Just ask a celebrity!
Searching for the meaning of life? Want to know why we’re all here? Is there life after death? Or maybe you just want to lose weight? I’m rich and famous, so of course I can answer all of those questions for you. Remember I’m rich AND famous, and you are not. Therefore, I am better, i.e., superior–at least by society’s standards. By that, I don’t mean that I think I’m superior to you. I just mean that I’ve achieved more than you as far obtaining material wealth and prestige are concerned, so obviously I have better success skills than you.
What I mean is that, obviously, I am your superior, which isn’t to say that I believe I’m better. It’s just that I am better, as far as what other people might say. Well, a better way of putting it might be that I am better than you at attaining success and that most people would agree that I must know more than you do about some things… Okay, about everything. I mean, I must have done something right. Right? After all, I made it big. You didn’t. So what’s your point? Why do you point? Stop pointing! I’m successful and you’re not. Okay? So learn from me. Pick my tiny brain. Nit pick…
So listen up, crumb. (Yep, you’re the crumb off my after dinner dessert. And you’re my greatest fan. So thank you. For worshiping me, crumb.)
Oh, and by the way, buy my book, watch my TV show, go see my latest film, stand in line for hours to get in the audience to watch me on the Tonight Show, Today Show, Evening Show, Morning Show, No Show, or whatever the bleep show I’m on. I’ll tell you all about my depression, my child-rearing style, my hangups and hangovers, my latest divorce, the suicide(s) I attempted, the cocaine I injested and the situps I do every morning. Gotta keep up those abs, ya’ know… Very important.
At the supermarket checkout line I read the cover of “Good Housekeeping Magazine.” Actress Valerie Bertinelli smiled brightly on the cover. The headline read (and I do quote!):
“You Can Choose to Be Happy.” Then underneath it added:
“Valerie Bertinelli: on how she makes every day a good one–and her most wonderful wedding moment…PLUS her 100-calorie treat.”
Okay, first let me say that I admire Bertinelli. The actress is about 50 but she looks like she’s 20. It’s wonderful that she takes care of herself, and that she has overcome her own personal obstacles. She comes across as down-to-earth and genuinely a nice person in public appearances. Clearly, she expresses a positive attitude toward life–at least on the front cover of magazines and on interviews when a camera records every facial expression, every offhanded remark, and when she is, of course, trying to sell a book, TV show, film or weight loss method.
But honestly, do I need/want her advice on how to be happy? The fact is, I don’t need her instruction. I know why she is happy. She’s bloody rich, for heaven’s sake. Honestly, if she weren’t happy then that would be news to me. Then I’d want to know why. Not that money can buy happiness, mind you. Of course not. Who would suggest such a thing? (Are you a communist? Do you believe in helping other people? Unhappy with extreme poverty and extreme wealth colliding with each other, like the fat guy who nonchalantly tosses his dinner into the trash, only because they forgot the mayo, then bumps into a skinny homeless guy knocking him onto the street? Ah, then you must be a socialist. For shame!)
Money just buys everything one needs in order to be happy–peace of mind, no more worry about debts, electricity and hot running water whenever you need it, vacations when you need time off, medical care when you’re sick, opportunities to take care of your health and to pursue your dreams and goals, plenty of chances to meet people with similar interests, to socialize and make friends, to eat when you’re hungry, to buy a warm coat in the winter, to drive rather than wait in the rain for a bus, to sleep when you’re tired–and on a real bed that doesn’t wreck your back! When you’re rich, you truly are in control of your own destiny. You can choose to be happy. If you’re depressed and don’t know why, then hire the best psychologist, shaman, reiki master and massage therapist. Or maybe you need an exorcist? I’m sure that, for the right price, he/she will show up at just the right time to exorcise all those pesky demons. Perhaps even God will appear. For the right price. Snap, snap!
Or perhaps you could take a vacation in Spain. Wonderful weather there this time of year. Relax! Remember, happiness is a choice! Go out to your stable and ride one of the horses for a while. Play a little golf in your private golf course. Go for a swim in that heart-shaped pool you just paid someone to build for you. Watch your favorite film in that studio you hired someone to build for you on the lower level of your mansion. (There are no basements where rich people live, not really. No dark, dank, stanky, abandoned spaces haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past and unexpected floods. Just lower levels. And random bomb shelters where one might hide should a thief break in, just in case.)
Still unhappy? If you’re unhappy with where you live, then move. If you’re unhappily married, then divorce. Need to lose weight? Hire the best personal trainer. Join Jenny Craig, Weightwatchers, the gym down the street or all of the above. Start buying the healthy (and expensive!) food that’s better for your body. Want to change careers? Change them. You can afford to quit your job and start over… (Uh, do millionaires have jobs? I think the more appropo term here would be “career” thank you very much.)
It’s we the poor people who don’t have choices. But what’s really odd is that the Valerie Bertinelli article wasn’t addressed to the wealthy elite but to us, the average Joe and Jane. Huh?
Then I was on the Internet and got a glimpse of an article on Yahoo News: “Buffy Star’s Advice for Young Moms.” Oh dear, I have small children and really need some advice. It’s tough sometimes being a “young” mom. (I place “young” in quotes because Hollywood thinks you’re old if you’re not “18-to-look younger,” so “young” doesn’t even exist for women in Hollywood. And once a woman hits 30, it’d old age, over-the-hill, rest in peace, reserve your spot in the nursing home and make sure to purchase that cemetery plot, pure and simple. However, an entire world outside of Hollywood holds a different view, hence I keep an open mind here as to whether a “mom” can be “young,” on the off chance that someone from Southern California may be reading this blog.)
Well, lucky for me (today’s my lucky day!) an actress (who thinks she’s young even though she’s a mom) and who starred on my favorite TV show has some answers. Whew! I was thinking I might need to ask my own mom, or my auntie, or my next-door neighbor, or perhaps the wise-looking woman who sits across from me on the bus every morning on my way to work. But luckily, an actress has all the answers.
Film at 11. Or 12. Or at whatever the corporate media decides is the “right” time. (I myself took acting classes and performed on stage BUT–and now this part is very important!–I am not rich nor famous–though infamous in some circles, one might add… So of course my advice wouldn’t matter…)
So, yes, I really need to know what a millionaire movie star does when her two-year-old trhows a temper tantrum. Does she…
–call over the nanny immediately and demand she handle the situation?
–summon one of the servants to bring in one of the child’s favorite toys?
–check with the cook to find out what the child had been served for dinner earlier? (Really! I expressly ordered you to exclude high fructose corn syrup and MSG from the dessert!)
–or perhaps she texts the child’s tutor and demands she arrive immediately for an emergency instructional session.
Hmm…What would Zsa Zsa say? (Paris Hilton’s just not glamorous enough.)
On another note, sort of… I just recently read Barbara Erhrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed.” Yes, I’d read through passages and chapters before. The book’s been around for ten years now. But this is the first time I’ve actually sat down and read it in its entirety, page by grisly page…
And after reading it now, several things have struck me about the book:
–the book was written ten years ago yet nothing has changed. Nothing. If anything, things have gotten worse for America’s low-income population. Wages have remained stagnant and, in some cases, have lowered while housing and food costs have risen dramatically. Chances are that many of the characters depicted in her book are now homeless. Because when you live from paycheck to paycheck and suddenly the prices go up (while your wages remain the same), you’re not going to be able to pay your bills anymore, at least not on time. So Ehrenreich spent all that time and energy writing that book but nobody read it or those who did read it didn’t listen or react to its message. So why bother? Ehrenreich’s research is like the tree falling in the wilderness. If no one hears it, does it make a sound? If no one listens, does it even exist?
–I’ve lived it. Yep, I could have been any one of the protagonists in “Nickel and Dimed.” And well, we all know what has happened to me in the last ten years. (I ain’t a mad bag lady for nothin’!) Reading the book almost sank me into a deep depression. It was a little too much of a reality check. Have I really suffered that much? So I understand American apathy. It feels better to pretend everythings’ okay. Let’s just pretend the problems aren’t there and they’ll just magically go away all by themselves, okay? It’s okay. Not. And in a strange sort of way I felt as though I was harming myself by reading the book. So I read through it quickly and determined to not look at it again. I’m going to gtive the book away so that I won’t be tempted to read it again. Why? Because not only was it depressing but it made it difficult for me to endure what I must endure on a daily basis. It made me even more militant (“mad”, if you will ) than I already am on a regular basis.
Yes, my boss treats me unjustly. Yes, I am underpaid and overqualified. Yes, company policy violates labor laws. Yes, I deserve better. Much better. Most of us who are poor or struggling financially do. But what can any of us do about it? I need to stick with the job and keep my mouth shut so that I can continue to afford to eat. I need to “suck it up” as they say in some circles. Being angry and militant doesn’t do any good when you have no choice. And no choice is the only choice I have.
“What?” you might ask. “You can write to Congress. Tell them how you feel. Go to protests, etc.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve done it all. For ten years, I’ve protested the Patriot Act and for ten years it has remained and it continues to get extended, extended, and extended. But more than that, I’ve attended protests, written letters, signed petitions, made phone calls, attended meetings, volunteered my time, worked for nonprofits (that supposedly advocated for social change.) Heck, must I engage in shameless self-promotion yet again? Yes, I’ve made a documentary film (Rocky Mountain Homelessness) and other short documentaries about homelessness, about developing empathy and compassion for those less fortunate or those we just don’t understand. I’ve written a book called Diary of a Mad Bag Lady (where do you think I got the name for this blog?) I write and speak about poverty and homelessness as often as I can, but almost always I get the same response from people: “I don’t give a s*it.” So why bother? Why attempt to change the minds of those who refuse to change?
–This leads to my final observation. Barbara Ehrenreich must truly care about people. I’ve met her a couple times and always she came across as genuine, caring and open. She has done so much good for this country and, frankly, I don’t think she even gets the credit she deserves. But undaunted, she continues to work hard to advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. And she is an incredibly talented writer and speaker.
But I can’t help but wonder why it is that when one of us who has actually experienced being “Nickel and Dimed” attempts to speak, write or even make a film about it no one seems interested. Yet when a rich, famous celebrity lives for a short time (in a way that many of us must live for a lifetime) writes and speaks about poverty, people are clamoring to hear her story. Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, et al., deserve our respect and undivided attention. But why not just ask the recently unemployed guy down the street what he thinks? Why not just listen to each other, to people in our own lives who are struggling? Why do we need to worship an expert when it comes to validating or acknowledging our own suffering? Could it be that those with so-called “liberal” or “progressive” leanings are just as elitist as everyone else?
(The inspiration for this blog was originally written on February 23, 2011)–