I had a bad week. Like, really bad. Parted ways with a beloved long-time client. My ex flaked out on three visits, leaving me in the lurch to find (and pay for) babysitters at the last minute, contend with disappointed kids, reschedule plans, miss out on exercise and feel generally overwhelmed and alone. Throw in some lousy weather and Apple AirPort wifi breakdown and momma was ready for the weekend. I was looking forward to a first date with a Brooklyn restaurateur who, per our phone conversations, was charming and fun and purred as he called me “Love” in his British accent. I also had high hopes for a Sunday night viewing of Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club with my SMILF Jen. I figured would be a guaranteed and much-needed giggle and sense of belonging to the universal struggles of single moms.
To add to my melancholy, the date was canceled as I was waiting at the bar, paying a sitter and sipping something called a Terra Alta that cost me $12 (um, I wore my push-up bra under my low-cut wrap-around dress that was supposed to compensate for that!). And the movie?
Nevermind that the writing was as flat as my tits. Forget that the jokes were sparse and barely elicited my few, forced chuckles. We’ll skip the fact the characters were flimsy and the plot weak as a Happy Hour cosmo.
The big disappointment that snowballed into actual insult was that there was barely a hint of the real struggles or triumphs of real-life single mothers.
Quick “plot” summary:
Five single moms, brought together by their derelict kids who attend the same elite middle school, become unlikely friends. Of these five, just one — Lytia, the stereotypical overweight, bawdy, black, low-income teenage parent with an ex and two older sons in jail — struggled financially: juggling her waitress job with mothering five kids, few child care options in her crappy neighborhood and just no break.
The others include Jan, a single-mom-by-choice, career-obsessed celibate hard-ass publishing exec, and two stay-at-home moms suffering under the control of their exs’ alimony. The only one I could relate to was May, the newspaper reporter struggling to get her book published and raise a tween son whose heart was consistently broken by his absentee father. Aside from Lytia, all the moms had beautiful homes, plenty of time to sip wine in the middle of the day with their newfound BFFs and no pressing need for male company (though each developed a tepid romance by the film’s end).
In short, this movie did little to address the most pressing issue faced by single moms: Money and a lack of a dude.
Whether by way of divorce, choice or teenage hormones, single parents are always poorer than their married counterparts. Financial strain colors every single part of life: If you feel poor and especially fiscally vulnerable in your singledom, you feel as if you have fewer options. You are less likely to take financial risks, which means you are more likely to stay stuck in undesirable circumstances. And when you feel poor and don’t have support, it makes it harder to date — to find the time to go out to meet men, take time away from work and the kids, pay a babysitter and invest in a special wax downtown. And if you’re like me, when you’re not romantically, sexually, emotionally fulfilled, you live less of a life than if you were. You are more stressed and less of a mom and a professional and the whole equation suffers — including your bank account.
Then there are the exceptions. And there are so many exceptions! Hell, I fancy myself one! There are those women who find themselves strapped and alone and scared. And then they see the upside of risk. These single moms go back to school. They start businesses. They ask for that promotion and they get it! Maybe for the first time in their lives they find power and strength and it is delicious. These women, they don’t stop at work. These single moms start going to yoga and try a new hair color. They go out. They feel sexy again. They get laid and find love and find new, wonderful parts of themselves. They bring all this success into their children’s lives and the kids thrive and grow and are OK, despite it all. The whole family triumphs in ways no one could have expected — not even the women themselves.
We don’t see any of that in The Single Moms Club. OK, Jan gives an unsolicited book deal to May, who also lands Tyler Perry’s sweet and handsome character in an awkward and mostly invisible courtship. But the kept SAHM who worries about telling her remarried ex about her new (super-hot and adorable) boyfriend for fear he’ll cut her off? Her great triumph was to threaten said ex with court for more alimony (message to the ladies: your greatest asset is your round ass in a tight red dress and litigious inclinations). The overwhelmed SAHM, at her wits’ end caring for three kids in her gorgeous Arts and Crafts bungalow, bemoaning having to fire her fulltime housekeeper? Her ah-ha moment was finding ways to spend even more time with her pubescent daughter and curbing her infanticide fantasies. No mention of financial independence for that one! And Lytia? As far as we know, she’s still slinging hash at the local diner and hustling to find child care to keep her kids on the straight-and-narrow and out of the can. Why can’t her successful new friends help her find a better way?
A couple weeks ago Oprah helped her friend Perry promote the movie on her Lifeclass show, in which he said the takeaway is that single moms should support each other and form community. That’s cute. You know how men support each other? They give one another jobs, do business and encourage one another to have fun, meaningless sex.
Which is exactly what happens in real life with single moms.
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