The voyeur in me loves to watch reality TV. Not that “Survivor” crap, (I would let the vultures do with you what they will!) but those shows that delve into the everyday lives of people doing whatever it is they do. One of my faves is “Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy.” CMT bought the rights to it and airs old episodes most evenings and I find it fun to see what’s going to happen when Mommy A and Mommy B switch places and move into each other’s homes.
The most famous of all is the woman who called herself the “God Warrior” and has since become somewhat of a celebrity in her own right, but I think she’s just plain crazy and I’ll leave it at that. (Take a look if you’ve never seen it.) There are so many others that demonstrate both the transparency and true adaptability of some of these mothers. One that sticks out in my mind in particular was the episode where a vegan mom switched places with a mom from Louisiana whose husband was a gator wrangler. That was a trip. The vegan mom broke out her “Don’t Be Cruel To Chickens” video in the middle of her tofu-burger fest and everyone left as she proceeded to break down and weep for the chickens. Later, she kept on preaching to the group about why she eats cardboard, saying that “we really need to be careful about what we put into our bodies,” (I mean, just look at you people!) cut to the next scene, and she has a beer and a cigarette. No kidding. In the same episode, the gator mom wanted to cook authentic Louisiana jambalaya for her new family, but instead decided that she had to respect the family’s beliefs and modified her recipe so that it was vegan. They loved it, and her, and I thought that was really cool.
Last night was an especially interesting mom trade. Traci was from Scottsdale, Arizona. Her introduction was filmed in her giant bathroom while she was in mid-bubble bath, bragging about her Tuscany inspired manse and all its trappings. She had her perfect house with her perfect hair, perfect boobs, perfect husband and perfect kids. She just knew she could show her new family a thing or two about—what else?—being perfect. Penny, on the other hand, was a pine nut farmer from Licking, Missouri (I want to move there just so I can say I live in Licking). That’s right, “we’re in pine nuts” (At one point during the episode they were sewing up nut bags—I kid you not!—but I digress). Penny was all about getting dirty (both literally and figuratively). When she appeared at the airport to meet her new “husband,” she was wearing teddy bear slippers with her dress. Her explanation: “My husband gave these to me because I’m afraid of bears.” Um, whaaaa??? She was a trip, that’s for sure. She didn’t follow the herd, no way, but there was something about her. There was also something about Traci, only that “something” didn’t really blossom until near the end of the show. The mothers had spent a week with the other’s family. One week observing, interacting, taking it all in. Penny saw not perfection, but rejection and cruelty. That is, the Arizona family’s youngest child did not meet his father’s perfect standards and was reminded of that every day during whatever activity at which he was not perfect. As if that was not bad enough, he was constantly reminded how really perfect his older sibling was! Ugh. Penny caught on to this really quickly and invited the boy to take a walk and just talk. It was at this point that even I could feel the little guy’s heart breaking due to the lack of acceptance by his own father.
Meanwhile, back at the pine nut ranch, Traci finally decided that instead of sitting around surrounded by imperfection that she might help do something about it. She helped the dad organize his filing system. She helped sew up nut bags (ha ha I said nut bags—again!). She took the son shopping for a pair of tennis shoes (for which he was so incredibly grateful that it choked me up) and was finally able to see that just because these people didn’t have a lot of “stuff” that they were very rich indeed… Rich with love, acceptance and true affection for one another.
Each episode ends with a one-on-one meeting between the mothers to discuss the week’s events. Most times it’s a standoffish thing. Sometimes it’s even aggressive. These two embraced one another like I’ve never seen before and it was just so cool. Penny was grateful, gracious and accepting of Traci. Traci was equally so and asked Penny how her family was. In all honesty, Traci was told that her husband was fine, that son number one was fine but that son number two was NOT fine. (This is normally where the Springer rejects start throwing chairs, but not so in this case.) Traci already knew it deep down, she just needed a funny pine nut farmer in teddy bear slippers to say it out loud. She also needed to be told that her “perfect” husband was a heavy-handed control freak. Again, Traci knew it all along. The two mothers left their meeting arm-in-arm saying, “let’s go get ‘em,” and they did…
The final scene showed the moms back in their respective homes, reunited with their families. Penny was thrilled with the effort Traci had put forth regarding her business, but was more ecstatic just to be back with her loving family. Likewise, Traci was happy to see her husband and children again, but there was a marked difference in her attitude toward her youngest son. Traci’s husband, however, told the camera that he really didn’t think the experience had changed his wife at all. Then Mister Perfect got the surprise of his life when, at the very close of the show, his wife simply said, “no…”
Go get ‘em!