Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Why I Am Like Jane Fonda

Passionate about purple leg warmers, grueling butt exercises, and the eradication of oil pipelines, Jane Fonda and I share a great deal in common. Before I had yoga videos, I had Jane Fonda’s advanced cardio workout. It was something upsetting like one hour and forty five minutes. But Jane never seemed to tire and it was thus with great enthusiasm that I followed along with the bouncing, pumping and squeezing of various body parts. My hair was more dishevelled than Jane’s perfect feathered down-do, my sweat, more profuse, and my ten-year-old athletic wear much less spectacular than her belted pink and purple leotard, her grey leggings, and of course, the excellent purple legwarmers. Even so, Jane never made me feel alienated from her supreme and elite fitness endeavours. In fact, as Jane rapidly whipped through ninety-six and a half tricep kickbacks, I felt like she was looking right at me.

Resist. Photo From Here.
“Resist,” she urged me. I did, determined to overthrow the wobble of my underarms. What does Oprah call those? Flags. How ridiculous. Although flags and Oprah have their place. I used to watch Oprah on Wednesday afternoons, my only night off from swim practice. That’s how I learned about Jesus whispers. One day the show was about people who had made some sort of horrible distracted mistake that had ended in someone dying. There was a woman who had backed her car over her grandchild, and another who had fallen asleep at the wheel and driven her car full of her kids over a cliff. A third woman, who had hit and killed a cyclist felt like the whole thing could have been prevented had she listened to the voice inside her head.

“Those are Jesus whispers,” Oprah told her. “And I wanna thank you for coming on the show today because now everybody out there watching will know not to doubt that voice ever again.”

Oh Oprah. Despite listening very intently, I never had much luck with the Jesus Whispers. Fortunately, Jane Fonda’s voice on a podcast called “Death, Sex & Money,” had a similar effect. The podcast transcript came out on June 18, 2014, which happened to be the third-year anniversary of Epic Day, the wonderful day when I met the Boatman on a boat at my friend Fern’s wedding. After that, I moved to Halifax and we lived happily ever after.
On the podcast, Jane (my dear friend) spoke about her divorce with billionaire cable executive Ted Turner, her third husband. Ted was fun and good-looking, and he had a beautiful home on beautiful acreage.  Being married to Ted was easy and “safe.” Then, about ten years in, Jane had the revelation “that if I stayed with him, I could never be a fully realized person” (Jane Fonda in Episode 30 of the Death, Sex & Money podcast, with Anna Sale). This is where the Jesus slash Angel Whispers came into play. Said Jane:

“I felt like Virginia Woolf, only I had two angels in the house. One on one shoulder saying oh come on Fonda lighten up!
The guy’s got two million acres of the most gorgeous land in the world and he’s funny and he keeps you laughing. And on the other shoulder there was an angel with a very soft whisper saying, Jane, you can stay with him and die married, but you’ll die not being whole. And so I opted for the whisper" (from Episode 30 of the podcast Death, Sex & Money: Jane Fonda After Death and Divorce).

The notion of being a fully realized person is rather vague. And probably, everyone is always whole, whether they listen to their angel whispers or not. But I get what Jane meant. Before I moved to Halifax, I had just come to the end of more than a decade-long relationship with eating disorders. My most prevalent symptom was puking in my mouth, over and over again until whatever I had eaten became bitter and acidic and disgusting. While I was in the throws of my eating disorder, I always imagined that the eradication of my symptoms would coincide with the emergence of a new and beautiful Erica. A Whole Erica, who didn’t fret about silly things, who didn’t get overwhelmed and melt down, who didn’t fight with her mother. All this and more would be the prize for not puking in my mouth. It is hard to do things without expecting a prize in return. Fame, Money, Weight Loss, Prizes, Sex. (FMWLPS). I want all of these things, though perhaps finally I can do without the weight loss. One big prize that I felt would surely make me Whole was finding a long-term partner. Until I met the Boatman, success in this area had been minimal. There was Simon the hermit, who I met on a biodegradable yoga mat. In the name of art, we got drunk and fucked around as we attempted to write and publish our groundbreaking epistolary novel, The Little Savage and the Hermit. Despite the creative excitement and exhilarating recklessness, mostly it felt messy and not that whole. One day, after waking up with Simon in a room that reeked of vomit and vodka, it occurred to me that perhaps I needed a year off from relationships. Somehow I would get myself out of Montreal, take my space, and figure myself out, whatever that meant.

Less than a month later, I met the Boatman. We had our Epic Day. Beneath the light and guidance of our friend the Full Moon, the profuse making out began. Of course the Boatman was wonderful. Of course the day and the night were magical. And when the Boatman invited me to come live in his house in Halifax, of course I said yes.
Although I was never particularly enamored with Halifax, like Jane Fonda’s marriage to Ted Turner, living with the Boatman was safe and relatively easy. The Boatman was fun, supportive and loving. Unlike Simon, who mostly considered me to be a fucked up disaster, the Boatman believed in me as a person. I was set up in a house with a hedge and a dog. The Boatman’s mother bought me fancy clothes. For the first year or two, I had lots of time and space to practice and teach yoga, and write. And when I got the job at the Montessori school, the Boatman supported me through my perpetual state of overwhelm.

Me and the Hedge Clippers
On our Epic Day anniversaries, the Boatman and I wrote similar things on our cards. For now, the Boatman’s cards to me are stored in a box in Halifax. I remember the drawings of the moon, and the gist of most of the words.

“I’m so grateful and lucky to have met you.” “Nobody else is as wonderful as you.” “I could never find anybody else but you to talk to about potty training and poops, and the dress-up box." "I'm so glad our friend to moon helped us get together." “I can’t imagine what my life would be like without you.”

Whoever you are with, it can’t be like anyone else. We are all precious and irreplaceable. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without the Boatman. Yet when I listened to Jane Fonda speak of her angel whispers, I was sad to realize that deep down, I didn’t believe I was capable of pulling off life on my own. If I hadn’t left Montreal, would my life still be infused with vomit and vodka and Simon, all the way until he jumped off a building?  
Oh well, I thought, the first time I heard Jane on the podcast. There was no way we were going to break up. That September, I went to India for three months.  I missed the Boatman immensely; however, I discovered that in fact, I could maintain some kind of autonomy without him. I lived in four different apartments; I organized day trips, and Butt Club, and even coined the term "Spiritual Pants." Every day, there was someone to eat curry with. The entire thing was so delightful.

Spiritual Pants
But my token fly-to-India-and-have a meaningful-revelation-about-your-life was, “You kind of completely hate Halifax, and you’ve barely been happy for a really long time.” When I melted down to the Boatman over FaceTime, the first thing he said was, “Well, I really can’t move.” There wasn’t much to be done, but fly home and see what happened.

My first day back in Halifax, I obsessively calculated how much money I would have to save if I wanted to get back to India the following November. If I was going to stay in Halifax, every year would need a decisive exit strategy. The financial verdict was about 900 extra bucks a month, tricky in Halifax, the land of Nepotism and Underemployment. Still, I could give it a try and hope for the best. I wasn’t ready to fuck off just yet. The Boatman and I avoided discussing the situation and I went about my days, struggling to breathe.

Finally one day in February, the Boatman replied to my ten thousandth anguished rant about friendlessness and loneliness with the words, “You could leave.” I felt a distinct sense of relief and I paused briefly before deciding that I should mourn and wail, since his words meant my world was collapsing.
I made an appointment with my psychologist, who I called My Expensive Friend. He happened to be one of only a handful of friends that I had made in Halifax, after more than three years. My Expensive Friend didn’t think that I should do anything too drastic in February. He helped me to write down goals on Index Cards. Go to a potluck. Invite your friend Lindsay out for dinner. Organize the Halifax Butt Club.

Halifax Butt Club. Note the Purple Legwarmers
Mysore Butt Club, Et. Al.

Jane Fonda Butt Club. See how we are similar?
Photo taken from this dizzying video.
Although the Halifax Butt Club enjoyed two rousing sessions, it was all too little too late. For Valentine’s Day, the podcast Death, Sex & Money rounded up highlights from the past year of interviews. Sure enough, as I trudged up the hill to the Boatman’s house, Jane told me about her angel whispers once again.

“Jane, you can stay with him and die married, but you’ll die not being whole. And so I opted for the whisper.”
Soon it would be time. I was gone by the end of April.

As Dan Savage says, a relationship isn’t only a success if it ends when somebody dies. Unfortunately, our children’s diapers and underwear are covered with princesses, and our world seems to hold a bias for the Forever After People. The good news is that all of the people - me, you, Jane and everybody else- all of us are whole. 
Some people’s paths may lead them along with one person by their side the whole time. Surely, this can be beautiful. I may have a shot at this later. In the meantime, I get to be a little bit like Jane Fonda. Depending on your Jesus whispers, you might considering joining the club.

Jane Fonda speaks out about Fossil Fuels. Go Jane. Image taken from this page.
Seventy-seven years old, Jane Fonda says that “when a woman is older, sex is better. Partly because she doesn’t give a fuzzy rat’s ass anymore… she knows her body, she knows what she wants, she’s less afraid to ask for it. If it doesn’t work out, so what?” (Jane Fonda, on Death, Sex & Money). I think that’s great. From now on, I will aim to have sex like I’m seventy-seven.

Four years ago today, I met the Boatman on a boat, and he kissed me under the moon.
In fact, the first time we met wasn’t actually on the boat. We met some other time, in Fern’s kitchen. I made the boat part up, for the sake of the Blogging Fairy Tale. I am as terrible as the folks who make princess diapers. Oh well. 

Boatman and Me, Blogging Fairy Tale
Every day can be an Epic Day. The moon is always your friend.
Happy Epic Day, to the world, and to the Boatman.
I’m so grateful and lucky to have met you. We are so lucky for the time we had together.

The End.
All Jane Fonda quotes are from Episode 30 of Death Sex & Money – Jane Fonda: After Death and Divorce

Subscribe to Anna Sale’s Death, Sex and Money on Itunes. New Episodes come out every other Wednesday! And it's free!

Follow Jane Fonda on Twitter: @JaneFonda
Follow Anna Sale on Twitter: @annasale
Follow Death, Sex & Money on Twitter: @deathsexmoney

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