I just watched Jodie Foster’s now-infamous Golden Globes speech and I must say that I am torn. On one hand, I respect her decision to “come out” in her own fashion, to air something that had been pretty much common knowledge for a long time in a way that still maintained her own need for privacy and being defined by more than her sexuality. At the same time, I found it a little obnoxious. Instead of just saying “I’m a lesbian. Get over it!”, she treated us to a rambling, elliptical, rather uncomfortable speech in which she teased the audience with what might amount to a personal confession, then veered away into narcissism. See, what Jodie doesn’t seem to understand is that coming out isn’t about you; it’s about everyone around you. Even non-celebrities have public lives. If you’re a straight guy, try this: Go into a public space and say something containing the words “my boyfriend”. If you can do so casually, congratulations, you are stronger than I am. It takes years to get comfortable enough in one’s own skin to say things like that as if you honestly don’t care who knows and who doesn’t. (And before somebody asks, yes, ladies can perform the same experiment and substitute “my girlfriend”.) Jodie is still self-conscious. She doesn’t realize that there might be young lesbians out there who could use a strong role model rather than one who insists on dancing around the inescapably political aspect of her own existence. We respect your need for privacy, Jodie. Now respect the public’s need to get a long-overdue fact out in the open.
The funny thing is that I’m not generally opposed to this sort of “You already know it, so I’m just not gonna say it” kind of coming out. Michael Stipe–the lead singer of what is still one of my all-time favorite bands–came out in a very indirect fashion, nervously reading a statement in which he outed his bandmates as straight before going off camera and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.
Anderson Cooper came out in an email to his friend Andrew Sullivan (which Sully published with his permission), a far cry from Ellen DeGeneres’ iconic Time magazine cover. What made Foster’s speech so irritating was simply that I had no idea what she was talking about. Everyone gets to decide for themselves how to come out. Foster did so in a way that had me fighting the urge to smack her. I want to say that she did what was right for her and her loved ones, but I don’t really care about that. Instead of applauding her for standing up and being counted, I just wanted her to shut up. Maybe she’s really like that, in which case good for her…I guess. I’m trying not to be judgmental, but in a world where gender and sexuality do matter (try as we might to act like they don’t), I think that by acknowledging her lesbianism in such a demure and roundabout fashion amounted to nothing more than hogging the spotlight. Nobody likes an attention whore.
Because I’m not done rambling yet, I’d like to talk about something else that is bugging me. In this case, I’ll talk about money. I bought all of the used textbooks off of an alum from my program last summer, then discovered that I needed between one-third and one-half of them, as curricula and teachers had changed from that year to this one. I’ve added up the numbers, and I probably still saved a few bucks, as I likely would have just ordered the rest from Amazon or gotten them from the student store otherwise. I bought a few of the ones that the alum didn’t have anyway, and I declined from buying several on the grounds that I could probably skate by without them. Considering that I might read one or two of the ones I didn’t need for class anyway, and I suppose I got my money’s worth. More or less. But something has definitely changed since high school. Then, I could have just found an alum and bought all of their books. Once or twice, I basically did. My program is fast-paced, fitting something that usually takes two years–a masters degree–into twelve months, so I guess I have to keep moving to keep up. Fine, but I wish somebody would update me when things change.
I think what is bugging me the most these days is that I still can’t get my foot in the door in a lot of places where I might really have something to offer. Not everyone will admit it, but I’m quite certain that there are people who know me well who didn’t like me the first time they met (and yes, there are some who did, circumstances vary). I’m taking a writing class this semester. The professor asked us to write op-eds. I did, and was quite proud of mine, but something wasn’t right. The best way I can explain it is that I wanted to hear that I’d done a great job, but didn’t think I’d quite earned it, and so dreaded hearing that there was no way I could possibly improve my draft, even though that is what I really wanted to hear. I feared getting praise I hadn’t earned is, I think, what I’m trying to say here. My ideas still needed to be refined and sharpened. There really is nothing more infuriating than knowing something isn’t right, but having no idea what it is. And I get that feeling a lot. In retrospect, it isn’t so hard to see that getting kicked out of your apartment or dumped or fired isn’t the end of the world. What people often forget is that that shit hurts no matter how it happens. Breaking up–something I have never personally experienced–probably stings even worse when you really loved the other person and totally understand why it had to end. That’s the impression that I get.
There are a lot of talented artists out there who are also shitty people. Roman Polanski, Kanye West, Orson Scott Card. If this speech is the closest I’ll ever get to knowing Jodie Foster, I’m glad I don’t.
People are complicated. The public wants to boil everyone down to a mere collection of traits, and as any flesh-and-blood person will tell you, nobody is that simple, except perhaps Snooki. The only people I have any use for are the ones who can continually surprise me, and whenever I find myself at a point where shit seems to be going alright, I wish I could save that up for the moments when nothing will be going right. A wise person would tell me not to worry about that and to just go along for the ride. But I’m not wise, just angry.