Much like every other now 30 something that grew up in the ’90’s, I was obsessed with My So Called Life. I can say, shamelessly, that as an adult I still am and may or may not have recently reconsumed all 19 episodes in a matter of a couple days after discovering that it is on Hulu.
Watching this show as an angsty teenager, I hated Angela’s (the central character) mother, Patty Chase.
She was always coming in all tight-lipped to rain down a poop parade on everybody’s good time. With her high waisted mom jeans and Ghost-era Demi Moore haircut, Patty never failed to squash Angela’s newfound free spirithood and run a tight ship of general no funnery.
Watching this show as an adult, I wondered if I’d view it through different eyes having gained some life lessons and wisdom. Not having kids, I wouldn’t glean anything of motherhood, but being married maybe I’d relate to her as a wife. Perhaps this new perspective would allow me to sympathize with Patty, having a better understanding of the trials and responsibilities that come with being a grown woman with grown lady problems.
Now, instead of being annoyed with her as the pensive, fun-squashing mother, I’m annoyed with her as the pensive, fun-squashing wife.
Previously, I’d watch thinking,”I would never be that kind of mom.”
Now, I watch thinking, “I don’t ever want to be that kind of wife,” and I’ve learned a few lessons.
HOW TO AVOID PATTY CHASE-ING UP YOUR MARRIAGE
DON’T “SPICE THINGS UP”
The series starts out with us learning that Patty’s husband, Graham, is having an emotional-verging-on-sexual affair with another woman. Patty is not privy to this information, but senses that there is some tension and lacking connection between the two of them.
In a poor attempt to remedy this problem, she surprises Graham with a sassy bowl hair cut, throws on a red dress (cuz Cosmo), and signs them up for ballroom dancing lessons.
You know, every average, straight man’s fantasy.
The ideal advice here being to never put your marriage in a position where it requires spicing. However, if you find yourself in a spot where you’re feeling a little off, maybe I don’t know, talk to your husband or wife.
Maybe, rather than drastically altering your appearance and putting both of you in a very awkward social metaphor about how you’ve “forgotten the steps” and “no longer make good dance partners,” just ask if you’ve become so boring and insufferable that your partner is thinking of grinding up on someone else.
DON’T BE YOUR HUSBAND’S MOM
We also learn that Patty runs the business where she and Graham work and is, therefore, her husband’s boss. But, at least she counters this by constantly nagging, criticizing and mothering her grown-ass man of a husband.
Later, when Graham goes on to pursue his dream of being a chef, Patty makes no attempt to hide that she is condescendingly shocked when he starts succeeding. Her husband is a CHEF, a skill that is clearly evidenced every time he cooks in their home.
This support should have happened DAY 1 of their cohabitation: “Hey, how about instead of coming to work in my father’s soul-crushing printing business, you take those insane sauce-making skills and go be an awesome chef? I’ve tasted your risotto, and I’m not going to be the one responsible for robbing the world of that mouth gold just so I can boss you around in the factory where dreams go to die.”
I understand that when you’re in a relationship, you have to figure out how to coexist with another human being, and this matter is compounded when you live together.
However, it is important to step back and remember that you are two CAPABLE ADULTS. You’ve presumably moved out of your parent’s house, abandoning the mother-child dynamic in pursuit of self-reliance and independence. Instead of mothering your husband or wife, band together and embrace that curfew-less, dream filled, ice-cream-for-dinner adulthood freedom.
BRING THE HANDCUFFS
In an episode titled “Weekend,” we get to see Patty in rare form. She and Graham join another couple for a weekend getaway at a lodge for some winter good times.
In another Cosmo-inspired move, Patty wants to embrace this as a chance for sexy times with Graham. At the suggestion of her friend, she toys with the idea of bringing handcuffs, but chickens out and leaves them at home at the last minute. She later confesses this to Graham, and he expresses regret at the missed opportunity.
Patty then overcompensates and swings WAY too far in the other direction by getting completely messy drunk at dinner and being asked to leave by Pete from Twin Peaks, who has evidently survived (spoiler) and turned his beautiful cabin lodge into a charming bed and breakfast for couples with struggling marriages.
The problem here is the inconsistency, all the valleys of frigidity with peaks of “spicing things up.” You can’t be all nagging mom-wife 90% of the time mixed with 10% vanilla kinkster drunk mess.
You gotta balance out that madness with equal parts daily, boring business of being an adult, and the fun, enjoyable parts of being an adult with your adult parts.
BE THE HALLIE
The final episode bookends the series by alluding to the idea that Graham is once again tempted by another woman, Hallie Lowenthal, with whom he’s starting a restaurant.
Leading up to this, Patty has been all waffley in her support of this venture and has grown suspect of Graham and Hallie’s working relationship. Meanwhile, Hallie is nothing but charisma and positivity and spirit-building toward Graham, all the qualities Patty should be displaying as his wife.
If you’re suspicious of the amount of time your husband is spending at work, ask yourself if there’s a reason.
Would he rather be at work than at home? Would he rather eat Chinese food in a bar with Hallie Lowenthal than be in his sanctuary of a home with the one person with which he’s chosen to navigate time, who should soothe and inspire him when life hands him a fart? If the answer is yes, reevaluate.
Don’t be the one he wants to avoid. Be his harbor in the storm, his sounding board for advice, and his cheerleader when he’s down.
Be the reason he can’t wait to get home, not the unhappy, fun-sucking, soul-crushing Patty that drives him to seek reassurance anywhere he can get it.
You’re better than that. Be. The Hallie.