“Odd Mom Out”, which returns to Bravo in July, has been a constant reminder to me of why I’m so grateful for my relationship with my good friend Cecile. I met Cecile three decades ago at a New York City ad agency, where she was an art director and I was a copywriter. Since then, I got married and had two children and remained in Manhattan. Cecile returned to her native San Francisco, found a committed relationship, but chose to remain marriage/child-free.
I see a lot of our relationship played out on the half-hour comedy between Jill Kargman’s character Jill Weber and her best friend Dr. Vanessa Wrigley, played by KK Glick. As the former says of the latter, “This is the type of friend who will tell you the truth; the grounding conscience.”
Cecile has saved me from myself more than once over the past 20-odd years. When one finds oneself socializing with other mothers almost exclusively, whether it be on the playground or in a school setting, there can be the feeling that everyone knows the ropes better and you need to jump on the bandwagon, even if you’re not totally comfortable with the paradigm. Competitiveness can also kick in, and rational thought can take a flying leap out the first open window.
About a dozen years ago, when I was still a young mother, I got caught up in the children’s birthday party mania, so prevalent in NYC. I actually entertained the idea of plunking down five grand on a basketball-themed party for my then 4th grade son Luke at the NBA store.
Bouncing the idea off other moms had them acknowledging that this was raising the bar on the norm – bowling/gymnastics/skating parties at Chelsea Piers or arcade extravaganzas at ESPN Zone, not to mention the girl fete equivalents at American Girl or Dylan’s Candy Bar – which are all still expensive, but they were excited that their children would have such a fun experience.
As Cecile had, pardon me, no dog the fight, she could objectively see how ridiculous and out of hand I was getting; something you can’t always see when you’re on the inside. It was she who offered: “Are you out of your mind? For a kiddie party? I’ve had milestone birthday dinners that didn’t cost that much.” I changed my plan.
I would also fret about things that I took way too seriously. When Luke was in pre-K, my husband Neil wanted to do an impromptu long weekend getaway. I worried about having Luke skip a day of school. “What’ll he miss, the color orange?” Cecile pointed out.
She was also instrumental in helping remind me of who I was, specifically when another mother made a remark. I would often be taken aback. I had reined in my temper considerably and my flare for the “zinger” when it came to speaking to other parents because I did not want my behavior to reflect badly on my children.
I was quite shocked to find how many others did not feel that way. “And how did you respond?” Cecile would want to know, followed by, “You didn’t say anything back? You?” I’d explain that getting into it might result in not getting a party/playdate invite. “So?” she’d ask, and rightly so. Why would I have wanted my children to interact with kids whose mothers I didn’t like.
But the most important reason to have a single friend is that, aside from keeping you sane, it reminds you that you’re more than a mother, with interests, opinions and guilty pleasures to discuss. As Kargman, says of the Jill/Vanessa alliance, they talk “about friends, people at work, dishing, gossip, theories on life,” and they do so without relating every subject back to “my child.” Which for a mom, is the equivalent to a vacation – albeit a mental one.