Wednesday, January 29, 2014

this is NOT 40

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Have you seen the movie "This is 40"?

If you haven't, good for you. If you have, please let me know. When I figure out how to get that 134 minutes of my life back, I'll let you know so you can apply, too.

I watched it because I was on the cusp of turning 50. I was curious what Hollywood (via Judd Apatow) had to say about what it was like to turn 40.

Turns out, not much.

All I saw was a whiny, self-indulgent family living an empty life and spewing a truckload of tacky, tasteless, combative and annoying crap.

I've been to 40, and trust me, this is NOT 40. This is not even 30. And it is not even entertaining. This is Hollywood's skewed vision of spoiled, upper-middle-class white trash. With an apology to white trash.

I do not know any people like the characters in this movie. Thank God. If I did, they probably would not like me. Because I would have a few things to say to them when they started telling me about the state of their lives. And those things would go something like this:

If you can't afford to run a business and pay your employees, then get a job working for someone else. It's that simple.

If you can't afford to pay your mortgage on your McMansion, move.

If your kids are throwing around four-letter words in casual conversation (or any conversation), punish them. And stop using that language when you talk to them or to other people in front of them. It isn't ok.

If they refuse to listen to you because they are spending all their time with the $$$ of electronics that your privileged and clueless society tells them they have the right to own, please feel free to confiscate said electronics, change the wireless password, and disable their phone number. Unless they have a job, no child "needs" a $500 phone with a $120 monthly bill. If they have a job that requires that, they probably have an agent and are supporting you. But that still doesn't make ignoring you ok.

If they get so pissed at all this new discipline you're throwing at them that they slam the door on their posh overly-furnished bedroom and won't let you in, there is this magical thing called a SCREWDRIVER (guess what, it is not just a cocktail!) with which you (or a local handyman) can remove said bedroom door. Privacy in the home is a privilege, not a right.

If you had children so you could be friends with them, then you are in for a disappointment. Children want you to be their parents, not their friends. They have friends. From you they need security, discipline, constancy, and education. They want to know that you're going to drop the hammer on them when they make stupid decisions. They want to know that you are paying attention to them. They want to know you have their backs. They're going to complain and cry and tell you they hate you when you make hard choices for them. But in their hearts they are thanking you for taking the pressure off of them. There will be time to be friends with your children when they grow up. While they are living in your house, be friendly with them, but for their sake and the sake of all that is decent and good - be their Parents first and foremost.

I just turned 50. But I am neither a creaky old curmudgeon or someone without experience. I have helped raise three wonderful, successful children who are now in their 20s and 30s. There were times they didn't like me or their father very much. There were times when we had to make tough calls. There were days/weeks/years when they didn't talk to us much or at all. But I think all three of them are thankful that we had the stamina, the stomach, and the values to not give up on them and to not let them give up on themselves.

I currently have a 12 year old living at home. She is starting to go through the perilous pubescent years. Sometimes she is floating with joy. Sometimes she is crying and can't give a good reason. Sometimes she is a delight. Sometimes I want to put duct tape on her smart mouth and ship her off to her grandmother. But never in my wildest thoughts would I give up on her and let her figure out her own way at the tender age of 12. Because she doesn't have a clue. And she needs me and her father to do exactly what we did with her siblings: provide both love and discipline, both a firm hand and a soft shoulder.

A movie about a normal family with sensible parents and well-rounded kids probably wouldn't have a very good opening weekend at the box office. Boring, most likely. Thankfully real life is not a churned-out quickie of profane quips and cheap jokes and in-your-face sexuality. Real life is more like a marathon of small independent documentaries - funny, poignant, slow at times, sometimes too fast, very little in the way of budget or soundtrack or promotion.

But when you get to the end, hopefully, what you have is a classic.

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