How did we get here in the first place? Why did I end up making a film about my relationship with my mother? It's been a long, ardous journey. Our relationship went from Mommie Dearest to Dear Mom. It took years and a lot of work to get to where we are ...close friends, confidants and travel companions.
But life with mom started out rough. I grew up with a Cinderella complex. I was convinced I was adopted and that was why I was being treated the way I was -- being ordered around, criticized and punished. Quite differently from my two older brothers. According to my mother my nose was too big, my breasts were too small and my hair was too wild. In fact, there wasn't much about me that she thought didn't need fixing. I used to have dreams when I was a little girl that I'd wake up and my hair would be straight. I was sure God punished me by giving me curly, frizzy hair.
The pressures of growing up in an upperwardly mobile neighborhood and my mom's strong conviction to make me her "perfect daughter" were not a happy combo. I was born an artist, an individual thinker and was more interested in making macrame belts, embroidering on work shirts and hanging out at the free school. Not exactly a match for my mom's desires for me.
My junior high school yearbook and high school yearbook were before and after pictures for nose jobs. I didn't see anything wrong with having one, if that's what you wanted but it wasn't what I wanted. However, after enough comments from my mom about my growing bump, I did become self-conscious if I knew someone was able to view my profile.
Then there was the rest of my body. When my girlfriends were developing breasts I was still wearing my stretch bra which remained flat as a board across my chest. Bathing suit tops at that time were hard cups. Mom thought putting foam rubber into it would make a nice padding. I felt pretty uncomfortable with this knowing these boobs were not mine. I was around thirteen years old when one day I was taking a scuba diving lesson in the swimming pool and all of sudden the foam rubber came floating out. It was a memorable and horrific experience being "found out". Why couldn't I just be who I was at the time? Wasn't I good enough?
My hair was a big issue. Mom and Dad both were not happy with it's natural large, frizzy condition. Mom was having my hair professionally straightened and then switched to Curl Free, a do it yourself relaxer. When that product wore off, I spent hours making my hair straight using large curlers and sitting for hours under the bonnet hair dryer burning my neck with the tube. The summer I went to Europe to study art, I stopped straightening my hair. It was impossible to do it there. When I returned home with my long, thick curly hair you would have thought by my parents' reaction that I was doing this to "put my father in his grave," an expression he often used.
By junior year in high school, all I wanted was out, out of the house, away from the neighborhood and to be among like-minded people. At the end of my sixteenth year, I got into university and moved two hundred miles away. I no longer had to come home and hear the criticism and be told what to do and punished for being me. Now, I needed to build my confidence, find out who I was and seek my own path.
Being an art major in a hippie school, I flourished and my friends and teachers all embraced my hair, my looks, my personality and my talents. I spent years, decades trying to figure out my mother and work on our relationship. I didn't want to give up on her and she didn't want to give up on me. There were many bumps in the road.
Eventually, I became a television producer and filmmaker and I turned the cameras on me. First, with my dog in the film A DOG'S LIFE: A DOGAMENTARY and then with my mother in MY NOSE, a short, funny film about her quest to get me to have a nose job. Based on the overwheling response to the film, I realized I was dealing with a universal subject; that I had something to share that would help others - learning to accept and love a critical parent. I developed "The Seven Healing Tools" which I now teach in seminars.
I also realized that MY NOSE only scratched the surface of the highly complex and charged relationship between mother and daughter and I needed to go deeper. LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! follows the transformation of my relationship with my mother, traveling across continents and over time.
— Washington Post
"Honest, often humorous examination of culture and superficiality."
"A big little movie. A romp but an important romp."
I decided to make a short film for my mother who was relentless about trying to get me to have a nose job. The people in my life couldn't believe that my mother felt this way. And my mother couldn't believe that most people wouldn't agree with her. Hence, my short film, MY NOSE was made. It has played all over the world in festivals.
When I would be attending the festival and on a panel, I would often hear from the audience that same three things:
1. I love your nose. Don't have a nose job.
2. I don't like your mother. How do you?
3. Let me tell you my story.
Q & A sessions soon evolved into group therapy sessions. With much encouragement from a psychotherapist, I ended up developing “The Seven Healing Tools” and I now give seminars on transforming difficult relationships.
|"Humor heals and Gayle has the ability to use it."
— Robin Joy Risbee
"Gayle has something very special. The seminar was outstanding and should be given throughout the world."
The success of the short My Nose led to the development of Transforming Difficult Relationships, a humorous, insightful seminar in which Gayle draws on her experience of building a healthy relationship with her mother out of a difficult one. In it, she discusses “The Seven Healing Tools” for how to turn negatives into positives and revitalize relationships.