DO: Opt for pearls on special occasions to please your mother
DON'T: Think wearing pearls will get you off the opting-out-of-college hook
So Chloe Wong-Leiberman was a senior without a plan. She was also a Chinese Jewish WASP with a fashion disorder. What, you ask, is a fashion disorder? It's not what you might be thinking--like, someone with zero sense of style and no fashion sense whatsoever. Au contraire, Chloe had plenty of style and tons of fashion sense. Too much. She'd even say she's obsessed. And do you know what obsession is like? To eat, drink, think, breathe, dream, and be totally and hopelessly consumed by something? This, as you might already know, kinda sucks.
Chloe was totally and hopelessly obsessed with everything related to clothing, shoes, and accessories--and not just her own. She was obsessed with your clothing, shoes, and accessories too--so obsessed that eventually she had to diagnose herself with, well, her fashion disorder. (We'll cover the symptoms shortly.) For right now just know that this FD thing, as she liked to call it, was extremely problematic. Especially because her FD was the reason she was on the verge of her high school graduation without a postgrad plan. And to be a senior without a postgrad plan in the Wong-Leiberman household was a gigantic DON'T.
You know, like there are DOs and DON'Ts in fashion, well, there are DOs and DON'Ts for Wong-Leibermans too. Like, DO plan on applying to, getting into, and then attending a REALLY HARD college. Like, DON'T even think about NOT applying to, getting rejected from, and not attending a really hard college. And well, Chloe had about the same chance to get into a REALLY HARD college that Melissa Rivers had to, like, cut the cord and get off that red carpet.
In a perfect world (and you know we don't live in one of those) Chloe wouldn't even apply to college at all; she'd apply to fashion school, Central Saint Martins in London to be exact. But it was in London and it was an art school and art schools didn't count as really hard colleges, don't you know? And even though the fam had lowered the traditional A-list bar out of sheer necessity, Saint Martins was definitely not on-the-list. Not even the B list. Or C list. It was on the don't-even-think-about-applying list. Not that she was going to since that would require some confidence and Chloe didn't have much of that.
And despite her seriously diverse background like . . . Asian shame, Jewish guilt, and some good old-fashioned WASP contempt, Chloe Wong-Leiberman didn't chant or go to temple and she had never even been to church (although she had been in a church parking lot one time to buy these insane Bakelite bangles at some dead lady's estate sale). Prime opps to score vintage. Chloe just loved vintage. Wells Park, where she lived, was low on vintage. That's because everything there was new, new, new!
Wells Park was this ritzy "gated community" nestled by the sea with three country clubs and, like, two Chinese people. One of those Chinese people was her mom, Lucinda, and the other was her grandma who had just moved in, Pau-Pau. (That means Grandma in Cantonese and Cantonese is one of a zillion dialects spoken by Chinese people.) If Chloe were to include her sixteen-year-old brother Mitchell and herself then that actually would make it three whole Chinese people. Definitely a Wells Park record.
Wells Park was Southern Cali all the way. It was all about pampas grass and palm trees and Pilates bodies (aspiring at least)--continually drenched in sun and skin, lots of terry cloth and flip-flops and patrolled by, like, fake policemen.
The Wong-Leibermans lived in a three-story McMansion; you know, one of those humungous homes that all look the same. This one was custom built eighteen years earlier by Lucinda to mimic an early-American colonial style, complete with green plantation shutters and a red-shingled roof and financed by none other than the Bacon Bringer himself, Chloe's dad, Stanley.
Stanley was senior partner at the Newport firm Schmukla, Schitty, and Schizer--a midsize law firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions. That meant he made a considerable chunk of change doling out tax advice to rich people who "sheltered" cash on faraway islands with names like Parakeet Bay and Gold Mountain. He did all the native Wells Park locals' taxes and that's why the Leibermans were the first part-Jewish family to be sponsored at the Shore, the first country club to arrive on the Wells Park scene some forty years ago (which is way old for Wells Park).
Stan, hands down, was a workaholic. Mitchell, Mr. All-Star-Everything, was a dutiful workaholic in training who liked to gloat and flex and praise the Market or Republicans or Himself and not necessarily in that order. Chlo's Chinese grandma (again that would be Pau-Pau, pronounced Paw-Paw, not Po-Po or Poo-Poo), well, she only moved in a month ago to recover from surgery--a major stomach cancer operation that removed, like, her entire esophagus. Then there was Zeyde. That's Yiddish for Grandpa. Zeyde rhymes with lady. You don't know what Yiddish is? Check out the glossary in the back for my definition.
Zeyde wasn't official at 450 Avocado Lane but he liked to pop by from time to time to nosh or nap or lament the fact that his grandkids were never bar mitzvahed. Then there was Wally, Lucinda's beloved fifty-pound Corgi. Seriously--the dog weighed fifty pounds. That's, like, twice what he was supposed to weigh. At this rate he was going down fast.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Chloe Leiberman (Sometimes Wong) by Carrie Rosten. Copyright © 2005 by Carrie Rosten. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.