Is it only me or does it seem like Angelina Jolie does not care one iota what we think of her? Just to be clear, I’ve never met Angelina Jolie. Nor do I suffer from one of those celebrity fantasies where I think if Angelina and I did meet, we’d become instant BFFs bonding over how much we both wear black. No. In fact, it’s the opposite. I think if Angelina met me, within five minutes she’d slap me hard across the face exclaiming, Stop caring about what everyone else thinks all the time!
This is a woman who gushed about being in love with her brother at the 2000 Academy Awards and kissed him on the lips. A woman who, in 2005, stole another woman’s husband. And before the moving van finished delivering Brad Pitt’s architecturally important furniture to their new manse, W magazine published a photo spread of the two of them with five children entitled “Domestic Bliss,” three months before Brad’s divorce to Jennifer Aniston would be finalized. No mere celebrity mortal could survive the whiff of adultery and incest but these things do not cling to the transcendent Ms. Jolie.
She does not spend her time shopping. She writes and directs. She flies planes and rides motorcycles. She gets her lover a tattoo while attending Davos. And of course, there’s her charitable activities, too varied and numerous to mention, like her children. And throughout all her life in the public eye, Angelina Jolie has never asked us to like her. She does not do cutesy self-deprecating shtick (my standard fallback). There have been no People magazine What I Learned cover stories, hinting if she could do it all again, she’d do it differently. She has never aspired to be the girl next door, your BFF—this makes her the coolest girl in school.
And I haven’t yet mentioned the cancer thing. She turned her double prophylactic mastectomy into a public call to women to take control of their health. How she managed to have the surgery in New York City without word leaking to the press shows sly and cunning worthy of Jason Bourne.
This former wild-child/cancer-avoider/humanitarian extraordinaire floats through the world’s airports with six kids and The Sexiest Man Alive circa 1995 and 2000, all holding hands as if in a game of Red Rover Red Rover, and I become a believer of the Church of Angelina Jolie.
Brad Pitt has suggested that being married to Jennifer Aniston was boring. Is that really fair? Breaking the sound barrier, naked, would be boring compared to Angelina Jolie. Even among the world’s most extraordinary people, she’s extraordinary.
I like to imagine Angelina at home calling the shots while Brad flakes out on the sofa, a joint in one hand, while watching SpongeBob with the twins. From now on, whenever I’m feelings doubtful, if I find myself obsessing whether I’ve said or done the right thing, I will ask myself: WWAD--What Would Angie Do? I will evoke it like a mantra, over and over, until she appears like her character Fox from the movie Wanted. She will brush her billowy lips against my ear and in a voice both husky and menacing say: you apologize too much. Then under her tutelage, I will blossom just like James McAvoy did in the movie.
I, for one, cannot wait to see Maleficent this weekend.
Like the mothers who forbid their children from playing violent video games or with toy guns, my mother did not want me to play with baby dolls for the same reason. She was afraid that if I pretended I was a mother, there was a risk I would engage in such behavior in real life. Baby dolls, toy cradles, and plastic kitchen sets were all off limits for the same reason. My mother, a proud feminist, wanted to ensure I avoided the mistakes she had made in her life, namely getting married and having children. “Do as I say, not as I do,” she’d tell me.
While mothering a pretend human infant was objectionable, mothering pretend baby animals were tolerated. I amassed a huge collection of stuffed mammals, reptiles, and arthropods. My older sister sewed a baby sling and coordinating outfit for my teddy bear in her junior high home ec class. For one year I carried that bear everywhere like a Kenyan bush mother.
Barbie dolls were something of a gray area. I found a few dolls in our basement that had once belonged to my older sisters, relics from the era before my mother raised her consciousness. Barbie was a full-grown woman so there was no mothering involved, nor did my mother seem concerned with the doll’s obvious anorexia. However, she did object to Barbie’s lack of professional opportunities, but my mother’s propensity to never throw anything away proved stronger than her feminist principles, so the dolls stayed.
Every year on my birthday my mother liked to give me an educational toy: Simon, Master Mind, Comp IV, Little Professor. It was hard to get excited. I’d get my doll fix from my best friend Michelle who lived down the street. Michelle’s mom was very nice though foolishly unconcerned with Michelle’s future political leanings. At Michelle’s house, I fed Baby Alive food packets mixed with water and waited for the substance to move through her so I could change her diaper. When Michelle and I played with her Barbie dolls and United Airlines Friend Ship, Barbie never demanded to fly the plane herself.
As my seventh birthday approached, Michelle’s mom asked me if there was anything special I wanted. A doll I said unequivocally. On the day of my party, she handed me a huge box. “It’s what you want,” she said when she wished me a happy birthday. Later that night I opened the box. It was a beautiful doll, a doll fit for a princess, the tag said. It was a doll that didn’t eat or go to the bathroom. There was no string on the back of her neck to make her talk. Her hair didn’t grow long and shrink back. There was no airplane sold separately. It was a doll of exquisite artistry that gave its owner pleasure simply by her very existence. Even my anti-doll mother was impressed. “Oh, that’s a beauty!” she said. “What a special gift. But its not a doll to play with—its too expensive.” She took the doll and placed it on the shelf in my bedroom. There it remained untouched for 23 years.
As I’ve gotten older, I feel pretty good about how I’m aging. Except for the lines on my face, the reemergence of acne, the gray hair that never stays completely covered, and the nagging persistent fear that my best days are gone, like a boat that has set sail leaving me stranded on the dock. Alone. Like I said, pretty good.
But there’s one change as I’ve gotten older that has been particularly irksome. Not to get all Are You There God? Its Me, Margaret on you, but lately my periods have become, well . . . kind of obnoxious. They’re longer and heavier now. My gynecologist tells me that’s normal for women my age. Normal or not, they’re acting like a passive-aggressive Jewish grandmother.
“What? You’d prefer if I didn’t bother you? Poof. I’m gone. Is that what you want? Listen missy, when I’m gone, you’re going to miss me so much, you won’t be able to see straight! Then who’s going to be sorry you weren’t nicer to me when you had the chance?”
“Yeah right,” I’d scream at my menses before slamming the door in her face. “I hate her, I hate her, I hate her!” I’d cry into my pillow before falling asleep exhausted.
I don’t really hate my period. I just wish there wasn’t so much of it. It’s like I have a reverse period now. I bleed three weeks out of every month. After sex with my husband, my bedroom looks like a crime scene.