I know this letter would have been more timely had I written it last week. After all, the pundits have run out of things to say about your big fight with Elizabeth last Wednesday. (That doesn’t keep them from repeating themselves, of course.) I thought about posting a comment on your blog…but the space didn’t allow for everything I wanted to say.
To be truthful, I have been thinking about writing you a letter for years. I loved you on Star Search, in Sleepless in Seattle and in A League Of Their Own. I loved your talk show, and your crush on Tom Cruise, which I shared until he slammed Brooke Shields for taking care of herself. I loved your standup routine, your honesty about depression and your willingness to come out, even though you valued the privacy of your private life.
It’s weird how celebrity works. We think we know people we’ve never met. I feel like we might have gone to high school or college together. We’re even the same age, born exactly a month apart (my DOB = 2/21/62; your DOB = 3/21/62). We have a lot of other things in common, too—weight issues, depression, an artsy-craftsy side, and I think I could go toe to toe with you on knowing all the TV theme songs and commercial jingles of the past 40 years.
Another thing we have in common is our passion for social justice that is forged from our compassion for people. We share an ability and willingness to speak for others who cannot speak. We also have a similar penchant for getting in trouble for speaking the truth, for ‘not knowing when to shut-up.’ And while I have regretted the way I have handled some heated encounters over the years, I count it as a gift that I refuse to shut up and sit down. You, me, the Dixie Chicks, Gloria Steinhem, and many other uppity women through the centuries—we are in good company. Uppity Women Unite!
You know, I was actually there when it happened, this latest fight. I was sitting in my big chair by the TV, with The View on in the background while I worked on a freelance project that was due that day. Joy was saying something about Bush, and Elizabeth was interrupting, and all of a sudden, you asked her a question, and the two of you were into it.
I gave you my full attention, then, and I noticed something that few people are talking about. There was a lot of pain in your eyes. You were really hurt. And I don’t think it was just because Elizabeth hadn’t backed you up on Monday. I think you were hurt because you had really tried to be her friend, and you had thought friendship meant the same thing to her as it does to you. There’s another similar trait—fierce loyalty to our friends. I always have my friends’ backs, but if I can’t stand behind a friend’s actions or words, I say so, and so would you.
It was painful to watch, not because of the argument, but because of what was happening behind it. A friendship was dissolving before our eyes. I could even see pain in Elizabeth’s eyes. I’d like to dismiss her as insignificant, to put her in the same category as Ann Coulter, behind whose eyes I’ve never seen anything but ice and steel. But Elizabeth is not the enemy. She’s young and naïve and loyal to her party…so are a lot of people. But she has the potential to move beyond that and be multi-dimensional. I think you saw that, and I think part of the pain on Wednesday was realizing she wasn’t there, yet, and that you couldn’t help her achieve it without denying who you are.
So I’m sorry, Rosie…sorry you had to go through that; sorry it had to be on national TV; sorry we live in the age of You Tube, where we can see it over and over again. But I am grateful, too…grateful you had the dignity to say ‘enough is enough;’ that you had the spiritual and artistic integrity to create the video “True Colors” with your collages and Cyndi Lauper’s song; and grateful that you are surrounded by a wonderful support system of friends and loved ones—another thing we have I common—that can hold you up and carry you through to the next leg of your journey.