Friday, May 12, 2006

BOOKS: Mothuh to Anothuh Brothuh

Before I forget, I must urge you to go check out today's post over on VidiotBox. It is quite possibly the best ode to mothers ever to star a rapping Mr. T.

You go watch it, then come right back here, okay? I'll wait for you.

...

Speaking of mothers, you know that this Sunday is Mother's Day, right? Don't freak out. Even if you live on the other side of the planet, it's still not to late to order flowers. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you I'm normally TERRIBLE at remembering the made-up holidays. It's amazing what becoming a mother myself has done for my memory.

I wanted to write a beautiful, moving post about motherhood that would leave the sensitive among you all weepy and feeling much like one does after watching a really good commercial for long-distance phone service. So I struggled with that for a bit, and then abandoned it. I'm just not in a weepy space right now. Maybe I'm ovulating. (Ovulation time is the antithesis of PMS time, but nobody ever talks about it, much less gives it a catchy little acronym. I've decided what better time than Mother's Day to drag O-time out of the closet and give it the public praise it deserves. Yay, eggs! You go, you yolky little buggers.)

Being all clearheaded and focussed (at least for a couple of days) has put me in a left-brainy, list-making frame of mind. And mentioning acronyms has gotten me to thinking about all the terms I've heard to describe the many sub-sections of the mom demographic. You've got your SAHMs, WAHMs, and WOHMs. You've got your MILFs (or as I prefer to say, referring to myself, MYLFs). You've got your soccer moms, your mommy bloggers, your cybermoms, your dot-moms, your hot moms, and your yummy mummies. And then you've got Freud bringing up the rear (so to speak) with his Oedipal moms, but we're just not going to go
there today, thanks anyway.

Are there this many daddy types? I mean, duh, I know there are this many (and then some) varieties of father, but have they been so neatly identified and labelled and publicly acronymed? I think not, but maybe I haven't been paying attention.

You can go two ways from this observation, one negative, one positive:
  1. In our world, women get watched and assessed. Not surprisingly, mothers come under close scrutiny and analysis by an opinionated, judge-y public.
  2. On a deeper level, mothers are powerful, nigh-mythic figures. Not surprisingly, people spend a lot of time trying to figure them out.
Not surprisingly, I think both these theories have the aroma of truth about them. But since reams have been written already about point #1, I'm going to stick with talking about #2. (Also, see above re: super-happy-fun ovulation hormones. I'm in a zippy, glass-is-practically-half-full mood today.)

Clearly, we moms are elusive figures, many things to many people, and difficult as all get-out to pin down. Except for me: I'm an open book, yo. And speaking of books, have you ever thought about how mothers are represented in literature?

For starters, you've got The Bible, starring the mother of all mothers. Mary is a virgin who bears God's baby, a young lad who will ostensibly go on to save all mankind. As characters go, she's a tough act to follow. So nobody bothers to try, and instead we get generation after generation of... well, of bad moms. It's okay, though, because some of them manage to have some fun along the way.

You've got your unwed moms, such as poor Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. Then you've got your fallen moms. Edna Pontellier from
Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening. Emma Bovary. Anna Karenina. What's the lesson to be learned here, moms? That's right: keep it in your pants or poetic justice will kick you in the butt. Point taken and duly noted.

Then you've got the Cathys. Cathy from Wuthering Heights is a self-absorbed drama queen who, if she were alive today, would probably be a Suicide Girl or somesuch other annoying emo kid. And Cathy from East of Eden is pretty much a sociopath. If she were around today, she'd either be in maximum security or else she'd have a nationally broadcast morning talk show. You can bet on one thing: neither of these Cathys would be scheduling playdates, getting up five times a night to nurse, or whipping up a last-minute batch of cupcakes for the PTA bake sale.

And then you've got assorted literary mothers of the grey, drab, henpecking, fade-into-the-background variety. Who doesn't want to be lumped in with them?

You know what kind of mom I'd
really hate to be? A mom in a children's book. Mostly because they're dead. E. Nesbit's Bastable clan? Motherless. The kids from Elizabeth Enright's Melendy family series? Also sans mere. Mrs. Finch, wife to Atticus and mother to Jem and Scout? Sadly no longer with us. The biological mom to pretty much every single child in a fairy tale? Kaput. You can almost imagine the conversation between the authors and their editors:
"I have this idea for a book about a bunch of kids who have these really fantastic adventures."
"Sounds fabulous."
"Yeah, but you know who always gets in the way of great adventures? Mothers. What do I do to get her out of the way."
"Kill her."
"Wonderful idea. Thanks!"
I would like to go on record as stating that I fully support adventures of every kind, unless said adventures require running while carrying long, pointy sticks or staying up so late that you get overtired and cranky.

So. Mothers. Can't live with 'em. But apparently killing them is an option.

One final note: Rusty, if you're reading this, Sam wants to give me a gift certificate for this spa. He told me to tell you.

17 comments:

roughmagic said...

Happy Mother's Day! I too have been marveling at how this sort-of holiday has suddenly taken on sacred status once I spawned as well. I've also noticed that, while infants have amazingly sophisticated taste in jewelry, something happens when they get to preschool. At that point, we're supposed to get all weepy over macaroni bracelets. We do, of course, but I miss the swag!
The missing-literary-moms motif is a big issue in my Shakespeare classes. "Did he hate his mother? How come they're all dead?" they want to know. And when you do get a mom -- Lady Capulet, Duncan's Wife, Hermione -- they mostly just get to grieve over their dead kids. Grim. That said, there are two kid-lit mothers I always loved: Mrs. Murphy from A Wrinkle in Time (sexy, brilliant, and can cook!) and Mrs. Andrews in Freaky Friday.

Anonymous said...

I love the mom from my favorite book as a kid (and possibly of all time) "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". She sacrificed anything and everything for her children.

Doppelganger said...

I think I might get weepy over the very first macaroni bracelet, but I have a feeling my sentimentality may not sustain over 10+ years. And heh... I practically have Mother's Day circled on the calendar. I think it's replaced Christmas as my favourite holiday. Because it's all about ME ME ME.

You mention Shakespeare, which reminds me that I was wondering recently what was the deal with Jane Austen and mothers? If they're alive, they're nitwits or jerks, and if they're virtuous and kind, they're dead. The only exception I can think of is Mrs. Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. Anyone?

Doppelganger said...

"She sacrificed anything and everything for her children."

I remember the moment I realized I would actually sacrifice myself for Sam. It was a freaky revelation. I mean, it's not like I'd do it joyfully or anything, but I wouldn't hesitate. How's that for a powerful biological imperative?

I was joking (sort of) about Mother's Day with a friend who doesn't have children, and I told him, "The thing about Mother's Day is that it's designed to show your mom how grateful you are for everything she's done for you. But the irony is that there's no way in the world that anything we do for our moms can ever repay them for all they've done for us. It's like, 'My body has changed forever and I can no longer have a sneezing fit without worrying about whether I need to change my pants after and I'll never ever regain all the sleep I've lost nor will I ever have a sound mind free from the constant nagging worry that you're okay... but thanks for the clay ashtray, Sweetie!'"

None of this occurred to me until I became a mother myself, and when it did I actually cracked up laughing. Of course, none of us became mothers expecting to get THANKED for it someday. Thank god, or we'd be some mighty disappointed ladies.

landismom said...

Heh. I'd prefer to avoid "dead mother" status too (well, at least for a few more years). Adventure away!

Last year, I was outraged to find out that my daughter's kindergarten teacher (have I mentioned recently how glad I am that she's retiring) had worked with the kids to make some kind of macaroni-bracelet-type jewelry, but then she didn't label them, and just told the kids to pick whichever one 'looked the most like theirs.' I was outraged.

Because I'm willing to wear the macaroni bracelet. But shouldn't I get to wear the one my actual kid made??!!

roughmagic said...

Absolutely! Only AUTHENTIC macaroni bracelets, none of those knock-offs will do. I prefer wagon wheels to penne, myself (the one I got this year has both, PLUS a laminated red paper heart that says "I love you." My kid's teacher goes the extra mile.

Doppelganger, one of my students did a paper on Austen's mothers last year -- came to the same conclusion. And Mrs. Dashwood is no real prize -- Austen says that Marianne gets all her drama and hyperemotionalism from her mother. But then, none of Austen's older characters, moms or dads, are very admirable -- and Austen seems to have adored her parents. But it also seems clear she didn't like old people much -- was probably happy to check out prematurely the way she did. Austen was against sentimentalism in general -- would probably have loathed mother's day cards.
(You can guess that classes are over and my grades turned in -- I have time for two posts!)

cat said...

Thank you for the Mr. T link. Awesome.

Somehow I knew the spa link would be Miraj Hammam. I hope you get to go! I wrote about it in a story on Vancouver a year ago, and when I was in Vancouver researching the story (also known as taking a really fun free trip), I had the opportunity to get a free session at the spa. Except I was pregnant and thus couldn't do the whole steam-room thing, so I had to content myself with taking a tour of it.

I was not really content. Just the start of the sacrifices of being a mother. You go for me!

Anonymous said...

Master Sam has excellent taste in spas.

(Off topic, but I was wondering: did you ever announce a winner to the worst date ever contest?)

Doppelganger said...

Doh! That worst date ever contest. It haunts me! Drat.

Well, Rusty failed the "does my partner read my blog" test. He just called to ask me what size underwear I wear. Which leads me down the even more troubling path of wondering why he thinks underwear are an appropriate Mother's Day gift.

You all see what I live with? No wonder I keep forgetting about that contest.

Clearly, I'm going to have to take myself to the spa. Cat, I've been to Miraj many times, and it's DELICIOUS. You must try it again now that you're not pregnant. I absolutely insist.

Qeta said...

I dig your blog and thought you might be interested in the Penguin Classics deckchairs and mugs here. Happy Mother's Day!

Em said...

In the spirit of Mother's Day, Mumsie Dearest has abandoned me, her spawn, to care for the dog and house while she's off on a jaunt overseas to visit the daughter she loves more. Pfft. And I gave her her present early. And her birthday's in July, anyway.

And Mrs. Morland seemed alright. Even Mrs. Dashwood was a bit of a ditz like Marianne. Mrs. Morland is a kind, capable woman whose only fault, really, would be a lack of intense interest in the emotional states of her children. She'd just make you a cup of tea and think a good night's sleep would do the trick. Which, it usually does.

Courtney said...

Wow, I had no idea Miraj even existed - I'll definitely have to give it a try one day (or have the boyfriend buy a g/c).

Hope you have an excellent Mother's Day.

Anonymous said...

The only type of dad with a title to it I can think of is "kingpin". Kingpin dads and queen bee moms/mums.

Forgive me, I recently caught the author of that book on radio.

By the way, I'm a quiet observer of your blog. I quite enjoy reading your entries. =)

Em said...

Sidenote: Good God, have you seen Postsecret today?
I never cried until now.

Essy said...

Anastasia Krupnik's mom kicked ass.

K. said...

GOOD CALL on Anastasia's mom! Ramona Quimby's mom was pretty cool, too.

Doppelganger said...

I loved Anastasia's mom! I really like how she and her husband would use their superior adult logic to get Anastasia to realize things. They were always gentle yet funny about it.

Anonymous, weird coincidence: I just read about that book, too. Thanks for the kind words about my site!

And Queta, thanks for the link. I love those mugs and deckchairs so...