Fonzie let me down.
I bought the books because I wanted to be ready with scientific answers as soon as any of the boys asked a challenging question that would require a response more detailed than, “When a mom and dad love each other, they pray and ask God to give them a baby, and he makes one or two grow in the mom’s tummy, and then when it’s time, the doctors cut open her stomach and pull the baby out! Yes, it really hurts a whole lot!”
Thanks to the Fonz, I took the books from the dark recesses of my closet and put them under my bed, because I am positive I’m going to be needing them soon.
I’m sure you’ve gathered that I’m a hard ass mom. One of the areas in which I am particularly militant is the television. I harbor an overwhelming prejudice against almost everything that’s on TV. I have gone to great lengths to shield my children from a lot of the crap that’s shown. I severely limit their consumption of even the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, and I have outlawed the Rugrats altogether because they do not have good manners.
Under normal circumstances, the boys get no television during the week, and one hour each on Saturday and Sunday. We do make exceptions when there are major events, such as a Presidential speech, the Tour de France, or the World Series. We enforce the rules pretty consistently. The point of all of this is twofold: to encourage reading and playing outside, and to shield them from sex and violence.
Earlier this month, when it started raining and didn’t stop for over two weeks, my attitude towards the television softened somewhat, as I realized the necessity of getting the boys out of the mud, into the basement and away from me for an extended period of time.
I found myself roaming the aisles at the video store, looking for something that would keep the boys happy in the basement and out of my way without turning their brains to sawdust. That is how I happened to rent the first season of Mork & Mindy.
I chose it because I have double standards. Anything I watched as a child had to be fine for my children to watch, because I turned out to be such a highly productive adult. Every night my sisters and I got to pick one show to watch, so I grew up on a diet of
“Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Mork and Mindy,” “Hee-Haw,” “Lawrence Welk,” “The Love Boat,” and other gems from the 1970’s.
Despite all this viewing, my brain did not turn to mush. I learned to read, did well in school, and most would say I lead a normal life. I figured the boys could watch hours of “Mork and Mindy” without any ill effect.
I brought the DVD home, and the boys and I spent the next two hours on the sofa, howling with laughter at Mork’s crazy antics. We were like real couch potatoes, but without the soft drinks and Cheetos, because of course I do not let the boys eat in the den. I’m mean like that.
We watched as Mork fell in love with a mannequin, tried to register as an illegal alien, learned about Christmas, and narrowly escaped being put in a mental institution, all while wearing a striped T-shirt with suspenders decorated with novelty pins.
The boys immediately started imitating Mork: they greeted each other with “nanoo, nanoo” and Porter started saying “shazbot!” instead of “tartar sauce!” when he was mad. We watched the whole first season, and the rain showed no signs of letting up.
I returned to the video store and rented “Happy Days.” I brought it home and told the guys it was just as funny as “Mork and Mindy” and that they would really enjoy it. Bill was still in trial, so I went out for a night with the ladies and had my babysitter, Miss Amy, come. She’s a big, enthusiastic blond twenty-something who’s always up for a game of PIG, or building a fort, and the boys adore her.
The next morning, I asked Finn what he and Miss Amy had done while I was gone.
“Well, we decided to see what “Happy Days” was like and we watched some of that,” he said.
“How was it?” I asked, remembering Richie, Fonzie, Potsie and Mr. C with nostalgia.
“You were right, Mom. It was so funny,” Finn said. “But it was kinda inappropriate. Actually, it was the most inappropriate thing we’ve seen on TV except for kissing.”
My heart quickened.
“It was?” I asked.
“Yeah. See, Potsie and Richie were in the bathroom at Arnold’s, and Richie had a date. And they were talking about getting a girl’s bra off, because you know how sometimes guys want to do that for some reason? Anyway, Potsie pulls out this huge bra and they put it around this concrete thing and Richie practices trying to undo it, and he never can do it.”
I nodded, wondering how this had aired on prime time in the 70’s, and more importantly, how I had failed to remember it.
“Then the Fonz walks in,” Finn continued, “and he asks what they are doing, and they are like, ‘oh, nothing.’ And Potsie and Richie walk out and the Fonz looks at the bra and just reaches over and barely touches it and it comes open so easy. Then he looks at himself in the mirror and says, ‘ayyyy,'” Finn finished, laughing.
I wasn’t quite sure what to say next. I didn’t want to leave the topic unaddressed and have Finn roaming around the neighborhood seeking information about bra removal techniques, so I asked him, “So why do you think they wanted to learn how to take off a girl’s bra?”
Finn shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom,” he said. “It’s completely nuts! Who would want to do that?”
“I can’t imagine anyone who would want to do that,” I said, trying to suppress a laugh.
Finn peered at me closely. “Did Daddy try to do that to you when y’all were dating?” he asked.
“Absolutely not,” I said firmly.
“Good. That would be really gross if he had,” Finn said, and he walked downstairs and started practicing his drums.
Based on his reaction to bra removal, I fear my oldest may have a coronary when he actually reads Isn’t It Amazing and finds out what Mom and Dad have really been up to.