Oracular Spectacular

When I was a teenager, I don’t think my mother knew what to do with me. Especially given that I was a teenager in the eighties, which was SLIGHTLY different from her experience in the late fifties/early sixties. Also, I was the oldest, so my mother had to make the rules up as we went along. Sometimes, the rules made sense. But this isn’t a story about those times.

When my mother was particularly flummoxed by me and my crazy teenaged ways, she’d consult with her friend, whom I will call, for the purposes of this story (and my legal protection), The Oracle. I suppose my mother thought The Oracle was sophisticated or worldly; certainly, she had strong opinions on matters of art and culture. For instance, when my eighth grade class was organizing a trip to NYC to see Cats, I brought home my permission slip with eagerness; unfortunately, my mother refused to sign it, as she’d consulted with The Oracle, who gave the idea the thumbs-down. Evidently she’d seen Cats herself, and found it “boring.”

Also, I was not allowed to see the movie Terms of Endearment, because The Oracle had seen it and deemed it “too sad.” And I was not allowed to see the movie Footloose (the original recipe, with Bacon), because The Oracle had seen it and thought the girl in the movie was “disrespectful” to her father. I have since seen both movies, and while I found Footloose a little meh, I now count Terms of Endearment among my very favorites. Also, I find it a weird coincidence that John Lithgow appears in both movies; if given the chance, I’m sure The Oracle would have had plenty to say about Harry and the Hendersons. (I never got around to seeing Cats. Though I saw this commercial on TV so many times, I feel as if I got the gist of it.)

I’m sure you see the irony in all of this, that I was prevented from seeing 1. A movie about a dysfunctional, tragicomic mother-daughter relationship, and 2. A movie about small-town parents trying to oppress their teenagers. Oh, and that it was assumed I’d be bored in NEW YORK CITY, let alone watching Broadway actors leaping and caterwauling in leotarded, feline exuberance.

I coped with the situation in the only way a teenager can: I drove my battered yellow VW to an abandoned warehouse and danced my heart out. Oh, wait, that was Kevin Bacon(‘s dance double). My bad. In reality, I managed to find other ways to have fun, which were often much more objectionable than seeing a movie or a play. As a legendary songwriter once said, I cut loose, footloose. I took it riiiight innntooo the Danger Zone. And I didn’t end up in jail, or rehab, or on a stripper pole, or “dead in a ditch somewhere,” as my mother often feared. Quite the opposite happened; in fact, you might even say I’m alright [sic]. (Boy, did Kenny Loggins rule the eighties, or what?)

Perhaps something can be learned from this story, about how relying too much on other people’s judgement can never end well, or how shielding young people from influences that you find “boring” or “too sad” or too cornily subversive will only lead to them seeking out their own experiences on their own less-than-endearing terms. Or how my mother’s sensible and nonsensical parenting made me the person I am today, so I am ultimately thankful to her (and The Oracle, of course).

But feel free to distill your own lesson; far be it for me to impose my opinion on you.

3 thoughts on “Oracular Spectacular

  1. Pingback: Stay Gold. « Kara LaReau

  2. Beautiful. I loved Terms of Endearment, too. Have you read Sachi Parker’s Lucky Me: My Life With and Without My Mother Shirley MacLaine? HIGHLY recommend it. It’s one of those that kept me up all night until I finished it.

    Thank you for this. So beautifully written.

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