Odd Mom Out

Odd Mom Out

4.2 34
by Jane Porter
     
 

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Advertising executive Marta Zinsser is no poster child for her wealthy Seattle suburb-and nothing could please her more. This former New Yorker wears combat boots, not Manolos, and drives a righteous Harley hog instead of a Mercedes SUV. Now she's launching her own agency in this land of the Microsoft elite, even though her ten-year-old daughter wishes she'd put on a…  See more details below

Overview

Advertising executive Marta Zinsser is no poster child for her wealthy Seattle suburb-and nothing could please her more. This former New Yorker wears combat boots, not Manolos, and drives a righteous Harley hog instead of a Mercedes SUV. Now she's launching her own agency in this land of the Microsoft elite, even though her ten-year-old daughter wishes she'd put on a sweater set and just be normal.


Can this ex-urbanite remain uniquely herself without alienating the inner circle of smug, cookie-cutter executive wives? And when push comes to shove, can she stop being the proud odd mom out and take a chance at something frighteningly-and tantalizingly-new?

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Single-by-choice mother Marta Zinsser prides herself on following her bliss; she doesn't worry what others think. But her daughter Eva wants nothing more than to be one of the cool girls. And so Marta makes an effort to conform for Eva's sake. But after tangling with the local alpha mom, helping care for her Alzheimer's-suffering mother, trying to land the client of a lifetime, and dating again after a ten-year dry spell, Marta wonders if it's time to give up and give in. Porter's (Flirting with Forty) new novel is a return to the Pacific Northwest and another mom who's just trying to do her best by her self and her kids on her own terms. Vivid characters and quick dialog support a strong plot, although some elements of the subplot get too light a touch. Marta is smart and funny, but her narrative can get a bit talky (covering consumer culture's enablement of women's insecurity and the price working mothers pay compared to working fathers). Overall, however, the novel's got strong appeal for fans of women's fiction and mom lit. For all public libraries.
—Amy Brozio-Andrews

Kirkus Reviews
Headstrong advertising executive tries to meet the demands of single motherhood. Marta Zinsser has always insisted on taking the road less traveled and thumbing her nose at authority. From her combat boots and muscle bike to launching her own advertising agency, Marta is happiest when shattering stereotypes and going it alone. While this independent streak lands her some great advertising clients, it also lands her in hot water with her impressionable ten-year-old daughter, Eva. Eva feels abandoned as Marta pushes herself to make a financial success of her business. All the other moms volunteer at school, dress in appropriately feminine clothes and have busy social lives. Like all tweens, Eva wants to fit in and be popular. This sensitive soul also senses her mom's loneliness and thinks if Marta softens her look and gets involved in Seattle's social scene, happiness will blossom. Marta cringes at the thought of fitting in with the mommy "A Team," but in an effort to appease her daughter, she starts to become more involved. Upon ending her self-imposed exile, Marta manages to capture the attention of a handsome bachelor and starts dating. But she quickly overextends herself and jeopardizes her firm. This provocative novel argues that it is impossible to have it all. Porter (Flirting with Forty, 2006, etc.) makes plain that something has to give when one is trying to juggle family, love and work. The draining pace of Marta's life comes across convincingly, and Porter's got a knack for getting into the heads of the preteen set; Eva's worries are right on the mark. A poignant critique of mommy cliques and the plight of single parents. Agent: Karen Solem/Spencerhill Associates

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780446402910
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
09/27/2007
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
219,601
File size:
598 KB

Read an Excerpt

Odd Mom Out

A Novel
By Jane Porter

5 SPOT

Copyright © 2007 Jane Porter
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-69923-5


Chapter One

"Mom, can you still wear white if you're not a virgin?"

My nine-year-old daughter, Eva, knows the perfect way to get my full attention.

I push up my sunglasses and look at her hard. This is supposed to be a special mother-daughter day. I took off work to bring her to the country club pool, but lately, being Eva's mother is anything but relaxing. "Do you know what a virgin is?"

"Yes." She sounds so matter-of-fact.

"How?" I demand, because I sure as hell didn't tell her. My most gruesome memory is my mother sitting me down on my bed and explaining in horrendous detail "the story of the sperm and the ovum." I've vowed to find a better way to introduce Eva to the story but haven't found it yet.

"You've had sex ed already at school?"

Eva sighs heavily. "No, Mom, that's in fifth grade. I've still got a year. But I read a lot. Between Judy Blume and Paul Zindel, I know everything."

That's as scary a statement as I've ever heard. "So you know about sex?"

"Yes." Her lips compress primly beneath the brim of her straw hat. It's actually my hat, but she claimed it once we sat down.

I push my sunglasses even higher so they rest on top of my head. "You know about getting your period?"

"Yes."

"You know how babies are made?"

"Doesn't that fall under the sex question?"

Wow. She does seem to know quite a bit, and I watch her as she returns to the magazine she's reading.

"This is so ick," she says in disgust, turning a page in the bridal magazine on her lap. She brought three bridal magazines to the pool today and has been riveted for the last few hours by the oversize glossy publications. "There's nothing nice in here at all."

"Which magazine is that?"

"Seattle Bride." She tosses aside the slender magazine with a contemptuous snort and reaches for another. "They don't know how to do weddings in Seattle. The styles are so ugly. The best weddings are always in the South."

I can't stop staring at her. So hard to believe this little girl came from me.

"So, Mom, back to my question," she says, flipping through the next magazine, Southern Bride. "Can nonvirgins wear white?"

"Yes," I answer reluctantly, thinking this is a discussion I'd very much like to avoid. "It's done all the time."

"So you don't have to wear ivory or pink?"

"That's an old rule. No one follows that anymore." Or there'd be no white weddings, either.

Eva pauses briefly to study a beaded gown with an equally ornate veil. "Obviously, virgins can't have babies.

Well, except for the Virgin Mary, but that was an exception to the rule, so if you've had a baby ..." Her voice trails off as she looks up at me. "Probably not a virgin."

"Probably not," I agree.

"So you're definitely not a virgin."

"Eva."

"I'm just asking."

"It's none of your business, but no, I'm not a virgin. Not that I had sex to make you."

"Gross. Don't talk about making me."

"You're the one talking about virgins!"

"That's different."

"How?"

"It just is. Ew." She shudders and slams Southern Bride closed before turning on the lounge chair to face me, her long dark hair falling over her thin shoulders. She's so skinny that her hipbones jut out and her long legs look vaguely storklike. "Too bad you can't wear white at your wedding, though, because ivory dresses are u-g-l-y. Ugly."

I don't know who this child is or where she came from. I know she's biologically mine-she looks just like me at nine-but what about the rest of her DNA? Whose sperm did I buy, anyway?

"I could wear white, Eva, but I don't have, nor do I want, a boyfriend. And the last thing I'm interested in is ever getting married."

She sighs wearily. "But if you don't even give marriage a try, how can you say you don't like it?"

Advil, Advil, Advil. Need Advil badly. "Marriage isn't like broccoli. You don't nibble on a stem to see if you like it."

"You're comparing men to vegetables?"

I almost liked it better when Eva thought I was a lesbian.

Two of the kids in Eva's New York preschool class were raised in lesbian households, and the kids were fantastic, funny, bright, well adjusted. At three, Eva was crushed when I told her that there would never be two mommies in our family. We were a one-mommy household.

"Just one mommy?" she'd cried. "But what about the Ark? All the animals came in twos."

It seemed like a good teaching opportunity, so I explained that Noah's pairs weren't female and female, but male and female, and I hastened to add that the decision wasn't so the world could live in harmony, but for reproductive reasons. The animals on Noah's Ark had a serious job. They had to repopulate the world that had just been drowned in the forty days of rain.

The drowning part of course caught her attention.

As did other Old Testament favorites like Cain killing Abel, Sodom being set on fire, Lot's wife turning to salt, and Abraham laying Isaac on an altar as a sacrifice. The dramatic illustration in her children's Bible of Abraham holding a knife over his son particularly fascinated her. Gave her some nightmares, too. But she never forgot the story.

She never forgets anything. She has the memory of an elephant.

"I thought we were here so you could swim," I say, trying to change the subject, wanting her to go play, be a normal little girl, although that's probably pushing it. "The pool closes next week once school starts, and it'll be nine months before it opens again."

Eva glances past me to look at the crowded deep end. The pool is packed today, as it's in the mid-nineties and nearing the end of summer.

"I am hot," she admits, fanning herself.

"So go swim."

But she doesn't move. She lies there on her side, studying the girls playing in the deep end. She's scared. Scared of being rejected again.

With me, she's brave and funny. Articulate and confident. But around the little girls here, her confidence vanishes. She just doesn't fit in, and I don't know why. She had no problem making friends in New York City. She was reasonably popular at her school in Manhattan. Why doesn't she have friends here?

"Should I go off the diving board or go down to the shallow end?" Eva asks, leaning against her arm, her dark green eyes tracking every move the girls make.

"Do what you want to do."

She hesitates and then slips off the lounge chair and drops her towel. "Okay. I'll swim in the deep end."

I shouldn't be, but I'm nervous as I sit in my lounge chair at the edge of the Points Country Club pool, watching Eva paddle around the deep end trying to get the other girls to notice her.

Just as she's done all summer. Just as she did last summer after we'd moved here.

I try not to stare at the group of girls playing just out of Eva's reach. Why don't they like her? Why won't they include her?

Eva's staring at them, too. She's clinging to the tiled wall and watching with wistful eyes as they splash and laugh.

Despite my studied nonchalance, I worry. I hate that wishful expression on Eva's face. It's so not who she is, so not who she should be.

Eva's brilliant. In kindergarten, she read at a sixth-grade reading level. This summer, she's managed many of the classics quite nicely. Her favorite cities are Tokyo and London.

So why doesn't Eva fit in?

Eva's decided she wants to be popular, and not just popular, she wants in with the most popular girls, the exclusive clique of the very rich, very pretty girls who aren't at all interested in being friends with her. And instead of accepting their lack of interest, she's determined to change them. Or her. Neither being a winning proposition.

Earlier in the year, I tried to explain to Eva that wanting to be liked, and wanting to be popular, is the kiss of death. I told her that she was just giving away her power, giving it to girls who don't deserve it, but Eva shook her head and answered with that martyred saint expression of hers, "Some people like to be liked."

She's right. I never needed people the way she does. I never cared what people thought. I still don't. My parents say I marched to a different drum from the time I could walk, and I've made my living being different. Apart. Unique. First as a graphic designer, now as the head of my own advertising company. My vision creates my art, and my art isn't just what I do, it's who I am.

I knew the move from New York to the Pacific Northwest would be difficult for me. I never expected it to be so hard on Eva. I grew up here, in Seattle, and left as soon as I turned eighteen. I never planned on returning-this was where my parents lived, not me-but then eighteen months ago, a work opportunity arose and I took it.

Despite my misgivings.

I watch Eva, my stomach in knots. We should have stayed in New York.

"Eva!" I lean forward and call to her. She turns to look at me, her long dark hair streaming water. "Want to go?"

She scrubs a hand across her wet cheeks, her gypsy eyes too wise for her years, eyelashes long, dense, and black. In the last year, I've begun to see the hint of the cheekbones that will one day come. She has my face. I wasn't pretty as a child, either; my looks came much later, when I was older, sometime late during college.

"Not yet, Mom." Her attention's caught by the cluster of little girls climbing from the pool and race-walking to the diving board.

The little girls are pretty in that golden shimmer of late summer-tan, long limbed, sun-streaked hair. They have cute little noses that turn up, wide wet-lashed eyes, and gaptoothed smiles where baby teeth come and go. Children of privilege. Children who grow up belonging to country clubs and private tennis clubs and, if you're very lucky and live on the water, one of the exclusive yacht clubs, too.

Hugging the pool wall tighter, Eva watches the giggling girls take turns jumping and diving off the board, trying to outdo one another with big splashes and new cool maneuvers.

And behind the diving board are the little girls' nannies and moms. You can tell which girl belongs to which mom. Children and parents come in matching sets here, neat, tidy, incredibly groomed. Most of the moms wouldn't dream of actually getting in the pool with their children, despite being in outstanding shape (thanks to private fitness trainers and visits to a local, exceptional plastic surgeon who never names names).

I'm not pointing fingers, though. I wouldn't get in the pool here, either (although I have, when Eva's been especially lonely and desperate for companionship), not when every woman on the side will stare, sizing you up and down as you peel off your clothes, drop your towel, and climb in the pool.

They'll give you the same once-over as you climb out, too.

Each time. Every time.

And I guarantee nearly every woman is silently measuring. Comparing. Do I look that fat? Is her figure better than mine? Does she have flab? Dimples? Do my thighs jiggle like that, too?

These thoughts remind me of why I loved New York. New York was cool and sharp, beautiful in a hard, glistening way Bellevue isn't.

Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle, is soft, squishy, with exceptional public schools, big shingle houses fronted by emerald green lawns, sprawling upscale malls, and a Starbucks on every other corner. In this place of affluence and comfort, I feel alien.

Like Eva. But not. Because I don't want to fit in. I don't want to be like these women who have too much time on their diamond-ringed hands and who drive immaculate Lexus and Mercedes SUVs.

The girls swim close to Eva, and suddenly Eva is pushing off the wall and swimming toward them. I'm torn between exasperation and admiration. She tries every day. She doesn't give up. How can I not respect her tenacity? I never liked no for an answer. I should be glad she doesn't, either.

"I can dive," Eva says to them, smiling too big, trying too hard, setting my teeth on edge. "Want to see?"

One of the girls, I think it's Jemma Young, makes a face. "No."

But Eva, now that she's finally made the first move, persists. "I'm hoping we're going to be in the same class again this year."

Jemma rolls her eyes at the other girls. "Yippee. That'd be fun."

I press my nails harder into my palms at Jemma's smart answer. Why didn't Jemma's mom teach her any manners?

"So fun," another little girl chimes in sarcastically, playing Jemma's game.

The little girls are all giggling and looking back and forth from Jemma to Eva.

I feel wild on the inside, like a mama bear needing to protect her cub. But I don't get up. I don't do anything. This is Eva's battle. She must learn to fend for herself. Even when it breaks my heart.

Jemma and girls flick their wet hair and swim toward the side of the pool. As Jemma hauls herself out of the pool using the ladder, she glances at the others, lined up little duck style right behind her.

"Let's go get ice cream," she announces imperiously.

The little duck friends follow.

Eva tries to follow.

She starts to climb the ladder, and she's smiling, keeping that too wide, too hopeful smile fixed on her face just in case Jemma turns around and asks her to join them. But of course they don't ask her. They walk away, heading toward the snack bar.

And Eva's smile starts to fall. Her face is so open, so revealing. The anger in me rises again. I want to take Eva by the shoulders. Shake her. They're not going to ask you to play. They're not going to include you. Stop hoping. Stop making them so powerful. Stop allowing them to hurt you.

Eva doesn't know yet what I know about the world and being female. She doesn't understand that you have to establish yourself, establish your identity and boundaries, young. Girls can be vicious, far more cruel than boys, because their world is made up of language, stories, and secrets. Too often, little girls and women start a conversation with, "Don't tell anyone ..." Three words I've learned that too often lead to pain.

In the boy world, any boy can join in provided he can spit farther, ran faster, hit harder. The boy world isn't an inner circle, but a totem pole hierarchy based on strength, guts, courage. Bravado.

It's the world I'd give Eva if I could. Instead, Eva's world makes me sweat. Bleed.

Goddamn town. Goddamn country club. Goddamn girls who won't let Eva in.

I gather Eva's magazines, placing the copy of Elegant Bride and Modern Bride in my tote bag before rising from my chair and holding up her striped towel. "Eva," I call to her, "want to go to Cold Stone?"

She's still watching the girls drip their way around the pool, past the mothers clustered at tables and lounge chairs, toward the snack bar nestled against the country club's shingled wall.

"I could just get a Popsicle here," she says, her wistful gaze never leaving Jemma and gang.

I spot Jemma's mom, Taylor Young, across the pool. Taylor blows Jemma a kiss as her daughter passes. Taylor Young, the original Bellevue Babe in her fitted light blue Polo shirt and short white tennis skirt.

Taylor, Taylor, Taylor. Wife of VP of Business Development Nathan Young, room mom, school auction chair, president of the PTA. Why? Because nobody must do it better.

Blech. I'd rather shoot myself between the eyes than spend every afternoon at Points Elementary.

But that's not nice of me. Taylor can't possibly spend every afternoon at school. She obviously does other things. Like highlight her hair. Visit Mystic Tan. Botox her brow.

Am I bitter? Hell, no. I'd hate Taylor's life. I love working, love my career and my colleagues, the intensity and challenge of it all. My life is one of taking risks. That's what brought me back to the Pacific Northwest, after all.

"Can I ask Jemma for a sleepover?" Eva asks timidly.

I'm jolted by Eva's question. Jemma Young for a sleepover? Oh, Eva. Jemma Young doesn't even treat you nicely. Why do you want her as your friend?

But I don't say it. I hold my breath instead, count to three, and then exhale. As I exhale, I draw Eva toward me, wrap her towel around her shoulders. "She might already have other plans."

Eva shrugs. "She might not." Her shoulders are so thin. She's tall, bony, delicate.

"That's true."

"And I haven't had a sleepover all summer."

When I was growing up, playdates and sleepovers weren't the thing they are now. Maybe now and then you had a friend over, but it wasn't this almost daily round robin of going to friends' houses that dominates the Points Elementary School scene. "That's true, too."

Eva smiles at me. "So it's okay?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Odd Mom Out by Jane Porter Copyright © 2007 by Jane Porter. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Jane Porter lives in Seattle, Washington, with her two children. You can find out more about her at www.janeporter.com.

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