any given weekday morning, rain or shine, you could find Wade Rouse
in the carpool lane of Tate Academy helping to direct traffic,
usher kids into school and placate the concerns of parents. Rouse
was not a crossing guard or even a teacher, but the director of
publicity at the prestigious mid-western school.
In his latest memoir, CONFESSIONS OF A PREP SCHOOL MOMMY HANDLER,
the author of AMERICA'S BOY recounts his life at the beck and call
of a few of the super rich and snobby mothers of Tate students.
While publicity is ostensibly his job at Tate, Rouse soon learns
that his primary responsibility is handling overly involved and not
very kind mommies. For him, the carpool lane comes to symbolize his
demeaning work at the school.
Rouse is clever, funny and kind, but not to himself. His low
self-esteem is attractive to the ladies he dubs "the mean mommies,"
especially to Katherine Isabelle Ludington, or "Kitsy." Kitsy, a
Tate alum and the parent to young Tate student "Mitsy," decides to
become deeply involved in both the major and minor happenings on
the busy Tate calender. These are the events that Rouse is
generally in charge of, and somehow, over the course of the year,
he ends up being her assistant. Rouse is desperate to turn her down
but is unable to do so. She humiliates him, manipulates him
emotionally and buys him off with expensive gifts, yet he still
wonders if she in fact may be his first adult female friend.
It is not necessary to have read Rouse's first memoir, in which he
talks about his childhood and young adulthood, to fully understand
where he is coming from in CONFESSIONS, but it does help a little.
Rouse grew up in the rural south in an eccentric but caring family.
He was gay, overweight and unpopular. Later he slimmed down, came
out to his family and close friends, and found true love in his
partner, Gary. But the insecure boy remained deep within him, and
Kitsy and the other mean mommies knew how to bring him out. Over
the course of the year, with some encouragement and
self-realization, Rouse garners the strength to stand up to the
injustices of the carpool lane.
While a memoir, this is far from a tell-all. Kitsy is a composite
of several of the women Rouse knew at the university, but most of
the time that fact is easy to overlook as he draws us into the
world of Tate: SUVs, vacation homes, designer labels, expendable
income, free time and lots of Lilly Pulitzer pink. Overall, Rouse
is far kinder to his subjects than they ever were to him.
CONFESSIONS is funny and touching, and Rouse really hits his stride
when he begins to explore why he stayed on at a job that made him
miserable. Full of interesting characters and told by a genuinely
good guy, this is a fun and thoughtful book that is not to be
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 7, 2011
Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler: A Memoir