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Monday, December 7, 2009

Sandra Tsing Loh Sings the Bad Mother Blues

She's at it again in this month's Atlantic. She's all self-flagellating about her affair, her bad mother status, while at the same justifying her behavior because we are all "exhausted and resentful by a role or set of roles that we don't recall deliberately choosing." Because "the 21st century mom's life is actually far worse than that of her 1950s counterpart."

We should all be running out and having affairs, she seems to be saying. If you're not having an affair and walking out on your marriage, something is clearly wrong with you because "the very success of the modern American family . . . surely depends on spouses not being in love." We're all on a Baton-death-march-style hike in the wilderness and, as she asks so brilliantly, "how can you compare tan lines on the Appalachian Trail?"

Okay, so sometimes it's tough to put your sexy on before soccer practice on Saturday morning, but that doesn't negate the chance for a quickie after lunch, does it? (Hasn't Tsing Loh heard of Cinderella III?).

It's clear that Tsing Loh feels really, really bad about getting tossed out of the house on her ass; it wasn't what she intended at all, I'm sure, when she started fucking the guy she didn't have the domestic partnership with (maybe that's part of the problem, calling our booked asses and hot babes partners, calling our love-shack unions partnerships; it's like leaning into your lover and cooing baby, will you have sexual intercourse with me?), she had no idea she was about to step into a Class VII rapid without a paddle, a set of oars, or a life preserver.

But why does she need to justify herself? A recent article in The New York Times Sunday magazine (Women Who Want to Want by Daniel Bergner) shares how 30% of women experience at some point in their lives the "feeling [of] no wish for sex whatsoever." This seems to be the result of at least two things: (1) the way male clinicians have historically imposed their perception of desire onto women (that is, women experience a slow-burn desire, and these less urgent flames are deemed abnormal), and (2) inept/emotionally disconnected partners. According to Bergner, the one exception to the slow-burn school of desire is at the beginning of a relationship. It almost makes you wonder why any wife would remain faithful!

But I'm not the one labeling Loh bad. She's done that all on her own.

What exactly is a bad mother?

Before I had kids I thought it unconscionable that ocassionally I'd return home from elementary school to a locked front door, no key, no note, and an hour to kill in the backyard.

Now that I'm a mom, hey, no biggie, you should have paid better attention when I showed you where I hid the key.

Then: I'm unhappy and depressed and it's all your fault!

Now: Hey mom, help me decide: should I make pecan sandies or pecan crispies?

Then: A good mommy is June Cleaver. When the Beav clocks Wally or steals big bills from her patent leather purse, you can't hear her screaming from two blocks away because she is happily vacuuming or dusting.

Now: A good mommy only sometimes let's out a string of expletives, and usually they're only audible from one block away.

Then: A good mommy plays Candyland, house, and dress up.

Now: A good mommy's best friends are the microwave and the DVD player. Sometimes the good mommy says "please go play with your brother; I have to finish this email."

Then: A good mommy is happily baking cookies. When she's done she lets you lick both beaters.

Now: A good mommy (according to Tsing Loh) is one that does not put her head in the oven, and on most days I would have to agree with her.


Joannie said...

Terrific! This means I can fail at being a good mommy and at being a bad mommy. :-)

rams said...

"But why does she need to justify herself?"

Um. Money? Recognition? Publication in the Atlantic?

(The tag on Facebook made me think Ayelet Waldman had expanded her horizons...)

Martha Silano said...

Rams: Yeah, she was crucified by the press. It's appalling that women/moms take it so hard when they fall into acting like men. Think of all those presidents shtupping in the White House . . . way before Clinton.

Cioara Andrei said...

Foarte interesant subiectul postat de tine. M-am uitat pe blogul tau si imi place ce am vazut.Cu siguranta am sa il mai vizitez.
O zi buna!

Martha Silano said...

Grazie mille!