I have been pondering the use of the word “idol” as of late. I have a negative perspective of the word, and find it almost repulsive to employ in conversation. The implication of the “idolized” subject standing high on the mountain top with choirs of angels belting out “Halleluiah” flashes through my head. I feel the need to search through my repertoire for a more respectable adjective; however I can never seem to find one. It leads me to wonder that perhaps it’s not the word giving me the grief, but how it feels to publicly…heck, even personally acknowledge that you are placing that much admiration on the earthly talents of another human being. Is it the fear of leaving oneself somewhat vulnerable to criticism of these thoughts? Could it possibly be the glaring reality that the idolized person usually is not even aware of your existence? It is the epitome of the one-sided relationship. I was introduced to Fran Lebowitz and her work when I accidentally hit the channel button on the remote control. Joy Behar was conversing with a conservatively-dressed, gravelly-voiced woman, and I was instantly captured by her impeccable timing. Odd things please me. Ms. Lebowitz’s perfectly timed wit and lightening speed responses were mentally stimulating to me. In that ten minute interview, it was as though I encountered someone who had received the same brain prototype I had and was producing the precise material I craved to achieve enjoyment. Admirably, she had found an output mechanism to gift her thoughts publicly in a succinct and productive way. I was engrossed in it all. Her posture was quietly assertive…lying in wait to be challenged on her remarks. She was unencumbered by the “accessories” of society today, and appeared uniquely “regular” looking. I could run into her on the street. The outer shell did not reveal her secrets.
Over time, I read her writings, watched her documentary, and listened to her recordings. I wanted to meet her-to see for myself how such a thoroughly accurate thinker and observer actually walks around in the world and collects information. Her social commentary was devastatingly precise, and I imagined that it left her with negative feedback at times. After all, people hate the truth. The opportunity arose for me to see her speak post-screening of a documentary Martin Scorsese filmed of her. It became necessary for me to make this happen-Maryland or not, I would accomplish this goal.
After an eventful day of travel, and spoonful of other interesting situations, I found myself sitting in a respectable, but plainly outfitted theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland. Arriving one hour prior to the showtime, I discovered only a handful of people milling about the lobby. I was the first one to claim my “first come, first served” seat. It was about this time when I began to wonder just how high I had placed my expectations about the evening’s events to come. I was fearful of leaving to retrieve popcorn and a beverage due to the possibility of losing my prime seat location. Even when my stomach began to rumble, I bravely conceded that starvation would be a more acceptable alternative than poor seating.
When the documentary was finished and the lights came on, I attempted to discreetly look for where Ms. Lebowitz had perched herself. I was mildly aware that I should not appear too overzealous, but my excitement was mounting. Then, she appeared at the podium to take audience questions. Therein began 45 minutes of sheer wonder. All of my well-thought out questions crawled into the recesses of my mind and took a nap. Time speeds by incredibly when one is over-stimulated. The next thing I knew, it was over and I was mechanically making my way out of the theatre, furious that I had blown my opportunity. As I approached the exit, I was motivated to see a small line had formed. Since planning my trip, I had secretly clung to the hope that Ms. Lebowitz would offer a book signing after the screening of the documentary. I purposely dismissed this thought each time it emerged in my vision of the evening. After all, I did not want my hopes dashed. My heart beat faster and I inconspicuously peered to the front of the line. There she stood in all her gray-ish trench coat glory…pen in hand signing a book for a patron. I promptly positioned myself in line and gave myself a strongly-worded lecture outlining the fact that this was a fortuitous happening indeed and I was not to blow this opportunity. As I approached the front of the line, I was horrified to realize that the sweat on my palms was rumpling the page I wanted to have her sign.
Subsequently, I began to fiddle with my camera both to prepare for my big moment, and remove my hands from my book that I was ruining. The woman in front of me was taking FOREVER with Ms. Lebowitz and my blood pressure was rising at a sharp rate. Then, it happened.
The woman in front of me stepped away, and there I stood…a sweaty, overtired, over stimulated mess on the verge of either a cardiac event or an aneurysm. I approached Ms. Lebowitz with trembling hands (likely due in large part to low blood sugar by this time), and clumsily thrust my book at her. Without looking up she asked what my name was as she put pen to paper.
“My name????” I thought. Oh, Lord…I had not prepared for this. Dammit.
“Oh yeah…it’s Amanda” I said my voice squeaking with every word. As she wrote, I insanely thought that it was time to impress her with a little small talk throwing in something brilliant to entertain her.
“But you can write whatever you want because I flew from Canada to see you”. Nice. Now I’ve done it. Not only does she think I’m sweaty, now she’ll think I’m a stalker too. Perfect. As Ms. Lebowitz stopped writing and pulled her glasses down to look at me, I was quite certain that she was preparing to holler for security. Instead, she looked at me rather inquisitively.
“Really…you flew from Canada? Why?” she asked rather incredulously. I ransacked my brain feverishly for the answer. As my blood sugar plummeted further, I realized that I had to speak.
“Because I love you” I said emphatically. And after the words emerged, I was appalled that I had just proclaimed one of the most emotionally-charged feelings in existence to this stranger. I was stunned to realize that I felt like I did know her.
Ironically, it was brutally honest and Ms. Lebowitz received my compliment by saying “I am so flattered”.
“What??? You are???” I thought. Oh thank God you’re not going to request me carried out of here in restraints. She warmly smiled for two pictures with me and I walked off in a daze. That night I understood why people say that one should never meet their idol.
It was not until the next day when I realized that it was necessary to stop agonizing over my “I love you” statement. Although completely one-sided, my message to her arose from a place of expressive passion and fascination. Too multi-faceted and powerful to label with just one word. Easily aligned with a familiar word that encompasses the thrill and inspiration of something that brings one so much feeling. I became cognizant of the fact that I had served myself up on a silver platter by my unabashed honesty. I was not rejected. Vulnerability has its merits.