So, the stage was set perfectly for my double life to begin. During the week, I was in milltown with Shirley, Marlene, Tanya, and Bruce, preparing to do Storybook Theatre for the children of union workers, mill managers, shopkeepers, grocery store clerks, and—driving just south of town–the First Nations kids who lived in a world cordoned off almost entirely from milltown. On most weekends, I went to Vancouver to attend all the pre-debutante ball events, of which I never spoke during the week.
How complicated is class? Well, it’s complicated like this: in milltown i was excluded by everyone except the most marginalized kids because I was “rich,” but the truth is while we weren’t poor, we were not rich (no big family name or money. My stepfather made a good salary but that was it) and as much as my parents would’ve liked to have taken my deb ball invite as a sign of their personal standing in the world (and to a certain degree, I indulged this
by not contradicting this line of thinking even though i knew even then it was false), the truth is the reason I was invited was simple and had nothing to do with my parents: I was friends with a girl who WAS from a “good family” and whose father was the Canadian Consulate to a country that won’t be named.
If we went on my family’s true credibility in the world or my “breeding,” I would’ve been lucky to have been a janitor at the yacht club where the event was held. Yes, we lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood (before being deported to milltown) but that was the because of my STEPfather’s job. My real father was, gasp, American and gasp, gasp, gasp, in the military; my real dad was also just about to join AA and was married to wife#4 and my stepfather was #3 for my mom;And, oh, neither of my real parents graduated from high school. So much for putting on airs.
But, I wasn’t above working things any way I could. I was seventeen. I wanted–although I wasn’t sure why–to go to the ball; I wanted to pretend I was from a “good” family and was secretly very pleased that my stepfather went to a good university, spoke French, and made enough money for us to live well. And, during the week,I wanted to drive around milltown in Tanya’s black car, smoking cigarettes and looking for someone to buy us a mickey of Southern Comfort. Writing was most definitely not my drink in the complicated winter of 1978.