Is it ever a good idea to parent a parent? And when your two life-long dreams are at odds, how do you choose between them?
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I think I’m generally pretty good at giving relationship advice—at least my girlfriends seem to think so—but I’m stumped in a way I never have been before.
My mother, a vibrant, healthy, gorgeous woman in her sixties, just went through her first breakup from the first relationship she’s had since my father passed away seven years ago. She was married for 37 years, so she’s been out of dating practice longer than I’ve been alive. Wow.
It wasn’t a long relationship, just a few months, but I understand why she’s feeling the loss so hard. In this new man—10 years her junior, a dance instructor and musician (go, Mom!), intelligent, fun—she found hope and happiness beyond the loss and loneliness of becoming a widow. She was having her own How Stella Got Her Groove Back/Eat Pray Love experience and I cheered her on the whole time, even though I always suspected this man wouldn’t stick around forever. He made it clear he wasn’t “the commitment type” (yes, men still say this in their fifties, for fucks’ sake), and he played the cat-and-mouse game like a seasoned expert. Only my mom doesn’t know that game; she’s never played it. So she just trusted in her feelings, and his when he was pursuing her, and now that he’s finally said the words, “I’m seeing someone else,” she’s devastated.
My mom and I obviously have a close relationship. She confides in me and we share almost everything. I’m comfortable being frank with her and dishing out tough love. But I’m nervous about this situation. I know what I’d say to a peer going through the same thing, but I I don’t want to disrespect my mom’s feelings, which feel more raw and vulnerable. But I also want to encourage her to move on and enjoy every minute of her life because she deserves it.
A Doting Daughter
I don’t think “tough love” is what your mom needs right now. I think she needs very soft love. Given the timeline you set up, it sounds like your mom met your dad in her late teens/early twenties? So presumably, regardless of her age she is going through one of her first breakups. How did she treat you when you were going through your first breakups? I’m guessing it was more towards the soft blanket, a good crying movie, and a pint of ice cream direction, than the tough love direction. Early breakups are hard. Regardless of what age you are when you have them.
Times have changed so much so quickly that our mother’s lives are nothing like ours. By the time my mother was my age, she had married her SECOND boyfriend (my dad), moved out of her parent’s house into his (in the same city), and had two children. I, on the other hand, have never been married, have lived all over the country, and do not have any children that aren’t dogs. So let’s say, for example, that my mom was about to move to a new city for the first time and was worried about it. Having moved cross country four times now, it would be a little crappy of me to be like, “Mom, get over it!” That’s just an experience that, despite being much younger than her, I have had many times and she has never had. I need to have as much patience with her about that as she had with me about things she watched me struggle to do for the first time. Which, for the record, is literally everything up to and including, walking, eating, and pooping. So since your mother was kind and patient while she waited for you to figure out that pooping is way cooler if you do it solid and into a toilet, you can be kind and patient while you wait for her to figure out that most men ain’t shit.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the loss of this crappy guy, also brought up some of her grief about the loss of her good guy, your dad. Yes, every woman needs to learn at some point in her life that most men are trash… and she will. But knowing that isn’t going to lessen her heartbreak or fear of being alone. So yes, when she’s ready, plan a girl’s night and have four of your best girlfriends come over and share all their “men are garbage” stories with her over wine. Then have a photo shoot, and have the group work together on setting up her brand new dating site accounts. But in the meantime, honor what she is going through and just be there for as many tearful “I can’t believe he turned out this way” stories as she has. Just like someone did for you when you were 19 or 20 and going through your early breakups.
Also, I genuinely did not need to know that men in their 50s are STILL saying they “aren’t ready for commitment.” What the fuck is he waiting for?! Like, “You know, as long as I still have my prostate, I’m not sure I’m ready to settle down yet.” Jesus.
Take care (of both of you),
Paris Or Bust?
Two of my life-long dreams are at odds with each other, but I feel that the time is NOW for both of them.
I want to be a film director, and I also want to live in Paris.
I’ve directed a few short films and a feature, and I’ve met with some critical success, but I don’t make a living from it. To make money, I work freelance in film, sometimes, and when I’m not doing that I do other random gigs. I have an idea for a new feature film that is a fantastic concept, and I’ve made some progress with development, but it would be the biggest budget I’ve ever worked with, and I don’t have a producer yet or even a finished script, and I very often get frustrated with how long the process is to get anything made.
Meanwhile, during my travels, I’ve visited Paris several times over the last couple of years, and for as long as I can remember it’s been a life goal to live there someday.
I very suddenly have the opportunity to rent an apartment in Paris in my favorite neighborhood! But, I will be leaving my freelance contacts behind. Whatever gap I leave in the workforce will be filled immediately. More importantly, I’ll be leaving behind the film community that knows me and that can help me get things done. I’m going to have to start over.
Living in Paris has been on my dream board since I was a little girl, but I’m terrified that I will be throwing my film career away if I make this move.
Alors, is Paris a mistake?
A Francophile Folly
This is a tough one! Mostly because only you know which of these things you want more. And only you know what you are willing to sacrifice. The best advice I can offer is for you to be honest with yourself. You know what your top priority is. And maybe you’re dithering because it’s not how most people would prioritize it. Or because you’re afraid to admit to yourself that you are so devoted to one thing over the other. Or because it’s not the thing that society tells you that “people like you” should be doing at this time in your life. But society isn’t going to live your life, you are. So it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about how you do it. DO YOU, BOO.
That being said, a couple of things I know to be true:
They make movies in Paris. You can join the filmmaking community there (especially if you speak French well). Yes, you’ll start at zero compared to where you are in your current community but, it doesn’t have to be either/or. You can make movies in Paris.
Sometimes focusing so much on your creativity that you neglect all other aspects of your life, can negatively affect your creativity. I remember there was a point in my career where I was working a day job, and waiting to “make it” in comedy. I waited for a long time, LOL. I kept turning down other day job opportunities and promotions because I thought, “I’m going to ‘make it’ any day now, and I’ll regret having taken that opportunity once I do.” Except I DIDN’T MAKE IT. And I was SO BROKE. I was so broke, that being broke was all I thought about. Finally, the third time I got offered a promotion at my day job I took it and vowed to spend the extra money on my comedy career. I was offered the biggest comedy contract I’d ever gotten a few months later. And I quit my job. Which was just as easy to quit as it would have been if I hadn’t been promoted. Maybe it was just a coincidence. But I actually think that by not having to focus so much on how broke I was, it opened up my creativity and made me better at comedy. I was hurting my career by being so singularly focused on it that I didn’t have my life shit in order. If your soul needs to be in Paris, you’ll probably be better at your film work in Paris. Even if you have to have a day job while you do it.
I know someone out there is thinking, “She has a movie about to get made, why would you suggest that she even think about Paris?!?!” So, let’s step back, and do a little background for readers who don’t work in the entertainment industry: having a film in the beginning stages of development is sort of like having a lottery ticket. You’re more likely to win the lottery than if you don’t have a lottery ticket, but the business is so crowded and fickle and that even the best idea can take forever to get made and most films never do. Especially if you’re not famous yet. A movie that is “just about to get made” can be “just about to get made” for either the next five seconds, or the next five years, or forever. So, as a generally pessimistic person, I tend to live in the now and not get my hopes up. YMMV.
But more importantly, the decision of whether or not to move doesn’t take the movie off the table! Planes exist. As does Skype. If someone wants to make that movie with you, they’re not going to let you being in Paris stop them. When they call, you are “In Paris on vacation, but I can Skype into a meeting today, and meet with you in person next week.” Keep last-minute plane ticket money in your savings account and don’t touch it!
One more thing, Paris can be anywhere. Where you live now can be your Paris if you want it to. Or you can move to LA or New York (arguably smarter places for a filmmaker to live) and make that city your Paris. You gotta ask yourself: Is it really Paris, or do you just want to move? Or do you just want to make some changes in your life that you think will happen automatically if you were in Paris, but that you could probably make happen anywhere if you were really focused on it?
Like I said, only you know what your priority is. So really, my only advice is this. Let go of binary thinking. Nothing is either/or. You can have it all. The question is what all looks like for you.
Wait, Keep Sipping! Don’t miss the Sip On This Podcast with Ashley. Catch up on previous episodes and subscribe at Apple, Sticher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a question for Ashley, write to her via [email protected]
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