As an early 20 something, I was an avid TV watcher (or lazy Uni student) who would spend my days ‘binging’, (before it had the same hip appeal) on TV series that I’d buy in DVD box sets. Some were brilliant (Sopranos), many were average, and others were barely watchable. One of the latter, was the polarising ‘Everybody loves Raymond’. I say ‘polarising’, not because it was in the least bit controversial, but rather that many people just couldn’t tolerate it – found it ‘hard to watch’. And let’s face it, it didn’t exactly have the street cred of Black Books, or swoony, sex appeal of Grey’s Anatomy. But it was watchable, it made me smile, I found it oddly comforting and at the time, that was enough.
I didn’t really think about it again until recently when I stumbled across a repeat episode, and decided to ‘settle in’, Oh good, I thought, this’ll do nicely. But not so long into my watch, did I find myself suddenly sit bolt upright. This wasn’t comforting, easy watching, nostalgic fluff – this was the stuff of hard hiring, front line investigation. The kind that makes you reassess your whole existence, the kind that makes you say out loud, to no one in particular, “OH FUCK!”
‘Oh fuck’ is what one says when one is hit with a particularly brutal realisation…
I had become DEBRA.
I had become a naggy, dowdy, discontent housewife.
Oh fuckity fuck.
For those of you who have never seen the show, there was nothing particularly startling about it. The premise was simple – an unhappy, extended family dynamic; A dowdy housewife, her stupid husband and their 3 children, living across the road from their interfering parents. Nothing ground breaking there.
But why then, one decade, a marriage and two children later, was my ground suddenly breaking?
Nobody loves DEBRA -that’s why.
One of the reasons that people found this show so ‘hard to watch’, was the irritating ‘hyper’ stereotyped characters. Raymond was undoubtedly the show’s most annoying character and each episode’s success hinged on our ability to side with Debra in her relentless exasperation with her “idiot” husband (insert laughter here), and his intolerable family. But as the female lead character, Debra always represented something I DIDN’T want to be; the stereotypical ‘fed up’, overworked, ‘naggy’ housewife, perpetually frowning and holding a dishcloth.
Yet, since having baby number two, I’ve started to notice a change in me. I say things to my husband like “Can you please just put your dish in the sink?!”. Eye rolling has replaced smiling as my most common facial expression, that coupled with the extended sigh. I yell at my kids about toys, and mess (and for those who know me well, know ‘mess’ has never been a problem for me) and make threats like “Say it once more, and you’ll go to your room!”. I have a daggy, outgrown hairstyle and wear my clothes inside out and back the front, sometimes for a whole day without realising. I complain A LOT to anyone that will listen. I find cooking a chore (and I used to like it), and I almost ALWAYS have a dishcloth in my hand.
Eye roll …extended sigh. I’m fucking Debra alright.
Ok ok, but Maybe I should cut Debra some slack? Is this just what it looks like? ‘Wife and mother of small children’? Is this just the ‘ugly’ interim we all experience at this time in our lives? Some kind of ‘rite of passage’ that we all have to battle through in order to learn something? Mature, gain perspective and all that? Is Debra now a happy 50 something, wearing clothes around the right way and enjoying luncheons with her intelligent, completely non-‘mummy’ middle aged friends? Does she smile a lot and thank God that ‘those days are behind her?’ I sure hope so. I sure hope this transformation is temporary; ‘the ugly, awkward, pimply’ stage before becoming something far more glamorous and evolved.
Yes, that’ll do nicely.
Either that, or I’ll end up like Marie.