In the summer of 1977, my family made the hour-long car trip to the town of Bend, Oregon see the movie Star Wars.
I was ten years old, and I had been waiting for what seemed an eternity to see the movie. In retrospect, I didn’t care so much about Star Wars as I did about fitting in.
By the time I actually got to see it, I was still stinging from the shame I’d experienced when Alice Cannon insisted we play Star Wars in the basement of my house. I knew Alice’s older brother Calvin was a big fan of science fiction, but I hadn’t expected the same from her. In the past, we had spent our time together in a totally different way – such as secretly playing her parents Carpenters albums on the record player so we could lip sync to songs like “Yesterday Once More.”
But that summer, the Carpenters were out and Star Wars was in. And, even though I had no frame of reference, when Alice wanted to play Star Wars, I agreed.
I shouldn’t have.
Despite her best efforts to engage me in playing the role of various characters, she finally gave up in disgust when I couldn’t even figure out what she meant when she said “just act like R2-D2.”
So when my parents announced we were finally going to see Star Wars, I couldn’t have been happier. Despite the long car ride, the longer ticket line and our seats in the very back of the theater, I thought my needs had finally been met.
That only lasted until the movie started.
I didn’t get the plot. I didn’t understand how I was apparently the only person in the entire world that didn’t like the movie. And, most critical of all, I still didn’t understand how I could have acted like R2-D2, who didn’t say anything but instead spoke in mechanical beeps.
What I did understand was that the Carpenters had probably been correct when they had sung “We’ve only just begun.” I knew that this Star Wars thing was going to last much longer than I wanted.
My dad confirmed my fears as the credits rolled when he said, “Well, it’s obvious they are going to make a sequel.”
Which is why, during the long, dark car ride home, I curled into a ball in the back seat and tried to reassure myself that at least I liked the theme music. (For the record, I got the sheet music and played it over and over again on the piano that fall.)
All of this is why I found myself sighing loudly this past October when my husband asked me at least three times if I wanted a ticket to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night.
He seemed so hurt and confused when I told him that I had no idea what I would be doing on December 18 and that buying tickets that far in advance was ridiculous.
Neither he, my children or millions of others thought it ridiculous at all. To them, it was an event for which to plan accordingly. And they did.
To me, the new Star Wars is something else entirely.
It is a reminder that. sometimes, the things we think we want the most aren’t what will make us happy. What does make us happy is discovering and pursuing our own interests and passions.
As the Carpenters would say, that’s what puts me at “The Top of the World.”
One of the greatest benefits of the internet is how it my links my own youth to that of my children’s.
When I’m talking about a movie or a television show and they give me a blank look, I can usually conduct an internet search and find a video, a photo or at least a description that serves as a great explanation.
Even better are the times when they discover something from my youth and ac t as though it is something completely new.
Recently, my daughter giggled and insisted I watch a clip from the movie This is Spinal Tap.
The first time I saw the scene I was actually in the theater, but watching it with my daughter was even better.
The Stonehenge scene always makes me smile.
Day 32: The Stonehenge scene from This is Spinal Tap
I don’t often experience serendipitous moments in my life, so when I do, I celebrate them.
There is just something completely satisfying when two of your loves combine. I’m not talking the “you got your peanut butter in my chocolate” and “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” type of love (although I always enjoy a good Reese’s Cup.)
I’m talking about my love of the Muppets and my love of Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory. So when Jim Parsons made a brief, but unexpected, cameo appearance in the 2011 movie The Muppets, I was actually gleeful.
In the dark theater, I shrieked with delight when he appeared as the human Walter in “Am I a Man or a Muppet?”
And I always smile when I think about that moment.
Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows
Not being much of a football fan, I wasn’t watching when the University of Alabama beat Notre Dame the other night. But being an avid news fan, I couldn’t miss the stories about how sportscaster Brent Musburger raved about Katherine Webb, the beauty queen girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.
I really didn’t understand all the fuss. Men have been making comments about beautiful women as long as women have been making comments about good looking-men. I may be a feminist, but I also recognize that appreciating beauty is an essential element of human nature.
Initially, I didn’t perceive any problem. At least, I didn’t perceive a problem until I read a story about how Webb and her parents responded to all the fuss.
They weren’t bothered by Musburger’s comments. And why would they have been? Webb is a beauty queen. She struts around in a bikini in front of cameras. She obviously wants to be noticed for her appearance alone, and her subsequent reaction reflected that.
What bothered me was the importance Webb’s parents placed on her being beautiful.
Apparently (according to family), Katherine was once considered an ugly duckling because of a skin condition and her height. Her mother said that being in the Miss USA pageant helped build her daughter’s self-esteem. In other words, her mother believes Katherine’s self-esteem hinges on others’ perceptions of her appearance. And that’s what bothers me about this “news” story.
Self-esteem is complicated. Yet, like so many other issues, people try to simplify it. Several years ago when my children were in elementary school, they attended an assembly about self-esteem.
“What activities did you do? I asked. They looked at me puzzled.
“We didn’t do anything,” my son said. “Some lady just talked to us about how we should have self-esteem.”
We moved on to other subjects, but I was irritated with the school for wasting precious educational hours on some pointless presentation. You can’t teach or preach self-esteem. True and lasting self-esteem is achieved through experiences of success and through overcoming difficult situations. Our responsibility as adults is to provide children with those opportunities.
And self-esteem isn’t an “all or nothing” concept.
People don’t either have or not have self-esteem. Most of us feel confident in one aspect of our life while struggling in others. When I was younger, I had excellent self-esteem about my intelligence and ability to do well in school because I had volumes of success in academics. I had very poor self-esteem in regards to my appearance because I’d been told I looked like a monkey and was a four on a scale of one to ten.
Experience taught me that what others think of my appearance has absolute nothing to do with my value as a human, my capacity to be loved or my ability to be happy.
But those are lessons I learned from decades of life experience. Katherine Webb doesn’t have that yet.
Instead, she is surrounded by people who put an inordinate value on appearance. People who coach her that plastering on makeup to cover a skin condition is essential. People who have convinced her that fitness means being skinny enough to meet society’s standards for wearing a bikini. People who equate being called beautiful with being accepted.
Maybe I’m being a bit judgmental because I was raised to never rely on my appearances for anything. Sometimes that message was delivered in a subtle manner as my mother never bought fashion magazines nor wore makeup. At other times, the message was delivered loud and clear – like the time she told me that I was lucky to be smart rather than pretty. And even though those words hurt at the time, they also held a great deal of wisdom.
When you can’t rely on your appearance open doors for you, you develop other skill sets. And those achievements and successes are what truly build self-esteem.
There is nothing wrong with being beautiful, but there is everything wrong when women allow it to define them.
And that’s the problem with pretty.