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Excerpt: Suburban Diva

By TImes staff writer
Published January 30, 2007


Here is a column from Tracey Henry's book, Suburban Diva: From the Real Side of the Picket Fence.

Happy Birthday

Suburban Diva, my snarky alter ego, my precocious pen name, is sitting prone on the edge of the bed tying knots with the cherry stems from her third Manhattan of the afternoon. She is wearing her tiara and that inappropriate ball gown; and I can't help of thinking of Ginger on Gilligan's Island. My back is to her, as I am poised at the computer in front of a blank screen. I can hear her restlessness and the clinking of ice cubes.


SUBDIVA: So . . . are we writing about it this week?

TRACEY: No, I don't think so.

SD: Casually annoyed. And why not?

TRACEY: Sighing. Because I don't think I can make this one funny.

SD: Choking on a cherry stem. Check your library, sweetheart, you are not all that funny.

TRACEY: You really can be such a b---- when you want to, you know?

SD: Ignoring me. Look, you should write about your birthday and your irrational depression surrounding it. It might be cathartic.

TRACEY: I've never understood the idea that catharsis is a good thing. It can be a messy thing. Besides, I'm depressed because I'm depressed.

SD: No, you're depressed because you are insane. She fluffs her pillow and resumes her Diva merit badge in knot tying. I guess I'm driving for carpool.

TRACEY: That is so easy for you to say! You, who will never have a gray hair on your oversized cartoon head! You, immortal in black and white without wrinkles or a thick middle.

SD: Pausing for a moment. First off, you're not fooling me - you've colored your hair since your 20s, and you may want to think about touching up those roots in the near future. She tosses back the last of her cocktail, her illustrated liver and lipstick still intact. So this is about mourning your youth or resurrecting your vanity?

TRACEY: I don't know. Maybe both. Just leave me alone.

SD: You're going to be 35 for God's sake! It's not the end of the world. That's only halfway to 70.

TRACEY: You are pure evil.

SD: Seriously, what age are you looking to return to? 18? 25? 30?

TRACEY: Thinking. No, 18 is awful. 25 is too young, too. 30, I didn't have all of my children yet, and I certainly don't want to do a Back to the Future existence erasure on them, so I guess 33. Yeah, 33 sounds good.

SD: So, let me get this straight. You are unwilling to acknowledge your birthday, drive your friends and family crazy and shut down emotionally because you want to go back in time, like, 425 days? The same songs are on the radio, the same clothes still in fashion - I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here. You probably still have a bottle of chipotle BBQ sauce in the refrigerator older than that!

TRACEY: Sheepishly. Well, it sounds stupid when you say it like that.

SD: It sounds stupid when you say it any way, because it is a stupid thing to say at all.

TRACEY: Thank you, Confreakingfucius.

A moment of blessed silence stands between us. She is sizing me up, like she always does, ready to say what I'm not, talk about things I won't.

SD: You know, I remember a time when you enjoyed your birthday, and you would have made fun of a woman who was carrying on like you are now.

TRACEY: I've become more empathetic in my old age.

SD: Not to mention neurotic and increasingly schizophrenic. Softening slightly. What about aging suddenly scares you so much?

TRACEY: It's hard to put into words . . .

SD: Again, I refer to your library.

TRACEY: Irrelevance, okay? I'm afraid of becoming irrelevant. It's the one thing that scares me awake at night and leaves me breathless and cold. It's about stopping time, not regressing back through it. The fear of aging is not vanity or loss of youth; it's about clinging to what we fought through youth for! It's about holding on for dear life to what we've become . . .

SD: Well, I guess my original advice of Botox and a day at the spa is what is irrelevant. Pause. But you're probably right. I've always found the way to combat irrelevance is to brood and withdraw and make people want to dismiss you.

I mull this over while she grins triumphantly. I look at my choices: her humor or my moping.

SD: Pouring two Manhattans. Life is like . . .

TRACEY: If you finish that sentence with "a box of chocolates," we're going to have to fight.

SD: No, what I was going to say before being so rudely interrupted, is that life is like a perfect Manhattan. A lady sips it slowly, enjoying its flavor without overindulging too often. There are little surprises like an extra maraschino along the way, and occasionally a pit or two might sneak in. However, if she sets her glass down for too long, the ice cubes will melt and it becomes a watered-down version of its former complex self. Dramatic pause. It's time to refill your glass, Trace.

TRACEY: Returning the toast, laughing. SD, you're an idiot. With a drinking problem.

SD: Hey, Trace?


SD: Happy birthday, best friend.

TRACEY: You too, SD. And thanks. For being here.

SD: Throwing back the cocktail like a shot. You're welcome. I'm going to have to switch to straight bourbon for your 40th.

[Last modified January 29, 2007, 18:44:49]

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