I've been thinking about that giant research project that is my life. What special question am I trying to answer? Through what unique lens do I reflect on the nature of existence? I've been asking myself this question a lot lately and I think it boils down to this: Why is it that I, a 21st century American woman, find solace in watching Doris Day movies? When life threatens to overwhelm me, drown me in worry or disappointment or just wear me down with the minutiae, I look to the apparently simple world of an earlier time, drenched in pink and scented with Shalimar (I imagine). Settling down with Pillow Talk, or Send Me No Flowers is like a comforting mini vacation with a mild sedative. Watching Doris Day just makes me feel better.
Of course I am not talking about the actual person named Doris Day, about whom I know very little, or the actress in dramatic movies like The Man Who Knew Too Much. I am talking about
the Doris Day character who appeared in romantic farces with Cary Grant, Rock Hudson and James Garner int the late fifties and early sixties. The one who walked with a clip in her step like a smooth stone being skipped across a lake. So unlike the rock hurtling through the air and landing with a plop in the water that I seem to be.
It may have to do with our similarities. She is often frustrated with the behavior of some boorish male jerk. Also, she is often angry. Sometimes she drinks too much. Occasionally she falls asleep somewhere she shouldn't. Frequently she finds herself in a situation where she needs to either find or keep a job. And generally she is a working woman in what seems to be a man's world.
But perhaps it is our differences that are most important. For example, she is cute when she is drunk and never accidentally has sex with a guy only to regret it the next day. Never. She may lose her job, or quit her job, but she never has any one else depending on her. There are no teenagers with braces and tuition payments in the picture. She is always the child who is about to teach some grown up man a lesson.
But the really amazing thing about this Doris is not that men seem simultaneously compelled to steal and protect her virginity with unimaginable vigor. The really amazing thing is that while she may often be angry, she never focuses that anger on herself (a brief meltdown in Touch of Mink from which she quickly recovers notwithstanding.) Her anger remains cheerfully directed outward. I don't know any real women like this. Even when we point the finger at society, husbands, boyfriends, crappy bosses, ungrateful children etc., somewhere inside we tend feel like the architects of our own disasters. And I am as guilty of this as anyone. It is difficult not to see all of life's disappointments and frustrations through the lens of what I must have done wrong somewhere along the line. So it is a happy escape watching Miss Day seek out justice without the straitjacket of self doubt. Through all her travails she remains blonde and blameless. Facing all the uncertainties of the new year ahead, I'm pretty sure I could use a little bit of that.