There are times, when I read yet another headline about the mortifying excesses of someone such as Lindsay Lohan, that I just want to reach out with an offer of help. Sometimes she seems utterly lost, and so unguided by a responsible parent, that it makes me sad. I mean it. If she could just take some time, slip out of the life she’s made for herself, and spend a few months living with sane people, her equilibrium might be restored.
I saw she just had a nervous collapse again a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t think she needs a luxury spa vacation — she needs summer camp. (Don’t get me started on The Parent Trap — Haley Mills is the only girl for me.) By which I mean: country living; vigorous physical activity; enforced rules, from reveille and lights out to housekeeping chores; hikes and sailing and singalongs. No plastic manicures, but friends doing each other’s toenails. (Does she even HAVE real friends?) This is a girl with major talent. But starting from toddlerhood, she was worked hard and turned out by parents who are emotional attention-seekers and vampires to her celebrity.
Another heartbreaker: Courtney Stodden. A teenaged beauty queen (and devout Christian) who married a middle-aged actor, and gained overnight notoriety somehow — with a public X-ray to prove her huge breasts were not surgically enhanced, horrid overexposure at events, deliriously manic appearances wearing clothes suitable for Hustler (not Playboy), acting like a sloppy-drunk sorority girl on a low-rent Spring Break. The media (and the infernal Comments Sections) were inflamed with scorn and righteous anger at her shrill shrieking and excessive antics. Their reactions infuriated me.
As we say back home, WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? This one’s mother was shaping her for this career path from the cradle, and take a hard look at the baby pageant photos. If there weren’t a tiara, it would be remarkable similar to a pimp grooming fresh meat from the bus station. Did any of the self-righteous folks pause in their sneering long enough to wonder why that teenager looks like a 50 year old truck stop waitress? Dead eyes and a fake giggle and those clothes…she wasn’t born that way. Her mother made her that way. My mother and I have a lot of differences, but if I could, I would stage an intervention and have Courtney move in with my mom. She’d be riding horses and learning to cook and falling asleep with a smile.
And her mom…I’d take her mom under MY wing. Do not tell me “it’s what Courtney always dreamed of!” (Is this what Dina Lohan said when she signed a three year old Lindsay up at Ford Models?) Toddlers don’t have career dreams, and don’t insist on entering pageants. In a sane world, a toddler wouldn’t even know about that twisted gymkhana, or be taught that the highest ambition for a girl is to be a show pony.
Think of Anna Nicole Smith. Think of how different things might have been if she had a real friend — someone who could keep her grounded, tell her the truth, let her just be herself. Not a sugar tit or arm candy or the packaged-trademarked-commodified product. Sometimes I’ve wondered if Britney Spears wasn’t heading for the same territory. Even if she’s not on five kinds of meds, she behaves like someone at risk of addiction. Hang in there, Honey!
I understand why people who are pretty and rich (and often stupid and shallow) get cut very little slack; I do. But these girls were molded by parents (especially mothers), often taken advantage of, often overworked, often left out in the cold. It was very sad that Amy Winehouse died young — but she was basically happy, and very close to her parents. Paris Hilton showed the world an incredibly shallow persona — but behind the surface, she was bright, well-loved, untroubled, and part of a tightly-knit family. On the other hand are the Janis Joplins, the Marilyn Monroes. Heath Ledger and River Phoenix and James Dean. Talent and beauty, sadness and need, no real anchor or harbor or home.
I just wish I could have given them all hugs, and pulled them out of their spirals, and…oh, I don’t know, spoon-fed them nourishing broth, and made them a bed on the couch with my grandma’s old quilt, and let them hide from the world’s high-pressure gaze. Damn it!
Is this a sign of age? Is it occult smugness, crypto-patronizing BS? Is this my dormant maternal instinct? Is it my own lonesomeness in this strange town? Some Walter Mitty daydream? Or is it more akin to that urge I get, when beset by hormones, to write earnest, idiotic letters to heroic firefighters who save kittens, brave protesters who stand in front of tanks?
Some people restore my faith in humanity. Others just break my heart.