Dreams of Being a Sitcom Mom
Clair Huxtable is my hero. I know that I’m about two and a half decades behind the trend, but I must admit that Clair has a timeless beauty and elegance that still makes her worthy of mentorship. I watch episodes on Netflix from the vantage point today of a wife and mother, and Clair still looks like all the things I wish I were. I’m not stupid. I know that Phylicia Rashad had a team of stylists and writers making her look and sound as poised and put together as the character we saw weekly in the eighties and nineties, but as a modern-day wife and mother, I can’t help but feel grossly inadequate sometimes as I flop and flounder through life lacking the style and tactful phrasing that endears Clair Huxtable to me.
First of all, girlfriend could wear a trench coat, couldn’t she? Episode after episode, she would come in through that glass front door wearing the hell out of some pointy-toed, three and a half-inch power pumps, nylons without runs, and a perfectly draped trench. When I get home from work, my feet feel like I’ve been running alongside Forrest Gump all day, so if I am still wearing the heels I had on when I left the house, those puppies are parked at the back door as soon as I enter. My tights (because it’s too darn cold in Chicago to wear nylons in December) have huge lint balls from the dryer, dog hair from my all too affectionate pit bull, and holes the size of New Jersey in the seat. I hope when I put them on that my mother’s omen of accidents, paramedics, and bad undergarments won’t come true. My coat? Please. Even if I could afford a trench that didn’t make me look like a ruler bent by books and binders in a geek’s backpack, it wouldn’t keep me warm in my 1988 Chevy with the unsealed windshield that leaks water when it rains and the doors that don’t quite close in the back. So the gigantic Alaskan frontier model with the faux buffalo butt fur-lined hood is my staple.
Besides being dressed impeccably, Clair’s hair was exceptionally well-coiffed, and her makeup looked as if she had those adorable, helpful mice from Cinderella by her side all day. Even when she woke up in the morning, her cheeks had the slightest red hue, and her lips looked softly moisturized. In the episodes in which she is cleaning the house, Claire even rocks the bandana and rubber gloves like an Ebony Fashion Fair model. On a daily basis, I look like the bride of Frankenstein collects her fee as my personal beautician. Some days I can get the tight curls to work in my favor, but most days they just fly uncontrolled in whatever direction electricity pulls them. When I wake up, I refuse to even look at myself in the mirror until I take a shower, wash my hair, and brush my teeth. Then, and only then, can I even think about plucking those hairs that keep sprouting from my chin to make the canvas I call my face smooth enough for the Vaseline and 99 cent rouge from the clearance bin at Walgreens work as makeup. I know that my shrunken, mismatched long johns, old school Aunt Jemima scarf, and industrial strength scrub brushes do little to channel thoughts of anything fashion forward or chic, so I vow in vain to clean up every night before bed to avoid the huge house overhaul—and fashion disaster—on Saturdays. I have yet to make it past Wednesday.
Perhaps the most appealing characteristic about Clair Huxtable is her never-say-die personal confidence and her I’ll-be-damned-if-I-let-you-think-that-you-can-disrespect-me mentality. She has a way of letting those around her know that she is a force to be reckoned with, and her intelligence won’t be foiled by the run of the mill chauvinist or hater. She commands attention when she speaks, but she is not bombastic or rude. She balances her emotion with the conveyance of it in a way that lets her listener know that she is serious and expects to be respected. I love that she doesn’t fall victim to the stereotypical portrayal of black women, nor does she pepper her life with women who seem to embrace such a portrayal. She is unapologetically smart, funny, and multitalented, and because of this, she is loved unconditionally by those in her life.
Maybe this is the true source of her unparalleled grace and confidence, for being able to grow into a self-assured woman depends so much on how we are raised and nurtured in childhood and loved in adulthood. Here is where I can proudly say both my parents and my husband have helped cultivate the “Clair Huxtable” in me. Bad outfits, oily face, and all, I know who I am and what I stand for. I do my best, although not always successfully, to command respect and exude a confidence that is not discourteous to the receiver even if that person is impolite to me, and in spite of all my imperfections and fashion misses, I really do love the woman I am. And I know that those around me love me too.
You see, it’s not that I idolize Clair Huxtable; she just represents an ideal for me. I don’t have the clever writing or 22-minute time allowance to introduce and solve familial or work-related problems effectively. Life is so much more complicated than anything ever portrayed on The Cosby Show. I’m not naive. I just wish that I could look half as good as Claire does as I navigate the real issues of my personal life. And if I could find a warm, inexpensive trench coat that wasn’t too tight in the stomach and butt or too loose in the chest and shoulders, that would be even better!