Melissa McCarthy had me wincing and laughing at my own likeness through her character, Molly, on the sitcom Mike and Molly. I seldom watch the show, but it is rerun season and my cat, Giese, needed some lap time.
Molly has apparently left her teaching job to be a writer. She secured her husbandâ€™s support and threw herself into the role of tortured creative. The episode starts with Molly halfway through a bottle of Wild Turkey and despondent over her writing thus far. As she drunkenly puts it, sheâ€™d followed all the writing advice but somehow ended up with characters who start in Tudor England, and end up as space vampires.
Molly feels lost and inadequate. She pours her woes out to her husband, Mike, who does his best to be understanding. The truth is he’s not sure who Molly is anymore, and is almost a tiny bit afraid of who he’ll find when he comes home each day.
After trying to burn her manuscript, Molly goes back to the elementary school where she taught for many years and stares through the window at her classroom of kids. Did she made a huge mistake by leaving? Almost by way of cosmic response the new teacher calls security on her.
The following day her step-dad asks if sheâ€™d be willing to help him at his warehouse. Molly jumps on a forklift and works it like a stripper at a dollar-a-dance club. She loved the mindlessness of it, and was surprised how good she was at something sheâ€™d never considered trying. When she tells her husband she’s once again exploring something new, he stutters out his continued support.
Why am I bringing this up? Iâ€™ve been there. I AM there. I understand the restless feelings that come in middle age. It feels like a tornado of the soul. I get the need to try new things and the failure and exhilaration that come with change. I know I cause my husbandâ€™s head to spin as I dabble and read and write and verbally projectile vomit my glut of artistic interests. Transitions, like any birth, are messy and prone to having somebody cry if things are going well. They are also necessary for life and growth and all the future has to offer.
In the show, Mike timidly asks his mother-in-law if she thinks Molly is in menopause. She barks, â€œHow would I know?â€ as if the thought she could be that â€œoldâ€ automatically gives her insight to the world of menopausal craziness.
I was actually pleased that the character of Mike had the sensitivity to ask. Menopause, and all the symptoms and changes that tend to accompany it, have long been an aging joke in this culture. Itâ€™s great that this transition is becoming more of a discussable topic as our culture ages as a whole.
While the gist of the show was to laugh at Mollyâ€™s midlife crisisâ€”it is a comedy after allâ€”the message was still good. Women, through hormonal transitions, often seek new identities in midlife. That coming out of the birthing-years cocoon can be frustrating, scary, and bewildering. It can be crazy.
Crazy good, if weâ€™re open to the possibilities.