The Time I Got My Learner’s Permit and Lied to My Mom


When I was in high school, I got into a super duper serious relationship. Obviously my mom, Donna, had been going on for months about my new boyfriend. She had met him, but still didn’t really know him. He was incredibly shy and quiet and I wasn’t in a huge, “emotional sharing” phase with my mom at that time. I had a boyfriend. Therefore Donna got put on the backburner. But nearly every day after school, she would hit me with the mandatory one million questions: What do his parents do? How old is he, again? Does he drive? What’s his tennis ranking? Is he Jewish? You know, the standard stuff. But then she asked the one that haunted me in my sleep: “Do you need birth control?”

“Mom! NO WAY! I do not need birth control.” (I got it that one time I went to visit my sisters in Wilmington. I gulped a fiery mouthful of moonshine and grabbed a month’s worth of Orthotricyclin out of Emily’s bathroom.)

“But seriously mom, I am not doing it. I swear.”

I was totally doing it. But it’s not the kind of thing I felt like shouting from a mountaintop, let alone sharing with my mom. Up to that point I was always open and honest, but something happened in high school where I became a hormonal, secretive, bitchy teenager. Once I went away to college, I stopped lying to Donna. Anyway, I had a lot on my mind, like getting my Learner’s Permit.

And, two weeks later…
“Please read the last two lines.”

“A D F G K L M…3 F W K Q V B”

“Okay. Take a seat over there and look into the lens. No. You can’t smile. (Click.) Your card will be ready in about five minutes.”

FIVE whole minutes!? I sat in the plastic chair with absolutely no patience. My foot rattled violently, while I simultaneously chewed off all of my fingernails. I glanced in my compact mirror to see if any flakes of my Hard Candy’s Red Shimmer nail polish had lodged in my teeth (didn’t want to look like I had a bloody case of Gingivitis in my picture). Continuing to bite, I ripped back too much skin and shuddered, as I had to suck the blood from my pinkie. These are the things I do when I’m anxious. I mean, I was about to receive my Learner’s Permit. Not quite as amazing as a full-on drivers license, but it was still exciting.

My mind raced at the thought of what my picture would look like. Never had I ever so carefully picked out my navy blue, Tommy Hilfiger shirt and khaki skort. (Apparently, they do not take a full body shot for your permit picture.) Suddenly, I felt the need to make sure I hadn’t missed anything during my prep, that morning:

Hair pulled back and sprayed with Rain hairspray (check). Two symmetrical strands dangling in the front to frame my eyes (check, and why this hairstyle was ever popular, I will never know). And the final touch: my “Return to Tiffany’s” necklace I received on my Bat Mitzvah (check). It seemed like I had taken care of everything, so now I just had to wait to make sure my cuteness fully came through on the final picture. In a mildly dazed state from staring at a woman with a mullet, and thinking what it would be like to braid the long part, I heard my name called over the intercom, “Summer Land.”

I don’t want to brag or anything, but, as 15-year-old pictures go, I looked phenomenal. No acne (thanks, Maybelline), flawless hair, and the finest jewelery a high-schooler could ever wish for (thanks, Roseman family). I was so excited to have this shiny, awesome card with my picture on it to put in my wallet! It would sit next to my school photo (not quite as flattering), a Gadzooks gift card, and Donna’s credit card. Not only was I thrilled to be able to operate machinery, but I was also incredibly relieved. The upcoming summer months would be spent on Martha’s Vineyard with Laura, and I desperately needed to prove that I could facilitate transfer from beach to town.

Day one of driving was mildly peaceful, as it mostly consisted of cruising around the neighborhood. Day two was gradually more stressful, as we ventured onto banked roads and into areas with speed limits in excess of 35 mph. However, day three proved to be disastrous. I was driving my mom around in her Hyundai Santa Fe when my brand new flip phone rang. Like a seasoned driving pro, I pressed pause on my 3LW CD and went to answer.

“Sarah! How are you? …That’s cool …Yeah. I am driving at the moment …what? My mom won’t shut up. Hold on – (then, to Donna:) MOM! I am trying to drive. What the fuck!? Gahhhhd! Well fine! Why don’t you just drive then!?”

And that’s when I unreasonably decided to turn into a gas station so she could do just that. If Donna was going to be such a “backseat driver” then she could take over! I jerked the wheel to the right. Hard. Unfortunately, I was in the middle lane and failed to notice the car to my immediate right. As my hands switched from 10 and 2 to 1 and 8, our midsized SUV slammed itself (okay, I slammed it) into an unsuspecting white pickup truck. There was a haze of cars crunching and two generations of women simultaneously screaming “Fuck!” But all parties involved still managed to pull over in to the gas station. An exchange of “Are you okays” and “What the fuck were you thinkings” took place until the cops arrived. A balding officer approached me with a rotund sidekick in tow. Turns out, I’d fucked up the #1 rule of learning how to drive: You’re supposed to actually have your license on you. And mine was in my other purse (the one for going “out” out, not just out). So we had to call the boyfriend’s mom to bring it to me from her house.

As Donna was sternly reminding me that I was absolutely brain dead and that I should have been drowned at birth, his mom pulled up in her white Cadillac Escalade. Standing at about four feet nothing, she hopped down from the driver’s seat with my purse in tow. The only thing more awkward than their meeting was when the police officer asked us to clarify who was my mother. Donna is brunette. I’m blonde. Boyfriend’s mom is blonde. Therefore, I must be the blonde woman’s child. Only proving my point more that people simply can’t differentiate between blondes. Once it was sorted whose womb I came from, we carried on. The rest was pretty standard, as far as car accidents go. There was a lot of standing, paperwork, and “That could have been so much worse” talk. Finally, I was handed my ticket and got back in the car with my mom. A self-confessed hypochondriac, I started complaining that my shoulder and stomach were really bothering me, and I needed to go to the ER, right away. So, of course, Donna took her battered car and vacuous daughter to the hospital.

Donna and I patiently waited in the comfort of our sticky (with what, I am not sure), plastic, emergency room chairs. From there, we watched a man who was practicing Lamaze wipe a single glistening tear from his cheek as he explained what he thought were his kidney stones to the emotionally vacant receptionist. Unamused, she sent him to take a seat next to us. Seeing the guy’s struggle to birth crystallized urine from his urethra, I thought to myself how much I wasn’t looking forward to labor. Which led me to my next thought: I hope I’m not pregnant. Even though I was using condoms obsessively, I had this irrational fear wash over me every time I saw a First Response commercial.

The doctor who called us back was young and handsome. Probably fresh out of med school at the University of Florida. I explained that we had just been in a car accident and that my shoulder and stomach really hurt. He decided that I needed a CAT Scan, so here came the preliminary questions. “Do you smoke or consume alcohol?, Do you have any jewelry on? Is there any chance you could be pregnant?” 15-year-old Summer freaked out and murmured, “No, I don’t drink or smoke (lies on the drinking part). Yes, I have a belly-button ring (embarrassing).” And then I paused. Inside, I had thought back over the past couple of months. Every time a First Response commercial came on, my OCD self would immediately change the channel. In my head I concluded that if I changed it quickly enough, I wasn’t pregnant. Now my mind was reeling, HAD I WATCHED TOO MUCH?

“And yes, I could be pregnant.”

Donna whacked my shoulder (ouch) with the back of her hand and said, “I KNEW IT!”

And that’s how my mom found out I was sexually active. In hindsight, a nice heart-to- heart over a bowl of ice cream may have been a little less detrimental to our relationship, but whatever. I’m special. After a few tests, it was determined that I had a cyst on my spleen, caused by the accident. That’s all! I have never been so relieved to find out I have a sack of fluid clinging to one of my organs. It was so much better than a fetus. I was told to rest, not engage in contact sports and was also given a prescription for birth control. To my mother’s dismay, the hospital was not in a position to give me a lobotomy.

By Summer Land

*This story was originally published here: http://www.flamingopink.com.au/2013/07/the-time-i-got-my-learners-permit-and-lied-to-my-mom/

*This is an edited excerpt from Summer’s book, Summerlandish: Do As I Say, Not As I Did by Summer Land, published by Hardie Grant Books and is available here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Summerlandish-Do-Say-Not-Did/dp/1742706444

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