One of my life-sustaining mantras comes, I believe, from Robert Frost, who said: “The only way out is through.” In times of great emotional stress I repeat it constantly, to spur myself on.
But I play another game sometimes, called What If Life Was Bewitched? Aye, the television programme I grew up watching throughout my formative years. Back when I spelled the word without two ms and an e, because I was still American through and through.
Sometimes when things are piling up I gain consolation from thinking: “If this was Bewitched I’d just twitch my nose and problem X would disappear.” About two seconds later I chastise myself: “Unimaginative idiot! If life was Bewitched you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.” And I start to ponder all the fabulous ways in which things would be so very different.
I would fly around the globe visiting beautiful cities and enjoying myself. I’d be fawned over by men boasting vast intellects and delicious physiques. I’d never have to think about money because magic doesn’t require funding. I’d always fit into beautiful clothes. And I could turn all my enemies into chickens, or dog turds, or newts.
Basically it’s What If I Won the Lottery with added vengeance.
The other day, though, I started thinking hard about the show’s basic premise. You don’t, as a kid. You just accept. Television tells you that a beautiful witch fell in love with a mortal advertising executive and vowed to give up her magic in order to live with him in a suburban home not unlike the ones in your neighbourhood, and you accept it unquestioningly. After all, on other channels we had the Addams Family and the Munsters, not to mention the exceedingly odd people depicted on syndicated reruns of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. . .
Now, however, when I could use a little jolt of transformative magic, I find my knickers getting twisted about Samantha’s life choices. She should have listened to her mother, Endora, whose inability to remember Darren’s name means that I, too, think of him as Derwood more often than not. Actually, increasingly often, for I’ve really taken against him retrospectively.
Think about this for just one minute: you meet a person with magical powers. MAGICAL POWERS! You fall in love and by some miracle, it is reciprocated. And instead of saying, “Dollface, let’s go dance on the tip of the Eiffel Tower, and when we’ve exhausted ourselves, drop into a thermal spring in Iceland to soothe our aching muscles,” you say: “I want you to renounce your special gifts and come be ordinary with me.”
That, in a nutshell, probably describes the trajectory of most relationships that have been and ever will be since the dawn of creation. It reminds me of an off-Broadway show I never saw but whose title was: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
I don’t imagine for one minute that the creators of Bewitched had such a philosophical message in mind, but it’s working for me.
Without going all “deconstructing the Little Mermaid” on you, let me say I’m ready to grab Samantha by the shoulders and scream “Snap out of it! Don’t give up your fabulosity!”
If she fancied him that much, why didn’t she cast a spell to make him magic-amenable? Why did she fancy him — what sort of perversity was happening there? Had she had her fill of excitement? Is such a thing possible? Surely there is time even in the world of warlocks and witches, when you can snuggle into a corner and read a good book or listen to some music. (Or better still, to watch over his shoulder while Shakespeare pens those sonnets, or curl up at Prince’s feet while he works out the groove to Sign O the Times.)
It’s not as if a witch is immortal. You can understand a vampire thinking, well here’s an amusing way to spend forty years, after all, I have an eternity.
There’s no point wishing I’d been more alert to this reading of Bewitched when I was younger. But you can be damn sure that the next time someone tries to quash my magic (aka mojo) I am going to run for the hills.
Okay, waddle. I’m a little out of shape. But if only life was Bewitched, I’d be – oh, never mind.