book reviews, celebrities

My thoughts on Out of the Corner: A Memoir, by Jennifer Grey…

I remember the very first time I saw the actress, Jennifer Grey, practicing her craft. She was in the 1984 right-wing propaganda film, Red Dawn, with the late actor and dancer, Patrick Swayze. I was 12 years old when that film came out. Red Dawn has a couple of things to distinguish it. It was the very first film to get a PG-13 rating, and it was also widely regarded as the most violent film of its time and was even listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for a time. As a 12 year old, I loved Red Dawn. I remember it got me all fired up about being American. Now that I’m almost 50, have lived in a formerly Soviet country, and have now seen Russia invade Ukraine, I see Red Dawn for the conservative agenda bullshit that it is.

Jennifer and Patrick in Red Dawn.

In Red Dawn, Jennifer Grey played a teenager named Toni Mason. She and her sister, Erica (played by Lea Thompson), were members of a group of teenaged guerillas who fought back against invading communists in an effort to save the United States from Godless Russia. Having just read Grey’s life story, Out of the Corner: A Memoir (2022), I know that politically speaking, Jennifer Grey is a liberal. She’s also very Jewish. I’m sure it’s bizarre for her to realize that she took part in making a film that, back in 2009, the National Review considered one of the best “conservative” films. Three years after she was in Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze, the two would reluctantly meet again in a low budget film called Dirty Dancing. They would play very different roles in 1987’s Dirty Dancing— and although they hadn’t been friends on Red Dawn, they would emerge from that film as forever memorable. That movie and its famous line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” would propel Swayze and Grey to 80s era superstardom.

The show stopper!

I decided to read Jennifer Grey’s book after I read an article about an uncomfortable conversation she once had with Matthew Broderick’s mother, Patsy. The article was based on a passage in Out of the Corner about Grey’s long relationship with Matthew Broderick, whom she’d worked with on the classic John Hughes film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Jennifer was caught alone with Patsy, whom she describes as someone who couldn’t abide lies and was a straight shooter to the point of being unbearably blunt. Patsy told Jennifer that her famous father, Broadway star, Joel Grey, was gay. Although it was not necessarily a secret that Joel Grey’s sexual orientation was that of a homosexual, Jennifer Grey hadn’t realized it. So, when Patsy broke the news to her, Jennifer was legitimately shocked. Not long afterwards, her parents were divorced. Joel Grey officially “came out” in 2015, when he was 82 years old.

Jennifer Grey has been in show business her whole life. Her parents were successful actors, so she spent her youth living in either New York or California with her parents and her adopted brother, Jimmy. Grey was born on March 25, 1960, which makes her 62 years old today. It’s hard to reconcile that with the young actress I knew in the 80s. It doesn’t seem like the 80s were that long ago. And yet here I sit, a week before my 50th birthday! I can hardly believe how time flies. Grey’s first professional gig was in the late 70s, when she was in a classic Dr. Pepper commercial, working as a dancer!

There she is, a nameless teenager who would eventually be known for “Dirty Dancing”.

One thing Jennifer Grey was well known for, especially back in the 80s, was her prominent nose. That nose made her unique, and she writes at the beginning of her book that she hadn’t wanted to get it “fixed”. She finally decided to have it refined a little bit, but told the surgeon that she wanted the effect to be very subtle. Even though Jennifer’s parents had both had nose jobs before Jennifer was even born, she was very proud of her proboscis. Grey was very satisfied with the results of the first surgery. Unfortunately, she had to go under the knife again when a sliver of bone was visible on her nose. When she went to have that corrected, the surgeon performed a more extensive reconstruction that made her almost unrecognizable.

According to Out of the Corner, Grey has been through other health issues in her life. In 1987, while she and Matthew Broderick were still in a relationship, they went to Ireland, where Broderick’s parents owned a cottage in County Donegal. While they were there, Broderick’s mother called and said she was going to come visit them. Grey writes that the relationship was already on the skids, but she also didn’t want to have to deal with Patsy again– remembering how she’d insensitively outed her father. So she made plans to go back to the States and prepare for the premiere of Dirty Dancing. On the way to Dublin, where Grey planned to spend the night and then catch a plane back home, she and Broderick were involved in a terrible car accident. Matthew Broderick was badly injured, and two local women– a mother and daughter– died. Jennifer was less so injured… or so she thought at the time. Years later, it was revealed that she’d suffered extreme whiplash as a result of that accident that had almost internally decapitated her. In 2010, she would have spinal surgery as she was about to appear on Dancing With the Stars. She’s also had thyroid cancer, gave birth to a daughter, and had an embarrassing interview with Johnny Carson.

All of these subjects and more are covered in Out of the Corner. Grey writes pretty well, occasionally using creatively constructed phrasing to tell her story. On two occasions, she also incorrectly uses the word “jettison”; I think she was confusing it with the word “rocketed”. In her book, Grey uses “jettison” as if it means to “blast off”. The word “jettison” actually refers to casting off things from a vessel in order to lighten the load. But that’s a minor quibble that will be easily missed or overlooked. Overall, I found Out of the Corner to be an easy page turner. Grey is very forthcoming about her story, and includes some juicy tidbits about well-known actors she worked with or knew as friends or lovers. Apparently, Grey was quite the partier back in the day, too, but she’s since cleaned up her act… at least when it comes to drinking and drugging. Her language, on the other hand, is pretty salty. I don’t mind that at all, though. I like cussing, too. But if you’re sensitive to cursing, Out of the Corner might not be a good book for you to read.

The style in which Grey shares her story is, to use a musical term, a bit staccato. Each chapter within the three parts of the book reads like separate stories. The book isn’t strung together in a continuum, which may bother some readers. Personally, I didn’t mind it too much. There were a few parts of the book that were a bit slower to get through than others. Once I got to the 80s and Jennifer’s career was taking off, the pacing of the book accelerates. I got into it yesterday and couldn’t put it down… and in fact, I even watched Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off during the afternoon! That was a hefty dose of nostalgia between allergic sneezes (another reason I stayed home).

Some readers who remember the 80s may find themselves forming new opinions about people like Matthew Broderick, Penelope Ann Miller, Johnny Depp, and Helen Hunt. I could tell that Grey and Broderick had a very intense relationship in which there were also a lot of painful memories. Unfortunately, Broderick wasn’t the most faithful boyfriend. On the other hand, although Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze hadn’t been friends on the set of Red Dawn, they later understood each other better. I enjoyed reading Grey’s comments about Swayze, especially since she writes that he wasn’t her type. I understand how that goes… yes, he was a very handsome man and a brilliant dancer, but I can understand why he didn’t ring her chimes, in spite of their incredible on screen chemistry.

I enjoyed reading Out of the Corner. I would probably enjoy knowing Jennifer Grey. I don’t care that she cusses. I enjoyed remembering the 80s, not just by reading her book, but by watching the films Jennifer Grey has made. Hell, I’m even watching her on Dancing With the Stars now, completely amazed by her dance skills. And now she can call herself a writer, too. She’s truly a woman of many talents!

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants, sex, sexism, slut shamers

Pro-life men and fat shaming men have things in common…

This morning, I got a private message from someone who read my recent rant about pro-life men who make me want to hurl. I was surprised to get that message. As of this morning, that particular rant only has four views. However, it does have two likes, which is somewhat unusual for my blog. My posts, by and large, don’t get “likes” very often. 😉

The person who wrote to me indicated that she felt my post was “poignant”. I thought that was an interesting observation. Maybe it does seem poignant, though, that a middle-aged woman who has always had the right to choose would be so disgusted by men with “pro-life” attitudes. Very soon, the risk of pregnancy for me, personally, will no longer exist at all. So, if Roe v. Wade does get overturned, it won’t matter too much for me, at least not in terms of whether or not I would be forced to bear children. If the United States turned into an actual Gilead, as depicted in Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale, I would either be a wife or a “Martha”. Or maybe I’d just be a “working stiff” who wears grey. The bottom line is, my actual purpose– according to some men– will soon cease to exist. But, you know, even when I was still young, a lot of men didn’t think I was fulfilling my “purpose”. They probably felt like a vagina was wasted on me.

As I was reposting the two book reviews I added this morning, I watched the latest episode of Fundie Fridays on YouTube. The host, Jen, had a guest named Mickey Atkins on the show. Mickey is a social worker, like I would have been if I hadn’t become an “overeducated housewife”. The two of them were discussing Lori Alexander, aka “The Transformed Wife”. Lori Alexander, for those who don’t know, is a very controversial figure on social media. She believes that women’s sole purposes for being is to make babies and be housewives. I don’t generally pay a lot of attention to Lori’s posts, because I disagree with almost everything she says or writes, and I generally don’t think it’s productive to pay attention to her dumb comments. However, sometimes, when she says or writes something that is especially offensive, I will take note of it. I do casually follow Fundie Fridays, as well. I don’t watch it every week, but I do watch often enough. So, even though I think The Transformed Wife shouldn’t have a platform, I decided to listen to Jen and Mickey talk about her this morning as I multi-tasked.

This is yet another great video by Jen and James, and guest star, Mickey Atkins.

Listening to this video led me to look up things I have written about Lori Alexander. In the process of doing that, I ran across some old posts on my original blog about related subjects. It occurred to me, as I was reading, that men who “concern troll, and “fat shame” women, are a whole lot like the pro-life men who make me want to hurl. They REALLY have a lot in common. And, I also realized, that whether or not they know it, a lot of pro-life men and fat shaming men are probably motivated by the same thing… the desire to have sex with, and ultimately control, women. I think a lot of men are, deep down, offended by women who don’t do what society expects of them.

A lot of men think it’s a woman’s duty to be pretty, friendly, agreeable, and sweet. They think it’s her role to be willing to have sex with them– and only them. She is to turn them on and, when she gets pregnant, be willing to have their babies. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the man will feel like he needs to stick around and help raise the babies. It’s only that to be “good”, a woman is to be attractive and appealing. A smart woman with an opinion– especially if he doesn’t think she’s attractive– is offensive to a lot of men. And women who get pregnant, and then decide to reject the pregnancy, are repulsive to certain men.

Notice that I specified “certain men”. Not all men are like this. My husband, Bill, is not like this at all. He’s a kind, supportive, loving man who doesn’t mind that I’m overweight, opinionated, and often unlikable to other people. Bill loves me for who I am, not what I look like, and not just for my sex parts. I realize that I am extremely lucky, too. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I did. My husband is an absolute gem.

But I know from my past life, and even incidences from my current life, that not all women are nearly as lucky as I have been. Every once in awhile, I run into a guy who seems determined to remind me of what they think should be my place. I see them do it to other women, too. They firmly believe that women are here to entertain them, satisfy them, attract them, and serve them. They aren’t here to be someone in and of themselves.

So how did I come to this conclusion? It started with a post I wrote on my original blog about a group called “Overweight Haters, Ltd.” Back in 2015, a woman named Kara Florish was riding on The Tube in London when a middle-aged male stranger placed a business card on her lap.

The man quickly got off at the next stop and disappeared in the crowd, leaving Kara sitting there, stunned. Kara posted on Twitter, commenting:

“I am not upset myself. I am smaller than the national average and not exactly obese, but this is hateful and cowardly and could potentially upset people struggling with confidence and eating disorders. Please tweet and share this if you are also outraged. Plus – to the person who wrote this card, go back to school, you can’t spell ‘beautiful’.”

I didn’t actually write about this incident until several years later. Florish wasn’t the only one who got a card from this vile group. In another article from The Guardian from 2015, it was reported that another commuter, a man named Sean Thomas Knox, witnessed a woman getting one of the cards. According to the article:

“Young man just got on train at Oxford Circus, gave printed card saying YOU’RE FAT to overweight girl. He jumped off. She read it, [and] cried.

“Am 99.9% sure this wasn’t staged. She didn’t even realise I was watching at first. Her stunned, desolate reaction was very real. Then tears.”

Knox described the man who handed over the card as a “hipster.. smartly, trendily dressed” with a beard. “Perhaps it was a piece of conceptual art,” he tweeted 

“It lasted a few seconds, but the card in that photo [Florish’s] is the same card I saw, in the girl’s hand. And her shock was real.”

I’ve seen a lot of comments fat shaming men leave for women online, too. They often couch their opinions as “concern” for women’s health. But, when it really comes down to it, I think men are less concerned about health as they are their own sex drives. A lot of them seem to think it’s a woman’s duty to be pretty for them, so they will want to have sex with them. And then, once they have sex, if the woman gets pregnant, she should want to have the baby. To not have the baby is to reject the man. A lot of pro-life men simply can’t deal with that kind of rejection. It’s a terrible assault on their egos. Notice, too, that a lot of pro-life men– especially those who are religious– also pressure women to be pleasing to them and pretty, but not sexy or, heaven forbid, slutty. Slutty women end up as handmaids, you know… or they work at Jezebel’s. 😉

Think I’m way off base on this? Consider something that happened to me back in February 2018. I read an article about a woman who had given birth to a baby girl she named Parker. The woman then left the newborn infant outside in the cold. Parker later died. Her mother was arrested and charged with murder, which was eventually reduced to a conviction of manslaughter.  She was sentenced to nine years in prison.

For some reason, a man decided that the comment section was a good place to rail against abortion, even though this story had NOTHING to do with abortion. He pointed out that had the mom aborted Parker, people would be applauding her choice. A lot of women responded to him, including yours truly. I dared to tell him that I didn’t think men really needed to chime in on this issue, since it’s never their lives or health on the line when someone gets pregnant. A few days later, I got a private message from someone who was looking for advice on apartments in Alsace. After I responded to the PM, I noticed I had another one from a “stranger” named Jason. Jason wrote this to me:

For some reason, a lot of men think the worst thing a woman can be is “fat”. So they add that to the word, “cunt”, to be as insulting as they can possibly be…

Interesting that Jason, who is presumably “pro-life”, doesn’t realize that I used to be someone’s developing fetus. And yet, he felt the need to invite me to commit suicide. Sadly, when I complained about this to Facebook, they said there was “nothing they could do about it.” However, I’ve been “on restriction” all month for writing a comment that referred to “dumb Americans”. Go figure.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that I enjoy being referred to as a “cunt”. It’s not a nice word. And no, I don’t like it when people call me “fat”, because I know that’s basically akin to “ugly” in some people’s opinions. Nobody likes to be insulted. On the other hand, I am already married to a wonderful guy who doesn’t think I’m a “fat cunt”, and would be devastated if I died. But this comment did make me realize that Jason must be very, very frustrated by women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, and would happily deny men, both access to their cunts, and respect for their views. You see, my guess is that Jason isn’t gay. He probably really enjoys having sex with women. And a lot of women have probably denied him sex. At the same time, he’s presumably here because some woman had sex and got pregnant. He probably passed through his mother’s “cunt” when he was born. So he actually owes everything to a cunt, doesn’t he? But he thinks that as a man, he should have power over women. A woman who tells him and his make brethren to STFU is very threatening and offensive. So he calls me a vile word and advises me to kill myself. Makes a lot of sense, right?

As a woman, I have been sexually harassed by men, even though I don’t think I’m conventionally “beautiful”. It started on the playground when I was a little girl, when little boys would try to make me give them some “sugar” (I grew up in the South in the early 80s, and that was a euphemism for kissing). It continued as I got older, when bigger boys would grab me and try to touch me or kiss me, and when the neighborhood pervert, who referred to himself as “The Home of the Whopper”, showed me pornography. Then, it continued when boys would make comments about my body– negative or positive– or try to humiliate me with cruel jokes and pranks. In college, I remember meeting a guy at a party, and within a couple of hours, he was trying to stick his tongue down my throat. I was shocked and horrified, and I asked him to stop. He then proceeded to treat me like I had given him blue balls or something.

I got harassed when I lived in Armenia by men who exposed themselves to me. It happened three times that I can remember. I was lucky. I knew a woman who was harassed and violently assaulted. She had to go into the hospital. On a trip to Turkey, a man felt my legs as I tried on shoes that I desperately needed. Another man grabbed my breast when I was trying to find a bathroom. Not two hours later, when I was changing clothes, a different man came into the dressing room, called me “sexy”, and asked me to come with him. The female friend who was traveling with me was also harassed, although she wore men’s shoes and had shaved her head. The trip, which was mostly amazing, culminated when we got stuck on the border with Georgia and the customs manager propositioned me. And no, I wasn’t looking sexy. I had on shorts, a t-shirt, and wore no makeup. He still wanted to have sex with me… and, of course, that was ALL he wanted. He thought I would give it to him, because I’m an American woman, and women from the USA are supposedly “loose”. I was a virgin at the time.

A couple of years later, when I was back in the States, I worked at a country club. One of the members, a guy named J.J., was notorious for hitting on all of the women who worked at the club. It didn’t matter if the female he was targeting was a minor who was still in high school, or if it was the matronly dining room manager who was in her 60s. None of us were spared his attentions. One day, he followed me into the linen closet, which unfortunately was in the men’s locker room. Thinking the locker room was empty, I had gone in there to get tablecloths and napkins. He cornered me, and tried to paw at my breasts and kiss me. It was absolutely appalling, and yes, I said “No”.

And… I have also been fat shamed by men. It started with comments from my father, who would tell me that no man would find me attractive (he also didn’t like my outspoken personality and vulgar language). He would touch me and tell me I had “fat” I needed to lose. Sometimes, he called me names, like “hog”, or referred to me as “retarded”. As I got older, some men would body shame me. It happened a lot in Armenia. I would get stopped by strangers on the street trying to sell me Herbalife, or they would flat out tell me I was “fat”. But it also happened in the United States, or on vacations. Regular readers of my blog might remember when I wrote about the man on SeaDream I who was surprised by my pretty singing voice and said to Bill, “Now I can see why you’d love her.” He made similarly disgusting comments about women, revealing the attitude that he felt like it was a woman’s duty to be beautiful and available to him. And if she wasn’t those things, he could call her a “fat cow” (he literally referred to his late wife in this way– she had just died of breast cancer).

Some men, especially in the military community, are very offended by smart, opinionated women, especially if they’re considered “fat” or not pretty enough. I’ve gotten tons of shit over the name of this blog by men in the military community, as well as some rather clueless women. One time, a military man commented on a blog post I wrote that was shared on Facebook. He wrote, “Ugh. I hope she at least has children.” WTF, guy? I responded that I didn’t have children, and I would be very happy to tell him why I didn’t, if he really wanted to know the gory details.

Frankly, I think it’s probably a burden to be really attractive to men. I remember another incident, back when I was in my late 20s and thinner and prettier than I am now. I was at a bar, and one of my co-workers, who was slim and pretty, was dancing to music. We were friends, but hadn’t come to the bar together. A guy tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to look at him, and he asked me if my co-worker was with anyone. Obviously, he’d spotted her and wanted to meet her, presumably because she was very attractive. But instead of asking her, he approached me, the less threatening “fat friend”. I think I told him that we hadn’t come together and if he wanted to talk to her, he should man up and talk to her. I’m not her “fat friend”, there to help some guy score.

Lori Alexander, who thinks that women need to stay home and pump out babies for their husbands, also fat shames women. She says that it’s a woman’s duty to be pleasing to her man. And if her man thinks she’s too fat, she needs to do something about it. And she needs to let him have sex with her, no matter what… even if it happens while she’s trying to sleep or isn’t feeling well. In that sense, I guess she’s in agreement with famously pro-life mom, Michelle Duggar, who told her daughter, Jill, to be “joyfully available” to her new husband, Derick. The year after the public heard about this advice, the news came out that Jill was one of four of the Duggar daughters who were molested by their eldest brother, Josh. We all know where Josh is right now. Mr. “Pro-Life” father of seven is currently sitting in a jail cell, awaiting sentencing for receiving and possessing images of child sexual abuse… and some of the female children being abused were in diapers!

Josh wanted to save developing fetuses, but he didn’t mind looking at those same, precious babies being abused for his own sexual gratification.

So yeah… I think guys who would like to deny women the right to bodily autonomy are, by and large, not interested in protecting babies. A lot of those guys wouldn’t bother to stick around if a woman got pregnant out of wedlock, and they certainly don’t want more of their paychecks going to providing social welfare safety nets. These guys– Josh Duggar especially– use women for their own gratification and then condemn them as “sluts”. They are repulsed by women they see as sloppy and out of control, whether the lack of control is regarding food or sex. And so, if you pay close attention, you see that a lot of fat shamers and pro-life males respond to women in very similar ways. They have a LOT in common!

I think, deep down, most of these pro-life, hyper-religious, fat shaming guys are obsessed with sex, and controlling women. They hate that a woman has the power to do something they can’t do, and a lot of them are offended when a woman has the nerve to have a vagina, but doesn’t do enough to be attractive. Or, worse, she’s attractive, but denies him access to her vagina. Or she gives him access, but then doesn’t want to accept the grand gift of his sperm, which created a developing fetus. Remember… the vast majority of us owe our lives to a woman and her vagina.

I’ll leave you with one last anecdote. A couple of days ago, I read a Facebook post about the 1987 film, Dirty Dancing, which was released when I was 15 years old. A lot of people forget that the reason why “Baby” has to learn to “dirty dance” is because Johnny Castle’s partner got “knocked up” by Robby, the asshole waiter. She had an illegal abortion, which made her very sick. The poster pointed out that the film was a reminder of what could be at stake if women in the United States lose access to abortion. One male commenter wrote this:

What is the script was flipped? What if Robby was a loving caring father that wanted the baby, but Penny knew that if she had the baby, her life would change, and she didn’t want that? Robby would have no legal say in it, and would be forced to see his child killed. Not all guys are douchebags. And not all women are angels. If a person, male or female, doesn’t think they can handle being a parent, then don’t take the risk of it happening.

Naturally, I had to respond. I didn’t even address the fact that this dude used the term “douchebag”, which is, in and of itself, a very offensive and sexist pejorative. Who uses douchebags? It’s not men who use them; it’s women. And, in fact, we aren’t repelled by “douchebags” so much as what comes from using them– the residual nasty smelling stuff from a woman’s private area. It’s the “waste” that is repellant. Personally, I consider the term “douchebag” to be akin to calling a woman a “cunt”, but since that was the term the guy used, I went with it in my response to this hypothetical “loving, caring father” who would be “crushed” that his child would be killed by heartless Penny.

If you don’t understand that it wouldn’t be Robby’s health or life on the line, and you think another person should be compelled to stay pregnant for someone else’s sake, then yes, you ARE a “douchebag” (not that I would use that term). Guys who want to be fathers should find women who want to have babies with them.

It’s as simple as that, folks.

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