on me, and it is that they are all delighted (“Delighted!”) for Bridget, that she is joining them on their side of the marital divide: Three are married, and one, Georgina, is engaged. Bridget’s vows will only confirm their own, make their choice the popular one.
I am forced outside the dressing room by a fussing, bobby pin– wielding Tracey, looking like she is struggling to make a visual case for her hourly rate, and we wait for Bridget to make her final appearance. “You’re the one Bridget told me about,” says Georgina, wearing a miniskirt and a fur vest in the August heat. (“It’s a gilet,” I heard her correct a sullen-looking brunette named Tamara, who sucks on the ends of her hair when she thinks no one is looking.) “You’re the one obsessed with the millennium. With Y2K or whatever.”
“I don’t know if I’d call it an obsession,” I say. Fucking Bridget.
“Weren’t you talking about moving to Idaho or something?”
“New Zealand,” I say. “New Zealand. Bridget and I were going to go there and kayak and meet surfers.”
“It’s weird,” she says. “You two seem so different.”
“I’ve known her since she was six months old.” I shrug, and this shuts her up, partly because I have pulled rank, albeit crudely and simplistically, and partly because Tracey has drawn back the curtain and ushered Bridget into the room, resplendent, commanding.
“Beautiful,” Georgina says, and all the girls smile in beatific consent. Tracey piles the bridesmaids into her BMW, and they set off for New York, five manicured hands waving from four car windows as they pull out of the parking lot. “I really liked Georgina’s gilet,” I say. “She seems really interesting and worldly.”
“She’s fine,” Bridget says, still wearing the tiara as we cross the highway separating our cars from the Olive Garden. “They’re all fine. If you got to know them, you’d like them, but you’re too busy sulking in the corner with your Discman.”
“I doubt that,” I grumble, and neither of us says anything until we are sitting at the restaurant with menus in our hands, at a table immediately adjacent to the janitorial closet. “Enjoy, ladies,” the waitress had said. Bridget’s beauty is considerably more beneficial, financially and otherwise, when we are dealing with the male half of the service industry.
Bridget is not unaware of any of this, and she sits straight in her chair, back rigid. She knows when she is being insulted. She removes her tiara, the simpler of the two, and drops it on her lap. “That waitress did that to punish us,” Bridget says, and I allow her to include me, even though I had nothing to do with it. “I can’t believe she put us back here. Can’t we get breadsticks and water? They give you breadsticks and water in jail.”
“I don’t think it’s actually breadsticks, in jail,” I say. “And I think they come with the soup.”
“Biscuits, then.”
There is a silence. If Bridget recognizes it, she will fill it with seating plans a...

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