Dustin Hoffman and Healing Faith Chunks

Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate

Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate

I’ve been clawing my way back to a sense of faith since I first started losing it in chunks, like hair falling out after a chemo round.  The first chunk was my introduction to death when my beloved grandfather passed away in third grade.  Picture day.  I didn’t skip school that morning, even though Grandaddy had died and it was the first time I’d seen my Daddy cry.  I kept my head down when he took the call from Grandma with the news.  I watched my Alpha-bits floating in milk, too scared to turn around and watch my Mom hug my Dad, while assuring him that Granddaddy “had a long and happy life.”  In my school picture that year my eyes are more mournful than normal and my smile looks tentative, like I’m not quite sure that the command to smile is the right one to obey.

There were other chunks.  Being kicked out of the popular circle in fifth grade, forever closing the curtain on my chances to get Jolly Ranchers that Anna L.’s mom packed for her “and her friends” to enjoy. 

Then, there were more deaths– waters I swam in stole the life of man who was in charge of us that day. One minute full of life and the next minute gone.  I had to watch his daughter and son pump the ocean out of their father.  Biggest chunk to date.

A whole bouquet of chunks disintegrated in my hands as my heart was broken by boyfriends showing up with hickeys I didn’t give them, and still others boys-who-were-almost-men who were tender, brilliant, and read Ezra Pound recreationally, but still I wasn’t ready and had to let them go on without me.

For a whole semester I studied World War II– Fussell’s books on combat, Marcel Ophuls’ movies, Weinberg’s A World At Arms.  More chunks.  One leaden chunk labeled Holocaust broke off while I stood in a museum full of hair and shoes and skeletons in faded striped suits staring back from behind a barbed wire fence.

Chunks. Chunks. Chunks.

But, believe me when I say that I want to believe.  Because there were also moments where faith came rushing back to me, filling in the holes were the chunks had broken away.  Faith like spackle was filling the fissures.   There was recovery from bulimia.  There was my first sponsor Teddie who saved my life by telling me to eat breakfast and get out of my head.  There were books and education and opportunity and friends who helped stem the tide of the falling chunks.  There was standing next to my younger sister when she got married, and there was holding my best friend’s left leg as she gave birth to her second son, both of which led me to my own marriage and motherhood. 

There were countless moments of healing that rushed in to heat, heal, and implore me to have faith. 

This was supposed to be a post about Dustin Hoffman and the video that no less than 3 bazillion people have shared on Facebook.  You know the one where he talks working on Tootsie and wanting to be a “beautiful” woman, but the make-up team said, “Sorry, Charlie, we made you as pretty as we could.”  You’ve probably seen it– he gets choked up and starts talking about all the women he missed getting to know because he judged them by their looks. 

I never click on those videos on Facebook, but something made me click on Dustin Hoffman’s.  Maybe because I loved him in The Graduate or because I have a thing for Jewish guys or all those exhortations that I MUST WATCH THIS just wore me down. 

I watched it.  Then, I tossed and turned all night trying to decide whether it was genuine.

Twelve hours later, I am still obsessing about whether the whole thing is a bunch of malarkey.  He’s an actor! Of course he can cry on command!  I won’t let myself just lean into it and enjoy it like every other person on Facebook.  Here’s my chance, right? A chance to have some faith rush in and fill that chunk that fell away when I learned about the impossible beauty standards that I would be subject to for the rest of my life, while the men in my life were free to eat a footlong sub and forego basic hygiene at will.

Why can’t or won’t I just take this chance to believe?


25 thoughts on “Dustin Hoffman and Healing Faith Chunks

  1. Beautiful post!! I’m with you on all of it. But, one thing that I have started to embrace in micro-chunks is the fact that, sometimes, the motivation behind a good deed or message is less important the the deed or message itself. Regardless of a person’s hidden agenda, if a nugget of good is left behind, maybe that should be enough.
    At least that’s the bullshit I’m trying to hold on to these days!!! Rock on, my sista!

    • You know, I considered that on the train. I thought about Dustin and maybe his whole thing is BS, but does that really matter? What really matters is that I am person capable of being moved or changed or filled with joy or possibility. Because even if it’s not “true,” we are one step closer for having it out there in the world. Right? I am so into this right now. Love it!

  2. Astonishingly, to me most of all, when I went to the Holocaust museums in Washington and in Israel I didn’t feel a loss of faith, but rather a resurgence. Maybe because I know many survivors and have borne witness to their unbelievable stories, but also because a voice in my head kept saying “but we’re still here,” and I had this overwhelming sense of pride in that. Your post just made me think of those moments. Anyway, these are really beautiful and honest words, and I hope that you find your way back to faith.

    • I have read about people having reactions like yours and it makes sense. It seems to me that the way of strength is faith and the message “we’re still here” is so powerful. That’s the one I want to attach to.

  3. As our cup of innocence is drained, the void is filled with the oxygen of wisdom!
    Thank you for such a magnificent musing this morning.

  4. Re: He’s an actor! Of course he can cry on command!

    I’ve been thinking the opposite, that the availability of his emotional life — his vulnerability — that we see in the interview is what enables him to be a great actor.

    • Oh, I like that so much better. I feel most ashamed of my reaction because if he is truly being vulnerable and thinking about the harm to himself (and society) that comes from our punative beauty norms, well, I’m being a jerk by discounting it. I know I am missing a chance. I edging towards belief. I almost there. Thank you.

      On Wed, Jul 10, 2013 at 11:53 AM, Outlaw Mama

  5. I’ll tell you this. At first, I cried when I saw that. How lovely that he finally understood. Then I was angry at that video, because how dare he say that he only started to think like a feminist because he’s not attractive? Then I was more angry because why are all these women fawning all over a guy for basically saying that feminism is for ugly women?

    And then I remembered the point of the quote. He decided to make Tootsie as a manifesto for women. It is not about how attractive she is or isn’t. It’s about a man who comes to find women powerful because they stand up for what’s right and teach those around them that they’re human beings not bodies and faces.

    I choose to believe because he made a wonderful film about finding people’s soul’s beneath their exteriors.

    And that’s pretty damned feminist in my book.

    • I’m still mulling it over. I like that it has made me think so much. I keep reminding myself that not everyone is a douche and he was telling his story and he deserves to feel and express whatever he wants.

  6. so you just made me watch the video, which somehow i never even noticed on fb or anywhere, and although many many chunks are missing from my heart and my soul, i’m still the dumb vulnerable schmuck who believes him.

  7. I haven’t seen the video but I will have to look out for it. I’d like to believe the sentiment is authentic. But it’s easy for anyone to jump on the bandwagon in hindsight and say things like that. I guess I’m a skeptic trying to hold onto a little bit of faith?

  8. Wow. Amazing writing, mama. (And I want to hock a loogie into those 5th-grade girls’ sandwiches. Grr.)
    What I’m not sure of is whether you mean faith in God or in humanity – or are they the same in this case?
    I did see that video, just yesterday, and I think it’s sincere. (Otherwise, wouldn’t he have found something better to do with his hands?) And even if the tears weren’t real, Dustin Hoffman wants people to see that he cares about this issue. That’s gotta count for something.

  9. The thing about Dustin Hoffman is that he already has a huge female fan base, so he’s not gaining anything by playing around here. And, having spent entirely too much of my life around actors (though none exactly of his ilk), they take great pride in being able to identify with the marginalized. It is remarkably easy to be empathetic if you’ve trained with the techniques he has. (I maintain that training helps me identify and describe emotion and physical state as it intersects with emotion as a writer).

    But, for me, as much poo as life has thrown my way, I am feeling more and more connected to myself spiritually. I am not religious, in fact I am atheist, but I am finding crazy amounts of peace inside right now. It sounds so counter-intuitive, but I made the choice that I wasn’t going to second guess any decisions regarding my marriage or all of the years I’ve loved Scott because I know I made those choices with a sincere and honest heart. And I simply have to be authentic to myself. Perhaps Hoffman needs that, too?

    • I have to say that instead of watching that Dustin Hoffman video for its putative inspirational message, I will simply re-read your comment which is simply oozing with authenticity, centeredness and a joy that comes from living through the poo times.

  10. I’ve had chunks ripped from me, too, and I’ve had chunks put back. For me, the random good things I see on viral videos and the like, while heartwarming, don’t do it for me. I’m a cynic and I don’t usually trust them (that’s awful, I know, right?). What does it for me is when I see true caring out in real life. When people I barely know are nice to me for no reason at all, other than they are nice people. I guess we all need our chunks restored in different ways. Maybe it has something to do with the way they were taken in the first place.

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