Thursday, September 25, 2014

Zoe vs. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep is regarded as the world's greatest living actress. I believe that was true.
. . . Until four years ago, when Zoe arrived on the scene.

The second-best actress in the
world (as of August 2010)

Zoe was born dramatic. Though I suppose all births are dramatic. As renowned baby expert Dr. Benjamin Spock said, "Childbirth is the most unnatural natural thing ever, except maybe for Carrot Top."*
Still, the style in which Zoe arrived---a little resistant at first (induction at 41 weeks), then a lot resistant (plenty of Pitocin to no purpose), then causing a bit of a panic (um, where's that heartbeat?), ending in blood and screaming as if she was the one being cut open (semi-emergency c-section)---set the tone for what was to follow.
Even today, most of her emotional outbursts follow that same pattern: sluggish resistance, followed by irrational fear, then the blood and the screaming and the calls for drugs.
From what I've seen in the past four years, I think it's reasonable to conclude that in a diva-on-diva throwdown my daughter would out-act Meryl Streep. As evidence I present the following selections from Ms. Streep's impressive filmography and examine them against the theatrics of my pint-sized thespian.

A Cry in the Dark
Meryl made this movie in 1988. I was in high school at the time and probably preferred murderous dingos to children. (Now, it's a close call.)
I've never met a dingo, and I've never been to Australia, but the title resonates with me because it sums up that first sleepless year with infant Zoe. 
Early on, her crying was for serious, but by the time she turned two she was able to cue it up anytime for effect. She buries her face in her hands as she cries then peeks between her fingers to make sure she still has an audience. If I've left the room, she stops crying (Cut!), comes to find me, then commences crying again (Action!).

A dingo ate my hairdresser.

This movie also reminds me of Zoe because in it Meryl plays a mother accused of a crime she didn't commit. This gels with Zoe's prosecutorial style, aka how she wakes up: Why's my blue sippy cup with the red top lying unwashed in the sink? You should've washed it by now. I have a witness who places you in the kitchen at 7:55 P.M. last night washing your coffee mug, so clearly you had opportunity. Did you just not care? You are guilty of being a terrible mother. (Bangs gavel.)

Sophie's Choice
You'd think I was asking her to choose who should live and who should die the way Zoe reacts when I ask her which of two shirts she wants to wear. Every choice is pregnant with future bitter regret. If she chooses the pink toothbrush rather than the blue toothbrush, what are the ramifications? What untold suffering that cannot be foreseen?
On the way home, should she sit in the stroller or should she walk? Wracked with indecision she jumps on and off, forcing Mommy to stop and start. That's not frustrating for Mommy. And who has time to think about her anyway? Getting home only means facing another weighty decision of what cartoon to watch.

The Devil Wears Prada
Just do what I say!

The Iron Lady
Just do what I say with a British accent! 
Regarding Meryl and her accents. Zoe is a master at this as well. Though I don't recognize what country of origin Zoe's accents are supposed to represent. They seem to be wholly her own.

What can't Meryl Streep do! Here she is as a building.
She trained for the role by spending a summer
as a newspaper kiosk.

Zoe likes to shout orders in strange, made-up voices, or yell things that sound like orders but are just extreme imitations of me or her teachers. She's been doing this since she was around two and "imitated" me changing her diaper.
Knowing how she exaggerates my treatment of her for dramatic effect, I kind of assume her teachers are not constantly screaming at her and that a particular little boy is not hurting her as much as she claims. At bath time, she works out her stress in little vignettes, randomly letting loose with: "I'm NOT telling you again" or "If you don't stop talking, you go straight to the office. Ha!" or "Stop talking or I won't read the story. Ha!"
I don't know what the "Ha!" thing is about but she tacks it to the end of every sentence when she's in acting mode.
Naturally I'm her favorite to imitate. Picking her up from day care once I must've rushed her to get home saying I had a lot to do because almost every night now she launches out of the stroller, plants herself at the top step of a stranger's house, turns and shouts: "I've got tooooooo much stuff to do! Ha!" Then she crosses her arms and levels a disarmingly shrewd stare at me.
I am tempted to point out that her behavior and stance are the exact opposite of how a person with toooooo much stuff to do would behave but that would only raise the curtain on the next act.

Mamma Mia!
People didn't know Meryl could sing, but she can. Zoe knows she can sing. Because who's gonna tell her she can't? You can't develop that kind of confidence. You either have it or you don't.

So many parallels:
Zoe acts like she's being psychologically tortured but I think it's really me.
I try to point out blatant safety violations, but she refuses to heed my warnings. However, if I bump into her accidentally, she claims grave injury and that she is bleeding (she is not bleeding) and demands a Band-Aid.
Because I once gave her a Tic-Tac to settle her stomach on a long car trip she now believes it's medicine, and so when she sees Tic-Tacs suddenly her stomach hurts. She cries when I don't believe her.
Two nights ago she showed me a paper cut. Although she called it a book cut. I said, Yes, books have paper so that's why it's called a paper cut. It's a book cut, she said. I sighed.
"It's bleeding," she continued. (It had been.) "A lot." (Barely.) "The biggest." (Biggest what? Whiner or liar?) I got her a Band-Aid.
Another thing Silkwood-esque: Zoe refuses to wash her hands after using the potty unless it's bedtime. Then she wants to wash as if she's been contaminated by plutonium.

After seeing what she did to the potty,
I welcome death. (Source:

And finally. . .

The Hours
Sometimes, with Zoe, what "the seconds" feel like.
Zoe: 62; Universe: 0
*I may be making this up. There's nothing natural about Carrot Top.


  1. "What untold suffering that cannot be foreseen?" You know, I need to start speaking like a Shakespearean actor ALL THE TIME.

  2. If you want to unseat Meryl and Zoe, that's the way to do it.

  3. Have you tried saying, "And scene!" Maybe that will get her inner actress to stop.

  4. Good idea! I will try it. It should at least baffle her into silence.