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Will The Real Impersonator Please Stand Up…

While I was writing my post about Marilyn Monroe, I found a quote about female impersonators, which I held on to just in case I wanted to use it later for a post or two.

Then, as I finished the last few chapters of Alice Kaplan’s ‘Dreaming in French” there it was again, the same quote. It only took a few seconds before I was scribbling down what I wanted to write about, but a few days to put it all in order in my head so that I could sit down and actually start to type.

 We are all female impersonators to some degree
…..Susan Brownmiller

 A few days ago an amazing opportunity came my way, actually, two. One I can talk about now, one I can talk about next week. The first item has to do with writing. You see, I write, but I’ve always been resistant to call myself a writer. Through my writing partner, I met a woman who is not only a writer, but feels like a creative powerhouse. She put out a notice looking for two writers who would accept mentoring through a creative coaching process and I jumped at the chance. As we had our initial call last week, she asked me what I would write if I could write anything.

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The Bullsh*t Myth of “You Can’t Have It All”…

I very rarely curse in my blog titles. Not for any specific reason, it’s just that I like to save the sailor mouth for later in the content.

I’ve been tossing an idea around in my head for the past week and have waited, hoping inspiration would strike and smack me on top of the idea with a brilliance formerly unknown to mankind.

Then I realized that if I kept waiting, then I would be sitting, alone, in my senior citizen home talking about that one idea that got away.  And then, Anne-Marie Slaughter went out and wrote an article for The Atlantic and I had my inspiration. Divine, almost. Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.

So here it is in all its semi-formed greatness:

Maybe women can’t have it all, but it’s mostly our fault.

Alright, I can hear the thoughts being formed. Why on earth would any woman admit that we can’t have everything we’ve been dreaming of and more? The answer is easy. We are often our own worst enemies.

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When Your Idol Disappoints…

What is beauty?

If we spent our whole lives searching for what’s beautiful, we’d still die without seeing perfection. That’s because in many ways, beauty is in the imperfect. It’s in the many thousands of ways we perceive our surroundings, and it’s ever-changing.

Today I might find a certain kind of flower beautiful, while tomorrow it might be another kind altogether.

My daughter was beautiful as a baby and now, as a young woman, I still believe she is beautiful even though she has changed so much over 19 years.

The sky can be beautiful to one person and frightening to another.

Perception is one of the reasons why some people can look at a painting and see an amazing array of colors and shapes and other people see random lines and splashes of color that make no sense.

But imagine you’ve spent years thinking of beauty and how you fit into a society that says only some are pretty while others are not and then imagine meeting your idol – someone just slightly off-beat like yourself – someone, in a word, you’d like to be.

What would you hope to hear from them if you could ask them anything?

Actress, Gabourey Sidibe says she experienced both the high of meeting her idol, and the low of hearing this woman she looked up to tell her that she should get out of the acting business because of her looks.

During her appearance on Andy Cohen’s talk show “Watch What Happens Live”, Sidibe was asked what celebrity encounter disappointed her the most.

Sidibe’s response to the question:

What celebrity was I disappointed by? Oh, and it’s not in a mean way, because I know that she meant well. I met Joan Cusack, who is my favorite favorite- I love her- but, it was before I became [famous] or whatever.

I was at some industry party, and she says, ‘Are you an actress?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ And she says, ‘Oh honey, you should really quit the business, it’s so image-conscious.’

If Gabourey’s story is true, meeting Joan Cusack was both amazing and shocking, in a less than stellar way. Would my girl, Joan, say such a thing? Maybe, and maybe she meant it in the best way possible. Maybe she was being a realist. As much as I love Joan, she’s almost always the ‘character’ in a movie, never a star. Is it because her looks lean towards the more ‘quirky’ side? Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s hard to cast funny women, regardless of their acting pedigree.

Either way, Joan has a point – Hollywood, and, by extension, all of us, makes it difficult for anyone who doesn’t look a certain way to be accepted easily.

Perhaps we should thank Joan for her comment, which was made before Gabourey starred in “Precious” and maybe we should look around and say that Gabourey shouldn’t look like everyone else. She should look like herself. And I’d even go so far as to say that if she were a man, Gabourey would be praised for her ‘difference’ instead of constantly told she’s too dark, too heavy, too something.

The real issue is how to handle the rejection of those we look up to – maybe it’s a parent or a friend or a spouse – you look for their support – you want to hear that you, yes you, can do anything you set your mind to, right?

Instead you hear: Dear, maybe you should try something else.

I’ve been there. I had a husband who told me to cover up whenever we left the house and another who told me to set my desires at a more ‘reasonable’ bar – and I’ve had friends and lovers who have said ‘go catch a few stars because you can.’

Interesting that it’s often easiest to hear the most demoralizing voice in the room, almost like that’s the frequency our brain wants to function on because it’s so easy to start with ‘can’t’ instead of ‘can’.

Yet we all know it’s the ‘cans’ that have the lives we most desire – and there’s no limit on how many ‘cans’ are allowed to exist at once.

In Gabourey’s case, she had other inspirations, including her own internal monologue that said ‘go for it’ and this is really just a reminder that sometimes, the easy answer is the wrong one.


Your Love Is My Love…

And my love is your love.  It would take eternity to break us.  And the chains of Amistad couldn’t hold us. (1999, single released)

I was six when I first heard Whitney Houston sing but it took me about 20 years to realize it was her. Whitney sang back-up on Chaka Khan’s “I’m every woman” and I can remember singing that song at the top of my lungs while my mom drove around San Diego because I wanted to be every woman.

When I was 13 the song “You give good love” came out and I was hooked. Whitney was something we didn’t see much of in the 1980s: A beautiful black woman singing pop songs. I can readily admit to dancing around the living room of my apartment with my tapered jeans rolled just right, trying to find the perfect floppy hat like Whitney would always wear in her videos. I finger snapped and tap danced all over the place and there was little you could have said to get me to not love my Whitney. Of course, I hid it just a little because she seemed just a bit less ‘cool’ than the Cyndis or the Pats or the Annes or Nancys.

For the first few years of my Whitney love affair she was bubble gum and pop and all things Madonna (one of my other musical idols) was not. Whitney was, in a word, nice. She was sweet.

As I got older, and started to learn about heartbreak, Whitney’s voice became something else to me. She offered support and love without even realizing it. Or maybe she did realize it. If she did, it never felt like she wanted much in return. I wonder if that’s part of the problem. Artists like Whitney give and we take and there is no middle ground when the artist needs us to do more than nod our heads in agreement as they suffer internally.

When my first marriage started to fail, a number of friends took me to see “Waiting to Exhale”. Even now, I am not sure if it was Angela Basset who gave me the courage to tell my husband to leave or the soundtrack, but either way, Whitney played a role. She sealed the deal for me with the release of her album ‘My love is your love’ in 1998.

Now there was the soundtrack to my life.  Whitney sang songs that told me it was okay to be sad and confused, but it was even better to channel my anger and find my own path. There is power in music and Whitney understood that.

She also understood what it meant to have people try to decide ‘what is black’ and by extension, what is black ‘enough’ and I got it. I still do.

It is often said that many artists are simply tortured souls looking for love. And maybe, in many ways, that was who Whitney really was: Just a nice girl from New Jersey who wanted love, but who had a voice, and a musical background, that the majority of us will only ever dream of having.

Yes, she was Bobby’s wife. And, for those of us who watched her reality show with her ex-husband, it probably highlighted just why becoming a star can be so scary. But she was also a mother, a daughter, a friend and a passionate woman who is now gone way too soon.

Simon Pegg had the best tweet about her death. To paraphrase, he wasn’t sure what was more sad: Her death, or the fact that so many people relished telling him she was gone.

We build our artists up then laugh or abandon them when they prove to be human.

Whitney told me it was okay to wonder where broken hearts go and it was even better to find a man who gives good love. Along the way we caught our men cheating and we found new ones, we loved our daughters and we believed in miracles.

Whitney Houston.  Model, singer, producer, actress, mother, daughter, friend.  She truly was every woman: Flawed and yet perfect at the same time.

Rest in peace, Whitney.  August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012


**Photo Image: Getty Images, Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard (1992)



The Science Of “You’re Alright”…

I’m not the world’s best swimmer. There, I said it.

I have now done two triathlon events and each time I just needed to get through the swim. I don’ think that will cut it at this week’s Pocono’s Ironman Event.  Yeah, I don’t think it will cut it at all.

I have to count strokes. And I have to remember to breathe. And I have to remind myself to keep my heart rate down and even with all of that, I still intend to get out there this Sunday and compete. And not die trying.

A few of my friends suggested I try a little bit of hypnosis to get me to learn to relax even more during the swim. They are so very smart.

So I downloaded a series on visualization and have been listening to it all week before I fall asleep. Now I have started to incorporate a quick listen-to during the work day.

My co-worker said she thought God was talking. Or a really great parent. You see, the science of telling someone they are okay is exactly what good parents do, right?

I tell the lovely ‘A’ all the time that she is awesome. She is the greatest. Just like Muhammad Ali, but without the boxing gloves.

This series of affirmations coming out of my computer speakers has been telling me I am amazing. I can do this. I can beat my own fears. It’s one thing to have ‘heart’ during a race and another to have skill. But if your mind tells you that you can not finish, then you won’t unless you fight against that negative spin on your chances.

A few weeks ago I was in the middle of the swim portion of a race and my mind said: Seriously, what are you doing?

My body kept going until I could hear my mind getting annoyed with me. And then it caught up with the fact that we weren’t planning to stop.

You’re. Alright.

What a powerful statement. And it’s one that will not always comes from the people around you, even if it should. But, it must always be a statement you’re able to tell yourself. You’ve got to remember to say it even when you aren’t so sure it’s true. You’re alright. You can do this. You are powerful.

I think that most people forget to love themselves and it’s the one thing that, when done right, can truly change your outlook on life.

So on Sunday at 7:02 AM, I will walk out into a body of water and tell myself that it is okay, because it is. Why? Because this isn’t about competing against anyone but myself.

We Only Said Goodbye With Words…

I was thinking about the men who have come into my life over the past year. I don’t think I (or you, dear readers) need a cheat-sheet yet, but maybe one day I’ll write one anyway.

And what have they all taught me?

That love means many things to many people, but that friendship means even more things.

You see, friendship between men and women can be tricky.

And, because I have so many married male friends, friendship with them is even trickier sometimes.

I often joke that there needs to be a book written about the types of things married men look for, and it isn’t always sex. But no one would believe me. So, instead, I will tell you a little story.

I have a friend “The Libra” and we’ve been friends for four years now. I met him before I met “The One” and that was always a sore point for “The One” and I. He always thought Libra and I had been sexually intimate, which has never been true.

What we have been is emotionally intimate, which I can totally see is often just as bad, if not worse. We have listened to each other when family members have died; when our spouses (when I was married) have told us how much they don’t (or didn’t) love us and so on until the end of time of sad things spouses sometimes do.

Libra has had a number of affairs and yes, he did ask me out because he was interested. Then we started spending time telling jokes and watching movies and going to bars and we became friends.

Sometimes, married people want friends.

Libra has done many things for me, including being one of the first people to check on me after my surgery over a year ago. I consider him to be a great friend, but that means I sometimes have to tolerate some things I don’t like. For instance, we were supposed to have drinks yesterday. But, when I didn’t hear from him on Sunday or Monday, I figured he would get busy. Instead, he texted on Wednesday to say he would see me at 5:00 PM that night. That would have been great if I hadn’t already made plans because I thought Thursday was his preference.

We got into a nice discussion about timing and he decided that this was a great time to explain all of the ‘responsibilities’ he has and the ‘hoops’ he has to go through to get a night out.

And while I ‘hear’ what he is saying…I think that I have finally grown weary of the men I know assuming my job or responsibilities are less important than theirs.

Yes, I don’t have small children, but I still have a child. And as far as I can see, I am not aware of anyone who is a doctor, cop of firefighter in my life, therefore most jobs are as important (or not) as mine.

Isn’t it interesting that as we age, we lose sight of certain things. Things like: How to communicate. Libra and I won’t speak for a few days or weeks because he has to be mad at someone and I’m easier to be mad at because I require the least. I get that. But what has developed is that I’m starting to remove everything that doesn’t work from life just to make things simpler.

So…go figure. I just realized why people have affairs in many cases: They treat their spouses like they treat strangers, sometimes. Actually, sometimes it’s worse.