|Even the most bad-ass dinosaurs have a dapper side.|
She called me in tears the other night. She’d taken three hundred kids on a field trip to the Natural History Museum. She didn’t have as many chaperones as the museum’s guidelines stipulated, but the administration at her school assured her they never check those things. And her kids were well-behaved, mostly eighteen, and really wanted to see a T-rex or two.
Nothing went wrong in any serious way, but some kids wandered too far off grounds for lunch, and others laughed at an elementary school kid who dropped his lunch box, and a girl with mental health issues strayed from the group. Next thing you know the cops have an APB out for the girl, and Rhonda’s school is getting kicked out of the museum.
“I try to follow the rules,” she said, “and when I don’t this one time, look what happens.”
“I used to be a big fan of the rules,” I said, “but the rules fail you. If you’d stuck with the museum’s rules, you would have been breaking the rules your administration laid out for you, and a bunch of kids would have missed out on a fun day. Maybe it’s just the new cynical me talking, but you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
I’ve been seeing this amazing woman named Margot through my church’s lay counseling program. She once had a (benign…but lemon-sized) brain tumor, and she talks about how we’re all given ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows. She likes to name her different personalities—in a creative way, not a brain tumor way—and she encouraged me to do the same. This week, we talked about my inner naughty girl. What does she look like? What does she do?
I told her I would think about it…or not, if I decided to be naughty and blow off the assignment. But I wasn’t and didn’t, of course. Instead I wrote this poem.
Former Good Girl Blues
I’m so bad even my cells
don’t follow the rules.
Good cells color inside the lines
but mine mutate, replicate
overachieve like an addict
who finds a vein when everyone else
just smokes the stuff.
I’m so bad I sing the blues
despite my white skin
and good health insurance.
I got an agent this year
but I got the babies done died,
girl left me, hair fell out, girl parts
dried up blues.
I’m so bad my run faded
to a walk after three blocks.
I fed my tumor Oreos by the box
like I was eating for two. I binge
on TV and schadenfreude
whiskey and Klonopin and Star Magazine
but all in moderation, because good girls die hard.
I’m so bad I put the good girl in cage.
I keep her alive with Facebook posts
from other good girls:
My toddler sings AC/DC.
Our CSA box arrived today.
Cheers for first steps, books published
root vegetables I would never cook.
I’m so bad I’m blowing off Easter
with my family for brunch with a Jew
who once thought she had Lou Gherig’s Disease.
First your feet tingle, eventually you can’t talk.
Her friend ran marathons before she was diagnosed.
Then she married her internet boyfriend
and had a baby within the year.
I’m so bad I admire that: a good girl
with a master’s degree and a failing body
who used all her training for a final flailing sprint.
Good girls are there for their daughters’ weddings
don’t get bossy about cakes and dresses.
Bad girls up and die, but they run hard
love hard, don’t save their breath.