It Took a Village: Nature, Nurture and Pop Culture

My ascent into womanhood was guided by my parents, influenced by my community, and shaped by Mrs. Keaton, Mrs. Huxtable, and Mrs. Seaver. Ok, yes, these women were fictitious, but they were also major influences during my impressionable youth. This isn't to say I wanted to be the least bit like them. Sure they were impressive: Preternaturally high achievers in their homes, their workplaces, and their relationships... but frankly, I thought they worked too hard. Way too hard. I wondered why on earth any sane person would want to be an architect/lawyer/reporter by day, and return home after six o'clock to toil away in the kitchen while their lovable-yet-neurotic spouses bonded with Mallory and Alex, choreographed elaborate James Brown lip synch routines or jammed with his dorky college rock band in the living room. Those husbands sure appeared to be having fun, but their drained wives looked like they needed a nap. Married men were afforded the luxury to unwind, but their female counterparts had too long of a to-do list to stop and smell the roses.

One of my favorite shows, but least favorite TV wives, was Julie on Welcome Back Kotter. She had a thankless job as a substitute teacher, and then came home to a tiny Brooklyn apartment to listen to Gabe kvetch ceaselessly about his day. Oooh-oooh-oooh! No thanks, Mr. Kotter. I had no interest in being married if it meant hours and hours of tedious listening. Especially if that listening took place over canned soup in an eat-in kitchenette. In my eyes, marriage looked miserable. Julie was a doormat who faded into the wallpaper as far as I was concerned. (Sidebar: I had a pretty enormous crush on a certain Sweathog named Juan Epstein, the Puerto Rican Jew. There weren't many hip, edgy Members of the Tribe on TV to moon, we both fluffed our 'fros with a hair pick. We had a lot in common, but I didn't want to marry the guy.)

My future womanhood was more strongly impacted by shows like Magnum P.I. and the A-Team. Just like those bad boys, I wanted to be encumbered only by my mysterious past. I'd be unwaveringly loyal...not to a time-consuming spouse, but to my circle of emotionally-stunted colleagues. Best of all, my super sexy clientele would be footing the bill for my love-'em-and-leave-'em adventures. Who wouldn't want that lifestyle? Best of all, there was very little listening involved.

Sunday afternoon's televised ninja double-feature completed the sculpting of my future goals as an adult. The haunted hero would travel, sword on back, to avenge the cruel murder of his wife, children, and/or aged ninja master. I wanted to wear black pajamas and journey the Japanese countryside on foot. I wanted a hand-crafted, razor-sharp katana. I wanted to avenge the ruthless murders of my family. But sadly, this wasn't my destiny. The only trudging I did every day was to softball practice. The only deep conflict I faced was the fruitless battle to clear up my skin.

Before I evolved into a scowling, Gen-X teen, I was an impressionable, wide-eyed girl looking for direction in every corner, under every rock, and on every channel. I was impacted profoundly by the glowing blue screen. I wanted excitement, freedom and risk. In no way were these goals reflected by the have-it-all, do-it-all, stand-behind-your-man wives I saw on TV. Yes, there were some cool gals on the shows I watched -- Wonder Woman, all of Charlie's Angels, and Jaime "The Bionic Woman" Sommers -- but what was their common denominator? They were single. Oh, and each had a super-tan male boss who would be sued for sexual harassment in this day and age.

Basically, my beloved television assured me that being a wife was an unpleasant and exhausting future. I vowed to avoid it at all costs. Outside of the reality of my parents' relationship, I didn't see many examples of enviable wifery. As a girl, I had big dreams: I wanted to grow up to be a free-wheeling, unencumbered single man with a Tom Selleck mustache.

At least I've achieved one of those goals.