I’ve taken up babysitting. Until recently, I was absolutely, positively certain I wanted at least two children of my own. It wasn’t even a questionable fact. What kind of woman doesn’t want kids? A cold, wombless, hard-hearted Hannah, that’s who. The glow of pregnancy, the all-consuming love of motherhood, the thrill of raising a child! Yet this path of unemployment has taken an unexpected turn. Instead of being an executive with an expense account, I’m a babysitter with a snot streaked T-shirt. It kinda makes you reassess things. Puts things in perspective, as they say.
I love children. Nothing makes me happier than being with my little niece. When my sister sends me pictures of her (which she does at least three times each day) I cannot WAIT to open the email and see her sweet self. And I love the toddler I babysit – let’s call him Baby B. He’s my bud. Adorable. Sweet. We “talk” about Elmo and apples and Yo Gabba Gabba and how awesome raisins are. I got giddily excited when he finally said (a bastardized version of) my name. But by the time I leave Baby B, I look and feel like I’ve just crawled on hands and knees out of the jungles of Borneo after being chased by wild boars and gibbons and rabid butterflies. Let’s just say on those days, I don’t go home and write. I go meet friends for a drink.
Prior to babysitting, I had all sorts of jobs. I even went and got an MFA – which, by the way, is an acronym I used when I initially interviewed for the fancy job that ended up kicking me to the curb. I was explaining to the 40-something man who RAN the damn company what my background was. I said: “I got an MFA in film.” His eyes crinkled up, he looked totally lost, and he responded, “What’s an MFA?” I should have known then our professional relationship was doomed. Should have seen the writing on the dry erase board. If that sounds snooty on my part, well I just don’t give a damn. He also asked me what movies I loved that year. I said, Diving Bell and the Butterfly. He said (with utter disdain), “That’s an indie.” I quickly recovered, blurting, “I also loved I Am Legend.” That did the trick. Point is I didn’t really expect to be babysitting at this point in life. My impression of babysitters is either the fourteen-year-old slutty chick with crimped hair (World According to Garp) or the big-eyed, frizzy-haired chick that is terrorized for years by the maniac who hacked up the kids she so neglectfully babysat (When a Stranger Calls – the original). They don’t teach a class on babysitting in the place where they grant you that weird thing called an MFA.
“They stumbled to the top of the staircase wearing only jeans and bras, giggling like schoolgirls while punching each other Tyler Durden-style. I suspected they either got their hands on Cisco, PCP, or both…Then they tumbled down the staircase…”
Hit the Jump to continue reading Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol. X: My (mis)Adventures in Babysitting…
The last time I babysat wasn’t such a pretty picture. I was seventeen and my sister was fifteen. I have three sisters and I decline to state said sister’s name in order to protect her identity. If you know me well, you know her name. If not, her identity will remain a closely guarded secret. Let’s call her Sister X.
For the first and only time in our lives, our parents left me to watch Sister X for an entire weekend. Just the two of us. Alone. Totally free. I was not the type of high school senior to sit home all weekend locked in my room reading (great) poetry and writing (bad) poetry and being responsible. That was junior year. At this time in life I was full-force having FUN! Sylvia Plath and mint tea could suck it. I wanted Shiner Bock and Bad Brains. Also at this time, Sister X was just discovering tequila, everclear and Cisco. In our high school, word in the hallways was that drinking too much Cisco made you bleed red blood from your eyeballs. It was a popular, sought after “cocktail” at the local Circle K for a spell, though I never saw any red teardrops. Puke, oh yeah. Bleeding eyeballs? Not so much.
Moving along. I was in charge. I was the official babysitter. Most crucial, I had a party to go to. Sister X invited a friend – Friend A – to stay over. I told them I was going out, that they could watch movies and could NOT leave the house or let anyone inside the house. Pretty authoritative of me. First thing out of Sister X’s mouth was, “Can’t we have like one drink? PLEASE???” Now, our parents had a minor liquor cabinet with wine, scotch, vodka and who knows what else. It’s kind of cute my sister actually asked me to make them a drink, instead of just being super devious and waiting until I left and doing it her own self. I said absolutely NOT. But… it’s not like she had never had a drink or a smoke before (we’re from Texas – cigarettes and stolen beers in the bayou at fourteen were more de rigueur than a debutante ball, at least in our circles). Plus she was really starting to annoy me, so to shut her up so I could primp in peace I said FINE. One drink. And I made her swear and pledge that would be it. Silly me.
I made them a ridiculously weak screwdriver, pointed my finger in my sister’s face (how annoying was I?) and made her SWEAR they wouldn’t bust open the liquor cabinet when I left. They both swore, all the while grinning maniacally over the rim of their glasses. I should have seen the writing on the cocktail napkin. Alas, I left.
Female intuition is a funny beast. At the party, a sudden, powerful pang of worry hit me. I turned to my friend Brooke. “I need to go home. Something’s wrong.” She tried to calm me, but I knew I had to bolt, immediately. Wild horses and a really hot guy couldn’t keep me from leaving. I wasn’t just imaging my sister and her friend giggling over one extra screwdriver and prank calling the kid who rode around our neighborhood on his bike with an orange traffic cone on his head. Though that would have been unimaginably bad. No, my mind’s eye was seeing a vodka-fueled apocalypse happening inside our house. I didn’t know what that would entail, but I knew it was BAD. Brooke and my similarly awesome friend Pat saddled up, proclaimed solidarity, and took me back home. We were a posse on a mission.
I was seriously stressed. We made it to the house. It looked peaceful enough. I relaxed a tiny bit but still bolted out of the car, with my trusty posse by my side. I unlocked the door. Seemed pretty quiet. I yelled Sister X’s name.
Standing at the doorway with my comrades, I could look up and see the top of the staircase. After a second of silence… giggles. At least they were alive, I thought, unlike those poor kids that got chopped up while Carol Kane wasn’t looking. My heart unclenched. Then, they appeared. Sister X and Friend A stumbled to the top of the staircase wearing only jeans and bras. As they giggled like schoolgirls they were beating the living shit out of each other Tyler Durden style. Now, sometimes writers exaggerate to make a point. This is not one of those times. Witnessing their giggly yet scary Femme Fight Club, I suspected they either got their hands on Cisco, PCP, or both. They tumbled down the staircase.
A glorious re-enactment of the Elf’s babysitting adventures…
Pat, Brooke and I (well, mainly Pat, since he was a strong dude) pried them apart and we eventually got them quarantined. I checked the kitchen. Every bottle from the minor liquor cabinet was displayed on the counter. Note to self: pointing your finger in your sister’s face and threatening her life rarely works.
I walked back into the quarantine room. I watched as my sister threw a left hook that accidentally hit poor Pat. It was Brooke’s turn to take charge.
Brooke: We need water, milk and bread. Now.
Me: Why milk?
Brooke: Water for hydration, bread to soak up the alcohol, milk to coat the stomach.
Me: Oh. OK.
As I ran to get the supplies I thought: If there ever is a Red Dawn style apocalypse, Brooke and Pat are my Wolverines.
I arrived with the supplies. Brooke did her best but within minutes the bed was covered with water and milk and half chewed balls of wheat bread. We tried desperately to stuff the half-chewed bread balls back in their mouths. They spit them back out again. Pummeling your friend’s skull was apparently more fun to Sister X and Friend A than eating yeast. When my sister and her punching bag started to near the pass-out stage, I told my Wolverines to go back to the party. Friend A passed out (she could have died at that point, I was too exhausted to check her pulse – BAD babysitter!) and my sister decided to leave me a parting gift: a sink full of chunky puke. At least after that she passed out and stopped cackling like a succubus. If they cackle. I imagine that they do.
Our parents were due home within hours. I cleaned the damn pukey sink and the regurgitated bread balls and tried to Martha Stewart the house up a bit. In the morning a very bruised Friend A found her shirt and trudged the 400 feet to her house, and I fed my sister Advil and sympathy. She looked like crap – scolding her just seemed inhumane. When our parents came home they were told Sister X had “the flu” and she got even more sympathy. Like all our silly stories (“those cigarettes in my purse aren’t mine I’m holding them for that crazy girl in my art class, Beth Shepski!”… for example) our parents totally bought it. Or pretended to. Sister X trudged through her hangover with the help of a marathon of Lifetime movies. I retreated to my room to read poetry and drink some mint tea.
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