Will the real Melissa please stand up?

>> Sunday, May 27, 2007


My husband, Michael, once said there are three Melissa's: the Fantasy Melissa, the Horror Melissa, and the Reality Melissa.

At first, I didn't know whether to be insulted or make an appointment to see a therapist. His words made me feel one part ding-bat, one part hysterical, and one part boring.

Like most of my husband’s words, I contemplated them long after he’d moved on to watching King of Queens. And like many of his words, I realized he was probably right. How annoying.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that all mothers are constructed of these primary parts. Each part has its proper place and function in family life, and without one of these elements, the family would disintegrate.

I present a case-study: Melissa. Mother of two. Wife of one.

(Warning: I'm about to discuss myself in third-person. Creepy.)

The Fantasy Melissa is the one who thinks we should enter the talent show, DJ at a skating rink, or learn how to dance the Tango. She’s the Fun One, the one who sings up for Belly Dancing lessons at 37 years of age and generally makes life bearable. Without her, we would never have left Chicago, adopted cats, conceived children, or written this blog -- all things that went against logic, but turned out rather well in the end.

The Horror Melissa is the one who knows that life can be painful and that tragedy lurks just beyond the shadows. She knows there are Bad People in the world and doesn’t fully understand how to avoid them, which terrifies her. She’s the one who’s awake at 3:30 in the morning imagining every possible bad thing that could happen to the girls. As such, she’s also the one who checks all the doors and windows before going to bed.

Horror Melissa gets into trouble sometimes because she is the one who focuses on the one inconsiderate thing Michael does and ignores the 10 good things (like taking the girls to the playground, cleaning out the car, writing the checks, cleaning the catbox...) She fears her girls will never stop being selfish, never pick up after themselves, and never stop calling people butt heads. Her voice is a little too loud, and her punishments, both self-inflicted and otherwise, come a little too swiftly.

Then there's the Reality Melissa.

I’m scratching my head, because at first glance there's nothing interesting to say about Reality Melissa. She sees things how they are, I suppose, is fairly well-behaved, and is definitely the one who washes the dishes, remembers to take out the chicken, and knows how to microwave leftovers.

Reality Melissa is the master of routine and “have-to”. I guess that’s what I like about her -- she knows how to get things done. She knows how to change a diaper without gagging, how to fix a leaky toilet, and how to suction-bulb a stuffy nose -- you know, reality stuff. She holds a day job and knows that when the alarm rings, it's time to get the hell up.

But while I admire her ingenuity and reliability, I wouldn’t want to be around her all the time. All three of these gals have their place, but proper balance is key. If Fantasy Melissa showed up too much, dinners would get burned and our debt would be astronomical instead of merely daunting. If Horror Melissa didn’t take a break, then we’d never leave the fucking house. (Trust me on that one.) And if Reality Melissa was my only resident personality, then there would be no joy.

I guess it takes a little fantasy to enjoy life, a little horror to appreciate it, and a little reality to keep it.

Just call me a trio of one.

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