We'll take the one with blue frosting, please.
What? Oh, okay. Pink frosting then.
So you like pink frosting now?
I don't know. Yes.
Does it taste different than blue?
So then, why...
It's just—we've always gotten the ones with blue frosting. Remember that day we decided to always get blue? It was four days before your sixth birthday. We were here, sitting at that booth over there. You had one of those orange and black Halloween cupcakes, and you were drinking milk and watching all the customers.
I know, I know. And I said from now on I was going to get the ones with blue frosting because those were the ones no one else got.
Exactly. Why are you rolling your eyes at me?
Because I've heard that story, like, a million times! And I was only six. I didn't know anything then.
You knew plenty. You knew you wanted to be different. Unique.
Well, maybe I'm tired of being unique. Maybe I don't want to be unique any more.
Maybe I want to be like everybody else for a change.
And that's going to happen if you eat pink frosting?
Ollie and Maddie like pink frosting.
Who are Ollie and Maddie?
These girls in my class.
You mean Olivia Douglas and Madeline Samuelson?
Wait, aren't those the popular girls? The ones you always used to complain about?
They're not so bad.
They sound pretty bad to me. You used to call them the "Barbie Patrol."
Yeah, well, what? What's so great about them all of a sudden? What do they have that you don't have?
Um, like, everything.
Yes. Everything. Cell phones. Front yards. iPads.
But I thought you didn't care about any of that.
Of course I care. I'm almost thirteen. That is, like, exactly the kind of stuff every thirteen year old cares about.
Are you getting bullied? Are those two girls picking on you because you don't have a lot of money?
No, mom. I'm not getting bullied. No one's picking on me.
Okay. Okay. Good. But you'd tell me if someone was, right? I really want us to have open communication, and I know your mind and your body are changing and everything but –
Mom! We communicate fine.
Okay. Okay. Right. That's a relief.
And no one is bullying me. But that doesn't mean I have any friends either.
What do you mean? What about that girl that came home that one time? What was her name again? Vanessa?
Veronica. She moved back to Venezuela.
Oh. Well what about Isaac and Benjamin?
They don't count.
They're my cousins. They have to be friends with me. Besides, they're like, seven, and they're into transformers and stuff.
Right. Huh. So you really don't have anyone at school? No one you hang around with?
Don't you think if I had friends, I would've brought them home?
I don't know. To be honest, I've wondered about it. But then I thought our place was so small and everything, maybe you were embarrassed.
It's not our place that's the problem. It's you. And me. And our family.
We're so weird. And everyone knows it. That's why no one wants to be friends with me.
Well that sounds like—
It's not bullying, mom.
I KNOW, honey. It just sounds like they're judging you without getting to know you.
Um, have you met teenagers?
Sure. Of course. You're right.
It's fine for you to decide to be unique or whatever. Do whatever you want. But it's not fine for me. And I'm never going to put my kids through it. When I grow up, I'm not going to be anything like you. I'm going to live in a fancy house with three bedrooms and big thick carpets and a back yard. I'm going to have a job at a big company and I'm going to wear suits to work every day—no offense to your counseling job or anything. And I'm going to make sure my kids have cell phones when they're twelve, and they're going to be allowed to watch TV on weeknights and go on fancy vacations so they can talk to their friends about it—
And I'm going bake tons and tons of cupcakes and I'm not going to ever use blue frosting. Ever. Not even when I make special holiday cupcakes for my kids to share with their tons and tons of friends.
What about the fourth of July? You need blue frosting then.
I'm going to summer in the south of France, like Ollie. I'll celebrate Bastille day.
What? Why are you laughing?
Because I have a daughter who knows what Bastille Day is but has no idea what colors are on the French flag.
You know what else I'm going to have? A husband. My kids are going to have a father.
You have a father.
But I have no idea who he is!
That makes two of us, sweetie.
Mom, how can you joke about something so important?
I'm sorry, I'm sorry. You're right. It's just that all the information the sperm bank had on him was so generic. I hardly remember anything. No health problems, that I remember. He was 24 or 25 or something when he donated—young enough that I thought he probably needed the money for college or his family or something. I think they listed his IQ but I don't remember it.
How can you not remember anything?
Because none of it was important. I didn't do it because I wanted him. I did it because I wanted you. And now that I have you, it matters even less.
Great. So as far as you're concerned, my dad's a bunch of numbers in a catalog, and as far as I'm concerned, he's the sticky stuff inside a turkey baster.
Excuse me, young lady, we've been through this. That's not how it works. Turkey baster jokes are not funny. You know that.
I'm just saying. Why couldn't you have been normal and just married someone?
I had the chance to do that, you know. I was dating this boy for seven years. He even proposed to me.
Wait, he did?
Yes, he did. I said no.
Because I didn't think he was ready to get married. Lord knows I wasn't ready—I still wanted to finish grad school and get a couple of years of experience under my belt. Plus I felt so young.
How old were you?
I don't know. Twenty-five, twenty-six I guess. It was a long time ago.
So what happened to him? After you said no, I mean?
He married another woman. Less than a year later. A friend of mine, actually, although I haven't spoken to her in ages. They had two kids. Twins. Lovely little boys.
Wow. Have you met them? The twins, I mean?
Was it weird?
Why? Because you pictured what your kids would've been like if you'd said yes?
No. Because I went to see his wife. She was my friend, remember? Anyway, I went there because he left her. She was all alone with the two kids and absolutely no idea where he'd gone. He just disappeared.
Seriously. She was so scared. So devastated. And you know what she said to me? She said, "This could've been you, you know. It was almost you."
No way. You're totally making this story up to teach me a lesson or something.
No, sweetie. I promise. It's true.
So after that, I realized, you can't count on anything. Or anyone. And by that time I think I was already in my thirties, and I really wanted to be a mom. So I figured, why wait around? Why not just do it myself?
How come you never told me this before?
I guess it never came up.
So you didn't do the whole sperm bank thing just to be unique?
You didn't do it just to prove a point?
You did it because you kind of had to? Like, if you wanted to be a mother, that was your only choice?
I know. Huh.
You know I love you, right?
It's just, sometimes I just wish you weren't so, you know.
Yes, well. Sorry about that. You don't get to choose your parents. It's a real bummer. But just for the record, I love you too.
Good. Glad we cleared that up. Now hold on for a second.
Ew, mom, stop!
You have frosting on your face. I'm just getting it off.
Stop! You can't just touch my face whenever you want to. I'm not a kid any more.
But you're not a grown up either.
Yeah, thank god for that.
Seriously. Thank god for that.
BIO: Mathangi Subramanian is a writer and educator who believes stories have the power to change the world. She has worked as a high school science teacher, a member of the global education department at Sesame Workshop, and a senior policy analyst at the New York City Council. Her work for grown ups and young people has appeared in Quartz, Al Jazeera America, The Hindu, Skipping Stones, and the Seal Press Anthology Click!: When We Knew We Were Feminists, among others. She is the author of the Bullying: The Ultimate Teen Guide (Rowman and Littlefield 2014) and the young adult novel Dear Mrs. Naidu (Young Zubaan 2015). She currently splits her time between Bangalore and Washington, DC.