When Tina Fey got the head writer job at Saturday Night Live, I actually emailed a few friends with my excitement. Comedy is a male world. I was proud her writing was recognized and she broke through the sperm wall. Her career continues to evolve with 30 Rock, movies, and now her new book, Bossypants. She has a hilarious piece entitled “A mother’s prayer for her child” which you can google and read. It made me laugh, of course, and then made me realize how absolutely easy my mother had it compared to the challenges Tina faces with her daughter today. I missed mother’s day, but I thought I’d spin Tina’s prayer, customized for my depression-era, North Carolina-raised mother.
Mom, you had me at a time when you could still drink and smoke during pregnancy. You prayed I’d be healthy and I was. I know parenting was different in the 70s. ADD and ADHD were not discovered and used as an excuse for bad behavior/parenting. Spanking was in. You and dad opted for the Command and Control school of child rearing, a secret chapter in the Doctor Spock book. Today, when I see kids act out in public, I give them the “you wanna get spanked” look you used to give me, hoping their real mother catches a glimpse. Time out my ass. Spanking works in that action:reaction way.
Thanks for signing the permission slips for me to learn about sex education at school. I know it was hard for you to do it. I think girls still learn from the source: friends’ older sisters. But your most memorable piece of advice came when I was home freshman year from college. “One day a man is going to ask you to suck his penis and I’m here to tell you that’s not what you are built for.” I smiled in that too-late kind of way, but I have to say, even today when I guy makes a request like that, I tell him, “you first.”
Crystal meth wasn’t around when I grew up, but coke was. High school in the late ‘70s – it was everywhere – but I never tried it. I was raised by the Cocktail Generation and I stand fast to my commitment to beer, wine, and spirits. I did eventually attempt smoking pot in college, but decided an extra-large pizza later that it could never be my drug of choice. I washed it down with beer.
Thanks for encouraging me to be a business major. I certainly wanted to do something profitable, but you know I struggled with accounting. My switch to English nearly killed you and dad, I know, but I made it up with age and experience. Getting a B in financial accounting in grad school was the highlight of my matriculation. I know, in the end, you wanted me to be self-sufficient so that I’d never have to economically depend on a man. Despite numerous layoffs, I manage quite well, don’t I?
Tina encourages her daughter to learn to play drums instead of dating drummers. I was 36 when I dated my first musician. He left me to join the circus band. But thank you for guitar, piano, and clarinet lessons. I gained an appreciation of music without the Julliard price tag.
Remember when I got my right ear pierced four times? You freaked out, but it was the end of the punk era and I wanted to be cool. Today moms have to worry about tattoos and eyebrow piercings. I didn’t get my tattoo until I was in my 30s. I had my right ear holes re-opened last year. In terms of self-mutilation, you really caught a break.
I grew up with a couple of over-air TV channels. Can you imagine if the internet was around? When I was 14 I got a work permit and earned enough money to buy my own clothes and pay for my entertainment. Thank you for signing that permit. I quickly learned what work ethic and responsibility was. If I’d been home playing video games, who knows how I would of turned out. I was on the road to being independent, not dependent on a man.
While I do not talk to you now, I recognize the lessons I learned under your tenure. Most of all, I will never forget our Saturday nights watching Chase, Ackroyd, Belushi, and the other Saturday Night Live Players. It inspired me to write and you, in the long run, taught me to never compromise my standards in men. It’s much better to stay in on a Saturday night alone than be with a man you cannot love.
Worry no more. I turned out fine.