Mom Bashing: No Fair After Age 35 Or So

ALICE STEINBACH

April 30, 1992|By ALICE STEINBACH

Excuse me, but would anyone like to join a new support group I'm starting? One dedicated to the proposition that we must -- repeat, must -- stop former first daughter Patti Davis before she writes again.

It's a tough job but somebody's got to stop this trash-and-cash-in-on-being-the-offspring-of Nancy and Ronnie Reagan thing before it becomes a series.

Like "Friday the 13th."

Or "Nightmare on Elm Street."

Unfortunately, it may already be too late.

Patti, it seems, is about to hit the talk show circuit. Again. This time she'll be hyping her fourth book, "The Way I See It," which lands in the stores today.

But this time there'll be no hiding behind the thin veneer of fiction she wrapped around her first three books -- two of which feature a shrill, uptight mother and a vague, out-of-it father.

No, this time Patti decided to bite the bullet and write her real-life autobiography, a prospect that so interested the Putnam publishing firm that they reportedly paid her a half million bucks for "The Way I See It." And why not? The way Patti sees it, all's fair when it comes to dishing the dirt on family secrets, especially the ones surrounding her childhood in a dysfunctional family.

Chief among those secrets, Patti claims, is the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. The same mother, by the way, who lived in a fog of tranquilizers and sleeping pills. And, says Patti, dear old dad didn't believe his daughter when she turned to him for help. He accused her of lying about the beatings and called her crazy.

It's a sad story, if true. But do we really need to know this? Isn't this what people pay therapists for?

But Patti says there is a redeeming reason for writing the book. And it wasn't for the money. The theme of the book, she is quoted as saying, is "forgiving one's parents and realizing they did the best they knew how."

Yes. And I am the Queen of Romania.

Or put another way: Why not forgive them privately in a face-to-face conversation? Why publish a book?

Which brings up the question: When is Patti Davis going to get a life?

After all, she's closing in on her 40th birthday and -- aside from the fact Ronnie and Nancy no longer speak to her -- what has she gained from all this parent-bashing? Besides, doesn't the statute of limitations on blaming your parents run out when you're 35? If not, then there ought to be some kind of reverse Freedom of Information Act: A law that puts a lid on what the offspring of celebrities are allowed to write about. And then go on television and talk about what they write about to the likes of Sam Donaldson.

Of course, being a parent myself, I have long felt that children -- like valets to the Royal Family -- should be required at an early age to sign an agreement they will never write about their parents.

Think about it: Suppose you became famous one day -- say, you become the governor of California or the First Lady -- would you want your kid to write a book about life with you? What if he brought up that time when, after a frustrating day with a bad cold, an angry boss and a car that broke down, you threw his peanut butter sandwich -- the one he said had too much peanut butter on it and not enough jelly -- up against a wall.

And how would you like it if your daughter wrote about the day in the supermarket when you got so angry you physically dragged her, screaming, to the car?

And don't kid yourself that children ever forget this kind of stuff.

True story: A 23-year-old son, home visiting his mother, stretched himself out across her bed one evening and started to reminisce about his childhood. It started out good. A lot of stuff about happy days playing tricks on a younger brother.

Then the mood changed.

"Do you remember the time when I was about 3 and you locked me in my room?" the son asked his mother.

She did. Although she'd hoped he'd forgotten that day, a day of total chaos with a sick baby in the house and a frantic mother.

"And do you remember what I did?" continued the son. "I got my tool chest and unscrewed the lock and opened the door."

As it turned out, it was a good memory for him -- one that allowed him to bask in his control of the situation. But just think of what Patti Davis might have made of the locked-room scenario in one of her I Dismember Mama books.

So, one wonders, what's next for Patti Davis? A book on Daddie Dearest? Timed to appear on or around Father's Day next year? Maybe.

Or maybe Patti Davis will grow up -- perhaps become a parent herself -- and put her childhood behind her.

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