As a tween girl (only we weren’t called that in the early-80s–they just callled us “kids”) I watched reruns of “One Day At A Time” in syndication and I thought Valerie Bertinelli was the prettiest girl in the world. I wanted more than anything to look like her. All long dark hair and big eyes and sweet smile. She was also in one of my favourite made for TV movies in 1981–The Princess and the Cabbie. She was SO pretty!
So last week when I needed a brain break from George Martin I decided I’d read her “biography”Losing It.
It’s been thirty years since I first made her a mental role model of sorts, and I’m glad to have those decades under my belt. Because as I trudged through the book I found myself incredibly sad. Here’s a person who, at a healthy weight for middle-aged women of her frame size, thought she was fat. As I read her book, which is sadly subtitled “gaining my life back one pound at a time”, I was struck by the reality that even though she was a Teen Beat pinup, a beautiful young woman with a loving family and a successful career in a VERY competitive industry she always thought she was “fat” and “ugly”. There is a lot of talk about comparing herself physically to gaunt Mackenzie Phillips, a girl drugged and raped by her own father but still enviable because she’s SKINNY.
Yep. That’s the world we live in. Doesn’t matter that you’ve been high since you were eight. That your father considers you a preferable sex partner and that you have been at death’s door since you were twelve. You are a role model because you are a thin person. Never mind that you are thin in part because your parents would rather roll you a joint than cook you a hot meal.
It makes me so upset when I think about this book in retrospect, and even more so when I read the numerous Amazon reviews (heh. Amazon reviews by women who would find actual Amazons distasteful…) by women who say they bought the book for FREAKING GUIDANCE of all things. Not curiousity. Not a desire to learn. Guidance.
I am well past the age when I sought guidance from actressess and pop stars. But thankfully, right about the same time I started thinking how much I wanted to look like Valerie Bertinelli, I also heard a tune on the oldies radio station that jarred my world and burned into my senses. I missed the name of the song–it was buried in one of those blocks they would play–and spent weeks (pre-Internet) trying to track it down. When I finally found out what it was I looked in vain for the 45 and then waited by the radio for weeks with my tape recorder.*
It’s been one of my life anthems ever since. I wish someone had played it for all those other girls, the ones who think that they will be someone only if someone else says so.
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
God bless Rick Nelson.
*Stories like this are what drive home to me just how much of a boon the Internet and iTunes are in a way, but just how much of our hunter-gatherer instincts must go unfulfilled now. Because those hunts of my youth for songs and articles were a lot of what made me.