For many of us growing up in the 90’s, TV’s Blossom, whose titular character was played by Mayim Bialik, was a character we looked to for guidance in handling many of the ups and downs of adolescence. Watching Blossom deal with issues of puberty, friendship, dating, abuse, alcohol, and drugs helped us understand that other young people were going through the same struggles that we were.
Mayim has gone on to have a successful career as a neuroscientist, actress, and author, but she continues to be a source of guidance for young people. Her newest book, Boying Up, a companion to her previous bestseller, Girling Up, is a warm, relatable guidebook to help boys navigate their way through the rocky path of adolescence into adulthood.
We talked with Mayim about her book, as well as what it means to be an artist, a mother, and a feminist in today’s world.
What was your favorite TV show growing up?
I have many. But I really loved In Living Color.
It’s a weekday and you just got home from work… What’s for dinner?
Usually just pasta and marinara sauce. Or I’ll try to force the kids to eat a can of pinto beans along with dinner.
What’s your go-to outfit?
Denim skirt, black T-shirt, and sandals.
What is your favorite Jewish custom?
What is the last thing you do before going to bed?
I’m supposed to say the Shema, but normally I just cuddle my cat.
How has being a mother has impacted your creativity?
It’s forced me to compartmentalize. Being creative used to be something that was just part of my existence all the time. Now I need to schedule it. I always have the potential to be creative, but when you’re caring for children, and especially young children, it’s like your needs don’t necessarily count anymore.
And I also I think that if you choose a lifestyle that involves you as the primary caregiver and if you choose to, for example, exclusively breastfeed, or sleep near your children, it definitely changes your rhythms versus the parents for whom it is their priority for their children to be independent as soon as possible. I would imagine that they have a lot more access to their creativity sooner than I did. Friends of mine who sleep trained at three months were able to go out and go away for weekends.
How much did having your own sons impact writing your newest book, Boying Up?
I wrote Beyond The Sling, which was about my parenting experience when they were little, about what attached parenting looked like. I wrote Girling Up a year before I even thought of Boying Up, because it was the book I wish I had when I was a girl. So it’s kind of interesting that the last thing I thought to write about was my sons. It’s probably because I do keep a lot of our lives private, but I think I was still able to do that in Boying Up.
There’s a notion that I’m a neuroscientist and therefore I’m trained to understand the male body as well as the female body, and the male endocrine system and how that impacts psychology. These are things that I am trained in, but being a mom to boys is its own kind of education. And every boy is different. There are things that are hormonally and genetically wired to generally be a certain way in boys versus girls. But, that varies. My two boys are very different from each other. And that variability, especially when you are a parent who is the opposite gender, is also its own kind of challenge.
How has having sons has changed your perspective on feminism?
My ex and I were both feminists and our intention was to raise children, no matter how they identified, as people who believed in the power of women to have a unique perspective on breaking the barriers of race, class, and gender. That really doesn’t have anything to do with the sex of my child or their gender identification. Having boys, and being kind of a tomboy kind of mom (that’s what we used to call it), has been really interesting for my boys because they see that Mama likes sports cars more than Dada. Or, Dada likes taking them to the theater and Mama would rather poke her eyeballs out than watch a musical.
I think part of raising enlightened children in this day and age is to show them that there’s a spectrum of behavior. It’s not always linked to sexual identity. Meaning, you can like sports cars and hate musicals, yet still identify as a heterosexual female. And, to me that’s part of laying the groundwork for equality. It’s really understanding the variability in human behavior, and the human experience.
Do you think that in our current, screen obsessed, overprotective culture, boys still have the opportunity to form deep friendships, and are there things we can do to cultivate that?
I’d like to think that they do, but I also know that, especially for those of us who live in cities, it’s really different. There’s been a real shift. When you think about what the middle of the country looked like when I was a kid, it just felt kind of isolated. Fashion was kind of different in the Midwest, for example, versus New York and Los Angeles. That was because there wasn’t this internet connecting all of us and making us all the same.
Friendships have definitely been influenced by the increase in screen time and I think a lot of us are still figuring it out as our kids do.
What’s next for you?
We have one more year contracted on The Big Bang Theory, which I spent a lot of time working on. I make a lot of videos for Youtube and I have GrokNation, which is sort of a lifestyle site focusing on a unique perspective of empathy designed to change your corner of the world. And, of course, I’m trying to exercise and eat right and take care of my cats and my children.
Header image via Flickr