As I was writing my article on “Style Her Famous,” I was also watching “Try My Life.” Because of that, I couldn’t help realizing how deep was the chord it struck in me. The storyline of the angsty punk girl who’s switching lives with her straitlaced “reserved” mother was only too close to the storyline between me and my own mother.
While I never got into the punk culture, I was close in that I listened to rock a lot, was a nonconformist, and did wear weird clothes at one point. My mother on the other hand, while certainly not sedate, pretty much was allergic to what I had called my “self-expression.”
In the show, Lauren, the daughter, was tired of the contrast between her and her mom, and wanted her mom to be a bit more laid back. Her mother, Suzanne, surprisingly, did want to loosen up too. While both women did face the shock of their lives when they did the “life exchange,” I initially felt that Lauren was the one who bore the brunt of the exchange.
I had believed that Suzanne would get the better end of the deal. While the punk culture is certainly a dramatic paradigm shift from her life as the manager of her husband’s diner, she lived the life of a high school girl, and what is a high school girl’s life but classes, people, relationships, and fun?
I had the surprise of my afternoon when the lines blurred and my expectations were debunked and it was hard to tell whom had the worse end of the deal.
In the first few moments of the switch, Suzanne was visibly distressed. Being set in her ways, since she was around 50 already, it was hard for her to go back to the mindset of a teenager. I pitied her as she struggled with computer classes, Math, which she had dreaded in high school, and even in visual Arts, as she believed, and it was apparent that she was indeed, not inclined for it.
Lauren, on the other hand, though very vocal and dramatic about how she hated her mom’s clothing and strait-laced ways, actually enjoyed her first day. She was thriving, because she had always hated school, because she felt she could do more and actually be more productive, and that she could do something more “worthwhile” than school.
What I noted was that the experience of being in each other’s shoes for a day paved the way for a shift in Lauren and Susan’s perspectives. Their individual experiences allowed for their expectations and preconceived notions to be dispelled.
Take for example, Suzanne initially thought that Lauren’s bullet-studded leather jacket-clad friend would have a tough personality, but she was pleasantly surprised when she realized that he was, after all, “a sweetheart.”
Lauren, on the other hand, had a more profound experience. Prior to the switch, she had been pressing to just get an equivalency exam and skip school and college altogether. She came out of the experience with a greater appreciation for school. She realized how hard her mom was working just to keep her there, and she realized that her mom was right all along: that school was the key for her to live an easier life by having better career opportunities.
The three days were set to culminate in a major “project” for both women, separately. Lauren had to pull off an anniversary party, while Suzanne had to organize a Punk Rock concert, and design the band’s album cover too.
With Lauren, the priest tapped to renew the client couple’s vows bailed out at the last moment due to car trouble, so she was left with no choice but to pray for the couple and the party, but she pulled it off with a flourish, and it actually made the event more intimate.
The couple loved how Lauren pulled off the anniversary, and she liked the planning so much that she declared that wedding planning just might be in her career plans in the future.
Suzanne’s hurdle, on the other hand, was that she and the band had waited for some time, and she was getting the feeling that her efforts would be wasted. But thankfully, they came, although late, and the party was a success nonetheless.
She also had to contend with the fact that she never really had the flair for creating visual art, and being creative, period. Thus, the album cover came out so juvenile-looking, and she got a stiff, hesitant, “we like it” from the band. In my honest opinion, they were just being polite. Ouch.
Lauren made her mom do the album cover simply because she noted how her mom would doodle on the phonebook and she thought Suzanne had an artistic creature hidden inside. She had told her mom that she was actually disappointed, because she really thought that her mom could pull it off.
Let me just backtrack to how Lauren realized that she was in school for her own good. Suzanne had made her fill in in Suzanne’s duties in a Cognitive Therapy group in a hospital. While in sensitivity training, Lauren was probed about her life, and it was there that she realized a lot of things.
Earlier in the show, when she realized that she was going to do hospital duties, she joked that she dreaded it because she might be sued for medical malpractice; someone might die in her hands. But nonetheless, she survived conducting a relaxation session, and she was amazed at the contrast of the role reversal: before, she had been told what to do, there in the Cognitive Therapy session, she was the one telling people what to do.
Now, after fleshing all that out, let me muse on the entire experience of watching it.
Generally, it was a pleasant experience, because it ended well: Lauren had a greater appreciation for school and committed to going to college, while Suzanne came out of it less straitlaced as before, to the point that she would even wear jeans now.
But despite the seeming profundity, the happy huggy-huggy feelings that were evoked in me, I was wondering why there was no mention of underlying parent-child issues, no mention of the background of their relationship.
Such a severe contrast in personalities, one a Punk Rock girl and the other one a prim and proper woman, would cause major disagreements between a mom and her daughter in real life. Also, some events were only too dramatic to be natural: why would Lauren’s priest have car troubles at the last moment, coinciding with Suzanne’s late invitees?
The emotions were shallow, real life actually holds more drama than what they showed. But nonetheless, it was generally a very pleasant show to watch, and I did learn a thing or two, and it was pretty useful.
I did get inspired to write this, right? 🙂