I sure got my feels in a twist this week over something, so after tweeting about it for a couple of days, and it still not feeling right or complete, I decided to go ahead and blog about it.
I’m talking about fallen icons here. About true apologies. About championing the downtrodden. About mean girls. About people revealing their true nature. And about just doing the right thing.
I wouldn’t say she’s been a hero of mine but she has been someone who’s words I deeply admired. I’m talking about the writer Anne Lamott. She’s written a whole lot about being real, telling your stories, recovery, speaking your truth–things like that. She also looks the “real” part with her 60-something white lady dreadlocks. I thought of her as a hippie, a person with some life experience, a person with a unique voice.
Well she used that voice this week to cause real harm. And apparently she’s standing by it. I usually don’t want to repeat terrible words to propogate them even further but in this case, this post only makes sense if you read them. So here is what “real progressive” Anne Lamott had to say about recently revealed (as in just barely recently like she’s just been born recently) Caitlyn Jenner:
Yeah, I felt like I’d been hit with a spear right in the gut and sat there saying “WHAT THE FUCK?” to myself. I may have even said it out loud. It was the very last thing I expected to hear from Anne Lamott about someone so new, so vulnerable, so real.
Anne Lamott called her a mannequin. And she is continuing to do so as, even with thousands of “calling out” type tweets, even with her removing the second offensive tweet, she stands by the mannequin words. Her words, the ones that popped in to her head, traveled down her arm and through her very own fingers in to the twittersphere.
Even with all of that, she stands by her “mannequin” slur. It’s astounding. And it leaves me with only one conclusion: it’s how she really thinks about Caitlyn Jenner.
Why does this bother me so much? I’m not even sure I can answer that question to myself. Maybe through writing this I will. I’m a middle aged white heterosexual woman without even one transgender friend (yet). I have a transgender client who I really admire. I have a gay brother so there’s that. It’s not like this world is super personal to me.
But, I can say this. I was deeply moved by Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer. I kept it on my DVR to watch again when I need a good cry. I sat on my white living room feather sofa bawling my eyes out, stopping occasionally to process. It really hit me in the feels in a deep way. I don’t know why but it did. I just know I’m not alone.
He was identifying as Bruce in that interview so I will refer to him in the male pronoun for that purpose. He talked about a lifelong struggle with his gender identity. He shared about this prevailing in his childhood trying to manage it. He revealed how he actually started transitioning in the 80’s, taking hormones then, but stopped due to the extreme pressure he knew he was under.
How incredibly sad! We as a culture did that to him–not blaming you or me just saying, our ignorance forced him to sublimate something so basic to his own human nature for DECADES.
I guess I can relate in a very very small way to this having suppressed some of my own stories for decades. I was terribly abused in childhood by my stepmother–physically and emotionally. She stopped attacking me physically after I kicked her back down a staircase at age 19 when she came after me with a kitchen spatula about my head and upper back chasing me up the stairs. All because I intervened with her vicious attack, with that weapon, on my brother for no reason. I was in college when that happened. It had been going on for nearly 10 years at that time.
Yet I didn’t start talking about this, even in my own family, until I was 50 years old. I suffered major anxiety problems in my early adulthood, depression, relationship failures all while being highly successful in other areas. I identified this abuse in therapy and it’s impact on me. The fact my father brought her in to our home and did not protect us–yes all of those things I dealt with behind closed doors and still didn’t discuss it in my own family. For decades.
And I’m a regular person, not an Olympian, no one would ever put me on a cereal box for anything. Yet I hid a secret that shaped so much of my life from everyone for most of my life. Maybe that’s a tiny bit of why I cried so hard when I saw Bruce coming out with his struggle. It’s a brave act and not for the faint hearted. Yet when he said something like “I just couldn’t hold it back anymore” I related to that.
So would the Anne Lamott I’ve known and admired. She talks about telling your stories. In fact this quote has guided me in terms of revealing awful family truths in my own memoir I’m writing right now:
And she judged this vulnerable woman, who has just cracked out of that egg and still sitting in a nest, over her looks. Rather over her choice of how she wants to present herself.
How fucking shallow.
And might I add, this is from a 60 something white woman who chooses to present herself to the world with dread locks native to countries I guarantee she has no biological roots to. How ironic.
How ironic also that Lamott was tweeting about fearing falling off a high place right before she tossed herself right off her own long earned mountaintop. (I do believe great teachers deserve reverence and being looked up to).
At first I thought she had relapsed. She was doing this random tweeting with a friend on a road trip. It was so out of character and frankly, just so mean.
I’ve now drawn the conclusion this was just like a couple of mean girls tooling down the road in their car on an adventure bitching about someone they don’t like “oh did you see her stupid sunglasses? OMG!”.
Yet they did it out loud. For the world to see.
People want to rush to judgment calling it a “mistake”, something she’s “learning from”, something she should be given a pass on.
I can’t go there, at least not yet.
After a day of glib tweets about the Grand Canyon (while she was sitting in her own as chaos erupted and she ignored it), she finally issued a lukewarm apology. To the parents of transgender children. Again, WHAT THE FUCK? Where was/is the apology to the people/person she actually offended?
Those wanting to see her as they always have glue their rose colored glasses tight to their faces claiming “whew! she apologized!”.
Yet the “mannequin” tweet remains, out and proud. She kept it up there because she believes it.
She believes this person who was globally culturally identified as a HE – MAN gracing cereal boxes due to his PHYSIQUE and PHYSICAL PROWESS facing down a lifelong struggle and presenting to the world who she really is, is reduced to how she did it in a magazine shoot.
That my friends is Anne Lamott to me now.
I’m thinking a lot about mistakes and forgiveness right now because of another relationship in my life.
I land on this.
I’m just mad at you because now when I look at you, what you just did clouds my vision of who I used to know you to be.
For me right now it’s less about what Anne Lamott did but more about who she is. And now I need to be proven wrong. One window has already passed and the sands are slipping through the hourglass of the next one as it opens.
I will get over this. She’s not that important to me. Yet when I feel a need to champion a person who is being marginalized whether it’s Caitlyn Jenner or Travis Alexander in the grave, I will use my voice. Right up until the time I feel I need to stop using it.
I will add that I’ve read some truly inspired words out there dealing with this soul twist debacle and here is one of them.
One final shoutout to Caitlyn from another Glamarama who I find totally real even with her extreme boobs and makeup, the incomparable Dolly Parton.
17 thoughts on “anne lamott-your words crushed my heart”
I too had held her in high esteem and it felt crushing to me when I saw those deeply disturbing tweets. I can’t dismiss it or get passed the fact that she is actually *standing* behind those tweets, even after time & reflection you’d have hoped would have caused her to truly offer an apology for her blatant, offensive and trashy thoughts. I’ve thrown her books out, and now consider her a camouflaged phony.
Kathy, I often consider you to be “my Luther”, you know, as in Obama’s anger translator played by Michael Keys. It’s my own private joke because so often you post eloquently on issues that I have similar sentiments and feelings about. Much appreciated and well done!
I love this, beautifully articulated. It’s so difficult when a mentor or guide falls from grace in your eyes. Do you still love and admire or do you fire them from their position of influence in your life. My uncle introduced me to a world of responsibility, acknowledgement, being Bold!, being my word, expressing myself, etc. etc. And then I found out he was inappropriate with a child. He’s in jail now. I think it literally killed my mother. I go back and forth between appreciating what he taught me and provided for me in my life (who I am and what I’ve achieved is in some part due to his coaching) and feeling as though he deserves to be in jail. I’ve finally come to the realization that it can be both. He is my uncle and I love him. I appreciate who he has been for me in my life. I write letters to him and will welcome him back when released. And, I believe he deserves his punishment and am not likely to ever again put him on a pedestal. Btw, don’t you just love Dolly?!!!
Thank you for writing this. It was so well articulated. I hadn’t heard of these tweets, and I’m shocked. I had just liked her page and will now go and unlike it. I don’t want to be associated with this kind of small-mindedness.
I felt some sympathy for Bruce/Caitlyn after the Diane Sawyer interview but the Vanity Fair article, in my opinion, makes him sound like a very selfish person.
Kathy, Thank you for this post. As the mother of a transgender woman, every word someone speaks or writes in support of the transgender community is a gift. My daughter is the strongest and bravest person I know. I am proud to be her mother. Thank you for your words .
Kathy, I. Just. Love. You.
I used to know Annie, and frankly, am a little relieved that the rest of the world now sees that she’s just as fucked-up as the rest of us. I had grown sick of everyone putting her up on some pedestal, as though she was a gift from on high. And while I was shocked at the remarks she so publicly made, I was even more shocked that her apology was so weak, and not even addressed to the folks whom she hurt. In pitying the parents of trans folks, calling them “chosen”, it seemed to me a further put-down of the people who spend their entire lives feeling as though God screwed them over by putting them in the wrong bodies. Thank God for Sam. I loved him as a small child, and am so proud of the man he has become. She did do something right.
Thank you for sharing Portia. She could have so easily redeemed this “mistake” as so many deemed for her without her participation. Yet she chose a weak “apology” and silence. I will never value her words in the same way I once did again, sadly.
Like I said, she’s just as fucked-up as the rest of us. But here’s the deal: She’s also just as gifted and lovely as the rest of us. You can’t have light without dark. Until this gaffe, it seemed to me that everyone just saw the Light in her. Having seen her dark side many years ago, I just couldn’t get on board with everyone’s glorification of her. Oddly, now that she’s so publicly outed herself as someone with a dark side, I find her writing to be much more readable. Saying you have a dark side is one thing. But actually showing it to the world is another. Now that she’s done that, I feel like I can handle her again. If I happen to bump into her, my greeting will be heartfelt and warm again, instead of cautious and cynical. Still, it would be wonderful if she would spend an evening on youtube watching videos of transgender children, teens, adults, and really listen to the pain they’ve lived with their entire lives. I did this, and it turned my whole perspective around, from believing that these folks were sexually deviant, to understanding that the soul knows who the soul is, even if the body does not correspond. As Sam said, until you knew, you didn’t know. I deeply hope that she now knows. She IS a good person, and she chooses to allow the Divine to work through her, but her own humanness showed up that day on twitter. I hope you will not totally write off anyone. Her work has been a blessing to many, even if she’s still just human.
Hi Portia again. 🙂 Thank you for your thoughtful comments and I’m reading them with interest and the degree of an open mind I can maintain. I see where you are coming from–it just kind of went the opposite way for me but I’m always open to learn. I still truly believe she owed the trans community, and Caitlyn Jenner herself, a sincere apology and some kind of indicator that SHE feels she was mistaken/learned something/is humbled by her error. I just see the opposite of that which leaves it unfinished for me.
I went over to Anne’s twitter feed today and something is just still off for me. Humanness and genuineness are qualities I value–to me though she stepped over a line revealing kind of a mean girl underbelly (that I still see) which is something that kind of flies in the face of her “everywoman for everyone” persona. I guess it’s that duplicitous kind of thing that’s hitting me in a way that has caused me to cringe inside. With all that being said, I’ve used this incident , like you have, to gain an education about the trans community and a deeper understanding/compassion for our trans brothers and sisters. I watched “I Am Cait” the other day and was profoundly moved by the vulnerable openness I see in those women. The bravery to come out to one’s real self like that. It truly inspires me.
Thank you for reading this blog and for your comments–I do read everything with interest.
The memories I have of Annie are very much in line with your view of her.
The short time that I was somewhat in her “inner circle” showed me that she has a public persona and a private one. The “mean girl” is certainly part of those memories. I think that is why she is such a good writer – she actively tries to overcome her mean girl thing by showing the world her truly good side.
Maybe it takes many lifetimes to overcome our dark sides.
I know that just by writing about her publicly, myself, I fell that I am participating in mean girl behavior, which leaves me feeling icky. I might not feel that way if she were only some celebrity I’d never met, and not someone whom I once knew and cared for.
I have never wanted fame the way Annie has, and would want to crawl into a hole and stay there if I had it and made such a huge gaffe as she made. The part of me that still loves her would never want her to feel such a thing. The part of me that is irritated by her just wishes she’d get a clue and sincerely apologize, instead of that milk-toast, feeble response she gave under enormous pressure, likely from within her inner circle, not to mention the public.
Sometimes I wonder if she’s sick of the fame she so dearly wanted all those years ago, and found a way to take herself down a peg, just wanting to be a mere mortal again, and not someone so many have held up as someone to aspire to be like.
To sum things up, she fucked-up, doubly so, in my book – by not giving a more compassionate response to those whom she hurt. But I’d just want to die if the world knew every mistake I ever made, every negative judgement of others, every time I acted, shall we say, not my best, most compassionate self. I like what Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Best to not fight along the way, probably. My other favorite line is from M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled, in fact, it is the very first line of the book, “Life is hard.” I think that once we all can take one another by the metaphorical hand and try to walk in the same direction that we’ll actually get somewhere. I also think that you writing about it is part of that. Calling her out is taking her by the hand and helping her up after a fall on her face. Bless you.
Well I may have “lost” an Anne, but I’ve gained a Portia. See, it all keeps evolving. I really appreciate your sharing! I’m getting to post about a true miracle I’m standing in the middle of myself right now and I think you might resonate. Do you have a blog? If so, I’d love to follow…you are inspiring me! Thank you!
Aww… I’m touched that I touched YOU! No, no blog. Just a reader of such, and occasional commenter. Glad to have been able to inspire you who inspire others. I like that upward spiraling kind of thing. Makes me feel ever so slightly Pope Fancisy. Ok, verrrrrrry slightly.
Ohyeah, now that Pope visit has really sent a vibration hasn’t it? I’m feelin it..and I’m not even Catholic!
“Recovering” Catholic, myself….. Actually considering attending Mass again, but afraid how disappointing a normal priest might be.
For me any church is all about the minister or leader. I’ve found a few but not many-my current fave is Agape in LA. I’ve even commuted there just to go to Sunday Service and other events. I just love that congregation and the leadership.
Same. Finding one that I resonate with is hard. Have attended many churches looking for the right fit. Even the one Annie is so high on. Found the minister there to be highly disappointing. Left “The Church” (Catholic) years ago after seeking guidance in a dark time and coming up emptier than before. Pope Francis, though… He’s different. I think he truly has the power to affect change, true change, in this world. And I find myself praying for his well-being and safety about every few minutes. This world is so hungry for his simple message – Compassion. ACTIVE compassion.
BTW, you can contact me through email, if you like.