Saturday, June 27, 2009

affairs, MJ and pep talks, oh my!

I. John Dickerson had an interesting piece in Slate this week about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. I'm as jaded as anybody when it comes to politicians and affairs...at least, I thought I was, until the John Edwards story broke a while back. Call me naive but I was genuinely shocked and sincerely sad/disappointed. Sure, everyone else in national politics cheats on their wife, but JOHN EDWARDS? The handsome, polite, every-soccer-mom-had-a-swoony-celeb-crush-on-him advocate for the poor who lost his son in a car accident and has a smart, normal, not-size-2 wife and now has a couple of cute little kids and came from really humble beginnings? It really surprised me a) that he had an affair and b) that I was so affected by it.
Anyway, with the recent Sens. Ensign and Sanford (and everyone else) stuff it's easy to make jokes about politicians and affairs and the bizarre number of "family values" spokespeople who keep being destroyed by personal scandal. And I definitely like to make mean jokes. But this piece just made me think a bit about how people are people, even if they're famous. A relevant excerpt from the Slate article:
The snap judgments failed to acknowledge a grain of the fundamental human carnage we were witnessing. You can laugh at Sanford, as you can laugh at a video of a wrecked Amy Winehouse falling all over her house. But at some point, even though they did it to themselves, you have to feel sorry for them as human beings. You can do that, I think, and not be a fan of adultery or drug use.
Sometimes I just want to take a second and feel bad for people, even famous people who are obviously vulnerable and human and maybe slightly crazy. I mean, I'm crazy too, it's just not in the tabloids and I don't have to give a press conference explaining my crazy to the unforgiving masses waiting to twitter about it. Aren't you kind of crazy too? Maybe it's partially that I have the public figure/private figure NYT v. Sullivan defamation and libel stuff on my mind (thanks, First Amendment). Maybe it's that with the scandals and the King-o-Pop, there are a lot of (often hilarious) harsh jokes about those whose lives just ended or are falling apart. But on some level the bleeding heart in me thinks geez, we ARE all brothers and sisters, and I can and do and should feel bad for the poor Sanford family (even the dad who caused this mess) just like I can feel bad for poor crazy Michael and his nightmare of a childhood.
But really, I appreciated John Dickerson's article and the fact that a regular reporter would say "Back the train up, this is a PERSON," which is probably not easy in the world of journalism when it's about juicy headlines and skewering the vulnerable and the flawed. Anyway, I'm glad I ran into it and it caused me to really reflect on that for a while and want to hug everyone.

II. On a completely unrelated note, I ran into this article about supporting your kids' dreams a while ago. Maybe it was even on your blog! I can't remember. But it's given me a lot to think about, and I like it. Here's how it starts:
"I've changed my mind," said my 13-year-old daughter, Francie. "I don't want to be a lawyer anymore. I want to be in the FBI." I tried to imagine my daughter's bespectacled face staring back at me from the climbing wall at Quantico, but the image didn't come easily.
Still, I replied, "How cool is that?"
"Yeah," Francie said, arms folded in satisfaction. "It's going to be good."
I hope it is. I hope that her life turns out absolutely according to her dreams. If she doesn't quite hit the bull's-eye, then she'll still have aimed in the right direction.
Go read it and come back and tell me what you think, okay? We can have an internet book, I mean, article club about it. I like the idea of just being in someone's corner, not just with your kid but in life. If my kid wants to be an astronaut, she can be an astronaut. If my buddy sincerely wants to be a trash collector, she'll be the best damn trash collector around. Seriously. Who am I to pee on someone else's dreams!? There are plenty of Debbie Downers in the world and the last thing any of us need is a PARENT or FRIEND to be our Debbie. I like that when I think up something ("I want to start my own firm! No, I want to go back to school! No, I want to be a corporate bastard! No, I want to start an on-ramping program! No, I want to work on immigration! No, I want to build a barn and save up for a pony!"), my hub or mother or friend will often say, "Ooh, now you're thinking. You'd be good at that. We could make it work." If it's a dumb unworkable idea, I'll figure it out soon enough. It's just really nice and important to have someone that says "Hell yeah!" when you have an idea. What do you think?

p.s. If you need a pep talk from me, just let me know. I will happily counteract the bummer patrols in your life because guess what? You can do whatever you want.

8 comments:

Erin said...

your second point reminded me of a book that i read this very day ... i won't go into the details or give too much of the lead-up to this passage, but it's at the end of the phantom tollbooth, where the king and mathematecian tell milo, "as you've discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible." and i thought about how important it is to let kids believe that anything is possible (and believe it ourselves).

so i'm looking forward to reading that article! and you should read the phantom tollbooth if you haven't already, and read it again if you have! i cried.

Sara said...

I wish you were here so you could give me a pep talk, and then I could turn around and give you one!

As a random f.y.i., apparently I live a block away from the Jackson family compound where the whole family is hanging this week. Streets are closed, the helicopters are buzzing around and there are paparazzi and nosy people out the wazoo - taking my dog for a walk has become a hassle. I think I have a whole new appreciate that is the crazy of some people's lives.

b. said...

I thought a lot of things when I learned of MJ's death...at the forefront was:
he has three little kids who adore him.

I hear you on the cheerleader part. It's hard, though.

SO said...

Girl you rock at pep talks! I love that story. I love my mom but she was one who would squelch my dreams. I wanted to be a truck driver and a cop or a PI when I was younger. She discouraged me from those and encouraged me to become a SAHM. I even took my classes in college to help me be better prepared for marriage and family.

While I can see my mom's reasoning behind her guidance I really would have loved to have her say. "You would make a great truck driver!" My son Jona wants to go into the air force. This is not something I really like nor am I certain that he will even be eligible for the military because of his autism. I don't discourage it. We talk about what he needs to do to get to where he want's to be.

As for the first part of the post. I do feel sorry for those people whose lives are shattered and who have to go through it publicly. It must be incredibly hard. There is no way I would want to be in their shoes. Not at all. Like you said I have my own brand of crazy it's just not put under the microscope.

Rachel said...

Definitely need a pep talk. Can't handle the bar "feedback." Especially now that I've discovered there are so many fry sauce haters, and as a result, very few people that I can apparently trust.

~j. said...

When I was 15, a church leader gave a lesson on what to do to prepare for our lives, our Careers In The Home. I announced (to her and the other MiaMaid) that I was going to be on Broadway. "Oh, Jenny. Be serious." She didn't know that I was being recruited by a few institutions in The City, and she had never been to one of my performances.

I never went to Broadway. Never even tried. I've wondered what it would have been like, and to be honest, I love my In The Home Career. But you can bet that when I was the one to give that same lesson to the 16 & 17 year old girls, I ABSOLUTELY encouraged the girl who dreams of being the Christine to her Phantom, the girl who will be a veterinarian, the girl who sees herself studying microbiology and then continuing on to persue her MD, the girl who wants to be a stay-at-home-mama like myself, and the girl knows that more than anything she just wants to go to Europe and maybe Morocco. I believe in Being In Their Corner.

Mrs. Clark said...

Whew. I read the article, and unfortunately, it's too late for me: I admit that I did rain on my kids' parades (a little). My son is an artist, and he is now studying creative advertising, which I encouraged. My older daughter went to school to be a filmmaker, and she quit but still seems to want to move in that direction. My youngest is a brilliantly talented actress and singer. She has looks and charisma too, but she is, frankly, too lazy to discipline herself and her voice, so she's not studying that in college. She wants to be a personal trainer/aerobics instructor. That's fine with me, but I would have preferred she stick with her original major and be an American Sign Language interpreter.

I was never steered into any particular field as a kid--my parents always pushed college. I wanted to be an actress or a writer since I was a little girl. My dad was dead-set against me even doing occasional modeling when I was a child (I lived in L.A., so it was available). I saw a lot of sad, never-going-to-make-it cases at BYU in the drama department, as I pursued my degree in broadcast journalism. 'Course, I didn't exactly get Jane Pauley's job, either.

My cousin majored in musical theatre at UC San Francisco. She was a store manager for many years, then went back to school to be a nurse, which she is doing today as well as raising two little boys.

Hard to say. Fortunately, we have the blessing of seeking the spirit in the ways we guide our kids. I do think, however, that as they move through high school they should have at least one foot on the ground in reality. Watch the auditions on American Idol and you will see how many people are delusional about their dreams and abilities.

This doesn't mean you pooh-pooh your kids' ideas--certainly not. And it doesn't mean every boy should be steered to law or medical school and every girl to housewifery. Keeping an open mind and helping them find their passion is what I tried to do.

Brooke said...

#1 You just made me really excited for law school. I already LOVE reading the fine print so I can't even imagine how much better it will be when I actually understand it! And how cool is it that you can get even MORE enjoyment out of The Office if you're a law student?

#2 CONGRATS ON SURVIVING THE MOVE!!

#3 I've really loved reading Gov. Sanford's wife's responses. They are real, honest and completely appropriate. I hope I can be as classy in my private life as she has been in her public one. Missionaries pray for people they barely know all the time ... we can do the same for celebrities, right? Can't hurt I guess.