book reviews, celebrities, royals

My long awaited thoughts on Prince Harry’s “tell all” book, Spare…

Smirk…

I doubt many people have long awaited my thoughts on anything, let alone Prince Harry’s “tell all” book, Spare. I do have a few die hard regulars, though, so here’s my promised review of Harry’s controversial tome about life as the “spare” to the heir of the British crown. At this writing, Prince Harry is currently sixth in line to the throne. When Harry was born to the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, September 15, 1984, he was third in line. Charles had famously joked about having an heir and a spare. Harry’s older brother, Prince William, and his lovely wife Catherine, now have three darling children, so the “spare” has lost some status… in terms of his royal rank, anyway.

For me, personally, it’s been awkward watching the fallout of their exile from the kingdom. I have never had a problem with Prince Harry. Before I read Spare, I didn’t know that much about him. I didn’t have a problem with Meghan Markle until I started paying closer attention to some of her behaviors. Regardless of how I might feel about either Harry or Meghan, or the two of them as a couple, they’re basically competent adults who should be allowed to chart their own course in life. My main issue with Harry and Meghan is that their actions don’t correspond with what they say. I kept hearing them talk about being hounded by paparazzi, and yet they seem very determined to be in the public eye.

Writing a tell all book about the secretive British Royal Family seems counterintuitive to the idea of avoiding the press. Harry has repeatedly expressed disgust for the press, and yet here he is, courting the press with a book that the Palace clearly didn’t want him to publish. My initial thoughts were that Spare was going to be a heartfelt “fuck you” to the British Royal Family. For the same reason, I have avoided watching their Netflix series. But then, although I continue to pay for Netflix, I hardly watch it anyway.

Originally, I wasn’t going to read Spare. I’ve grown tired of hearing about Harry and Meghan, and their constant complaints about the British Royal Family. I changed my mind when I happened to catch a video of CNN’s Anderson Cooper talking about Spare. It’s not even that I’m an Anderson Cooper fan. I just thought his comments about the book made it sound like something I’d want to read. So, on January 10th, I joined the many thousands of people who bought Harry’s book.

I finished reading Spare yesterday. Today– January 18, 2023– marks the third anniversary of the day when the Palace released the statement telling the world that Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, would be “stepping back” from their official roles representing the Queen. For three years, Harry and Meghan have lived outside of the United Kingdom. The couple currently make their home in an expensive mansion in exclusive Montecito, California, where they live among A-list celebrities. They have two beautiful and reportedly healthy children. They also have gobs of money, even though the Palace has cut them off, as Harry bitterly complains. Still, as I read Spare, I found myself empathizing with Harry. He’s clearly a very troubled man. Trauma is a bitch for anyone, regardless of their station in life.

So… about the book…

Hiring a competent ghostwriter is one thing that Prince Harry did right when he decided to publish Spare. I think Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist, J.R. Moehringer, was the right man for the job. Moehringer seems to have a penchant for sentence fragments that ordinarily would have annoyed me. I get the sense that he used that style to capture the essence of Harry. By many accounts– apparently even Harry’s own– Prince Harry isn’t a reader. Although he went to “fancy” private British boarding schools, he does not excel at academics.

Harry was forced to act in the Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, to satisfy a graduation requirement at Eton College. It was an activity Harry didn’t particularly want to take part in, as he doesn’t share his father’s love of Shakespeare. Harry was much more a fan of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, a much shorter and more readable book with characters that were relatable to Harry. It’s been many years since I read that book myself, but it seems kind of inspired that Harry would relate so much to an American novel about an “odd couple” navigating life in 1930s California. So, although some readers don’t care for Moehringer’s fragmented writing in Spare, I think it makes sense. In fact, as I read the book, I could practically hear Harry in my head.

I found Spare very engaging and readable. At times it was funny for the right reasons. Moehringer manages to capture a charming and humorous side of Harry that makes him seem likable and “regular”. Other times I laughed for the “wrong” reasons. I went over some of them yesterday, in my post about why Meghan Markle makes my “N” chimes sound. There were more examples that I didn’t include in yesterday’s post. Sometimes, Harry just seemed incredibly naive and immature to me, especially given that he was an officer in the British Army.

Harry relates a story about taking Meghan to meet Fergie. She supposedly doesn’t know anything at all about the British Royal Family. Harry tells Meghan she must curtsy to the Queen and call her “Your Majesty” and “Ma’am.” Fergie demonstrates the curtsy once, and Meghan tries it. Then, when the big moment arrives, Meghan performs perfectly. Harry acts all amazed about this. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that maybe Meghan isn’t being truthful about not studying up on the British Royal Family.

It’s not like Meghan hasn’t told a whopper or two, since she first arrived on the royal scene. But, I suppose that’s what makes Harry so appealing to her. He takes her at her word and never questions her. I think Harry’s apparent blind loyalty to Meghan is what seems to upset Prince William so much. William is the heir to the throne, and his station in life depends on maintaining the status quo. Some British people would like to see the end of the British Royal Family, so their survival depends on people toeing the line. Meghan hasn’t been obeying protocol, so of course that upsets the powers that be.

Harry is firmly on Meghan’s side, and doesn’t seem to think she can do wrong. That even applies to her curtsy, which she apparently learned on the fly, just before meeting Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. As frustrating reading as that might be for me, I think it’s an authentic aspect of Prince Harry’s personality. So kudos to Mr. Moehringer for managing to capture that so expertly. His role as a ghostwriter is to make the book seem like it came straight from the source. I think he succeeded.

And the content?

There are some parts of Spare that I genuinely enjoyed reading. I found Harry’s descriptions of exotic places in Africa enchanting, especially when he meets wild animals in Botswana. I liked reading about Harry’s Army training, especially since my husband is an Army veteran. It was fun sharing some of Harry’s insights with Bill, who could relate and expand upon Harry’s comments. There are some aspects of military service that transcend all nations.

Other parts of Spare were more annoying to me. As I mentioned yesterday, I find some of Meghan’s behaviors triggering and all too familiar. Like, for instance, before Harry and Meghan were married, and Meghan was showing Harry how to roast chicken. He’d never done it before, nor had he ever been exposed to the music of Nina Simone or, one of my favorites, James Taylor. During that evening, Meghan evidently made a comment that came across as an offensive “crack”. Harry describes it thusly:

This was a passage that triggered me, mainly because my husband’s ex wife tried to convince him that he “hated women” and needed intensive therapy. Now… I’m not saying that either Bill or Harry didn’t need therapy. In fact, for as long as I’ve known him, I’ve encouraged Bill to speak to someone besides me about his trauma. I’m happy to report that he finally did seek therapy from a Jungian analyst. But it was entirely in his own time, when he was ready to do it. He chose his own therapist and therapeutic model. It’s been very successful and rewarding for Bill.

When I read the above passage, I hear Harry taking all of the blame for what happened in that situation. Meghan implies that Harry is a damaged soul, and if he doesn’t seek therapy, she’s going to dump him. It was the same threat my husband got from his ex wife. Of course, in Bill’s case, Ex’s decision to dump him was a huge blessing. But, at the time, Ex’s declaration that he was a dangerous misogynist was not only totally untrue, but extremely damaging and traumatizing for Bill. She really had no right to do that. Neither did Meghan have the right to insist that Harry see a therapist.

I think Meghan knew very well that Harry was, and still is, totally smitten by her. I have a hard time believing that if the situation were reversed and Harry felt that Meghan was disrespectful to him, she would take kindly to being ordered into psychotherapy. Therapy works best when it’s approached voluntarily. Ideally, people should seek therapy as a means of helping themselves, not because they’ve been threatened or bullied into treatment. Moreover, when a person is coerced into seeking mental health care, it can set up a narrative that the person is somehow “unstable” or even “sick”, which can later be weaponized.

Therapy probably has been helpful for Harry, if only because the therapist told him that she thinks part of Harry is trapped in 1997, which is when he lost his mother, Diana. He’s obviously still traumatized by losing his mother at such a young age. The trauma was such that he’d forgotten a lot of things about his youth. Harry reports that therapy has helped him recover some memories, some of which have been pleasant. Therapy has also helped Harry cry, which I’m sure helps him process his 25 years of profound grief. For years, Harry believed his mother was still alive, but in hiding. Now he accepts the truth.

Some of the sob stories kind of made me queasy…

I know some of my readers follow my personal Facebook page. They’ve seen some of the passages I’ve shared there. Yesterday, after noticing how many times Harry found Meghan “sobbing” and inconsolable, I decided to share brief snippets related to the sobbing incidents with friends. Most of my friends got where I was going with sharing about all the sobbing. I had some trouble reconciling the reports of Meghan’s “sob stories” with Meghan’s image of being “tough”, independent, and assertive. There were so many “sob stories” that I don’t want to share them here. Suffice to say, it was very noticeable and bordered on oversharing.

I think I might need to hurl, too…

Early in their relationship, Meghan got food poisoning because she ate bad calamari. Harry writes about holding her hair while she vomits. I’m sure that sharing this anecdote is supposed to convey Harry’s deep love and concern for Meghan, but again, it verges on oversharing. Ditto to Harry’s long winded stories about getting frostbite on his penis, as well as the disclosure that he and William were circumcised. On the plus side, it was the first time I’d seen the word “todger” used outside of the Monty Python number, “Penis Song”.

There’s also some controversy over Harry’s discussion of his military service in Afghanistan. Harry claims that he killed 25 members of the Taliban. Sharing that number was probably ill advised, especially if he’s truly concerned about his and his family’s personal safety. On the other hand, it really is too bad he couldn’t stay in the military. It seemed to suit him.

Some of Harry’s complaints are valid…

Even though he’s currently sixth in line to the throne, Harry was expected to ask his grandmother’s permission to marry the woman of his choice. Somehow, in spite of his upbringing, no one ever explained to him that Queen Elizabeth had to approve of his wife. When Harry awkwardly approached his Granny, she left him unsure of whether or not she’d actually approved of the union, even though she had clearly said “yes” to his request. That’s certainly a dilemma that most “normal” people never have to face. I do wonder, given what’s happened, if Queen Elizabeth II ever regretted giving Harry her permission to marry Meghan.

A lot of people might have some trouble mustering much sympathy for Harry and Meghan, but I do think there is some validity to some of their complaints. Besides the obvious lack of privacy and safety risks faced by all famous people– not just the Royals– Harry makes the case that he was kind of infantilized. At the end of his book, he writes:

At another part of the book, he writes:

Here’s this guy, who from birth, was expected to support the monarchy and raised to do what he was told. For that privilege, he enjoyed every material luxury he could ever want. When Harry dared to try to make decisions for himself, he suffered reprisals. Harry was essentially cut off from all he knew, with no room for compromise. Making matters worse was the fact that people who weren’t in the family got a say– the Bee, the Wasp, and the Fly, three advisors to the Queen, were heavily involved in the decisions regarding Harry’s and Meghan’s departure from official service to the Crown.

It reminded me of my husband’s former stepson, who at age 21, demanded that Bill continue to send him $850 a month in “child support”. He sent Bill an email demanding “timely payments” of the money. Legally, Bill wasn’t even his father, and he had a perfectly just cause for cutting off the support. When it was clear to former stepson that Bill wouldn’t acquiesce to his demands, the young man made one last pathetic plea for a final payment of $500, with the promise that he’d never “bother” Bill again. It was very embarrassing and heartbreaking for Bill to get that email. And, on some level, I’m sure it was humiliating for ex stepson to send it. That incident taught me that “helping” adult children too much often does them a disservice.

Likewise, Harry sounds humiliated as he complains about being financially dependent on his father. I don’t think Harry had a choice in the matter, even though he says he “agreed” to support the monarchy. The monarchy clearly expected Harry to loyally support it by all means. Because Harry’s life was mapped from birth, he was not taught certain essential life skills. That’s a poor reflection on his family. They should have prepared him better.

However, Harry is now a 38 year old man, a husband, and a father of two. Many people are ready for him to grow up and take responsibility for himself. Yes, he’s missed out on learning a lot of skills he should have learned decades ago. It’s past high time for him to pull himself together and catch up with his peers.

I, for one, am ready for Harry to stop complaining about money. Even if his father cut him off, his mother left him millions. He and Meghan could certainly buy a home somewhere less expensive than Montecito and live life independently. Hell, they might have enough money left over to pay for the security they say they need. They could live almost anywhere. That’s a freedom that most people will never know. And while writing this book is going to potentially cost Harry his family, it will also make him a lot of money. So now is the time for Harry to learn how to manage his affairs and act like the grown ass man that he is.

A lot of people seem to think Harry is a bit “thick”. Some have even called him stupid. I don’t think Harry is stupid. To me, he seems gullible, naive, and surprisingly immature about some things. For instance, he used up all the laughing gas intended for Meghan when she was giving birth to Archie. Besides being immature, that seems pretty inconsiderate to the woman whose hair he’d once held back as she puked up British squid. I’m sure Harry presented that anecdote to be funny– just as he wrote extensively about his frostbitten pecker. But even though it was kind of funny, it also revealed a childish, sophomoric aspect to Harry’s personality that may later prove to be embarrassing. Hopefully, he will evolve some more in that department, too.

Overall

Spare was worthwhile reading for me. I think the book will help me spawn a lot of content, if nothing else. I have mixed impressions of Harry’s story. Overall, I think he needs to grow up and get wise. But I also have some empathy for him. His situation is very unusual, and perhaps it does present a case for doing away with the British monarchy. Or, at least, maybe some changes need to be made in the way the highest royal family members raise their children.

Harry’s situation is unique, in that he lost his mother at such a young age, and she was an extraordinary woman who was world renowned. Her death was, in part, directly caused by being hounded by the press. But it also happened because Diana’s driver was drunk, and drove recklessly at excessive speeds. Diana also wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when the car crashed. Harry seems to overlook that part of the story as he blames the press for all that is wrong in the world.

In any case, I recommend Spare to the interested. I will probably seek out more books written by J.R. Moehringer. He did a fantastic job writing Harry’s story.

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celebrities, narcissists, poor judgment, royals

What makes my “N” chimes ring?

Last night, I was plowing through more of Prince Harry’s “bombshell” book, Spare. As is my custom sometimes, I decided to share a few excerpts from the book for a few friends. I realize that a lot of people are already sharing excerpts from Spare. Now, having gotten through about 80 percent of the book, I know the bits being shared are mostly about Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle. No one seems to be sharing the rest of the book, which I’ve mostly found compelling and enjoyable.

I will probably finish reading Spare today. I might start a review today, or maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow. One thing I do know is that this book is probably going to spawn a few posts. I’m wading through Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle and it’s very triggering for me. Many of the behaviors he describes– from the rush of the early relationship, to the way he describes frequently finding her sobbing and inconsolable, to the way she bullies him into psychotherapy– are very familiar to me. They make my “N” chimes ring.

What are “N” chimes, you ask? “N”, of course, equals narcissism. Chimes alert us to something in need of attention. Yesterday, I wrote about my husband’s ex wife, whom I think is a narcissist. Actually, I am SURE she is a narcissist, but I’m not qualified to diagnose anyone, so I hesitate to make that statement. I also realize that I could be wrong. That’s one of the many differences between Ex and me.

Likewise, I don’t know for certain that Meghan Markle is a narcissist. If I’m to go only on what I’ve read in his book so far, Harry thinks Meghan is the most wonderful, fantastic person ever born. And if that’s really true, then I am very happy for him. He’s apparently found the perfect woman. But, I think we all know that perfect people don’t exist. So, the fact that Meghan can apparently do no wrong in Harry’s eyes is one of the loudest “N” chimes.

I started to get that familiar feeling as I read about how Meghan and Harry met. Leading up to that point in the book, Harry had written about other girlfriends. In the years before he knew Meghan, Harry dated Chelsy Davy, a lovely young woman from Zimbabwe. Of the women he writes about, Harry seemed most compatible with Chelsy, but they broke up over lifestyle differences.

There were several other women, to include Cressida Bonas, a friend of Princess Eugenie’s. According to Harry, those women either weren’t compatible or were frightened off by the paparazzi. Harry notes that Cressida, in particular, managed to get him to “open up” and cry, following the death of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. But Cressida apparently wasn’t exciting enough for Harry.

Meghan, on the other hand, excited Prince Harry from the moment he laid eyes on her. The way he describes it, seeing Meghan on Instagram was kismet. Below is Harry’s description of seeing Meghan for the first time…

I was sitting around Nott Cott, scrolling through Instagram. In my feed I saw a video: My friend Violet. And a young woman. They were playing with a new app that put silly filters on your photos. Violet and the woman had dog ears, dog noses, long red dog tongues hanging out. Despite the canine cartoon overlay, I sat up straighter. This woman with Violet…my God.

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, Prince. Spare (p. 267). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Harry sees Meghan on Instagram. Boom! Cupid shot him straight through the heart. That theory makes my “N” chimes ring. It wasn’t an accident that Harry saw Meghan and his friend on Instagram. Oh, I suppose it’s possible, but I highly doubt that’s what really happened. In my experience, narcissistic types are experts at seduction. They seem to have a special talent for knowing what a person wants or needs. Just like the best cult leaders, they figure out what their victim is seeking and they deliver… or, they make it seem like they’re delivering. Harry thinks he fell in love by chance, but to me, it seems like the whole meeting was contrived. And Harry, poor lad, was ripe for the picking.

Just before he and Meghan met, Harry describes being at several house parties in Los Angeles. Harry was at Courteney Cox’s house drinking tequila and consuming certain controlled substances. He didn’t know Courteney before he turned up at her house. He had a “trip” in her bathroom– the toilet and the trash can both turned into “heads”, complete with mouths. The next day, he went to another party, where he was smoking weed and apparently enjoying other substances. He met the man who wrote “Genie in a Bottle” for Christina Aguilera and made lots of money. Then, after yet another party, he went back to Courteney Cox’s house, where he seemingly had another drug induced trip– one that he apparently thinks of as an “epiphany”, of sorts. From the book:

Then I stared directly at the moon. It was speaking to me. Like the bin and the toilet. What was it saying? That the year ahead would be good. Good how? Something big. Really? Big. Not more of the same? No, something special. Really, Moon? Promise. Please don’t lie to me. I was nearly the age Pa had been when he’d got married, and he’d been considered a tragically late bloomer. At thirty-two he’d been ridiculed for his inability or unwillingness to find a partner. I was staring thirty-two in the face. Something has to change. Please? It will. I opened my mouth to the sky, to the moon. To the future. Aaaah.

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, Prince. Spare (pp. 263-264). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Based on the above passage, I know that Harry was actively looking for a woman to marry. I’ll bet he was lamenting to his “mates” about being single, too. Violet was one of his friends. She probably knew he was looking for a spouse. Meghan was single and available, and Meghan was looking, too. And, if I’m right about Meghan, she probably clued into the fact that Harry was feeling undesirable. She’s also from California and has obvious show business ties, even though she was working in Canada when she and Harry met. Perhaps someone who was with Harry at those house parties said something about Harry’s despondency about being bereft of a wife.

It seems very plausible to me that some people worked behind the scenes to make sure Harry saw Meghan on Instagram. He seems to think it’s “kismet”, but somehow I doubt it was. Add in Harry’s liberal use of hallucinogens and tequila at house parties, and the theory of Harry as a target becomes even more plausible to me. This certainly wasn’t a case of “ask and ye shall receive.” Moreover, illegal drug use and excessive alcohol consumption in strangers’ homes isn’t exactly the stuff of good decision making. Being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and taking it seriously when one gets a “message” from the moon, also seems like questionable judgment to me.

Later, Harry further describes how he felt when he first saw Meghan, and all he got from that first look at her on Instagram. From the book…

But this woman’s beauty, and my response to it, wasn’t based merely on symmetry. There was an energy about her, a wild joy and playfulness. There was something in the way she smiled, the way she interacted with Violet, the way she gazed into the camera. Confident. Free. She believed life was one grand adventure, I could see that. What a privilege it would be, I thought, to join her on that journey. I got all of that from her face. Her luminous, angelic face. I’d never had a firm opinion on that burning question: Is there just one person on this earth for each of us? But in that moment I felt there might be only one face for me. This one.

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, Prince. Spare (pp. 267-268). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Again, it sounds like Cupid shot Harry in the heart. He was smitten by Meghan, gobsmacked by her beauty and “wild joy”. He could tell “she believed life was one grand adventure.” Harry got all of that from an Instagram video! But he didn’t even know her. This was more akin to infatuation than love. He asked Violet about Meghan. From the book…

I sent Violet a message. Who…is…this…woman?

She answered straightaway. Yeah, I’ve had six other guys ask me.

Great, I thought. Who is she, Violet?

Actress. She’s in a TV show called Suits.

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, Prince. Spare (p. 268). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Meghan certainly is an attractive woman. It’s very possible that six other guys really did ask Violet about her. Telling Harry that six other guys had asked about her, especially since he apparently hadn’t asked, seems like a manipulative move to me. It’s as if Violet was warning Harry to act now, or forever lose his chance with Meghan. But at that point, he’d only seen a video of her!

It’s like a salesperson setting up the illusion of scarcity by telling consumers that supplies are limited. I’m reminded of Martha Inc., a made for TV movie about Martha Stewart. Martha was selling pies, but she only had a couple set out on her table. Sure enough, people quickly bought them. She then set out more pies, but only a couple. Martha was pushing the idea that the pies were in high demand and supplies were limited, so those pie seekers had better act fast, or risk losing out!

I sense a similar dynamic between Harry, Violet, and Meghan. Violet works for Ralph Lauren and probably knows a thing or two about sales. Harry was shopping for a wife. Meghan was shopping for a husband. Violet connected them, and told Harry that other men were also looking. It may or may not have even been true. But Harry clearly got the idea that “supplies were limited”; moreover, he’d already lost out on other attractive women. Harry was determined to act fast, so he wouldn’t miss out on hooking Meghan. And Meghan and Violet, being savvy about sales, probably realized that. Meghan, after all, is an actress, and she’s obviously had to “sell herself” to get roles. She’s done commercials. She gets the concept of sales.

Harry implies in his book that, before he met Meghan, he was aimless and despondent. He’d dated several beautiful young women, but none of them were “the one”. He was 32 years old, and had seen his friends find spouses. He remembered how his own father, King Charles III, was 32 years old when he finally married barely 20 year old Diana. People had made fun of Charles for being single for so long. Charles actually needed to find a wife, because he needed to produce an heir to the throne. He couldn’t marry Camilla back then, so he “settled” for Diana, who was completely incompatible. We now know how that worked out for him. Likewise, Harry worried that he would never find a wife, even though the pressure to marry was probably much less for him than it was for Charles.

Harry also explains that in the palace, married couples are more prestigious than single people are. From the book…

Behind all this hand-wringing about me was something more substantive than “tittle-tattle.” It went to the whole underpinning of the monarchy, which was based on marriage. The great controversies about kings and queens, going back centuries, generally centered on whom they married, and whom they didn’t, and the children who issued from those unions. You weren’t a fully vested member of the Royal Family, indeed a true human being, until you were wed.

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, Prince. Spare (p. 231). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So, based on the above passage, it’s clear that Harry was feeling the pressure to find someone to marry. He wasn’t a “fully vested member of the Royal Family”, because he was single. I hesitate to agree with his assertion that his family didn’t see him as a “true human being” because he was unwed. But obviously, the point is, he felt he was getting too old to be single. He was desperate to find “the one”. Meghan showed up at the right time. Boom! Cupid magically fired his dart. Bullshit.

In my experience, when someone feels that kind of pressure, they become vulnerable to a quick sale. That’s actually how Bill and I wound up living in our last house. If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that in spite of the little voice in my head telling me to steer clear, we moved into a home in which the landlady was a bit narcissistic. We had to sue her to get our deposit returned. If we hadn’t been feeling so pressured to find a house, we might have avoided that situation. But we settled for a quick sale. Former landlady saw us coming… She told us other people were looking, which was probably a “white lie”. Other people probably were looking, but they’d wisely passed. Under different circumstances, we would have passed, too. Hopefully, next time, I’ll listen to that voice in my head.

Is Harry in a similar situation as Bill and I were back in 2014 (and Bill was with his ex wife)? Obviously, I don’t know Harry personally, so I don’t know for sure. But the signs are pretty clear to me. The “N” chimes are sounding. I’m very rarely wrong when I hear those chimes. I’ve ignored them before and been very sorry. Hopefully, I’m wrong in Harry’s case, because I don’t want him to be unhappy. I like Prince Harry, and I’m enjoying his book, even though I’ve learned more about his penis than I ever thought I would (more on that in a later post). Moreover, I don’t cheer for people to have bad relationships. I just know the signs and symptoms of manipulative behaviors.

Time to wrap up this post, although I am definitely not finished writing about Spare. I’m only writing about my “N” chimes because of last night’s discussion, and because I know I have friends who are apparently offended by my impressions of Harry and Meghan. I don’t mean to offend. I’m being honest about how I feel. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my dealings with abusive, manipulative, narcissistic people, it’s that they want their victims to suffer in silence. They thrive on secrecy. So I’m not going to be silent. If I’m wrong, I’ll say so and apologize. But unfortunately, I don’t think I’m wrong about this.

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of Things I Should Have Said, by Jamie Lynn Spears…

I don’t remember why I decided to download Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said. I am a little too old to appreciate music by Jamie Lynn’s famous older sister, Britney Spears, whose pop music career was flourishing during Jamie Lynn’s childhood. I am definitely too old to appreciate Jamie Lynn’s turn as an actress on the Nickelodeon shows, All That and Zoey 101. Amazon.com tells me that Jamie Lynn’s book was published January 18, 2022, and I bought it two days later. It was probably because a year ago, the Internet was all abuzz about Britney Spears, as she was engaged in a legal battle to end a conservatorship that their father, Jamie Spears, had arranged after Britney had some very public mental health meltdowns in 2008. The conservatorship lasted thirteen years, during which many of Britney’s basic freedoms were severely curtailed, even as she was forced to work, and even had to pay the people who were oppressing her. I likely got caught up in the drama of all of that, even though I had long since moved on from it by the time I finally picked up and started reading Things I Should Have Said a few days ago.

Jamie Lynn Spears is the youngest child of Jamie and Lynne Spears. She writes that she was an “oops” baby. Her father had supposedly had a vasectomy, but never went for a follow up check. Obviously, the procedure didn’t take, and he got Lynne pregnant in 1990. Jamie Lynn was born in McComb, Mississippi on April 4, 1991. She claims that even though she was an “oops” baby, she was cherished by her older brother, Bryan, and big sister, Britney. But then she made statements that seemed to refute the idea that she was cherished. Father James was a notorious alcoholic, and he would “take off” when things at home got too rough. Mother Lynne was very focused on Britney’s budding career as a pop music phenomenon. Jamie Lynn’s parents divorced in 2002, but both remained involved in her life.

As Jamie Lynn grew up, she bore a striking resemblance to her older sister and demonstrated acting talent. At the age of 13, she started going to California to work for Nickelodeon, first on All That, and then on her own series, Zoey 101. When she was at home in Kentwood, Louisiana, Jamie Lynn hung out with her friends and dated Casey Aldridge (called Casper in the book). The two had a sexual relationship, and at age sixteen, Jamie Lynn was pregnant, like a lot of teenagers in Deep South states. The difference between Jamie Lynn and the other teens was, Jamie Lynn was famous and had money. Her pregnancy was all over the news, with many people speculating that it was the reason her show on Nickelodeon ended. Jamie Lynn writes that, actually, the show had already ended by the time she got pregnant with her older daughter, Maddie Briann, who was born on June 19, 2008.

Jamie Lynn tried to make a relationship with “Casper” work, but it was impossible, as according to her, he was always running around, using drugs, and having sex with other people. Jamie Lynn threw herself into being a mother, buying her first home in Liberty, Mississippi when she was still a teenager. She felt she had to threaten her parents with filing for legal emancipation, as she wanted to make decisions for herself and her daughter. As she was trying to make things work with her “baby daddy”, she met her husband, Jamie Watson, who is ten years her senior. They dated on and off, until it became apparent that they would be a couple. Meanwhile, Jamie Lynn decided to take a stab at making music. She moved to Nashville and tried to learn the ropes of songwriting, playing guitar, and singing.

Jamie Lynn Spears sings. She’s not bad, although I think her music sounds very familiar…

She released an EP, but then moved back to Louisiana, where she eventually married Jamie Watson in 2014. In 2017, Maddie was in a terrible ATV accident that almost killed her. After Maddie recovered, she asked Jamie Lynn to have another baby, a request that she and Jamie obliged. Jamie Lynn and Jamie now have a daughter named Ivey Joan, who was born in 2018. According to Jamie Lynn’s book, Jamie Watson plans to legally adopt Maddie, as they have a “special” relationship. When Jamie proposed to Jamie Lynn, he also proposed to Maddie, complete with a ring (BARF).

My thoughts

I’m not super impressed by Things I Should Have Said. I don’t think it’s particularly well written. Jamie Lynn has a habit of using big words that aren’t quite appropriate for what she’s trying to convey. The end result is a bit contrived and stilted, rather than engaging. I found myself rushing to get through the book, as I didn’t find her story that interesting. It probably could have been interesting, had she hired a ghost writer. Jamie Lynn Spears frequently reminds her readers that she’s very talented, as in she repeatedly states this in her manuscript. But I’m afraid writing with flair isn’t really one of Jamie Lynn’s gifts. The book isn’t terrible, but it’s not definitely not among the best memoirs I’ve ever read. She’s no Paulina Porizkova. 😉

Anyone looking for dishing about Britney Spears would probably do well to skip this book, as Jamie Lynn doesn’t reveal that much about her sister. She keeps her comments about Britney mostly respectful and loving, and offers a few even-keeled insights about Britney’s controversy, reminding readers that she’s in a position to see what’s going on for herself, rather than speculating about it due to media reports. One of the issues that came up regarding Jamie Lynn and Britney was about Britney’s allegedly erratic behavior that involved Britney threatening her sister with a knife. Jamie Lynn also mentions that she had to enforce boundaries with Britney during the height of the COVID pandemic. But she doesn’t offer a lot of commentary about Britney’s situation; the book really is mostly about Jamie Lynn and her career.

A rather strange interview about the book and the knife incident. She cries, but there aren’t any tears.

In some ways, I felt some compassion for Jamie Lynn. I’m the youngest in my family, and I was also an “oops” baby, with sisters who are 8, 11, and 13 years older than I am. I know how it feels to be in that position. I also had an alcoholic father, although my dad wasn’t one to “take off” at random intervals. I do feel like her stabs at entering what she calls the “family business” were kind of half-hearted, as most of the energy her parents expended toward developing their daughters’ show biz careers went to Britney.

Jamie Lynn spent three years acting on Nickelodeon, then got pregnant… then she made a stab at music, which netted an EP. It pales compared to what Britney has done, and I would imagine that causes Jamie Lynn some angst. She also writes that her parents were pretty strict and religious, yet Jamie Lynn still managed to get “knocked up” as a teenager. She writes that having Maddie at age seventeen “saved” her from becoming a dysfunctional actress, succumbing to the issues that performers deal with, like drug abuse, eating disorders, and other mental health problems. It seems to me that there are other ways to avoid such a fate, rather than becoming a teen mom. I don’t think that’s a route I would recommend, even though Jamie Lynn at least had the financial ability to take care of her daughter, even if she really wasn’t mature enough.

I’m not sure what Jamie Lynn plans for her future, but for now, she is Mrs. Jamie Watson, mother of two. I’m hoping that she keeps an eye on Maddie, because Maddie has some pretty strong genetic ties to dysfunction. Her grandfather, Jamie, and her biological father, Casey, both have drug and alcohol issues. Her Aunt Britney also has well-publicized mental health issues. Maddie will be fifteen on her next birthday, which is prime time for her to act like a teenager. I just hope she doesn’t end up in the same situation Jamie Lynn was in when she was sixteen.

I also didn’t get the best impressions of Jamie Watson… sorry to say. Obviously, I don’t know the man personally, and it doesn’t matter what my opinions of him are. I’m not the one who is his wife or the mother of his child. But I did feel moved enough to save a couple of quotes from Jamie Lynn’s book that I shared with friends…

Those who have been following my blog for awhile might remember a few years ago, when I wrote about how I don’t approve of the trend of potential stepfathers “proposing” to their stepdaughters. At the time I wrote that post, NASCAR driver Brian Scott was in the news for “marrying” his now wife, Whitney’s three year old daughter, Brielle, biological daughter of fellow NASCAR driver, Sean Caisse. I wrote about why I really don’t think those kinds of proposals are a good idea. My reason is mainly because those kinds of displays are usually more for the adults than the children, especially the ones who are very young and don’t know what’s going on, as Brielle was at the time. I also know that, unfortunately, divorce is pretty common in remarriages, particularly when stepchildren are involved. Presenting a little girl with a ring and offering to “marry” her too, seems like a sweet gesture, but it can end up being very hurtful if there is a divorce. Moreover, I just don’t think it’s appropriate, as marriage is a very different relationship than a parental relationship is. I’m much more impressed with stepfathers who simply love and care for their stepchildren, rather than trying to replace their biological parents, even if that is what later happens in the relationship.

I got a couple of nasty comments on that piece, as Sean Caisse had some trouble with the law and wound up incarcerated. One reader who cowardly called herself “BlogWastedMyTime” declared my article “crap”, and very rudely pointed out that Caisse had been arrested, accusing me of not “doing my research”. Below was the exchange, which I remember posting as I waited for a flight from Vienna to Stuttgart.

As far as I can tell, Brian and Whitney are still married. Good for them. My opinion about this hasn’t changed, though.
Another, less contentious comment from someone, who later came back and wrote “well put.”

There was another comment from a guy who had two ex wives, and felt I was being too “negative” about people who “marry” their stepchildren. I told him that I was only sharing my opinion on my blog, and I was sorry he didn’t like my opinions, as I matter of factly explained that he joins a long list of people who don’t like my opinions. Deal with it. Anyway, my thoughts on this didn’t evolve in a vacuum. I have what I think are good reasons for feeling the way I do.

As regular readers might know, my husband was married to a woman who asked him to be the “daddy” to her son from her first marriage, which he was happy to do for as long as he was still in Ex’s favor. Bill went as far as giving the boy his last name– or really, Ex claimed it and Bill didn’t argue with her about it– and paying $850 a month in child support for him until he was 21 fucking years old. For that effort, the young man tried to change his name in secret as he still took Bill’s financial support– he didn’t even tell Bill about changing his name, as he continued to call him “Dad”. And when Bill confronted his former stepson about this, he was chastised… as if a “dad” shouldn’t know what his “son’s” legal last name was, even as said “son” was claiming to be Bill’s next of kin. Now, he doesn’t speak to Bill at all, although he might be talking to his bio dad, who didn’t pay any child support after Bill came into the picture. Ex got them back together as a means of being spiteful to Bill. Bill didn’t mind, by the way, as the boy never should have lost access to his real dad, or his dad’s financial support. And now he knows that Ex lied about #1, anyway.

When Bill and Ex divorced, Ex did the same thing to Bill that she did to #1, and tried to erase his presence in his daughters’ lives. She made them call #3 “Dad”, and forced them to write letters disowning Bill. Then, when younger daughter turned 18, she pressured them into getting their names legally changed to #3’s last name. Younger daughter has since told us how distressing it was for her growing up, not to be able to have a relationship with her real father, especially since it’s very clear that #3 doesn’t care about her the way Bill does, and always has. To this day, even though she and Bill are now in touch and talk regularly, Ex still tries to influence younger daughter away from having a relationship with Bill, who is younger daughter’s real dad in all senses of the word. We are grateful that she has good sense, and can think for herself about these things.

I do understand that not all situations are as extreme as Bill’s has been. From what Jamie Lynn writes, Casey Aldridge has not been a very involved father, although he did see Maddie occasionally and, when she had her near fatal ATV accident, he did visit her and pray for her. Jamie Lynn claims that Maddie wanted Jamie to adopt her, and she has tried to explain to her what that would mean. But I have my doubts that the idea was entirely Maddie’s, and given the dysfunction in the Spears family, I would be concerned about the permanence of Jamie Lynn’s marriage. That’s just my opinion, of course, and it’s based on what I’ve seen in my 50 years of life. I know every situation is different, and it’s not my business, anyway. But yeah, I’m not a fan of the whole “marrying your stepchildren” trend. I think marriage proposals are for adults, and should be left to future love interests of the children, not to their stepfathers. Besides, there’s quite a double standard at play. Imagine if stepmothers started trying to “marry” their stepsons. Yikes! Or if stepfathers started giving their stepsons “engagement rings”.

Below are a few quotes from Jamie Lynn’s book about Jamie Watson’s adoption of Maddie…

Maddie started to talk about changing her last name to Watson. Her determination bordered on demand. We explained she didn’t understand the lengthy process of adoption and that changing her name meant that she would give up the name Aldridge for the rest of her life. She insisted she did in fact understand, and it was important to her that she share our name.

Spears, Jamie Lynn. Things I Should Have Said (p. 165). Worthy. Kindle Edition.

And…

We spoke several times with Casper, who at first felt like we were pushing him out of her life. Eventually I was able to convince him I was speaking for Maddie. She wanted to share our family name and feel connected to us. It took a few weeks for Casper to relent. After Maddie’s initial interviews with mediators, Casper felt, if not good, at least satisfied Maddie would be happier this way. The process took months and coincided with the arrival of Ivey Joan. We encouraged Casper to remain in all our lives. Sadly, as months passed, he found himself in legal trouble again and again, and he disappeared once more.

Spears, Jamie Lynn. Things I Should Have Said (pp. 166-167). Worthy. Kindle Edition.

I do think that sometimes, having a stepparent adopt a child really is the right thing to do, particularly if the other bio parent really is “gone” from the child’s life. If anything, being the legal parent makes it easier to make legal and medical decisions for the child in one’s care. I just don’t think the public declarations, especially at weddings, are necessarily a good idea. It does sound like Jamie Watson has been a good father figure to Maddie, and that’s commendable. I hope it stays that way, although even with a name change, Maddie is still going to be another man’s bio daughter. There is no changing that fact.

I’ve also seen people like Ex use the “sperm donor bio dad” stereotype in their parental alienation campaigns. I know for a fact that a lot of fathers are pushed out for convenience sake, or because their exes don’t want them in their lives anymore. It has little to do with the actual welfare of the children, and is really more about being vengeful and hateful to the other parent and trying to deny past mistakes. I can’t help it… dealing with Ex has given me very strong opinions on this issue. But, no matter what, I would totally cringe if I’d had children when Bill proposed to me, and Bill had presented them with rings, too. I don’t like that practice at all. What if the girl says “no” to the proposal? Will her wishes really matter? And what little girl doesn’t get excited when someone gives them a gift? So, that whole “stepdaughter wedding ring” gesture, to me, is just kind of hokey and inappropriate, especially when it’s done very publicly. Again– just my opinion.

Anyway… I don’t think reading Things I Should Have Said has made me more of a Jamie Lynn Spears fan. I’ve certainly read worse books, but this one could have been much better than it is. I see that it gets 3.5 stars on Amazon. I think I’d give it three stars, and recommend it to Jamie Lynn’s fans, who will likely enjoy it more than I did. Now, I’m happy to have moved on to my next book, by Andre Leon Talley… It’s definitely more my speed. 😉

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

A parody about Jamie Lynn’s teen pregnancy. This came out in 2008 or so.
Standard
celebrities, condescending twatbags, Ex, narcissists

Some people are just greedy scumbags…

This morning, we enjoyed a bit of a “lie in”, since Bill has the day off work. When I woke up, I read some more of my current book, Things I Should Have Said by Jamie Lynn Spears. I can’t say it’s the greatest book I’ve read, but I have learned some new things. According to Jamie Lynn, her dad, Jamie Spears, was quite a controlling, alcoholic nightmare who had a habit of “taking off” when things got too difficult at home. I already had an inkling about Jamie Spears, not because I am a fan of the Spears sisters, but because over the years, it’s been impossible to avoid seeing them in the news.

A year ago, Britney Spears was very publicly fighting to end a thirteen year conservatorship, controlled mostly by her father. She had no control over anything in her life, right down to her ability to reproduce. She was forced to have an intrauterine device, to prevent her from getting pregnant. Although she was deemed unable to manage her career, her money, her romantic relationships, or make her own medical decisions, Britney continued to work. And lots of people in her family profited from what she did– everything from concerts to selling records. Britney Spears has been a very bankable star for years. But her family– especially her father– have basically been using her for her money and fame.

Jamie Lynn Spears has also worked as an actress and singer. She hasn’t been as successful as her sister, the “Princess of Pop” has, but as far as I can tell, she doesn’t seem to suffer from any mental health issues. The one thing she did do that got everyone upset was get pregnant at age sixteen. She writes that she was pressured to have an abortion, and her parents became so intrusive that she threatened to file for emancipation. That plan was eventually called off, when her parents finally relented and allowed her to make her own decisions for herself and her baby. As I read about Jamie Lynn as a teenager– a girl with an actual career on Nickelodeon– I was reminded of Jennette McCurdy’s much better book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. In both of these situations, there were beautiful, talented young people involved, working and making enough money to support greedy parents, who apparently saw them as possessions.

I can’t say that I’m getting the greatest impressions of Jamie Lynn Spears as I read her book. She seems a little full of herself and a bit jealous of her sister. I also think she had a pretty substandard education, based on the quality of writing in her book. But I do have some compassion for the fact that her parents were basically leeches. Especially her dad, whom at this point of the book, she doesn’t seem to have a lot of regard for anymore. I remember a year ago, when Britney was in the news a lot and Jamie Lynn’s book was first released, Britney seemed rightfully pissed off at her whole family, including Jamie Lynn. It made me feel sorry for Britney. She’s been used and abused for too many years. All the while, there was this narrative put out to the public that they were a happy, close-knit, caring family… at least before Britney started having the well-publicized mental health problems that had prompted the conservatorship in the first place.

So I came into my office and sat down on my new office chair, navigated to my blog, and started looking through my posts. Someone had hit an old one that I’d forgotten about, so I decided to read it. Then I noticed the next post. It was a May 2019 post titled “All my kids”. This was a post about Ex’s current husband, a man I refer to as #3. I had found him on Facebook, and noticed some posts from 2012… posts about Ex’s kids, all five of whom he was referring to as “his”. I got angry as I looked at them, especially since Ex did the same thing to Bill, with her eldest son. She encouraged them to bond. She wanted Bill to think of her son with #1 as his son. She got his name changed, though I don’t think she ever did it legally, since it costs money. She somehow got a document made by the State Department that listed Bill as ex stepson’s father, even though he wasn’t. Ex stepson was born in Germany, and Bill came into his life as a father figure when he was a toddler. Bill went along with it, because Ex had told him stories about #1, claiming that he was abusive and “crazy”. Because she was his wife and he thought he loved her, he trusted her. He believed her stories. They were lies. And she did the same thing to Bill when they divorced. She told #3 lies about Bill… and made Bill’s kids call him “Dad”, as if they were possessions who just needed to be reprogrammed to accept a new man as their father.

Now, Ex’s kids aren’t stars. They aren’t famous. But she uses them, in much the same way Jamie and Lynne Spears use their children. She lies to them to keep them under control, and she manipulates people to put out a false narrative. Jamie Spears was trying to convince everyone that Britney Spears needed him to control her life, “for her own good”. But he was just using her.

Lately, younger daughter has been sending us videos, mostly about her cooking projects. She and Bill have been bonding over their love of making food. I think it’s because they’re both compassionate, nurturing types of people. When I see how much she loves her real dad, it makes me angry to think about #3 putting up public pictures of her on Facebook and calling her his daughter. Under one photo, he had captioned that the “name change” would soon be final, as if it’s going to be this great, healing decision. But younger daughter doesn’t even like #3 as a friend, let alone love him as her “dad”. It’s a fucking lie for him to refer to her as his daughter, and it’s out there because Ex was using and manipulating people to promote her hateful, narcissistic agenda. That post is public, probably, because Ex was hoping Bill would see it and be hurt. Fortunately, at the time, I made a point of not looking for information about Ex or the kids. I was very angry with all of them. But now, I’m curious… and as we all know, curiosity killed the cat. 😉

Looking back at that old post, I figured out that #3’s mother was posting comments. The comments she left indicate that she believed it was appropriate for Ex to have Bill’s daughters’ names legally changed. Younger daughter later explained to us that it really bothered Ex that her children’s legal names weren’t the same as her name. She also has to totally discard the fathers of her children… although I see that #3 and #1 are Facebook friends. Her daughters are also friends with #1, but they aren’t friends with Bill. It’s because he won’t buy into Ex’s lies and bullshit.

Younger daughter actively avoids being in contact with Ex now. When she does talk to her, Ex claims that #3 wants to see their “grandchildren”. But they aren’t his grandchildren, because he is not her father. Furthermore, he’s not even interested in her, or her kids. I think he’s only interested in older daughter, because she does all the work in their house and takes care of his son.

Ex still tries to maintain that fake bond, though. She’s tried to get younger daughter to think of #3’s mother as her grandmother. But younger daughter doesn’t even seem to like #3’s mom, mainly because she made disparaging comments about younger daughter’s desire to be a wife and mom. #3’s mom basically said, in a pretty disdainful way, that just being a wife and mother was a waste of her life. I guess this shouldn’t surprise us at all, though, since Ex pushed Bill’s mom out of the girls’ lives and promoted his stepmother as their grandmother. And now, stepmother-in-law has posted things on Facebook referring to younger daughter’s children as hers, even as she seems to forget that the only reason she even knows Bill’s daughters is because of her stepson… a man she seems to believe Ex’s lies about. It’s just so fucked up… so many lies, and so much exploitation. If Ex could, I bet she’d get a conservatorship over her children’s lives, so she could harness their earning power and capacity to work for her… never allowing them to leave her sphere and have their own lives.

Being on the edge of this toxic crap has bothered me for years. I guess reading Jamie Lynn’s book reminds me that there are families that are just as– or even more– fucked up as Ex’s is. I look forward to finishing Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, and reviewing it. There’s definitely a lot to unpack. I don’t find her particularly likable, but I do think she was used and exploited. But Britney definitely got shafted by her family. I’m surprised she trusts anyone. And the more I hear about life behind the social media facade put out there by Ex and #3, the more I think her kids have been shafted, to varying degrees. It’s so sad.

Well… I suppose I should do something less stress inducing. It’s already 1:00 PM, and I haven’t practiced guitar yet. So I think I’ll quit writing this shit, and get on with my day. Have a good one.

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, by Paulina Porizkova…

Those of you who read this blog regularly, probably know that I grew up in the 1980s. As a child of that era, there are certain cultural phenomenons that are etched in my personal history. Personally, I think the 70s and 80s were great decades for coming of age. Most of us were too young to remember Richard Nixon. We got to be kids at a time before everybody was so plugged in to their electronic devices. We had a lot of freedom to come and go– I can remember running all over my neighborhoods— even when I was very young— and exploring to my heart’s content. And there was some really great– non auto-tuned— music in that era, to include an iconic band called The Cars, fronted by the late Ric Ocasek.

Ric Ocasek was 80s model Paulina Porizkova’s long time husband. When Ocasek died in September 2019, they were in the beginning stages of getting a divorce. Although they were splitting up when he died, Ric and Paulina still shared the house they purchased together when they first got married in August 1989. Paulina had envisioned them staying close and being “best friends”, maybe living in apartments near each other. But it was not to be. As Ric recovered from surgery for “stage 0 cancer”, he suddenly and unexpectedly died in the bedroom he and his third wife used to share. He’d also been suffering from heart disease and emphysema.

It was Paulina who discovered him, as she carried a cup of coffee to his sickbed at about 11:00 AM. It was made just the way he liked it, with three quarters of a teaspoon of sugar and just enough milk in it to turn it a very specific shade of beige. This part of the story resonated with me. My husband, Bill, knows how I like my “beige” coffee, too, although I prefer half and half over milk.

My sisters read fashion magazines regularly, but as an adolescent, I spent most of my time in a barn, tending to my horse. I’ve never had the figure, the bank account, or the desire to wear high fashion. I will admit that I used to like to watch America’s Next Top Model, and I did learn about models and fashion in the process of watching that show. But I really watched ANTM more for the drama, not because I care about haute couture. When Paulina Porizkova became a Top Model judge during Cycle 10, she quickly became one of my favorite people on the show. I liked that she was down-to-earth, intelligent, and basically kind… or as kind as she was allowed to be, anyway. As a music fan, I admired The Cars, and thought it was cool that Paulina was married to one of the co-founders of that band. I was pissed off when Paulina was fired from ANTM after Cycle 12. I thought it was a huge mistake. In my opinion, the show went downhill after she left. Paulina was also very briefly on Dancing With the Stars, but she was voted off very early. I didn’t watch her on that show.

I don’t know why she was voted off… This was a great performance, in my opinion.
Paulina Porizkova talks about being a new judge on ANTM in 2009.

As someone who grew up at a time when a lot of us were terrified of being invaded by the Soviet Union, I also find Paulina Porizkova’s personal history very interesting. Paulina was born on April 9, 1965 in Prostějov, Czechia, which was at that time, Czechoslovakia. In 1968, when she was three years old, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied her country. Her parents, Anna and Jiri, did not like the idea of censorship, being forced to work menial jobs for little pay, or standing in line for hours for a loaf of bread. So they left the country on a motorcycle and settled in Sweden, leaving Paulina behind in Czechoslovakia with her grandmother.

Life was difficult in Paulina’s homeland. The Soviets decided the house her grandfather had inherited was too large for one family. They divided it into three apartments and moved in a single lady and another family. There was one toilet for the whole house, and it was on the veranda. Meanwhile, Paulina’s parents were making a lot of noise about their daughter, who was separated from them. The sympathetic Swedish press wrote a lot of stories about Paulina, causing her to become famous. Still, Paulina didn’t mind, because she didn’t know what she was missing. She loved her grandmother, and wanted to be a good communist, as she was being taught in school. She even had aspirations of visiting Lenin in his tomb, and becoming a “Young Pioneer”, complete with a red kerchief. Below is an anecdote of something she and her cousin did in an attempt to win one of those red kerchiefs…

There are quite a few funny anecdotes like this in Paulina’s book.

When Paulina was seven, her pregnant mother, Anna, came back to Czechoslovakia in disguise. She wore a wig and glasses. The police found out who she was, and she was jailed. But she was seven months pregnant, and the Swedish press continued to put pressure on the Czech government. Anna was then given house arrest with her family. The police moved into an apartment across the street, so they could watch her and make sure no one visited. Anna told everyone in the family about the good life in Sweden, which was diametrically opposed to everything the Soviets reported. Anna spoke of how clean, beautiful, and safe the country was, and how she could eat a banana or an orange anytime she wanted one. Paulina wasn’t sure if she should believe her, but she soon found out firsthand, as the Czech government deported Anna, Paulina, and her baby brother from the country. She was told she could never return to her homeland, and was forced to leave her beloved grandmother behind. Then, when she got to Sweden, her father decided to leave the family and marry his girlfriend.

Life in Sweden was also challenging for Paulina. She was bullied in school because she was different. Unlike the blonde girls whose families had plenty of money, Paulina was tall with dark hair. She wore outdated clothes from thrift stores. Some of her classmates called her a “dirty Communist”. One Swedish girl, in particular, was especially mean to fourteen year old Paulina, who one day dared to wear new clothes she’d bought with her own money after working hard all summer. I wonder how that Swedish girl felt the following year, when fifteen year old Paulina was invited to Paris by model scout, John Casablancas, and launched her career as a bonafide top model. I hope she felt like the dumbass she obviously was.

Modeling was a lucrative career for Paulina, but she didn’t particularly enjoy the job. Sexual harassment toward the models was rampant among the photographers and clients. She had to wear hot clothes when it was hot outside, or strip down to nothing when the weather was freezing. She saw a lot of beautiful young girls wash out of the business before they even got started, many times owing a lot of money to the agencies who had paid for them to get their teeth fixed or skin issues treated by dermatologists. Paulina was fortunate, as she was successful and made a lot of money. And, in 1984, when she was 19 years old, actor Timothy Hutton, who was directing The Cars’ music video for their hit song, “Drive”, cast her as the love interest. That was how she met Ric Ocasek, who was married to his second wife, Suzanne, at the time.

My God, she was gorgeous! No wonder Ric was taken with her.

Paulina was struck by Ric’s turquoise eyes, which she describes in great detail, as he often wore dark shades that hid them from public view. She writes reverently about his naturally slender body and extreme height, and his shocking mop of black dyed hair against his pale skin. She immediately noticed his Czech surname, even translating it for readers. It was more poetic than her own surname, which she also sort of translates, as much as possible, anyway. She agreed to date him, even though he was married and had two young sons at the time… as well as two older sons with his first wife. She was still in her prime when they married in 1989, but she decided to mostly give up her career to be Ric’s wife and the mother of their two sons, Jonathan Raven and Oliver. She would occasionally model and take approved acting gigs, always approved by Ric, and never interfering with his schedule. Even though she made a lot of money when she was a model, she let him be the breadwinner… and they did not sign prenuptial agreements, even though their financial advisors strongly recommended it. That decision came back to bite Paulina firmly in the ass when Ric suddenly died, having disinherited her for “abandoning him”, as well as his two eldest sons. She had to go to court to get what was hers and, for a time, was left quite destitute and dependent on friends as she rebounded, now as a woman of 54.

My thoughts

I found No Filter to be a very quick and engaging read. I managed to finish this book in less than two days, and yet I came away with a lot of fresh thoughts and new perspectives. Paulina’s story has given me a lot to think about for many reasons. I could relate to much of her story, simply because of the time I’ve spent in Europe and the former Soviet Union, and because, like her, I’m now a woman of a certain age. 😉 I realized in reading Paulina’s book that we really aren’t that different, even if no one wants to take pictures of me in the nude. 😀 Also, she displays a fine sense of humor, and provides some comic relief in the form of wry anecdotes that are very disarming and show her humility. I do not get the sense that Paulina is vapid or arrogant, at all. In fact, she seems to be quite the opposite!

Paulina Porizkova has an evocative writing style, and she uses a lot of vivid and vibrant language to bring her story to life. In fact, even though I don’t typically read a lot of novels anymore (with the recent exception of A Stopover in Venice, by James Taylor’s second ex wife, Kathryn Walker), I decided to download Paulina’s novel about modeling, A Model Summer. I actually think she might be even better at writing novels. She uses a lot of colorful imagery and descriptive devices such as similes and metaphors to figuratively “paint” a picture in readers’ minds. I suspect A Model Summer might also be revelatory, because I have a feeling it’s based on her story, just as A Stopover in Venice is obviously based on Kathryn Walker’s marriage to James Taylor.

I remember on Cycle 12 of America’s Next Top Model, a very successful contestant named Marjorie Conrad commiserated with Paulina, as Marjorie is originally from France. Other contestants would rag on Marjorie, and fellow European contestant, Elina (from Ukraine), for being too “negative”. Paulina understood why they were like that, as she’s Czech, with dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship. And, having lived in Europe/the former Soviet Union for about fifteen years of my life, I kind of understand it, too. Europeans have a different mindset than a lot of Americans do. They aren’t as “toxically positive” about everything, and take a more realistic, and often pessimistic, view of most things. I mention this, because I noticed that Paulina is often quite negative in this story about her life, in spite of all of the money, fame, and success she’s had.

Again, life was legitimately hard for Paulina as a poor little girl in Czechoslovakia. It was hard for her as a transplant in Sweden, where she stood out for being too tall, too dark haired, too poor, and coming from a “commie” country. It was hard for her as a model, who was quite successful, but didn’t really enjoy the industry that much for a lot of reasons. It was always “just a job” for her, and not a very interesting one, at that. She caught a lot of shit for frankly stating that, too. I’m sure Americans, in particular, think she should appreciate having been a model, even though she was expected to tolerate egregious and outrageous sexual harassment and very personal and often negative comments about her body. Below is a quote from early in the book:

How sick is this?

Life was also hard for Paulina as Ric’s wife, as it turns out that he had some rather controlling behaviors that young Paulina had misconstrued as love. She was very young and inexperienced with men when they met. She’d had a tumultuous and difficult childhood that was fraught with abandonment, poverty, and abuse. She probably would have been better off going to college and finding work in which she could use her formidable brain. Instead, she fell into work that exploited the genetic jackpot she inherited by sheer chance. At one point in the book, Paulina writes about how people will usually encourage children who are smart and/or talented to develop and use their gifts. A smart child will often be encouraged to study hard and earn higher degrees, for instance. A musical or artistic child will be encouraged to improve their techniques so that their arts can be shared with the world. Beautiful women, though, are often judged harshly for using what they have, especially when they are “older”. Below is a quote Paulina got from a follower on her Instagram:

Easy for you to complain about the system now that you aren’t an “it” girl—but you had no problem making millions of dollars, enjoying your celebrity, and making millions of young girls feel ugly and unworthy for decades. NOW you are aware of how fragile self-image is???? You played a big role in creating the machine that makes people feel worthless if they aren’t “magazine beautiful,” and now you are crying because the system is making you feel like you made everyone else feel. The hypocrisy is incredible.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In her chapter, “The Responsibility of Beauty”, she writes:

People seem to understand that being beautiful is neither an accomplishment nor a fault. It is a gift. Generally, if you are given a gift or something of great value, your responsibility is to make use of it. When a person is born with an athletic or artistic ability and becomes a celebrated athlete or artist, we don’t shame them for using their gift. If a child is intelligent, we encourage them to get an education, to study hard, to develop their gift of intelligence as much as possible, and then use that gift out in the world. Developing their gift is seen as their responsibility. Wasted talent is a waste of potential. But when your gift is beauty, developing it is considered vain and narcissistic. Trying to maintain it is likewise shameful, whereas in athletics it’s practically heroic. An older athlete who strives to maintain their athleticism and compete with younger athletes is regarded as brave. An older model who strives to maintain their beauty and compete with younger models is often regarded as unnatural, embarrassing.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think the above commentary is very astute. It’s true that Paulina Porizkova was part of an industry that causes a lot of girls and young women heartbreak and misery. When she was in that industry, Paulina was, herself, young and arrogant, and unaware of her “responsibility” as a model. She writes about a reporter who asked her what she thought her “responsibility” should be. Would she model fur, for instance? Or “blood diamonds”, just for the money? At the time the question was asked, young Paulina didn’t know how to answer. Over thirty years later, the question still haunts her, but in spite of being a “dumb” model (which she obviously never was), she manages to write some very intelligent commentary about the subject. I found it very intriguing, so I’m including a few samples below:

I had become a model at fifteen and made a great deal of money because people thought I was beautiful. I was also an arrogant asshole. Give a teenager loads of money, no rules, and lavish praise for her ability to look stunning and fit into sample-size clothing, and moral responsibility probably isn’t what she spends most of her days thinking about.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 98). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And…

…somewhere along the way, we pick up the message that we can’t be beautiful and intelligent. That if we want to be taken seriously for our intelligence, we have to downplay our beauty. Right before I moved to Paris, I thought of myself as ugly and smart. Once I started working as a model, I was suddenly beautiful and stupid. When I called my dad to tell him I was staying in Paris to model full-time, he said, “Oh, now you’re going to be a dumbass.” When I arrived in Paris I got a reading list from a university and decided to read all the books listed in the English literature syllabus, not because I necessarily liked them or would choose them on my own, but because I wanted to make sure people knew I was intelligent.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

She continues…

I struggled with shame across my forty-plus-year career as a model. While a woman seeing a photo of me in an ad might have felt shame for not looking like me, I had been shamed for not having the body of Elle Macpherson. And the boobs of Cindy Crawford. And the teeth of Christie Brinkley. When the standard you are being held to is physical perfection, none of us can compete. I just quietly envied those other models and decided I surely had other, more important attributes. I was smarter, I could play the piano and draw, and I was certain I read way more books. I cut other women down in my mind so I could feel, if not superior, at least equal. I turned around and shamed those women after feeling shamed myself.

In my experience, no one shames a woman as often and as effectively as other women. We are all in the same boat, wanting to go the same way, yet instead of working together to get there, we knock one another off the boat. Do we not understand that the fewer of us there are to paddle, the slower we advance?

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yeah… this is not a dumb woman, at all! I can see why Paulina is sometimes negative about her life. She’s being honest, but a lot of Americans can’t respect honesty. They’d prefer bullshit. I also loved what she wrote about fame, and how people want to project themselves onto famous people. She explains that famous people are very well known, and yet very few people actually know them at all. Reading her comments reminded of how, when I was at James Taylor’s concert last month, some guy yelled out that his father “loved” him, and James reminded the guy that his father didn’t even know him. I got the sense that, like Paulina, James might be uncomfortable with people calling him by name and acting as if they’re somehow friends. If you think about it, it really is pretty weird, because we only know about the “famous” parts of these well-known people. We don’t actually have a personal knowledge of them at all, other than how what they do makes us feel. Paulina also reminds us that people in the press often make up or embellish things to sell their wares. I was also reminded of actress Justine Bateman’s book about her experiences with fame and how strange it must actually be for famous people… at least the ones who aren’t complete narcissistic assholes. Below are a few more quotes from the book to highlight what I mean…

On the other hand, Paulina Porizkova is also a believer in palm readings, tarot cards, and psychics, and she writes a bit about her experiences with her beliefs in her book. I don’t judge her negatively for that, especially since, in her experiences, they’ve actually been correct. Or, at least that’s what she claims. I know some people will probably think that’s kind of dumb or sacrilegious, though… or too much “woo”. And I know some will also judge her for being “the other woman”, and for the fact that she dated another man while she was still technically married. But, in fairness, Ric was also seeking the company of other women.

To sum things up…

I’m sure you can tell that I really enjoyed Paulina Porizkova’s book, No Filter. I am probably a bigger Paulina fan now, than I was when she was on ANTM. I hope this book helps her make some money, since she was left in quite a legal pickle when Ric Ocasek suddenly died. I still admire him as a musician and love his music, but now I think he was a bit of a narcissistic jerk. It’s too bad Paulina didn’t use her formidable common sense to protect herself from the situation he left her in when he died in 2019, but she trusted him and, sadly, he got to her when she was very naive and inexperienced.

There’s a lot more to this book that I didn’t cover, in spite of the long length of this article. So, if I have piqued your interest, I would highly recommend reading about Paulina Porizkova’s life. She’s led a very interesting one, so far… And I do hope that she will, one day, find that true love and acceptance she thought she’d had with Ric Ocasek. There are still some very good men out there. I know, because I managed to marry one myself, even though I am definitely no model. Like Paulina knew how Ric loved his coffee, my Bill knows how I love mine. I bet he’s not the only guy out there who’s like that… I think Paulina deserves someone who will fix her some coffee the way she likes it, and appreciate her very fine mind over her still gorgeous body.

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