My name is Natalie Bonnie Parker. It’s a family name, and my parents are big on traditions and appearances and status symbols. I grew up in the South. Corpus Christi, Texas is my hometown. I live in New York City at present, but I do miss my home on the shores of the Corpus Christi Bay.
When you tell New Yorkers you are from Texas, they all think you wear cowboy hats and boots. And it’s true, there are more of them in Texas than there are in Manhattan, but not everyone is a rancher or an oilman. We don’t all square dance, ride broncos in rodeos and chew tobacco. It wouldn’t be ladylike to chew. My mama would have a heart attack. I grew up learning how to be a southern lady so that I could catch myself a wealthy husband.
My life is a cliche of epic proportions.
A sad story, really. The Southern beauty queen meets the guy with the right pedigree, but wait it gets better. They marry, set up house, and have a baby. Me. I’m okay in the looks department, not head-turning but not a Quasimodo, either. Instead of telling you what I’m not, I’ll tell you what makes me who I am. I’m a bit klutzy, I speak before I think, and I have several addictions.
Designer duds, carbs, chocolate, and men. I don’t have any particular preference when one isn’t available; another will do. So needless to say, my parents (formerly known as the Beauty Queen and the Right Guy) try not to show their disappointment. They’re good folks, but I’m not stupid. With their DNA, you’d think I’d look like a model in a Ralph Lauren ad. Yes, I have one more flaw to add to the rest, I babble incessantly. It’s one of my better qualities.
Mama used to dress me as a ‘Mini Me’ whenever we went to an event like church socials, barbeques and garden parties. I always hated it. Even at an early age, I knew my psyche was being warped into some looney tunes version of Scarlett O’Hara. I mean how much taffeta and pearls can a girl wear. The first time Mama saw me in Daisy Dukes, she about had a coronary right on the spot. I think they even brought in the paramedics for her.
When my mama learned she had birthed a baby girl, she envisioned what the future would be with her little girl by her side. My daddy just kept hoping a baby boy would soon follow. I disappointed both of them—not girly enough for Mama and not butch enough for Daddy. So I forged ahead and used that song Sinatra sang as my motto for life, and I know y’all are thinking it’s “My Way.” Nope, wrong Sinatra. Miss Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” is the anthem of my life thus far.
Oh yeah, I’m not my mama’s little girl.
My early years as I’ve alluded to were a bit “After School Special” special. All bony elbows and knees child who is style-challenged becomes a curvy teen who is style-challenged. It’s a cautionary tale they say in whispers at the Junior League meetings back home. I would have been a wallflower if it weren’t for Mama and Daddy’s connections. They managed to wrangle up a date for me whenever there was an event.
For Homecoming my junior year, it was a studly senior who played football well enough to have a full scholarship to Texas A&M. His name was Braxton, or I like to think of him as Brax the Jerk. I won’t divulge more, not because he might be embarrassed, but he’s got too big of an ego already. Brax left me standing on my own as soon as we entered the dance. I watched him grinding against a third of the cheerleaders and half the homecoming court (the female half). I heard rumors while we were still at the dance that he did the nasty with a girl in the woman’s restroom.
When it was time to leave, he strutted over to me and informed me it was time to leave. He didn’t say that in so many words. It was a single syllabic grunt and a head jerk towards the door. I couldn’t wait to leave. The next week at school, I perfected a vacuous look whenever anyone asked about Homecoming, Brax or my date. Cold indifference served me well during that time.
Senior Prom was another lovely night for the memoirs. Chet the Leech was this occasion’s blackmailed swain. I guess I must have improved in looks because Chet made it his business to find out the color of my undergarments, it seems. I personally believe that whenever someone said, “Let’s give Chet a hand” that God did give the Chet-ster an extra hand or two. Running a marathon would be easier than keeping my date from getting too familiar with me. My antiperspirant failed, and I was near utter and complete exhaustion by the end of the evening. Chet had the audacity to tell his buddies he’d made it to second base. There are names for guys like Chet.
I was never so happy to go to college and explore somewhere new. I convinced my parents I needed to find myself in New York City at Columbia University. Surprisingly, they agreed. Raising me must have been tiring, and the thought I was ensconced in college tidied things up for them. Less drama and an occasional phone call probably looked pretty darn good at the time.
The scene at the airport as my parents gave me hugs was touching. I swear a saw I glistening of tears in Mama’s eyes right before she told me to “Stand up straight and act like a lady, for heaven’s sake!” Daddy gave me sage advice on men that I won’t repeat here. I must have blushed from my toes to the roots of my blonde locks. I waved goodbye as I walked through the gate towards the aircraft releasing a big sigh of relief.
Columbia was the first step to a better life.