Thursday, April 27, 2017

Zoe vs. Happy Days; Or, "Aaaaayy"-t Ways My 6-Year-Old Out-Cools the Fonz

You've probably heard by now that Erin Moran, TV's "Joanie Cunningham," died this past weekend. If you're my age, Happy Days was a TV staple of your childhood. It remains one of the longest-running TV sit-coms of all time, and aired from 1974 to 1984.
Basically, from the time I could walk until I got rid of my retainer, Happy Days was on ABC on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. 
Joanie, like me, was the pestering younger sister and, also like me, had freckles, so naturally I felt a spiritual connection. Also, Fonzie called her "shortcake." (Erin Moran was the same height as me too.)
The irony that I experience nostalgia looking back at Happy Days, which was itself about nostalgia for an earlier time, is not lost on me. I suppose it's just the human condition to look back on our youth and see it through this rosy glow of innocence.
Of course, it's really that a) we hadn't yet become jaded and b) we hadn't reached an age where we could injure ourselves sleeping.
But were we really "happier" or just thinner and strangers to lower back pain? What made those Happy Days happy exactly?

Happy Days, or, 8 Ways My 6-year-old Out-Cools the Fonz

First of all, they weren't happier for everyone. If you were part of a certain demographic you were happy enough, and in the seventies, Happy Days probably appealed to a lot of folks, those who maybe carried wistful feelings about the years before the Vietnam War and dinner-conversation awkwardness about Free Love and the Civil Rights Movement.
But let me stop myself before I become pedantic. (Too late! you're thinking. Only pedantic people use the word pedantic. And I've used it three times now!) Besides, others have covered this ground better than I could. I'm referring of course to South Park's member berries. Member when MTV played videos? Member the View-Master? Member the Happy Days board game? I had this!

Member?! Sit on it! Member?!

If you really remember childhood though, you remember it wasn't a constant laugh track. There were lots of tears, and though you were free from the responsibilities that define adulthood, you also weren't always free when it came to making your own choices, and mistakes. 
It's no coincidence that the two "theme" songs associated with Happy Days relate to time. The "Happy Days" song lists the days of the week, spending each one with your sweetheart---referring to young love but it could also be the marital contentment of Mr. and Mrs. C. And the other theme song, "Rock Around the Clock," ticks off the wee hours and is about staying up all night dancing (let's keep it clean, folks!).
Do you have happy memories of dancing all night when you were young? Are you glad they're memories and that you don't have to do it anymore? I am. What would make me happiest now is a good night's sleep. Sleep around the clock. Or how about just halfway? Sleep has been hard to come by since Zoe arrived on the scene.
But does that mean I was happier before Zoe came along, when I could sleep in on weekends? And go out to dinner without paying for a babysitter? And see a movie while it was still in the theater? . . . Hmmm. I'm thinking.
I joke. Sort of. Of course some of the happiest moments of my life have been since Zoe was born. Usually just after she falls asleep. (Cymbal crash!) But seriously, love and joy, and discontent and happiness, they aren't numbers that keep to their own side of an equation. Happiness eludes you when you try to grasp it. In fact, don't even look directly at it. It doesn't like that. That's why people meditate. If you remain completely still, maybe happiness will lower its guard and you can catch a glimpse of it.

What if happiness looks like Potsie? 

Recently I've been able to get Zoe to sleep later on weekends because as she's getting older she can be reasoned with bribed. With age, she's also becoming a pretty cool little person too.
Dare I say, cooler even than the Fonz? . . .

"Aaaaayy"-t* Ways My 6-Year-Old Out-Cools the Fonz
1. Arthur Fonzarelli was a mechanic with a magic touch. All he had to do was hit the jukebox at Arnold's and it would turn on. Zoe's magic has the opposite effect. Her touch destroys. And after, she looks at you like, We cool, right? (Fonzie also snapped his fingers and the girls flock to his side. Zoe can't snap her fingers yet so I don't know what the effect will be.)
2. Fonzie wore the same outfit every day---jeans, white T-shirt, and black leather jacket. Zoe can pull off any fashion, including wearing her pajamas all day.
3. Fonzie's office was the bathroom at a drive-in. Zoe's office is the world.
4. In the episode where Fonzie goes blind after being hit on the head, Richie has Potsie and Ralph take apart Fonzie's motorcycle to show him he can repair it even without his sight. Zoe can put together a Lego dragon blindfolded with her hands tied behind her back. Because she has me do it for her.
5. At the Demolition Derby, Fonzie saved Pinky Tuscadero from the Malachi Crunch. Zoe is somehow able to effect a destructive pincer move though only one person.
6. There's no social critique implied by an ever-cool but also personally-stagnant greaser. Beneath the laughter, life with Zoe delivers hard-hitting truths about childhood, interpersonal power struggles, and identity politics.
7. In the episode where the Cunninghams et al go to a dude ranch, Fonzie has to ride a killer bull named Diablo. Zoe wouldn't even need to ride that bull to scare it into submission. He'd be so scared he'd legally change his name to Ferdinand T. Bull and then retire to a meadow to contemplate flowers and read poetry.
8. Fonzie famously "jumped the shark." But Zoe's charm never gets old, with or without a leather jacket.

Zoe: 162; Universe: 0

* "Eight" in Fonzie.

If you enjoyed this post, you may like Zoe vs. 1980's video games. Member Frogger?

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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