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Monday, September 04, 2006

Unringing His Bell

My mother has a desk calendar that's called Life's Little Instruction Calendar. Today's "instruction": offer no apologies for your convictions.


Not even when your convictions are highly offensive? I can think of a few former dictators who held some pretty strong opinions that led to a few genocides. Are you sure they shouldn't apologize?

This comes on the same day that my mother handed me a clipping from the Washington Post about the apology Tom Cruise gave to Brooke Shields:

He came over to my house, and he gave me a heartfelt apology, and he apologized for bringing me into the whole thing and for everything that happened. And
through it all, I was so impressed with how heartfelt it was. And I didn't feel at any time that I had to defend myself, nor did I feel that he was trying to
convince me of anything other than the fact that he was deeply sorry. And I
accepted it."
-- Brooke Shields on "The Tonight Show" Friday, describing Tom Cruise's apology for his criticism of her use of antidepressants.

In another article on the topic, Cruise's spokesperson, Arnold Robinson added their camp's opinion on the apology. "It is true that his friendship with Ms. Shields has been mended.
(But) he has not changed his position about anti-depressants, which as evidenced by the black label warnings issued by the FDA on these types of drugs, are unhealthy."

Looks like someone over in Hollywood has my mother's Life's Little Instruction Calendar.

Because in the end, he's standing by his convictions. He still knows more about postpartum depression and vitamins than Brooke Shields, but he apologized for using her name during his rant and bringing her into the fallout from his comments. It's sort of like slapping someone and telling them that you're sorry that it hurts. You're not sorry that you hit the person, but you're sorry that they're feeling pain from it. If only you could hit them and not have their skin smart.

And it all goes back to two things: (1) why I actually care about his opinion (yes, you read that correctly)--when he shouldn't be expressing an opinion at all and (2) he forgot that even celebrities can't unring bells.

Last week, we were talking about celebrities and being out about infertility. And people defended their right to privacy. And I'm all for their right to privacy--they are a private citizen first and foremost. But what about when their quest for selective privacy (and I'm talking about celebrities who pick and choose what they share--not celebrities who are notorious about protecting their privacy) is creating a skewed view of reality? The seemingly hyper-fertility of Hollywood creating a lower sense of self-worth in women who are struggling to conceive? They have great hair, great abs, great skin, AND easy breeding? It creates a fine layer of bright astroturf on land that may not truly be greener. As someone said in the comments, they may have the money to pay for treatments, but if they're going through infertility, they're experiencing the same emotional pain. So come stand by your sisters.

Which brings us to both points with Tom Cruise. I care about what he says not because I think he has any clue, but because I know other people are listening to him and it's shaping their views (in the same way other people are listening to these seemingly hyper-fertile celebrities and forming ideas about infertility based on their withholding or lying). Someone who had no opinion on PPD now has an opinion on PPD, and it's not a very sound opinion. Think back how often you've parroted something you heard when you didn't have a strong conviction in place already. The times you said a restaurant sucked when you had never had a meal within its walls (but you had heard about it from a review or through a friend). The times you've argued with your spouse about which brand is the better brand--even when you had yet to try the product!

And you can't unring a bell.

He can apologize and try to do a little P.R. spin on the whole incident, but his words shaped opinions and you can't undo that damage with an apology. And he did a huge disservice to women everywhere because...well...united we stand, divided we fall. Never say never--PPD can strike on the first pregnancy or the second pregnancy or the third. It can strike women who adopt or women who do fertility treatments. In fact, women who do fertility treatments are MORE likely to experience PPD (4 times more likely according to a study in Fertility and Sterility). Even if you have not currently experience PPD, you have an obligation to support other women who have PPD because you never know when it may be you on the other side of that line.

Which brings us back to Life's Little Instruction Calendar. How about this for a little instruction: if you hold a conviction, take it out every once in a while and examine it. Make sure you understand why you hold it. Make sure your internal argument is sound. Especially before you speak it. Since you can't unring the bell.


Mandy said...

Upon hearing about his apology I thought "maybe he's starting to see ppd first hand and has gotten a small clue." After reading more, I doubt even if that were true that he's found any clue at all. It appears to be an attempt at bettering his image. I think it's great Brooke Shields feels the apology was sincere, but really it was the LEAST he owed her. It doesn't begin to touch the fact there are thousands of women who struggle with ppd, feeling ashamed and afraid to seek help.

Thanks, btw, for the comment on my blog!

Bea said...

Yep. Like your version better.


aah0424 said...

In total agreement!

Katie said...

HERE HERE! Regular self-examination includes more than monthly self-breasts exams.

It appears to be a PR move but I am interested to see if this little experience will open up Mr. Cruise's awareness to PPD in general.

Southern Comfortable said...

I can't remember-- has he said PPD doesn't actually exist, or that he things anti-depressants are not the best way to treat it? I don't think there can be any legitimate debate that PPD exists, and that we should do whatever we can to help those women who have it. But if he just wants to question the merits of SSRs as treatment, he *might* have a point.

I haven't gone through PPD or any sort of depression, and I haven't taken SSRs. But I do recognize from a prior job of mine that they can have tremendous negative effects for some people.

I certainly don't think that Scientology is the solution to depression (though I'm sure Mr. Cruise would disagree!), but I do get the heebie-jeebies a little bit about the fact that we're so quick today to prescribe a pill for mental and emotional problems. BOTH of my parents have been on anti-depressants at one time or another, and at least one doctor has wanted to put my little brother on Ritalin. Perhaps pills are necessary for some folks, but shouldn't we try other treatments, such as counseling, first? Then we can figure out who really needs medication, and who can (hopefully) be aided by non-chemical means.

I think a lot of insurance companies would rather someone take a pill than have counseling, because a pill is much, much cheaper. But given the risks, I'm unconvinced that medication should be our first-line defense for mental and emotional issues.

Zee said...

First point: I think Tom Cruise is an idiot. Second point: I believe that PPD is a serious problem and that treatment of any sort of depression with medication is valid and helpful. Although I've never experienced PPD, never having had a child (not that I'm bitter or anything), Prozac was a huge help for me during a dark time in my life, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs it.

All that said--and not to mention the fact that I haven't read either article you mention--I have to say that I don't find as strong a contradiction in Tom Cruise's apology for personally attacking Brooke Shields and the later statement about his continued disapproval of the use of anti-depressants.

You CAN disagree with something personally--and even disagree passionately!--and still say, "But you know, if it's what you want to do (say, be, wear, etc) maybe I should shut my yap and not criticize you PERSONALLY for it."

Again, I'm not defending Tom Cruise (heaven forbid!) but I don't think that sticking to his convictions, however absurd they may be, invalidates the fact that he did go back and acknowlege that he had no business saying what he did about Brooke Shields and her personal choices.

GLouise said...

At first I thought- How nice for TC to FINALLY apologize.

But then I thought, How tacky- TC apologizes, and then his spokesperson essentially "takes it back."

Anytime an apology is followed by "but" it doesn't count.