This week PBS aired the two-part, four-hour documentary “Clinton.” Am I alone in thinking they could have kept going? Particularly because the program centers on the Monica Lewinsky affair heard ‘round the world — literally. (Thanks again, Linda Tripp!) They actually could have just left Clinton out of “Clinton” and talked only about Monica instead. “The Real Hussy of the Oval Office” would have proudly retained a permanent spot on my DVR.
Maybe it’s because Monica and I are the same age. Maybe it’s because I know a few women who likely (OK, easily) would have done the same thing had they been in her blue dress. But I’ll never forget being hypnotized by the special New York Times insert of the Starr Report when it was published on a Saturday in September 1998.
It read like an even juicier Danielle Steel novel. If the Starr Report had been a straight-to-video film, it would have far outsold Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s home movie, not to mention the home movie of whoever the guy was with Paris Hilton and the home movie of whoever that other guy was with Kim Kardashian. It was that dirty.
Monica was exactly like so many girls with whom I went to high school. They made no secret of the fact that they would do anything to be the Molly Ringwald to Jake Ryan; except as we all know, in real life, Jake Ryan never would have left the prom queen for the nondescript sophomore who was flat as a board.
If Monica had been given the opportunity when she was in high school to let Jake feel up what was there and then drop her off afterward a block away from her house without so much as the fake promise of a future phone call, she still would have bragged about it to all her friends, and I guarantee she’d have filled nine journals on their 20-minute, er, encounter. Of course the real Monica blabbed every sordid detail to Linda Tripp. She was so that girl.
There’s no shortage of reasons I can’t get my hands on enough material about Monica Lewinsky, but to be fair, there are other women in the spotlight who also consume me because of their uncanny similarities to women who I used to sit next to in homeroom.
Whitney Houston (too soon?) and Bobby Brown were totally like Brenda and Eddie from Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” — the king and the queen of the prom. But then they ended up with the deep-pile carpet and a couple of paintings from Sears, reliving their high school good times over the crack pipe.
Sadly, something sad or tragic always ends up happening to the Brendas and Eddies, Bobbys and Whitneys. While everyone remembers them from their glory days, what’s equally memorable is the fact that was all they ever really had. Nothing but potential up in smoke and, eventually, turned to ashes.
There’s no way Gwyneth Paltrow ever would have been friends with me in high school. Despite bottle after bottle of Sun-In, I wasn’t ever nearly blond enough, nor was I WASP-y enough (despite the fact that she is, in fact, half Jewish) to have been deserving of her two-faced friendship.
Gwyneth was that girl in high school who was so snobby you just assumed she was insecure and would get nicer with age. But then you ran into her at the coffee shop last week when you were home visiting your parents and realized she actually wasn’t unsure of herself in high school. No, she was really just a bitch then, just as she still is today.
It’s a relief in some ways because you’re spared that “what if” moment of awkward bonding with someone 20 years after graduation. Mostly because she still acts like you’re just as invisible to her now as you were to her then.
And then there were the girls in high school like Demi Moore, who was that upperclassman who ruled the school, and when she started dating a freshman, it made everyone look at freshmen just a little differently. After all, if she was doing it (or him), it must be cool, no?
But then you looked just a little closer and realized it was actually kind of pathetic how she, too, was doing keg stands like the freshmen did when they wanted everyone to notice them — particularly because she let her shirt fly up over her head when she was chugging with her mouth sealed around the tap as she stayed in a handstand position. You thought once you were a senior you could stop playing those reindeer “Look at me! Look at me!” games. Girls like her were, and still are, that embarrassing realization that with age does not maturity, clarity or class necessarily come.
I missed my own high school reunion last fall, on paper because it occurred when I was six weeks postpartum with my second daughter. But I didn’t make any great effort to attend also because I’m on Facebook and read US Weekly, and aren’t they both just one big high school reunion? If only I could find a way to get Monica to friend me.
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