A few weeks ago I was feeling pretty off my game. I had caught a cold that gave me a hacking cough, incessant nose-blowing, and a magnetic pull to my bed that made me even less eager to play "Zombie Mommy" with my boys.
Then I got some crushing work news. Not crushing in and of itself, just in that last-blow-to-the-fighter-in-the-ring way. All of this set in a background of the Republican debates/primaries, that in my foggy mind confirmed for me Shakespeare's assertion that all the world's a stage with all of us merely players.
So I wasn't feeling all that excited to be me. It's not unusual when in this state of mind for me to reach beyond envy of someone else's circumstances and go all the way to actually wishing I could be them. The usual suspects often come to mind. Who wouldn't want to be Gwyneth Paltrow on a rainy day? With her blonde tresses, her fabulous organic skin care and comprehensive knowledge for building the "ultimate closet"? Or that actress from "Parenthood," who plays Amber, in ripped t-shirts and army boots seemingly blessed with a direct line to "the truth." Or what about Condeleezza Rice? I heard her on NPR promoting her new memoir, the most striking detail of the interview for me being her assertion that she's content to be alone in life continuing to achieve at the level that her mother and father insisted upon. Oh to happily sit above the fray of intimacy, but still making Mommy and Daddy proud, that would be the life!
On bad days, becoming one of these women, and even some less notable ones, seems like the answer to my prayers. So imagine my surprise when by beginning of last week, the person I found myself wanting to trade places with was none other than Newt Gingrich. Crazy, I know, because I'd have to sleep with that woman with the yellow, Lego-like, snap on hair, but hear me out.
It started with his unbelievably bold, bombastic and blow-harded response to John King at the opening of the South Carolina Republican debate. In case you live in a cave without WiFi, when asked if his former wife's assertion that Newt asked her for an open marriage was true, he not only refused to answer the question, but responded on the offensive, accusing King of being part of the left wing media elite and the very reason why decent men don't run for public office. Now, I am not a right-to-lifer, nor do I defend the right for every Tom, Dick or Jane to bear arms like Mr. Gingrich, but that doesn't mean I don't admire the guy's moxie. I had to wonder, what if I pulled a Newt in my home as wife and mother? What if every time my sons or husband asked me a direct question about something I perceived to be a personal failing, I deflected and blamed them. Consider these:
Tod: "Honey, why were you just flirting with Billy's Dad waiting for the birthday cake to be cut?"
Me: "I refuse to dignify that question with a response. Isn't the bigger issue is why you are constantly tracking my every move and that perhaps your attention would be better spent noticing your children instead of the way I run my hand through my hair when I talk to a man with crystal blue eyes and strong hands? Now what else do we have planned for the afternoon?"
GENIUS! Or how about this...
Gideon: "Mom, why are we out of orange juice?"
Me: I'm not going to answer that. What's really in question is why you think I have nothing else to consider all day other than how much orange juice is left. If you are so committed to orange juice, perhaps you should get yourself a pad and a pen and keep a list of what you need and then approach me with this list at an appropriate time!"
That's how a "transformational" Mom would respond, folks. And finally, what about what I want?
Me: Tod, I would like an open marriage. I'm too tired to actually sleep with anyone else, but I need to know that if I did ever get enough energy and/or time in my day to pursue another, younger man, I need to know that you are good with that.
Tod: What? I was playing Scrabble. What is it?
Me: Never mind.
Because I am not Newt Gingrich.
I would collapse like the whipped cream pyramid I dream of sticking my face into nightly if I ever asked Tod for anything like that. Not Mr. Gingrich! He consistently figures out what he needs, whether it's more women or fewer sick ones, and shamelessly, unapologetically takes the right actions for himself. As my friend put it, he is a man completely full of a lack of a self-doubt.
Like all dedicated parents, I work really hard to be "present" and "in the moment" with my children and husband. But where is this getting me? My heart is pulled in a zillion directions, along with my car, trying to keep everyone growing and learning. What about me? On Oprah's recommendation a few years ago I read "The Secret" and I have not been doing it right. I am not investing the time visualizing for myself and my dreams. Not so Mr. Gingrich. He doesn't need "The Secret". He's been living "The Secret" since before it was a secret. His whole life is positively visualized in his mind, with no attachment to reality. After getting slammed in the Florida primary he outlined for his fans what his first days in the White House will look like. As I mentioned, I had a work setback. If it was a primary, I lost. Upon hearing about it, however, I did not think to call up the company and tell them I looked forward to working with them, producing groundbreaking entertainment, and by the way which parking space is mine. Newt would have done this.
Most of the time when I hear Mr. Gingrich speak, as long as I remove the meaning of the words he is saying, I feel a little like those ladies in the diner in the famous "Harry Met Sally" scene where Meg Ryan is banging her fists on the table. I want what he's having. I want Newt Gingrich's orgasmic confidence. So Gwynneth can keep her hair and her rock star husband and Condoleezza can keep pleasing her parents, but I want to be Newt Gingrich and eat as many batter-dipped, non-food stamp purchased shrimp as I can shove in my mouth and still think Brad Pitt should play me in my bio pic. I want to be asked by an influential magazine of my party to step down as a Presidential contender, and call this request "silly," fortifying my commitment with a "determination to stay positive." In the face of school applications, property taxes, creeping gas prices, a four year old with athsma, an eight year old with exzema, and a throbbing fear that when everyone grows up I'll be left staring at the wall mumbling to myself, now more than ever I need of Newt's positivity.
But if that's too much to hope for, maybe on days when it's clear that my constituents, I mean kids, are not all happy with me being in charge, I could dig deep and find my inner-Newt. A driven, relentless force within me that would give me the freedom in my mind to make huge, self-serving mistakes and never doubt in my heart that despite them I am still the best woman for the job.