By Lorraine Duffy Merkl
There are celebrities among us.
With the start of the new school year, I’ve noticed a few escorting their young, uniformed kids to our tony Upper East Side institutions.
As I now have a college sophomore, and high school upper classman, back to school has become a less hands-on venture.
I remember though, all too well, the early years of pick-ups and drop-offs, where socializing with the other mothers was part of the day-to-day; and having a celebrity parent around added a whiff of glamour to the daily grind. When I heard The Actress had a child joining the class, I decided to steer clear. Not that I had anything against celebrities in general, or this one in particular, but because I was realistic. Having seen the People spread where she was flanked by several of her closest friends – all box office actresses, each equally as boffo as she -- I didn’t think “make new friends” was on her to-do list. I chose to not embarrass myself by trying. Some had other ideas.
There were two camps: The I’ll-Do-Anything-To-Ingratiate-Myself assemblage and their counterparts, the I-Don’t-Care-Who-She-Is-I’m-Going-To-Treat-Her-Like-Any-Other-Mother gang.
Members of both groups found a way to stand near The Actress when she occasionally showed up at school, trying to include her in group conversations about the goings on, but the famous mother, although cordial, never participated.
One day at dismissal, The Actress’s caregiver approached me to request a play date because their child had taken a shining to mine. The pavement beneath my feet quaked from all the jaws dropping.
The afternoon that we went to their ponderosa in the sky, I fully expected to hang out with the nanny while the kids played. I tried not to be dumbstruck or star struck when The Actress opened the door.
She was gracious and very pleasant, complimented my child’s manners, asked what my husband did for a living, and how long we’d lived in the city. In contrast, I asked her nothing out of fear it would sound as though I was “digging.” Besides, I already knew everything about her, courtesy of the New York Post, E! Entertainment, and all the women’s fashion magazines.
The next day some of the other mothers unsubtly swarmed around me asking what The Actress was like; what the apartment was like; what it was like, period. I resented being mistaken for a “Page Six” reporter.
“You know,” I lied, “it was with the nanny and we met at the park.”
They looked at each other like, “See, I knew it.” The band dispersed.
Not long after that The Actress’ even more famous Actor husband moved the family west to begin work on a new project.
I can’t say I was sad to see her go. Although the celebrity and her child were lovely, there’s just something about the proximity to fame that brings out the syncophant in ordinarily sane people, and makes everyday activities feel self-conscious.
I decided that the sheer act of living in Manhattan was glamorous enough.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels “Back To Work She Goes” and “Fat Chick.”