So I have a confession.
I took Elie Mae to a modeling agency. In New York. While wearing black.
You see, I had this notion that just because I was entering an agency, they would look at me before judging
Eliot. So I wore all black and tried to suck in my cheeks. I kind of puckered my lips when they called her name and gave them my best pouty eyes. I wanted this bad. The other girls are good, but they don’t deserve it as much as I—
Wait a minute. We were there for Eliot. Still, I couldn’t help thinking all those “Top Model” TV marathons would come in handy. I had to make Miss J proud.
Eliot wore black stretchy pants and an overpriced halter from Carter’s. And a splattering of baby oil on her head in a (failed) attempt to tame her burgeoning fro-hawk.
Did I mention my husband was there? He did the whole casual polo look, like, “Oh, hey? I’m in a modeling agency? I was looking for Chipotle. Sorry to bother you.”
Anyway, after giving Eliot’s small college fund to the man who claimed he owned a parking garage, we walked to the New Yorker Hotel. As we stepped off the elevator, I saw a line of women and their babies. Then I did what no mother should ever do. Or at least admit to doing on a blog that IS READ BY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE:
I judged the babies. Yes, punish me. Make me do what no black person has done before: order a rare steak.
I assigned them numbers in my head. (Was it in my head?) It was like, “You over there, yes, you. Multiethnic girl with a dimple and cute shoes. 8.5.” And I moved on without guilt. Like, “African-American-slash-Black boy with small fro at 9 o’clock. You have swagger. 9.” Then it was, “Androgynous baby in overalls. 5 and ¾.”
And so on.
Don’t get it twisted. The other moms were doing it, too. “Oh, she’s so cute!” they said about Eliot. But then one bent down and a guy standing behind her shot tranquilizer darts at us from his mouth.
Finally it was our moment. A skinny girl wearing these boot-slash-sandals that I’m sure are trendy and, therefore, not sold in Ohio, called Eliot’s name.
She said, “Hello,” as in, “Just because you’re breathing doesn’t mean I have to care.”
We walked into half of a room. Literally. I kept waiting for the two ladies “interviewing” Eliot to say, “Just kidding! We wouldn’t conduct an appointment in this shoebox! Come with us.”
And there were other doors. It’s not that they were struggling for cash and could only rent a coat closet. My theory is that behind those doors are mechanical babies bred solely for Huggies campaigns. They don’t even poop in color like real babies.
Maybe I’m saying that because the agency didn’t pick Eliot. They didn’t even ask her any questions. They looked at our information sheet and said, “Well, you live in Virginia, and we don’t like to take babies out of the tri-state area.”
[Cricket. Why are we here, then? Cricket. Why did you accept her pictures and ask us to come?]
Instead, I did the whole over-eager parent thing. “Oh, yes, I know. But you should see how fast an Amtrak train goes these days. And she just loves the train. Right, Elie? What sound does the train make?”
But they weren’t impressed by Eliot’s train whistle because their mechanical babies lying in cribs behind the trap door can speak 3 languages and know some Mandarin Chinese.
I sensed defeat. I grabbed Eliot and turned my back on that skinny girl wearing Jesus’ winter sandals. Who takes a job where you have to stare down smiling babies until they whimper like a tasered cat in need of a root canal, anyway?
In the end, we won. We got our car back. Not one of those minivans with the strange chalk outlines of our family on the window. Just a regular old Honda. And we headed back to the ‘burbs, a place that has something NYC will never have: Crocs.