“I tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm totally not going to write some ridiculous paper on the patriarchal establishment. Its like that’s what Mr. Rawlings wants, you know? Of course it’s what he wants…he’s such a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant male. I'm not falling in his trap.”
“Actually, I think his mother was Jewish, or at least his maternal grandparents were. I remember him saying something once in class.”
“You're missing my point.” Ursula said.
“Well who are you going to do your paper on?” Erin asked looking at her best friend.
They were sitting on Erin’s bed on a Friday night. It was pouring outside but her balcony doors were open letting in the spring breeze. She and Ursula were having a sleepover, which wasn’t unusual. They didn’t have many at her house but tonight was an exception. Ursula loved Erin’s room, with her movie posters and her fencing stuff.
She had great antique cherry oak furniture and awesome purple walls. It was a good place to relax and watch some old school music videos on the MTV 80s cable channel. Sometimes they just lay around and talked about the awesome things they would do as they got older. Tonight they were stuck on this social studies paper.
Due in two weeks it was one of the last major projects of middle school. They had to write a three page biographical paper on a great American. Erin had her choices down to a short list and was probably going to settle on Eleanor Roosevelt or Sandra Day O’Connor. She wasn’t as much into railing against the patriarchal establishment as her best friend was at the moment. That didn’t mean that Erin was in the mood to write her paper on some man who’d already had enough written about him already.
“I'm writing about Wendy Wasserstein.” She said.
“Strauss,” Ursula groaned. She went from lying on the bottom of the bed to sitting up on her elbows. She looked at her best friend like she didn’t even know her. “She's arguably the best female playwright of the second half of the 20th century. She wrote The Sisters Rosensweig, The Heidi Chronicles, Uncommon Women and Others…”
“I know that play!” Erin exclaimed.
“Oh thank God, I thought I was really going to have to be done with you.”
“I've never read it but I think I've seen it somewhere. Was there a movie?”
“There was a televised version that came out on PBS before we were born but has surely played over the years. I’ll never forgive them for getting rid of American Playhouse. At my house we watched that show more than anything else. Mom has spent good money collecting the old ones over the years and putting them in DVD format.”
Ursula's mother, the former Pegene Forrester, came from money. She came from a bucket ton of money that the Forresters endowed to a million things, but especially the arts. Pegs, as she was affectionately known, was a playwright and director who worked at the Delancey Street Theater, not far from where they were laying right now. It had been scandal when the heiress married Paul Kent, 9 years her senior with not a dime to his name.
He’d been nothing more than a professional student when they met, living from pillar to post in New York City while going to school. But Pegs was not to be swayed from her choice. Mr. Kent, who Ursula always jokingly referred to as The Father, signed a prenuptial agreement saying he wouldn’t get so much as cab fare should he and Pegene divorce. There was a loophole…after 30 years he was entitled to $300,000. They were nearly close to 20 now and still seemed to thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.
Mr. Kent had even managed to turn his knowledge of every damn thing into a teaching career. He’d been teaching various history classes at William Penn Charter School for almost a decade. The Kents were the artsy, brilliant, liberal, anti-establishment kind of family. Erin sometimes had no idea how they’d ever become best friends except that Ursula made her a lot less boring than she probably would've been otherwise.
“Well I haven’t chosen the subject of my paper yet.” Erin said. “Do you think you’ll be able to find much on Ms. Wasserstein at the library? Is she still alive?”
“She died a few years ago.” Ursula replied. “But believe me I'm going to have a much easier time writing a paper on her than on John Adams or the guy who invented super glue. Rawlings can stuff it.”
“Knock, knock.” Joanna Parkinson-Strauss walked into the bedroom and smiled. “Would you girls like some dessert?”
“What do we have Mother?” Erin asked.
Her mother was a bit of a health nut. Erin was only allowed to eat things most of the time that were good for her. Joanna was all about food groups and fat intake and things like partially hydrogenated this and monosodium that. Erin was shocked when her father brought home pizza from University City tonight. Joanna decided on a treat since she had a friend coming over.
She also knew that Ursula wouldn’t know a healthy meal if it smacked her in the face. She knew Pegene Kent…cooking and healthy wasn’t her thing. That didn’t make her a bad mother but Joanna did wonder how Ursula wasn’t the size of a Zeppelin yet. It must be the Forrester genes. Her older sister Bettina, a freshman at Sarah Lawrence, was thin and beautiful as well.
“Your father bought home apple pie, ice cream, and Cool Whip.”
“Wow, I’ll definitely have some dessert.” Ursula smiled. “Thanks, Mrs. Strauss.”
“And you sweetheart?”
“That sounds great.” Erin smiled.
“I hope she cuts big slices like The Father does.” Ursula said after Joanna was gone and the door closed.
“What are the odds?” Erin asked. “Just be happy for something sweet and different.”
“I think you're talking about yourself and not me. My father is a pie enthusiast…I eat it all the time. How do you survive here?”
“Oh c'mon, eating healthy isn’t the worse thing in the world. It’s not as if we live off seaweed and vitamin caplets. Its just important to my mother that I get everything I need to grow up strong with the proper immunities and such.”
“Um…OK. I still like pie.”
“Me too.” Erin smiled. “I'm kind of hoping for a big slice now.”
“You can blame me for that.” Ursula raised her hand as she lay back down on the pillow.
“I'm totally alright with that you know. If you can't be corrupted by your best friend in the entire world then what's the point. I am your best friend right? Yes, this is one of those total insecure moments but I plan to own it.”
“You're my best friend.” Erin nodded. “I bought David Rossi a birthday gift.”
“What!” Ursula sat up on the bed again. “How long have you been…?”
Her soon to be diatribe was interrupted by the arrival of Erin’s mother. She had two plates with her. The slices of apple pie couldn’t be described as hunks but they were scant either. There was one scoop of golden vanilla ice cream; Ursula knew that Erin never liked plain vanilla and a dollop of Cool Whip. It looked so good it almost made the teenager forget about the confession she just heard; almost.
“Oh this looks great Mother.” even though Erin was flushed she smiled.
“Are you alright, sweetheart?”
“I think it’s the excitement at dessert.” Ursula said.
“Shut up. Erin looked at her best friend. Then she looked at her mother. “I'm fine. Thanks so much.”
“Yeah, thanks Mrs. Strauss.”
“You're welcome. I'm actually going to get some rest. Make sure you take the dishes out to the dishwasher when you’re done. And bed by eleven.”
“Yes ma'am. Goodnight.”
“Your parents are totally going to have sex.” Ursula said. “Wait, do they…?”
“Yes, I think so. But if you think I want to talk about it, you're insane.”
“We don’t need to talk about your parents.” Ursula dug into her pie. “What is going on with you and David Rossi?”
“Nothing, I just…” Erin sighed. “He bought me gifts, for Christmas and then my birthday. I know, I didn’t tell you and I'm sorry but he bought me these gifts and I thought returning the favor was the least I could do.”
“If you don’t like a dude you don’t have to return to the favor.”
“I do like him, I just don’t know if I like him like him.”
“I think its time for you to figure it out Blondie. What did you get him?”
“I bought him the Encyclopedia of Serial Killers and a tee shirt with Charles Starkweather’s mug shot that I found at The Empire.”
“I love that store; I've gotten some good stuff there. Did he like the gift? Just wanna put out there that if you got that for me I totally would’ve made you my girl.”
“He’s been trying to do that for a while now.” Erin said. “I mean why can't we just be friends?”
“Do you just want to be friends?” Ursula asked. “This pie is awesome! I’ll have to ask your dad where he got it from. We’re not going to hear your parents have sex are we?”
“No. There’s the bathroom and guest room separating me from the master bedroom. Can we focus?”
“Oh right, you have to talk to Dave. If you don’t want to go there, don’t, and don’t let him pressure you to do it. But if you do want to be his girl, go for it. You’re part of a relationship, Erin, you don’t belong to him. You can set up rules and decide what you want from it and what you don’t.”
“Aren’t we just too young for this kind of pressure?” Erin asked.
“Of course we are. But here it is anyway.” Ursula replied.
Erin didn’t want to deal with this. The worse part is it wasn’t because of Dave. Yeah, he could be kinda cocky but he wasn’t a creep. Some boys at school were but he wasn’t. He was smart and funny and made her feel good.
That didn’t mean they should pair off and start to do things that came along with being girlfriend and boyfriend. If she said yes, all the pressures were going to fall on her shoulders. Girls her age were doing all kinds of sexual things…Erin heard about it in the cafeteria and the gym. Erin hadn't even kissed a boy before Dave, except for an agonizing game of Spin the Bottle at Rebecca Hodges’ birthday party last year.
She ended up in the closet twice with Ron Massey. Erin swore he rigged the bottle in his favor the second time. She didn’t want to be felt up or pressured to feel down. It wasn’t as if her hormones weren't making her feel things that she hadn't before.
Erin had her own ways of not making that her top priority. She had her books, her fencing, and the time she spent with her mother and her few friends. If she could still do all that and be Dave’s girlfriend then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. But things never seemed to turn out that way.
“Just don’t let me change, OK? I mean if you see me getting all ridiculous and feel you have to do something drastic, I'm telling you right now that its OK.”
“Oh no problem.” Ursula nodded with a mouth full of apple pie. “I won't lose you to the typical teenage shenanigans. It’s OK if our lives become a John Hughes’ film but not any of the cheap imitations.”
“What?” Erin looked confused.
“Nothing; nevermind. The point is that I totally have your back. You’re going to be seeing Dave tomorrow. What will you tell him?”
“I have no earthly idea. If it were that easy I would've said it forever ago. I still have to figure out how I'm going to convince my mother to let us walk to the theater from here. She shot that down last time.”
“Good luck with that. I really love this pie.”
“Did you ever call Rachel?” Erin asked.
“Whoa Strauss, way to change the subject.”
“Well I just spilled my heart to you. I did it willingly.”
“And there's the difference between you and I.” Ursula said.
“Its not easy to approach a girl and say that you like her. I'm sure when I'm like 16 or 20 or even 25 getting laid won't be a problem for me. The Father says I'm charismatic, smart, and have all kinds of appeal. At this age it’s just tough if you're not chasing after some dumb boy. Even in the 21st century people still expect you to be their version of normal.”
“You didn’t answer my question.” Erin said.
“I called her OK. I called her and offered to help her with some math problems she was having.”
“You're a C math student.”
“I don’t feel like trying most of the time.” the brunette shrugged. “I'm actually really good at it. Pre-algebra was a breeze last year. So on Wednesday I'm going over to her house to help her. I’ll throw out a few hints to see where this thing could go. You are so right about the mating ritual just being ridiculous. At least as an adult having sex, you don’t actually have to worry about liking the person you're with.”
“You're insane.” Erin laughed.
“Thanks. Do you feel better getting the Dave Rossi stuff off your chest?”
“It’s not off yet…I still have to talk to him. We’re having lunch after the movie tomorrow so I guess we’ll talk then.”
“Does that means I'm on babysitting Jason duty again?”
“I thought you liked Jason.”
“I do actually; he's one of few people who can keep up with me on a variety of intellectual fronts. If I liked boys and he wasn’t so obviously crazy about Nora Bennett he would be a good choice. You think we can sneak some more pie?”
Erin got up from the bed, reaching for Ursula’s pie plate. It was almost time for bed but there was still time to watch old music videos and laugh at the crazy fashions. She didn’t want to think about Dave anymore. They'd be together tomorrow and if it was going to happen then it would happen. Tonight was about hanging out and having a good time with her best friend. Pressure came from all directions to be what she, her parents, the world, school, and even boys wanted her to be. Tonight Erin was just going to be herself.