Saturday, February 10, 2018

Joel Maisel says a mouthful

Again, already, with the "if I had any interest in being a life coach..." 

I could never be a life coach - would drive me nuts for someone to fork over a lot of money only to brush off suggestions on gaining better balance, on seeing more clearer, on striving for greater sanity.  Praise be this blog gives me a place to share the life lessons that wake me up at 4:44 a.m.

Lessons like the character of Joel Maisel, in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

>> spoiler alert - this posting reveals plot details of the Amazon Prime show <<

A review in the NY Times nails Joel's character - - "Joel, meanwhile, emerges as more weak and lost than despicable; he’s a heel, but an Achilles one."

Woke up to the thought that Joel Maisel says a mouthful when he ruefully lovingly helplessly observes to Midge that she is "a lot," acknowledging that she was everything he'd ever dreamed of - - with the unspoken but out there, "be careful what you wish for."  

I started to say Joel is a bit of a schlub because the word sounds right, but the young man - mid-twenties - is anything but "unattractive, boorish" (untalented is apt).  Joel is a person in over his head His parents expect his to be this, his in-laws expect him to be that, he has his own image of his ideal self stuck in his head & it is a far cry from reality.  He wants to be superman - a successful businessman during the day, a killin' em comic at night - but he's just an ordinary guy, married to a woman whose world totally revolves around him, who commits the cardinal crime for a man like Joel.  She is disappointed in him. 

Not in his role as husband & provider - it would appear that he is super successful in those departments.  No, she is disappointed by him in his most vulnerable role - as an aspiring stand-up comic.  She is disappointed to learn that the act that has delighted her with its creative brilliance is actually Bob Newhart's, that Abe Lincoln sprang from a buttoned-down mind that wasn't her husband's.  

Midge is shocked, but not really surprised. And, yes - she is quietly disappointed.  To her horror, it is not the fly in the ointment of their relationship but the last straw to something that's been eating at Joel, that he expresses so perfectly in the last episode with his "a lot" comment - if she is a lot, that makes him less.  At least in his eyes.  

He doesn't have an affair with the dim-bulb Penny Pann because he disappointed his wife with his swiped comedy act.  Penny makes him feel more.  It didn't matter that Midge's life revolved around his sun, that she thought he was funny & interesting & a great dad.  He needed her to be less, which Midge could never do.  

With the exception of wooing & winning Midge, Joel's great talent is being his own worst enemy.  They weirdly remind me of Charles & Diana, with Midge's disappointment & heartbreak firmly rooted in Diana's sad observation, "we could have been a great team."  It was her misfortune that she, like Midge, made her husband feel less just by being who she was.  Diana gave every indication that she would have happily been the royal equivalent of barefoot & pregnant, but that was not to be.  She didn't have Midge's salvation - when Midge's role was stripped from her, she discovered another one.  How delicious that out of Joel's crappy treatment, a new Mrs. Maisel is born.

Joel said a mouthful with his "a lot" comment, illustrated a dilemma that a lot of wives have, today in 2018 as well as back in 1958.  Being a lot without making their husbands feel less.  And never ever feeling disappointed in him, by him, because that is the kiss of death for many once happy couples.  Even if they don't end up in the arms of someone who soothes their wounded ego & bolsters their manhood, that sense of letting down the person you love can eat away like the emotional acid it is.  

Even after the stinking lousy humiliating way Joel treated her (really?  he left the day before the rabbi was expected to dinner?), Midge still dreamed of reunion, of returning to an Upper West Side version of the Elysian Fields with god-like Joel at its center.  But she still would have been a lot; he would be forever yoked under less.  

Joel didn't have a choice not to fall in love with Miriam Weissman - she stole his heart the moment he laid eyes on her.  The very things he adored were the very things that made him feel inadequate.  This isn't just good writing - it is the way of the male world. That's not a broad-stroke generalization, but a lesson learned from seeing relationships scuttled on the rocks of masculine less.  

I've tried to imagine what Midge could have done to make the relationship work & realize that she couldn't unless she did the unthinkable - dim her own light.  I find myself thinking about my own relationship - not with John, but with my sister.  If my light had blazed as it was meant to shine, Mim would have felt less.  So she made sure - intentionally or un - that it didn't.  Like Diana, like Midge, am forever wistful over what never was - we would have made a terrific team.

That's the salvation in my own marriage - we are a team.  Joel wanted to be on stage, alone, doing his pitifully plagarized shtick, basking in the glow of a brilliance that wasn't his.  The bottom line was that he didn't respect Midge, never really saw her as his team mate.  He talked like he appreciated her as a partner, but deep down only needed a cheerleader.  He didn't respect MIDGE, blew off suggestions she had for his act - that he write his own material, more fully engage the audience - because he didn't respect himself.  Ditto my sister - Mim denigrated me because she denigrated herself.  

Chalk it up to the early hour, but my mind wanders to unexpected places, like Charles & Diana & Mim.  And John.  In thinking about the seemingly perfect but not pairing of Midge Weissman & Joel Maisel, am wondering how John & I stack up.  Unlike their characters, we were ancient - 37 & 43.  And neither of us thought of our self as anything remotely special.  But the other saw the inner blazing light in the beloved.  It's not as simple as we are at our best together, but that together we bring each other OUT.  I see my best self reflected in his face & it gives me faith in it, too.  Ditto for John.  Watching Joel NOT experience that with Midge brings home that some tiny kernel of faith in our self has to already exist for the magic to happen

Joel said a mouthful with "a lot."  I think of Midge, in the crumble of her marriage, still measuring her ankles & calves, as she'd done since her mid-teens, saying, "I still got it."  We cannot make someone feel more by being less.  The worst thing she could imagine had happened, yet Midge remained grounded while Joel was just as adrift, rudderless as ever.

It's after 6:00 a.m. & am crawling back into bed with hopes of falling asleep, no thoughts of Joel Maisel's sense of lack, not even a read-through & grammar/spell check of this post.  Just up the wooden hill, back to beddy bye, with hopes of sweet dreams & soft snores.

No comments:

Post a Comment