Weekend Wanderer: Getting on a Parent’s Bad Side

Weekend Wanderer

I’ve entered a new quadrant of the Willie Universe. 

The likelihood that someone I know could wind up living in the apartment next to Willie has got to be slim, right? 

But the likelihood this situation could ruin my life is a guarantee. 

It all starts with my daughter. 

Wasn’t I just saying last week how great having kids has been for my life? 

Maybe not so much, huh? 

My daughter has a friend, the kind of friend a kid meets in second grade, the kind of friend whose parents become your friends, the kind of friend whose relationship with your family will transcend school and time, physical distance and college

You probably have friends like this, too. So you know what happens. You become entrenched in each other’s lives. You meet grandparents and carpool to basketball and schlep their papier-mâché scale-model animals to school. 

And I swear, the day I did that, I didn’t intentionally position the dolphin and crocodile to look like they were making a dolphin-crocodile hybrid baby. 

But I did stand there laughing in the school parking lot for like 10 minutes when I realized it. 

This friend’s grandparents all live close enough to us that they are a part of our lives, our kid’s life. When one of those grandparents went to Marion’s bar in Nepal, I hugged that friend and went to the funeral. 

And when Indy joined that grandfather at Marion’s bar in Nepal, they hugged my kid and went to the funeral. 

We are those kinds of friends.  

But when this friend’s grandparents decided to move into the Temple of Doom, I was nervous. 

It’s not that I don’t like them. I do.  

In fact, it’s this fondness I have for them that is the problem.  

Because here’s the thing about Willie. When Willie likes you, she likes you. But that means you live in the Willie Universe. 

Sometimes, the Willie Universe is great. Like the time she paid for me and my kids to spend a week in Cape May with her and Indy. 

Sometimes, the Willie Universe isn’t great. Like the time she asked my sister and aunt for lunch at the Temple of Doom then went and had lunch with a friend on another floor. 

That was how I A) got a phone call asking if I could come to the Temple of Doom and use my key to let everyone into Willie’s apartment and B) found out I wasn’t invited to lunch. 

Now, if Willie doesn’t like you, you will never enter the Willie Universe. Nothing you do will ever launch you into that orbit. 

The problem when Willie doesn’t like you is why she doesn’t like you. It’s not because you’ve proven a failure as a friend. 


The reason Willie doesn’t like you is simple, innocuous, and probably never known to you. 

As in the case of the bank teller and the Jean Naté. 

Do you remember Jean Naté? It was a fragrance marketed as an “after bath splash” in the 1970s. It came in an enormous bottle and had a catchy jingle

Back in the ’70s, Willie was a bank teller. She had a co-worker who wore Jean Naté. At lunch, this coworker dabbed herself with Jean Naté in the ladies bathroom. 

My feeling is this woman, having gone nose blind to her Jean Naté by midday, thought she needed a refresher and, like the ladies in the commercials, gave herself a splash.  

Despite, you know, not having just taken a bath. Although, I suppose, she was always technically in the “after bath” phase touted by the commercials. Kind of like it’s always after midnight, so proceed with caution when feeding your Mogwai. 

To Willie, this woman reeked of Jean Naté. Her use of Jean Naté was a malice known to the likes of Moriarty, Darth Vader, or Regina George. Rather than just saying hey, sister, you’ve after bath splashed the entire bank so, you know, cool it, Willie banned this woman from the Willie Universe. 

For life. 

She also banned Jean Naté. 

The Christmas Indy gifted Willie Jean Naté, unaware of the Jean Naté ban, was, to quote Bill and Ted, most outstanding. 

So. The grandparents living next door to Willie. 

I was trepidatious when they settled on the Temple of Doom. It’s small — only about 160 residents. They were likely to cross paths with Willie. 

That they wound up in the apartment next door — if it was fiction, you’d call me out for the McGuffin it would most certainly be. 

They have become fast friends, Willie and that grandmother. So much so that when my kid’s friend and her mom were at my house recently, they detailed the evils I had committed upon Willie. 

“Don’t do to me what Willie’s daughter did to her,” the grandmother threatened. 

The realization I was hearing of my nefarious ways through a third party filled the Willie Universe with that many more landmines. 

Last week, that friend texted me. Her mom — Willie’s new neighbor — had agreed to take Willie to exchange a watch. Willie stood her up, saying she couldn’t find the receipt and anyway, she had to work the Temple of Doom’s reception desk. 

“Welcome to the Willie Universe,” I texted my friend. “We have a support group.” 

All Jean Naté wearers welcome. 

Grandparents too. 

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