Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tripping over the ottoman into a male fantasy world

Suddenly my daughter, E-girl, can't get enough of "The Dick Van Dyke Show." She begs to watch an episode of it whenever she has any free time (it's easily accessible on Netflix Instant watch).

While I applaud its sharp writing and witty dialogue, there's one character that makes me a little uneasy: Laura Petrie, Rob Petrie's subservient, sometimes anxious wife.

It's hard for me to imagine/remember a culture where smart women were destined to wait on men hand and foot: making breakfast just for them, accommodating uninvited guests with a smile, serving dinner in a spotless kitchen without the presence of children—all while wearing high heels, false eyelashes and tight capri pants. I suppose the high heels and glamor were a screen writer's fantasy, but that makes me dislike this part of the show even more, that it perpetuated an unachievable standard for the average woman.

The Mary Tyler Moore character I'd rather she watch and emulate is the older, wiser and independent Mary Richards (on the "MTM Show"), who works at a TV station among interesting colleagues and dates whom she likes.

And yet, I realized as I started to write this, I am more like Laura Petrie than Mary Richards. I had the apartment and lived alone as a newspaper reporter and I hated it, perhaps because I didn't work among interesting colleagues but in a windowless bureau office by myself, in a town where I knew no one. I craved companionship more than anything else then.

Now I am married. I work at home, by myself most days, not polishing furniture but polishing copy as a freelance editor. I usually have dinner on the table by the time my husband comes home, though he's never found me at the stove in high heels and makeup. The house is unapologetically chaotic most nights.

Perhaps I am a combination of both women. Except that I'm not sure that either of them ever spent the day in sweat pants.

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