The first thing you should know about me is: I am an only child. There was no grand fruit-related naming scheme happening at the Oppenheimers. My parents just loved bananas (for real) and thought the name was sweet and innocent (how old school, right?).
So, now that your burning question has been answered, let's get to the good stuff.
Yes, I'm cousins with Ex Oh Van Der Woodsen. Yes, she's always been a gossip.
Yes, I've made out with Colt Royale. I'd do it again, in a heartbeat. He's also the only person on the planet who's allowed to call me 'Nan'.
Yes, I live with a stylist. I don't know if that's what got me this gig, but if it is, I'm super grateful!
Marsha is my mentor, my muse, divinity personified. I don't know how I got so lucky to be paired with her.
People call me: Nanner, Anna, Hammock, Manner, Opp, B.O. and a variety of less savory options, I'm sure.
For my fifth birthday, my parents commissioned a banana flambé cake. I'd always liked bananas - most kids do - but this was the first time I can really remember being like: oh, the cake, it's made of... me? Which was a really weird thought for a kindergartner to have. But in the middle of the extravagant pool party, balloon animals, sugar-rushed kids and wine-drunk adults, I had the sickening feeling that I was about to eat my own flesh and blood.
My parents lit the swirling sparkler candles.
Ameliore Mitts (she was the it pop singer at the time) sang HAPPY BIRTHDAY while my stomach twisted into knots.
My parents helped me blow out the candles. They used a gold knife to cut the first piece and offered it to me. Mashed bananas wilted between decadent chocolate. A little of the rainbow icing had smeared across the layers. I felt the bile creeping up my throat.
And then I ate it. The entire slice. In one gasping breath.
A few minutes later, bent over one of the rented trash cans, retching, people chuckled. "Always drinks from the firehose, that one," someone said.
I wiped my mouth with my lacy sleeve. I'd like to see you try eating yourself, buster. But I didn't say that. I said, "I'd like some more, please."
I ate three more slices that day, and kept down all of them. Many years later I told my parents about my brief foray into cannibalism. My father laughed. My mother squeezed my shoulder. And that year, when I turned eighteen, I once again had a banana cake. That's just what passes for humor with us Oppenheimers.
But you probably knew that. Countless magazine articles have been written about my virtuoso mother, whether it's about her skill in conducting an orchestra, or her charity work in the arts. My father - I can say this now that I'm adult - is the worst kind of socialite. His evenings are filled with events, excuses to be seen, and his days are spent nursing his hangovers. As my mother always says, it's a good thing he's pretty.
Sometimes I wonder if he's the reason there's just me. If my mother was simply too tired of caring for two babies to consider another.
But then, neither parent was especially nurturing. I had Anneke for that, and later Kaira, and finally Dag. Au pairs, tutors, governesses, nutritionists, nurses - all rolled into one. No expense was spared on my development, except the expense of emotional investment.
Boo hoo, woe is me, I know.
Self-pity turned into a mean streak as a tween. I don't have any excuses. I was awful to the other girls in my year, and not much nicer to the boys. As my hormones stabilized, I settled into my body. What had been awkward and gangly grew rounder, softer. Dressing, which had once been a chore, became the highlight of my day. I put my considerable allowance to good use and began to spend time with kids two, three, five years older than myself. They honed my fashion sense, my playful wit, my independence. Who needed parents when you had friends?
I've lived by that philosophy ever since. When I was sixteen I spent a year at a boarding school in the mountains adjacent to District One. It was the best year of my life. Without constant access to the high fashion shops in the center of the Capitol, I was forced to create and recreate my wardrobe. I learned to sew, to stitch, to pin and repurpose. Every day brought a new opportunity to demonstrate myself in the clothes I wore.
When I returned home, at seventeen, I declared that I would not be returning to school. I passed my equivalency exam that summer, and started strutting on the catwalk that fall. My mother resisted, but my father saw the opportunity I presented: I was an ally in his quest to stay permanently anchored in society. It took me awhile - too long - to realize that his keen interest in my modeling career wasn't that of a supportive, genuine parent, but rather that he was using me to advance his own ambitions.
Just shy of my eighteenth birthday, I moved in with my cousin, Ex Oh Van Der Woodsen.
The rest, if you read the society rags, is history. Ex Oh opened doors for me, ensuring a steady career as a print model. Occasionally my fashion exploits made the front page, but mostly it was how I wore the clothes, not what I wore.
Disappointment mashed into the gaps between my ribs, filling me up, slowly.
Which isn't to say there weren't epicly good times. Colt comes to mind. Meeting Capricious King. Finally being able to afford my own apartment.
And then one, the phone call. A stylist position had opened, and while it wasn't for one of the more desirable districts, it would come with a substantial salary and the opportunity to create my own clothing line.
"But," I said, twisting the phone cord through my fingers, "I don't have any training."
"Yes, dear, that's why we've offered you this specific position. The other Stylist, Marsha, is quite capable of teaching you."
I paused, my breath caught. "Marsha Mellow knows who I am!?"
The faceless woman on the other end of the line chuckled. "She's about to."
It was late when we hung up. I stared out the dark window at the rushing cars below, lights flashing, life speeding by. Without thinking about anything too hard, I grabbed my coat, wrapped a red scarf around my freshly dye blonde hair, pulled the edges up to my nose. I walked seven city blocks to a little bakery, arriving just as they were closing for the night.
I sat in the window, as they swept the day away - the day I'd been made a Stylist of Panem - and ate my slice of banana cake.