23 years ago, my mother and father got married. Then they had my brother and me. However, my father's fast-paced life as a racecar driver and my mom's conservative life as a bank teller didn't mesh well, so they got divorced when I was five. Normally, this would be the worst thing ever. However, I was fortunate in that my parents came to the civil agreement of weekdays with Mom, weekends with Dad.

Having divorced parents was the best thing that could have happened to me. Growing up in two different environments helped give me a unique perspective on what I liked and didn't like about my parents. My mom would always be there to support my interests no matter how random they were, like my high school bowling team and my 16-foot ant farm. My dad would always give me practical views on life and leisure, like new sexual positions to try in order to "heighten the experience." The views of my parents give me both direction and many subjects to talk about with my therapist.

My mom and I never really talked and analyzed things much. We have the kind of relationship where I observe a lot of things she does and then I stick them in my memory. For example, whenever stress hits you, a couple of White Russians will cure everything. She isn't the best cook in the world ("Baked Surprise" is still something that haunts my dreams), but she always has a killer spaghetti sauce. My mom is a big believer in family bonding, so we played lots of board games. A bad after-effect of this was the rivalry that developed between my brother and I, which usually resulted in him leaving me death threats spelled out in Scrabble letters.

My dad is the one who is full of practical advice. He helps me keep life in perspective with such anecdotes as "Life's a bitch, and then you die." He also was the one to instill a good work ethic in me -- by handing me a bucket of paint when I was nine and telling me to paint the second story of our house. I have a great respect for my dad for his ability to take up the most random of projects. He's remodeled our back yard about five times, and this past summer he built a camper entirely out of parts he won on eBay. Like my mom, he isn't the best cook in the world, but he always made a kick-ass spaghetti sauce. He remarried a wonderful woman who proofread all my admissions essays for Penn. And by "proofread," I mean that she wrote them for me.

Childhood was always about striking that balance to make both my parents happy. A constant question they would ask was, "Whose spaghetti sauce do you love more?" Both of them, dammit! After I realized that I could never make them happy, I decided that I would run away to college, get a good job, make a lot of money and then one day buy them both houses far away from my island resort in the Caribbean. But, as my dad would say, "Make sure the Communists in Washington don't rape you of your hard-earned money"


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