Tonight, I watched “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” with my sister. It’s a remarkably entertaining and creepy movie that stays with you long after the credits roll. However, you don’t realize the movie got under your skin until you’re unprepared for it, like if you’re washing the dishes and letting your mind wander, and you have a sudden compulsion to shout, “But you are, Blanche! You are in the chair!” Maybe that’s just me.
Either way, the film stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two titans of old Hollywood. According to Tinsel Town lore, Davis and Crawford DID NOT like each other. After filming “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Crawford was FURIOUS, and took it upon herself to call all of the other nominees, offering to accept the award on their behalf if they won and could not be present for the award ceremony. The other actresses agreed so when Anne Bancroft was announced as winner, Crawford made the long trek to the stage, making sure to pause just long enough to give Davis a dirty, dirty look.
Society changes and irrevocably, popular culture changes with it. As a species, we must adapt or die. That can be taken figuratively or literally – biological reasons aside, if one does not grow and evolve with society, one becomes an outcast and endures a social death which may proceed the physical one. I get that – but I think it’s unfortunate when inevitable change alters the better aspects of society. I’m too young to sound this old, but I miss when a lady was a lady. It’s trendy now to be trashy; females would not recognize the pictures included about and would most likely recognize J-Woww or Snooki. It’s unfair of me to become philosophical when really, all I’m saying is that I miss old-fashioned, bitchy Hollywood when glamour covered the more base qualities of human nature.
I promised to become totally honest with you, and I have done my best to do so in the following prompt. Enjoy.
PROMPT: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.”
PIECE: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over,” I sobbed to Alyssa in the, thankfully, empty girl’s bathroom across the hall from the library. I was taking in deep, shuddering breaths and releasing great, broken sobs. Passing Steve a note and then throwing my arms carelessly around his neck when Kylie, his girlfriend, was only feet away had been a mistake. What’s worse was that the whole lunchroom had seen the embrace, and that same audience witnessed the inevitable confrontation just a few days later.
All of my secret hopes, desires and scheming had been exposed via an online journal, which I was naïve enough to believe I kept secret. Word got out that not only did I like Steve, but was trying to break him up with Kylie not so he would go out with me – no, that would be too obvious and logical for me – but so he could go out with my friend Tara. There had been angry instant messages, brutal anonymous comments on the online journal entries and sordid e-mails. I thought that was the worst of it and being so young, I believed I was invincible, that the slings and arrows would bounce off this armor I had crafted from misinformation and romantic wishes, and nothing more.
All that changed when I arrived at school. The very atmosphere of the building had changed. I could feel the eyes burning holes into my skin, wondering and judging and assuming. I could hear the tongues wagging, condemning and poking fun at my fall from grace. At the point, I was narcissistic enough to believe that yes, EVERYONE was talking about and that yes, EVERYONE did know what was going on and that yes, EVERYONE did care. I was also young and dumb enough to believe that NO ONE understood what that was like.
So when I walked into the lunch room, it became immediately obvious that I could not sit across from Steve and Kylie as I had since September. I relocated to the end of the same table, but figured the length was enough of a buffer. Opting not to eat, I made awkward conversation with the acquaintances I had made out of necessity and emergency. I tried to blend it and start over, put the social blunder behind me as if it had never even happened. Kylie would not have it that way.
She marched down to my end of the table and screamed at me, leveling completely accurate accusations at me. She called me names loud enough for all surrounding students to hear. I didn’t rise to my feet; I only made dismissive facial gestures and loudly called out generic insults. A few of my friends stood to my defense and it quieted down. But the next day at lunch, Kylie recited my journal aloud, dramatically reading all of my feelings for Steve, and reading all about how unfair it was that he wasn’t with me. I looked down the table at him, anxious for a reaction, but I got nothing. He never, ever gave me anything.
It was all a mistake, and I should have known that right away.
P.S. – The above prompt is a memoir; it’s true, but I changed names and altered details to protect those involved, and absolve those whom I wronged.