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Desperate Housewives

October 4th, 2004 · 5 Comments

Did anyone watch this show on tv Sunday night? I’ll ask Ted to configure our computer so we can watch the presidential candidates debate, or so we can see figure skaters perform their routines. But I couldn’t convince myself that it was worth it to watch ABC’s new series.

Before I’ve even seen it, I take issue with the title. Desperate Housewives sounds as if I belong to a psychotic and super-stressed segment of the population.

Then again, I don’t think of myself as a housewife. Wikipedia redirects those who are searching for such word to homemaker (ah, but see the photo of a typical housewife!)

The term homemaker is used in preference to either housewife or househusband because it is inclusive, defines the role in terms of activities, rather than relation to another, and is independent of marital status

I too prefer homemaker but I feel that both words focus on the residence rather than relationships. I’m not making a home. I’m fashioning a family. I’m caring for my kids and my husband not the cedar box we inhabit.

After all, housewife seems to indicate that I married the house. The word also reminds me of housecoat, housecat, and housefly. A creature kept and confined, that housewife but not me.

When I read the review in the local paper, I was skeptical, at best. None of the housewives I know resemble one of these prime time tv actresses. Is suburbia sexy? Suicidal? The title was obviously a gimmick to entice women like me into watching it. Ha!

But when I saw this CNN article with quotes from the show’s creator, Marc Cherry, I thought again.

Inspiration hit during a visit with his 67-year-old mother, Martha. Watching a news report on Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her five children, Cherry expressed bewilderment at such despair.

“My mom took her cigarette out of her mouth and said, ‘I’ve been there,”‘ he said. She recounted the almost overwhelming burden of being alone with three youngsters while her husband pursued a master’s degree. Cherry’s mom successfully coped because of family help.

He was struck by the idea that a “perfectly sane, rational woman could have the life she wanted, being a wife and mother … and still have moments of insanity.”

Cherry figures that what was true for his mom is true again, with a twist, in the post-feminist 21st century: Women can decide for family over work but must accept responsibility for the outcome.

“Now it’s ‘I’ve chosen it, I’m in control. Oh, I can’t blame anyone for my own unhappiness, what do I do?”‘ said Cherry, channeling his characters.

It’s one thing to feel that you are a victim. To feel that you didn’t have any options or choice. To be confined and trapped into desperate destinies.

But it is another fate altogether to know the you have chosen where you are. You have no one to blame but yourself. Then what will you do?! I have had the same feelings.

Women now have significantly more choices than a generation or two ago. Housewife is only one option of many.

But there are plenty of perfectly sane, rational women having many moments of insanity. We have more responsibilities and we have more roads to choose. But also unlike Cherry’s mother, many of us don’t have family who can help. We moms may feel alone in our decisions, no matter which path we choose, and sentenced to a destiny of solitude and despair.

Part of the problem is that as a culture we believe choices will make us happy. Choice is good. Choices are good. We want more of them.

I believe in choice. But I also believe that choices have consequences.

There is no nirvana for modern mothers. There is no perfect pain-free path. Every option has its sour side. I believe I have to do the best I can do in my situation. We women need the most wisdom we can find for our choices.

And then I have had to realize that happiness is a choice in itself. It’s not a byproduct of a certain decision or an absolute litmus test of life. Sure, if I make a bad decision I may feel pain: cause and effect exists. But I also believe that freedom and happiness are matters of the mind. It’s the filter of faith I use to view my situation.

I’ve beeen there. I’ve had my desperate moments. I’ve felt trapped by my own decisions, stuck inside these four walls with four people. It has seemed like insanity for a time. I’m grateful that I can get help.

If I can get a walk on the beach by myself, an early morning run, some time to type, some space and place for me, a nap or a novel, then I can step back and see my emotions for what they are: waves on the sand, coming and going and coming again, powerful but impermanent. I can remind myself of what is solid. What I believe. Why I’m alive. Ted helps here too.

If I can learn to be thankful for something in every situation. If I can see beauty in a butterfly or tree. If I can let my kids kiss me and allow myself to see the smiles in their faces. Or if I can get up the courage to ask my husband for help or tell him to hold me for a while. Then I know how desperate I would be without them. And I become grateful once again for the choices I have made.

Tags: culture

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chris // Oct 4, 2004 at 6:44 am

    We watched it and I thought it was quite funny. The show has sort of a Twin Peaks / Northern Exposure vibe to it. It is not a straightforward sitcom or drama at all.

  • 2 Scott // Oct 4, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    We watched it. The problem is of the three main characters, only 2 are sympathetic. One is a still married woman who is the mother of three hellions who should have been drowned at birth and the other is a single woman who’s husband left her for his secretary. The other two woman really deserve the misery they get.

    It’s not really about the housewives at all, it’s more of a mystery. There’s an overriding plot line involving a dead neighbor, who’s voice provides the narration for the show, and some deep, dark secret she and her family kept. I’m not sure if we’ll keep watching it, my wife picked up her “easy home renovations” magazine about 1/2 way through.

  • 3 myko // Oct 4, 2004 at 11:20 pm

    Julie, it’s not just stay at home moms that feel like this. As a stay at home dad, I’ve been down the long road with what seemed like no way back. Trapped by choices I thought at times were wrong and insane. I’ve felt like the very fabric of my soul has been ripped out, never to be replaced. Then, moments like my recent return from Gnomedex happen and I realize that I am truly trapped by my choices; but I’m glad that I am. Kelsey came running over and hugged me so tightly. She wouldn’t let go for quite a while. The last thing on my mind at that moment was not my choices as mistakes, but that the mistake was ever thinking they were.

  • 4 Julie // Oct 5, 2004 at 12:22 am

    Hmmm…interesting reviews… thanks Chris and Scott. I did find “Twin Peaks” intriguing, but if it can’t compete with “Easy Home Renovations” then it’s probably not worth watching 🙂

    Myk, what a wonderful comment! Wow.

  • 5 jenny // Oct 5, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    I haven’t seen the show… I agree with your position on choice and consequesnces – there are positive and negative consequences in making choices. I appreciate your perspective value your insight:)