By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
I stood in the doorway of my closet, surveying the racks of clothes and accessories. Gold, glittery high-heeled pumps? Check. Muppet-red calf-length faux fur coat? Got it. Studded punk-rock belts in three colors? Yep. I bit my lip in frustration. It might have been the first time in my life when I had absolutely nothing to wear. Then again, is there any wardrobe suited to selling out and abandoning everything you once held dear in the name of journalism?
In this case, yes. An Abercrombie polo with a popped collar would work just fine. And some oversized Chanel sunglasses. Maybe a pair of $160 Seven jeans. Could I put those on my expense account? And, while I'm at it, could I get reimbursed for my soul? After all, I was preparing to infiltrate one of the most insidious, nefarious circles of corruption and vice I could imagine: the privileged teenagers of the Park Cities.
I'd seen them cramming their Audis and Jags into the compact spaces in front of Mockingbird Station. I'd heard them discussing the complexities of their lives over venti skim lattes, lamenting their inability to get any schoolwork done while the maid was vacuuming. The adolescent spawn of the Park Cities was moneyed and beautiful. Snobby, perky and preppy. Everything I'd spent my high school years hating, counting down the days until graduation when I could escape the imbecility of my pea-brained peers. But three years later, I felt I'd grown. I was now worldly enough to put all that behind me. I wouldn't allow that old, bitter contempt to color my reporting, right?
I dragged out a pair of pink imitation Ugg boots from the back of the closet. You've seen Uggs. They look like they're made for arctic exploration but are properly paired with a minuscule skirt and Prada bag. I'd bought mine because they were functional, good for trudging back and forth across the snowy sidewalks of New York City, where I'd gone to college. But my boots' soles were too thick, and the cottony fuzz peeking out the tops was clearly not the soft sheep's wool of the genuine article. I stuffed my feet into them and pulled on a denim miniskirt I'd made from an old pair of Levi's. Looking in the mirror, I practically had to shield my eyes from my legs' milky hue. Pathetic.
The lives of kids in Highland Park and University Park are the stuff of legend, or at least of Thursday night Fox programming. I'd heard tales of deviant behavior a la The O.C., complete with all-night parties featuring tragic teenage girls with eating disorders and absentee parents. Stories of tanned, svelte adolescents doing lines of blow off their moms' vanity mirrors. And here I was, former church youth group president and incurable computer nerd, trying to play along for the sake of my job. O, fate is a cruel, cruel mistress.
I practiced straightening my hair until it gained a glossy Park Cities sheen. The girl in the mirror was one I recognized but had trouble liking. I'd spent four years at Mansfield High School in south Tarrant County dedicated to the art of jealously loathing anyone who appeared to be having a good time. My weekends were spent reading Ayn Rand novels, attending Christian punk rock concerts and updating my online journal. I had no patience with the Camaro-driving, football game-attending nitwits. Mansfield was the kind of town where people still kept buffalo in their front yard. Wal-Mart was the center of commerce, and the new Chili's the super-hot place to see and be seen. The idea that anyone under the age of 18 had access to sushi or Jimmy Choo heels was beyond my comprehension.
If raw fish wrapped in seaweed was an option, what other kinds of mind-altering substances might these Park Cities teenagers partake of? Were their kegs forged from pure gold? Did they serve trash-can punch in Waterford glasses? The possibilities were limitless. I knew there was a story to be told.
As I fastened my "A" initial necklace made of 18-carat gold and CZ, I vowed to myself that no designer knock-off shoes would prevent me from finding those vaunted parties. I would not allow my pasty skin to become an obstacle. If necessary, I'd lurk outside Highland Park High School like a pedophile--albeit a non-creepy, 21-year-old female one. I would stop at nothing to get what I wanted. Yes, my virtue would be challenged, but my resolve was strong. If these kids were going to get down, I'd be right there getting down with them.