Secret Pop

Nov 12, 2002

I was raised by a team of sit-com writers.

I called my mother this morning to let her know some encouraging news about a possible job opportunity. She was giddy with congratulations. But somehow, only a few sentences into her congratulatory speech, she managed to remind me that my biological clock is ticking and that I can have a part-time job one day when I find a nice husband to take care of me. And then she made some remark about where her grandchildren were.

I don't even think she was really thinking those things. I really believe she is just fulfilling her maternal duties as she believes they were explained to her. By television.

My mother might as well have been created by a staff of writers at an up-and-coming network, specializing in homegrown comedies about archetypal families. She is a caricature of motherhood. Oh, she's a loving and kind person, and she makes me laugh, and we enjoy going out to dinner together. But her mothering functions are almost robotic in nature. As if they are products of algorithms written years ago. In Fortran. Not quite sophisticated enough to deal with the complexities of a modern offspring. But plenty equipped to toast a bagel or suggest a Tylenol for the pain.

I suppose a mothering robot would be sufficient. A machine to say no when you want to go somewhere fun. To fixate on how clean your room is. To be suspicious of certain of your friends. To ask you how you plan to pay for that. To remind you that you were once heavier and shouldn't be so keen on the dessert menu. To ask you what you plan to do in the event that you have to buy a new car. To ask you about the terms of your lease. To tell your fathering robot things you asked her to keep between the two of you. To buy you feminine products. Sure, a robot could do the job.

And I'm not saying that's all I get from my mom. Surely not. She's one of a kind and great to me. And she's mastered the art of preparing meat with brine. But I am often -- and consistently -- amused when this sort of thing occurs. It will come as no great shock to me when, one day, upon having given birth to my first child, I will hear my mother inquiring as to how I intend to pay for college. "That's a cinch, Mom," I'll say. "I'll just encourage little Mary Junior here to join the military. Just like you told me to do." Never mind that I couldn't climb a rope or last a complete second on the flex-arm hang. Never mind that I am extremely choosy about the kind of pants and shoes I wear. Never mind that I have no idea how to pull off the wearing of a hat. My mom thought I should conquer the financial mountain of higher education by suiting up with the Navy. I'm still laughing about that.

Anyway, the core of it is that my mom was happy for me. I know that. It's just less and less of a mystery to me why I'm never quite satisfied with anything. In my family, if you're not worrying about something trivial, you're not living.

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