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July 22, 2014

21 Things I Wish I Knew About Alcohol on my 21st Birthday

July 22, 2014

Elaine Stritch Died and I Realized I Can Be Kind of a Pussy

July 22, 2014
photo credit: my friend jenny anderson!

I’m sorry I said pussy in the title of this post, but it’s relevant to the point of the whole post so I sort of had to do it. I thought about putting a * where the u is, but everyone who gets offended by the word pussy knows how to spell the word, and I don’t know how a one letter deviation changes anything anyway. It’s just a word. Deal with it.

At first I felt like that intro is how the late, great Elaine Stritch would have handled this situation, but I’m wrong. She would have written the title and launched right into her point without apologizing for using a dirty word. That both explains the reason I’m sad that Elaine Stritch died and serves as one example of me being kind of a pussy.

I didn’t know Elaine Stritch personally, but much like Nora Ephron, I considered her a mentor. That’s slightly strange because I’m not a singer/dancer/actress, but I am a woman who has things to say, like Elaine. Unlike Elaine, I’m often too afraid to say them.

I find it easier to abstain than do a little bit of anything. I’m not a ‘little bit’ kind of dame. I want it all, whatever I do.”

I spent last Thursday night watching Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (last year’s brilliant documentary about her life) with a bottle of white wine and a box of tissues. With every scene I grew more impressed by the chutzpah of this woman from a generation where chutzpah was far less tolerated and more frustrated by my own lack of bravado. Yes, they say Stritchy was difficult to work with. It’s true that she drank too much from time to time (…to time). But boy did she know who she was and behave as that brassy, take-no-prisoners broad every day of her life. 
“I don’t think there’s any greater feeling in the world than doing work you’re good at.” 
It’s not Elaine’s fearlessness that I wish I possessed because she wasn’t fearless. She just knew how to manage her fears.

Fear is the base of what everybody does wrong in their lives.”

It wasn’t her ability to totally ignore what other people think. She struggled with that too but found a way to just keep swimming.

The terrifying thing in my life is that I am just an actress. And I have to keep pushing it and getting approval, approval, approval or I don’t think I’m worth two cents. And I am starting to get over it, thank God. And I’m just sad because I don’t have many years left and I wish I had a longer space of time to think that Elaine Stritch is okay.”
 
I think it was that balance she found between taking herself incredibly seriously while still realizing the world is a ridiculous game we’re all playing.

“You can’t be funny unless you’re tragic, and you can’t be tragic unless you’re funny.” 

I don’t even really understand that quote, but I think it has everything to do with what made this woman so great. She allowed herself to be both funny and tragic without letting either get in the way of doing what she felt she was put on this earth to do. 
Maybe it’s easier to take that stance once you’ve had success on your own terms? Or maybe you can only have success on your own terms if you’ve firmly adopted that stance? That’s one more question I don’t think Elaine would care to ask. She knew what she wanted and wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of getting it, least of all herself. 

 

Make a list of women in Hollywood or any other industry who are or were as bold and unapologetic as Elaine Stritch. It will be short and you’ll question whether or not you should even put Tina Fey on it (I’m sorry Tina. I worship you for a whole other set of reasons). 

Will I end up on the list? Typing that question and not deleting it is among the more terrifying things I’ve done to date. Why does it feel like such an embarrassing thing to wonder? Where did I get this idea that being well-behaved is better than making an impact at the cost of pissing some people off? What was going on inside Elaine Stritch’s head that isn’t going on in mine?

I don’t know right now, but I’m working on it. I finally outlined this mildly controversial project about motherhood that I’ve been afraid to tackle for two years. Today I might even tell some people about it.

I’m not going to end up the world’s second Elaine Stritch, and that’s just fine. For many reasons she’s an inspiration not a perfect model.

But I’d like to make more decisions that aren’t based on what the nasty peanut gallery in my head says. I plan to be bolder in how I express my goals and how I ask people to help me get them done. And every once in awhile, I think I’ll leave the house without any pants on.   

“There’s something that really frightens me – and that’s fear.”

   Me too Elaine. Thank you for the reminder.

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