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Posts Tagged ‘Eric Wilson’

Just when you thought it was safe to take a peek at what everyone’s favorite bad girl’s been up to…

When I opened this Sunday’s New York Times, flipped straight to the Styles section (as I do when I have a blessed nearly-whole day of couch planned) and saw the headline: “Courtney Love: ‘I’d Like to Be Trusted Again,’ I had to wonder. Would this be one of those predictable Fallen Star Rises Again mea culpa type things? An I’ve-Seen-The-Errors-Of-My-Ways-And-Hey!-I’ve-Also-Found-God/Lost-Weight/Launched-A-New-Fragrance-variety profile? Happily, the answer is no. Not even close, in fact. For while author Eric Wilson is sympathetic to Ms. Love, all did not go as planned. After waiting for her in her hotel room at the Mercer Hotel–and snooping enough to discover a stash of curiously titled self-help books, Love made her entrance. And what an entrance it was.

Behold:

Shortly after 8p.m., Ms. Love burst into the room with the Marchesa dress slung on one arm and the noted German Neo-Expressionist artist Anselm Kiefer on the other. She was entirely naked and leaning on Mr. Kiefer for support. She made one lap around the room, walking in front of a photographer, an assistant, a hairstylist and me. She pulled over her head a transparent lace dress that covered up nothing, and demanded my assistance–”Not you,” she said to Mr. Kiefer, who was bent over trying to help her–to stuff her feet into a pair of black Givenchy heels that were zipped up the back and tied with delicate laces in the front. Then she applied a slash of red lipstick in the vicinity of her mouth.

“I really must get out of here,” Mr. Kiefer said.

“Just a minute,” Ms. Love said, as she pushed her feet, shoes and all, through a pair of pink knickers that she said cost $4,000. She grabbed a trench coat, walked through the hotel lobby with her breasts exposed to an assortment of prominent fashion figures, including Stefano Pilati, the Yves Saint Laurent designer, and then exited the hotel.

This is not at all how this story was meant to begin.

The piece goes on. The scene described above was an anomaly, but only kind of. And this post of mine is not going to praise Love for the afore-detailed behavior. (Or to worry over what became of those shoes. Shudder to think.) Nor does the NYT piece: the picture it paints is of someone who is simply herself. A self that can often be described as FUBAR, yes, but also intelligent, open, talented, and funny. A self that has been a pariah and a darling. That has crashed and burned and risen and crashed again. That has been beautiful and a hot freaking mess.

A self that is full of contradictions, much like most of the rest of us.

Interestingly, elsewhere in the paper (but still on the couch), I found a profile of Debra Winger, who’s reappeared on the scene as of late, starring as the troubled, aging actress Frances on the HBO series “In Treatment.” Much of the piece centers around why she hasn’t been acting despite an impressive career that began with her superhero role on Wonder Woman, what kind of roles appeals to her, what kind don’t. And to that, here’s a bit of what she said:

Heroes–costumed or otherwise–hold little attraction for Winger. “Most of the real ‘heroes’ I know are women who would not get called heroes,” she said. “They are deeply flawed, and what’s within that human spectrum–feeling weak, crying, messing up, being angry–is much more exciting to me.”

Again, I come not to hold up Courtney Love as a hero. But she certainly knows how to rule the range of that human spectrum. Two days before the incident Wilson detailed above, “Courtney Love told a reporter from Style.com that she was trying to take better care of herself.” A couple of days after the incident:

So here was Ms. Love, 16 years [after her husband Kurt Cobain killed himself], the toast of fashion. At one point, she took me upstairs to her room to show me some clothes. The bed was unmade, and there was an overflowing ashtray on the night stand next to five prescription bottles and some junk food. “These are my wakeup cupcakes, some anti-depressants and a cellphone book,” she said without embarrassment.

“I speak to you as someone who doesn’t want to be perceived as a train wreck,” she said.

But, as Jenna Sauers points out in a fiery and fun piece over on Jezebel, the twisted beauty of the story of Courtney Love is that she doesn’t seem to care how others perceive her at all. She writes:

I might even argue [Love] is in certain ways admirable. What other woman in recent memory, having been given (hell, earned) the media’s Bad Girl label, has snarled at the designation–and then continued on her own, misguided but apparently basically contented, way?

Courtney Love is unwilling to become boring… and for that alone, it seems some must condemn her. Perhaps she realized that women are judged for their personal lives in a way that men in the public eye rarely are–where male rock stars who are neglectful parents with histories of drug abuse are concerned, the press narrative is, shall we say, markedly different–and that trying to please those strangers who have come to feel they have a stake in her family, her personal life, or her choices is a losing game… Perhaps she just doesn’t give a fuck…. We truly don’t have enough women capable of or willing to play the bad girl with a smile — and without a trace of victimhood.

She writes that, despite the fact that Love’s a bad singer, a bad mother, and does some stupid stuff, she loves her. Loves her because she’s not a role model and never wanted to be,

Because she auditioned for the bloody Mickey Mouse Club at age 12 by reciting Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy.” Because she is subjected (and subjects herself) to industrial-strength moral and legal scrutiny at every turn and still gets up in the afternoon, applies lipstick in the vicinity of her mouth, and faces the world.

And that is nothing short of impressive. I mean, how many times have you made an idiot of yourself–and then gone into self-imposed exile so you could beat yourself up about it? How many times have you realized you’ve been walking around with lipstick on your teeth all morning, and refused to leave the confines of your cubicle for the rest of the day? Maybe you got a little too drunk and made a fool of yourself among friends–and then opted to spend the remainder of your hangover reliving the spill/fall/unwisely chosen words under the covers, rather than venturing out for a breakfast burrito with the rest of the crew? Love’s a (wildly) extreme case, but a good one for the rest of us who allow our fear of judgment to hold us back from being ourselves–or who’d prefer to beat ourselves up when we could be dusting ourselves off, and going back into battle. If she can put herself out there, why on earth shouldn’t we?

More importantly, to a certain extent, we’ve all been there–most of us to a lesser degree (and likely in far less expensive shoes)–so when a sister blows it, well, who are we to judge? Perhaps the trainwrecks of the world would have an easier time making their way out of the wreckage if we didn’t.


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Frankly, all this hype about happy is making me sad. It’s not enough we have folks like Marcus Buckingham telling us how to be happy — and making us feel guilty because we are not. Or the incessant volleys about the paradox of women’s declining happiness. But, frankly, despite the wealth of books, blogs, life coaching and, yep, even college courses about how to become happy little campers, we can’t even define the term.

That’s a problem, writes Carlin Flora in this month’s Psychology Today. He not only provides some research-backed insight into what so-called happiness is truly all about (hint: it doesn’t have much to do with shopping, as this post on some new research suggests. Or smiley faces, for that matter.) He also points out that — finally — there’s some counterpoint to what he dubs the “happiness frenzy.” And hooray for that.

I mean, really, hasn’t all the recent talk about slapping on a smile made you just a little bit grumpy?

While all this happiness business began as the serious study of positive psychology, the science has lately been reduced to the equivalent of a mylar balloon emblazoned with a happy face. Not good, Florin writes:

It wasn’t enough that an array of academic strands came together, sparking a slew of insights into the sunny side of life. Self-appointed experts jumped on the happiness bandwagon. A shallow sea of yellow smiley faces, self-help gurus, and purveyors of kitchen-table wisdom have strip-mined the science, extracted a lot of fool’s gold, and stormed the marketplace with guarantees to annihilate your worry, stress, anguish, dejection, and even ennui. Once and for all! All it takes is a little gratitude. Or maybe a lot.

What we’ve lost in all this focus on the sunny side of life is the ability — no, even the permission — to embrace the melancholy, which in turn pathologizes sadness, which is often the true, honest and normal reaction to life as we know it. More from Carlin:

There are those who see in the happiness brigade a glib and even dispiriting Pollyanna gloss. So it’s not surprising that the happiness movement has unleashed a counterforce, led by a troika of academics. Jerome Wakefield of New York University and Allan Horwitz of Rutgers have penned The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder, and Wake Forest University’s Eric Wilson has written a defense of melancholy in Against Happiness. They observe that our preoccupation with happiness has come at the cost of sadness, an important feeling that we’ve tried to banish from our emotional repertoire.

Horwitz laments that young people who are naturally weepy after breakups are often urged to medicate themselves instead of working through their sadness. Wilson fumes that our obsession with happiness amounts to a “craven disregard” for the melancholic perspective that has given rise to our greatest works of art. “The happy man,” he writes, “is a hollow man.”

Maybe yes, maybe no. But, as Flora continues, happiness isn’t about smiling or pretending or desperately seeking sunshine. It’s more along the lines of, well, facing reality. And that includes a certain amount of discomfort. Even angst:

…It’s not about eliminating bad moods, or trading your Tolstoy-inspired nuance and ambivalence toward people and situations for cheery pronouncements devoid of critical judgment. While the veritable experts lie in different camps and sometimes challenge one another, over the past decade they’ve together assembled big chunks of the happiness puzzle.

What is happiness? The most useful definition—and it’s one agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, behavioral economists, positive psychologists, and Buddhist monks—is more like satisfied or content than “happy” in its strict bursting-with-glee sense. It has depth and deliberation to it. It encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, living with thought and purpose.

It’s maximized when you also feel part of a community. And when you confront annoyances and crises with grace. It involves a willingness to learn and stretch and grow, which sometimes involves discomfort. It requires acting on life, not merely taking it in. It’s not joy, a temporary exhilaration, or even pleasure, that sensual rush—though a steady supply of those feelings course through those who seize each day.

Flora ends the piece with a round-up of various theories on happiness. I think my favorite is this:

Happiness is not your reward for escaping pain. It demands that you confront negative feelings head-on, without letting them overwhelm you. Russ Harris, a medical doctor-cum-counselor and author of The Happiness Trap, calls popular conceptions of happiness dangerous because they set people up for a “struggle against reality.” They don’t acknowledge that real life is full of disappointments, loss, and inconveniences. “If you’re going to live a rich and meaningful life,” Harris says, “you’re going to feel a full range of emotions.”

Happy-ness redefined? Permission to be anything less? To choose, as Shannon wrote last week, interesting over happy and call it a day? Wow. It’s enough to make me, well, you know….

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