The intense and brilliant Elaine Stritch just passed.
Born just one year after my parents, she was a Broadway start who brought the bang into the spotlight. I lost my virginity to the Company cast album — thanks Tweety — where Ms. Stritch banged out “The Ladies Who Lunch”
“She was always looking for love from her audience,” many are saying about her. That’s a code for so many performers, this notion that they are looking for love.
I don’t believe that I am unlovable. I believe that my mother in the sky loves me.
I do believe, however, that my looking for love is a trap, a blind, a fool’s errand.
I believe that others are all about themselves and any amount that they are about me is about how I can service them. That’s the theme of my first blog post here, from Thanksgiving 2005, knowing that people see me as a human doing rather than a human being.
It’s not that I don’t need love. I’m human, I do. Love and understanding — always together — are something for which I ache.
Others often can’t imagine that anyone who needs love would bristle so much, be such a porcupine, asking for respect and understanding over affection and acceptance.
In my family of origin, if I lost myself to the collective identity, I would be completely lost, as the collective identity was completely reactionary; anger at idiots who don’t get it, rage at others who never made us happy.
Add to that my knowledge that the compulsory gender role I was assigned by dint of my birth genitalia didn’t match my heart, finding that I couldn’t satisfy women looking for a cocky guy, and I knew that what was hidden was more potent than what was assumed.
My looking for love was a quest of manipulation, trying to sell myself to others. And that was futile and destructive. So I learned to renounce desire to find clarity, a classic human discipline. I focused on the love of God over the love of people.
Many spiritual disciplines want to teach this detachment. For most, though, they learn this after they learn attachment. In my family of origin, though, attachment was not a feature.
“Love me! Love me! Love me!” so many performers cry from the stage. “Look at how charming and magical I am! Let me attract you into my world and let you be entertained and seduced!”
On the other hand, I say “Look, I know I am a piece of work, so I’ll leave what I have right here, and if you are interested, you know where to find me.” Then I go back to my world and am willing to be surprised if anyone actually engages me.
This might not be the best way to get the love, affirmation, understanding and empathy that I need, but I know that being exposed and not having what I give returned has a very high cost, one I have been paying for many, many, many, many, many, many decades now.
I’m here and I’m open. But looking for the love I need? I never learned how to do that in a way that returns more than it costs.
But Ms. Stritch was great, and I’m glad she got such a good return on exposing herself, even at a cost.
Though, of course, she’s dead now.
Rest in Peace.