vendredi, avril 13, 2007

The price of fame

I have a long time dream in which I become famous as an....well, suffice it to say I'm not going to go into details right now.

Some reasons?

A. My fantasy is pretty ambitious (and no, guys, it's not becoming a dominatrix, what's up with that one)?
B. It's young people who are supposed to have aspirations, not middle-aged boomers like me
C. I'm so humble (perhaps I could re-phrase this- I wish to be humble, or occasionally have thought of the word humble...or once said hello to a humble person)?
D. If I'm serious about it, even given all of my caveats, it's going to take some darned hard work

But even if I achieve this kind of fame, it would still be as someone who works behind the scenes, not in front of a camera.

I've developed some real empathy for the few of us who have to deal with a torrent of speculation about their private lives. Yes, they become rich and famous. But in the process, they seem to lose something that may be quite precious. I can't believe it doesn't affect them psychologically.

One person is particularly on my mind tonight. In the course of this dating Internet adventure I got to know, solely through email, a guy who has a pretty high public profile. His life, and the health of his marriage, were/are fodder for endless gossip among a group of online women I can only call biddies. I read some of the stuff they write now and then, and I wonder how the heck he puts up with the way they judge and moralize. Sometimes they defend him. Sometimes they are really horrible.

I wonder if he sometimes walks on the beach, or sits in his garden, or hides out in his office, and asks himself-is it all worth it? I have no answer, I never got to ask him. But I'd love to know. Partly because, if I'm ever famous, I'll have to put up with the yakkety yak myself!

jeudi, avril 12, 2007

Greek comedy

I grew up in a family with strict rules and a lot of discipline.

You don't believe me? Most of my friends don't, either.

But maybe you will after you hear the evidence.

When we kids didn't behave well, there were no switches used on rear ends, or conventional punishments like being denied dessert (Laura was so bad she once got her mouth washed out with soap-as her older sister, I was puzzled as to why it didn't happen more often). Instead, Mom affixed us with the dreaded Gorgon Eye.

How many children know about the mythical (I hope she's mythical) monster who can turn men to stone with a glance? We didn't need to see a portrait of the Gorgon Medusa. We had Mom.

Turning her impassive gaze upon us, she would quell us with one cold glance.
For such a lively and loving woman, she was really quite good at impersonating a Gorgon. She had phenomenal control.

The only problem was, nobody took her seriously.

When my children get rowdy at dinner sometimes, I try the Gorgon eye. What usually happens then is that they try it on another. Food ends up in odd places, milk gets spilled and general hilarity ensues. Which somehow I think is what my well-bred, well-read mom intended all along.

When I turn my chilly blue gaze on them, I recall my laughing, joyous mother, lips prim, eyes dancing-and then I can't help but smile myself. I don't mind if they forget the discipline-and recall the fun.

mardi, avril 10, 2007


I want to raise an uncomfortable topic. It is one to which I have far fewer answers than questions.

Do writers like me, who share a fair amount of personal (however edited and carefully chosen) material in print, have the right to feel like their privacy is being invaded?

Recently some concerned bloggers have proposed codes of conduct for comments left on blogs. Some have suggested that no anonymous comments be posted on blogs. I'd be happy to sign up for something like that. But beyond the self-regulation, one quickly gets into a very foggy area in which one fast moves beyond any kind of consensus.

Don't read Case I if you are considering trolling for online love.

Case I-Having posted my profile on an Internet dating site, I had an unfortunate encounter about a month ago with a person I discovered, by his own admission, was a sex addict. It wasn't the fact that he told me this electronically-many of us have addictions and while I didn't think he was a bad person, I did suggest he get help.

As it happens I was one of his targets. But thanks to my strong intituition that there was something wrong with our interactions, I had been fortunate enough to not be harmed by his behavior (in fact, I've not met him). But in the course of our email correspondence he voiced his anger at me in a way that gave me the unfortunate sense that he had somehow managed to get into my personal space.

Case II-Because I have software that allows me to monitor where my readers come from, although not their personal email addresses, I am also aware that I have a few readers who call up my blog every day, if not sometimes several times a day. I have to admit that I find this a little disturbing. What is it about me that could be so interesting to somebody who does not know me personally?

Who knew that I was this charismatic?

In both cases, I feel a sense that my privacy is being violated. But I suspect that I have more 'right' to feel that way in case one-although I had freely chosen to correspond with this man, he was clearly out of bounds, even the unclear bounds of the Internet.

Case two is even less clear-after all, I make my ideas and personal experiences available for public consumption. How can I complain, then, if someone chooses to consume more often that I think is healthy? In addition, if I didn't have the monitoring software, I would have no clue that my posts were so popular with a few readers.

If the reader was a friend or a colleague, would I feel the same way? Would it make a difference if they were male or female?

So why do I feel so queasy? Why should I even give a hoot?

Feel free to comment-but only ones with names will be posted.

dimanche, avril 08, 2007

Judgment Calls

My adventures in the online dating world have brought me into contact with a variety of different types of guys. Men in the entertainment industry. Writers. Computer entrepreneurs. Actors, lawyers, even clergy (it was probably inevitable). Significantly younger men. Slightly younger men. Guys my own age.
One of the fascinating byproducts of the dating biz is that you can get a read on how others see you. This can be helpful if you wish to grow and keep learning about yourself. The problem is, people tend to see you from their own perspectives-and in a way that is not, cannot be disinterested.

I'll give you a few "for-instances." When I told one potential date I thought I was demure, he agreed-and told me I shared that characteristic with his ex-wife. More happily, he also said, with some apparent surprise, that he felt I was non-judgmental. But even this characteristic can have its shadow side.

In my former job, this trait would have been close to the kiss of death. In fact, perhaps my poor ability to hold fast to one dogmatic position or another-or, more accurately, my ardent desire to explore other positions- probably had something to do with my traumatic departure from that post.

Someone else termed me introverted-which is at least partly true half of the time!

Recently I was told I was opaque. Since I tend to think of myself as quite open, this took me aback a bit. On further reflection, however, I realized that my friend might be on to something. But aren't we all opaque, to one degree or another?

All of us have places we protect, whether we are aware of them or not. Being aware of them helps us figure out how much we want to expose, and to whom. The feedback was a helpful hint to this writer that possibly she needs to rethink how she characterizes herself to potential with a touch of mystery? Mysterious with a tantalizing hint of openness?

Yeah, yeah, I know I sound silly. I am silly.

Then there are the extremely discerning fellows who have told me I'm 'hot'-extra credit, guys, for being such quick learners.

It was in this context that I read an article on Pope Benedict and went...yo, wait a minute!

You don't see an immediate link between a writer and single mom living in exurban Pennsylvania and the Bavarian and celibate leader of the world's Catholics?

Bear with me.

Entitled "Keeping the Faith," the New York Times Magazine essay, by a writer named Russell Shorto, is not only a snapshot of the current Pope, but also of the state of European Christianity in general and of European Catholicism in particular.

Setting the groundwork for his lengthy analysis, Shorto quoted from a speech Benedict (the former Cardinal Ratzinger) gave two years ago. "The mistaken conviction that reason and faith are two distinct realms has weakened Europe and has brought it to the verge of catastrophic collapse. As he said in a speech in 2004: “There exist pathologies in religion that are extremely dangerous and that make it necessary to see the divine light of reason as a ‘controlling organ.’ . . . However . . . there are also pathologies of reason . . . there is a hubris of reason that is no less dangerous.”

Here are words to which I can give enthusiastic assent. Like Benedict, I believe that reason and faith can work together. Like him, I have seen even those who term themselves Christian practitioners dumb down faith to make it palatable. Like him, I am concerned by the steep drop in those who profess themselves faithful Christians in Europe.

Unlike him, apparently, I think that the Roman Catholic church has could do more to reform itself in the wake of the sex abuse scandals, or to give laypeople an effective voice-let alone to be open to the voices of those who are gay or divorced but hunger to remain practicing Catholics.

But does that mean that I think Benedict is a hopeless troglodyte?

What I have come to realize is how much I did not see. Put in other words, I saw little enough to be capable of being quite wrong.

Ask me what I thought about Cardinal Ratzinger three years ago, and my judgement would have been unfavorable in the extreme. From what little I had read, I got the sense that he must be a dictatorial, almost sinister character, committed to keeping Roman Catholicism in the Dark Ages.

But what I have read since then has convinced me that this Pope is so much more than a bulldog, a capo, an enforcer. He is a man of God, evolving yet in his eightieth year, able to lead the Church in new directions. Yes, we can be critical. But even those of us who criticize must allow him room to be himself.

Getting back to my search for dating bliss... As I wrestle with the feelings evoked by feedback from my guy pals (already a mystery thanks to the fact of their gender), I realize that they, too, see only in part. I am so much more (and sometimes maybe less) than what they see when they look at me. But does that mean I don't take their ideas seriously?

Far from it.

Today (or at least for today) I resolve that I am going to do my best to see them the way I'd hope they see me.

I hope that I get better at listening, less prone to leap to conclusions, gentler and wiser and more compassionate in my judgments-so that in time, I see both more, and more profoundly.