What the Fugly?
21 november 2009
What the Fugly?
About once a week I have a dream about Fergie. I’ve never met Fergie. Despite living in Los Angeles, I’ve never even seen Fergie. And we’re talking Stacy Ann Ferguson, not the royal one across the pond. My Fergie-mares started over the summer. Prior to that, I’m not even sure Fergie was on my radar. In the pilot for Army Wives, we had “My Humps” playing in a key scene, only to lose it at the last minute because of licensing fees. “I Gotta Feeling” currently plays over the teaser trailer of Valentine’s Day. So yes, I’ve always had some love for the Black Eyed Peas, but I couldn’t name one of them. Not even the girl.
But that all ended when I saw several websites calling her “Fugly” instead of Fergie. In the first dream, I simply walked up to her and said, “Don’t you mind that assholery. You look great.” Fergie seemed thankful enough. But the dreams continued and basically all along the same lines—some version of me telling her that all that tearing down is simply to make smaller people feel bigger. It’s their 15 seconds of fame against the many years of yours. Be bigger than that and walk in your light.
But after the fifth Fergie dream, I began to wonder what the hell was going on here. My friend Lisa would patiently listen to me recount the Fergie dream of the week, until she finally said, “You want to protect her. You’re the champion of the underdog. Look around. You feed turtles, fish, birds, squirrels, and your toothless dog is a rescue from the streets of Mexico.”
Ironically, Lisa, who wasn’t dreaming about Fergie, knew more about Fergie than I did. She knew about her past drug addiction, her early career, and that she grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles. My male friend had another answer: “She’s got a slamming body and you want to sleep with her. Forget all that nice stuff. That’s like foreplay or something for girls.” I, of course, blushed. That was certainly part of dream Number 4, but I wasn’t going to let him know that. The beauty of dreams is that they’re yours to create and keep. I’ve had many gifts in dreams and I understand their power.
I’ve long studied dreams. I’ve studied Freud and Jung. I’ve kept a dream journal. I’ve even solved troublesome act breaks and turning point reveals in dreams. I’ve so come to trust my dreams that I keep a pad, paper and mini-light next to my bed to write them down, should one be so insistent to wake me up in the middle of the night.
When my mother died, I was in my early 20s. It was 10:30 in the morning when I received a phone call. “You’d better sit down.” I stayed standing, phone pressed to my ear. What is it? “Your mother was just killed in a car accident.” That’s how it happens for some of us. The phone rings, we answer it. I hung up and went over to my calendar and wrote down the words: Mom died today. I think writing the words made them real to me.
Death is stressful. A lot has to be done: funerals arranged, forms signed, people to feed, hands to be shaken, belongings to be packed. Then it dies down some and you’re left with your dreams. In the first dream, my mother was playing piano. She didn’t play piano in real life. But she did in the dream. Her hair was long and blonde and she was highlighted by a golden sun coming through the window. She smiled as she played a classical piece. She was healthy, vibrant, and alive.
When she finished, I clapped. Although I was an adult, I felt very young and filled with the unconditional love and wonderment that a child has for a parent. After all, when we are very small, our parents are superheroes. They can carry us on their backs, they drive cars, and they use big words.
When my mother was finished playing the piano, she stood up, her long white cotton dress, diaphanous and glowing in the sun. She was going to go into the kitchen and get some lemonade. Did I want some? My heart raced and I was seized with panic. Don’t go in there! She smiled softly, why not? I said, because you’re dead. If you go into that other room, I won’t see you again. You have to stay right here and play some more. She called me silly and moved into the other room. I woke up in tears.
There is a scene in the movie Carolina that I wrote that is loosely based on my life. In that scene, Julia Stiles (Carolina) goes to a tow yard to pick up Grandma Mirabeau’s (Shirley MacLaine) belongings that were in her car when she died in a car accident. In the movie, Carolina confronts some fugly assholery. They won’t release her grandmother’s belongings until she pays for the tow and housing of the wrecked car. They don’t take checks or credit cards, both of which she has. Cash only. So Carolina loses it.
The true story is that I was collecting my mother’s belongings after she died. Yes, I still cursed the tow yard owner up one side and down the other—crying and screaming, what the hell! My mother was dead. He can’t keep her things. He has to give them to me. They’re mine, not his. And yes, it was his wife, just like she did in the movie, who finally gave me the keys to the car so I could go get them.
But the next scene never played in the movie, because I never wrote it into the script. When I reached my mother’s car, broken and lying next to so many other cars, with its tin can crushed body and torn and missing limbs, all I could think was, no one could have survived this.
It was hot in the desert. Almost in the 100s. I opened the car door, carrying a bag. The steering wheel was smashed into the seat. You couldn’t get a body in there to drive. The windshield was gone. She had been thrown through it. There was dark paint everywhere. Curious. I found her purse. More paint. I opened the glove box and started pulling out her papers. I found a hairbrush, strands of her blonde hair still entangled, alive. Her clothes were cut in half; I would later learn the paramedics cut them off her body to work on her after they arrived and found her on the black asphalt.
Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was my Aunt Kathy, my mother’s sister. I gave her the bag of all my mother’s things, and then I asked her, “Where did all this paint come from?”
She said softly, “Honey, that’s her blood.“
I don’t know how far I ran, but it was when I hit a chain link fence that I stopped. My chest hurt, but my heart hurt more. I fell to my knees. The world began to spin. Then I heard music. It was the piano. It was the same song my mother played in my dream and it was coming from the sky.
Words have such power. They can lift us up or they can tear us down. They can heal or they can destroy. But at the end of our lives, it’s the words left unsaid that haunt us. When you lose someone so suddenly, all you think about is all the words you didn’t say.
I was a waitress when my mother died. Ironing a white shirt every night, using clear nail polish to stop a run in a pair of nylons. I had big dreams back then, but I also believed I wasn’t good enough to make them come true. But another part of me kept fighting. The part that carried my mother’s DNA inside and wanted to give meaning to her tragic life by making something of the person she left behind. It’s nice to think that somehow, somewhere, she knows that I have carried on. And that she has a grandchild now, who will do the same after I am gone.
My friend Howard’s wife recently died. He told me that he and his wife had every intention of growing old together. A week ago, she had visited him in a dream. In the dream, he realized something was wrong—that Anne was dead. When he told her they shouldn’t be talking and laughing, as they were, because she was dead, she said, “I love you,” and then disappeared. I told Howard that if he thinks Anne visited him, then she did, and to not think any further than that.
Dreams are powerful things. If we dream when we are awake, we can become astronauts and walk on the moon. If we dream when we’re asleep, we can walk on stars. There is a theory that all the people in a dream are really you: the hero you, the villain you, the healing you, the broken you. And all the yous have a common goal: to help you love yourself a little bit better.
So if we dream about Fergie, perhaps we’re really trying to say to the world, WTF, people? Why spend so much time publicly tearing someone else down? Is this really how we want to treat each other? When did all this fugly assholery become a sport, especially on the Internet, where underneath the cape of anonymity, we’ve returned to the Wild, Wild West?
As my friend Christina said, “Sure, you're a successful [fill in the blank], but I get to use these next 30 seconds to try to make you feel like shit. That's the power I have over you."
There was a time when a handwritten letter arrived on a silver platter via horseback a month after it was written. But now, words move swifter than ever. The speed of the Internet allows us to have a thought and let the world read it a second later. We can accidentally hit send on an e-mail we had no plan of actually sending. We can drunk text, then regret it the next morning. But once it’s out there, it’s out there, and it can’t be taken back. All the apologies in the world do not make it unread.
Because of the tragic death of my mother and so many others around me, I’ve made it a mantra to carpe my diem. Speak my truth. Be bold. But even if fortune favors the brave, I’ve been punched in the gut a few times lately by blurting out too much truth without thinking of the consequences. I made the mistake of not stopping to ask, Is this for the greater good? Will it create comfort or will it create chaos?
I was sitting in a dentist’s chair—a routine teeth cleaning - 10 years after my mother died. The 8th floor office window overlooked the tops of lush green trees. Beyond the trees was the sea. The dental hygienist popped in a CD and gave me a set of headphones. The first few notes of a piano began. I got the chills. It was the song my mother was playing in my dream. When the hygienist tilted my chair back, she noticed the tears streaming down my face. She asked me what was wrong. I said, I never really told my mother I loved her. I was so mad at her the last few years of her life. I know it’s a cliché, but I could’ve been nicer. I could’ve been.
So perhaps that is why my mother, like Howard’s dear wife Anne, came to me in the dream. To tell us both it’s all right. They know. We loved them as they loved us. That’s what dreams are made of. And perhaps that’s why I dream of Fergie. Because she’s a person with a heart, with dreams, who’s conquered some hurdles, has made some mistakes, but has kept on fighting. Maybe Fergie is me. Maybe Fergie is all of us to some degree. And none of us deserve to be called fugly. Them words just ain’t right. And look at her. They ain’t even true.« Back To Blog Index
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