Friday, July 26, 2013

one is never enough: odd/ode to cousins (Part 2)

"We've had cloning in the South for years. It's called cousins." - Robin Williams
I have lots of cousins. I have tall cousins and short cousins, straight cousins and gay cousins, preacher cousins and skeptic cousins, musician cousins and cousins who can't carry a tune, white cousins and tan cousins and really dark cousins. I even have cousins who share my exact genetic code, because my mother and their father were siblings and my father and their mother were siblings. Not exactly clones, but close. Oddly, we look nothing alike. 
I love all my cousins. But there are four cousins who are more like siblings to my brother and me. We are the children of the Jackson Girls. And we are inseparable.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

one is never enough: odd/ode to cousins (Part 1)

Today, July 24this Cousins Day. It is also National Tequila Day & Amelia Earhart Day. Which is appropriate, since some cousins might drive you to drink, and others you may wish would get lost. Permanently.

I have a lot of cousins. Some are old enough to be my parents. Others are young enough to be my kids. Some I’ve known well all my life, some I am just now reconnecting with, all of them are important to me.

But there are six of us who are more like siblings than cousins. We grew up together, shared holidays together, went through joy and fire together, and sometimes lived under the same roof together. Cindi, Ray, Wayne, Dawn Brandon and Jason: We are the children of the Jackson Girls. And we are inseparable.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

beauty: in the eye(heart) of the beholder

"I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves."Salma Hayek
My husband called me out on my last blog post. The one that included the recent viral Dustin Hoffman video, how his comments resonate with so many women, and how I don’t always see myself in the best light. He asked me some questions that were revealing in a way I didn’t expect. He peeled back the curtain of the male psyche just a bit to reveal something I did not know.

Did you also know that – despite what we are fed by TV, movies, magazines, and in advertising - men like real women just the way we are?

Did you know that men notice how other men look?

And that they worry about how they look almost as much as women do?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

what is like to be a woman in Hollywood? ask Dustin Hoffman

"And in the category of “Strongest Female Character in Film”, the award goes to…"

Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey playing Dorothy Michaels in TOOTSIE?


Twice in the past two months I have read articles about Strong Women in Film, and in both lists Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of a man who pretends to be a woman has ranked either near or at the top of the list.

It's hard to believe that, in 2013, with all the talented female actresses past and present, and all the strong female characters in movies made over the past 100 years, a character played by a MAN pretending to be a woman the most admired female character.

Mind boggling. And I never even liked that movie.

Then today, I saw this video of Dustin Hoffman discussing his role in TOOTSIE:

Makes me want to watch the movie again with new eyes.

I almost lost it when he said, after going through the makeup test, “When I looked at (myself) on screen, I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive.”

Raise your hand if you’ve said the same thing to yourself when you looked at vacation pictures, family movies, or the Facebook video from your friend’s wedding.

Dustin Hoffman said to the makeup artists and producers, “You have me looking like a woman. Now, make me a beautiful woman, because if I’m going to be a woman I want to be as beautiful as possible.”

Don’t we all. Culture tells us if we are going to be women – if we are going to be considered worthy of being called a woman – we must be as beautiful as possible.

Beautiful by cultural standards.

Beautiful as in physically proportionate, preferably thin.

Beautiful as in groomed and coiffed and waxed and made up.

Beautiful as in sexual. 

Because if we aren’t these things, we aren’t called “women.” We’re called cow or hag or whale or butter face or bimbo or skank or other insults that I’d probably rather never know.

When the amazing Dustin Hoffman asked the crew to make him more beautiful as a woman, they replied, “That’s as good as it gets. That’s as beautiful as we can get you.”

That’s enough to make any woman choke up.

That was enough to make Dustin Hoffman choke up, too. Dustin Hoffman, a man, successful in every other way, choking up at the humiliation of being told he will never be a beautiful woman. No matter what. Never.

Many of us know the feeling. Even those women the rest of us think are the high standard, the pretty ones, the talented ones, the skinny ones, even they feel this way.


Hoffman knew his character Dorothy Michaels was an interesting woman, but also knew that if he met her at a party he would never talk to her or take the time to get to know her, because she didn’t physically fit the idea of what men are taught to admire.

He tearfully admitted, “There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed….(TOOTSIE) was never a comedy for me.”

Just like being a real woman is rarely the romantic comedy we're made to think it should be.

I’m glad this video is making its rounds on Facebook and UpWorthy and YouTube. I’m happy that I saw it first on a man’s Facebook page. I’m impressed that Dustin Hoffman was able to experience the same self-doubt many women feel every day of their lives. And that he was able to articulate it for the world to hear.

I still think there are hundreds of strong female characters in movies played by actual women that should trump a female character played by a man.

But I will hand it to Mr. Hoffman. Dorothy Michaels wasn’t just Dustin Hoffman in drag. He may have created her, but she gave him perspective, humility, and depth. She took what he had and made him richer by the virtue of being in his life.

Just like every other strong woman I know.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

As a writer, July 4th is one of my favorite holidays. It celebrates the final draft of a document, which is always a joyous occasion. But rarely in history does a final draft change the course of world history.

In a document dated July 4, 1776, the 2nd Continental Congress worked its way through the original text, comments and edits, yet maintained these fateful words penned by Thomas Jefferson at the opening of the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
We all know this sentence by heart. If we don't, we should. Because this simple sentence changed everything.  Every thing.