What I have in common with Angelina Jolie

No, I’m not under contract with Sony.

No, I have never had any person or group even remotely interested in hacking into my email.

No, I have never been married to Brad Pitt.

No, thankfully I have not discovered that I carry the BRCA genes, nor have I undergone associated preventative surgery. *I did however, develop a pretty nasty case of mastitis when I was breastfeeding my first baby. That might make for an interesting, but rather gross story for the future.

No, I do not have famous parents, or friends, or even acquaintances. * I did however, long ago and for a short time, have former athlete and sort of famous guy around my hometown and surrounding locales, Billy Joe Hobert and his first wife in one of my childbirth classes. I was sort of impressed, but I fear no one was impressed with me by this connection.

So, what is my commonality with the great Angelina Jolie?

I can proudly claim that I too got chicken pox when older, and I had to drop out of the spotlight for a time.

Oh, alright. I’m exaggerating the truth. I did have chicken pox, but not as late in life as Angelina. My bout with the pox came when I was fifteen.

Angelina cannot promote her new movie, of which she is the director, because of her current predicament, and she was brave enough to put herself out there for the entire world to see as proof that her contagion was real. I didn’t have the advantage of YouTube, or ongoing media feeds, or even video capabilities in 1975. My disease was a solitary one, and the people who mattered had to take my word for the fact that I was a mess.

I can easily relate to what Angie is going through though; the desire to be involved in a major life event while facing the limitations of a childhood disease. You see, in the spring of 1975, I too was facing a big life event much like Angie. Each spring all of the 9th grade girls in Home Economics were rewarded for complying with stereotypical gender norms. Chicken pox caused me to miss what would have been my most important life event, and I have never been the same since.

Let me digress for a moment and review public school curricula circa 1975. Boys took shop class. They got to cut and saw and build with wood. They got to use sharp tools and breath in sawdust and probably make those Tim Allen grunting sounds while they hammered and belched and farted. Girls, in 1975, took Home Economics. We learned about child development because we were all destined to become mothers. It wasn’t a choice. We learned how to cook, because we would have to feed all those children we were going to birth. We learned to sew, because we had to clothe our children and those strong men in shop class who would become our husbands and providers while building us really amazing things from wood.

The boys got to take their creations home, but the girls-oh the girls not only had the opportunity to showcase their sewing talent but also had the chance to set the stage (literally) to start the process for snagging one of those soon-to-be-men from shop class by showing off their homemaking skills in the annual 9th Grade Fashion Show.

Now that you’ve had a moment to take in the full impact of this major event I can add details. My chicken pox struck with full force two weeks before the fashion show. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was to be one of the MC’s of this event.

Yes, you did read that correctly. I was to be one of two Mistress of Ceremonies for this school wide event. Now, take a breath and collect yourself, because the next part is equally impressive. The other MC was–a popular cheerleader!

Whoa. I can feel my heart beating wildly all over again, just like it must have been in 1975. I was earmarked to be on the stage, in front of the entire student body not only modeling my halter top but also leading this event with a girl of amazing status: a cheerleader. My life, had it ended right after that day, would have been complete.

To understand just how impossible this all was is to understand just what an awkward, 6-months-out-of-braces, short-haired, straight A unpopular nerd I believed I was. I was not petite, nor did I have long wavy hair, or cool cloths, or a uniform with pompoms. I especially was not friends with guys on the football team, or any team, or really any guys for that matter. I have long had my suspicions about how I came to be chosen for this auspicious position. The story always was that a few girls were nominated and then the class voted. I’ve always questioned how 1) I was nominated in the first place, 2) who else was on the list that was even nerdier than me, and 3) was there really a vote or did the Home Ec teacher pull some strings. You see, I was sort of a favorite of the teacher. Her name was Mrs. Hoonan and I loved her. Literally. I believe I had an actual crush on this lady who sort of took me under her wing. I never admitted it, but I think she knew what my life was like at home with alcoholic parents.  I spent a lot of time with this lady, and her family. I used to babysit her kids. Even after leaving that school I came back as a teacher’s assistant (TA) when I was in high school.

Be all that as it may, the point is that I, just like Angie, faced a disappointment greater than most people ever have to face in their lifetime all due to the chicken pox. I watched Angie’s video announcement and took note that she only had a few pox visible. I admit to being envious of her. I even tried to remind myself that she was probably still early in her disease, that the majority of the pox would still be erupting with their watery, itchy presence for days to come.

Then I truly felt sorry for her, knowing what was ahead. Knowing the places on and in her body that would erupt into lesions. Inside her mouth, in her ears, between her toes, on her eyelids, on her generously reconstructed breasts, and yes, even in her vagina. I knew how much she would want to scratch, and scratch and scratch. I also looked at Angie and knew, along with all the physical discomfort she was going to endure for days, the mental and emotion pain would be even greater.

If I could get a message to Angelina it would be this:

Dear Angie,

I want you to know just how much I empathize with you. I can physically feel your pain and, although it is hard, the weeping open sores and itchiness will fade in time. I too can understand just how difficult it is for you now, at this time in your life, when you had everything to look forward to with the premiere of your movie. Major events such as this don’t happen for everyone. You, like myself, are one of the chosen few who will know this privilege, and to miss the opportunity is devastating to be sure. I just want you to know that you are not alone in despair. That, even though you may never be recognized for any future greatness, or be asked to ever again fulfill a position of power and authority, there is another who understands. You will be able, in time, to put this behind you as I have with the knowledge that once you were very special.  I wish you all the best as you continue to recover and heal, physically and emotionally. If you ever need to talk I’m here for you.




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