I was eleven. I was at a slumber party. Remember those? It was for my friend Amy’s birthday. She’d invited a bunch of girls over, and there were going to be games and punch and cookies and sleeping bags.
She lived in the biggest house of anyone I knew—with bricks on the front and fancy things like porcelain figurines and sculptures of horses inside. I thought her mom was fancy, too. She was very, very thin, with an air of sadness about her, and she always had her hair up, with a few wisps escaping. She had a long, elegant neck, and she wore slim, matching clothes. Amy’s dad had left her mom for one of his college students. I thought the student would be terrible—an empty-eyed girl with round breasts popping out of her pink lacey shirt. I imagined her as a sort of ill-intentioned Barbie. But once they dropped Amy off at my house together and she was confusingly earthy and friendly, wearing cargo pants and Birkenstocks, with a gap-toothed smile. And Amy’s dad was chubby and bashful. I thought he looked ashamed, standing in front of my parents with his girl, who was only nineteen.
I was already nervous in Amy’s house, because I had seen her dad with the girl. And because I felt sorry for her elegant mother, who I imagined was British, even though she didn’t have a British accent, just because I thought that British people were all elegant and liked sculptures of horses. I felt awkward, feeling sorry for someone’s mom. I knew it wasn’t my place.