by Vicki Larson
A long time ago, when I was a young girl of about 12 or so, the reality that my parents were sexual beings was thrust upon me quite unexpectedly — while I was in the kitchen setting the dinner table.
My mother was cooking and my father came up behind her, put his arms around her and grabbed a boob. I immediately felt awkward, like I shouldn’t be seeing that. Granted, that’s not a healthy attitude about sexuality either, but what I felt was what a lot of kids feel. Kids don’t want to have to deal with their parents’ sex lives; in fact, most of us firmly believe that our parents pretty much gave that stuff up when the last sibling was born. And, they never really enjoyed it.
Parents having sex? Eww.
But when you get divorced and you’re not ready to give up that part of your life — and believe me, there are some who are, happily — then you have to figure out how to be a sexual being without dragging your kids into it.
It isn’t easy, but it also isn’t rocket science.
And that’s my biggest complaint (although I have others, many already expressed by Meredith O’Brien ) with “Cougar Town,” the new Courteney Cox show in which she plays a recently divorced 40-something who, according to ABC, “explores the honest truths about dating and aging in a beauty and youth obsessed culture.”
Honest truths? Hmm, well, yes and no. The show makes me cringe for many reasons, and not just because of the whole “cougar” phenomenon. Do I know middle-aged women (single or not) who obsess over their sags and wrinkles? Yes. Do I know middle-aged women who are bitter about men and complain about dating, or just don’t know how to do it with confidence in today’s hookup world? Sure. Do I know middle-aged women who date younger men, whether they embrace the cougar label or not? Absolutely. I’m one of them. I don’t embrace the title, but I’m seeing a (slightly) younger man. Not because I made it a goal; it just happened, and I’m OK with it and so is he.
No, my real problem with Cox’s Jules Cobb is that she keeps rubbing her sexuality in her clearly distressed 17-year-old son’s face. As a sexually active divorced mother who keeps her hanky-panky as private as I can, I want to grab Cobb, look her in the face and scream, “No Botox for you if you keep this up!”
There’s lots of debate on single-parent blogs on when to introduce the kids to your love interest, let alone have him join you and the kiddies at the breakfast table for a bowl of Cheerios the next morning. But most agree with the experts — you don’t bring a date home unless you both believe the relationship’s going to be around a while. Kids dealing with the reality of divorce aren’t too keen on getting close to their parents' new partners only to have them disappear and be replaced, over and over again.
In the four-plus years I’ve been with my boyfriend, he’s slept over once. Not that I don’t want him to do it more often; I do. But, as much as my teens like him and he likes them, it just didn’t feel right. Finding nooky time isn’t hard for me — my boys spend every other week with their dad, so I am June Cleaver one week and Samantha Jones the next. Full-custody parents have it a lot harder, That’s when boomers rediscover car sex.
Teenagers, wrestling with their own sexuality and attractiveness, don’t want to have to acknowledge that their mom may be getting more action than they are — and they certainly don’t want to know that their friends are jacking off to posters of their well-cleavaged mom or see her going down on a guy, as Cox’s Cobb son Travis (Dan Byrd) did (because his dad brought him home unexpectedly early after a dinner of chips and soda bought at the mini-mart. What, exactly, is ABC saying about divorced dads?)
I wish Cox’s Cobb the best — getting wrinkles isn’t pleasant, dating at middle life isn’t always fun and dealing with an ex isn’t a piece of cake either (although it’s refreshing to see that she’s the one paying alimony). Honestly, she’s so neurotic and inappropriate and jaded that I don’t hold much hope for her finding true love again, although it you look like Courteney Cox you will always find someone to bed you.
As for Travis, who seems smarter than his mother — when asked why he doesn’t laugh at her hyper-sexualized and somewhat pathetic jokes, he tells her, “Because your jokes make me sad” — well, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a near-OD; a long, black trench coat; or an extensive porn collection in his future. Cox’s Cobb is too self-absorbed to see the pain she’s causing him as she struggles with her “honest truths.”
But others do, even her 40-something divorced male neighbor who beds younger women (the male equivalent of a cougar, I suppose, but without the label). He tells her that her son is going to need a lot of therapy, thanks to her.
Talk about honest truths!
Also on Mommy Tracked: Cougar Town & New Adventures of Old Christine Critiqued.