Nonfiction | July 01, 2011

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My father worked in a white T-shirt, off-white overalls and construction boots that were spattered with paint and crusted with Spackle. His fingers looked like wooden spindles, whitish as if they’d been stripped and then antiqued, and no matter how he scrubbed or what he wore, my father always smelled like turpentine: kind of clean and kind of poisonous. Maria said her father was an executive at General Electric. Terri’s father worked at the New York Stock Exchange. Donna told me her dad was a corporate attorney, and I had heard enough. Corporate attorney, commodities trader, CEO: suit-and-tie occupations. With the luxury of sitting behind a desk, my classmates’ fathers might as well be wearing slippers, too. I never went out of my way to tell anyone that my father was a house painter but I never denied him or what he did for a living. Whenever someone asked me who my father worked for, I was happy to announce that he worked for himself. I took pride in the fact that my father really worked for our bread and butter.

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