Yesterday was an interesting day. After I posted yesterday’s YouTube related blog rant, I dozed off for a short while. When I woke up, I suddenly thought about a woman I knew of when I was in college. She may or may not appreciate me using her real name in my blog post, but I’m going to do it, because she’s somewhat famous in certain circles and could be considered a public figure. And, as I found out yesterday, she’s currently trending.
Her name is Cullen Johnson Hill. I know of her because we both went to Longwood College (now Longwood University), and she won the Miss Longwood pageant when we were students there. I didn’t know her personally, but she knew some of my friends. After Cullen graduated from Longwood, she went on to win the 1994 Miss Virginia title. She competed in the 1995 Miss America pageant and was the first runner up. I distinctly remember watching Cullen on national television in September 1994. It was at a time when I still didn’t mind watching beauty pageants. I used to think they were kind of fascinating. I especially loved Miss Universe, since the contestants came from all over the world. I thought the international contestants were fascinating; especially the ones who needed interpreters.
I was sad that Cullen didn’t win the Miss America title, because naturally, I was rooting for Miss Virginia and a fellow Longwood alum. But I can also understand why Heather Whitestone won the title. Not only was Heather very beautiful, but she’s also deaf. Whitestone was the very first Miss America with a disability. She was also able to perform a beautiful dance solo, in spite of her disability. So, I do think Heather was the right choice for Miss America that year, but I also think Cullen would have been a wonderful Miss America. She really had the look for it, as well as grace and poise.
Time went on. The following year, I wasn’t able to watch the pageant, because I was living in Armenia, working with the Peace Corps. I never really forgot about Cullen, though, and every once in awhile I’d wonder how she was doing. I saw old newspaper articles about her pageant career, including one in which she mentioned a “halo effect” in which people who overcome the biggest obstacles win. It was not a very politically correct observation, although I personally believe there’s a lot of truth in it. This link doesn’t lead to the offending newspaper article, but Cullen’s comment rankled enough that she was mentioned in a SF Gate op-ed.
So anyway, for some strange reason yesterday afternoon, I randomly thought about Cullen. And because I have a lot of time on my hands, I Googled. And there it was… posted on EOnline, December 5, 2023. Cullen had uploaded a rather shocking TikTok video about her struggles with alcoholism. Fresh from a thirty day jail stint, sporting a black eye, and looking unrecognizable from the beautiful woman I remembered from my college days, Cullen was telling everyone like it is for her. She says she’s been an alcoholic since she was 24 years old, and is now on a journey back to sobriety. She says she’s been there before, and it’s “wonderful”. And she’s lucky enough to have a husband and a son who love her very much.
I see that some rather sketchy “media” outlets have picked up Cullen’s story. The TikTok video has been reposted on YouTube by fake news channels that use AI to generate ad revenue. I saw at least one TikTok user reacting to Cullen’s video. I shared the EOnline story on Facebook, because I know some of my friends know Cullen. One friend in particular is a true friend of hers, describing her as a very sweet person. She said she hoped Cullen can restore her health.
I’m not going to throw any shade at Cullen, because honestly, but by the grace of God, I could have easily gone the same way. Like me, Cullen grew up a military brat. Her father, Jay Johnson, was a very high ranking Naval officer, and after he retired, he continued his very successful career in the business world. Johnson had the distinction of taking over the Chief of Naval Operations job from Jeremy “Mike” Boorda, who had a memorable exit from the role when he committed suicide over being accused of “stolen valor”. I don’t know Cullen’s father, but I have been around military folks my entire life, including the high ranking. I imagine she was under tremendous pressure to look and behave in the “right” ways. Alcoholism is a family disease, and it thrives on secrecy and image protection.
I know I could be wrong… and God knows, it’s not easy to live with people who suffer from addiction. But I also know, having grown up with an alcoholic father, that the addiction usually comes from somewhere very painful. Substance abuse is often less about having a good time, and more about trying to dull significant pain through self-medication. My father was himself the son of an alcoholic. My grandfather was described as a great guy when he wasn’t drinking, but when he drank, he became violent and abusive. My dad was only occasionally violent; he was a high functioning alcoholic. But that didn’t make him easy to live with. He and I didn’t have a very good relationship, although I did love him.
On her TikTok video, Cullen wrote in the comments that she doesn’t speak to her father anymore. She also mentions finding her mother passed out once, when she was very young… Again, as a fellow child of an alcoholic, I can relate to that, too. I found my dad passed out more than once. There were a couple of times when he tried to work with fire while he was very drunk. Once, he tried to grill a steak and forgot about it on the grill… My mom, who didn’t know how to use the grill, had me bring the charred piece of meat into the house and leave it in the sink for him to find. Seeing the burned steak had no effect on his behavior. Another time, he tried to burn trash and brush in our backyard while he was drinking. He forgot about the fire and it almost torched his business.
Anyway, seeing Cullen’s TikTok video was a mindblower. I wish Cullen all the best as she recovers. I think she’s very brave to share her story, and I hope she doesn’t encounter too many trolls. My heart goes out to her… and I appreciate that she still has a sense of humor, which she showed in the TikTok video. She did make a less than politically correct comment in the video, and I know some people will drag her for that. I’m not going to, though, because as I mentioned yesterday, I’m not into cancel culture– especially over comments that are simply deemed not “PC”.
While I certainly don’t condone drunk driving, or the fact that Cullen was in jail because she got caught doing that a second time, I also know that alcoholism and other addictions really are diseases. It’s not as simple as just quitting drinking or using drugs. Conquering addiction is a lifelong process that requires strength and diligence. And just like people who have cancer or heart disease sometimes relapse, so do people with addictions.
Which brings me to the title of today’s post…
I remembered mentioning Cullen on my old Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife. I went there this morning to see what I wrote. I found the post from September 16, 2013, in which I wrote about how I preferred to watch The Miss America Pageant instead of The Big Lebowski. Bill loves The Big Lebowski, but I am not a fan of that film. I’ve tried to watch it more than once, but I don’t like it. Believe it or not, I don’t like it because of all the swearing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind curse words, but I don’t like listening to a two hour stream of them. I also mentioned that Donald Trump had made the pageants unwatchable. That was in 2013– before we knew how he’d make the office of POTUS an international joke. I only mentioned Cullen by name in passing on that post, and made an unnamed reference to her on an earlier post, and apparently never posted about her again.
I clicked on the previous day’s post, which was titled “Things Bill does now that he never did when he was LDS…” In that post, I wrote about all the fun stuff Bill does now that he didn’t do when he was a Mormon. I made an actual list, and some of the stuff was pretty epic. Then, at the end of the post, I wrote about how I once had to order Bill to buy himself some new undershorts. Thanks to life with Ex, he wasn’t in the habit of spending money on himself… even on true necessities like underwear. Below is the excerpt about when I made Bill buy new skivvies…
Now, for the underwear story… When we first got married, we were pretty broke. Bill had purchased some cheap knit boxer shorts from KMart. I was sitting on our bed when he walked into the room. The boxers he was wearing were not quite large enough to cover him. I turned around and was just about eye level with his penis, which was poking out of the hole in the front of the boxers. I gasped and blushed in surprise and covered my eyes, then said “For God’s sake, cover yourself!”
He blushed. I wasn’t used to seeing a naked man and wasn’t expecting to see that… Oddly enough, his ex wife declared me “unsuitable” and a “bad influence” for not being Mormon. Apparently, I’m not moral, even though the sight of my husband’s penis was a shock to me when we first got married.
I then declared that we were going underwear shopping. The first thing he was going to do was purchase some decent boxer shorts that he liked and that fit him properly. It was stark contrast to his ex wife’s style, which was to tell him he should be spending all his money on his family or the church instead of his own basic needs. She would have begrudged him even purchasing decent underwear… because as a Mormon, he should be wearing church approved skivvies anyway.
I later told my Granny the underwear story. She was in her late 90s at the time and thought it was hysterical. She was the mother of nine, so I’m sure such a sight would not have made her blush.
…Some people might say that Bill gave up pleasures of the next life for pleasures in this one… Somehow, I feel like if there is a next life, the same admonishment might come into play. Some higher evolved being would tell Bill not to enjoy life now because it will ruin the “next life”. Is there something beyond this life? I don’t know. Bill “knows” more than I do, since he has had a near death experience. Was it just his brain protecting him? I don’t know. But it changed who he is and made him more spiritual, despite all he’s been through. It has helped keep him from becoming bitter and angry.
It sure has been fun watching him enjoy living and helping him discover new things.
Well… yesterday was Bill’s younger daughter’s birthday. I sent her a Jacquie Lawson e-card and a $200 gift card that can be used at a variety of places. I told her I hoped she’d use the gift card on herself. But I also know, since she’s Bill’s daughter, that she might not do that. She’s a very kind and generous person, like Bill is. She’s about to be a mother of four, and she was raised by her mother not to be “selfish” and think of her own needs, even though her mother very selfishly refused to share younger daughter and her sister with their father.
I’m sure Ex would be very angry if she knew I had given her daughter such a generous gift. She’d probably accuse me of “horning in”, or whatever, or trying to “buy” younger daughter’s affections. I’ve only met younger daughter in person ONCE in my lifetime. But I’ve gotten to know her online, and I’m relieved that she’s like Bill. And since she’s like Bill, my guess is that her needs tend to come last. I truly do hope she will use that gift card to get herself something she really wants or needs. Self-care is good for the soul.
Well, that about does it for today. We’re going to a Christmas party tonight… and taking a cab. 😉 I’ve got to get my dreaded Thursday chores done before that happens.