Friday, September 23, 2011

The End

"I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground./So it is, and so it will be, for so has it been, time out of mind:/Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned/with lilies and with laurel they go;/but I am not resigned."--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Today is the day I have been dreading for months. You may laugh, but you had better not let me hear you when I tell you why. Today is September 23, 2011, the day of the last episode of my soap opera "All My Children". It's going off the air after 41 years. It is proving to be one of the saddest days of my life, and each time I contemplate its end, I cry.

As a freshman in college, one day I walked into the student lounge to warm up and to relax before my next class. I sat down with about twenty other students and joined them in watching the soaps on ABC. I watched them all: All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital. But the one that I became hooked on was AMC. I was 18 years old.

In the ensuing years I watched it on and off, then mostly on once I could afford a VCR and could watch it after my job teaching English to middle schoolers. Sometimes I was exhausted but I never wanted to miss an episode of Erica Kane slapping someone across the face, or Tad the Cad bedding Dottie or Hillary or Liza and her mother. There was the time Erica yelled at a bear in the woods and scared him away. "(Go away, bear. I am Erica Kane!) I was mesmerized by the love stories, the way they took on social issues like AIDS and abortion. The characters came and went. Some of them I missed, some not so much. I watched through good writing, bad writing, and characters who came back from the dead. There were switched baby stories and people who got married to someone new every couple of years. God, I loved the silliness of it, the oftentimes banal banter of characters who never seemed to learn from their mistakes. But it was also a smart soap opera with a lot of heart. It was pure escapism and I have been watching, and escaping, ever since.

Naturally, watching one show from the seventies to now, one could call me obsessed. Certainly anyone who knows me well, knows AMC is the show I'd choose if I could choose only one show to watch for the rest of my life. They also know my devotion to Susan Lucci. I have the books, the dolls, the perfume, the jewelry, and the Malibu Pilates chair to prove it.

I write this as a warning to my loving family and friends, especially as they may be unsure about what to do and say to me today, of all days. After all, I am about to lose my best friends, the routine of some thirty-odd years, and my daily devotion. I will tell you that if I hear an "Oh brother", or see an eye-roll or smirk, if I sense that you think this loss is no big deal, you'd best avoid me altogether.

If you can't understand, perhaps I can help you. Think about spring--spring after a long, snowy, dark winter. What if spring ceased to exist? What if you knew you could never again see flowers bursting from the ground? Or hear birds noisily chattering in the boughs of leafy green trees? What if the sun ceased to shine on your face? Would you miss it?

What if, in some insane nightmare, there were no more books? They just disappeared from the whole world? Or, for my sports-minded friends, what if the Yankees or the Red Sox broke up, and all of baseball went away? How would you feel then?

Stop saying I'm being ridiculous. Just because you don't care what happens when 1:00 comes around Monday through Friday, doesn't mean it shouldn't matter to me. I want you to know that if you can't say, "Celia, ( or Mom)I'm so sorry your show is gone. I know how much you've loved it all these years.", then don't say a damn thing to me.

At 1:00 today, I will go into my bedroom and shut the door. The t-shirt I'll be wearing says "Pine Valley University, est. 1970". I will watch the very last episode of my show and, at 2:00 I will be inconsolable. So just leave me alone.

Because if I hear so much as a snort or a sigh when you see me with tears in my eyes, or if I see in your face the slightest evidence of pitiful, trust me when I say I will slap you across your snarky face, and I'll do it Erica Kane style.


"She walks in beauty, like the night/Of cloudless climes and starry skies/And all that's best of dark and bright/Meets in her aspect and her eyes;/Thus mellow'd to that tender light/Which Heaven to gaudy day denies/"--Lord Byron

"Well, she was just 17. You know what I mean. And the way she looked is way beyond compare."--The Beatles

The door opens and she walks into the house, no, makes an entrance into the house, all soft-curls and perfectly straight, white teeth, and says in greeting, "Hey". Not the typical teen-age "hey" dedicated to boredom, or disinterest or feigned exhaustion; this "hey" has a more sing-songy, multi-syllabic quality. She has announced her arrival. Each time she breezes into the kitchen reminds me of effervescent champagne bubbles. Sparkles in diamonds. Lights, camera, action.

There are times I look at my daughter and wonder where she came from. She seems to have none of the awkward shyness of her mother at that age. In place of the paralyzing inadequacies of my high school years, I see in her the qualities I always wished I had had. Confidence, contentment with who she is, a general loveliness. How different my life would have been!

She can get up on a stage and perform, or stand in front of a classroom and give a speech without feeling faint. There are exactly, as of this writing, 2,640 pictures of her on her Facebook page. Many of them are those iconic teenage photos that one takes of oneself while holding the camera skyward, at arm's length. It seems to me one snapshot is more beautiful than the next.

Why, then, are there often days when her view of herself is so critical, it pains me to hear it? She's announced plans to get a nose job when she's older. I don't know if that's before, after or at the same time as the chin implant. My response is to roll my eyes at her pronouncements that she isn't good enough or pretty enough the way she is. I don't understand because all I can feel when I look at her is wonderment.

It seems like this is the road our daughters are on, on that trajectory forced on them by the media, by a society which values physical beauty over inner beauty. It's almost impossible for me to find the right words to convince her that she is beautiful enough, smart enough, talented enough.

Then I remember the times when I have felt most beautiful and the most confident. And I have the answer. The answer is this: It's love that makes you beautiful.

I remember once, when I was in my twenties, asking a former boyfriend if he thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world. It was a test that my father taught me. If he said yes, then I would know he loved me. If he said no...well. So I asked him and he replied, "What, are you asking if you are more beautiful than say, Christie Brinkley or Cindy Crawford? Now those women are beautiful!"

Clearly, I wouldn't have considered marrying that one. I did, however, marry the man who does tell me I'm more beautiful than any other woman. He makes me feel like a Victoria's Secret model sometimes! It's love that makes him think so.

There has never been anything more true. You are beautiful to everyone who loves you. Love makes you beautiful, Liv. That's all you need to know, all you need to believe. (Watch and learn)