I took some time off to get my head together. Read some books. Drank some beer. Had a couple of excellent naps. And I caught up on a bunch of podcasts I’d been ignoring for a while. It’s interesting how many podcasts are sponsored by Audible. I guess Audible really knows their demographic. But when you hear ten ads for Audible in one day and they all tell you that because you’re a fan of this particular podcast, you’d probably enjoy Bossypants by Tina Fey, you start to feel the marketing brainwashiness at work.
Yes, we are all slaves to marketing, my friends. I’ve come to terms with it. It’s just a part of modern living, which is sick and sad but inescapable. But I already had that book waiting in my stack of unread stuff. So take that, advertising imps of Satan! Foiled again!
I have admired Fey’s work since I saw Mean Girls. Teenage girls are vicious, nasty, horrible creatures and I think she captured the whole high school nightmare really well with that script. And as we all know, SNL has sucked since Belushi died, with the exception of a short period in the early 90s when we got some Mike Myers/Dana Carvey/Chris Farley action. But Fey wrangled some pretty awesome comedians during her years as head writer. Even if the sketches themselves weren’t fantastic, there’s a lot to be said for successfully showcasing weirdos like Will Farrell, Rachel Dratch, Jimmy Fallon, and Amy Poehler. And 30 Rock is just fucking genius. If you haven’t seen that show, you’re definitely missing out. It’s not as chick-flick sitcom-ish as you might think it is. I recently binge watched all seven seasons of it. Totally worth your time.
So when I read Bossypants, I will admit that I did not get what I was expecting. It’s a thoughtful and self-deprecating look at her life, which is the sort of life bound to be turned into good comedy. It’s charmingly awkward, from beginning to end. What’s interesting, and at the same time pretty shitty of me, is that I was expecting her to talk more about being a woman in the television comedy business. And I’m not saying that I was disappointed that the book wasn’t about that, far from it, but I was surprised that she didn’t bring it up at all. I suppose that’s why she’s so successful. She went into this business because she’s funny and this is what she always wanted to do. That’s it. Bottom line. Were there challenges because she was a woman? Probably. But who fucking cares? There are challenges in every job, and to explicitly not focus on her gender being one of them makes it just another bullshit hassle like all the others, and minimizes any chatter about something that simply cannot be changed. I admire that outlook. Not to mention the fact that for a big part of her career, she’s been in charge. Something she said about being the boss really stuck with me: “Hire talented people and then get out of their way.” When a woman is doing the hiring, I suppose there’s no room for a discussion of why the writer’s room is a boy’s club. It becomes a moot point. As well it should.
But here’s the thing: Tina Fey might be toooo good. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. She’s hilarious. She works her ass off. She’s got pretty babies. She can sling Star Wars references with the best of them. She, as they say, has it all. And while I’m hesitant to discuss the whole women-in-the-media thing (because it’s a big sloppy mess of about a hundred different discussions all glued together with anger), I’d like to say that Tina Fey is a role model in that arena. Fuck that, I will say it. And she’s a great role model. But while I should be looking up to her and women like her, I find myself strangely intimidated instead. Rather than thinking “Look at all the awesome stuff she’s accomplished,” I think “Look at how little I’ve accomplished.” Which has everything to do with my weird headspace and nothing at all to do with Tina Fey in particular.
I’ve got tons of superhero women in my life. Women who do not fuck around and who fear nothing. And while I’m smart and hard-working and pretty tough, the thought of balancing a grownup job and fun hobbies and raising healthy kids and maintaining some semblance of self-care makes me quake. I just don’t think I’m well-equipped enough, somehow, to be that sort of righteous lady. And if I’m being honest, it’s because of the kid situation. I can see myself doing everything I want to do – running a successful book/vinyl store, writing the great American novel, finally learning how to make an omelette that’s not all gross inside. And then I think about adding children to the mix. About how it takes over your day and your body and your heart, how it will require the surrender of at least twenty years of my life, how difficult I can be for other people already and I’m not even in charge of anyone else’s well-being. The whole equation falls apart. I can barely handle having a puppy, frankly.
And yes, I understand that I don’t understand because I don’t have any kids. People tell me all the time that you just figure it out as you go along, that you make it work, that it comes naturally. Or whatever. It frustrates me so much because I do want kids, but I fucking hate doing anything half-assed and I just don’t think mommying is something I’d be good at. But on the other hand, The Husband would be an outstanding parent and, as with all things, we’d balance each other out. So maybe it’s doable. I might end up back in a little white room, but it’ll be worth it, right?
I guess my point is that this is a situation that’s specific to women. You don’t meet a man with a great job and an awesome life and wonderful children and think “Well, how does he do it all? What an amazing dude.” Or maybe you do. I don’t know. But I feel like there’s this cultural expectation that women aren’t complete until they have spawn, that all the other stuff that makes up a life isn’t enough or is empty somehow. (Interestingly, although completely off-topic, I often have this same conversation about my lack of religion – weird, right?) But I’m sick to death of people asking me why we don’t have kids yet, after being married for almost ten years. Or assuming that we can’t have them just because we don’t yet, and unnecessarily pitying me. Or giving me that face whenever I hold someone else’s baby, like “Huh? Huuuuh? Dontcha want one of those?” It’s almost like they’re waiting for something to click on and my brain to melt and my uterus to jump to attention and just do its fucking job already. Like I’m lazy. Like I’m selfish. Like I’m not a real person. It’s pretty offensive. And it doesn’t happen to guys. Not in my experience, anyway.
I’m not trying to say anything pro- or anti-motherhood here. It’s a tough gig, and if you’re good at it I’ve got mad respect for you. Dads, too, gentlemen. I guess I’m just annoyed at the assumption that all my other goals and dreams and talents should be secondary to a basic mammalian function that any moron can accomplish. Because it makes me feel like those things I want to do aren’t good enough on their own. That’s fucked up. It’s a hard spot to be in, and it’s only gotten worse since I hit thirty. It’s complete bullshit and it’s making it harder and harder for me to relate to other women, which was pretty difficult for me to begin with. Obviously.
So, new goals: I’m going to try to look at badass women as inspiration instead of comparing and contrasting my itty little life to theirs. I will try to not be intimidated by them. I will work my ass off to steadily move things from the goal list to the accomplishment list. I will not stand for being shamed because I’m childless. And, by god, I will learn to make a damn good omelette. You just wait. It’ll happen.