Sunday, February 23, 2014

Defining Moments and Public Perception

I go to games for the beer and the food.  Point blank period.

So during the winter, especially this very long one, I have found myself vacillating between watching award winning television and completely random documentaries on, of all things...wait for it... sports figures.

Those that are familiar with my current relationship with Brad, my husband of 19 years, (I say CURRENT because I never want him to get too comfortable in the role) know that he is a HUGE sports fan and that I could not be more disinterested.

We laugh sometimes when we fantasize about scenarios where I would buy season tickets to games and then we would wear matching jerseys with "Underwood" on the back.

"What would you do if I actually argued with you about the politics of a sport or the validity of a call?  How 'bout if I INSISTED that I come to an away game with you and your friends and one of them had to forfeit one of the four tickets you got because I was able to get a sitter on the fly and I'd been following the team all season?  Would you DIE?"  I say as I throw my head back and laugh and then involuntarily shudder.

Look, I KNOW women like this.  I am friends with women like this.  I am sure this is a very real connection they have with their husbands and they are not annoying like me at all, but I have made it very clear to Brad that he cannot have it both ways.  If I am to watch the games on the television, then I am taking the exotic location away game trips and I am going to ask question after question about the fundamentals of said games until he wants to put a gun in his mouth.

Look.  I respect the fact that people like to watch sports.  You just can't make ME do it.

And this is why Brad was positively miffed when we were out to dinner with friends and I brought up the Joe Namath documentary I'd watched that week on HBO.  I thought his jaw would dislocate, I swear to Gawd.

I elaborated to the table that I had always had an interest in Joe Namath, not because he was a legendary New York Jet or that he won the Super Bowl, or even that he has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but because I remembered his pantyhose commercial,  growing up.

"What in the Hell?  Jody, come look at this!" I remember my Dad exclaiming from his seat on the couch.  "Joe Namath's got pantyhose on of all things!"

Of course my Mom was at the kitchen table, power smoking and talking on the phone to her fifth friend of the day as she waved him off with a slow figure eight featuring her lit cigarrette.  At any rate, I specifically remember looking up from my position on the floor amidst the well worn shag carpet and several wooden blocks to witness the camera panning down Namath's body to reveal his muscular, toned legs encased in beige colored hosiery. This became the birth of my interest in Super Bowl commercials and advertising, in general.

You gotta admit.  He was a BABE.

Anyway, the Joe Namath documentary highlights his career and his social life, but what makes him unique and groundbreaking, other than his obvious penchant for furry pimp coats, is how he was the first college athlete to negotiate a major contract with the AFL.  It was unprecedented at the time.  He also was the first athlete to sign huge marketing deals promoting random products such as pantyhose and shampoo.  Namath was good looking and colorful and talented, but most importantly, he was savvy, and he is the reason that Tiger Woods lost all those endorsement deals when it was revealed that he was a serial womanizing philanderer. You see, without "Broadway Joe" there would not have been those endorsement contracts to lose in the first place.

Namath's athletic and marketing accomplishments not withstanding, it seems that Namath's legacy will be the time he came on to a female reporter during an interview on the field following an aggressive day drink.

You see, Namath also acheived alcoholism along with all those wins, and he had fallen off the wagon after 13 years of sobriety, shortly after his divorce.  This, it appears, is Joe Namath's defining moment.

It just got me to thinking about defining moments and public perception.  I think if I were honest with myself, the stories I tend to share with my kids are the negative events in my life that eventually had a positive impact, but that I had to do a lot of soul searching to get to that place.  I'm talking about events where maybe I did a bad thing and then there were repercussions for that act, even if my behavior elicited an exaggerated response. The point is that I learned from it, and then adjusted my behavior.  These are your own fables, so to speak, with a conflict, a resolution and a moral.

We all have them, these defining moments and everyone knows what each of theirs are.  They are the events that shape you as a person and most of the time they are painful experiences, that if you are smart, you grow from.  It occurred to me while writing this, that, oh, maybe three-fourths of my defining moments involve public humiliation of some sort.  Hilarious.

Crosby Middle School.  Isn't she a BEUT?

One of these experiences was set in middle school.  Middle school is Hell on Earth for each and every adolescent girl in America, whether you are popular or not - whether you exist on the periphery, or you are head cheerleader.  The angst is universal because if you are part of a click, then you must succumb to the group dynamic, therefore denouncing any individualism you once had, as you embrace the insulating comfort that a posse provides.  However, being on the periphery also sucks because you are always longing for something that you assume is wonderful - the power of adulation and constant group companionship.

This ying-yang social phenomenon, coupled with surging hormones and increased academic expectations is the pressure cooker that is middle school.  I feel like specifically the female's social skills are honed in middle school and provides the basis for all future girl on girl social interactions.

So, back to the story.  In seventh grade, I had a girlfriend stay the night whom I had known practically my whole life.  I was on the edge of the "popular group" and she was fairly internal. We'll just refer to her as  "VP Francis Underwood" from House of Cards, because that is top of mind at the moment given the 13 hours of my life I just dedicated to him.  Anyway, back before Instagram and Snapchat (gasp!) our sleepovers existed in real time and we did things like read each other's notes, of which I ignorantly kept a Pappagallo drawstring bag full.

Can you imagine?  "Hey, let's go through all of the texts I've sent back and forth to my friends from the last year?"  What could possibly go wrong doing that?  I may as well have let her give me a rectal exam.  It would have been less painful, with fewer repercussions, I assure you.

So, as we are unfolding piece after piece of the executive rule lined, jagged-edged notebook paper, I came across one that I had NOT sent to my best friend down the street, who went to Catholic school.  I had composed the note the week I house sat for her family the previous summer. I had promised to write my friend "every day" that she was absent that week and keep her up to date on all the happenings at the Douglass Hills Swim Club.  For some reason, (a clear forshadowing) I never sent the letter, and as I read the letter during the prostate exam, I mean, sleep over, I determined it was incriminating, and quickly excused myself and threw it away in the bathroom in the center of our upstairs hall.

Long story short, VP Francis Underwood retrieved the note from my garbage can during the sleepover and took it to school, and on Monday morning I was basically met with a fucking seventh grade lynch mob in the Crosby Middle School cafeteria.

The note denounced the short shorts, provocative top, and high wedge heels that the MOST POPULAR GIRL IN SEVENTH GRADE, if not SCHOOL's mother wore at the swim meet that week in the summer my friend was on vacation and I declared that she "dressed like a whore".

Ironically, these women are now called COUGARS, as the social climate for stripperware for middle aged women has become mainstream, so please excuse the crass language, as I was a product of my generation and it's circumstances at the time. If this event were to occur in modern day, the woman and the little girl would have been flattered by the note and there would have been a ticker tape party in my honor that Monday morning.

In all seriousness, and because I am a parent now, I should NEVER have used that language, especially concerning an adult.  The proof was in the pudding.  I wrote the words and I could not do anything about the fact that they were now part of public consumption.

There was a moment, though, when I was confronted with the angry mob at the seventh grade section of the lunchroom that occupied three large round tables, that I locked eyes with VP Underwood, who quickly began examining the cuticles on her toenails.

I spent the rest of the seventh grade year and most of eighth grade ostracized.  The popular girl's mom read the note, as did her entire family, and because her older high school aged sister was extremely beautiful, popular and powerful, I endured several confrontations from high school girl possees, as well.

It subsided when I went to high school and my social world opened up to upper classmen and the popular girl and her family simulatenously moved away.

THAT event was a defining moment.  It is a folktale in my house, only comparisons are made to screenshots, texting and the "typed word" because let's be real, nobody passes notes anymore.

That two year exile taught me what it means to be a friend, not only how to be a good friend, but most importantly, forced me to consider what qualities I desired in a friendship.  I think a lot of women ask themselves this question at some point in their lives, I just began to analyze my friendships early on. Because, in my mind, if you ARE a good friend, then you DESERVE a good friend.

That is not to say that from that moment on, I did not experience female friendship angst.  It was just a moment in my life that I refer to whenever I feel betrayed or hurt or isolated where female companionship is concerned. But,  I always make sure to ask myself what role I played in the situation during analysis, or the entire exercise is pointless. Now, all of my closest relationships must be genuine and based on mutual trust.  I have very little patience for backstabbing or social climbing, and I won't tolerate it amongst my girls either.  One could say that I have learned to protect myself socially, so that that will never happen to me again.

VP Francis Underwood roamed the halls with her posse all through middle school and never acknowledged her role in my demise.  In high school, after Miss Popular and her Cougar Mom moved away, we became friendly again and became even closer our senior year.  We were even going to be college roommates, until she got into a better college at the last minute.  We never discussed what happened, but even though we were friends, I never fully trusted her.

You see, I had to forgive her to move on.  Sometimes forgiveness is not necessarily for the person who wronged you, but is actually more powerful when you do it for yourself... so you can let go.

VP Francis Underwood, in my mind, did me a favor, early on in the social maturation process, and in turn, I believe that defining moment has had an impact on my family, as well.  When I am trying to explain to one of my daughters why what they write can impact others and damage them, especially if it is taken out of context, which most taudry information is, I have an actual REAL LIFE personal experience to reflect upon that usually has an impact on anyone that hears about it.

But, who am I kidding here?  The hippocrite with the laptop has become the proverbial black kettle again.   My point is that defining moments are not fair sometimes and they are even cruel, but they do not need to reflect your entire life, just SHAPE it.

Joe Namath was at the Super Bowl this year, awash in his ridiculous pimp fur pelt, and he was SOBER.  His pallor was healthy, and he was coherent and gregarious and most of all, respectful to all of the commentators.

That moment that everyone remembered where he disgraced himself on national television has faded, just as the intensity of my misery those two years in exile subsided as I reconnected with VP Francis Underwood.  And just as Joe Namath will remember what it felt like the next day after he humiliated himself on the sidelines, the next time he wants to take a drink, I will think about what I truly want in a friend when I feel wronged or exposed or double-crossed.  Defining moments are motivators when they are at their very best, and hinderences at their worst.

I encourage you to examine YOUR defining moments and if your are feeling especially generous, the defining moments of others, and what your perception of those are.  I just finished the second season of House of Cards on this fine morning, where they discuss the importance of public perception vs. what is genuine.  It seems that on The Hill, public interpretation is just as powerful as reality, even if they are in direct opposition to each other.

I wonder if the girls in my seventh grade class, who maybe went to a Catholic high school or something, still consider me "the girl who called the most popular girl in school's Mom a WHORE"?  I guess there are worse blogger.

I just LOVE him.

My OTHER guidance for you today is watch House of Cards.  I just went on a major Netflix bender this weekend with Season 2.  (see:;postID=7896672049376336247;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=6;src=postname ) Robin Wright (no longer with the Penn) just won a Globe for it, which I predicted.  Fun fact:  Wright is engaged to the wormy guy from Six Feet Under, remember him?  The whiny boyfriend of Claire?  This is such a weird match because Wright is such a goddess.

Also, Kevin Spacey is exquisite.  I've worshipped him since The Usual Suspects and Glengary Glenross.  He is the real deal, as far as I'm concerned. Look for him to win the Globe in 2015.

Her wardrobe is unbelievable in this series.  Apparently, she's all over Narciso Rodrigez.

Also, I was turned onto 30 on 30 by my friends, The Diwiks.  They are these great documentaries that ESPN produces and are a good way to distract you, as you do laundry or bite your fingernails to the quick as they announce the approach of some new bullshit Polar Vortex.