Previously on “The Klone and I”: Our trusty (aka shallow, superficial) narrator is in Paris and has met a nice, handsome man named Peter. And she surmises he is “obviously a sicko”. Oh, and we’re 47 pages in without any sex or romance. In a romance novel…
Her ex husband drops off her kids. The kids are talking about the time with their father. Sam, here 8 year old, calls their father weird. Her 13 year old daughter corrects him saying instead that “he’s an asshole”. Which, to my mind, is wholly inappropriate for a 13 year old. 16, maybe. But definitely not 13, especially when speaking to her mother. How does our heroine respond? “‘You shouldn’t say things like that about your father.’ I tried to look disapproving, but it’s hard to fool her.” Really? You should be incredibly disapproving of her talking like that at all, let alone in front of her 8 year old brother. Isn’t it Divorce 101 that you don’t talk badly about your ex in front of your kids and you don’t let them speak poorly of their parents/stepparents?
Moving on, our narrator starts thinking about all the dates she’s had in the past two years. “The charm of being driven home by drunks from dinners I hadn’t enjoyed, and then pawed by incoherent near-strangers, some of them married, had worn thin months before.” Um, excuse me? You’re making light of drunk driving and sexual assault? She goes on to say she’s waiting “for the kids to grow up, so I could enter a religious order. But then what would I do with my nightgowns?” First of all, she’s shown no religious predilections thus far, so joining a religious order doesn’t really seem like an option. And secondly, the reason she’s decided against it is that she wouldn’t know what to do with her fucking nightgowns (reference #20 for those keeping score at home)? I don’t even know how to comment on this. This book has fried my synapses.
Next up on Poor Parenting 101: Her kids are bickering about something. And Charlotte says something mean to Sam “immediately after which he punched her, but not too hard”. And what does the mother do about it? Abso-fucking-lutely nothing. I’m sorry, I don’t care how hard it was, physical retaliation should not be permitted. This is completely unacceptable.
Anyway, they leave Paris and head to the Hamptons for their month at the beach house. Apparently the neighbor dog comes over a lot and apparently the dog poops every hour and it gets tracked through the house. The narrator (and author) don’t seem to know much about either dogs or doormats. I’ve never met a dog that needed to defecate on an hourly basis. And even if it did, couldn’t you put down a doormat and take your shoes off before you came in? But I digress.
So, the next plot device is a broken refrigerator. It breaks on Friday afternoon and on Saturday morning the repair man is supposed to be coming. She tells us that in the approximately 12 hours the refrigerator has been malfunctioning “we’d lost all our frozen pizza by then, the hot dogs had gone bad, and the ice cream had sat melting in the sink”. She tells the person on the phone (who she thinks is the repairman but is actually mystery man from Paris Peter. It’s stupid and I won’t go into more details because it’s stupid) that “we lost three hundred dollars worth of food last night”. Now, I’m no expert on these things, but I’m pretty sure if you don’t open the refrigerator/freezer things will stay frozen/cold for quite a while (especially at night when it’s cooler outside). Secondly, as hot dogs are pre-cooked, I don’t think they can go bad in that amount of time. Thirdly, the reason you didn’t eat some of this food instead of letting it go to waste was…? Lastly, I don’t know what kind of hot dogs and frozen pizza these people are eating, but you would have to have a hell of a lot of it to be three hundred dollars worth. I can’t even imagine three hundred dollars worth of food fitting in a refrigerator. And isn’t this woman rich? After the thousand of dollars she dropped on a whim to go to Paris and buy sexy underwears, isn’t $300 worth of food just a drop in the bucket? Or are we still supposed to go along with the idea that Umpa’s trust fund is getting empty (a myth I hope I have successfully debunked using the narrator’s own actions)?
So, she’s finally realized she’s talking to Peter and he’s asked her if she and the kids want to go out to dinner with him. Her thoughts? “With my kids? It was a nice thought, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to share him with Sam and Charlotte. In fact, I was sure I didn’t.” Now, I’m interrupting her thought process momentarily. When I read this I was about ready to applaud. She shouldn’t be ready to introduce her kids to the man she’s been on one date with. That’s insane. I was proud of her for making a responsible parenting decision. Then I kept reading. “After a week of talking only to them, cleaning up after the Great Dane, who did the same thing in our house he did on the lawn, I was sure I was ready for an evening of strictly adult conversation. I was more than willing to drop them at the nearest orphanage, forget the fridge, or at the very least call a sitter.” Okay, so let me start out by emphasizing that they do not own this Great Dane who apparently has rampant incontinence and has never been house trained. They can kick him out or tell his owners to keep him off their property. Now that’s off my chest, let’s talk about her seeming disregard for her children. I’ll say that I am not a parent, single or otherwise, and I understand that there are indeed times when parents need to get away from their kids and spend some time with other adults. That’s not my problem with this (though suggesting she would drop them off at an orphanage is a bit extreme, no?). My problem is that her first, instinctive reaction to having a man she barely knows ask to meet her children is not that it’s inappropriate but that she wants time away from them. Let me reiterate that she barely knows this man. She has met none of his friends or has met anyone else who knows him and can vouch for what he’s told her about himself. All she has is what he told her while in a foreign country. Now, he may be a perfectly safe, responsible, trustworthy man who will be respectful of her and her children. Or he could be a child molester. Or physically abusive. He could be a pathological liar. In fact, she had many of these same thoughts before she even met him properly. But the protection of her children is secondary to her own wants, obviously.
So, she sets up the date with just herself and Peter and calls a sitter for her kids (which I will get into later). When she tells her kids they’re going to a movie with the sitter tonight, they ask who she’s going out with. “’A friend,’ I said vaguely, popping the top on a diet 7-Up and covering my mouth with it, so they couldn’t hear the rest of what I wasn’t saying. But children have extraordinarily sensitive hearing. Mine at least. She heard exactly what I said, although I had swallowed most of it along with the soda.” Is this woman 7 years old? She’s certainly acting like it. Take charge of your children. Tell them “I’m meeting a friend for dinner. End of discussion”. This is not a difficult concept. And yet consistently she acts more like a teenager than a 40 year old mother of two. It makes me so incredibly mad and feel sorry for these kids who appear to have no discipline or structure in their lives.
Peter picks her up for dinner. There’s another reference to nightgowns (#21). He says something that I find strange about having “always loved turquoise, particularly on a woman with a suntan”. Seems oddly specific to me, but whatever. Peter “ordered a martini at the restaurant, and I waited for him to get drunk, and he didn’t. I guess he forgot to.” He’s had “A martini” and you expect him to get drunk? That seems unrealistic at best. But even if you’d watched him drink several, I don’t think it’s physically possible to “forget” to get drunk. I’m guessing this was supposed to be funny. It wasn’t.
They finish dinner, talk about a bunch of boring and unimportant-to-the-plot things. Around midnight, they arrive back at the house where the kids are sitting in front of the TV unsupervised. The narrator (who finally learned is named Stephanie, only took 53 pages) unwisely introduces her children to her boyfriend, Peter. Peter decides it’s time for him to go. Stephanie goes “to wake the sitter and pay her”. First of all, Charlotte is 13 years old. I think she’s more than capable of watching her 8 year old brother for a few hours. I was babysitting by then for people who I was not directly related to. I think she could handle it. Second, if you’re going to hire a sitter, perhaps you should find one who won’t go to bed and leave the kids unsupervised in the living room. I understand it’s late, but this girl is a teenager. I think she can manage to stay awake until midnight, especially when she’s getting paid to do just that. I had a number of teenager babysitters when I was young (my dad was a high school teacher so he had a large variety of choices for sitters). I don’t think any of them ever went to sleep before I did. My parents would have been furious. But Stephanie doesn’t seem to mind, which shows another layer of disregard for the safety and wellbeing of her children.
(This chapter is long and I still have a TON of notes… so I’m going to say adieu for today and pick up Chapter 3 on Wednesday!)