It’s a funny thing — or perhaps the word should be “odd” — but after enduring more than a year of doing almost nothing, for fear of a virus more deadly than anything I was brought up to fear (communists; herpes; the Cuban Missile crisis) …with all that behind me and the world opening up…I am not overwhelmed with joy! I am disappointed! I am downright cranky!
And everything I’ve looked forward to feels kind of “meh.”
All the foods I used to love, things I’ve craved for more than a year, have let me down. Take a freshly grilled steak with onion fries; it was probably cooked the same exact way as always, but now it’s just “OK.” Even with ketchup added!
It reminds me of the way nothing tastes right when you’ve just brushed your teeth. Or the way nothing’s right after a bagful of Sour Patch worms, which I used one time to keep myself awake on a drive back from Maryland. Nothing tasted right for 24 hours, including the 2 coffees I had when it was my turn to drive.
Even the news is boring! Though to be fair, that was one of Joe Biden’s campaign promises, so I can’t really fault him for that.
But maybe the problem is that my mind is simply worn out, the way my tongue was broken after too much of that sour flavor. Which would make the pandemic one giant sour-patch of a year.
Come to think of it, that sounds about right.
That’s why I spent the week seeking out things just because they were silly, or happy, or totally ridiculous.
That’s what brought me to “Yes Day,” a Netflix movie starring Jennifer Garner as Allison Torres, a typical suburban Mom who, according to her three kids, says “No!” to everything.
“You’re a fun-killer,” her children complain.
“You don’t even know me,” replies their mother. “I invented fun! I used to be the funn-est person I knew.”
“So what happened?”
“You happened!…It’s called Parenting.”
But after presentations by her childrens’ teachers and the guidance counselor, Allison and her husband (played winningly by Edgar Ramirez) are persuaded to try a “Yes Day” — a day when “Yes!” must be the answer to anything their children ask (within legal and safety limits).
Of course, mayhem ensues. But it’s the kind you can watch with the whole family. Director Miguel Arteta chose lots of colorful, zany special effects, rather than allowing anything darker to infest the movie. Even so, the film made its points — namely, that parents sometimes need fun, too; and that eventually, children find out they’re actually glad to have adults setting some boundaries and keeping them safe.
The movie was inspired by a children’s book of the same name by the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Jennifer Garner’s children loved the book so much that she tried Yes Days with them, and after one of her Instagram posts about it went viral, well…who could say “No” to making a film of “Yes Day”?
This film poses no threat to the world of serious cinema. But I enjoyed it. In fact, it reminded me of a time when I actually tried something like it (without the special effects budget, of course).
When one of my little boys was unusually stressed, and I was stressed as a consequence, a fellow mom reminded me to “Say ‘Yes’ whenever you can, ‘No’ only when you have to.” I ended up giving my little guy a piggy-back ride in the park, letting him do all the steering. It turned into a special afternoon for us both.
For a longer-lasting dose of laughter and family dynamics, I recommend watching the ABC series “Modern Family,” now available in various formats as well as television reruns. It wrapped up its final season in April of 2020 — just as COVID took grip of America— and it’s right up there with “Monk” as my life-preserver through the pandemic.
I’m still not sure what “normal” is going to look, feel, or even taste like, going forward. But maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe “funny” is good enough for now.