FADE IN ON:
A SUBURBAN BEDROOM, MORNING.
Modern furniture. A man’s and a woman’s clothing are strewn about the floor. Pillows are scattered everywhere. Sunlight streams through lacy curtains.
(Not shy at all)
(Not sleepy at all)
I hope you had a good night, got some sleep, I mean.
CUT TO, CLOSE UP:
THE WOMAN moves closer to the man. They kiss.
THE MAN and THE WOMAN snuggle.
SLOW DISSOLVE TO:
(Early morning light continues to stream through the windows. There is a poignant pause.)
I just wanted to say, that, well, I wanted you to know that…
(Presses her finger to his lips.)
Actions speak louder than words.
(They kiss passionately.)
Beach at sunset. Chairs and guests face the ocean. A large cake is on one table, wrapped gifts on another. Streamers and carnations decorate a cupola under which THE MAN and THE WOMAN stand.
We are gathered here today…
Whoa! Hold the phone! Just one minute here! I have a number of questions about this familiar scene. What happened between the bedroom and the beach? I a ton more information than just “slow dissolve to.” And what about teeth brushing? I mean, hello! How did the couple go from 1) waking up to 2) making love without anybody getting up to brush his or her teeth? I feel strongly that some significant sequences were omitted. At the risk of disclosing a tasteless personal detail, I’m going to mention obliquely that Eisenhower need not have sent troops to the beaches in Normandy in June of 1944 because one whiff of my breath in the morning would have dislodged every German machine gun nest. And, returning to the imaginary couple, another thing: don’t these people need to pee?
Movie sex reminds me of movie parenting. Great swaths of what actually happens are overlooked.
Speaking of the disparate topics of the Second World War and making love in the morning, much of parenting is both maddening difficult and blindingly boring. When the baby fusses at 2:00, some recent parents become deaf as a stone. “Baby, what baby?” their snores communicate. “Are you certain that noise is coming from our actual baby? Isn’t it more likely that a neighbor is gently sawing a cat in half while pushing a tuba down an escalator?”
“No, I’m fairly certain that it is indeed our baby approaching DefCon Three and that she is in the mood for a nosh,” replies the other 50% responsible person for the creation of said baby. Somebody had better attend to this situation and soon.
Whoever gets out of bed to feed, change, coddle and otherwise comfort the fussing two-month-old is going to be treated like a returning war hero when padding back to bed. Europeans in occupied countries welcomed the liberating armies with silk dresses made out of parachutes and gratitude extending generations. The person returning to bed after securing the well being of the newborn will be welcomed and embraced. (You were wondering how I was going to bring the liberating armies back together with smooching couples, weren’t you?) Foreplay involves getting up to facilitate a baby resuming her snooze.
So we agree that movie two-month-olds are more likely to sleep through the night. And we concur that parenting--like flying an airplane--involves long periods of boredom interrupted by short episodes of terror. What is the takeaway for comparing our lives to those of the folks in the films? Their actualities are superior even in the grammatical sense: superlatives include happiest, liveliest, prettiest, most interesting, most outrageous, and most novel. Not to mention that these folks have sex without brushing their teeth or getting up to pee.
It seems to me the answer is two-fold. We have to stop comparing ourselves, our lives, our children to movie babies, movie families, movie sex, movie contentment. Let’s face it: there are few blockbuster movies about lives of uninspired desperation. Nor are there all that many helicopter crashes in your day to day. Movies don’t equal real life any more than one plus one equals seven. Not only are comparisons odious, but also the fact is you’re doing pretty well by any number of considerations. All the more reason to relax and be grateful. If you are a single parent earning $50K/year—working as an elementary school teacher, say—there aren’t 20 million people on the planet who earn more than you. That’s right: seven billion folks earn less. If your gross family income is $200K, you are in the top .04% of earners world wide. Take that, top one percenters! You can find out more accurately how many people across the globe make more money than you do and where you fit percentage-wise here: http://www.globalrichlist.com/
For now, you may wish to consider that your glass is 99% full. You have a computer for one thing. You earn more than $1.90 per day. Over 700 million people on the planet do not. Seven hundred million people subsist below the United Nations definition of extreme poverty. I’m not sure how many people own a device that would allow them to read this column. But you are one of those happy few. One lesson for me is that if I’m worried about working enough and earning enough to care for my family, my priorities are likely misplaced. Dr. Spock the best selling pediatrician, cautioned parents to “put down the book and pick up the baby.” I would suggest that your child’s primary needs are probably taken care of and that they will profit more from a day spent hiking with dad than they will from designer hub caps on the wheels of their car. If you are reading this essay, earning a living is unlikely to be your primary, presenting issue.
Which means that you have to make it great, you have to find meaning in the every day, you have to make it real. You have to embrace the moment and embrace your children. You have to acknowledge that you’ve got it pretty good and that your kids need your attention more than they need another, bigger screen.
I would be happy to give more advice, but I have to pee. Thankfully, the camera will pan as we
FADE TO BLACK.