Run, Isla, Run

Having a mother-in-law is a stark reality I have come to accept.  On bad days, it’s like a terminal reality, but on good days I am almost able to see the bigger picture.  Difficult as she may be, she ties me to the billions of other women who, after muttering the words “I Do”, involuntarily witnessed a similar ball of flames volleyed onto to their courts.

One of the women to whom this dubious honor links me is the actress Isla Fisher, Sacha Baron Cohen’s betrothed.  In case you have been living under a rug in the Sahara Desert, Cohen is the comic (?) behind the hilariously horrifying movie Borat and The Ali G Show.  All seven-foot-eight-inches of him can be found carting around the USA and Europe, making asses out of unsuspecting victims.  Cohen recently fathered a child with Fisher, and they are engaged to be married – but only AFTER she converts to his religion.

Apparently, Cohen comes from an Orthodox Jewish family.  (I am not sure where the Torah prescribes staging homo-erotic cage matches, but whatever.  I’ve also been trying to figure out where Orthodox philosophy condones not only dating a non-Jew, but knocking her up out of wedlock.  That’s three no-no’s in one short sentence!)  

Don’t get me wrong, being religious is fine; what frightens me about this story are the accounts of Cohen’s MOTHER.  She seems to be dissatisfied that Fisher has returned to work making movies “so soon” after having her grandchild, when she had expected Fisher to stay home and spend her time making borscht with the extended family.  She is also very upset that Fisher seems to be taking longer than desired to convert to Judaism – which means that the summer wedding she was planning on throwing her precious son and his hussy bride must be delayed.  (Oh, this is bringing back my own memories!)  The atmosphere between Fisher and Cohen’s mother has evidently become so hostile that Cohen himself is mediating relations. 

My, what a good little boy he is!  Throwing the mother of his child into the controlling clutches of his family.  What a guy.

Since reading about this drama, I have actually developed a shred of gratitude for my own in-laws.  While they have insisted, like children, that I call more/look pretty/obey/quit ruining their son’s life, they would never demand that I convert.  They aren’t Jewish enough for that.  They are what you call Deli Jews:  Jewish enough to faint over good Rugulah and drink Diet Coke with everything, but not enough to go to temple.  Jewish enough to dub a shiksa anyone not wearing Cartier, but not enough to light a menorah.  Jewish enough to Oy with gusto, but not enough to demand that I Oy along with them (although this is admittedly my favorite part).

And thank the great pagan gods for that.  It has been a point of brief contention with my husband, but it isn’t a big deal.  He mentions converting every several months, and I promptly shoot it down.  Other than not subscribing to the concept of organized religion, my reason for not doing so is simple:  If reciting a few words and going through hand motions can magically “make me into” something else, I’d much rather spend that energy becoming tall, blonde and independently wealthy. 

Perhaps, though, Isla really feels it.  Perhaps she has been so moved by her love of Cohen, and by the history and ritual she’s witnessed thus far, that she is willing to walk into her mother-in-law’s den and risk suffocation and identity-snatching for love.  Maybe there really is a part of her that seeks the mothering presence of manipulation and control in order to make sense of the universe.

Me?  I’d tell her to run, Isla, RUN.  Just as far as your unholy shoes will take you.

It’s Official

Although I’ve been broadcasting the news for months, it seems to be dawning on us just now that I am, indeed, pregnant.  Gone are the days of sucking in my stomach.  Expelled from my closet are the the skinny jeans.  Evicted from the mirror is the smooth, lithe torso, and in its place a lumbering 30-something has moved in with her dizzying array of leg cramps, stretch marks and very round luggage.

Until these oddly-shaped harbingers arrived, my pregnancy was more about pseudo-interesting commentary, such as would be tossed out over tea with the girls, like “Robert and I are vacationing out by the pool in July,”  or “we’ve just remodeled the kitchen,” or “wasn’t that pie fantastic.”  Then the table is cleared and we all go on with our respective lives.  Not so now – this IS my life.

In an effort to accentuate the positive as much as possible, I’ve decided to compile an ongoing list of the benefits of pregnancy:

Husband smashes all the spiders.

Husband takes out trash.

Husband deals with litter box.

Ice Cream.

A free ticket out of dinners with people I don’t want to have dinner with.

Cupcakes! But not those.

Everyone asks how I feel all the time, and I get to tell the truth. 

Pregnancy glow and fingernails strong enough to slice a rare steak.

People are generally nicer, which I’ll take any day.

C L E A V A G E!

A (legitimate, finally) excuse to act crazy and clean out all of the closets in the house.

What are/have been YOUR favorite parts of being pregnant?  Stay tuned as the list grows…

 

In Defense of Housewifery II – a note to commentors

A great many responses to my previous post were from very angry women.  Most of them perceived that I was comparing the merits of being a housewife with the merits of being a mother/working mother/stay at home mother, etc.

What is most bewildering to Bewildered Housewife is that nowhere in my missive did I mention any comparisons.  Nowhere did I breathe a word about the worth of working mothers.  Where, exactly, did I imply anything at all about mothers, working or not, and where, exactly, were workloads compared?  Please peruse the first seven paragraphs for reference. 

Oh, you mean the pizza and cocktails comment has our panties in a bunch?  Tsk.  That was an observation of another couple we know, and what they do nearly every night.  In fact, spending time with them recently and seeing that pattern while fielding questions all night about what I “do” spurred the writing of my post.  I’m sorry if that hit a sore spot for you.  These are the perils of writing, my friends.  We are bound to see ourselves in someone’s material at some point, and it’s our decision to take it personally or not.    

As a final word on the matter (because it is my blog, after all) at no place and at no point is it my job as a writer to:

A) Justify my material

B) Be belittled by a reader’s projections

C) Post abusive commentary

D) Change a single word

On a side note, I was raised by a working mother who has been, and continues to be, the most amazing example of Woman I have ever known.  It is simply bizarre that so many perceive a Defense of Housewifery to be, by its nature, equal to an attack on working motherhood.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is the projections that have created a polarity, filling in blanks that are not even there.  One woman’s choice for her own life has nothing at all to do with another woman’s choice for hers.  And yet clearly, so many take it personally, as if Limited Good were in effect.  It’s an incongruency that needs some attention – and one that won’t be resolved until dialogue takes place that can be raised above the adolescent level of name-calling and multiple exclamation points.  

At any rate, I am done with this topic for now.  In Defense of Housewifery was written as a response to an occurence in my life, not as a means to unwind the tangled web of an entire society’s views of femininity and worth.  Onward.

In Defense of Housewifery

As is customary among most American adults, I am often asked what I do for a living.  Whereas I used to dazzle my audience with my resume from the past ten years, I now give a different answer.  Depending on my syllabic mood, I say that I am either a homemaker or a housewife.  In a few short months from now, I’ll have my job title distilled down to one succinct word: MOM.

And then I wait for the inevitable reaction:  First, eyebrows raise in surprise.  Close on those heels comes the usual, slightly passive-aggressive platitude, “Well, THAT must be nice.”  I tell them that no, sitting around eating bon-bons all day must be nice.  What I do actually keeps me busy and on my toes. 

“So, what DO you do all day?” they ask.  What, you mean besides being secretary, accountant, nurse, therapist, housekeeper, laundress, nutritionist, personal shopper, event planner, decorator, executive chef, and, oh yeah, pregnant?  Why, I just sit around eating bon-bons all day.

What is odd is that it never occurs to me to ask what other professionals do all day long.  It’s a question that makes its way specifically toward housewives and other similar women.  Its asking is intended to marginilize us, as if no task we carry out could possibly be as important or necessary as the things that other working people do.  For reasons I have yet to understand, divulging this information makes us a fair target for others’ judgements, as if as stay-home women we become property, kept or child-like, and need to justify our actions and motives even to strangers.

Important to note is that not everyone holds judgment or demands explanation.  I do encounter people – granted, not often – who don’t bat an eyelash, but rather greet my response with a satisfied nod.  It’s no strange coincidence that these are all people who have set their own lives up in such a way as to be doing the things that they love.  Some of it might pass as “official business”, but all of it qualifies as passion.  I have come to imagine that the people who have conciously created their realities don’t find the concept offensive.  It takes a fulfilled person to understand fulfillment.  This is because a satisfied person has had to first embrace the possibility of an authentic existence in order to create it.  A happy person has the capacity to be happy for others.  On the contrary, a dissatisfied person has a compromised ability to imagine satisaction, let alone to be pleased with someone else’s version of it.  To them, satisfaction is always somehow partnered with guilt (guilt for seeking satisfaction, guilt for not seeking it), and it’s a happy housewife’s funny fate to often be an object of that projection.  In reality, my being a housewife (and soon to be stay at home mom) is not a problem – it’s actually YOUR problem.

Is this all to say that I have no desire or drive to do or be anything else?  Of course not.  Am I able to hold a provocative, informed conversation on a myriad of current, cultural and/or academic topics?  Sure am.  Will I continue my education once the babies are a few years old?  You bet I will.  Will I fufill my other dreams of teaching college, writing books, and contributing positively to my larger environment?  There is not a doubt in my mind.

But will I allow my desires for the future to undermine the importance or joy of the commitment I have made to my home and family in the present time?  Absofreakinglutely not.  And I won’t let you do that, either.

In short, I don’t cluck my tongue at you for chopping your hair off and schlepping for a boss so that you can share bitter cocktails at 5pm and order a pizza for your child after daycare.  You’ve made your choice.

This one’s mine.

 

Oy. Just Oy.

Well, THAT didn’t last very long. 

Narcissists apparently suffer from amnesia quite frequently.  Every point made in the recent blowout between me and my mother-in-law has vanished into thin air, every last bit of lightning-sharp anger has been dutifully swept away like a broom to her size 5 footprints.  It has been nary three weeks since, and the woman has already reverted to her old ways. 

This is the problem with resting on one’s laurels; they bio-degrade entirely too fast.  I am foolishly disappointed, but I am not surprised.  I feel like a superhero who had been flying along famously until she looked down, at which point her cape deflates and she tumbles past skyscrapers to the city floor.  I thought for sure my venom had more staying power, but will dust myself off and take it as a lesson to further hone my fury.

Father’s Day is quickly approaching (and I’ve got ideas about the origins of that day, too.  It was most likely created by the same woman who dreamed up Mother’s Day, in order to a. have another reason to guilt her children in both May and June, because we all know there is little guilt to be found in August and b. have a way of gauging which parent is favored, by who got the better gifts). 

This means that another Royal Family Craptacular is on the horizon.  It’s brunch at the castle this time, which is bad because it will no doubt entail my mother-in-law’s cooking, but good because of the close proximity to my pick of ten private bathrooms in which to vomit. 

I shall wear my best tiara.

 

This Just In – My MIL is an OBSTETRICIAN!

There is a baby boom happening here on the West Coast of the United States.  The wealthy Jewish daughters of my mother-in-law’s friends in particular are popping out children at breakneck speeds, destined to be weaned from supple breasts straight into Juicy Couture.

My mother-in-law delights in these children (which on most days, I find odd, given that I am halfway through my pregnancy and she still hasn’t told a single soul).  She takes every occasion we see each other as an opportunity to describe each of their births in detail.  Fortunately, these stories are never very long; most last about two sentences and invariably include the words “scheduled”, “induced” and/or “voluntary c-section”.  But there is an art to my mother-in-law’s storytelling.  Her labor tales are always related with a soft tilt of the head, the last syllable drawn out long, and the whole thing colored by a tone of voice usually reserved for explaining something incredibly complex to a five-year-old, such as “That big bad tiger wouldn’t be nice to people, so that’s why we keep him in a zooooooo,” or “People are putting money in that man’s cup because he has no place to liiiiiiiive“.

Once my mother-in-law burps up the initial news and the method of birth, she narrows her eyes and pauses to look me over for a moment.  Now comes the head-tilt.  I watch in slow motion as she opens her mouth.  Here is where she inserts her expert medical opinions, apparently earned during her lengthy residencies at Saks and Nordstrom. 

She opted for surgery because:
(choose all that apply)

She’s just such a tiny girl.

Her hips were far too narrow for a natural birth (for the eightieth time).

She was just so exhausted, she couldn’t bear to be pregnant anymore.

and my favorite, which rolls the soothing voice, the narrowed eyes, and a slow head nod all into one bundle of condescending bliss:

It’s just what people today dooooooooo.

I follow along with all the rapt attention of a giraffe on qualudes.  Who knew that a woman oblivious to the dangers of injecting botulism into her face could be so knowledgeable about labor and delivery?  And here I was making monthly appointments with amateurs.  Boy, am I naive!  Hopefully she will break through the line of security officers instructed specifically to keep her out of my delivery room, and show us all how it’s really done.  But that will only be if I am very, very lucky… but then, I AM her daughter-in-law. 

If that doesn’t make me lucky, I don’t know what does.

 

The Healing Power of Anger

I am the type of woman whose throat physically hurts if there is something I wish to say, but don’t.  When I am not just merely miffed but genuinely angry, I pace, fragile things spontaneously break with the slightest graze of my fingertips, and the top of my head tingles as my hair literally stands on end.  I become an impossible, immovable force and when I have finally had enough, you will know it.  I ought to wear a sign across my chest that says, Do Not Reach Inside the Animal’s Cage, or Don’t Fuck With the Mama Tiger.

Cut to early this weekend.  Telephone.  Living room.  Mother-in-law.  Pregnant woman who had not yet eaten breakfast.  You see where this is going…  I shall not re-enact the torrent of fury unleashed that morning, but I think its quake may have postponed the Big One in Los Angeles for at least another few years.

Confused, silenced and stunned, I do believe my mother-in-law is now beginning to understand how serious this Mama Tiger really is.  So a bit of advice to all the accomodating and polite ones out there, sweetly operating under the pretense that whatever must be said can be communicated kindly:

“Kind” only works if the party you are dealing with is SANE.  Don’t squeeze another compromised moment’s worth of sweetness from your body.  Pounce.  Hard.  Show your fangs and watch the unheard points you’d been offering with honey for a year suddenly received in an instant.

And sleep like a baby.