Age Group

Matt Dube

On Wednesdays, my mother went to assertiveness classes. My brother, studying for the SAT, suggested a synonym for assertiveness was bitch. Soon there was a knot of them, assertive women of a certain age, finding new ways to be in the world. They formed a performance group, I guess you’d call it, since none of them played instruments or sang, exactly. What they would do is lip sync in front of a screen that showed, for example, a Weather Girls video, or “She Works Hard for the Money.” They’d perform for people who knew them as a school teacher like my mother, or a political apparatchik, or a librarian at a college, or just someone who they saw buying wine at the grocery store but who was now vamping in public like a pop star. . . . The rumor that the Catholic youth group took a summer trip to Lake Winnipesaukee brought me and my old townie friends together again the summer after sophomore year. We were who we’d always been, and we sat together on the bus to the theme park and planned hijinks together, rolling our eyes at prayers for peace. Someone brought a couple boxes of paper snappers, fifty to each box. These snappers were dynamite; they exploded at our feet when we threw them at each other, and against trash cans when we threw them at girls we didn’t dare talk to.The girls jumped. We took to the skyline, metal gondolas that crisscrossed the park a hundred feet up, to threw them at people having too much fun, the fakers. They didn’t like us but we were out of reach, until we were trapped by park security who waited for our gondola to dock. They frogmarched us outside the park’s chain link gate, to wait by the bus till the field trip was over. I suppose I could have said I was tricked into doing it by friends I never saw since I went to private school, but I was in it, one hundred percent. . . . My mother and her friends, they never won over the crowd at the St Charles, but they found other stages. They competed in a citywide Lip Sync competition. When the vice principal told her she couldn’t take the time off from bus drop off to appear on a local morning show, she mouthed the lines from a Diana Ross-Donna Summer medley the group had been working on: “It's a sacrifice working day to day / For little money, just tips for pay /The time has come for me / To break out of the shell.” I could have warned him. She tried the same thing with me when I asked her to drive me to the Catholic Youth group meetings. There was no way I was walking to church.