Loco Parentis: Sheets Happen

So do towels. And condoms. My daughter’s brief life as a maid

“I GOT THE job,” Marcy announces, bouncing into the kitchen in early June, smiling proudly.

I look up from chopping onions. “What job?”

“Housekeeper at the Best Western.” She can’t stop grinning. “They asked one question at the interview: ‘Do you speak English?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ And they put me to work right away.”

I set my knife down, dismayed. “We were going to discuss you interviewing for that job! We didn’t say you could do it!”

She twirls around, shrugging. “Oh well. I needed a job. I got a job.”

“But that job … ” My friend Ruth and I had lunch once at the Best Western’s restaurant, and the whole joint smelled like toilet-cake deodorant. Not to mention that I’m not thrilled at the prospect of my 19-year-old daughter cleaning the motel rooms of strangers. Who knows what goes on behind those closed doors?

There’s more to the story, though. She heard about the job through her Mexican boyfriend Angel. Angel has a cousin — Angel always has a cousin — whose wife’s sister is a maid at the Best Western. I’m not exactly eager to have the bonds between Marcy and Angel strengthened by this sort of family entanglement.

Marcy faces me again. “I need a job, Mom. If I’m going to spend another semester in Mexico, I need to make more money. You said so yourself.”

“You were going to work at the Y.” That’s what she did last summer — taught arts and crafts to little kids.

“That wouldn’t have been enough hours. Anyway, they gave that job to a grown-up.” It’s a tough summer to be a teenager; all of Marcy’s high-school friends have come home from college to find their once-steady seasonal work — lifeguarding, babysitting, serving ice cream — gone to grown-ups. I should be proud of my daughter. But I can’t help thinking about what my sister, whose sons sail yachts down to Bermuda every summer, will say.

It doesn’t seem, though, that Marcy cares about my social embarrassment. “I’m tired,” she yawns. “I’m going to watch Top Chef.”


THE NEXT DAY, she puts in a 10-hour shift. “It’s hard,” she tells me. “You have to make the beds a certain way, turning the sheets down just so. And no matter how careful I am, Erma” — the Ecuadoran who’s training her — “always finds something wrong.” It occurs to me that this is a child who has never once in her life made her own bed. My mood brightens slightly. She won’t last a week.

“The girls are so nice, though,” she says. “I’m the only one who speaks English.” She’s also fluent in Spanish, thanks to three Latino boyfriends in a row and her semester in Mexico. “ The manager is … Middle Eastern, maybe? His name is Ahmet. He tells me things, and then I tell the girls.”

“All women?”