I used to be against the death penalty until I sat through my first and only PTA meeting. That was where I was exposed to a nearly fatal dose of superstar parenting. Maybe the electric chair for these walking migraine triggers is a bit harsh. They should at least be quarantined, as a public health measure.
This night of the jackals begins with a sharp elbow to my ribs. “Excuse me!” a jittery house frau screeches. She rushes by me in the library where the PTA meeting is being held and grabs a seat next to someone she knows.
My daughter’s teacher, Rinat, launches into her presentation right at the agreed upon 8 p.m. She speaks eloquently about her teaching philosophy. She’s drilling down to the nitty gritty, her daily classroom routine, when the kvetch dam bursts.
“I’m sorry Rinat, but I must interrupt. No other class in the entire district bans probiotic yogurt. My husband’s one of Jerusalem’s best-known pediatricians and he recommends it to all his patients,” a pale, pudgy woman in her mid-40s blurts out.
Another guardian angel, the spokesperson for a cabal of botoxed, overly chatty, suburban goddesses, lobs another log to the fire: “Rinat, we Amazons have your back! We just want to help you keep our kids healthy.”
My daughter’s teacher takes a measured tone: “Yes, I read your emails, texts and Whats App messages about the benefits of Actimel. Like I told, wrote and IM’d you: when one of the children brings it to class, it causes a riot — and makes a huge mess that we have to clean up. You see …”
She is shot down like an Iraqi Scud blasted by an American Patriot missile over Baghdad.
“Oh, Rinat, you should try this stuff,” shouts one of the moms. “It helped me get my figure back after I had my son. It’ll help you drop those stubborn 20 pounds you’ve been carrying since you gave birth to the twins …”
I’m now stewing in Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell when another self-proclaimed Amazon weighs in: “I know you’ve been distracted lately. We all hope that you and your husband patch things up, but that’s no reason …”
I bolt from my child-sized red chair and double time march out of that viper’s pit. In mid-stride, I send my wife a quick text: “Busted out of Gitmo. Escaped to Chili’s.”
I just about reach Chili’s, a decidedly non-Kosher pizza palace here in Jerusalem, when my phone pings.
“What took you so long?” the text reads. I look up to see my wife’s laughing brown eyes gently teasing me from across the restaurant. My ghoulish fascination had blinded me to the fact that my wife had elegantly exited the library five minutes before I fled the scene.
Sure, the PTA meeting crashed like the Hesperus. But my wife and I did get to spend some unexpected and much needed quality time together, without four mouths to feed, bodies to bathe, or diapers to change. I learned a valuable lesson on my journey to Dante’s Inferno: hatred darkens life, and freshly baked pepperoni pizza illuminates it.
This piece was originally published in City Dads Group on February 3, 2020.