Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mommy dearest moment

Remember "No wire hangers, ever!"?

I'd taken my daughter to Lands End last week to buy her a new jacket.  But, she was so cranky and tired, she didn't want to shop for anything else.  I was doing (more thankless) volunteer work today nearby so I swung by LE again to peruse the clearance racks.  I bought her four things and showed them to her this evening.  She liked two of them and asked me to return the other two.

Anyway, one of the items fit right now and went into her bureau.  We agreed to hang the slightly large shirt in a corner of her closet until the next growth spurt, when it should fit.  (She grew from 4'11" to 5'2" in less than a year.)  I went to my room to fetch an appropriate hanger.  When I returned, she asked what was wrong with the hangers in her closet.

I replied, "They are all the wrong type."

She probably thinks I am crazy, but they really were all the wrong type.

The shirt is too large to stay on her child-sized hangers and all the wider non-slip hangers were being used by her wider-necked tops.  I really did have to walk to my closet and fetch an adult-sized plastic hanger.  Really.

Of course, we don't use wire hangers in our house.  That would mean dry-cleaning, which we seldom use.  When we do send stuff to the dry cleaners (every spring when we put away the wool clothing that can't be hand-washed), I gather the wire hangers and return them to the dry cleaners for reuse.

Just in case you have never read the book or seen the movie, here's a clip. I read the book and skipped the movie. Reviews were negative, portraying it as a campy, over-the-top movie that failed to capture the nuances of the relationship explored in the book. The book made me so uncomfortable, I wouldn't have been able to watch it, even had it been a good movie.

References to "Mommie Dearest" in pop culture tend to get the story wrong.  Yes, Joan Crawford could have been a better mom.  But, she worked damn hard in an unforgiving business--a business notorious for pumping it's talent full of drugs and booze to make them work on demand.

Her daughter had very few household responsibilities.  She had been told repeatedly that it was her responsibility to take her clothes off the wire hangers used by the dry cleaners and rehang them on padded hangers.  That was her single household responsibility, requiring mere minutes each week.   Yet she failed to do it week after week.

By her own admission, Christina had a loving grandmother, housekeeper and many maids, nannies, cooks, gardeners and drivers.  She was not neglected.  She was loved (but, perhaps, not by her mother).  But, she also came across as too narcissistic to be lovable.  Publishing the book is only one among many transgressions against her mom.

When I was eight, my mother showed me how to use the washer and dryer and put me in charge of all of the family laundry--including ironing and planning washday around the weather because we used an outdoor clothesline.  My eleven year old sister and I traded responsibilities weekly.  One person was responsible for laundry and cleaning both bathrooms.  The other was responsible for doing all dishes and cleaning the kitchen.  We swapped every weekend.  When we were the age of Christina during that scene, we were the gardeners as well, swapping care of the front and back yards on the weekly schedule.

My mom worked as a charge nurse (senior registered nurse) at a small hospital.  She had Wednesdays off, which she spent cleaning, shopping, cooking and schlepping us to music lessons.  She also had every other weekend off, and she planned outings for each of those weekends.  (Ordinary people would have spent that time sleeping.)

I don't know how my mom did it.  I would never have dreamed of treating my mother the way Christina Crawford treated Joan Crawford.  I can't believe that people got the story so wrong; did we read the same book?

There are so many ways that a mother-daughter relationship can go wrong.  Give me strength because I  need it to get through (her) puberty.

I got another call today about an interesting job in another city.  Is it wrong to dream about getting my own apartment in another city and being a mom only on weekends?  Is it wrong to dream about her lifting a finger around the house?


  1. Why not just get her a lands end giftcard every few months? Let her pick stuff out online, order it, get it delivered, and package it up for return if wrong.

  2. Great idea about the gift card!

    You're not the only one who's dreamed of that scenario! And she's old enough to help, nothing wrong with that. It helps give kids a sense of worth, in that they are capable (but yeah, that probably takes a while!)

  3. I can't remember how old I was when I started making meaningful contributions to the chores. I do remember taking over my laundry completely by junior high, because my father (who did the laundry for the family) could not tell the difference between white and off white and kept bleaching my off white shirts. Or maybe he did that on purpose.... Our oldest is only 5, so her contributions are pretty limited right now, but we do try to insist on them, with mixed success.

    I have never read or seen Mommy Dearest, and your summary doesn't make me want to!

    I hope a good job comes up in your city. But I don't think you should feel bad at all for dreaming of taking one of the ones in another city. It is nice to daydream about not having all the complications that limit our options, no matter how much we love those complications.

  4. I used to dream that same dream too! I had my daughter do her own laundry and empty the dishwasher when she got home from school. At age 13-17 she was so different from me as a teenager it was as if we were from different planets. But she grew out of it and now is a wonderful independent adult.

  5. I just found your blog through Gwen's, and had to comment on the Mommy Dearest thing. I read the book then saw the movie, and I remember that Christina reportedly wasn't happy with the movie, because it actually made her look like a spoiled brat and a backtalker. She's very unlikable in the movie. My sister and I still quote that scene - good stuff!

  6. Thanks for the emotional support.

    I think the stage where her clothes are too small for adult-sized hangers and too large for child-sized hangers is an apt metaphor for her stage of development.

    I just wish it were over--or we could navigate this stage with less drama.


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