I have just published my memoir, “Hot Pants in Hollywood,” and the subtitle is: “Sex,Secrets & Sitcoms.” Oh oh.
As an only child, growing up in a very sheltered Mid West upbringing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I would come home every day after school and tell my Mother every minute event of the day. There were no secrets, and she lived my life along with me, for better or worse. This was in thedays before Feminism, while most mothers were stay-at-home. Their life choices were limited and then, even in my college days, most of my girlfriends went to the University of Wisconsin, for their “MRS.”
To my Mother’s concern, fear, and some pride, I wanted to be a writer and have a career other than teaching and so was allowed to go a little bit away to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. From there, I escaped to California, UCLA and the temptations of Hollywood. Now her worst fears would come to pass. (Don’t forget, I was not allowed to cross the main street until I was twelve.)
After some interesting jobs and more interesting “escapes” from the likes of Elvis, Steve McQueen, and Lenny Bruce, my career as a TV sit com writer took off with the iconic Mary Tyler Moore Show. By then I was married, though not to a man my Mother approved of….she wanted him to call her ‘Mother’ and he said he already had one and preferred to call her “Dorothy.”
With the good timing of the Feminist Movement, the show both led and encouraged working women, modeled after the lead, aka ‘America’s Sweetheart,’ who was a sometime reluctant but successful role model in the changing real world. I was more a Rhoda in temperament, with a much more rocky Mother/Daughter dynamic now bordering on full out war.
Mary’s relationship with her mother was more benign and one shock revealed was that she was on “The Pill.” I had never had “the talk” with my Mother about sex, other than her telling me repeatedly that “boys will not buy the cow if they can get the milk for free.” Yeah, hey, it was the Sixties!
Because I always felt my Mother’s shadow somewhere over my left shoulder, I’d remained a virgin until I was engaged. Even then, I knew my Mother disapproved and had always made the distinction of “fast girls” in high school. They were usually girls with over developed calves, she believed. So, even today, I see women walking down the street, legs clenched from heels and I know…I just know! We all become our mothers. Trust me. We do.
Fortunately, we’d made our peace somewhere around when I was in my late 30’s and had one knock out fight after which she started to cry and said, “I am a person too! I had my dreams you know.”
Wow, she wasn’t just here on earth to feed me, comfort me, pat my shoulder when I couldn’t fall asleep? Before she died, i made her promise she would come back and pat my shoulder to let me know. I”m still waiting.
But if anyone could, it would be my Mother. I miss both my parents every day.
I got divorced and led a rather liberated life in the many years after and my Mother enjoyed hearing about my liasons. My Father, however, had more doubts and he voiced them. That was hard to hear sometimes. But wonder of wonder, it was my Mother who supported these adventures and who enjoyed hearing of my Zelig like occurences in standing next to, knowing, and sometimes dating some of the Icons of my time. Once and a while I would even have a “famous person” call her and that made her day.
And yet, I will be very honest. I’m glad she never got to read my memoir..there are some secrets yes, usually sex ones, that I wouldn’t want her to hear! For Mother’s Day, I really think my book could open the door for discussion between mothers and daughters…but remember, there are some things we should not tell them! At least about my life!