Ever since I saw The Little Princess as a girl I dreamed of sitting atop an Indian idol, being splashed by an elephant with magical people painted blue surrounding me chanting my name. Needless to say, this never happened. The closest I ever got was a trip to Mexico with an old best friend and her family — to be fair, I did have a canopy bed for a while as well. My dad would castigate me later, holding the pictured proof in his hand, that I did indeed ride an elephant in Maine once, though this memory, like most happy, childhood moments were repudiated in favor of the more painful, gritty reflections that would provide better writing material in the future.
I was sixteen years old, a little bit squishy, with fake black hair and braces. So, I had a lot going for me (essentially just boobs). The trip was intense to begin with, mostly because my friend’s mom was the manicured fingers, Bebe-bejeweled rhinestone studded shirt, I-spent-a-thousand-dollars-just-shopping-for-this-trip type of woman. But she was super fun! I spent most of the trip in an awkward state of not wanting to get in the middle of Mary and her mom’s intense tiffs about who got to wear the most bedazzled Guess shirt. My mom had me when she was forty, so we never really had the sharing closet luxury (or curse), although I do now have an extensive collection of her vintage leather boots, shoulder-padded blazers and one kick-ass pair of high-waisted, checkered, pleated pants so, I win.
We stayed at the Omni hotel in Cancun. I thought it was so fancy that I would see a celebrity but imagine my dismay when instead, I learned the time-honored lesson that there is more than one type of rich person in the world. In Mexico, you can drink at 16, or I’m making that up to feel better about fact that I drank on a family vacation at sixteen. Either way, me and Mary had margaritas on the beach while Mexican men ogled our underdeveloped goodies (‘sup puberty?). We even danced like no one was watching.
Then the adventures began. You know what’s not the funnest thing in the world when you’re paralyzed by heights? Parasailing. Do you know what they frown upon when you’re parasailing? Peeing in the air directly into the water. We only went on one parasailing trip.
If people said YOLO back when I was on this trip I would’ve spent most days saying YOLO (to be ironically non-ironic). Next on the Kardashian summer getaway, were were to go four-wheeling and then finish off the day horseback riding into the ocean. Just like any middle class American family desperately holding on to their Bill Clinton wealth would do.
“Will my personal assistant meet us there?” I thought out loud, to the amusement of no one except Ian, a friend of Mary’s family who would later invite me to his senior prom because I was “the type of girl who could burp in front of guys.” I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I had game even with braces. Mona, Mary’s mom, was complaining about the heat and her hair, which consistently looked better than mine, when I saw the machines we would be riding.
We took the bus to the spot where our day adventure would take place with the help of my high school spanish and false sense of gumption.
“Are we going sand-duning?” I asked. Our safety instructor, a mix between Antonio Banderas and Beaker, was not amused.
“What about racing? Can we race?”
“Let’s pick teams. Can I be the captain?”
“Everyone ready to go?” Asked Beaker, clearly practiced in the art of debbie-downering.
I can make it through most days without feeling pathetic and insignificant by saying out loud to myself “I four-wheeled in the Mexican jungle.” But that’s also because I leave out the part where I’m a complete asshat:
We had been wheeling through the jungle for a while when I wanted to kick things up a notch, you know, YOLO and all. Carl, Mona’s fiancée was behind me, rounding out the troops, being a typical man. Until I fooled myself into thinking I was trying out for the X-games, attempted a wheelie, and tipped over while still on my four-wheeler as me and the machine both rolled off the track and into a Mexican mud pile. Carl raced to me like any adult chaperoning an underage child that is not his or her own would.
“So, horseback riding should be fun?” I said, assuring everyone I was fine and no I wouldn’t be suing them when I got home.
At the end of the trail we arrived at the spot where we would hop on horses and ride into the sunset. Just without saddles and all that other stuff that makes riding a horse safe, enjoyable, and not feel like your hoo-ha is being assaulted by bony, four-legged beast.
Mary hopped on her horse first only to have it immediately buck her off and start naying incessantly as Mary curled into a ball screaming “Get it away! Get it away!”
But I was promised a kodac moment of me gracefully entering the water, barebacking a horse with my new blue Quicksilver bikini. I did not anticipate the reality of me being in the sitting position for the picture — the kryptonite to any self-aware stomach-conscious teenage girl. And although I relish the memory of my horseback ride into the Mexican ocean, the superfluous amount of times my mom exhibited the picture of squishy-stomached Aly for any and everyone to see was more painful then holding in my poop all vacation for fear of the boys hearing me.
It’s always fun going on trips with other families because you get to see a new brand of dysfunction completely different from your own. Your brand is comfortable, familiar, but for everyone else it’s an episode of Intervention without the hope of someone going to rehab at the end. Whether conscious or not, I was never invited to another one of Mary’s family vacations.
Did you ever travel far with a friend’s family? How’d it go? What about vivid memories of family trips gone wrong?