When I moved to suburbia in the Bay Area, I joined the town’s Newcomer’s club and then joined the babysitting co-op within the club. We were all new mothers with one or two children, and the thirty of us traded babysitting with coupons while our little families grew bigger.
My two-year-old daughter bonded with another two-year-old girl named Lily. Lily’s mom, Jasmine, started having us over for playdates, and she enjoyed showing off her two-acre ranchette, her horse, and her house within the gates of Diablo Country Club, which bordered my town. We always had plenty to talk about, and our daughters were great buddies.
Jasmine and I discovered that we were pregnant at the same time with our second children, both due in August. I glossed over little things that bugged me about Jasmine. Like when she asked me to buy the outfit with matching shoes that didn’t fit her daughter.
“No thanks,” I said. “Just return it.”
“But why don’t you want it? It would be so cute on Nicole.”
“Summer is months away, and the shoes might not fit her by then,” I said.
“It would be darling for a garden party,” Jasmine said.
A garden party? Like I go to so many of those!
I said no again.
When my dog ate Lily’s socks when she came over for on a play date in our sandbox, I gave Jasmine a new pair.
“These aren’t as nice as the ones your dog ate,” she said.
“They were white socks,” I said, realizing I hadn’t examined the turd-shaped stockings I’d found in the yard.
“But they had ruffles on them, and they came from Nordstrom’s,” she said.
I didn’t say anything. I thought the new Target socks, like my daughter wore, were good enough.
The following summer, I was making our queen-sized water bed when the phone rang. I dived across it to answer, forgetting I was eight and a half months pregnant.
My son was born two weeks early.
A week after Jasmine’s daughter was born right on schedule in August, Jasmine called and invited us to come over to hang out.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “Ricky is only three weeks old.”
“It will be fun, and Lily is asking for Nicole,” Jasmine said.
“Okay,” I said.
“And could you bring your sewing machine?” she asked. “My nanny needs to do some mending.”
I was stunned. I already didn’t want to drag two kids out on a hot day, and now she expected me to lug my sewing machine as well?
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m not going to be able to do that.”
“Why not?” she pushed. “We really need to borrow it.”
“I have my hands full with the new baby,” I said.
She pushed again, and I stuck to my answer. No. I didn’t have a nanny and was still getting used to caring for two children. But I loaded them into their car seats, grabbed the diaper bag and drove over to Diablo.
When we got there, Jasmine ordered her nanny to bring her the baby so she could nurse her, to get her some iced tea, and to combine the congratulations bouquets, weeding out the dead flowers.
Jasmine did not tell her nanny to bring me an iced tea. It was a hot summer day, and I’d shown up on her doorstep per her request with an almost three year old and a three week old baby. I’d dragged everyone over to her place so her daughter could have a play date.
I realized that day that Jasmine was not a real friend. She didn’t care about me; she wanted my daughter and my sewing machine.
A few months later, it happened again, but to a mutual friend in the babysitting co-op named Sally. She worshipped Jasmine’s lifestyle, her horse, and her zip code. Sally came crying to me because she had been invited to Jasmine’s catered adult party with the country club set, and that Jasmine had told her to bring her special lemon bars.
“Well, at least you got invited,” I said. “I’m just a babysitting co-op friend.”
“I thought we were real friends,” Sally cried. “She is using me for my lemon bars. And they’re a lot of work!”
“Sorry,” I said.
I grew up in a blue-collar household in Iowa. Jasmine’s regard for me is the closest I’ve ever been to being treated like a second-class citizen. She made it clear that she was above me, and that I was there to serve her. It’s been almost thirty years, and I’ve never again had that experience.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If I would’ve dragged my sewing machine to Jasmine’s house, it would have been the beginning of a long period of servitude. I’m glad that her comment rubbed me the wrong way and that I said no. Maybe the iced tea thing was her passive aggressive way of letting me know that I’d let her down, or maybe she was just that clueless.