As we sat, bleary-eyed, sipping our coffee this morning, Dada and I were pondering the sad news of Carrie Fisher’s passing. She drowned in moonlight…strangled by her own bra. We were upset (but not surprised) by the fact that already there is one “friend” who has told the press she had relapsed and was no longer sober.
Allow me, please, to unburden myself:
I loved Carrie Fisher. As a twelve year-old girl sitting in a dark theater watching Star Wars with my dad, I was thrilled to see a girl who could shoot a hole in a bulkhead to (kinda…sorta) “rescue” herself and the heroes of the story. Granted, they ended up in the trash compactor, but that’s beside the point. Princess Leia showed initiative while the men shot blindly trying to kill the Stormtroopers and couldn’t find a way to get out of there. She was wearing a long white dress, her hair in buns, lip gloss, and she was a bad-ass nonetheless.
Of course, in real life Carrie was more of a mess. She had issues galore. Her family had experienced a traumatic divorce in spite of their “picture perfect” life. Seriously: who cheats on Debbie Reynolds? Eddie Fisher…with Elizabeth Taylor. And thus started Carrie’s more complex tapestry of incidents that shaped her forevermore. We all saw it. We all witnessed her life in much the same way we witness every other celebrity’s life.
When I was 22 I read Postcards From the Edge and, having a complicated relationship with my own mother, found some solace in the humor with which Ms. Fisher addressed her own story. She was funny, witty, sharp as a tack, and unapologetic about who she was. I’m sure it took her quite a bit of time and effort to accept that she wasn’t just Debbie Reynolds’ daughter, not just the product of a messy divorce, a Hollywood childhood, early success. Like George Michael a couple of days before, Carrie will now die several times over: not only has her body stopped working and the person she was has ceased to exist in the plane of this world; now she is going to be crucified and dissected by people who will make a buck and get attention (even an unnamed source gets attention) for sharing things that are no one’s business.
People are shitty. Not all of them, but enough of them are to justify that statement. Whether Ms. Fisher had relapsed or not, what business is this of the rest of us? Her daughter might have known. If she didn’t, does this help her mourn? How about her elderly mother? What good does it do to say (as a “friend”) that you knew something about Ms. Fisher that you will only reveal now that she is dead? Pardon my bluntness, but it is the fucking holidays, and a beloved daughter and mother has passed away at the still-not-that-old age of sixty…can’t you just keep the lid on your meanness and let these people mourn?
This is why “friends” are such a rare thing. I don’t have a lot of them. I never have. I had more, but some have -over time and due to circumstance- moved to a different category. It is not that I don’t love them, but…we no longer share a common experience that allows us to understand each other, to communicate with the same ease and intimacy we used to share.
Let me explain, please. My best friend is my husband. No, this is not bullshit. This is not that idealized image of “my best friend is my husband” and everything is butterflies, rainbows, unicorns and moonbeams. This is “my best friend is my husband” because he has my back, calls me on my bullshit, tells me the truth even when I don’t like it, allows me to tell him the truth when he doesn’t want to hear it, keeps very few things from me (we all keep ‘something’ because we think it gives us a degree of control,) and occupies that space that used to be reserved for my female peers. Yes, he is my husband, and -you could say- a lot of that comes with the territory, but it often doesn’t. I don’t just love him in a carnal, romantic way…I love this guy as a human being, and if I ever did something truly terrible that required conspiring with another person, he would be the person I would trust most. When we have an argument (regardless of how big or small,) I talk about it with him. It’s messy, but it’s honest…and we do talk a lot…about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
My other “friends?” Well, yes, I love them. I can talk to them. Is there brutal honesty? No, not really. People don’t want to hear the bad stuff, do they? People want to think that they know, and understand, but they barely scratch the surface. If you try to be honest and tell them things you need them to know so they will “get it,” they interject with “I know” because it’s easier than admitting that you exist in a diorama they have created for you. The truth is that there are different kinds of friends: the ones you think you have, the ones who think they have you, and the ones where the feeling is mutual. This last sort is the rarest, most precious of all…
This morning, while sipping coffee and talking about Carrie Fisher’s shitty friend, we were admitting how we truly hate that people think our life is one way, and won’t let us tell them it’s another. We hate even more that we’ve given up on explaining, on trying to illustrate. Why have we given up? Because people cry watching Schindler’s List, but they don’t cry when they read about the Holocaust. Because difficulties being faced with the right lighting, musical score, by beautiful people who look ethereal and inspiring while doing it are so much more moving than picturing middle-aged people struggling to bathe their adult son (who is covered in hair) while getting soaked because water runs down your arm. That you do this dressed in the same pajamas you were wearing when you went to bed last night (because you’ve had a hectic day that other people wouldn’t understand and you haven’t changed or brushed your teeth even though it’s already four PM) and you are singing Winter Wonderland using funny voices and foreign accents because it distracts your kid from hitting himself for a moment or two… Oh, it’s something so unbelievable, so impossible to grasp…
And yet it’s true. People see your Facebook profile picture and they don’t understand that you got really lucky with the light, and that -had it not been for that- you would still have the picture of your slippers, or your books, or the Christmas tree. But you got lucky…you had THAT moment, and it reflects what you want to think your life looks like even though you know that it’s really completely different. You don’t cling to that image. You know it’s a brief fortunate moment captured digitally to please your ego. You know that you’re still wearing the same soup-stained shirt because, as you were about to change, some minor crisis diverted you from your purpose…
A friend understands that shit. A supposed friend will comment “but you know her shirt was soup-stained, and she was barely holding it together two minutes before the light hit her just right and her husband took that picture, right? Her life was a mess…”
Carrie Fisher knew she was a mess. Carrie was proud of this knowledge. Not of being a mess, but of knowing it, and of working on it regardless of how difficult it could be. She was admirable in a very human way, and real friends know this about us, and don’t parade whatever “intimacy” they think they are privy to just to be the center of attention briefly. That’s why I feel sorry for people who think they know and yet know nothing. Intimacy is knowing and being discreet. If I tell you “my shirt was soup-stained and I got lucky with the light” my husband will say “yes…her shirt was soup-stained, we got lucky with the light.” We know our life is a mess…we don’t need others to state the obvious, or to broadcast what they think will make them look knowledgeable. A person who is actually knowledgeable reserves their knowledge for something truly worthwhile, in my humble opinion…
OK. Thanks for your patience, and I leave you with a quote from Ms. Fisher:
“Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”