Saturday, March 24, 2007

birthdays, beauty, and learning to love me

My birthday is Monday, March 26. I’ll be 52. It’s also Diana Ross’ birthday.  When I was a girl, I thought that it imparted a bit of celebrity to me to share a birthday with Diana Ross.


In the summer, my mother would allow us to play outside until it was dark and the fireflies began to tantalize us as we tried to capture them in our hands. On those hot summer evenings, my sister and I would recruit a neighbor to join us and we would become the Supremes, hands on our hips, stepping to the beat, and singing lyrics that we didn’t fully understand—“Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Touch Me in the Morning,” “Love Child.”  I loved those summers and I loved those songs.  I didn’t really know anything about love but I would tilt my head back and sing with all the enthusiasm that I could muster about love lost or won. My grandest desire by the time that I was 11-years-old was to have a gold lame dress and a bouffant hairdo.


As I moved into adolescence, my perspective began to change. I was awkward, uncomfortable in my own body.  I don’t recall wearing training bras. I woke up one morning when I was twelve and I had breasts; my first bra was a C-cup.  I was also fat and it was no longer cute. There are photos of me when I was four that show a solemn-faced child leaning against an old Buick and she is thin. My class photo for kindergarten shows a solemn-faced child with chubby cheeks and she is not thin. I have no memory of being thin; my life begins with being fat. When you’re a fat little girl, people still call you cute; old ladies like to pinch your cheeks and refer to you as a “chubby little thing.” Puberty is totally different.  I turned twelve, got breasts, and became in need of dieting. My sister still danced around and sang the Supremes’ latest top ten hit, but I stayed quiet.  The only thing worse than being fat is being a fat girl who calls attention to herself.


By the time that I was 16, I understood that there was something shameful about being fat and that all that love in all those songs was not meant for fat girls. I discovered Joni Mitchell and purchased one of her albums, “Blue.” I also developed a crush on my best friend. There is no one more woebegone than a 16-year-old who fancies herself in love with a boy who sees her only as a good friend.  I was privy to all of his secrets, including knowing who he had a crush on. I listened to Joni’s recording of “A Case of You” until I knew all the words, “You’re in my blood like holy wine, you taste so bitter and so sweet, and I could drink a case of you, darling, and still be on my feet.”  When I went away to college, I took care to pack all of my Joni Mitchell albums.  They came in handy; on lonely Friday nights, Joni kept me company. 


There have been times when I’ve told myself that my feelings of inadequacy have been self-imposed, but when I look at our culture's obsession with appearance, I find that difficult to believe.  As I’ve surfed the Internet, I find that insulting people because they are fat is perfectly acceptable in many circles. It goes something like this--fat people are ugly, lazy, and worthless and have no reason to exist.  I addressed my feelings to one J-Lander about entries and photos in his journal demeaning people for being fat but I don’t think that he understood at all.


I’m not sure what I expect or want, maybe it’s just to be judged for the person that I am and not the size of my body.  As I approach turning another year older, I have made peace with my body for the most part.  On occasion a cruel remark made by a stranger will turn me back into that insecure teenager but it passes.


Today, I’m feeling not just okay about my body but downright beautiful, thanks to a J-Lander named Russ.  He is a talented cartoonist that I encountered via Gerry’s journal.  He had drawn a cartoon that I thought captured her essence so beautifully that I pleaded with him to waive his deadline and do a drawing of me.  He kindly agreed to do so and the result is below.  Russ is not only talented; he has a kind heart and a generous spirit.  He has another journal that is also worth checking out. Thank you Russ; I plan to have a very happy birthday.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

At the movies

I've had good intentions for more than two weeks to write a journal entry.  However, as you may have heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But here I am today, visiting journals, immersing myself in the myriad voices of j-land and finally getting around to adding my own voice.  I planned to write an entry on some pithy political topic but I found myself fascinated by a meme on movies that I ran across in Paul's journal
I have had a love affair with movies since I was a child.  Before Sunday afternoons on television were filled with images of grown men chasing balls, the local stations would show old movies.  My dad was a fan of westerns and war movies.  On Sunday afternoons, I would join him in watching John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and Audie Murphy save the farm, the ranch, or the world and steal a kiss from Grace Kelly or Maureen O'Hara, before all was said and done.  I liked the westerns and the war movies, but my real love was for the women's films, movies starring Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, and of course, Vivien Leigh.  They loved, schemed, lied, and suffered in grand fashion and I was entranced.
The first Marilyn Monroe film that I saw was NiagaraPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I was around twelve years old and after watching Marilyn toy with Joseph Cotten, I wanted to be blond and walk in high heels with a wriggle in my hips.
I was enchanted by Ingrid Bergman Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket in Casablanca  and wept buckets when Humphrey Bogart let her go in the end. I still get misty-eyed when I hear As Time Goes By<AHREF="HTTP: target="_blank" ?>Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
One of  my favorite Bette Davis films is a 1934 film called Of Human Bondage.  Her co-star is Leslie Howard, who plays a young medical student who becomes infatuated with Davis' character, a waitress with a heart of stone.  One of the taglines on a movie poster for the film was "The Love That Lifted a Man to Paradise...and Hurled Him Back to Earth Again." But the Bette Davis movie that I watch over and over again is a bittersweet romantic film, Now Voyager. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketShe plays a lonely woman who finally blossoms and finds love, but with a married man who has obligations to care for his daughter.  His wife is an evil shrew and without him, she will destroy their child. Bette Davis, gives him up, and her chance at true happiness, for the sake of the child. I cry a river every time that I watch it.
Ms. Davis has some of the best on screen lines of any film actress--"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night," "I'd kiss you, but I just washed my hair," "What a dump,"Oh, Blanche, you know we've got rats in the cellar," "Oh Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon--we have the stars." I intentionally left out the names of the movies to give those of you who like trivia games as much as I do a challenge.
I think of Vivien Leigh as playing quintessential southern women--Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche Dubois.  Ironic, as Leigh was not only not southern, she wasn't even American. I was totally entranced by Scarlett from the first fiddle-dee-dee out of her mouth as she flirted with the Tarleton twins. When she threw the vase at Rhett Butler's head after catching him eavesdropping on her declaration of love for Ashley Wilkes, I knew that I wanted to be Scarlett.  My Scarlett obsession led to many hours in front of a mirror vainly trying to master the arching of one eye brow. I was convinced that Rhett eventually came back and that he and Scarlett lived happily ever afterPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I think that I was in college before it dawned on me that the likelihood of my being Scarlett was zilch.  Mammy or Prissy maybe, but not Scarlett.  I'm still wrestling with the emotional trauma of this realization, but tomorrow is another day. (For those of you who still sometimes miss my twisted sense of humor:  after years of therapy, I no longer want to be Scarlett O'Hara. [I'm joking people!])
Movie meme

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
Out of Africa,
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in one of the most romantic movies that I've ever seen.  The first time that I watched it, I had just had my heart broken.  The movie was cycling through on Showtime and I watched it every time it played  over a period of two days.  Spoiler alert: Redford's character dies in the movie but he dies loving her!  I wish that I had thought to buy stock in Kleenex.
2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.
Annie Hall, I loved the movie and wanted all my friends to see it.  It was summer and I was a carefree college student, so I'd go with anyone who had not yet seen the movie.  I saw it four times in threedays.
3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington (I couldn't decide on one)
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4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
No one, I have been pleasantly surprised with performances by an actor in one film that I didn't care for in another.  I don't write off a performance or a movie without witnessing it for myself.
5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
Casablanca and any movie starring Bette Davis
6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
Funny Girl, I love Barbra Streisand.  I first watched Funny Girl when I was in college.  I immediately went out, purchased the soundtrack, and listened to it non-stop for an entire weekend.  It's a wonder that my suite mates didn't throttle me.
7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
Funny Girl, why spend all  that time learning the lyrics if not to sing along?
8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
I can't.  I love movies and I think that selecting movies to view is a very personal thing.  I will recommend a few films that I think merit viewing but I can't say that they will suit everyone's tastes--Oscar and Lucinda, Casablanca, Malcolm X (the Spike Lee film), The Piano, Agnes of God, The Crying Game, The Color Purple,The Mother, Inside Man, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Enforcer, Dr. No, The Letter, and Now, Voyager.
9. Name a movie that you own.
Gone With the Wind
10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
 Barbra Streisand
11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
Yes, when I was a child, Wilson had the Starlite Drive-In Theater.  My dad was on the local police force and one  of the perks was that he got free movie passes to the  drive-in.  We'd load up the  car, my mother would make Kool-aidin a red and white insulated jug, pop a big container of popcorn, and off we'd go. (My dad didn't believe in spending any money at the concession stand.)  I saw many movies at the drive-in but the one that stands out is Gone With the Wind.                      

12. Evermade out in a movie?
Yes. What, you expected details?
13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven’t yet gotten around to it.
The Last King of Scotland
14. Ever walked out of a movie?
No.  Once I've paid my money, I'm there until the end.
15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
Forrest Gump
16. Popcorn?
Yes, large, with butter and a diet coke.  The diet coke is health food.
17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Around 8-10 times a year,before HBO, Starz etc.  I used to go 3 or 4 times a month.
18. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?
19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Hard question, I love adventure/action movies. I've seen all of the James Bond films and I never pass up an opportunity to watch a Clint Eastwood film, no matter how many times I've seen it.  But I also love romantic comedies, musicals, docudramas, foreign films...I'm a movie genre slut.
20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
The Sound of Music
21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Saw II, I found it pretentious and full of pseudo psychology meant to suggest that something of significance was being revealed amidst all the gore and violence.  I haven't seen the other two Saw movies and don't intend to do so.
22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
Bitter Moon
23. What is the  scariest movie you've seen?
The Exorcist
24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?
I've seen quite a few funny films but the  most recent film that made me laugh out loud was The Wedding Crashers