by Brenda Roger
I have no shame about the fact that after moving to the suburbs in 2002, I became depressed. The suburbs can be a beige and lifeless purgatory. Some days I swore that David Byrne was sitting on my shoulder singing, “how did I get here?” I was forced to take a look at my expectations and the reality of my life thus far and to try and figure out why they were so far apart. It was a downward spiral of ugliness I’d rather not relive; I’ll tell you about the lighter side of the whole thing.
During the process of figuring out where I went wrong, I looked back on my childhood and tried to pinpoint the source of my ideas about what kind of woman I wanted to be. I’ve had cable television since the third grade. I was watching the day that “Video Killed the Radio Star” started a whole new genre of TV. I watched way too much of all of it. Somewhere in that visual overload I found enough information to form an idea of womanhood.
I always wanted to be Morticia Addams. It wasn’t that I wanted to wear that slinky black dress and be Goth, although, long sleeves a v-neckline are flattering on me. Frequently, when I’m handed something, I resist the urge to say, “thank you, Thing.”
As an adult, I can see that I wanted to be Morticia because she had power. In fact, she had total power over Gomez. Immobilizing him was as easy as muttering some French. She was also a painter, sculptor, knitter, cook and gardener. She could do it all. She was feminine, but not weak.
Then there was Mary Richards of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. I blame some of my disappointment in myself on her. I thought that when you grew up you got a cute apartment, dated, wore smart flared legged pant ensembles and had great time with your kooky neighbor, Rhoda. Mary had no education debt! She didn’t live in her parents’ house! She was out there. Doing things. She was independent. That appealed to me. Still does.
Finally, dear Anne Marie from “That Girl.” It is all her fault that I thought that it was possible to do a commercial once every six months and afford an apartment in New York and a coat to match every dress. If you can’t have a Gomez and you don’t want to date around like Mary Richards, by golly Donald Hollinger was a good compromise! Anne Marie wasn’t toiling away at pointless jobs. She was pursuing her dream. To a kid in the suburbs, her life seemed like non-stop glamour.
I was born in 1973. Ms. Magazine was started in 1971. My mother and aunts just barely missed the feminist movement. I know that the spirit of it invaded their subconscious. They were probably the last generation of women who were told to get married and have babies. My mom and her sisters had an inkling that they might have sold themselves short. My mom in particular was careful to make sure that I thought I could do anything I wanted.
Therein lies the disappointment. I found myself in the ‘burbs in 2002, surrounded by women going the route that I had tried so hard to avoid. I wasn’t one of them, but I hadn’t really managed to DO anything significant either. In fact, I struggled to do what little I had done. Doing anything you want comes with a heaping helping of responsibility.
Since all of this soul searching, I have formed a much clearer, revised picture of who I want to be. The crisis has passed, but the enlightenment remains.
Does anyone have any funny stories about popular culture and self-image?