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Archive for February, 2011

My God, what a surprise!  And what a year!  After winning a Tony for my critically acclaimed one-woman show and a Grammy for my Cee-Lo produced debut pop album, I never expected to be recognized for my debut in el ciné.  When I was a girl, I used to imagine winning the Best Actress Academy Award for a screenplay I’d penned myself and here I am.  Thanks again, by the way, for the Best Screenplay award earlier tonight.  I’m speechless!

When Marty Scorsese called to beg me to adapt my book to the big screen, I was absolutely floored.  How could I be so lucky to work with a master?  But when Marty asked me to star as the lead, my first inclination was to turn him down.  I mean, I hadn’t acted since high school.  But I guess if anyone knows talent when they see it, it’s M-Scor.

Really, I couldn’t have asked for more supportive leading men than Robert DeNiro – I call him Bobby – and Sean Penn – I call him Seanie.  I share this award with you, boys!  And the rumors about Clooney and me are far from true.  I’m a one-man lady.  Admittedly, he was quite the flirt on set.  But all this tittle-tattle about my rejecting his advances driving him to the bottle?  Petty gossip.

A shout out to the ladies, I am in such good company with my fellow nominees.  Meryl, you will always be an inspiration and I look forward to working with you on our next picture.  Cate and Kate, you are stars whose luster will never fade.  And Julia?  Loved you in Mystic Pizza.

Most of all, I share this award with my dear, darling husband and family.  I’m standing here tonight because of you.  Your support has taught me never to give up on myself.  Because of you, I have made real all of my childhood dreams.  I know it can’t be easy living with a writer / actor / pop star / teacher / café owner / dog walker / grocery store cashier.  But your love has made it all possible.

My, has it been a long road to this stage tonight.  Admittedly, there have been dark moments when I wasn’t sure this day would ever come.  After so many disappointments and setbacks, false promises and false starts, it has been hard not to consider taking a permanent dive off the path to my hoped for destiny.  But turning your back on your greatest ambitions is turning away from yourself, something one should never do.

And so, I couldn’t possibly leave here tonight without saying a word to all the little girls around the world hoping to experience a moment like the one I’m enjoying tonight.  I’m here to tell you, whether you’re a ten-year old practicing your Oscar speech in her bedroom or a thirtysomething woman writing a blog in her garden-level apartment, never, ever give up on your dreams.

[Altered photo from Indiana.edu]

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A good friend in college once admitted to feeling miffed when we were together in public because men sometimes checked me out instead of her.  Apparently, she was attempting to build trust by revealing these monstrous feelings and I was supposed to be touched.

I won’t pretend to have been a saint at the time, somehow immune to male attention.  But the last line of attack I’d have considered for securing guys’ interest was scorning my friends for taking it from me.

Still, like lotsa gals, much of my twenties was spent hoping guys liked me.  A cute one would come ‘round and I’d feel pressured to become a sexier, smarter, sassier version of myself, all smirky and eyelashes aflutter.  When dudes weren’t around, I was relaxed and keeping it real, praying for the day I’d be freed from stressing about being a hit with the boys.

I used to be afraid that day would never come.  But yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

This weekend, a gal named Christina proved those days are long behind me.  We met at a two-day writing conference.  Christina was naughty librarian sexy with the kind of combustible “not quite sure who I am yet” energy that makes folks in their twenties both charming and exasperating.  At breakfast, Christina formed a friend crush on me and a regular old boy crush on Billy, a handsomely tortured grunge king who had all the girls at the workshop in a tizzy.  Ten years ago, I might have had eyes for Billy, too.  Now, I’m wise enough to know self-important hot guys usually have little to offer, especially if they’re flirting with everything in a bra.

Christina wasn’t as wise.  When Billy noticed her, she feigned indifference even though stars were shooting out of her eyes.  When he walked away, her entire being deflated like a popped balloon.  When Billy chose to spend his lunch sitting with a pretty blonde instead of us, Christina sat quietly seething as if plotting her next move.  On the conference’s second day, she showed up in a low-cut shirt and bright red lipstick.  Then she spent the day saying raunchy things super loudly and emanating a willful sexuality as if mind controlling the boy to come to her.

Christina didn’t seem smitten, she just seemed pissed.  I assumed she wasn’t as much interested in Billy as she was bothered he wasn’t noticing her.  Still, she didn’t care when I suggested the boy was obviously a player and not worth the effort.  She didn’t buy my theory that not being desired by every male on the planet was no big thang and that all a gal needed was one decent man to love her.  Ultimately, I stopped offering support altogether once the recurring question of the conference changed from “how can I be a better writer” to “why doesn’t Billy like me?”

Thank God I’m not there anymore.  Really, it’s been ages.  Sure, my relationships or attempts at entering into relationships haven’t always been smooth.  But I’ve been myself every step of the way and couldn’t care less about any man except the one who makes my heart go boom.  Even back in the day, when I was more concerned than I should’ve been about being the cat’s meow, I always knew there was more to life than boys.

However.

Not long ago I met a woman in her fifties who had recently ended a five-year romance.  The woman had no children and had never been married, though she’d had a bunch of boyfriends through the years.  She proudly announced herself finished with men, finished with the anxiety of trying to appeal to them, finished worrying about whether she’s desirable.

I could tell the woman meant it.  Like wives who finally divorce after decades in a rotten marriage, she looked forward to starting life on her own terms.  On one hand, I envied the inner peace she claimed to feel.  On the other hand, I was sad to imagine a life without love.

So, I’m glad to be way past the point of obsessing over boy love but pray I never arrive at the place where I’m glad to be out of the game completely.  I’m not positive how to avoid such a fate, but there’s one thing I know for sure.  Needing to be the prettiest girl in the room ain’t it.

 
[Image from vanityfair.com]

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For the first time in longer than I care to remember, I have a Valentine for Valentine’s Day.  All year, I’ve been eager to arrive at this celebratory day for lovers.  But do I get to enjoy a candlelight dinner and bedroom eyes gazing at me from across the table?  No, I get to be sick.  Instead of chocolates and a rose bouquet, I’ll be enjoying a box of Kleenex and cold germs.

Valentine’s Day hasn’t been the luckiest of holidays for yours truly.  In grammar school, I taped my handmade Valentine mailbox to my desk and waited patiently for my classmates to plop their Snoopy or Bugs Bunny cards inside.  Much to my chagrin, there were never any declarations of love from secret admirers.  When I finally did get a Valentine from one of my crushes, the card featured a drawing of an ugly, blobby, purple monster saying, “I like you.”  Beneath the monster’s words, my crush had written, “as a friend.”

When I got married, I figured I’d be set for every Valentine’s Day for the rest of my life.  While my ex was a great gift giver, he was also French which meant Valentine’s Day meant zilch to him.  I usually had to remind him well before the 14th came ‘round.  Before and after him were dumb boyfriends, too dismissive or noncommittal to phone me on a consistent basis much less host a romantic evening of hearts and flowers.

Even if the holiday hasn’t treated me well, I’m no cynic.  I love Valentine’s Day.  Sure, it’s an overly commercialized event which, like the eternally loathsome New Year’s, creates unnecessary pressure to have the time of your life.  And I have been known to mutter, “I hate Valentine’s Day.”  But it was usually when I was feeling like poo about being alone.

Really, what’s more worth celebrating than love?  When I’ve triumphed in other parts of my life, yet found myself solo, I’ve often come up against that bittersweet moment of wishing I had someone to share my successes with.  When life’s in the crapper, yet I’m in love, nothing the world throws at me can do much harm.

How amazing to feel love again.  It makes battling the head cold that ate Cleveland not half bad.  So, while I regret not being able to go whole hog this Valentine’s Day, I still think the celebration could be special.  I’m envisioning a warm bath and foot massage, chicken soup served in a heart-shaped bowl and cough syrup in a wine glass.

Anyway, my Valentine and I have time.  With any luck, this will be the first of many Valentine’s Days we’ll share.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

[Photo from Flickr.com – Starberryshyne]

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I used to believe handing a girl a Barbie doll, princess costume or anything über-girly was like lobbing a grenade into her ego.  I thought toys from the pink aisle siphoned the integrity out of girls, creating boy hungry wimps obsessed with shoes, fad diets and Gwyneth Paltrow movies.

Everyone knows the pink aisle is getting raunchier and bitchier by the minute with tarted up dolls and Halloween costumes, mani/pedi kits and shopping games featuring fake credit cards.  And when they want to set aside their gooey princess fantasies, girls can revel in complete whoredom imitating stars like Rihanna, who make such smutty videos you need an STD test after watching them.

This week, the “save our girls” alarm was sounded once again with the release of Peggy Orenstein’s new book Cinderella Ate My Daughter.  Orenstein wrote the book as a “quest to determine whether princess mania is merely a passing phase or a more sinister marketing plot”* after seeing how girl culture captivated her own daughter.

I have yet to read the book though I’m positive it’s juicy.  Nonetheless, I find myself questioning whether I still believe Cinderella and all her weak-kneed counterparts are in fact eating our girls alive.

Princesses with their fluffy tutus and pointy crowns never did much for me as a kid.  The castle would’ve been swell but I was happy to skip the whiny princess persona along with her flavorless prince companion.  If anything, I wanted to be a Pink Lady from Grease gyrating against my bad boy “knight” Danny Zuko.

However, I did grow up with a collection of Barbie dolls but they all eventually ended up with shaved heads.  In an apparent push for authenticity, I also drew nipples and pubes on their barren, plastic bodies.  And because I didn’t have any Ken dolls, I made the girl dolls kiss each other whenever I wanted to create romantic scenes.  Thus, I inadvertently designed Lesbian Punker Chick Barbie.

When your mom’s a former flower child who barely wears makeup let alone shaves, it’s near impossible to become a shallow twit whose life revolves around boys.  So I had the Barbies, the dollhouses, the kitchen sets and plastic shopping carts.  But I also had truckloads of books which my mother read to me and tons of artsy toys like paints, molding clay and even a wood burning set.  Considering the burn scars on my fingers and legs, I’d say the Barbies were the least harmful of my toys.

All I’m saying is if my mom had allowed me to eat a steady diet of sugar, my teeth would’ve fallen out.  But because she threw some apples and leafy greens in there, I ended up fine.  I even started choosing the healthier stuff myself.

I hope to have a daughter one day.  And I won’t be surprised if she starts walking around in a tiara and loses some of her feistiness once she discovers boys.  It seems as inevitable as a son asking Santa for a fire truck and throwing rocks at birds.  Helping a little kid navigate the culture to become a decent adult is probably a lot like teaching someone to drive.  You sit in the passenger seat, give advice and encouragement, point out Mac trucks barreling toward them and comfort them if they crash.  But you stay in the car.

Besides, these things fade.  Girls get over wanting to be a princess, a fairy or Justin Bieber’s wife.  I imagine if you love the bejesus out of them, they’ll have the confidence to come out of the phase with an identity.

If my daughter should one day come to me saying, “Behold, I am the Princess Malibu Barbie,” I shall not despair.  Instead, I’ll tell her, “why be the princess when you can be queen?  Why wait around for your pumpkin to turn into a carriage?  Queens pick their king.  Queens rule the land.”

If she’s anything like me, she’ll know where to find her own sense of majesty.  And know she deserves nothing less.

 

*Publishers Weekly

[Photo from MegCabot.com]

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