Babysitting the Monkey

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a lot of things. I wanted to be Carol Burnett. I wanted to be a trapeze artist, performing death-defying loop de loops high above the crowds while wearing a dazzling bikini made entirely of rubies and sapphires. I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. I also wanted to work with monkeys in some way, but I wasn’t totally sure what a person could do with monkeys that wouldn’t involve being a monkey doctor, which I was pretty sure would involve a lot of expensive schooling. I was also pretty sure that funny kindergarten teachers didn’t make that kind of money, even if they did moonlight as trapeze artists on the weekends. So, I figured I’d have to settle for being a monkey babysitter. On the upside, that would involve feeding monkeys from baby bottles. On the downside, it would also involve changing monkey diapers.
The point is: I never wanted to be a wife. I never dreamt about it, like you hear about some girls doing. I never once imagined my wedding, or honeymoon, or any kind of happily ever after with anybody but me, my circus friends, my tidy classroom full of brilliant children, and a smattering of mischievous primates.
I was a TV junkie. Watching television, I saw being a wife as just about the worst thing that could happen to you. It wasn’t as bad as today, when every TV wife is trim and sassy and confident yet married to a dump truck, but it was still pretty bad. In my TV adolescence, the wives yelled and were married to doofuses who were either controlling egomaniacs and/or bumbling bigot nano-wits. You know, inmates like Alice Kramden or Edith Bunker. Either that or the TV wives oozed a kind of sanitized, tranquilized, infantilized version of grown-up womanhood that spooked me to my core. Like Caroline Ingalls or Mrs. Cunningham.
There were times when I longed to reach my hand through the looking-glass screen and slap some sense into Carol Brady, tell her to wake up out of her suburban Seconal fog and go to school. Tell her to quit living vicariously through Marcia and get out there and live! Damn it! Live! She could afford to do it. And no one would miss her. Alice did all the work around that place, anyway.
I got older, and my dreams changed. I wanted to be Steve Martin. I still wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. I wanted to be a rock singer, wailing out my tortured yet stylishly sexy soul in an arena full of dancing fans. (I’d still be wearing the sapphire-and-ruby bikini, but now with Kiss monster boots.)
The point is, being a wife was still the last thing on my mind—even after I had my kids. Still, I eventually did get married…no sitcom, despite its cancellation after two seasons. And then a funny thing happened. I met this guy. We hit it off. He had a line for it—he said the rocks in his head fit the holes in mine. I wanted to hang around with him as much as I could every day, and getting married seemed like the perfect way to rope that dogie.
So I’m a wife. And I still have crazy dreams. I no longer want to be Carol Burnett or Steve Martin; I want to be me, but a better version of me. I would rather take a rusted ninja star to my windpipe than supervise a roomful of five-year-olds. Hanging out with my husband’s writer pals satisfies my desire to volunteer time with nit-picking chimps.
I haven’t surrendered all of my fantasies. I would still love to strut around in a jeweled bikini and dragon boots like some video-game babe. I will have to do this one on my own, since my husband refuses to wear his emerald codpiece and cape (except when the Packers are in the playoffs).
I even have new crazy dreams. I would like to own a solar-powered bed and breakfast. I would like to produce an evening news show for cable access where sock puppets deliver all the news. And of course, there is this guy I’m married to. I want to hang out with him, every day.