The writers of ‘Hot in Cleveland’ stole my future
* Note: March 15 is my Adoption Day. A day celebrated in my house since I was brought home many moons ago. However as I’ve grown and come to truly understand the decision made that day, it has evolved into a time for me to give thanks to those who have shaped me. This column is an ode to the many amazing women in my life. Though I do not mention you by name, rest assured your names are written on my heart.
I started watching “Hot in Cleveland” because, let’s face it, how can a show with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White not be funny?
The series opens as a trio of forty-something Los Angeles-based friends “crash land” in Cleveland, where they discover they are not only “hot” again but also passable as thirty-something. They decide to move to the mid-west, buy a monstrous house and move in together. (Betty comes with the house.)
As a forty-something living in the L.A. area, I find the writing on-point and hilarious. The writers do a great job of dealing with real-life situations with humor and well-placed hugs. One of my favorite episodes is when Joy (Leeves) finds the son she had given up for adoption at birth. The writers of “How I Met My Mother” (Season 2, Episode 12) brilliantly answered the question of why a mother would give up a child.
I keep watching the show in its sixth and final season not only because I find it laugh-out-loud funny but also it’s the life I dreamed of living. Which may seem extremely creepy but let’s use a tried-and-true television writing ploy to clear up the situation.
Eight years earlier…
Starting my second year living and teaching in central China was similar to kicking off a sophomore year in college. The teacher’s apartment building was a glorified dorm. I spent as much time in friend’s apartments as I did my own. I can’t remember locking my door. (Living in a communist state lowers your expectations for privacy.)
Two of my good friends lived on the second floor with me. Our front doors were within five of my steps – these are not long legs – and we spent countless hours venting about work, reading Dr. Seuss aloud in horrible British accents and dreaming about life after China.
I’ve never been a fan of white picket fences, but these two made life in America sound great. Instead of living in an apartment, we’d have houses across from and kitty-corner to each other. After work, we’d meet at a house and vent about work, read Dr. Seuss aloud in slightly improved British accents and dream about our next big adventure. The absurdity of the idea made me love it all the more, that and they decided I apparently would have the best-looking husband. Who was I to discourage other people’s dreams?
Kicking back on my overstuffed faux-leather Chinese couch listening to the well-known verses of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” I was overwhelmed by the genuine love, kindness and warmth I felt from my friends.
Twenty-nine years earlier…
Starting junior high in central Colorado was a mixed bag of success. We moved to Fraser in the middle of my fifth-grade year. It was not an easy transition for a Southern Californian. Between the radical change in elevation – high desert to more than a mile high – and the animosity against West Coast companies moving into the state, I was the center of a great deal of negative attention. A large portion of it perpetrated by the girls in my class.
It was then that I decided girls were not to be trusted. Guys were a different story, I got along great with them. In Southern California, I grew up riding motorcycles, dune buggies, attending car shows. I played sports and could talk strategy all day long. It was also comfortable.
Being short, average looking and overweight, I wasn’t on any of the guy’s radar, so there was no pressure to impress. This ease also caused more tension with the girls who found my “flirting” annoying. Their attitudes confused me greatly. Even being a girl, I was often at my own wits end for why I did things. How was I ever going to understand what another girl was thinking?
All I knew was there were two factions: those who liked me and my stories and those who did not. A large number of my tales involved being adopted. I got numerous laughs in science when I turned in a straight line for my family tree with the word “me.” My nemesis did not laugh. Instead months later, and I’m sure I must have said something to annoy her, she turned to me and said, “No wonder she gave you up.” I honestly hoped I’d misheard her and stupidly asked her to repeat what she’d just said. Never in my entire life have I wanted to crush someone as much as I did right then, but I was frozen by the comment.
I wish I could say that I took the high road. That I ignored her and her allies’ taunts and was the bigger person, but sadly, that is not the case. Instead, if they saw me as some sort of threat, I would give them a reason to fear me. I became the stealthy bully, dropping hateful word bombs that could never be traced back to me. I didn’t feel bad about anything I did. They had started it, and I would finish it.
Five years later…
Starting my junior year of high school at a small Christian school in San Jose made it my third high school in three states in three years. To say I was over moving and making friends would be a gross understatement.
By now my attitude problem was in the open – hence the private school – and I was under strict orders to “shape up and fly right.” I was pretty sure this would be like every other school. I’d have no trouble making friends with the guys but the girls and I were going to go at it.
In a small school, it’s easy to size people up pretty quickly. There is no place to hide. I thought I was ready for anything. What I wasn’t ready for was a genuine authentic person, which is exactly who Janet was (and is, as we continue to be friends today). Her kindness disarmed me and knocked me off balance the first day we met. I was confused into a quiet stupor.
I watched her interact with others for days and was astounded that she really was that nice. Her whole family was like that. A family of mostly women. She never said a negative word to me or about me. She encouraged me in sports and in the classroom. She was a great example of how to leave it all on the court and then get dressed up for a banquet. I wanted to be a better person to be worthy of her friendship. I wanted to be the kind of girl she was. I prayed for forgiveness for how I’d treated the other girls and started to change my ways.
With a renewed mind and spirit, I learned to trust women. It was still hard to make friends with them. My topic of conversation was still mostly cars, sports and television. I was lost on the topics of dating, clothing, makeup, etc. But I was making progress. By the end of college, I had to use both hands to count the number of women I called friend.
Thankfully today, I’d need both hands, both feet and to borrow a few appendages from someone to count the number of women I call friends. We may not all live together in one house like the ladies of “Hot in Cleveland” but these women feel like home.
Women who have laughed and cried with me. Women who have called me on my bad behavior and celebrated my victories. Women who have literally crawled through trenches with me playing paint ball and kept watch over me when my heart was troubled. Women who make me a better writer and a better person. Women who treat me like a kid sister and look up to me as a mentor. Women whose tough love keeps me grounded and gives me wings. Women I love hanging out with while venting about work, reading Dr. Seuss in brilliant British accents and dreaming of endless possibilities.