Major Revisions 1-18-10 and 8-15-10
When the chips are down, it’s time to call in our friends. They can be real but also our icons, the women who inspire us. For me these women are Angelina Jolie and Alicia Keys, sensual women who strive for success, but not at the expense of their values.
A few days ago, I received a detailed and upsetting letter (email) from my good friend Paul, who is working in his second Peace Corps assignment. This time he’s in South Africa.
The long history of our relationship summarizes the life contradictions expressed throughout my Anne of Carversville journal.
I’ve always moved in two worlds; my friend Paul has devoted his life to a single journey, with a constant focus and commitment to his core values and life’s work.
We met when I was 21 and he was 17. Outside of family members, he knows me longer, although not better, than anyone else in my life. That dubious honor goes to my dear friend Robert.
Paul’s mother Sandy, a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, invited me to a party one hot summer night, decades ago. As the evening lingered later and later, this wise mother insisted that I spend the night at her apartment.
The result was a long love affair with her son, one that wove in and out of my marriage, (but not during) and our subsequent romantic relationships. Our life choices have kept us apart, far more than together in life.
It was Paul who gave me Hesse’s book Siddartha on my 21st birthday. Reading it, I was clear that we would never be a couple; I was a phase, a temporal infatuation and nothing more in Paul’s life.
Golden Delicious Eve
My dear friend has unintentionally stung me more than once in life, but never more than when he suggested that being with me was the equivalent of moving to “Apple Valley”, a derailment of his life purpose … an establishment cop out.
He explained his position to me one gorgeous, Sunday afternoon, about 15 years ago. Over the course of eight hours, we drank not one, but two, bottles of my favorite champagne, Veuve Clicquot.
Yes, indeed. It was an Apple Valley afternoon in my 80 hr work-week life. I found it incredible that two people could sit down and talk straight for 12 hours. It wasn’t the first time we had done so. One night we ate under the stars and were talking on the patio when the sun rose.
Life, love, liberty, poverty, racism, PBS and the pursuit of happiness has been a strong glue holding our friendship, if not our love life, together.
I understand his priorities and perhaps his demons. I could not live my life as he does, and I am in awe of his selflessness. Writing my Journal pales next to Paul’s contribution to Planet Earth but perhaps something good will come of it.
In the Shade of Double Trouble
Yet, my Journal does give me a small voice, one focused on big people like Angelina Jolie, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, and Alicia Keys, members of a growing list of famous people, compelled to create positive global action.
These wealthy super stars live in 2 Worlds, using their celebrity status and talent to focus our attention on massive, lethal problems that threaten the existence of billions of people.
In the case of Alicia Keys and Angelina Jolie, we admire their beauty and style, along with their dedication to human causes. Their message is simple: If we all do one little something, the planet improves exponentially. Sometimes shifting into first gear, leads to second and third.
Then a woman is cruising, doing something relevant with her life.
This is the hurdle we can’t get over, taking that first step. No one’s asking for our renunciation of the good life. At least not me.
It’s About Balance
I never thought I would feel good about being a drug dealer. This single gesture, paying for AIDS drugs for five kids each month, is a tiny action that brings relevant results.
“Keep a Child Alive” — sustains life at once … today. What other words should inspire us to respond to the reality that we can keep children breathing? Life carries its own message.
Angie the Terrible
“I don’t believe in guilt, I believe in living on impulse as long as you never intentionally hurt another person. And don’t judge people in your life. I think you should live completely free.” Angelina Jolie
Academy-award actress Jolie has redefined the attributes of a truly beautiful woman. Not only does she share fat cheeks with Audrey Hepburn, but both women have excelled in spokesperson roles for the UN. Activism didn’t diminish their glamour in the least.
Angelina Jolie | Clinton Global Initiative 2007
Lipstick Not Guns
If I’ve learned one thing today, it’s that there’s no such thing as a purely good action. With all due respect to Jolie, do your best and you’re sure to piss somebody off.
Dr. Sachs and Angelina Jolie are not universally popular in Africa. Nor is Madonna and probably Bono, too.
Carversville IS Apple Valley.
There’s no getting around the facts. Paul was right about my life.
I’m a lipstick feminist, a lipstick hippie, and a lipstick liberal. But my cosmetic preferences need not be a scarlet letter around my neck. This gorgeous countryside can be my little hotbed of conscious activism, even if there is Veuve Clicquot in my refrigerator.
Today won’t end as it began for me. My dear friend is angry, but as Rhett Butler said to Scarlett: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Woman to Woman
In the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001 I listened to Alicia Keys “Songs in A Minor”. Living in the ashes of the World Trade Center and knowing that three of the terrorists had been my neighbors in Jersey City — I passed their mosque daily — left me in a period of long reflections about life’s priorities and my place in it.
Alicia released ‘Songs in A Minor’ when I needed it most. While I love all music, classical music was very important to me as a form of emotional release growing up.
Listening to ‘Songs in A Minor’ over and over again for days after Sept 11, I developed a more stable relationship with the facts of my life-long romance with my dedicated activist friend whose recent behavior had been unethical and putting me in harm’s way.
It would be another seven years before I can actually stand up for myself today. While I find it inconceivable that the cord that binds us could come so unraveled, I also know reading his email that he will never accept the possibility that I’m more than the sum of my background or professional career.
The notion that I might contribute in this new medium is not part of his mindset.
The parts of me that I prize the most about myself don’t exist in his version of me. I’m tired of working to convince him that I am more than the princess of Apple Valley, more than the great ethical compromise of his life.
Paul’s actions have shown me how irrelevant I’ve always been in his life, except when a sexy blond comes in handy.
I reconfirm the fact that I admire my friend tremendously for all that he has done for others and himself. I do not admire him for how he has treated me over the years.
Playing the elegant, haunting piano notes of what we commonly call Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ this moment, Ms. Keys sums up my evening mood brilliantly.
To whom it applies (not you, my dear readers), I say …
I’m not guilty anymore.
PS: A few months into 2010, Paul and I decided to end our ‘friendship’, a major event for me because he was the longest friend in my life. I came to understand that he could never tell my story with pride — which I regret deeply. Facing this realization made me understand then, that our friendship was based on my guilt, and I refuse to accept that yoke anymore. I, too, want to be free.
Collage references at Flickr: Counting Poverty