Now the Hollywood version
would be that I step into a showcase home and there are all these rich society ladies with facelifts and I'm some kind of urban primitive in a wild get-up, or a punk rocker with classically "crazy" hair and everything stops. But the truth is, they are all just nice upper-middle-class women, mostly nurses and teachers married to scientists or engineers. They get dressed up for the luncheon, but it's more the red, mixed-fiber sweater set adorned with a big Christmas tree and shoes that are sensible in all respects except for the embedded multicolored rhinestones. A few of the wilder ladies have flashing-tree-ornament earrings. My look is just routine sloppy and disheveled. My hair is a bad home peroxide job that's crispy and yellowed; this was back when I never looked in the mirror besides from the front, so I'd walk around with no idea that the back of my hair was all matted and lumpy.

I arrive at the door, thinking that at least I look better than I feel, but I'm really smelly and sore. Amy is too busy managing her team of second-grade helpers to notice, so I quickly find my mom and apologize about not calling, telling her I had maybe one glass of wine too many and decided not to drive. Of course, Mom being Mom, instead of a lecture about how she was worried or how I screwed up her plans, she excessively congratulates me on my good judgment. She hands me a glass of Champagne punch, and though my stomach is turning, I take it and gulp it down. Then I start reeling. I try to get to the bathroom, but my mom is smoothing down my hair and dabbing at my smeared lipstick, saying if I had at least stopped by home first she could have ironed my pants.

The room is a swirl of Ladies and, for the life of me, I can't remember whose daughter got divorced and whose son had a baby and which of them had a breast cancer scare or had a husband go through chemo. I'm blowing it, dazed, just nodding along like I should be back in the kitchen defrosting another ice ring. These ladies have seen me grow up and all I can muster is a version of myself that belongs on an After-School Special. I mill around some more, attempting to Look Normal and ease myself into conversations about vacation homes in Tahoe and the Oakland fires, rose pruning, the De Anza flea market, gall bladder surgery and how great Nick Nolte is in The Prince of Tides.

People are trying to talk about What I Want To Do With My Life, but I'm 21 years old, I just got out of college and I feel like I should be submerged in a pool with scuba gear on like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Finally, I get a chance to go to the bathroom and run cool water over my face. I'm all blotchy and red, and when I look in the mirror – at least 20 minutes after I have been chatting and nodding emphatically and laughing when I think it's appropriate – I see something stuck between my two front teeth. Closer inspection reveals it to be a curly black pubic hair. This is a first for me.