Gender Government History Personal Essays Politics Women

The Ginsburg Vacancy

I wrote this with my friend and author, Kathy Aspden. If you haven’t read her books, have a look. She is a great writer.

By Kathy Aspden & Christine Merser

In a speech in August 2016 in Kentucky, McConnell would say: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.”

Thirty-two Republicans put out positive statements in 2016 to support Merrick Garland’s nomination.

When McConnell stamped the it’s not happening on it all, Democrats came out full force— with words. Schumer called it a travesty, and others said the sitting president should fill the empty seat. But as in most things, Democrats had no tool in the tool box to change what Mitch chose to do. So many words, so many referenceable quotes from 2016.

Mitch broke the law. Or if you are generous and sit on the outside of liberal views, he ignored his responsibility to run hearings and put the process in place—which is his fiduciary obligation as majority leader. And so here we are, four years later, and McConnell is saying the court seat will be filled by this sitting president. Everything he said last time no longer fits into his agenda. Yet, he has no shame, no qualms, no fear in reversing what was a bad decision then.

So now, all the Dems will reverse what they said four years ago, and the Republicans will follow the pied piper of corruption and change their tone as well. Lindsay Graham is interesting. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he actually brought up this scenario in 2018 during a forum with The Atlantic, and said, “I’ll tell you this – this may make you feel better, but I really don’t care – if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.” All lies.

But this is not the time to call our people to the streets. This election will be decided by those who are already hesitating to put their toe in our waters—fearing it might look okay, but perhaps it’s boiling after all. Law and order, as an issue, is not working well for Trump, and a full-out protest will give legs and fuel the fire. And, then there is the hypocrisy of every Democrat from 2016 changing their stand when it suits them in 2020. Do we sink to the basement level that the Republicans have renovated as the penthouse? No we do not! Not on our watch.

Let’s do this with intelligence and integrity. Let them nominate some half-qualified person. Fight it on the stage during the hearings, smartly. Ted Cruz (one of the Trump short-listers) as a Supreme? Make our day.

If we do this well, we will win this election—which takes precedence over everything else right now. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death could surely give Trump what he needs to change the course of a conversation that’s currently not working for him. Let’s kick the legs out from under his potential unrighteous fury.

Oh and later, when the senate is won and the presidency has a reasonable, capable, semi-honest working body (which we’ve come to realize is the best we can hope for in government), we can up the Supreme Court seats to eleven and wave at Mitch McConnell across the aisle.

Personal Essays Women

Be Kind: I’m Over It

16710123602_81e9bfe67d_bI’ve encountered this mantra on my Instagram, Facebook, and just about everywhere:

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

At first, I embraced it. I can do more “kind.” Yep, I can be known as kind. “You know Christine Merser; she’s so kind.”


No one says that about me. But that’s not to say I don’t do kind things. Say kind things. Bleed with empathy and reach out with kindness for those in pain or less fortunate than me. I’ve done those things. Many times in my sixty-seven years. But that is not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of me. I know this because I called a few friends and asked them to quickly describe me.

Here is what I heard: “Funny.” “Smart.” “Helpful.” “Political.” One friend said, “a great driver.” Huh? No one said, “kind.”

So then I spent considerable time thinking about it. Pondering the words they used to describe me and questioning whether or not I’m a good person with those adjectives as my personality foundation. Then I second-guessed everything that I am, much of which I was born with, not that which I worked to acquire.

And, then I got angry. Defensive? Maybe, but nevertheless, I really started to look at the word “kind” and ask myself if that was a word I want in my epitaph.

Kind (adjective): Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature: “She was a good, kind woman.”

Then it hit me. Of course I am kind. I am friendly, generous, and considerate. Actually, I am those things often.

I have someone I’m very close to. He is kind. The kind of kind that suggests that if you were to ask people to describe him, they’d probably use the word “kind.” Good for him. He has accomplished great things in his life, perhaps more than I have. But they are different things.

I watched AOC’s speech on the floor of Congress yesterday. Twice. It was many things. It was inspiring. Revealing. Articulate. Powerful. It was not kind. Kind would have been ridiculous.

Kind is a tool in the toolbox. It is not the box itself. Always being kind in all circumstances is not a goal. There is a time for kindness and a time for strident confrontation. There is not kind confrontation. There should be honest confrontation. AOC did not say anything that wasn’t true or clearly her opinion over fact. It was without bitterness. It wasn’t whiny. She did not make herself a victim. If anything, she made herself a hero, the master of her own universe.

So, it’s not the word “kind” that I have an issue with; it’s the entire message, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

I think it should read, “In a world where you can be anything, be appropriate to the moment in which you are responding.”

Personal Essays Relationships Women

Mother’s Day 2020

34edb4313fd81bb294b820721b41c629I got the following email from a friend.

Did I tell you about my mom?  She uses a walker, but for some reason decided to try the tread mill at her apt building last week, hit the wrong button, sped up, she went flying, got battered, had to have eye surgery last week for a torn retina ….laugh or cry?

I read it and started laughing with the image of this older woman on a walker headed to the treadmill, and then as I thought about it more and more, I started to cry.

What possesses a woman on a walker to head to the gym in her building and get on a tread mill? I’ll tell you what. A woman that hasn’t been given anywhere else to go to celebrate who she is today, that’s who. If you are not young and in shape, you are nothing. End of that story.

I remember traveling in France with H2 (second husband) in our early years (the early 80’s). Sunday was always a long luncheon, often outside at a restaurant like Pre’ Catelan, where the meal (it was four or five courses) began at 1 and lasted until 5. What brings it to mind now is that there were French families there; four generations sometimes and the elderly people were seated next to the youngest generation and everyone hovered around those elderly people. All afternoon. They seemed to hang on their every word. I think about what I see now – in this country – and there are only those meals on major holidays, and the distance between generations has grown significantly, with little or no contact. People visit their elders in assisted living and the assisted living takes care of the contact. Even before Covid-19 there were no four or five hours meals every Sunday in a sedentary way where an older person could rule. Or at least I didn’t see them.

But now, I see pictures of people visiting the elderly and talking to them through their windows, or on Facetime in a new way. A way that recognizes there is no guarantee that the opportunity to speak to them will be there tomorrow.

So, apres Covid, maybe it will be back to basics. Family. Time together to marinate rather than regurgitate. And, as for my friend’s mother. I have thought of her often over the past few years since I heard the story. I think of how you summoned your strength and add it as inspiration for my own journey. I honor you today on Mother’s Day, and I think you are one special lady.

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.

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

Business Fashion Women

Taylor Swift’s Legs

Image-1OK, gather round. I was speaking with an intern last week whose friend works in specialty insurance. Being the curious type, I asked for more information. Here’s how that went:

“What is specialty insurance?”

“Oh, it’s when you insure something that makes you a celebrity … like Taylor Swift’s legs.”

“Taylor Swift’s legs?! Surely, you jest. Taylor Swift’s brain for writing songs, and her voice, I get — but her legs? You can’t be serious.”

I couldn’t help but think of that great scene in “Something’s Gotta Give,” in which Jack Nicholson’s character remarks on the attractiveness of Diane Sawyer’s legs, and says he can’t understand why she’s always hiding them under the desk in her job as a newscaster. Diane Keaton’s character replies, “I mean, she’s Diane Sawyer. She goes into caves in Afghanistan with a shmatte on her head. Who cares about her legs?”

The intern was serious: Her friend, who does insurance underwriting for these types of clients, defends the notion that Taylor Swift should insure her legs. Something about her concert performances …

“She can sit on a fucking stool and play the guitar; her legs have nothing to do with it!” I said, growing angrier by the second. “Call your friend, and ask him what things male celebrities insure. Ask him how much Brad Pitt’s biceps are worth!”

“You are overreacting,” the intern told me. “I’m sure Taylor’s voice is insured too.”

A day later, as we were walking together, she remarked, “I thought I should let you know that her voice is not insured.”

I just looked at her and rolled my eyes. But deep inside my soul, I recognized the awareness that there is something so very wrong with so much of what we hold valuable in this country.

Photo by the photographer, Peter Lindbergh, who recently passed away.

History Politics Women

Joe Biden & Anita Hill Hearings: Deal Breaker

download-1“Are you crazy?” I asked. “Do you know what he did during the Anita Hill hearings when he was in charge? Head. Of. The. Judiciary. Committee. Running. The Hearing. He was the guy. He was the one who seven women, in addition to Anita, petitioned to speak, as they’d had the same experience as she did. Corroborating evidence he chose to ignore. He turned them down! Have you seen the hearing tapes of how he spoke to her? Are you fucking nuts?!”

“Simmer down. I hadn’t thought about that. And, anyway, he has grown since then.”

I, of course, am the woman who remembers those hearings like they were yesterday. They were what made me a feminist. They were the first time I realized that men ran the country, and without any grace around the fact that they were representing more than their own interests. Then a few months later, the Anita Hill documentary came out, and Biden was front and center with his pants down, so to speak, and his own bias staring you in the face. Watch It.

So, Biden spoke on the issue recently. Let’s review the paragraph that makes my blood boil:

“She faced a committee that didn’t fully understand what the hell this was all about. To this day, I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved,” he said at an event in New York City honoring students who helped fight sexual violence on college campuses. “I wish I could have done something.”

You. Were. In. Charge.

She. Faced. Your. Committee.

Let me help you help yourself: here is what you should have said. “The Anita Hill hearings are the worst moment of mine in the senate. I should have allowed those other women to speak. I should have demanded that my colleagues treated her with respect. I should have treated her, and all the women she represented, with more respect. I should have spoken for her in my comments. I was an ass. I hope you will see that I have grown and am not that go-along-with-the-crowd man I clearly was back then. I apologize to all Americans for my behavior. I wish I could go back.”

Then you should have spoken up more during the Kavanaugh hearings. You should have gotten on the pulpit that your years and years of history with us as a leader of this country have given you, and you should have said how it should be done.

You will never have my vote. Unless, of course, it’s you or the orange guy, and then I will have no choice.

Health Women

Getting Old, or Should I Say Aging?

Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 10.14.57 AMA client, who is also a friend, was telling me about a trip he took with a few couples to Florida last weekend. By the time they arrived at the airport to embark on their vacation, one of the men wasn’t looking so good. He’d been in a fender bender, and said he was experiencing blurred vision among other ailments, but he insisted on boarding the plane. My friend said that as soon as they took their seats, they began calling their doctors to find out what his symptoms could mean, and texted each other throughout the flight. When they landed, he went to the emergency room and learned his symptoms were the result of a diabetic thing that he’d had no idea he had. He remained in the hospital, and that was the talk of the weekend. 
My client-friend said that when he arrived at dinner the first evening, he sat down and said, “This has taught me something: I need to get younger friends.” 
I laughed, but his declaration led to a conversation about how often health (and weather, but let’s save that for another day) permeates our conversations with those close to us these days. I’m sixty-six and have a posse of mostly women where we open our calls with what I like to call A&P’s. Aches & Pains. 
“How are you feeling?” 
“Oh no! I was hoping that was going to get better.”
“How could it get better; I need a hip replacement, but I have to get off the blood thinners first.”
“Don’t get snippy with me.”
“It’s a long walk from that restaurant to the theater. She can’t do that. We have to find something closer.”
“Let’s not do cold and warm in the same trip. I can’t handle such a large suitcase.” (Swear to GOD!)
“We have to eat early. I really can’t see to drive home after it’s dark.”
“I’ll pick you up and drop you off.”
“No, it makes me nervous when someone else drives.”
“Did you hear? Cancer. Shit. Another one.”
“Let me go to the ladies room before we leave the restaurant. It’s a 15-minute drive home; I don’t want to have to stop.” (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much!)
“Yes, I’m swimming but I am terrified about slipping when I get out. I think about it the entire time I’m doing my laps.”
“I went to the doctor. I have tinnitus.”
“What is it? Wait, don’t tell me because I’m sure I have it too and just can’t another thing to my life right now.”
“My shoulder really hurts, and now I get up twice a night to go to the bathroom and wake up another two or three times because of the shoulder. FML”
“That’s bad on so many levels. My friend had a pain in her shoulder and it was bone cancer. She’s gone. And, even if it’s not, interrupting your sleep that many times a night will take years off your life. Years I tell you.”
“I’m getting an operation on my eyes tomorrow. I have dry eye and am getting sharp pains in the back of my eyes.”
“What? Why haven’t you told me before you were having pain?”
“I sometimes forget because there are so many A&P’s to discuss. Let’s not get involved in my memory issues.”
Rarely do I have a conversation with a close friend that doesn’t include A&P’s. She vents. I vent. Then we move on to the important things we are doing in life. And we laugh a lot about the absurdity of the fact that we have become caricatures of our parents at their most irritating. We sometimes actually make decisions now based on body pains and shortcomings rather than opportunity and passion. I strive every day to remind myself to not go there. As long as we are laughing, and most of the time we are, we are safe from the demise of A&P overload.