I came up with it when I was in middle school, while waiting in the parking lot for my mother to pick me up after detention. Life’s rough when you aren’t old enough to drive and can’t face your punishment in the privacy of your own room.
As soon as I made eye contact with My Dear Sweet Mother, I’d give her this little half-grin, half-smirk — which drove all the middle school girls wild. If My Dear Sweet Mother returned said smile, I was free and clear … or at least would survive the ride home with still maintain possession of my Atari and rad mix tape collection in my room.
In my adolescent (read: utterly insane) mind, if My Dear Sweet Mother were the least bit happy, joyful or willing to consider not putting me on restriction until the “Facts of Life” reunion special, then I could work on her the entire ride home to remind her of what a wonderful, loving and often-misunderstood young man I was.
It didn’t hurt that my school was out in the country and it took like half an hour to get home.
Keep in mind that this was back in the day before everyone under 30 was diagnosed with ADHD and could use it as an explanation for why one might, for example, decide to blow up a bunch of condoms and bat them around the classroom when the substitute teacher walked out of the room.
I was framed, I’m tellin’ ya.
But woe unto thee if I failed the smile test and was met with a scowl or, worse yet, the blank stare of a disappointed mother. Oh, that was terrible. I knew I was in for it and would be enjoying a long restriction, which would generally include having my Atari (I was a master at River Raid) along with my TV and stereo hauled out into the hall.
It was deserved, but being an only child, I did my best to work the system.
The Diva has a system all her own, a way of gauging the degree of trouble that she’s found herself it. Like the Smile Test, it’s pretty much a waste of time. But now that I’m on the receiving end, it’s an exercise in futility that I thoroughly enjoy watching from a distance.
My Lovely Wife and I call it Hyper Sarah (that’s The Diva’s secret identity to the uninitiated). Unlike the Smile Test, it rears its busy little head only AFTER punishment has been levied. The Diva uses her hyper, talkative tendencies as a way to give us what we crave — interaction — as a means of hopefully lessening her torment.
Tell her she has to be home by 6 on weeknights and 8 on weekends, and after the initial emotional torrent, she will make camp on the couch, watching “American Horror Story” and sharing every detail of her day at school, her arguments with friends and, in a last ditch effort to keep the conversation going, outrageous Facebook posts from friends we’ve never heard of and pray to God she doesn’t actually associate with.
After that, we might listen to songs from her favorite rapper of the moment (someone with the unfortunate stage name of Dirty Sprite).
Sadly, Hyper Sarah often meets the same end as my Smile Test: punishment to fit the crime. But much like My Dear Sweet Mother before us, we also appreciate the effort.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org