Anyone who knows me even casually or reads this blog on even an irregular basis will know that I am not an assertive person. In fact, when I asked my husband what he thought of me the first time we met, he thought a moment and said, “Mousy.” I was briefly horrified. I wasn’t expecting “ravishing” or anything, but “mousy”?! “Mousy”?! But to be fair, I can come off as sort of mousy, I guess. I am a textbook introvert, and I like to size situations and people up before I start talking. I can’t stand arguments, and even disagreements between or among other people in my vicinity make me extremely uneasy.
In my idealistic early 20s, I attempted to phone-bank for the Kerry campaign. I was in the dead-red-center of Missouri, and I lasted maybe two phone calls before I politely tendered my resignation. I hate talking to people on the phone anyway, but I was passionate about that election, and if I had lucked into a stranger who loved John Kerry, or at least hated George W. Bush, I would have been able to hold up my end of the conversation. I would have even been OK, although not at all persuasive, had I gotten polite Bush supporters. Instead, I got back-to-back furious rednecks yelling at me about guns and Iraq, and I just stammered, “Oh, I’m sorry you feel that way…didn’t mean to bother you, sorry…” and hung up. And quit.
(Anyone who has ever had an argument with me about grammar has seen a different side of me – I will argue about grammar because there are actual established rules to back me up. I will stand my ground if I know I’m right on a point of fact; it’s opinions I don’t like to wade into.)
I never send my food back at restaurants or complain about bad service, even when it is appalling. I once paid $250 that was erroneously billed to my credit card for a flight to St. Louis because I didn’t have it in me to argue back and forth with Citibank and Priceline. When I bought my first car, I asked the dealer if he would consider, maybe, possibly, dropping the price and he looked at me and said, “No,” and I said, “Oh, OK, just asking …” and then paid the full asking price.
Also, I don’t have any misperceptions of my actual influence. I don’t usually sign petitions or write letters. I don’t publicly boycott things. I don’t think anyone will actually listen to me – hell, I’m lucky if I can get my kids to listen to me. (I am definitely more assertive with them, although it was a hard battle to stop adding “OK?” to every request. “Brush your teeth and get in bed, OK?” is just fodder for Ruby, who got in spades whatever feistiness I am lacking.)
All that said – my mousiness, my dislike of confrontation, my acknowledgment of my lack of influence – I really want to write a letter to the Disney Channel.
Not about “Jessie,” which I actually find repellant and offensive and refuse to let Ruby watch without a 10-minute lecture before and after about stereotypes and being respectful to adults.
No, it would be about “Dog With a Blog,” a ridiculously named show that I honestly kind of like. By and large, I tune out most of what Ruby watches – I kind of catch snippets here and there as I walk into and out of the living room – but a few weeks ago, she had a stomach bug, and we sat up all night together and watched every episode of “Dog With a Blog” on the DVR. It was … less horrible than a lot of other shows she likes.
One of the cool things about the show is that it features a blended family: a mom and her daughter and a dad and his two kids. I love seeing families like ours represented on TV; it’s refreshing and validating. But this modern show really goes no deeper than the “Brady Bunch,” and that frustrates me.
I don’t expect a Disney show to delve into the complications and stresses particular to a blended family. The differences in discipline, changes to cherished family rituals, wounds caused by the breakups of prior marriages: None of that is in Disney’s wheelhouse, and I am OK with that. It’s a kids’ show; I don’t expect much.
What irks me about this show is something really very simple: The kids all call both parents Mom and Dad. Right there, they lose me. It seems like the writers are clueless or just not trying or else are being willfully ignorant. My stepson calls me Eve; he has a mom he calls Mom. And Ruby calls my husband Robert and her dad’s girlfriend Alyssa. I know a lot of blended families, and I can think of a few in which the kids call their stepparent Mom or Dad, but in all of those cases, the stepparent has been in the child’s life almost since birth. The family on this show has only been a family for about a year; there is absolutely no way that the Mom and Dad thing would happen so quickly and effortlessly. It’s just bizarre. Blended families are so common now, so this can’t just be ignorance, can it? It has to be deliberate, and I just don’t get it.
In the end, of course, I won’t do anything about it, not only because I know it’s pointless but also because I don’t have the time or energy to write an actual complaint that no one will read, but still, it really ruins an otherwise-kind-of-likable show for me.
I might be mousy and wishy-washy and nonconfrontational, but on this particular linguistic point, I am quite sure I am right. Pretty much. Mostly. I think.