This year I finally bought one of those mini souvenir Oscar statues that they sell all over Los Angeles. They're fitted with witty, positively biting plaques such as "Best Stoner," "Hottest Wife," and "Coolest Cody," (who the hell knows any cool "Codys," let alone "Coolest"?). As truly side-splittingly hilarious as they all were, I didn't think twice. I coughed up my $12 for the "Best Dad" model and gave it as a gift to the best father a girl could wish for: my mom, Dr. Carol Ellen Lee.
I honor my mother on Father's Day because, when my twin brother and I were four months old, my father left my family. Or in Internet parlance, "unfollowed" us. You might be thinking that that sounds like a despicable thing for a father to do, but remember – I made very bad small talk at that age! I mooched off dad's money, and my resume was lacking in all marketable skills. My brother refused to split the check when we went out to dinner! Ever! It was quite a hostile environment for a grown man. So he went splitsies (I think that's the legal term??). He went AWOL. Oh, excuse me, typo: "A-HOLE." He went a-hole. While he was vaguely in and out of our lives as small children, I haven't spoken to him in almost fifteen years now. I mostly regret that I don't know what he thought of Avatar!
I'm not interested in disparaging my father. One, because then there'd be nothing to explore in my future one-woman show "My mother's Jewish, my father's Jewish, and I'm Jewish! And HUNGRY! FOR DADDY'S HUGS…AND KNISHES!" (running off-off-Broadway in a meat locker in Detroit). But two, because I truly don't feel any emotional wounds. It is not enough to say that my mom was the best mom anyone could've asked for. She was a superwoman. A champion. An Übermensch (German for "female Uber driver.")
My mom raised my twin and me entirely by herself. For you nerds out there, that's like my mom's life was a video game and she had to play the whole way through on the "extreme difficult" setting, and still got the high score in record time and found all the Easter Eggs and did all the side challenges and learned all the Ocarina's magical tunes and got all of Majora's Masks including Romani's Mask which took forever. It was a priority of hers that we never notice the deficit that my father's departure could have left. While working full time as an anesthesiologist, she was still able to make every play performance, every school conference, every sports game my brother and I ever played. And I'm a girl who, in sixth grade, shot a basket on the wrong hoop in a game and missed. I honestly don't know if that's more or less embarrassing than making it. If I were my mom I would've probably heckled me at my games. I am the most coddled, softest, gooest lady-baby now and there's not one day that goes by that I don't thank my mom in my head or on the phone through an elaborate tableau of grateful emoji ("smiley face smiley face money sign eggplant").
My mom gave me a lot of gifts, but one has become more and more important to me as I grow older. When I was a teenager, I remember offhandedly thanking my mom and her generation for "paving the way for girls my age, because now there's no sexism. You fixed it for us!" My mother calmly sat me down and calmly looked me square in the eye and calmly advised me that I was mega-wrong (legal term). "Sexism is not dead. I'm sorry, Megan. Society is still backwards and it's sneaky and it's going to be here for awhile." Then she probably made me three lasagnas or something, I was a very large girl at the time, I once ate eight McDonald's hash browns in a sitting. But this essay isn't about that, my one-woman show is!
That talk and those lasagnas changed my life. Because, whoa, newsflash – not everyone thinks women are the best. I started seeing the world as a complex place. There were men who hated women for nothing. There were women who hated other women for nothing. There was violence targeting women, all because we are soft and babies come out of us sometimes in two different types of holes. The world wasn't the Eden I had formerly seen it to be. Though, maybe Eden is an apt comparison – Eve didn't have it so great. She was punished for all eternity for eating carbs. I bet Eve made 70 cents to the dollar of what Adam did.
My mother's mother gave my mom similar advice when she was young: "Get a job where you can support yourself. Don't rely on a man to support you." As simple and blunt as this sounds now, I forget how novel a woman's fiscal independence is. Because of my successful mother, I grew up with the privilege of assuming that my brother and I would make comparable amounts of money. That is crazy! I wish I could tell Susan B. Anthony that. She would dig it. Plus, how PSYCHED would Susan B. Anthony be if she knew she was on a DOLLAR COIN?! She couldn't vote and now she's on money that men use to buy stuff like sandals and guns and radishes. Not even a more feminine 70 cent piece! A DOLLAR! And honestly, she'd probably be psyched about the time machine I'd used to visit her, too. I could really make Susan B. Anthony's day.
I want to thank my mom today for giving me vigilance. It is a gift to be vigilant. A true gift. Too many people, both men and women, are complacent about social mores. (NOTE: I feel like this is the closest I might ever get to sincerely calling Americans "sheeple." This is a big day for me!!) The gift of awareness is more important than ever. The Elliot Rodger shooting in Santa Barbara last month is just an inflorescence on the noxious weed of sexism and female-targeted violence that crops up constantly throughout this country. This is the norm. I feel that it is a privilege to have had my eyes opened by my exceptional mother. My mom raised a daughter who never once, for one second, thought I was going to be supported by a man. I never once thought I was less capable. That I couldn't do a job that is still mostly done by men. That I was worse at math. That I was less physically strong. (NOTE: I am very bad at parking and spatial reasoning. My mother and I have both admitted that to ourselves.)
They say that "living well is the best revenge." Well, you know what's also good revenge? Revenge. It is easy to be angry. It is easy to jump from awareness of inequality into crushing anger. I myself oscillate between fatalism at the state of the olio of inequalities in our world (gender-based, sexual orientation-based, socioeconomic, racial, religious, handicapped discrimination, etc. etc. etc.) and a burning desire to do something. But my mom taught me that rejecting the status quo is doing something. Succeeding, however quietly and tastefully, chips away at everything. And, while things might not fully change until women can physically match men, or until men can give birth, this is enough. This is the fight.
My mom is a feminist. A goofy, badass feminist. She lives her creed. Possibly even more important than instilling a confidence inside me, she raised a son, my brother, who is entirely respectful of women and who genuinely loves them. My brother is a real "DUDE" (legal term). He loves sports and cars and things and stuff and is still somehow able to love women (I guess technically we fall under "stuff"). And I entirely chalk that up to my mom.
I am not here to indict or praise other families. I only can be in my skin. I'm not a serial killer who kills ladies and puts on their skin, though that's probably a good way to keep looking young, note to self, look into murder-skin-suits, they're "in" this summer. Fathers are absolutely incredible. Great fathers are great. Fathers who parent with mothers. Single fathers. Gaylord double-fathers (legal term). Gingerbread men who you give little gingerbread children and then you eat all of them because fuck that family unit, I'm hungry, mommy didn't make me enough lasagnas. All fathers who choose to be good fathers are good fathers. But plenty don't, and that's where certain heroes shine.
My mom is a hero. I wish they had a real award show for best parents. The odds are that thousands if not millions of people are walking around with ill-begotten "World's Best Mom!" or "Dad!" shirts like GODDAM FRAUDS. I would love to have a real world's best mom competition for those shirts or mugs. Because I'm pretty sure my mom could stand her ground with the best of them. Side note: I am selling this competition show to a highly reputable network as we speak for millions of dollars. Cha-CHING, LOSERS!!
It's not just "Father's" Day. It's a day to honor whomever raised you. Your father, your mother, your grandparents, a fire hose, a gingerbread man, your television. Actually, yeah, definitely your television. Everyone, buy your television some golf clubs. But in addition to TV, the world is filled with beautiful humans who do a lot of good in their unfathomably short time in this smudge of consciousness we call life. They combat violence and hatred and complacency in whatever way they can, and the kindness and selflessness of them all fill me with excruciating joy, and ineffable sadness, and hunger for lasagna.
I love you, mommy. Happy father's day.
Image by Jim Cooke.