Ialong many others around the world, have fallen in love with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She had us from day one. Literally. It’s like meeting your new best friend in college while waiting to register for the same class. She’s wholesome, warm, extremely beautiful, with a good heart, great hair and can make you laugh….like really really laugh, not the polite fake laugh, the laugh till you make an ugly face laugh. “Where have you been all my life!” you ask yourself, as soon as you meet her. You can’t wait to get to know her more and hang on to her every word. Now that Midge is on her way to captivating us in season 4, I started to realize, my bestie was too good to be true.
At first I thought “Oh my god! a woman in the 1950s, who thinks and talks like me, with better clothes, that I can vicariously live through! hello bestie!”. Then there’s the fact that she is also a single mom like me. There was no doubt that I was the Asian version of Midge. In anticipation of season 4, I started re-watching all of the episodes from season 1. That’s when I started noticing my bestie had flaws….
Despite that we are both single moms, there is one major thing that sets us apart. Our lifestyles along with our family and community support. Let’s face it, even though Midge is divorced (still married in the process of a second divorce to be exact), she has always had the support of her ex (current) husband behind her. Not only that, Midge seems to have come from a well to do family that can afford a full time help to assist her with not only taking care of her kids but also her daily chores. It’s no wonder we have never seen Midge do anything such as laundry, cooking (one Brisket a season does not an everyday meal make), cleaning the house, nor ironing. Instead she fills her days with working at B. Altman, for a paycheck that was never disclosed if it could honestly provide a roof over her head, tuition for her children’s private school that she so desires, paying for said full time help, gas, water, electric bills, and an endless rotation of her colorful rainbow dresses with matching shoes and purses.
This got me thinking, if Midge Maisel was a real person and living in my shoes, really really really in my shoes, would she have been successful as a comic and reaching the heights of opening for Shy Baldwin? Let me take you through what a single mom’s life is really like. Especially one that is currently living in a middle income country (The World Bank has somehow decided my country is no longer developing despite the fact 70% of our workers are blue collar workers) which charges a first world country prices while paying us developing nation wages. Living like Midge Maisel is far from reality. As a single mom, your family would think of you as the black sheep of the family. How dare you get a divorce from the man who has abandoned you and left you with a child. We have to stay with him no matter what because he is the bread winner. Oh and since you are now the black sheep of the family, guess what, whenever you come over the first question you relatives ask will be “Where do you work now, how much do you make and how much is your kid’s tuition” before you are even offered a cup of tea. Wait, there’s more, because you are a woman, you are considered a second class wage earner (I’m sure this is true for most countries today). In the words of a head hunter to me once “We are women, we don’t need to make so much money. We just work so we have a little spending money of our own and don’t have to ask our husbands for money” Yup, an international head hunter literally said those words to me. If you do manage to get help to take care of your kids, you will actually have to pay for the help through your salary. So let’s recap, you’re getting maybe half the salary of what a man makes in the same position as you, your family refuses to help with baby sitting your kid because you were the one that chose to divorce the husband who left you instead of waiting for him to come back, like Keira Knightly waited for Orland Bloom to return once every 7 years in Pirates of the Carribean, and then you go to your job which you have to take public transport because guess what, you can’t afford a cab every single day. The rainbow clothing, forget it, you stick with basic colors that can go from day to night because that actually saves you money rather than being colorful like a peacock. Are you with me so far? Forget about going on tour with Shy Baldwin for 3 months, you can’t even leave your kids with your cousin or relatives for a weekend because everyone is always so conveniently “busy” whenever you ask if they can babysit your kid. Your days are spent juggling raising a kid, cleaning the house, cooking food to feed your child, commuting in public transport and surviving a job where you are not deemed to be an equal to a man because hey, as everyone knows, women only work for spending money, not that we actually need to provide for a family or anything.
This is where my question comes in. Would Midge Maisel still be as beautiful, as funny, and as successful if she was given the same circumstances as single moms in reality? Not the Upper West side apartment with the loving parents and the maid who cooks dishes from around the world. But just her, alone, in an apartment, that she has to pay for with the money that she makes being the Revlon counter girl at B. Altman. What would her life look like if her parents didn’t let her live with them after the divorce? Who would look after her kids when she was away doing her set at the Gaslight every night or working at B. Altman during the day? Would she still look as immaculate with perfectly coiffed hair if Zelda wasn’t around to help iron, cook, clean and babysit her kids for her? Would she have bagged Benjamin in the Catskills if she had to pay for the Catskills out of her own pocket and spent all of the time she was there with her two kids alone chasing them around everywhere?
I know Mrs. Maisel is a fantasy and that’s what makes it so fabulous and marvelous. But I can’t help feel that as women, we are constantly shown role models and characters that speaks to us, yet, often with circumstances that don’t relate to us and let’s face it, just not realistic. Midge Maisel lived a privileged life, with her parents, her ex in laws, her supportive ex (current) husband, and basically every single step that she takes, there is always somebody next to or behind her ready to worship the ground she walks upon, whether it be Benjamin, Suzy, or Lenny Bruce. This is not the reality at all for most single moms or women in general. Forget about perfectly coiffed hair, a good day for me is simply remembering to brush my hair before running out the door. My shoes don’t match my dresses because let’s face it, when you’re chasing around a child, doing the laundry, and the dishes while rushing to your next meeting, matching your shoes with your outfit is really low on your priority…we’re talking somewhere between cleaning the fridge and watering the plants (I knew I had a Ficus somewhere).
So for those of you, like me, single moms out there, who are watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it’s ok to be captivated by her, smitten even. But just don’t think that because she was able to look perfect and achieve everything she ever wanted, that you have to as well. We live in real life, it’s ok to wear an un-ironed shirt to work, just put a sweater on top, add some stud earrings and call it a day. You don’t need an array of rainbow dresses with matching shoes and clutches. Have a few basic key pieces in neutral colours and you’ll be fine. Your house doesn’t have to be organised all day everyday, we get tired, if you don’t feel like putting that pillow back on the bed or the couch or wherever it belongs, it’s ok, the world isn’t going to come to an end because you didn’t put them away. Repeat after me “My house does not need to be a Pinterest board..” Now log out of Pinterest and run yourself a bubble bath. You deserve it.
As wonderful as Midge is, she is not a representation of what a real single mom or a woman’s daily life is like. Nothing wrong with a little fantasy, but just make sure that you don’t end up comparing your life to hers. At the end of the day, we are all marvelous in our own special way…Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Ficus to find.