I’m 15 and sitting on my bed in my room writing tortured poetry. Joy Division, Siouxsie And The Banshees and The Smiths play on a loop. Suicide soundtrack. I try cutting my wrists, but a dull knife and a low threshold for pain ruins the romance. I want attention.
Seventh period study hall, Freshman year. George somebody or other. A tall, wide, redheaded football player, ugly. Really ugly, this guy. But popular. His best friend, Steve, wiry, tan, sun-tipped waves. A tennis player. The Beast and his Beauty.
The teacher, assistant coach of some kind–an alcoholic, barely kept his head adrift and frequently left ten minutes into class never to return. Steve and George found sport in making fun of Lara, a not very attractive, overweight girl with unwashed hair. They drew pictures of her on the board, made the whole class laugh. One day I stood up for her. George made me his target from that day forward. He and Steve drew pictures of me on the board, my face a piece of pizza. They never relented.
Lesley sat in the back on the other side of the room. I’d never met her before the day she found me at my locker and gave me a forged library pass. “Meet me in the Library for study hall,” she said. I did, and every day after that. She came from money and the right side of town. Her dad had the right kind of job and she had all the right friends–which didn’t seem to matter to her. She saved my life. In high school kids can kill you, but they can also save you.
That you never really grows up. At a certain point she dims, but she never leaves. She hangs around to see how it all turned out, wondering about the longing you told her you’d handle, wondering if you’d make anything of it.
And so you spend the next several decades reaching for it. Until you’re tired and you’re here again, on the page, facing your high school self blank-faced and empty-handed.
“Sorry.” I say. “At least the weather’s better here.” We’re in L.A. Not Chicago.
I’m starting to bargain with the past. It won’t work. I’ll change gears. Try to put it another way.
This thing with Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, well how do you make sense of it?
And the news makes you feel like a child again, because it was a longing to become something big that kept you going and now it’s betrayed you.
Celebrities carry the psychic weight of the public’s needs. They embody our aspirations, and they feel that pressure. They know their role. Perhaps then, celebrity suicide is a fundamental rejection of us and our fantasies.
According to a report in the Daily Beast, Spade told a friend she didn’t want to seek professional help for depression. She feared it might compromise her brand of bright colorful bags and charming charms telling women we’re one in a million. I wonder if she thought that through to its natural conclusion, that her brand was more important than her life, her daughter, her husband…
I spent 15 years in the beauty industry working for a Spade adjacent company–Bobbi Brown. There’s a kind of symbiosis between them–clean, strong lines, bright pops of color, classic taste. If you wanted to project power in the early 2000’s you wore Donna Karan, carried Kate Spade, and made up your face with the neutral power of Bobbi Brown.
Now look at them. Bobbi no long sells makeup. Karan came out in public support of Weinstein, and Spade is dead. Well, Spade’s death reveals a timeless truth about her industry, negative emotions have no currency. Traffic in them and you’ll lose everything.
Be positive, relentlessly, powerfully, positive. Successful people do it well. Until they don’t.
I wonder if, right after the moment of decision and right before their last, Bourdain or Spade regretted it, remembered their children, thought about their loved ones. People who have survived the 245 foot fall from the Golden Gate Bridge have reported regretting it the second they let go…And hanging isn’t painless…You have time to reflect on not being able to turn back.
Have you ever been depressed–seriously, clinically, you can’t move from your bed depressed? Your thoughts eat themselves. Enormous black feelings cannibalize every breath and you wish you could stop existing.
That’s rage, my friend. Inverted rage at your powerlessness to effect meaningful change. Round and round you go and each time you feel better you know it’s not for long. Right around the corner lurks a trigger–snap, bang, drag, fall and there you go again down the drain and out to sea. So you dream of the end when you can stop trying and simply let go. It feels so much easier than fighting your way back. Reaching out requires honesty, vulnerability, strength. Depression wears you down until you feel like a thread.
It wears everyone around you down too. At a certain point you’re as tired of you as they are.
A Mourning Dove sits on a power line directly in front of my balcony where I watch. Every morning she sits for hours saying very little. What happened to your love? Where is your home? Why do you like this power line?
I think about suicide because of Kate Spade. That’s its contagion. No matter what you know or how smart you think you are, suicide seduces the damned. Obsessed with Robin Williams’ death, Spade read everything on it. Two years later here we are and there she’s gone. I read three articles on her death then stopped. It gets deep in your head. You can’t leave it alone, like that loose piece of skin on the roof of your burned mouth, you keep bothering it.
But I won’t. Suicide makes those you love angry. You’ve ruined their dream. You’ve killed their hope. You’ve robbed them of a piece of themselves. They will never again feel how you made them feel, and they may never forgive you for it. The violence of your last act chars your memory forever. Each time you come to mind the acrid odor of suicide follows until it’s just too painful to remember you as clearly or as regularly. You fade, forever damned by your last most significant act. Suicide as legacy.
These are all just words scraping the surface of something I’m trying to work out, but can’t. Something is stuck and I’m caught writing childish journal entries–anything to loosen the words and locate the story. Perhaps more of this to come. Stay with me and we’ll find the thread together…