One Day at a Time
It’s you, I like, Lydia. So, so much.
But, I also get why you drive Penelope crazy.
More importantly, as someone who is not unfamiliar with some of your questionable mannerisms (I married into a Latino family), I know that everything you do comes from a place of love, even if your intentions get muddled in their execution.
When I see Penelope taking that extra step to improve upon the areas where Lydia has been lacking as a mother, as she does in “She Drives Me Crazy,” I think it behooves everyone — not just parents — to pay attention. Everyone knows that parenting is hard work, and that no one is perfect at that job (not even Penelope, and she comes pretty damn close). For that reason, it’s tempting to fall into the trap of doing exactly what our own parents did when it comes to raising children. Why put extra pressure on ourselves if we ultimately turned out okay, right?
Once again, I must raise my glass to Penelope for taking a sledgehammer to the archaic parenting system of her past. Instead of following in Lydia’s footsteps, and raising Elena with a cocktail of criticism chased with passive-aggressive advice, Penelope delivers a note-perfect speech to her daughter at the end of the episode that encompasses everything a child wishes to hear from his or her parents: “You are enough.”
Undoubtedly, Penelope and Elena are still going to have fights, but I’d like to think that maybe they’ll be far less intense than the arguments between Lydia and Penelope. That’s because Penelope took a moment out of her super-busy schedule to give Elena a few words of support and encouragement. In short, she says to Elena what she always needed Lydia to say to her: “If for one second I ever made you feel as if you weren’t a freakin’ perfect piece of work, then I’m sorry.”
(Note to self: Get Penelope’s speech cross-stitched for my daughter’s room.)
The latest generational clash between Lydia and Penelope is kicked off this episode when Lydia announces the next task on her “Bouquet List” is to teach her daughter all of the family recipes. Unfortunately, her timing is terrible: Penelope is consumed with her upcoming nurse practitioner board exams.
Since Penelope doesn’t have the bandwidth to learn how to make ropa vieja, Schneider leaps at the opportunity, which only causes more friction between mother and daughter. Penelope is understandably jealous when she witnesses a “40-year-old 5-year-old” cooking alongside her mother, with Lydia twisting the knife further by deeming her landlord “the true heir of my spirit.”
But it’s hard to hate on Schneider for mooching off his tenants’ latest drama, because his participation in Lydia’s cooking class has garnered him official entry into the Alvarez family. Between the snow globe and the jigsaw puzzle, we know Schneider’s infatuation with his middle-class neighbors goes beyond Lydia’s sopa de pollo. This is something he wants more than anything, and nothing makes him prouder than getting to place his eight-year sobriety chip alongside the trophies and baby teeth in the Alvarez Family Museum.
Meanwhile, Penelope is venting up a storm in group therapy, and not getting much back in the way of validation, because her fellow veterans have all met Lydia and know how awesome she is. From where they sit, Penelope has nothing to complain about: Not only does Lydia do all the cooking for her perpetually swamped daughter, but she “turned [her] hot handyman into a chef” too! They also have a tough time empathizing with Penelope’s frustration over her mother’s constant criticism given how accepting the devoutly Catholic Lydia was of Elena when she first came out. Point: Group.
Having gained some perspective, Penelope returns home and agrees to the cooking lessons. They make arroz con pollo, they dance — and then the disappointing truth about Lydia’s intentions comes pouring out.
Her “Bouquet List” didn’t say, “Teach Penelope the family recipes.” It said, “Fix Penelope.” In Lydia-speak, that means, “Teach Penelope these dishes so ‘no man will dare to leave [her] again.’” But this goes beyond “tweaking,” as Lydia calls it. As they argue, Lydia openly admits that she considers Penelope a failure if she’s not married.
Oh, Lydia, te amo, Lydia. But, in the words of the great philosopher Cosmo Kramer, “You’re way, way, way off.”
Before she even gets to her touching monologue with Elena, Penelope delivers an inspiring speech to her mother, in which she firmly explains how hurtful Lydia’s words are. She understands that there was a time where “pleasing a man was a woman’s greatest achievement,” but she wisely chooses not to focus on how things have changed. Instead, Penelope makes it clear to Lydia that she lucked out with Berto, and that it is not her fault that she has not found the right man to share her life with yet (oh, please, let that be a harbinger that Mateo is on his way out). Penelope also sets Lydia straight in her semantics, because they matter here: Her failed relationships aren’t because she couldn’t “keep” a man around — she left both Victor and Max. Her choice.
Penelope knows that Lydia is a perfectionist (like mother, like daughter), so she uses that fact to emphasize how damaging that behavior can be on a child: “You’re always comparing me to you, because you think you’re so perfect, but a perfect mom doesn’t make her kid feel like this.”
(Btw, it’s time to start up the Emmy campaign for Justina Machado again.)
After they’ve had time to cool off — Lydia goes behind her curtains, where she hears Penelope have her tender moment with Elena — mother and daughter begin the detente process. As I’ve said before, specifically in “Outside,” we can’t expect Lydia to completely change her viewpoints at this stage of her life. “If you want me to accept you for being you,” she tells Penelope, “you have to accept me for being me.” Touché.
But that doesn’t mean Lydia is inflexible to a little tweaking herself, and Penelope lays it bare for her: Compliments and supportive words don’t “go without saying — you have to say [them].”
Lydia says them.
I’ll say them too, because in this era of constant improvement, everyone needs to hear it now and again:
“You are enough. You are more than enough.”
This Is The Rest!
• ¡Dale! Schneidito! ¡Dale!: This episode marks Todd Grinnell’s directorial debut.
• I’m still scratching my head over how Dr. Berkowitz — again, a doctor — has so much time on his hands that he volunteered to teach Elena how to drive. Guess paperwork doesn’t exist in the ODAAT universe….
• Apparently Doc has so much free time that he’s the even subject of the latest Netflix meta joke: He’s watched “all” of the streaming service. Uh-oh — his patients are really going to suffer once he gets a load of 2019’s content.
• Ribbing aside, this Elena/Doc subplot was pretty great: They discovered common ground over Battlestar Galactica and fractured father-daughter relationships.
• While I do think it’s hard to get to know someone only through texts, that didn’t stop me from deducing that Dr. B’s daughter Rachel is vile.