Let Me Explain
I’m a writer, and like most writers who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, I live for stories in any form—TV, movies, books—but as kid, it was movies. I was obsessed. I wanted to be Ally in The Karate Kid, Cindy in Can’t Buy Me Love, Casey in Mad About You, or Sloane in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. In short, not unlike a lot of teenage girls, I wanted to be the girlfriend, the object of some boy’s desire.
I watched those movies again and again, studied hard and eventually got the part, more than once actually. Five proms, one town beauty pageant (which I ironically won with a poignant essay about identity), and four years of college later– where in addition to getting the guy, I wrote and studied literature– I gave up a room of my own for a house in the suburbs.
My Oh Sh-t! Moment
Then one day I was watching a movie when my newborn’s diaper exploded all over my lap, and it hit me like a ton of… well, you know: Ally, Cindy, Casey, and Sloane are terrible characters, profoundly limited and underdeveloped in every way. They may be objects of desire, but that’s all they are, objects.
Ferris ran off to succeed in business without really trying; Daniel-san is now a clumsy sad-sack on Dancing With the Stars (Watch for post entitled: Why Dancing with the Stars should be called Dancing with the Black Holes); Not sure what happened to that Joey guy; McDreamy is a brain surgeon and all I’ve done is have his baby! Wait a sec—two of his babies! I was alone, covered in shit, and only just now reading the fine print of my deal:
As you age, you will receive an automatic demotion to sit-com mom, an existence as limited and underdeveloped as your previous role, but with no reason or occasion to ever be desirable. In addition, love is not returnable; he’s not a kid anymore—karate or otherwise—and neither are you; he may not always be mad about you; and you’re the mommy. There are no days off.
Did I really sign my life away to become some trite brunette who loves Raymond and his vague kids?
I told myself not to panic. I’m young. I have options.
- I could do what Ally did: Ditch Daniel or whoever the heck Tom Cruise played in Cocktail and run off to Vegas to become a hooker. I might have to endure a horrific gang rape or two, but eventually I’ll get promoted to Crime Scene Investigator specializing in blood splatter. I already have a lot of experience in vomit and poop splatter. How different could it be? Whore to star is a well-worn path thanks to the Kardashians, but the whole thing seems a little outside my comfort zone.
- I could consult with Mr. Miyagi. After all, he took on Hilary Swank in that horrible sequel. I could paint some fences, polish some cars, and do some crane kicks on a rowboat to learn balance. Of course Pat Morita is dead. I doubt he’s taking on new students.
- Then I thought of Carl Jung. (No, not the coke guy Johnny Depp played. That was George Jung.) I mean Carl Jung the analyst. There is a book by one of his female colleagues called The Way of All Women. It details the rewards and pitfalls of being a woman, including this sense of being typecast, and stresses that a woman should seek to develop all facets of her personality. While each woman will choose to focus more in one area than another, like career instead of motherhood or vice-versa, she should not be limited by her choice. In other words, she should strive to be both Tom Cruise’s girlfriend and a Vegas prostitute (Are you listening, Katie Holmes?), or in my case, a wife/mother and a writer.
But, my lovely editor says, the question wasn’t if we should do something, it’s how. How do you get stuff done with kids?
No, not the kind you smoke. I hear it takes your life up with it. And not the kind I like to make, although that too has its place. I’m referring to the crack that occurs in each day. It may not be a whole room of your own, but it’s enough space to fit in a little of yourself: like in grocery line where I email myself story ideas and snips of dialog; on the nights when I can’t sleep so I sit at my desk sketching out novel chapters and writing children’s stories; or at the bus stop where I write my illustrious blog posts.
Motherhood is a long phase, but it is just a phase and there will be life after it ends. I try to look back fondly on my time playing “the girlfriend,” cherish the role I have now as wife and mother, and look forward to the Meryl Streep/Diane Keaton days ahead. And in the meantime, I keep writing even if it’s only in the cracks.
(Originally published and reposted from http://www.parenthoodnj.com)