Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Scary Mary Sunshine

There she is, the princess from Plano. She is not an Ashley. Compared to this one, Ashleys are peons. Ashleys would be lucky to lick the mud off her Manolos.

In the first class she took with me, I nicknamed her Little Mary Sunshine. Always earned A’s, never put a foot wrong. She was a pleasant sort of suck-up. “You’ve lost weight, haven’t you?” she’d say to me on the first class of the week. On Thursdays she’d often bring home-baked snacks for the whole class to share (it was summer school, so there were only about a dozen students to cook for).

Yellow is her color. Juicy dresses the color of sweet butter. Yellow Haviana flip-flops. She’s a glowing sunflower. Even her hair gleams like cornsilk. If you get closer than 10 feet from her, you’d better be wearing SPF-10.

By the third class of mine she enrolled in, I started to see the real girl behind the beautiful, golden mask. You know the wolf in sheep’s clothing? This one, it turns out, is a rattlesnake in yellow Juicy sweats.

More than once, as students loitered outside my office between classes, I heard her loudly trashing her peers in language that might make her super-Christian parents (that’s what she called them) gag on their goblets of buttermilk. “Fuck that little whore,” she barked into her cellphone one day, not two feet from my door. “If she thinks she can fucking do that to me, I’ll throw her shit into the street and she can get herself a new fucking roommate.”


I noticed that her questions in class grew barbs. It was election season and class discussions centered on campaign rhetoric, press bias and coded language. I had to object when she dubbed another student’s comments “stupid and insane.” When the one self-described feminist in class tried to bring up Roe v. Wade, a dark cloud passed over Sunshine’s face and she started quoting Bible verses. It made the feminist cry.

Although she is a media major, Mary Sunshine hates the media. She often boasted about being raised without a TV in her family home. More than once she spoke of this show or that network as being “too of the world.” When we watched clips from the presidential debates and began to discuss them, she declared that Bush was God’s choice to run the country. The “Swift-boat” ads about Kerry, she said, had to be true or they wouldn’t be on TV. (Hmm, now she trusts TV, now she doesn’t.)

Mary Sunshine practically sprouted little golden wings at news that the First Lady was coming to campus. Mrs. Bush is a member of Mary’s sorority and the greek house was treating the event the way Mexico City welcomes a pope.

Mary’s ’rents are big Bushies, writing hefty checks to the party and showing up on White House invitation lists for all the major events. Mary’s mama travels to D.C. fairly often for the First Lady’s get-togethers of old sorority chums. (What do they do? I imagine a bunch of Botox-frozen gals strewn around the couches in the living quarters of the WH, picking at Godivas, playing Pat Boone records and sneaking gulps from tumblers of vodka.)

Mary’s a world-class name-dropper. “My dad plays golf with [insert name of Red State Bigwig here],” she’d say apropos of nothing. “At Christmas, the [big Republican family names] stay at our place in Aspen.” A famous talk show host and his sons are tennis buddies. The leader of one of the nation’s largest and whitest mega-churches preached a whole sermon based on Mary’s daddy’s collection of Christian self-help nuggets.

It grows tiresome.

Because Little Mary Sunshine is mean. She’s a walking symbol of everything wrong with a certain slice of the college population. Growing up privileged and indulged, she’s shellacked with an impenetrable sense of entitlement. She’s had everything she’s ever wanted, every day of her life. Her parents have convinced her she pisses Chanel No. 5. And when anyone suggests otherwise, she puffs out like an angry porcupine.

And until the day she discovers her perfect husband sticking it to the baby-sitter out in the pool house, she has no reason to believe that the rest of her life won’t follow the same perfect scenario she’s come to believe is her birthright.

One day the class got to jawing about the ridiculous amounts of money many of the campus’ female undergrads spend on fashion. Like, the 23 haute couture evening gowns one girl bought in Paris for her debutante season (yes, they still do that here). Another said that while she was spending a weekend cater-waitering at weddings to earn car payment money, her well-off roomie did a day of beauty at Neiman’s and then came home with $5,000 worth of designer shoes.

I gasped. Mary Sunshine rolled her eyes, crossed her legs and sniffed.

“Well, look,” said Mary, shooting daggers right at me, “for me, spending $5,000 shopping would be like you spending $50. It’s, like, nothing. It’s no big deal. You shouldn’t be so judgmental.”

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