The Weissmans Take Paris in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season Two Premiere

Season 2, Episode 1 (Simone)

Praise be to Tony Shaloub and get out your jello molds, we’re back! From the opening scene, we viewers are peering into an extravagant department store display window.  With a nod, the attendant urges us to to come in and take a look around, welcoming us back into their mid-century world. With that, we’re catapulted right back into the bright lights, warm pops of color, glamorous fashions, and dulcet tones of Barbara. There’s no choice but to fully succumb to the atmosphere, one that shifts precariously between musicals, stage play, and Amazon TV show. The twirling shoppers and rhythmic, peppy speech leave us no doubt—we’re now transported into the farcical, stylized world of Amy Sherman Palladino and Midge Maisel (Weissman now?).

Much of the Season Two opener is aimed at catching us up on what our characters have been up to over break, reorienting us into the atmosphere, and shaking off the cobwebs so we can get back to business as usual.

First things first, our energizer-bunny Midge. We find she’s still working at B. Altman, now banished to the basement as a phone operator (due to the whole defamatory Penny Pan incident in Season One). Of course she’s thriving in her new position, consoling the other young women when they get overwhelmed…and basically doing their jobs on top of her own. Is there any job Midge sucks at? Anything? I know she bombed a couple times in Season 1 and didn’t get that elevator operator job, but why does she have to be so great all the time? I root for her to fail sometimes. I’ll admit it.

Meanwhile, Susie is booking new gigs for Maisel and gives a rocky newspaper interview. We come to find that Midge’s act is gaining momentum, and Susie’s goal is for Maisel to become a household name. One step at a time, people! She just got through one decent gig in the Season One finale. If you were hoping to see how Midge’s stand-up act had been shaping up, not so fast…just when we start feeling comfortable, we are launched straight into a family trip to Paris.

After missing many—oh so many—signs, Abe realizes that Rose has moved to Paris because she doesn’t feel like she has her own life in New York. (Like…literal signs taped to the wall—“Has this been here the whole time?”) I oscillated on whether Rose’s “Reese Witherspoon in Wild” move was self-centered or brave. It seems like a very Midge thing to do, which makes me think it’s self-absorbed. When Midge hypocritically tells her mother she can’t just run away from her family, Rose does call her out, saying, “Well look who’s talking.” These women in Amy Sherman-Palladino dramadies—they’re always trying to throw the lowest punches.

Showing off that shiny Amazon budget, Palladino has Abe and Midge go to Paris to retrieve Rose back to their life. We get to see what a young Rose was like, and it draws surprising comparisons to Midge. Abe tries to be “sweet” but fails – he wasn’t bothered by her absence for…an indeterminate amount of time (do we ever find out how long she’s been gone?), but through his frantic, rapid-fire Abe speeches it becomes clearer and clearer that he does seem to care for her. Whether out of familiarity or love, it’s TBD.

Rose is reluctant to leave her new lifestyle and acts pretty cavalier—even manic—that her family has flown across the world to see her. However, her cold demeanor is likely all an act to prompt a reaction from her family, reinforced with her speech that Abe has not said he’s sorry in “either language” that she speaks. Rose seems to be seeking some retribution, as well as fleeing her uptight old life as she has reverted back to her truest, more bohemian college self. She did get a dog, so maybe it’s not all vengeance. At some point, I begin rooting for Rose to stay in Paris and claim this newfound confidence and refreshing, carefree attitude. Give ’em hell. I know it won’t last forever, and is perhaps a little privileged, but I enjoy seeing this side of her come out. Abe, shocked that Rose isn’t coming home and unable to recognize her personality, decides he’s not leaving Paris without her. Midge is frustrated, and in a more vulnerable moment admits she needed her back home. She goes to explore the city on her own, testing out her newfound divorcee independence.

[Also, how neat is it that the Parisians put their butter outside to cool it?! They’ve always been so advanced.]

[And another question – what did Rose mean by this line? “She’s not a nazi, she’s just flexible”?]

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Joel and his friend Archie day-drink and commiserate. Joel has just quit his office job and is currently living with his parents (so fulfilling the stereotype of a 30-something millennial these days). He’s searching for his own place and a new job. If I was supposed to be feeling pity for him, I just wasn’t picking up what Amy was laying down. Take me back to Midge’s story, please!

While Midge and Joel deal with their issues, Susie gets kidnapped by Harry Drake’s hired thugs, who intended to rough her up; however, she ends up befriending the goons and their families, eating dinner and reminiscing about her upbringing in the Rockaways. They warn her that other thugs may not be as nice in the future, and may not be afraid to rough up a woman. It’s a cute cutesy diversion creating thug characters with hearts of gold, but leaves me craving more for Susie. Yes, we do learn a bit about Susie’s upbringing and that her badass leather jacket came from her uncle. And I’ll admit the line about a hit man named Salvador (“he does thumbs”) made me lol; however, I was yearning for more integration of Susie into the overall plot, and it seemed like she could be used in a better way than this distracting side-story. It was also a tad disappointing to see that we’re still relying on “she looks like a guy” jokes.

While out on the town in Paris, Midge visits a French nightclub and (naturally) gets pulled on stage for trying to zip the performer’s dress up. In one of the most entitled moves we’ve seen thus far, she decides to perform a routine and has an American audience member translate jokes for her. The gag was a little funny but a lot stressful as both women deliver the jokes at the same time, and it felt like some good material was missed because it was nearly impossible to make out what they were saying. Midge’s naïveté about men in drag and her assumption that they don’t do that in America felt a little off, but maybe true to her character for the time.

Inexplicably, Midge turns the captive audience into her therapist and recounts how her performance from the Season 1 finale was the final nail in the coffin for her marriage. Maybe it’s to keep testing her comedy chops, maybe it’s cathartic. She does admit that the “power of [the] microphone is intoxicating. Dangerous too.” We are taken back to that night to let the rest of that scene unfold. (Side question – did they already have that filmed from Season One and just decided to cut it short to end on a high note?) After seeing Midge’s performance, Joel gave her his wedding ring and walked away. She keeps her stage-name as Maisel for irony, and thus concludes her sad story. The audience is less than enthused, saying they “prefer Jerry Lewis.” There’s a decent joke in there where the American woman hands Midge a card for “Sylvia Plath’s therapist” – ha! Her sadness is understandable….but…confusing….since we left Midge finding her voice and moving forward with her life as a comic without Joel.

Midge’s Comedy Performance Score (based on my zero qualifications or experience): C-

Taking yet another step backward in her new independent streak, Midge calls Joel after she sees couples enjoy a romantic evening along the romantic river in romantic France (don’t relapse so quickly, Midge!) Frustratingly, she tells him she wants to work things out, and that she’s still in love with him. He explains that he can’t be with someone doing standup routines about him or his failures, and that for them to be together she’d have to give comedy up. They both don’t want her to quit, so they realize they’re at an impasse.

His support for her career is admirable and sweet—it’s touching when he asks to hear the story of why she’s in France someday—but his insecurity is stifling and an extreme turn-off (even with them being in a different time). Joel isn’t hate-able, and he is taking her career seriously now, but I’m not rooting for the Maisels to get back together by any measure. Especially because being apart allows Midge’s stand-up to thrive. In the final scene, we see Midge walking away and gathering strength and speed as she walks, just as (I hope) her resolve to follow her career choice is strengthening.

Side Observations:

  • Most of the plots in this episode have isolated the characters without the others—perhaps this was an intentional choice to show how they react on their own, or to show they’re all alone (a theme we’ll revisit in later episodes).
  • The new season seems a bit more Wes Anderson and errs on the more whimsical side. The dancing and quirk-level seems amped up this year.
  • The dialogue seems a little inauthentic, but it’s a new season and the first episode is always bound to have a few bumps.
  • As always, the set is a visual feast for the eyes.
  • Jackie, the bartender at the Gaslight, is always a delight.
  • Much of this episode centers around living in the moment.
  • Where is Kevin Pollak?? I miss him.

Favorite Quotables:

  • “Everyone here has murdered at least 3 people in their lifetime”
  • “She’s drafting us”
  • “Fuck sweet, she got a dog!”
  • “The butter’s hanging from a windowsill”
  • “I’ve missed me too”
  • “Is this a girl?” “Not sure what best answer is here”
  • “You can’t have it all. You can’t run the world and have pretty underwear too”
  • “When you hear collect, you get your tuchas out here”
  • “We have to see each other until we’re dead. And then for four to six months after”

Palladino Tells

  • Escaping to Europe to find oneself (In Gilmore Girls, Emily does the same when she gets fed up with Richard)
  • Coldness toward children
  • “Norman Mailer in a cocktail dress” (In Gilmore Girls, Mailer visits Lorelai’s inn)
  • Sylvia Plath references

What were your thoughts on the episode?

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Becoming OK with “Nothing to Do”

I’ve been noticing a specific thought-pattern on the weekends…here’s the gist:

After the work week, even if a truly terror-inducing one, I find myself with a clear brain, a racing mind, and a drive to tackle the next problem.  I feel on track and goal-oriented. And I feel ready to take that surge of energy and spend it on the glorious weekend in front of me.

And all I want at the end of the long week, my dying wish, is to unwind and have “nothing to do.” Despite my purpose-driven energy at the end of the week, I always feel the push and pull between avoiding responsibility, collapsing into a pit of nothingness and mental exhaustion, fueled from back-to-back, defensive meetings or from staring at a complicated timeline with interdependencies and potential roadblocks for hours on end. Or from the team just not quite aligning and the effort it takes to get everyone on board with an idea. Whatever the pain from the week was, however meaningless, I want it to disappear into a pool of fun adventures, social escapades, and…artfulness I guess. I’ve been “on” for too long and I want to slip back into the true, weekend me where I have no responsibilities and I can read or bake or dance in a field. (That last one is a joke. Sort of.) 

Then 5:00 hits and, on weekends where I have no plans (praise be!), I drive home basking in the glow of the weekend…and it slowly dawns on me. That fear that I have nothing “to do.” I have a legitimate fear of wasting my precious weekend and squandering those hours, until the Sunday Scaries creep in and I am left holding no amazing adventure memories hiking new terrain or whatever – just the realization that I have to revert my brain into meeting-mode, think about agendas and milestones and always-potentially-angry clients again.

Next I start to question whether to plan out my weekend, which leads me to question the patterns and activities I find valuable. I start to think I may just be the only woman my age who’s not tackling a giant to-do list on the weekend, who’s not rounding up materials for her next giant DIY project, and who’s not planning out the next big party of her life through a Pinterest board of inspirations and decor.

I think, “I need something to do, and it needs to be brilliant.”

And finally I start to question–is my work is giving me purpose, aka “things to do,” and does work define who I am if it’s giving me purpose?


 

So it’s basically an existential crisis, as you can clearly see. Spurred on by me considering a weekend without plans (usually intentionally made without plans, and one that some parents might dream of).

I don’t want something to do just to have something to do. But I don’t want to waste my time off, either.

I like having tasks to do and goals to meet, but I think what I really like is checking tasks off the list. But I want to relax and not think. But when I don’t think, just veg out, I start feeling guilty, like I should be doing something purposeful. But…but…but. A definite cycle.

Why do I over-analyze and need something “to do”? Why not just relax and enjoy having nothing to do?

To most, this will seem like it’s not a legitimate problem. Most probably can’t identify with this at all, but I wanted to dig into why I feel like I have to be going full-speed or I’m not really “living.”

Going to do a little self-diagnosis – here are some potential reasons:

  1. Media (social, movies, etc.) has informed me that you must be out with raucous friends or at a concert on the weekend or you might be lame.
  2. It’s the adult thing to do. Go to Home Depot. Buy candles. Build a shed. Run errands. etc.
  3. Maybe I need to feel part of a community and worry I’ll miss out. Just lame-ass FOMO.
  4. Maybe I am too amped up from the pace at work and that’s not how the weekend should be, but I’ve lost the ability to slow down and relax.
  5. Maybe I do just need to set up problems and fix them. Maybe we’re hard-wired to do this as humans (not just relax), and I should give in. A bit of burnout could be at play.
  6. The truth may be that I’m easily bored but also a bit lazy. I like completing tasks but not thinking about them or planning when I have to plan during my job.

Most of the reasons for my dread and anxiety above are subconscious, so I may never really know why I’m such a crazy-person.

Side-note…I just finished a novel in which the author called out that your mind’s subconscious has one surface thought and 20 other thoughts right below that one, waiting to be uncovered. Really liked that phrasing. Not 100% relevant, but thought I’d share it. 🙂

One thing I do know is that I need to just feed the restlessness with action.

Boredom isn’t always a bad thing

This site claims that restless spirits crave new people to meet. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s more about gaining experiences, memories, etc. I also think it’s just in some people’s personalities to have plans, and for others to be content chilling on the couch without anywhere to go or places to be. I’m probably somewhere in the middle, and need to accept that there’s nothing wrong with having no plans, putting the computer down and being alone with my thoughts.

Of course, part of being human is the ups and downs, boredom and business. The pull between the two. The boring nights in sweats fulfill a need to recharge, and make the nights out all the more exciting.

Being an introvert means I have to come to terms with the fact that I can’t force that “on” switch constantly – my personality demands I take the time to re-energize. Other personality types may be happier going non-stop, at all hours but that doesn’t de-legitimize my traits.

At the end of the day, no one is keeping tallies of my nights out on the town. We’re all allowed a night off every once in a while, without judgment or guilt.

The A-Word: 7 Ways I Combat Anxiety

“Anxiety” … the word makes me think of a millenial cliche, an excuse to take Prozac, a fidgety middle-school geek at a party with a knee bouncing.

Before realizing that I had a whole heaping pile of my own anxiety, I dismissed the “a-word” as a hacky buzz-word for people who needed to chill or toughen up (or at least mask it – after all, anxiety doesn’t win you any friends).

WELP, I was dead wrong in my dismissal. Like around 18% of the U.S. population, that anxiety that I tried to ignore grew larger as I grew older.  The more I expected to move past he stigma and grow comfortable/anxiety-free, the more it would laugh in my face, mocking me.

Exhibit A:

  • Me: I’ll take a vacation day to myself, so I can de-stress
  • Anxiety: You’ve already wasted this entire morning…there’s nothing you can do in this city that you haven’t already seen/done….what about that work email that pissed you off yesterday? How are you going to respond tomorrow???…What about all the things you should have done instead of this stuff?
  • Me: That’s an interesting thought. I should Tweet that out.
  • Anxiety: Oh, you want to overthink a couple sentences for 10 minutes only to give up on the idea? Fun! Let’s go.

When I send out a text to a friend, the incoming text “…” fills me with a deep dread that I’ll have to think of a clever, appropriate, brilliant response.  The red flag of a notification on my phone? Makes me anxious. I overthink every word of almost every email, I second-guess choices by running through every possible negative outcome, and I avoid any plan that could product an ounce of nervousness. I am absurdly over-prepared in any presentation to avoid improvisation or an awkward, unforeseen moment. Like many with anxiety, it’s easy to get stuck in an obsessive, unhealthy cycle.

Anxiety doesn’t always win, though. I’ve been able to take control of it over the years – here are some methods I’ve used to calm my anxiety and shake out of that rut. In no means am I saying these will work for everyone, but these are the things that keep me chill (well, as chill as possible 🙂 ).

7 Ways I Overcome Anxiety

  1. Imagine the worst. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Usually, the answer isn’t as terrible as you think.
  2. Get through the day. This day is small. I can be OK with the next 24 hours, even if it’s not pleasant.
  3. Write a list. Lists or sets of questions help to organize my brain and structure the battleground that is my anxious brain.
  4. Start. Sometimes I just have to begin and take one step forward. Even if it’s an extremely easy, small step. Then the rest fills in and I realize that the task isn’t as insurmountable as it once seemed.
  5. Consider Younger Allison. What would “middle/high school me” think of me today? Examining myself through a different lens puts things in perspective and (usually) forces me to see that my problems are minute.
  6. Watch a comforting movie/show. Sounds obvious, but sometimes you just need to rely on something that is guaranteed to make you feel “at home” and at ease.
  7.  Stop caring what people think. Easier said than done…but if I’m doing what’s best for a project at work, I force myself to stop caring what individuals think and stop worrying about whether I’m doing things the “right” way or how someone else would do it.

Just by writing this post, I’m slooowwlly dismantling my anxiety bit by bit. Like anything, anxiety will flare up and back down. But I’ve learned to take it more seriously these days and, in doing so, found some ways to fight back.

On Burnout and Blogging

To say I’ve been in a rut isn’t quite a strong enough statement.

I have been ladder climbing for around 6 years after college. Trying different careers, it was a bit like putting on different masks and playing house (I’d tried my hand at playing an English teacher, tech startup writer,  Digital Marketing analyst and, most recently, a project manager). I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had “drive” toward a specific passion…it was more that my career goals were to work toward a promotion. I would feel stagnant unless I got to that next level of “mastery.”

Once I got the promotions, new jobs, etc., I felt like I was stretched beyond my capabilities–an imposter in a role I hadn’t really deserved, since I didn’t have that innate talent or proclivity for it. It was like acting in a play, and I just always needed to level up because…that’s what you do. I have the urge bred into me from small-town public school to master a subject, check it off the list, and move on to the next. I have always been a little bit of a lazy person too, I’ll go ahead and say it. I would write a paper using the minimal energy possible and at the last minute because I could get away with it. It was almost a game…how little can I do to get the “A”? Hell, even just writing this post feels like above and beyond my weekend quota for work. I have a strong fear of failure and often avoid challenges. Not flattering, but we’re going to be transparent on this blog.

Yes, I would climb at work, but the more I’d focus my energies there, the more I would collapse in a heap and not work on myself outside of work. I would become increasingly complacent on the weekends, telling myself “you just need to rest a bit, just need to make it to the next break, need to make it to a vacation and recharge your batteries.” But once I was resting, I couldn’t move. I would screech to a halt and then become bitter with the thought ANY small tasks. And my duration to the finish line became smaller and smaller. It was always “just a few more days, and it will be better.” But the “better” times never really were enough to balance the scales of the difficult work weeks. I became an obsessive Gollum with my free time, only working on anything that led me toward that sacred free time.

At that particular tipping point, the problem became that I was ONLY able to do nothing. Any task was asking too much of me. I wanted to work in a Starbucks and craved boredom. All I could see was the freedom of having no pressure, no tasks and sacred time to myself without work. I wanted the ability to choose whether to do nothing or do something.  If anyone called after-hours about work, I was furious and indignant at their nerve. My default state was mentally exhausted and, well, burned out.

 

I guess all that said (and I expended a lot¹ of precious mental energies to say it, so…yay for small victories, I guess), it’s time to admit that I want out of the rut. 

I’m setting my goal here and now, and documenting on the very-public internet to make it seem legitimate: find what I care about and spend time with it. 

I want to stop blaming burnout, draw the boundary lines with my job, and take those breaks I’ve been dreaming of. But not just to take breaks. I want to use those breaks productively to leave the couch and push myself past the status quo and out of the lazy trap I set for myself. Questions I hope to answer in my made-up quest:

  1. Do people find passions in their careers, or do you do a career as a means to fund your passions on the weekends?
  2. Does recharging your batteries need to include some sort of productivity before it becomes toxic?
  3. What can I control and how far can I detach from my job before I become a bad employee?
  4. How much accomplishment does one person need at work vs. personal life?
  5. Can a woman in 2018 find success and fulfillment in areas outside of her career and still retain her “feminist card”?
  6. Will any job include burnout like this? Have I picked jobs that are too stressful for my personality? Or is that a copout?
  7. If I disconnect from work, can I make it up and engage enough with my personal life?

 

Can she do it? Is she really an imposter or does she just need a different job? Stay tuned to find out…²

 

 


¹ “a lot” by comparison. That’s a very relative phrase. My mental energies on the weekend = 1 person’s normal mental energies in one minute.

² Or maybe not. Maybe this was just too much effort and now I’ll experience blogging burnout…