The other night my daughter looked over me lying on the couch. “What are you watching?” she asked.
I guess I fell asleep in front of some movie called “House Bunny.” I need to be more careful when I watch trash. My daughter is of the age (nearly 17) when she sees herself as my morality judge and jury.
Once your kids notice you don’t always follow your own advice, you’re doomed.
You see, “House Bunny” wouldn’t fall under my “empowered woman” content but if you watch the entire movie, you can find a good message.
My advice for my daughter to be a strong, independent woman runs the gamut from “smart is cool, to find a job and pay for your own life before you marry and have kids, to run (fast) from the mean boy to women aren’t sex objects, but.
I tell her that being sexy by degrees as you get older is fine and that you and your friends shouldn’t call girls “sluts” because funny thing, we don’t call men who sleep around with a few women sluts (she seemed confused by this at first but then agreed with my theory. Sexuality hypocrisy for men and women runs so deeeeeeeep we barely notice).
But I also told her, you gotta have self-respect. Be very selective. Care deeply about someone (if) before you sleep with him. Watch the image you put out because you’re your own brand. (“House Bunny” had piles of women who at strictly face value weren’t role models but it was an entertaining movie and we can’t over think the plusses of shows that relax the tired mind).
My daughter flagrantly cuts me off when I try to talk about sex but I know she hears me.
Everyone once in a while I remind her to wait until she’s married. I’m supposed to say this. Abstinence messages are Responsible Parenting 101 and the terrified protective side of me agrees. Sex opens up all sorts of dangers and complicated emotional doors.
But pounding the drum of abstinence also puts our grown children at risk that they’ll marry their best friend — with no benefits. So after I throw out the requisite wait-wait warnings my daughter and I silently snicker to ourselves and then move on.
Fortunately she seems to have a firm sense of self and almost palpable disgust for in authenticity in friends and pop icons. Also, she still hasn’t had a single boyfriend and I think honestly without meaning to brag, she very easily could. She’s smart, quite attractive, quiet yet sort of self-assured and if I do say so, pretty damn nice.
She dresses All American with that slight twist I keep my eye on. Her tops aren’t too low and her shorts and jeans maybe a smidge too tight, are for her age, passable.When she hit the Embarrassed by My Parents phase (long since gone) she’d tell me to pull up my Friday night tops. If I didn’t she’d just reach over and do it for me.
“I’m married. You’re not. And, I’m older,” I told her. “If I want to show some leg or cleavage I will. You’re too young for all that.” I give her my version of When Measured Sexy is Okay and When it’s Not. My version might not go over well when I’m 85.
When I tried to explain why I wasted my time watching “House Bunny,” that the movie definitely had some feel good lessons (Mean girls try (and fail) to get high IQ socially awkward Nice sorority girls kicked off campus by Mean Girl President because Mean Girls want Nice Girls’ sorority house), she shrugged me off.
I think by now she gets that her parents are sometimes mild hypocrites and that probably even Gloria Steinem (if she remembers who I told her she is) watches mind mush from time to time. I don’t think we’re meant to fill up every inch of our brain with high-minded matter, just most of it.
In the movie the Nice Girls’ house is run by a sweet woman-child who chronically under dresses and has the most grating baby voice ever conceived by a director. Shelley is a former Hugh Heffner Playboy playmate kicked out of the mansion for being too “old.” (ironic because I thought Heff was half in the grave). She winds up homeless until she finds herself house mom to the “misfit” sorority girls who look to her as their make-over mentor (they never knew they needed).
The moral of the story: looks fade but solid character and good friends last. When my daughter walked in I had the moral to the story ready in case she pulled another Kardashian-scold on me.
A couple weeks ago she caught me watching “Khloe and Courtney take the Hamptons.” The Kardashians already took New York and California and other places around the globe so I thought they might have some insights on the often misunderstood Hamptons.
The fact is, it’s very fashionable for people to say they hate the Kardashians. I’m supposed to scoff and announce I’m too good for all of them, especially that fame-sucking mother. I’m supposed to lean on high ideals and group agree these women are shallow airheads famous for just being famous. I’m supposed to be outraged and yet, I’m not. (The Housewives Of….. another series I sometimes watch(ed), truly outrages me because frankly the jealous infighting gives rich cat fights and first world “problems” a new low low low).
I’m a former psychology major so I’m drawn to all kinds of social situations and the Kardashian petri dish is alive and multiplying. The family happens to be rich media royalty but they’re extremely close and I like that. Kim is gorgeous (beauty is indeed only skin deep, but beauty of all kinds, still draws the eye), sweet and a brilliant marketing machine. Chloe is outspoken and ballsy and Courtney never changes her expression; I mean never. Poker face perfection. Ecstatic is the same as depressed is the same as jealous is the same as disgusted. Who can’t wonder what lies beneath?
“Why are you watching THIS?” my daughter asked.
For a second I thought she was about to plop down on the couch and watch with me. Mother-daughter admitting our mutual attraction to fly on the wall TV. I should have known better. My daughter hates reality TV (but insists the 13 “Saw” movies she watched have lessons if I’d only give them a chance (I won’t). Choose between say, saving your own life or sawing off the arm of the woman chained to you).
She and I just started sharing “Modern Family” and “Black-ish” but I wasn’t ready to share Kardashian OMG moments when one sister is incensed for 10 minutes because the other sister didn’t show up in a “super cute” outfit when she knew very well they were going out to lunch.
“Uh, well it’s been a long time since I watched the Kardashians (a month?) but I just felt like something mindless and entertaining. But I mean it’s been a long time.”
“Yeah but this? Such a stupid show. There’s better mind mush you could watch. Like one of your sitcoms you love.”
Noted. I live on stupid sitcoms, movies, non-fiction books and documentaries. Funny beats reality TV, but neither beats Saw?
My child softly shamed me into turning the channel because well frankly she was right. I could have chosen better, but sometimes I don’t want to choose better.
She knows perfectly well I don’t just ingest important content. My list of crap is impressive: the Golden Girls (radical for their time) to Big Bang Theory, Frasier, King of Queens, Mike and Molly, The League (my husband still can’t believe I like it), Vogue, sometimes an airport People and yes movies like, “House Bunny.”
Once your child becomes your morality police you’ve either done something terribly right or terribly wrong.
You can cover up content when your kids are young because they’re too busy coloring or playing Legos to notice. But by the time they hit double digits (really much earlier thanks to the Internet) they’re lens become all high and mighty. They see your weak attempts to hide your guilty pleasures.
For the most part I try to beat my daughter to the punch and expose myself before she’s too disappointed. Sometimes however, she gets there first.
This past Christmas was the first year she noticed how many wine-themed ornaments I have.
“Gifts from friends. Everyone one of them,” I pointed out, as if friends thinking “wine” when they think “Laura” is better than if I bought the ornaments myself.
“Guess that doesn’t say much about me, eh? Or the fact that one time when you were in Kindergarten your teacher told you to make something that reminded you of your parents and you made a tiny paper wine bottle?”
She didn’t look the least bit worried by my half a dozen wine bottle ornaments. My daughter is now chronically amused at my anxious attempts to make sure I haven’t screwed her up. Maybe because my guilty pleasures haven’t changed her day to day life or ruined her sense of continuity or safety or sense of self.
Maybe she’s old enough now to see her parents as expectedly but manageably flawed, trying not to wobble her life too much despite ourselves, which in the end, is our way of big messy love.
House Bunny Image credit: Wikimedia