Private Pain, Public Life

Watching the train wreck that is Charlie Sheen (or Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, or any troubled celebrity du jour) reminds me to be grateful that I am not a celebrity. Sure, the job pays well, but the price celebrities pay is just as high. My life has certainly been ones of ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, mistakes and even bigger mistakes — but these were all lived out in my little fishbowl of friends and family, as opposed to the public eye.

While Sheen is certainly old enough to know better at this point, I do feel terribly for the younger stars that have every exploit, mistake, drunken mishap and inappropriate outfit replayed on TV, in magazines and online over and over. The fact is, most everyone (myself included) was an idiot who acted like a fool during their youth. I can’t even imagine what today’s college kids have to deal with, as my college experience concluded before the internet, Facebook, digital cameras and cell phones were “mainstream” (or even invented).

In fact, Oscar-winning screenwriter for The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin, was quoted in USA Today acknowledging Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:

“I think he’s been an awfully good sport about this. I don’t think anyone would ever want a movie made about something they did when they were 19 years old.”

No kidding. For me, that would be 19, 20, 21 … 32, 33, 34 … even 18, 17, 16, 15 …

I could not imagine having my struggles and challenges — particularly those of my teens and 20s — played out for the public’s entertainment. It must be horrendous to have cameras following you around and microphones shoved in your face for every speeding ticket, breakup, drunken display, etc. — and forget about the major life crises like drug addiction or the death of a loved one. Because the reality is, we’ve ALL been there, hitting our own personal rock bottoms. And it blows. But at least we don’t have to see pictures of our experiences on the cover of every tabloid when we run into the store to buy food.

Even beyond acting like an idiot, just living a normal life would be next to impossible. While back in my younger days, I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup, a “nice” outfit and respectable hair, these days, if I leave the house wearing something other than the clothes that I slept in, I consider it a victory. The paparazzi would have an absolutely field day if they were following me: “Stars Without Makeup!!” and “What Were They Thinking??!”-type columns that are so popular in the gossip and celebrity rags would display my pathetic image each and every week. I don’t care how rich, famous or beautiful you are, that would not be fun. And “What Star Has the Worst Cellulite?”? Thanks, I didn’t need my self-esteem anyway.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, we should cut some celebrities a break and understand that they are dealing with life’s challenges just as we all do — only in a public manner, which may or may not be their choice. And come on, who wouldn’t pull a Britney and attack a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella when it got to be too much? I know I would – only with a baseball bat instead of an umbrella!

Well, that applies to all except for Charlie Sheen. He’s fair game!!

4 Replies to “Private Pain, Public Life”

  1. Great post as always! I’m torn on this. On one hand, I think that by the nature of what they are/do, celebs signed up for added scrutiny. It’s part of the deal, if you don’t want to be watched, don’t become famous. The same celebs that complain about the paparazzi one day, are calling those same guys to come see them at a club because they want the publicity. It’s what they want, when it’s ok/convenient and when their hair is done. BUT, it’s not always black and white, for sure. I can’t IMAGINE having a camera follow me all the time and reporting on every little thing — and making stuff up also. But, I also don’t make millions of dollars and have publicists, stylists, trainers, chefs, etc.

    I guess I end up feeling little sympathy for the rich and famous, but do agree that I for one am happy to have the privacy that I do!

    • I agree – getting your picture taken at the grocery store is one thing. But when drug addiction, mental illness, grief and other kinds of breakdowns become (and are treated like) comedy and entertainment, that’s where I think the line is crossed.

  2. Laura, a very provocative post today! It made me appreciate even more those who have lived with a certain grace in their public lives, people like Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Bob Hope, or Anne Bancroft, among others.

    It is difficult to feel too badly for Charlie Sheen who is bearing the consequences (and more to come, apparently) of his own decisions and actions. My pity is reserved for his ex-wife and children.

  3. It is difficult to feel sorry for those who bring drama to themselves. They know they are in the public eye. They know the camera’s are all around them. This is what they signed up for. However, there are those who really know how to lead their lives under the radar. I heard an interview over the radio with Alyssa Milano and she credited her parents for helping her stay grounded. You never ever heard anything negative about her all of these years and she was a child star. Someone like Lindsay Lohan has not had the proper guidance from her family. Just take a look at her mother and father. Aren’t they a couple of great role models? I don’t know what to say about Charlie Sheen. I really do think there is some kind of mental illness. And it could definitely be bipolar disorder. If you look at his behavior, he certainly displays many of those unfortunate manic characteristics. I only hope he can get the help that he needs.

    Laura, as always, I enjoy reading your blogs!! 🙂

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