Back in the day, Tina Fey aka Liz Lemon aka Sarah Palin was in her element alongside Amy Poehler aka Leslie Knope tearing it up on “SNL” with her weekend updates. The comic duo were sassy, sharp, and never missed a punchline. They represented a new prototype of feminist – they weren’t your mom’s brand of feminist whose extremist tendencies of either too traditional or too workaholic repelled you from the whole notion of “women’s lib.” Poehler & Fey proved that funny, smart, and confident with a hint of vulnerable could work and moreover, women could be successful at this shtick.
So imagine my disappointment this season as I watch Liz Lemon on “30 Rock” pathetically whining, mooning over past loves, and contemplating the concept of settling for the dreamy Michael Sheen over going at it solo. Her cynicism reaching new heights, Lemon’s once empowered femme drole is merely a shred of her former hip lady self. The compelling storyline involving Liz’s desire to adopt a baby (something many single, career-minded women in their late 30s might be able to relate too) which was ongoing for the past few seasons has all but vanished with her character shifting into more of a slapstick sidekick providing occasional comedic relief for the venerable Alec Baldwin. On a side note: Do I really care if Jack chooses Julianne Moore or Elizabeth Banks? Just bring Selma Hayek back! Note to network television: In case you didn’t notice from the ratings success of “Modern Family,” Latina relief is the only thing working on sitcoms these days…
On the other hand, Amy Poehler has managed to transform Leslie Knope, a rather plain yokel and no doubt the anti-Liz Lemon hipster chick into a comedic heroine by steering clear of the “SNL” footfalls of vitriolic NY-bred humor – the type of bagel humor that might have worked with “Seinfeld” 15 years ago but doesn’t do it for the iGeneration. In contrast to Liz Lemon, Leslie is kind and giving to a fault and like Liz, she is not without her ambitions and her desire to win at all costs. The difference is Poehler’s affable delivery – it’s her refreshingly candid demeanor that endears her to us and also at the same time represents a true shift in in what we want our female role models to look like.
Today’s Mary Tyler Moore doesn’t need to wear black, live in the 100- zip code, walk around all day muttering “oy vey” under her breath, and sip soy lattes while dreaming up the wittiest retorts in preparation for their next rendez-vous. They can date park rangers, go hunting with the boys, and put it all on the line for a friend in need. They don’t need to arm themselves with sarcasm to shield themselves from being vulnerable or employ self-deprecation as a means to communicate with others for fear of actually conveying any shred of authenticity.
Today’s lady can be geeky, socially responsible, single, self-aware, sassy, and genuinely happy. Welcome to the ’10s ladies. It’s a bold new world and you, too, can be cool in this one – even in NBC’s impossibly hip Thursday night line-up.
A few weeks ago when I was a woman on the verge of ending up the “Inside Edition” docu-trama-du-jour, I took it day by day. Truthfully, it was all I could do since it took that much out of me just to make it through the day. Now, however that I’m a bit better health-wise, my mental faculties have resumed their full throttle hyper-worried pace where they operate and while I wish I could focus solely on the existential as opposed to being thrust head first into the here, now, and future, as pertains to life-altering, big and scary decision with serious repercussions, turns out I need to start coming up with a plan and fast at that.
Here I am faced with the option of going back to work in a month and a half full-time and working at a pace that tired me out before my son for a job that didn’t ultimately fulfill me even if I did love some of the people I worked with (yeah, not so much...), possibly dialing it down a notch and seeing if I can work part-time, or simply throwing in the towel on being a web producer. If I do go back to work it means sucking myself back into the vortex of working to live rather than loving my work life.
Am I demanding too much at this point in my life if I want to love what I do professionally AND have a rewarding home life that permits me to see my family and spend time with them almost as much as I work?
I’ve read the articles that dictate to me how to navigate effectively the work-life postpartum high wire – the Mayo Clinic articulates the pre- and post-preparation of maternity leave quite well with wonderful step-by-step instructions. Unfortunately rationally dictating these steps to a new, first-time mother who is in denial that she will ever have to part from her son for 2 straight hours to run to the grocery store- let alone 60-hour-week sacrifices – proves utterly futile.
And while there is something to be said for not living in squalor due to low cashflow and finding a compromise that works, I’m also worried I won’t be able to conjure up the exact scenario I want. I guess the key is starting with the scenarios you don’t want and in the past few weeks I’ve met a few people which make me want to never leave my kid in anyone elses’ care ever.
There was the chain-smoking, toothless grandma whom I wasn’t sure if her lack of oral hygiene offended me more or the White Diamonds perfume she doused herself in to mask her nasty nicotine habit. Then there was the woman with 7 kids of her own whose experience in childcare attracted me but whose “belagan” (Hebrew for “mess) mantra of learning to live with mountains of crumbs piled up like snow drifts on the living room floor and “no-gate” policy whereby my kid when he crawls could potentially end up at the bottom of the 19 winding, narrow stairs leading up to her apt. after bathing himself in matzo crumbs – well let’s just say wasn’t something I wanted to entertain.
The key is to keep my options open and to give myself time (hopefully earning $$ in the meantime) to really carve out the here and now I want for my family. That will be my pledge to myself for the time being.
If cats have 9 lives and humans only 1, how can you explain the fact that I’ve gone and knocked off 2 lives in the past 2 months? If this rationale is correct (and #s aren’t really my forte) I must be some sort of she-cat.
By now you must be curious how I evaded the clutches of death not once, but twice. I never expected to go down the route of death by drowning but it turns out my body had other plans for me after the birth of my son. Births are supposed to be miraculous, life-changing events and seeing my son for the 1st time was.
It was all the stuff after that really defined the overall experience for me.
After 22-hours of laboring from induction, being 9 cm dilated, I had a c-section anyways. Somewhere in all of this marathon which included a really crap episode of “Lost” (Seriously JJ Abrams, you deserve a drastic cut in pay for that one) I contracted some less-than-5%-of-the-population-get-this-and-your-body-could-turn-septic-on-you-and-kill-you-or-at-best-render-your-uterus-a-thing-of-the-past. Oh, and breastfeeding? You can forget about that. You’re hanging on by a tiny thread here. Get serious!
Yes, I almost died and much to every woman’s nightmare my body was flooded with infected fluid which not only threatened to shut down my vital organs but made me incredibly bloated with distended belly which prevented me from walking or seeing my toes for that matter. In short, I got fat and after being fat for 9 mos. that is the last thing a pregnant woman wants.
But the worst of it was the constant memory of my own mother’s tragic turn. Memories flooding my mind of her telling me she didn’t want to leave us and worried about who would look after us and then in the end after all the radiation, kicking the bucket in her 40s after cancer ripped thru her body the way a weedwacker hacks it way thru an unkept field. I know most healthy, active people my age don’t resort to thinking they are dying but when doctors throw words at you like “life-threatening” and this is what you know, you resign yourself to being done for.
But I’m not dead – or at least I hope not because in heaven you should NOT get your period. I’m here writing this post after a month has gone by and I’ve been able to convalesce at my house and while I would have preferred to be 100% healthy with all the sleep deprivation that goes on looking after a newborn, I’m also grateful I got to be home and to get to know him, 2X daily IV infusions and all – even if I am, as one doctor put it, a “postpartum disaster.”
I guess there is no point to this post at all (like many of my ramblings) but what I’m left with in all of this is this familiar adage my husband taught me and now feels branded on my soul, “We make plans and G-d laughs.” If you could have told me 2.5 months ago that I would have needed a c-section and to boot I wouldn’t have been able to breastfeed that would have been my greatest fear. Turns out that stuff is all bubkis. The best gift you can give to a kid is the one you don’t really have 100% control over – being healthy. For now, I dodged a bullet I think and let’s hope that this whole she-cat thing buys me more time on this earth. I now have 2 very important reasons not to travel too far from this planet anytime soon.
And here you probably thought I was going to close this post out on a cheeky, irreverent note…