Fashion Health

Cutting My Own Hair

bad-haircutI woke up this morning and cut my own hair. I’m not really sure why I did it, but I wanted to have short hair right now, so I got my kitchen scissors, watched a You Tube video (Liar!!!!) and cut it.

I told my daughter last night on the phone that I was going to do it and she immediately went to one of my felonies from her childhood. “Remember when you cut my hair and I looked like Jeremy Thomas and was traumatized for years!?” Whatever. Where is Jeremy Thomas now, I ask, and you worked on the Impeachment hearings for the United States of America. Who cares about your hair?!

So, I looked at the haircut in the mirror just now, which I have to say is truly awful, and I realized that one side is not the same length as the other. I looked in the mirror and said, “Look, life is not fair. Get over it.”

So, my hair will grow back, and the real question of the morning is how will our country grow back?

Books Government History Politics

Anne Frank and The CaronaVirus

lebo-room3-06012017-e1496928208671-1024x640When my daughter, about whom I am not allowed to blog, was in the eighth grade, she played Anne Frank at the Nightingale-Bamford School. Her father and I, already divorced for years, went together to opening night. I knew it would be especially poignant for him. He’d escaped the Nazis in Paris during the start of WWII. I wished his mother, who was a mentor of mine and a strong woman who lived in a time that didn’t nurture that, could have been there.

We were mesmerized. I had never seen the play but had devoured the book. At the end, all the lights went out, and our daughter’s voice penetrated the darkness with the following lines:

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals; they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

He wept openly, and I sobbed. It became a memory from our parenthood that didn’t fade with time.

A friend of mine was recently complaining about having to stay inside and going stir crazy as a result. I texted her, “I have two words: Anne Frank.” I didn’t hear from her again for a while.

Sure, this is like Anne Frank’s situation. Only not.

If Anne Frank were to be found by the Nazi “virus,” it was certain curtains — not just 2% certain.

Anne Frank had no communication with anyone other than the people who were smothering her space, and she wasn’t all that fond of most of them. Eight people. Two years. Try to imagine that.

Anne Frank couldn’t move from six o’clock in the morning until six o’clock at night — every day for two years. No earbuds. No TV. Just a few books and her thoughts, which still move me. I am grateful she wrote them down.

Anne Frank couldn’t flush the toilet. Ever.

Anne Frank didn’t have enough to eat, let alone 642 rolls of toilet paper stashed away in the basement.

Anne Frank wrote a few hundred pages in her journal. Very few of them contained complaints. And when she did complain, she expressed regret for doing so.

Here is the 411: We have to stay inside to save others’ lives, not just our own. When you break the rules because you just can’t stand it anymore, the chance that you will need to be taken care of by the health-care workers rises exponentially. Anne spent much of her time worrying about Miep Gies, the woman who was risking her life to keep Anne and her family alive. We have Mieps. The doctors and hospital workers and store workers. We need to do right by them now.

Here are some of Anne’s quotes that move me on this sunny morning in the Hamptons where I am safe and able to walk outside and see the budding spring:

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

Thank you Anne Frank. We will do better.

Food Personal Essays

Candy & The CaronaVirus

unnamedMy dear friend C. and I used to go to the candy floor at Gimbels on 86th Street once a week. Actually, the whole store was filled with candy — more candy than one could imagine. We bought it and ate it during the week and went back for more the next week. We were in our early twenties, each running around at our first job and living together in an apartment. We painted our living room Grecian Rose, which was great until we saw it from the street at night and realized our apartment looked like a bordello. Life was good.

Over the years, C continued on the candy quest and never gained weight, which is really not a very BFF thing to do, but we still talk “candy,” especially in times of trouble. When I lived on the Cape, she would come once a year to go to Chatham Candy Manor in Chatham to stock up. Sometimes I would make a run for her and then meet her in New York City.

We have discussed old age together, and one of her criteria is that we must live near a good candy store. I don’t think that’s unusual at all, although I need an indoor pool that isn’t at the YMCA, and I still weigh dozens of pounds more than she does. Life is many things; unfair is one of them.

WWII_imageI sent her the article this morning that said that people are not buying kale and quinoa anymore; they are buying Oreos and chips. And in return, she sent me the announcement from See’s Candies in Los Angeles that they are closing all their stores. I would challenge her notion that See’s is on par with Chatham Candy Manor, but we are trying not to argue during this stressful time. Perspective. Anyway, See’s is 99 years old and has never before closed except during WWII, when they would shutter their doors only if they didn’t have the ingredients they needed.

Here is our back-and-forth:

C: So, even health nuts have moved to junk?

Me: Finally, they’ve become our people.

C: Kale and quinoa have always been questionable. I have a bag of Oreos in the freezer for emergencies.

Me: I feel strongly that Hydrox are infinitely better than Oreos. I have no sweets here. (This is true.)

C: I agree, but they are hard to find. Birthday Cake Oreos are fantastic!

She went on to assure me she’d stocked up last week. She went to See’s and wore her face mask. We determined that perhaps candy is an essential need, and the candy stores should be open, like pharmacies. While we do recognize that they aren’t truly “essential,” we will always appreciate that candy is part of our 45-year shared history. Cathryn’s husband, Victor, holds our obsession against us, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the prenup that he can’t say anything about it. And we are both grateful that he has no interest in our candy, which makes us like him all the more.

P.S. You remember C.; she is the one who keeps real maple syrup in her car in case she decides to stop at IHOP, where they don’t always have it. She is very organized.


Politics Women

Harvey Weinstein: Accomplices and Accessories

9BF30C04-9BC5-460C-9661-1A339F2164C3-7018-000004ECB368A550I realize that we should take a moment to pause and recognize that twenty years ago, Harvey Weinstein would not have been given a sentence of 23 years — no way, no how. We can do that, sit and marvel at the new world of appreciation for what countless women must have gone through, more women than we will ever know. And I want to do that. I want to think about the fact that he, a man who clearly, based on his statement in court, still doesn’t get what he did or how very evil it (and he) was (and is). My mind, however, wanders to something I think is much larger than Harvey: the evil titular head of the pyramid scheme he had of preying on women and taking their souls, not their money, like Maddoff, but their joy and their future and their sense of well-being — which, in my mind, is worth more than all the gold in the land anyway.

If you know someone is planning a murder, and they go through with it, you go on trial too. It’s called being an accomplice. The word accomplice has a short, simple definition per Merriam-Webster: Accomplice: noun, “one associated with another, especially in wrongdoing.” Cornell Law School defines what the courts look at around accomplices and their liability: “A person who knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally gives assistance to another in (or in some cases, fails to prevent another from) the commission of a crime. An accomplice is criminally liable to the same extent as the principal. An accomplice, unlike an accessory, is typically present when the crime is committed.”

If they were not accomplices, were they accessories? The definition of accessory per Cornell Law School is as follows: “Someone aiding in or contributing to the commission or concealment of a felony, e.g., by assisting in planning or encouraging another to commit a crime (an accessory before the fact) or by helping another escape arrest or punishment (an accessory after the fact).”

So, since Weinstein was found guilty, I think there are others who need to be arrested, others who helped him carry out his crime wave of tearing apart the fiber of my gender sisters. 

Let’s take a look.

There are the male and female assistants who knew exactly what happened when they told people Harvey wanted to meet with them about a film. They led the women to the slaughter and shut the door after letting them in. They knew. They admit that they knew. They were accomplices.

There is the board, and particularly Harvey’s brother, Bob, who knew that they were paying out millions of dollars to cover up and intimate those who he preyed upon. They knew. They OK’d the money, and they looked the other way. They were accomplices/accessories. 

There was also the PR/investigative companies he used to gather dirt on those women who he betrayed and attacked, and they knew why they were doing what they were doing. They were accomplices/accessories. 

If we are to truly change the culture we have fed for generations, we must hold the accomplices/accessories accountable for their actions. They all took action to aid and abet Harvey. (I have a feeling no one will be naming their son Harvey for a while. Note to self: Check and see how many Harveys enter the world over the coming decade.) They need to be charged. 

A man was put to death last week for being present when his fellow robber shot a police officer. He didn’t pull the trigger; he was just there, present, when it happened. If he received the punishment of death for his complicity in the event, it seems to me that those who helped Harvey do this heinous thing over and over and over again for decades should also be held accountable. 

So, sisters and fellow citizens, the job is not done. The push is now on. 

Movies & TV Women

Favorite Feminist Disney Character: Cruella De Vil

2015-02-03-Cruella6-thumbWhenever I’m asked my favorite feminist Disney character, I don’t waver. “Why, it’s Cruella de Vil,” I reply without hesitation.

I was 8 years old when “101 Dalmatians” was released. I felt relief when I saw her on the screen.

Cinderella made me anxious. I couldn’t see an ounce of myself in her. Why would she not fight back? Why was she so nice to such awful people? And Bambi? Let’s not even go there. Snow White? How come she had to do all the work for so many of them? And her hair? It wasn’t like mine — perfectly coiffed even after she had been struggling in the woods all that time? Those female characters didn’t reflect my sense of self at all, and if anything, they made me doubt myself.

I stood up to the boys in the playground and insisted they let me play dodgeball with them. My hair had cowlicks in a few unfortunate places, and I had blue glasses with rhinestones, which seemed like a good choice in the store, but not so much when I hit the playground. I had skinned knees and eczema, which I am convinced was caused by my anxiety based on the female characters that stared me down from the enormous cinema screens and made me feel bad about myself. And let’s not even speak about the ridiculous Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”! Seriously?!

So imagine my surprise when Cruella de Vil came to me in “101 Dalmatians”: disheveled hair flying out behind her, careening this side of out of control through the streets with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, furious when she didn’t get her way. I loved her. My friends and I were talking about what we would name our daughters when we had them after marrying some “Prince Charming” or another (I think we can all agree on the misnomer of that myth), and I said, “Cruella. I will name my daughter Cruella.” They thought I was nuts, and clearly, I came to my senses years later when I named my daughter Sarah, but I really liked that she was authentically herself. She made me less ashamed of whom I sometimes felt I was inside. And she was funny; at least, I thought she was. And I never believed she would have all those puppies killed for a coat, and frankly, with the number of fur coats on the women who came to our house for Saturday night dinner parties, I wasn’t really aware that it was an issue.

But the history of the creation of Cruella is what is important too. She was a real character, unlike Snow White or Cinderella.

“Cruella was the creation of Marc Davis. Davis wanted her to be a contemporary woman, and he began searching for someone in the real world whom he could then use as the model for this fiendish fashion maven. And he eventually found her at a cocktail party that he and his wife Alice attended in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Now, because this woman was a family acquaintance (and, more importantly, because her children are still alive, and let’s face it, no one would ever want to hear that their mother’s awful behavior at a cocktail party over 50 years ago served as the inspiration for the way Cruella de Vil moves and behaves), the Davises have never revealed the name of this woman. However, given that Davis’ original concept sketches for Cruella showed her to be a far more attractive woman … it’s often been suggested that Davis was inspired by one of the wives of the other artists and animators he worked directly with at Disney. But the inspiration for Cruella came from within the Davis family’s very small circle of friends.

That said, in order to further obscure the identity of the acquaintance who inspired the flamboyant way that Cruella moves and acts, Davis had veteran character actress Mary Wickes come in to shoot some live-action reference footage for the film. And a lot of the comic choices that Wickes made Davis then incorporated in Cruella.

But as to who the family friend was who served as the inspiration for this Disney villain, Davis took this secret to the grave when he passed in January 2000. And while his wife Alice is still with us, she honors her husband’s wishes and, to this day, has not revealed who the real-life inspiration for Cruella de Vil is or was.” Excerpt from Huffington Post.

Let’s face it, ladies; we all work hard to overcome that which is inside us that doesn’t sing to our better angels. I remember my therapist (I’ve mentioned him before; he was blind and I realize now that seeing a blind therapist to see yourself more clearly has some real roadblocks) asking me, “When are you going to start behaving the way you want to be remembered?” It was a pivotal moment in my personal quest for greatness, although not particularly helpful in unraveling the complexity of the family in which I grew up and their effect on my personality.

I try every day to behave the way I want to be remembered. But it was Cruella that enabled me to look in the mirror and see that we all have the “bad girl” inside us — or at least Ido, and I will own her. I will apologize when she is unchecked and shows me my worst self. I will see her coming to the doorway of my life, and shut the door in her face when I can. And, I get to control her as long as I don’t pretend she isn’t there. So here’s to Cruella de Vil, my first heroine. And as for Cinderella and Snow White? Bite me, ladies.

Government History Politics Women

Margaret Chase Smith: Saving the Republic from the Senate Floor

Margaret Chase Smith. You might never have heard her name, but it’s certainly not because she doesn’t deserve to have you do so. She was the first woman voted in as a senator who wasn’t an appointment or a widow filling her husband’s seat. But it’s not that for which we should resurrect her now. It’s because she was a Republican from Maine. Republicans from Maine are known to be individualistic in their approach to all things — or, at least, they were until Susan Collins began to furrow her brow with concern and then do exactly as she is told by Trump and his enablers.
It was June 1, 1950, and Margaret was a freshman senator. She kept waiting for those who were more senior than she to stand up to Senator McCarthy, and when they didn’t, she decided she needed to do so herself. She titled her speech “Declaration of Conscience.” She presented it on the Senate floor, and it was signed by six other Republican senators.

Following is the Senate website’s description of what happened:

Four months earlier, McCarthy had rocketed to national attention. In a well-publicized speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, he claimed to possess the names of 205 card-carrying communists in the State Department. Smith, like many of her colleagues, shared McCarthy’s concerns about communist subversion, but she grew skeptical when he repeatedly ignored her requests for evidence to back-up his accusations. “It was then,” she recalled, “that I began to wonder about the validity… and fairness of Joseph McCarthy’s charges.”

At first, Smith hesitated to speak. “I was a freshman Senator,” she explained, “and in those days, freshman Senators were to be seen and not heard.” She hoped a senior member would take the lead. “This great psychological fear…spread to the Senate,” she noted, “where a considerable amount of mental paralysis and muteness set in for fear of offending McCarthy.” As the weeks passed, Smith grew increasingly angry with McCarthy’s attacks and his defamation of individuals she considered above suspicion. Bowing to Senate rules on comity, Smith chose not to attack McCarthy, but to denounce the tactics that were becoming known as “McCarthyism.”

“Mr. President,” she began, “I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition…. The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body…. But recently that deliberative character has…been debased to…a forum of hate and character assassination.” In her 15-minute address, delivered as McCarthy looked on, Smith endorsed every American’s right to criticize, to protest, and to hold unpopular beliefs. “Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America,” she complained. “It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.” She asked her fellow Republicans not to ride to political victory on the “Four Horsemen of Calumny–Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.” As she concluded, Smith introduced a statement signed by herself and six other Republican senators–her “Declaration of Conscience.”

I am so proud to be a woman these days. So proud. And, I ask now, what woman Republican will present her own declaration of conscience in the coming days? Which of you will set aside your personal job security to do the right thing? Will it be you, Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee? You, Susan Collins from Maine? You, Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia? Joni Ernst from Iowa, how about you? Deb Fischer from my alma mater, Nebraska? Cindy Hyde-Smith from Mississippi? Martha McSally from Arizona (unlikely)? Or Lisa Murkowski (I’m betting on you, girlfriend)? Who among you will join Margaret Chase Smith — who helped save the republic from sure ruin 70 years ago — as a woman for the ages? It’s a generation later, and it’s on you.

Here is a video of a young lady presenting Margaret’s speech. Take the two minutes to watch it. It will ring so very true for this moment in time.

Business Financial Government Politics

White Men Over 50: Not So Much

trumpdonald_bill_signing_021417gettyI jokingly tell my friends that I am not a fan of white men over the age of 50. When I say this to a white man over 50, I sometimes add the caveat, “except for you, of course.” But that’s sometimes, not always. I hate this new piece of me that is filled with rage when I observe a sea of white men over the age of 50 standing behind Donald Trump’s desk while he signs something or other that will take away my personal rights or speed up the already-out-of-control issues around global warming, or as he just sits there holding up his megalomaniacal large, scary signature on a document that 9 out of 10 times is in the interest of no one other than his rich, white, male friends over the age of 50.

But it’s not just him.

There’s Mitch McConnell. There’s Lindsey Graham. There’s the huge number of white, male, age 50-plus GOP lawmakers in Washington. What do the women in your life say when you come home at night? I wonder as I watch them make statements they know are lies and vote in the interest of one man who never has our country’s best interest at heart. I wonder what I would say if one of them was my brother, husband, or father. I write letters to them in my head at night, at 2 in the morning, when I’m terrified and hoping that this is all a nightmare from which I will awaken next November.

Let’s look at others outside of government, but interestingly enough, in business — as in the business of billionaires. Dennis Muilenburg was just fired from Boeing after a career of thirty years building an airplane he knew was unsafe and which killed hundreds of humans. He created a toxic culture for the safety of millions of fliers, and that’s to say nothing of the culture of deceit, distain for others, and lies for which he’s also responsible. This man will walk away with $62 million … but “none of his salary or bonus for the last year.” You can’t make this up. The man belongs in jail, as did Roger Ailes, who also walked away with tens of millions of dollars, while some of the women who came forward were fired and haven’t worked since.

Look, I’m not saying my gender is flawless — not by any means. I think Sheryl Sandberg is close to belonging in jail and certainly responsible for the attacks on George Soros and others who threatened the undeserved sanctity of Facebook. I take it back; she definitely belongs in jail. But by sheer numbers, there is an inordinate number of white men over the age of 50 who are ruining so much more than our planet. They are ruining the soul of our country. So while I will try my hardest not to toss them all into one group, and instead, look at them individually … in the dead of night, at 2 in the morning, 99% of them will continue to appear white, male, and over 50.

Personal Essays

Don Imus Died

don-imus-1024x683Imus died today. He was a complex man who never, ever denied that his complexity and inappropriate behavior was anything other than awful, and not representative of his true beliefs.

I was twenty-five and worked at Vincent Andrews Management Corporation, which managed famous people. Don Imus was one of my accounts, though he wasn’t the richest or the most famous of our clients. (Butchie Revson, the founder’s son, and Rose Mary Woods — yes, the Rose Mary who deleted the tape and, I believe, would have done it again — were also in the mix). Anyway, Imus had a choice. Since he’d avoided paying taxes for years, the IRS told him to have VAMC manage his money and pay the back taxes … or he could do his show from the clinker. The problem was that I was the one who had to walk from the office at 52nd and Madison to Rockefeller Center to bring him checks to sign along with his allowance, about which he was always embittered.

I would show up, and during the commercial break, he would sign the checks and then complain about me as I left. He would comment about my not giving him the money he needed to eat or buy camera equipment (he was a wonderful photographer), and then he would tell people that someone should push me in front of a cab as I left Rockefeller Center. He would even describe to them what I was wearing until I got smart, removing my coat in the waiting area and putting it back on before leaving. More than once people asked me if I was the Chris who was holding back Imus’ money, and I would act confused.

Then I had an operation on my head, and for a month, I was bandaged. I’d had a tumor removed, and you’d think that as a result, he would have taken some kind of care, but it gave him a perfect opportunity to act even worse. “I am pretty sure they gave her a lobotomy,” he’d say. “If you can believe it, they removed part of her brain, and now she can’t remember numbers over five.” I didn’t really mind that much, and there was something about him that made it all OK. I knew he didn’t mean anything by it and was just doing his Howard Stern shtick years before Stern came on the scene.

Here is the thing: the man was in constant pain. Not physical, although as the years went by, that came too, but you could see the personal pain he carried from a past that had somehow damaged his soul. So when he asked me after my head surgery, “Are you OK?” I knew he meant it more than any of the others at work with whom I lunched daily. When he looked me in the eye, he meant it. And, if he thought for a single minute I couldn’t take what he dished out, he wouldn’t have given it to me.
I’m not saying that what he said to me — and others — over the years was OK. I’m certainly not. I’m saying that the minute he said something that caused pain to others, and then realized what he’d done, he was truly sorry. And that matters to me.

I miss his show. He was unafraid to ask follow-up questions, and I have wondered numerous times over the last few years whether, if he were still doing what is now “Morning Joe,” there would be someone else in the White House. He would never, never, never do what Mika and Joe do for ratings, or for anything else. And his dislike for Hillary would not have taken precedence over his dislike for everything Trump stands for. I just wonder. Oh, and for the record, I do not think he was a racist, although when Obama said his daughters were damaged by the remark that took him off the air, I knew, as did he, that he had gone too far.

I wish him peace in death that he never had in life, and I will remember the good in him — the brilliant, good man who looked at each person equally and questioned them all with abandon.

Government Politics

No Cause for Celebration: Nixon & Trump

166995-ajhbascasdI went to dinner tonight with some politically like-minded friends who have bemoaned the state of the union with me these past few years as we have watched our country’s divide grow larger than the Rio Grande and some of our family, friends, and neighbors become strangers to us.

One woman told me at dinner that she wept this morning when she saw the news. It wasn’t because she was happy about what might be the turning point in what kind of person America is willing to accept as our leader and commander in chief, but because this is an extremely dark moment in history, and there is no celebration for her in any of it.

I should mention that she is a generation younger than me; I am sixty-six, and she just turned fifty.

I have been thinking a lot lately about August 8, 1974, when Richard Nixon stood before the nation and with shame and awkward prose, resigned in disgrace. I have been contemplating it a lot. I was a sophomore at the University of Nebraska, and I had worked the summer before on the Nixon campaign. I celebrated his win and the first vote I’d ever cast in a presidential election.

That summer of 1974, I was working at a resort in the Catskills called Crystal Lake Lodge. Think “Dirty Dancing,” and you will be there. There was even a dance competition each week, and another server and I did the Lindy as people cheered. These people were liberal Jews from New York City, who had held rallies at Crystal Lake Lodge for the Rosenbergs twenty years earlier in the very hall where the television was set up for us all to watch Nixon walk away from office with his tail between his legs.

The entire group of hotel patrons, owners, and restaurant servers cheered after every sentence while I sobbed quietly in the back. I viewed my country with reverence, with such respect and awe that it was inconceivable to me that this moment had come — that a president of the United States would resign or go to jail. I was devastated. I remember that night like it was yesterday. I still mourn the loss of my glorious red, white, and blue bubble within which I’d happily lived out all my days leading up to that one: The joy I’d felt of driving around town with three girlfriends in my Cougar XR7 with the top down when the United States landed on the moon, feeling like there were no boundaries our great nation couldn’t break. The elation I’d felt that I was alive to see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tell all that he had been to the mountaintop and that he could see our future. The satisfaction I’d felt that fellow students rode buses and got beaten up because white is not always right. God, I was proud until that moment. The way I felt before August 8, 1974, was never the same after that day.

Tonight I joined my amazingly brilliant and astute friends in recognizing that nothing that happens over the coming months — even if we get what we want, and this mockery of a president resigns — is cause for celebration. We have lost so much:

  • Lifelong servants to government have been abused or sold their souls after decades of perfect attendance in doing what is right for the good of our country.
  • Hatred between friends has grown. I have lost a number of friends, none of whom I feel I ever knew — some because of the almighty dollar and some because they don’t really believe that all men are created equal. I hadn’t seen that those were their beliefs … or I hadn’t wanted to see it.
  • My government and my fellow Americans have treated families as poorly as slaves were treated hundreds of years ago.
  • Catastrophic climate damage has gone unchecked because my fellow Americans care more about their money than their grandchildren’s future.

So even if this is the tipping point when 45% of my fellow citizens decide they have had enough, and the numbers finally change, we have not gained anything. We have lost so much that will possibly never be recovered.

That said, I hope that tonight our president will sleep as poorly as I have for the last three years, and that he’ll do so again every night until he is finally out of office. God bless America.

News Politics Women

Felicity Huffman Gets 14 Days. Justice or Entitlement?

190913140254-02-felicity-huffman-court-arrival-0913-large-169Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison and ordered to pay a $30,000 fine.

Here is the thing. Part of the divide in this country is the belief by the average American that the accountability for entitled behavior by the privileged rich doesn’t at all correspond to the accountability they have to contend with when they break the law. That money renders people immune to punishment.

This reaction signifies the growing anger between the haves and the have-nots.

Does Huffman truly understand and accept responsibility for what she did? If so, she should have mentioned those students who deserved the place her daughter was awarded through her bribery. Huffman’s actions took away the path to a better life from someone who deserved it and worked hard to earn it. In my opinion, her letter (shown below), is an extension of the idea that her lame reason for doing what she did is “understandable.”

On the other hand, if I seek to understand rather than be understood, to give her a year in prison for what is not really a danger to anyone would be a message to the rich, rather than just a sentence.

Let’s try to remember that her career is over. And wherever she goes for the rest of her life, because of her celebrity, everyone will be reminded of her lack of moral fiber and her belief that the ends justify the means, which they don’t.

So, as with many things, it’s more complicated than a simple “She got away with murder” or “The government has wasted way too many resources on this.”

Here is Huffman’s letter to the judge in full:

Dear Judge Talwani,

Thank you for the opportunity of writing this letter to you. Although I know I will have the chance to address you at my sentencing, I would like to offer you a broader perspective and insight into who I am as a person and a parent.

But first let me say, I am concerned that in giving you context it will seem like I am offering you a justification. Please, let me be very clear; I know there is no justification for what I have done. Yes, there is a bigger picture, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because I could have said “No” to cheating on the SAT scores. I unequivocally take complete responsibility for my actions and will respectfully accept whatever punishment the court deems appropriate.

‘I keep asking myself, why did I do this?Why did I say yes to a scheme of breaking the law and compromising my integrity? What interior forces drove me to do it?’

I keep asking myself, why did I do this? Why did I say yes to a scheme of breaking the law and compromising my integrity? What interior forces drove me to do it? How could I abandon my own moral compass and common sense? Those questions require a somewhat longer answer which involve both factual and personal responses. I will attempt to give you an insight into both.

The factual story is that I didn’t go shopping for a college counselor to find out how to rig a SAT score. I didn’t even know such a scheme existed. I hired a counselor for guidance and expertise on how to apply to colleges as successfully as possible for my daughter, Sophia.

I have been seeking advice, asking doctors, and trusting experts to help me with Sophia since she was 4 years old when it became clear to me that she struggled with everyday activities. At this age, she couldn’t even walk across a lawn in bare feet without flipping out. Tags in her shirt would cause a 20-minute meltdown. She didn’t know how to physically play with other kids, and most often she couldn’t sleep. Her nursery school recommended Occupational Therapy. As Sophia began to work with the therapists, I came to understand that she had Sensory Modulation Issues. At the time, I had no idea what that was, but basically, she would under or over respond to the outside world and couldn’t regulate herself. When she was eight years old, her school recommended she get tested by a neuropsychologist. She was diagnosed with learning disabilities, and she has been retested every three years as was recommended. I am grateful to this day for all the advice, help and expertise that we were fortunate to get, but these things did become a big part of my parenting and, regrettably, I came to rely on them too much. They came to outweigh my maternal instincts and eventually, in point of fact, my moral compass.

‘My own fears and lack of confidence, combined with a daughter who has learning disabilities often made me insecure and feel highly anxious from the beginning.’

In High School my daughter went to a public school for the performing arts. At this school, which remains very underfunded, there is one college counselor for 300 students. many mothers, whose children had graduated, warned me not to leave the college process in the hands of the administration as they were overworked and understaffed. They advised me that a private college counselor was a vital necessity and we were fortunate to be able to afford one. Mr. Singer was recommended as one of the best experts in LA, and I was told I would be lucky if I could get him to sign on to help me with Sophia. I came to think this was particularly important given Sophia’s learning challenges.

I worked with Mr. Singer legitimately for a year. I also engaged him for my second daughter, Georgia, who also has serious learning disabilities, so she could benefit from his expertise. I was relieved that he seemed so good at his job, was so confident and knowledgeable. Sophia was passionate about majoring in theater, but over time, Mr. Singer told me that her test scores were too low and, if her math SAT scores didn’t rise dramatically, none of the colleges she was interested in would even consider her auditions.

I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. This sounds hollow now, but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theater or film wouldn’t depend on her math skills. I didn’t want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning and doing what she loves because she can’t do math.

‘I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor.’

After nearly a year of working with Mr. Singer and his tutors, he told me it wasn’t enough. Sophia’s math scores were not measuring up. We still had a serious problem and, according to him, he had the solution. He told me, “We will make sure she gets the scores she needs,” by having a proctor bump up her scores after she takes the test. Sophia would never know and then she could, “Concentrate on what really matters: her grades and her auditions.” He said he did it for many of his students.

I was shocked that such a thing existed and after he made the initial suggestion, it remained on the table. I couldn’t make up my mind for six weeks. I kept going back and forth while avoiding a final decision. I felt an urgency which built to a sense of panic that there was this huge obstacle in the way that needed to be fixed for my daughter’s sake. As warped as this sounds now, I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting.

To my utter shame, I finally agreed to cheating on Sophia’s SAT scores, and also considered doing the same thing for Georgia. But the decision haunted me terribly; I knew it was not right. I finally came to my senses and told Mr. Singer to stop the process for Georgia.

Here is the personal side of my story. I find Motherhood bewildering. From the moment, my children were born I worried that they got me as a Mother. I so desperately wanted to do it right and was so deathly afraid of doing it wrong. My own fears and lack of confidence, combined with a daughter who has learning disabilities often made me insecure and feel highly anxious from the beginning. I was always searching for the right book or the right piece of advice that would help me help my daughters or keep me from making the mistakes that might damage their lives.

‘In my blind panic, I have done the exact thing that I was desperate to avoid. I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity.’

In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter, and failed my family. When my daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face, “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?” I had no adequate answer for her. I could only say, “I am sorry. I was frightened and I was stupid.” In my blind panic, I have done the exact thing that I was desperate to avoid. I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity.

I don’t write this letter to you in any way to justify my wrongdoing, my guilt or to avoid conscious acceptance of the consequences. I am writing you to shed light on how I finally got to the day when I said “Yes” to this scheme.

I have a deep and abiding shame over what I have done. Shame and regret that I will carry for the rest of my life. It is right that I should carry this burden and use it as fuel for change in my own life and hopefully it will be a cautionary tale for my daughters and the community.

As painful as this has been, I am truly grateful for the lessons I have learned and for the opportunity to change and live more honestly. I am now focusing on repairing my relationship with my daughter, my family and making amends to my community.

Thank you for reading my letter. I appreciate the opportunity to explain, but not excuse what happened.


Felicity Huffman