Mona Lisa Smile

I had an interesting conversation with my mom last night:

My mom has what she calls the Mona Lisa Smiles theory. Several years ago there was a movie out called Mona Lisa Smiles and the premise of the movie was that women, in that time period, only went to college to find a husband and get married. I think, without looking it up, the movie was set in the 60s. Enter stage left, a forward thinking, open-minded female professor, played by none other than Julia Roberts. Though, in the end, forward thinking does no prevail because Julia Roberts’ character is fired over controversy, birth control, if I remember correctly

Back to our conversation. So according to my mom, a woman can’t be of the Mona Lisa Smiles school of thought and be independent and forward thinking. She used an old friend as an example. Her friend was trendy, to the point that she had the country’s top hair stylist do her hair for her wedding. (don’t ask me who, it’s a miracle if I get my hair cut more than once a year) At any rate, this friend’s whole house was white: white chairs, white carpet, white walls. And then, she got married and had a baby. According to my mom, everything changed for her friend. She became mommy, and wifey, and to hear mom tell it, she lost her independence. To hear mom tell it, you can’t be trendy and be a mommy.

Even though I can’t get a job as an English teacher, I treat her like I would my students, sometimes. (partly out of habit, partly because I want her to think about many points of view, and partly because I know it drives her nuts) I play devil’s advocate. I asked her if it were possible to be married and independent. She kind of ignored my question, because she’s caught on to my tactics. But I started thinking, is it possible for a woman in the Mona Lisa Smiles school of thought to be independent.

What usually brings up this conversation, is my mother-in-law (MIL). The woman is insufferable. She comes into my house and cleans it when she catches me out of the house. (When we went to Branson, she came in and deep cleaned the whole house) This drives me nuts for two reasons: 1) I can’t find anything in my house for several weeks and I blame her for it even though I know she’s just doing it to help and 2) I feel like she is constantly judging me for my cleaning abilities, or lack thereof. I cleaned the house before we went to Branson (because I knew), but when we came back she had doubly cleaned it. I know I should be happy that she helps, but to be her acts of generosity always seem self-serving and judgmental. Anyway, I have totally digressed.

My MIL came from the Mona Lisa Smile clan, where my mom views herself more independent, creative, and fun. My MIL came from the land of debutant balls and in her  house you could literally eat of the floors, her house is spotless. whereas my mom’s house you could eat off the floor only if you believed in the 5 second rule. My mom came from the land of camping trips, beer, and teenage rebellion. I fall somewhere in between. I’m independent, but married. I’m organized chaos. My house is mostly clean; kids need dirt, right?

The conclusion that I think, I’ve came to though is that: I am me. I have been shaped by my experiences with my mother and my mother-in-law. I am independent yet married. Comparing the two is like (cliché alert) comparing apples and oranges. They both have similarities, yet they are different. Neither orange nor apple are right or wrong.

So, in the comments I’d like to hear opinions, and no I’m not playing devils advocate this time. I want to hear what people think about independence, marriage, housecleaning, and any other theme I may have brought up that I may have missed.

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One thought on “Mona Lisa Smile

  1. You know, I also think it depends a lot on who you’re married to. My Drollery was raised Mormon, and there is such a patriarchal bent to that upbringing that no matter how hard I TRIED to be independent, I was STILL expected to come home from working TWO jobs and perform the way a good Mormon housewife would. It created a lot of problems off and on. So I’d say the hubby is definitely a hidden factor in any equation about his subject. Very interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

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