When I originally created WASP princess character Kristen Ibbott as one of Karyn Filliard’s suite mates at Northeastern U in Boston, I hadn’t planned on her becoming such a big secondary character. But she was so much fun, providing such unintentional comic relief with how she’s a walking stereotype of the girl who only goes to college to find a husband (with her parents’ knowledge and encouragement!), who thinks real life is still like the 1950s, and who obediently laps up all the late Nineties pop culture being marketed to her (our) generation, I couldn’t help but make her more important. I also love the interactions between Karyn and Kristen and the four sons of Rabbi Joshua Brandt, who deliberately push all their buttons in addition to having a much different worldview from both Karyn and Kristen and their somewhat reactionary father, who’s also great comic relief in how over the top he can get. I got the name Ibbott during one of my cemetery explorations, and had the bright idea to use that name for a character, with the comedy coming from how she’s frequently mistakenly called Abbott, or, on purpose to piss her off, Ribbitt.
This is from Part LIV of Cinnimin, “Sunny’s Last Dance,” set during September 1998 and written between 18 November 2009 and 6 April 2010. (The title is in reference to a pet monkey who’s been getting more out of control for awhile now, and finally crosses the point of no return.) That January, Kristen was dumped by her grad school boyfriend Justin in front of Karyn and all her sorority sisters, and is now bragging about how her latest boyfriend is even better, since he’s older and has already been married. The boys, their mother Pauline (one of the children of the Shoah surviving Roblensky siblings), and even usually conservative Joshua are all aghast the more they learn of this situation, but that doesn’t stop Karyn and Kristen from insisting it’s all kosher.
Joshua and Pauline’s boys were very annoyed both Karyn and Kristen were going to be spending the weekend at their house. When they got home from their walk after school, the smell of beauty products overwhelmed them in place of the usual aroma of their mother’s chicken soup and stuffed mushrooms. Kristen gave all four of them a very annoyed look when they approached her.
“I’m on the phone with my great new boyfriend, little boys. Over dinner, I’ll rub it in your faces how accomplished he is. I bet none of you will ever be as successful as he is. No one hires unmanly men and cemetery-crawlers.”
“I love old cemeteries,” Avraham David retorted. “Do you even care about anything more than a year old?”
Kristen stalked upstairs to finish her phone conversation. Karyn lay on the sofa, reading a fashion magazine.
“Depressed your desperate husband hunt is still in vain as your sophomore year begins?” Reuven asked.
“It’ll happen. At least I didn’t waste months of my time like Kristen did with a guy she thought was her victory prize.”
“No one thinks a college relationship of three months is serious business,” Avraham David scoffed. “He never told her he wanted a serious relationship or that he was dating for marriage. She just assumed they’d marry.”
“Then why do you think my cousin Vikki is your future wife after less than a month and her being long-distance?”
“We don’t know for sure, but it can come to be, since we’ve crushed on each other for years and both want more out of a relationship than some meaningless good time for a few weeks or months. Modern Western dating is horrible preparation for marriage anyway.”
“Is the boycrazy WASP staying here?” Avner asked. “Why isn’t she off with her latest supposed future husband?”
“He spends this weekend with his kid.”
“She’s dating a dude with a kid?” Reuven asked.
“Like she said. More successful than any of you will ever be.”
“I don’t intend to have a kid when I’m in college,” Reuven retorted. “That just makes it harder to study and graduate.”
“He’s not our age. He’s older. You really thought Kristen would date some nineteen-year-old little boy who couldn’t keep his pants on? She’ll tell you details over dinner.”
“Ooh, I’m on such pins and needles,” Avner said sarcastically.
“Does she have any protection?” Reuven asked bluntly. “She can’t honestly expect to date a dude with a kid and never be pressured for sex. I’m surprised she’d even consider someone who wasn’t some clueless virgin like she is. Don’t most colleges these days give you free condoms? Kristen couldn’t handle having a baby before marriage.”
“Whatever, I’m going to look for candidates myself tonight at services. My parents are paying good money for my Mrs. degree.”
Pauline came into the room. “You’ve got your parents confused with the Abbotts. Your parents are paying for your bachelor’s degree in education. Kristen’s parents are the ones knowingly throwing their money away on her husband hunt.”
“Will you turn into a pumpkin on midnight the night you graduate if you don’t have a husband yet?” Avner asked. “Unlike Kristen, you actually seem to have a decent brain hiding in there somewhere.”
“Kristen had a big disappointment this summer.” Karyn tuned out the criticism. “She was dating a guy in Chatham, but when we had to return to NU, he refused to move to Boston. He claims she knew it was just a summer romance and didn’t even want to continue things long-distance.”
“And this is why you always level with someone as early as possible, before one party can develop unrealistic expectations or get too attached,” Pauline said. “Does she even tell these guys she wants marriage only and feels short-term casual relationships are a waste of her time?”
“She shouldn’t have to! They should want marriage too!”
“Most people nowadays aren’t thinking marriage when they ask someone out. Maybe in my parents’ day it wasn’t unreasonable to expect to marry the first person you ever dated, but today it’s a lot different.”
“Because of ball-crushing feminists who devalued marriage, motherhood, and housewifery!”
“Thanks to feminists, you can get a higher education, vote, own property, be identified as yourself and not through a man, retain custody of children if you divorce, not have to be pregnant your entire reproductive life, take a rapist, domestic abuser, or sexual harasser to court and win, and work at something other than a teacher, secretary, or nurse.”
“You’re a full-time mom yourself!”
“And I used to be a teacher. After Josh and I have our last baby in a few years, and it’s in school, I’ll return to teaching. Because of feminism, I was able to choose being a stay-at-home mom. It wasn’t my only option.”
“You’re talking to a wall, Mom,” Avner said.
“Somehow I keep hoping she’ll see sense.”
“Kristen is going to marry her new boyfriend. They’ll have a wonderfully traditional marriage and be happier than modern couples who don’t know who’s who anymore.”
“I bet this latest husband prospect doesn’t outlast the school year,” Reuven predicted. “Dr. Justin didn’t.”
“Justin was a loser. Brandon’s already been married.”
Pauline almost choked on her gum. “What! Where does a nineteen-year-old new sophomore find a divorced man!”
“He has a kid too, Mom,” Moshe said.
“I think I’m going to be sick if I hear more.”
“She promised to tell us all about him over dinner,” Avraham David said. “The WASP princess seriously thinks this guy is more successful than we’ll ever be.”
“True success and the worth of one’s life are measured not by material gains and social reputation, but by your good deeds, righteousness, and the descendants you leave behind,” Avner said. “We learnt that last week in Talmud class.”
“Brandon’s a lawyer,” Karyn went on. “He’s back at school now to get additional certification in photography. You know that’s one of Kristen’s concentrations.”
“Don’t you have to go to school for like ten years to be a real lawyer?” Avner asked.
“You’re pre-law as an undergrad, and then do official law school. When you pass the Bar Exam, you’re in.”
“Oh, so he’s Justin’s age?” Pauline asked.
“Even better! Brandon is twenty-seven!”
“What is he, a pervert?” Reuven asked. “He’s a grownup dating a teenager!”
“Oh, boy, I can tell our dinner conversation will be very interesting,” Avner smiled.
While Karyn and the Brandts were at services, Kristen amused herself by doing the quizzes in the latest issues of YM and Seventeen and watching MTV. She was reading Titanic fanfiction online when they returned.
“How come Miss Ribbitt gets to use her computer?” Yocheved asked.
“She’s a goy and isn’t bound by our rules,” Joshua said as he headed for the table.
“Wow, you used the marginally less offensive term goy in lieu of shiksa,” Avraham David marvelled.
“Even I woke up and realized shiksa is offensive. Not to mention a lot of self-hating, assimilated, secular men publicly profess they want a so-called shiksa instead of a good observant woman to marry.”
“Am I breaking any rules if I read over her shoulder?” Reuven asked. “I know some observant people in shared housing watch a communal TV if it’s already on.”
“She’s probably at some website with a name like How to Find a Husband Before You’re Old Enough to Drink,” Avraham David said.
“I’m reading fanfiction for the greatest movie ever, you insolent little morons.”
“What movie might that be? Your memory doesn’t extend to anything in black and white, let alone before your lifetime.”
“What’s fanfiction?” Moshe asked.
“You write a story about some show, movie, band, comic strip, or whatever, and insert yourself as a main character, or you just make up a story that continues the movie or show,” Reuven explained. “Last week in Hebrew class, some girl got in trouble for writing a very R-rated and horribly-written fanfiction about that ugly new MTV group In Stink.”
“They’re called N’Sync, you dumb-ass,” Kristen said.
“Whatever. One of them looks like a cross between Harpo Marx and a Chia pet, and he sings like he hasn’t hit puberty yet. He looks as unmanly as the ugly lead in that horrible movie you were all over.”
“It’s Titanic stories,” Avner reported from over her shoulder.
“Almost two thousand people, mainly poor immigrants, died in that tragedy,” Avraham David said. “It’s beyond understanding how you can turn that into a minor backdrop for an unrealistic MTV-era ‘love story’ set in 1912. My girlfriend’s brother wrote a great report exposing that movie for the inaccurate garbage it is.”
Kristen sat testily while waiting for the first course to be served. She and Karyn were last to have anything passed to them, by which time everyone else had taken most of the salads. As another jeer, Reuven dumped a huge uncut chunk of gefilte fish on Kristen’s plate.
“So Avi has a girlfriend now?” she asked patronizingly. “I assume it’s Karyn’s radical cousin Vikki.”
“Vikki’s not that radical, you twit. She has dreams beyond being a wife at eighteen, wants a real career, and is involved in important causes, not fashion clubs and Backdoor Boy fan clubs.”
“She asked him to be her boyfriend,” Joshua said. “In my day, boys asked girls on dates. Even people who already liked one another didn’t presume to ask for an actual relationship before they’d even had one date.”
“And it was in my favorite place, Granary. Don’t worry, Miss Stereotype, I asked her for a kiss.”
“You’re a freak. Real men don’t even ask. And you had your first kiss and apparently first date in a cemetery.”
“Nice guys ask. It’s just a common courtesy the first time around. Not everyone wants to kiss on the first date.”
“Those people are losers. But meanwhile, I have a hot to trot new man. I met him in line at D’Angelo’s in the food court of the Curry Student Center. I was ordering a salad, and he was getting a nice meaty sub. It was a bit under two weeks ago, right after I got back on campus.”
“Karyn said he’s twenty-seven,” Pauline said in concern. “Did he know your age when you met?”
“I love older men. I know he’s serious about marriage, since he’s already been married and has a three-year-old son. When I told him I’m nineteen, he said I was younger than he wanted to date, but went for it since I wowed him so much.”
“Why would any adult man want to date a teenager?” Joshua asked. “He’s twenty-seven. It’s not like he’s twenty-three, which would be a peer.”
“We’re peers! We’re both at NU!”
“At least Justin was in the same college environment, albeit as a grad student. But this is a fellow going back to school for an additional degree or certification after I presume a number of years of working and living independently.”
“More proof he’s marriage material!”
“He’ll be twenty-eight in January,” Karyn nodded. “Very mature.”
“Ew, that’s nine years of difference,” Reuven said. “That’s like if I were dating a three-year-old. He was old enough to drink when you were in junior high.”
“Well, we’re equal now!”
“Tell me how a nineteen-year-old college sophomore is anywhere near the same level as a man who’s closer to thirty than twenty and who has adult experiences under his belt,” Joshua said as he cut a piece of chicken. “And he’s been married, so we can rule out his dating you because he’s inexperienced for his age.”
“Lawyers make mad money. He could easily spend five months’ salary on the ring.”
“Did you know that most people didn’t use diamond rings till the 1948 DeBeers ad campaign ‘A Diamond Is Forever’?” Avraham David asked. “This lovely monopolistic company is also the entity who made up the so-called ‘two months’ salary’ rule. Do you even know what goes on in Africa to harvest these overpriced refined hunks of coal?”
“You’re crazy if you’re planning marriage after less than two weeks,” Avner said. “Has he even said he wants a second marriage?”
“Why is he divorced?” Moshe asked.
“Mr. and Mrs. Brandon P. Davis, Esquire,” Kristen sighed dreamily. “My lovely future title.”
Everyone but Karyn rolled their eyes.