The best dream I ever had was about five years ago. I walked into a delicatessen with linoleum squares of white and green and a few round tables with a scattering of black chairs. Sitting at one of the tables was my dad, Bill Murray. He greeted me with a warm hug and we sat down and had a great chat over a great cup of coffee. Soon, my other dad, William Shatner arrived, kissed Bill on the cheek and sat down beside him. The dream was short but the feeling of warmth and goodwill lingered after I woke up. I don’t have a secret desire for two gay dads but the dream resolved a mutual admiration for both actors. I have read enough magazine articles about both men to guess that Bill is a no nonsense kind of dad, affectionate but not indulgent and Will is charming in a self-aggrandizing kind of way- the parent that would likely get the eye rolls from the kids. I imagine they would be a dynamic power couple, both charismatic and rambunctious; dinner guests would be left roiling on the carpeted floor as the two men fed each other lines, their cheeks rosy with wine and good humor.
Bill Murray has received an iconic status of late. I have seen stenciled silhouettes of his face on T-shirts and on vehicle decals. He has become cool for a hipster race of Gen Y’s and Millennials that watched Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Saturday Night Live before his sublime casting in Lost in Translation. His morbid detachment – the stone face is his coup de grace in high brow and low brow theatrics -is the zeitgeist of an overstimulated populous with an unrelenting social media feed of Donald Trump, Middle Eastern terror groups, and YouTube stars. He is the de facto guy everyone wants to hang out with while we wait out the maelstrom.
William Shatner looks like my Mom. He really, really looks like my maternal side of the family. The bulbous nose framed by padded red cheeks and wide, large eyes is a hallmark of my mother’s family. He was also born in Canada and is an alumnus of my alma mater, McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. That’s pretty much where the similarities end but it really helps to have a few similarities when you idolize someone. Why would anyone idolize William Shatner, you say? Well, he has a lot of spunk; he’s still working at 84 years. He has a sassy kind of appeal – he told his loyal Star Trek fans to get a life (let’s be honest they needed to hear it) but he also humbled down by 2011 to address an audience at McGill University and told them: “Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of making an ass of yourself. I do it all the time, and look what I got.” And let’s be honest, any person who has the cajones to release multiple spoken word albums that are actually good, has my respect.
On introspection, why does a 37 year old woman look up to older men for life guidance? What happened to my own parents? What happened to Gloria Steinem for feminist idealism or Kristy Wiig for witty realism (or is it raunchy realism?)? Let’s face it, we rarely fantasize about being our parents. We spend half our lives trying to make improvements on their model with later epiphany we are maddeningly similar. As women we are attuned to the flaws of other women. That is why we get dressed up for a night out with the gals but don’t even bother to shave when it’s date night with our husbands. We are always trying to impress other women hence the new skirt and freshly cut hair. Women are women’s biggest critics. Men are happy we’re warm and smell like soap. If you happen to have shaved, they interpret it as open for business. Some social anthropologist will say something to the effect this is an attempt to place us higher in the social pecking order as to appear more attractive to a potential mate. I think women are just plain jerks. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of really great friends that are supportive and kind. But, we are all competing all of the time. We offer up ourselves as exemplars of wifery, motherhood and professional elitism when our girlfriends suffer self-doubt. This is where the foundations are laid as future mother-in-laws. We all know the universality of mother-in-laws. They take your 20’s self delusions of grandeur and knock them down a peg or two. If you are awesome friends with your mother-in-law you need to entertain the possibility she a)is an alien b)is a man disguised as a woman or c)does not have a competitive bone in her body and can be classified as a subspecies of jellyfish.
So yeah, I think it would be awesome if Bill Murray and William Shatner were my dads. Perhaps their example of self-effacing humor and light banter would make me a better person. I might be less inclined to judge other people’s follies and laugh more at my own. And, for my future daughter-in-law and son-in-law, I send you a wish: that visits from your future mother-in-law are whimsical and fun; that my padded cheeks are rosy and filled to the brim with good humor and kindness. And if you have delusions of grandeur, I promise to bring you back to earth.