My teenage son and I heard a hilarious phone prank on the radio. The victim: a 45-year-old mother. Who set her up? Her 18-year-old son. The premise? The DJ calls pretending to be the son’s 45-year-old girlfriend. Throughout the fake call, the mother’s anger escalates as she keeps repeating, “My son is a teenager!”
After our laugh, I push it further because I’m the inappropriate mom (yet mildly comedic and predictably liberal). “Wouldn’t it be funny if you had a girlfriend was my age?” I ask my almost 14-year-old.
“Gross!” He answers back and contorts his face into a grimace.
Truly it’s not completely preposterous; my son has always preferred the company of grownups to kids his age. He reminds me of the precocious character, Paul Finch from the movie American Pie. For a split second, I imagine my son dating a cougar – and what cracks me up most about this ludicrous hypothetical scenario is how it would bring my already “My Modern Family Trumps Yours” party trick to a whole new level.
My parents divorced after 25 years of marriage and my father remarried a woman 30 years younger than him. (She is four years younger than me.) I had a son in 2002. In 2005, 3 days after my 30th birthday, I got a half brother and my 3-year-old son got an uncle!
People have varied reactions when they learn my stepmom is younger than me. Men typically say, “Way to go, dad!” Women tend to inquire about my fragile condition and how it all “makes me feel.” Partly it “feels” very modern and current; the hip thing to do. Extra, extra, read all about it, “All the cool dads are getting wives younger than their daughters.” It has been 17 years, (equating to 41% of my life) in which I’ve existed within this dynamic. There were some awkward moments throughout the years.
The first one was the introduction. He met the girlfriend in Kiev and after a romantic courtship, he invited her to live with him in America. My father hadn’t given me any warning about her arrival. Maybe it’s because I’m a harsh judgmental bitch and he was afraid of my reaction. Or else he just didn’t give a shit about my opinion on the subject matter. I met her at my uncle’s 60th birthday party at a Russian restaurant. I barely finished making my blini with caviar when my father barged in with the formalities, “Galina, this is my girlfriend, Natasha.” She was real; I was 25 and she was 21. My heartbeat sped up, but I did the most natural thing and arguably immature thing: I erected a wall and ignored her. I looked right through her, tuned her out when she spoke and didn’t say anything to her beyond hello. If she didn’t go home that night and cry, she had a rock for a heart. I was Medusa.
As the years progressed, I softened. Her initial overzealous desire to please me was flattering. Quick to help when I repainted my apartment for the fourth time or moved for the sixth time, she often told me I was beautiful and funny. In fact, she loved anything I did. What was I to do? The girlfriend became the wife, but my father didn’t tell me about that either. They kept the marriage a secret for two years and probably would have done so indefinitely had I not instigated my sister into confronting them when she saw a piece of mail with her new last name, ours! My father said he was happy and with time, I evolved into a lukewarm stepdaughter
I got married and four years later got divorced, with a three-year-old son as a souvenir. Five years later I had a daughter with a new husband. This multiple-husband situation has added another dimension to my already modern family.
Where does it go from here? As the family tree expands, the possibilities of ridiculous outcomes are endless; the idea of a traditional “nuclear” family is long dead. I can’t imagine being shocked by any age difference of the person my son dates, although I can’t vouch for how I’d react if I was the victim of a prank call on the radio.
I can, however, envision one such hypothetical plot: three women of approximately the same age enter a store. The clerk thinks they are old friends, cousins perhaps. While trying to assist them in the dressing room she inquires “Are you college friends or work colleagues?”
“Oh no!” one of the women replies, ” I am here with my stepmother and my daughter-in-law.”