Tag Archive | movies

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?


Can I Still Be A Gatsby Scholar Even Though I Forgot The Plot?

Image credit: blog.roopevintage.com

Image credit: blog.roopevintage.com

Some people take great pride in their physical appearance– say long silky hair or great calves.  I am not one of those people, but I am not above taking great pride in one attribute I believe I possess.  For years, the spotlight of my pride has been shining on my memory.

I have a killer memory.  I remember what I wore on the first day of every single job I’ve had.  I remember the first question that someone (Steve) fired at me the first morning I went to group therapy (“Are you a top or a bottom?”).  I remember old boyfriends’ dogs’ names and the meal I ate right before I saw E.T.

But just as someone whose good looks are chipped away by the ravages of time, my memory has deteriorated faster than Paula Deen’s reputation.  It would take me a few minutes to remember what I had for breakfast this morning (banana and KIND bar) and an unforgiveable five minutes to remember what I wore last Thursday.

I hardly know myself anymore.

The other night Jeff and I went to see The Great Gatsby, which was one of my favorite books in high school.  My senior quote was the last line of the book: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  I’ve considered myself something of a Gatsby expert.

The only problem is that I haven’t read the book since junior year.  That’s over *cough* *cough* two decades between me and Mr. Fitzgerald’s tale.  But still. I was smug.  I kept leaning over to Jeff “explaining” what was happening.  “Jeff, that billboard of T.J. Eckleburg symbolizes the loss of spiritual values in America and the growing commercialism of the time.”

I was aglow with self-congratulation that I remembered the themes, the names, and that I was drinking a Diet Coke right before the Gatsby exam in Miss Baker’s honors English class.

But, then, Daisy did that thing where she killed her husband’s mistress accidentally.  Oops! I hadn’t remembered that.  At all. 

I assured myself that it was just a tiny blip in my gray matter. There’d be no more surprises.  But, then, to my everlasting shock, Gatsby got shot.  What the what? I had zero memory of that.  I didn’t even remember that he died in the book.  What kind of a Gatsby scholar forgets that he died?

I decided that Baz Luhrmann must have taken some serious poetic license with his “retelling” of the story. But when I got home and Googled the plot, turns out that Mr. Luhrmann was sticking pretty close to the book.  Or at least, he was closer than I was.

Upon reflection, I believe I had confused the ending of Gatsby with the ending of Our Town, the play by Thornton Wilder, which adds yet another nail to the coffin in my chances of getting tenure as an English professor.

The only upshot, if any, to all this demoralization and loss of identity is that in a few short days, I’m hoping I won’t remember it!

How To Tell If An Event Was A Highlight– Ask If Anyone Peed On Themselves

When something happens that makes me pee all over myself, it’s either a highlight or an event I would like to forget forever. (Then again, maybe it’s just regular old day for a mom who’s given birth but refused to adhere to a kegel regime.)

This summer, when I found myself perusing my email on a routine trip to the bathroom, I got an email that jolted me so thoroughly that I jumped up mid-urine stream, screaming so hysterically that the members of my household wondered if I had seen a mouse.

But it was not a furry creature that occasioned my hysteria. It was an email notification that this post was being Freshly Pressed.

Freshly Pressed Exuberance

Freshly Pressed Exuberance– if I would have known that email was coming, I would have brushed my hair.  Also, I peed on myself but I didn’t swallow my gum?  WTF?

What’s Freshly Pressed? For the uninitiated, Word Press is the site that hosts my blog, along with approximately 450,000 others.  Its editors, may, at any time, choose blog posts to appear on its “highlights” page, known as the Freshly Pressed page. (Click here to see the current crop of Freshly Pressed posts.) It’s a thrill to be chosen because it brings thousands of new readers to your blog, and it’s an affirmation from the Word Press editors that you are doing something they think is interesting.

When I got the email notification from the editor, I was told my post would run on the Freshly Pressed page in “the next few days.”  It turned out I had almost 24 hours to wait.  During that time I did all of the following:

  1. I picked a fight with Jeff who kindly offered to help me put some aesthetic touches on my blog.
  2. I stayed up all night wondering what would happen when my post hit the highlights page.
  3. I emailed other bloggers who had been Freshly Pressed and asked for tips on surviving the ride.
My texts in green.  Former Freshly Pressed blogger comments in white.  How do I know she's a true friend? She pretended to be bored by Dooce and gave me lots of affirmations.

My texts in green. Former Freshly Pressed blogger comments in white. How do I know she’s a true friend? She pretended to be bored by Dooce and gave me lots of affirmations.

The post was Freshly Pressed around 10:00 p.m. on Monday night. By Tuesday, I was thoroughly enjoying the conversation that developed around the subject of the post (ditching Netflix once and for all).  I couldn’t believe how many people similarly struggled with their movie subscriptions.  There was a giant uptick in hits on my page, which appealed to my vanity and my desire for external validation.

For sure, getting Freshly Pressed was a highlight for me.  What I enjoyed most about it is that the real life experience lived up to the hype.  So few things can reach the expectations that precede them.  It felt exhilarating to have my mind utterly blown by how many people stopped by to comment or  to “like” the post.

I now know it’s possible for a lone blogger to have thousands of hits in one day, even though I can’t say I know how to do that without the boost of Freshly Pressed.  Unexpectedly, the experience made me want to be better– as a writer and social critic and jester and buffoon– because whatever size my blog is, it’s a platform that reaches other people, so I want to use it responsibly.  I think that sounds insufferably pompous, but I have already admitted I have moments of incontinence, so who cares if I am pompous?

I don’t want to be condescending to my readers, but I am going to spell out the moral for you, especially if you want to be Freshly Pressed: Either do your kegels or don’t check your email when you are going potty.

Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship: How I Dumped Netflix And Never Looked Back

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, so I don’t make them.  But, as the calendar year draws to a close and a new one dawns, I can’t help but think about certain goals or intentions.

On January 1, 2012, I mentally took stock of the relationships in my life: which ones were feeding me? which ones were draining my life force?  Looking at the 12 pristine months ahead of me, I hoped to enrich my life by letting go of relationships that no longer served me.

Now, I can’t help but notice that we are passed the half-way mark of 2012, and I have a success to report!

I have finally broken up with Netflix once and for all. No more booty calls late at night, no last-minute scrambling for a movie delivery company like a single woman scrounging for a date to a wedding.  There will be no make-up sex.  Netflix and I — WE. ARE. DONE. 

Red envelope: A symbol of dysfunction (image courtesy of www.technobuffalo.com)

Red envelope: A symbol of dysfunction (image courtesy of http://www.technobuffalo.com)

I finally let go because I was sick of the painful cycle, that always went like this:

I join.

I gleefully set up my queue.

The movies start coming.

I pretend I have plenty of time to watch 3 movies per week.

We A cleaning lady dusts around them as they sit on the counter.

“Gotta watch those movies,” I tell myself when I tune into re-runs of Little House On the Prairie.

Six weeks go by; Netflix continues to charge me.

I finally sit down to watch a movie, say, that documentary about Justin Bieber’s life.

I realize I can’t watch more than one movie per week.

I adjust my account and swear I will watch my one movie each week.

Artsy friends with too much free time suggest movies that I dutifully put in my queue.

My queue starts to mock me as it grows beyond 200 selections.

My husband asks, “What’s up with Netflix? Should we cancel?”

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo,” I protest.  We. Can. Watch. Movies. “Let’s try harder!”

I resolve to watch more movies.  Or at least a movie. Or at the very least the previews before the movie.

My husband takes over the queue.

We return An Inconvenient Truth and Whale Watcher after they have sat idly for 6 months.

“What we need is a fresh start.”

The Curious Life of Benjamin Button arrives.

I have a heart attack: I can’t get through a 12-hour movie.

I accuse my husband of setting me up for failure.

I declare, “If we don’t watch this movie within 2 weeks, we can cancel.”

Apparently, we’re not that curious about Benjamin Button’s life.

I ask for “one more, just one more” chance.

My husband relents.

We order Iron Lady.

The Iron Lady arrives quietly 2 days later.

I decide it sounds boring, and I don’t “get” the British accent.

Plus, Meryl Streep gave a horrible speech at the Oscars.

I tell my husband, “Ok, seriously, one more –”

He cuts me off, “No.”

I assume begging posture, “Pleeeassssseeee, just–”

“No. We’re done.”

So, we Jeff cancels Netflix.

* * *

I am happy to be relieved of the burden of those red envelopes.

I sometimes miss it, especially when I think about the movies I want to see: That Katy Perry documentary or Au Revoir Les Enfants or The Artist and anything with Ryan Gosling Sir Anthony Hopkins.

I vow to white-knuckle the rest of the summer re-run season.  I feel healthier everyday. I accept I am not a “movie” person.  If I can keep this up, maybe I can deal with my toxic relationship with Zappos.