I’m noting two things today: first, the 20-year anniversary of Ellen DeGeneres announcing, “Yep, I’m gay,” on her popular prime time TV series, thus ending weeks of speculation regarding a “coming out” announcement from the star. Second, it’s National Hairstylists Appreciation Day. Here’s how I relate the two events.
On April 30, 1997, I was attending an evening AA meeting (yes, today I’m choosing to be brave and honest like Ellen, and make that fact public), and afterwards several of the members asked me to stick around for the usual post-meeting ritual of gabbing and grabbing the leftover donuts. “No, I need to get home to watch the Ellen show,” I exclaimed, and bolted out the door. The next week, Sarah Jane said, “You know, those guys last week…well, they were wondering about you.” “Why is that?” I asked. SJ explained: “Well, you seemed a little TOO interested in Ellen Degeneres. And you wear your hair REALLY short, so they think you’re a lesbian.” Hahaha. (Thank you, Judy Betten, my marvelous hairstylist of the past 25 years, for creating that special ‘do that makes ‘em wonder if I do or don’t!) That’s always been one of my favorite stories about small-minded people making assumptions. They should have been practicing tolerance and open-mindedness, along with their sobriety.
That said, I’ve long been inspired by the courage, struggles, and brutal self-honesty of so many famous women who have turned their lives around by seeking help and fearlessly sharing their recovery experiences: (Saint) Betty Ford, Liza Minelli, Bonnie Raitt, Marianne Faithfull, Carrie Fisher, Stevie Nicks, Christina Ricci, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Taylor, Belinda Carlisle, rock-tour manager Chris O’Dell, anchorwoman Elizabeth Vargas, and many other fab, creative, wild dames I love. I may not possess one iota of their talent and will probably never achieve their level of accomplishment, but I’m proud to be part of their world of self-discovery. It’s a world I entered, kicking and screaming, 20 years ago this month, but I’ve never regretted it. And even though I still wake up many a morning with feelings of fear and longing and self-doubt and low self-esteem, at least I’m chemical-free and navigating without crutches.
So, there you have it. I’m actually celebrating THREE things today!
© Dana Spiardi, April 30, 2017
[The image in the banner is a photo I took a few years back at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s by artist Lorna Simpson. The title of the article is a lyric from Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”]