October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
Well don’t you ever be sad, Lean on me when times are bad. When the day comes and you’re in doubt, In a river of trouble, about to drown. Hold on, I’m coming. Hold on, I’m coming. Song by Isaac Hayes and David Porter
After I broke out of my high school “prison,” I was safe at home. Or was I? I noticed that for a while, I was never left at home alone. It was probably a wise decision made by my parents. I often took a bubble bath and would plant my feet up on the end of the tub, almost floating in the water, surrounded by clear opalescent bubbles, thinking of ways to end the emotional torment.
In the old days, the taunting might have made it to the principal’s office, or maybe to the parents of the bullies. Today, sadly, we see it on the national news and watch as parents talk about their beloved child committing suicide because of relentless bullying; we hear the anguish it has caused in the angry, quivering voice of the father who’s handicapped child has been teased and tossed around on the school bus; we hear about online cyber-stalking; and then we hear the professionally calm voice of newscasters speak dispassionately of teen suicide statistics.
I always wish that I could reach out and grab that child who decides to drive off the cliff. I was that teen ready to put my foot on the gas pedal, full speed ahead over the cliff a’ la Thelma and Louise before there was Thelma and Louise. I felt ugly… a misfit… rejected by and alienated from my peers… depressed… hopeless.
But – BIG BUT – if you can just hold on, hold on, it can get better. You can grow up to find life, love, and happiness. But, you have to hold on, despite the immediate and seemingly endless pain and humiliation. You have to hold on to the seed of a promise of hope that the suffering will eventually end.
I held on to my mother. I held on to my father. I held on to my sisters. I held on to my cat. I held on to my God. I held on to my religion. I held on to education. I held on to my passion for clothes and fashion. I held on to writing as a form of self-expression. I held on to the TV (remember, in the “old days” there was no PC, no internet, no email, no Facebook). I held on to music. I held on to Tom Jones. And the singer saved me.
My head was filled with The Voice. I tape-recorded his TV shows before there were Betas, VCRs, and DVDs, so I could play the music while I did chores, got dressed, did homework, etc. Tom Jones was in my head 24/7 – even when I wasn’t listening to him, the Memorex in my head was blaring his voice and fueling my adolescent girl crush on the pop star. He soothed my broken soul and was the reason I sometimes walked with a beat in my step. It wasn’t a song he was known for or recorded, but I could remember him sing, “Hold on, I’m coming. Hold on, I’m coming,” and I held on… to the singer who saved me.
October 5, 2010 § Leave a comment
Growing at the speed of light, by the time I was 16-years-old, I was six-feet-tall. Shortly thereafter, I was two inches taller than my six-foot-tall father. To make matters worse, I weighed only about a hundred pounds, because everything went into growth spurts. And this was long before being boney thin and anorexic looking was considered cool and chic. In my time, being a skinny Amazonian girl was simply an anomaly. And fodder for relentless teasing.
I got pushed and pulled and knocked into lockers, and tripped by mean boys who found pleasure in stepping on the back of my shoes, pulling off my heels, and watching my gawky long arms and 36-inch inseam legs flail and fall toward the ground. The teasing felt relentless. Definitely not good for a sensitive child… I was always amazed how even total strangers would make careless comments such as, “How’s the weather up there?” Ha-ha. Or, “Your chest is at my eye level.” Ha-ha.
It all came to a head when my 6-foot-2-inch body could no longer hide behind my parents, who could not protect me from people making thoughtless comments that made me feel self-conscious and freakish. And I could not hide behind my friends, who could not protect me at school, where I was fearful of what nerve-wracking “torture” the day might bring. It felt like Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were in my head, singing, “Nowhere to run, baby. Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to run, baby. Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to run, baby. Nowhere to hide…” Little did I know that I would I would run to… the singer who saved me.
August 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
I have loved three men in my life, respectively, my father, singer Tom Jones, and my husband. My father was married to my mother for over 60 years before he passed away days before his 91st birthday. It is well known that Tom Jones married his first love. And I am married to the love of my life.
Tom Jones is what I like to call the object of my transformation, but in object relations theory of psychology, he was technically my object of transition. He came at a time and place in my life when, as a teenager, I was teetering in the abyss of a black hole. While life appeared so simple for so many, it felt so complicated for me.
This is my story of how Tom Jones saved my life and how my path to maturity took a twisted turn into song, sound, celebrity, and sanity. It’s a fun superficial story – a sexy pop star, backstage visits, and Vegas in the 70s baby! It’s also a journey that took me years to fully understand. Would I have gotten to peace, love, and joy without Tom Jones? I don’t know, because he is inextricably linked to my delayed development.
Shortly before my mother passed on, I bought the old TV show, “This is Tom Jones” DVDs, which we watched in her bed together. Time and space and illness disappeared and we were as giddy and giggly and had as much fun as we did when we watched it together four decades ago. My mother was very religious with conservative values, and I decided this was my moment to ask her why she encouraged and allowed me to chase my Tom Jones dreams. She reached out her hand, squeezed mine gently, and looked at me with love in her eyes and said, “Because he was all you had, Judi.”