I caught up with a true indie film the other night called Diane that is available through VOD or at several theatres nationwide. It is anchored by a fine leading performance by Mary Kay Place and is a movie about regrets and the ways we torture ourselves into believing we must forever pay for some major past transgression for which we can’t be forgiven.
There is no get out of jail free card in real life – well, except if you’re one of the uber rich like, say, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein – but there should be term limits for self immolation. After one apologizes, changes one’s actions and attempts to make amends, or does at least two of the three, what more is there to do than learn from the experience and begin living one’s life in a way where you don’t make the same kind of mistake again?
That’s at least what Diane argues and after watching the film see if you don’t agree that life is short, apologies can be cleansing and that forgiveness is the ultimate form of survival and self-preservation.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was in the news this week for some past mistakes nowhere near the caliber of the ones made by Diane. One can only imagine how many we make by the time we get to our mid-seventies. I, for one, have my plate full at this point.
The current mistake VP Biden is being spit-roasted for is, in his case, more of a way of being. A kind of touchy, feely straight white male patriarchal thing involving hugs, intimacy, compassion and yes, perhaps over-affectionate boundary-breaking.
He is justly a bit on the ropes in the 2019 #MeToo era for invading the personal space of six women so far, NONE of whom believe his actions were of a sexual nature or rise to the level of anything at all we’ve read about in other #MeToo cases in the news.
In fact one of his accusers, Nevada politician Lucy Flores, recently admitted on a cable news program when pressed that she was a Bernie Sanders supporter and one of the prime reasons she was coming forward right now was that she felt the public should know about her experience with VP Biden and make their judgments accordingly. Presumably, this was because she knew the public would soon be making their decisions about who to vote for in the 2020 election, a contest Biden is said to soon be entering.
It is not for any of us to judge how women or anyone feel about personal space. For some, a three-second hug can be too long, a nose rub is akin to a touch in the nether regions and a kiss from anyone with whom one does not initiate it with first is beyond creepy.
Looking inward I realize I am by no means one to criticize. To this day I find professional massages much too vulnerable and intimate an undertaking and have never fully relaxed with any of a handful of masseuses I’ve been coerced to trying over the years (Note: Please don’t write in with suggestions. I’m good with getting them only from lovers (well, now husband) or friends whom I deeply trust).
This is not to say my norm is even normal. It’s simply the way it is – for me.
Most of us have a clear understanding of sexual violation and if not, the laws and mores are evolving and beginning to give us a much more stricter contemporary sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.
But there is no way to know what someone else’s normal is intimacy-wise, particularly if you are an especially affectionate person and grew up in that type of family or social environment. When I first came out as gay I can recall being a bit taken aback by all of the men who wanted to kiss me hello in a greeting of warm friendship. Now, of course, I do the same, despite me being strictly averse to massages, even from a pro.
One can argue this is vintage American behavior of certain eras and environments. You don’t get much of this in Europe where for the most part hugs and kisses abound and male-male, female-female, male-to-female and female-male casual intimacy is more often than not seen as no big deal.
Clearly, Vice President Biden was raised in a world where hugs were plentiful and, as his real-life unforeseen tragedies unfolded, he ably played the role of consoler-in-chief. This was so much the case that it became his personal brand of retail politics.
Joe Biden, over the years, became America’s favorite uncle, Dad and now granddad. He was the family friend of your parents you looked forward to seeing, the guy who seemed to always want to truly hear about what you were doing. He was someone who could suss out exactly when you needed a pat on the back or an embrace by simply looking at your face without you saying a word.
Or perhaps that’s my fantasy. Surely it’s the reason I have for decades referred to him as Uncle Joe.
Then perhaps like some of you I’m caught in a bit of a quandary. Uncle Joe is clearly running for president, could get the nomination and will then have to square off against truly evil Uncle Donald. The latter is the guy who occasionally takes you on lavish family trips but ALWAYS throws it back in your parents’ faces. He’s affectionate and amiable, but watch out if you cross him. In fact, don’t try it, ever. He will ruin you and maybe your parents. He will certainly do everything he can to poison the well for you among other family members and will likely succeed with many of them since you’re likely expendable and to not go along with his wishes in this family matter would mean to miss out on all those fancy trips.
But I digress.
Joe Biden publicly stated this past week that in the future he promises to be more mindful. The boundaries of protecting personal space has been reset, he said in a video posted on You Tube. I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying and I understand it… That’s my responsibility and I will meet it.
One supposes that is the right political decision but going forward we all need to ask ourselves if it is the correct personal one. Would you rather have not enough or too much? Because none of us will ever get it exactly right with every person we meet. This is especially the case for the person who meets millions.
Personally, I find it sad to err on the side of withholding when these days so many Americans are in need of one big, massive, Biden-like group hug. And this is coming from the guy who doesn’t like massages.