The Mrs. G Interview, Part 2: I Was a Teenage Mind Parasite!
LESLIE: I'm honored, a bit surprised that you'd have me back. Around here, the blog is usually considered the domain of the wise and powerful Bob doing something mysterious with his computer from behind a plush curtain in a part of the house where no one dares to set foot. [And, I might add, where all mortals show themselves wise to tremble! Silence!!! --GB]
WILL: Right. Well, I'm sure that's pretty much the picture Raccoons have in their minds... The wheels and levers, the giant smoking computer, the projected image of Bob's disembodied head menacingly floating above the flames.... Anyway, everybody, if you haven't done so, while I'm rummaging around for the dog-eared transcript, you might check out Leslie's website.... Okay, when last we left off.... ah yes -- I asked, apparently in jest, "Just how shrewish was Bob?" and you said --
LESLIE: "Will, I'm sure you realized I was referring to myself as the shrew."
WILL: Right, that's exactly what you said. So -- this begs the question... were you really a shrew?
LESLIE: I was a real pain in the @$$ for as long as I can remember.
WILL: Well, that's refreshingly blunt. An @$$ pain from childhood? I'm curious as to where the roots of shrewishness might lay.
LESLIE: I don't have a lot of fond memories of my childhood. I mentioned that I grew up in Forest Hills, then Dobbs Ferry, NY for most of my childhood. My default childhood memory is of wanting to be buried in a book anytime I didn't have to be at school. I was both introverted and shy (now I'm just introverted), but my parents are both hyper-extroverted. They assumed that it was unhealthy to be cooped up inside all day, not to mention the hassle of my being underfoot, so they basically locked me out all day til dinner time. I ran away from home a few times with a friend, and honest-to-God I don't think that my parents even knew. I would always come back before it got dark.
WILL: So you were --
LESLIE: I'm sure looking back on this that I was clinically depressed, probably both due to nature and nurture.
WILL: I was going to say it sounds like you were an exceptionally sensitive and imaginative child who instinctively went on the offensive as a defensive ploy...
LESLIE: Wow, thirteen years of psychotherapy and I could have just asked you. What a waste of money!
WILL: Not necessarily. I charge by the word, not the session... It adds up pretty fast...
LESLIE: (Laughing) Anyway, that's the back story. Later on I became the charming combination of being insecure, sometimes angry -- mostly with boys -- and controlling as well. At times I was bossy and took things out on my little sister, Katie, which I regret even though I understand how I got that way. We had a reconciliation before she died. But I wish I could have been a little more perfect and not taken out my stress on her at all.
WILL: One Cosmos readers wouldn't know this, but you and I have talked about it, Leslie -- we both lost sisters in the same year, within a month of one another. We can have our regrets -- that's to be expected in any decent human being -- but the reconciliation is the all-important thing.
LESLIE: Yes. You were very comforting to me when we later discussed our losses, even though we didn't know each other at the time they happened. Regarding the reconciliation, I was visiting my brother-in-law (Steve) and nephew (Aiden) a few months after Katie's death -- she left behind a 2 year old son -- and Steve asked me to go through some of her personal things and organize them, throw out those that she wouldn't want Aiden to happen upon later, etc. One of the things I found was a letter I had written to her when we reconciled a major problem we were having. I can't tell you how much that meant to me to read it and see that she had saved it.
WILL: Getting back to our topic -- should I assume that you were a loner in high school?
LESLIE: Oddly, I was the last to realize it, but it turns out that I was popular in high school. For some reason about 5 years ago I read my high school yearbook and saw the very kind comments from friends, acquaintances, teachers and coaches. I guess it was my Sally Field moment (You liked me! You really liked me!). It made me look beneath my screen [superficial] memories of the time, which of course were more a function of my insecurity [mind parasites! --GB] than an accurate perception of the situation. I realized that I'd actually had a lot of friends and that people could see my good points, where I had only been focused on my weaknesses and insecurities. And I'd just assumed the yearbook would be filled with inanities like, "Stay sweet," "Have a good summer," and "2 nice + 2 be = 4 gotten."
WILL: For what it's worth, sun-sign Virgos often have an unrealistic desire for perfection and when they can't meet their own expectations -- nobody could, of course -- they beat up on themselves mercilessly. Anyway, high school... you were a social creature...
LESLIE: Yes, and while this unexpected social whirl was more fun than being a loner and hating my life, I still felt out of step being so introverted and trying to avoid my problems by hanging out with my friends -- in other words, sort of compartmentalized, being one person on the outside but another on the inside.... By the way...
LESLIE: One other compensation was that I was a total sports nut. It became a kind of comfort object.
LESLIE: I especially loved the New York Giants. My favorite players were Fran Tarkenton when he was first with the Vikings and then with the Giants, and Homer Jones. As fate would have it, I was born the day after a Giants game in the Polo Grounds. My mom -- who dated Frank Gifford before marrying my dad, incidentally -- must have trudged up and down about a mile of stairs on September 17, 1960, and I popped out the next day, a Giants fan.
WILL: If I'm understanding this correctly... your pregnant-with-you mom attended a Giants game on the day before the day you were born?
LESLIE: I think it exemplifies the pattern of how I fit into their lifestyle. I'm not totally opposed to that, by the way. We're having to push Future Leader a bit out of the center of the universe right now. He's been demoted to center of the solar system until we can negotiate something a little more reasonable. Anyway, our family had Giants' seasons tickets until fairly recently. I went to their games in Yankee Stadium, one year in Shea Stadium, and then Meadowlands when it first opened. I also loved pro basketball and remember many nights listening to Marv Albert call the games on radio when I couldn't sleep.
WILL: He shoots! He scores!
LESLIE: Over the years I've become an obsessive hockey fan. And Bob got me into baseball and the Dodgers.
WILL: Well, speaking of L.A. and Bob -- in our first interview session, you used the phrase, "The Taming of the Shrew," referring to the period after you had moved to L.A. and married Bob...
LESLIE: It's all true. Bob saved me from myself.
WILL: Yes, but no one gets saved unless they want to be and are willing to put forth the effort.
LESLIE: It's still fair to say Bob did a lot of heavy lifting the first 10 years of our relationship.
WILL: What was the situation?
LESLIE: I was insecure, and had a mild panic disorder that got worse when I felt abandoned. And I was very opinionated and controlling -- not a recipe for marital bliss.
WILL: Well, would you --
LESLIE: Oh my God, I almost forgot about this... it's been a while... but I used to freak out when Bob drank beer (laughing). Can you imagine?!!
WILL: Just barely.
LESLIE: You'll have to get his side of the story on how that wasn't a dealbreaker! [It was only a mercilessly brief period around 87-88 --BG] Probably because I didn't start out that way. It was only after I had made some progress in my psychotherapy that this unpleasant symptom came up. A different person might have gone out for the evening paper and just kept going if he didn't feel the call to... to change my life in magical ways! Overheated cliché yes, but that's what happened. [That's a little over the top -- imagine something more subtle, like the cover of a Harlequin Romance with Fabio playing me --GB]
WILL: As someone pointed out in a comment -- I think it was Dilys -- "Taming of the Shrew" also has an esoteric meaning -- the process of transformation of spirit, an alchemical transformation... so when you use the word "magical," Leslie, this is not simply a romantic description. It's quite literally magical, something that transcends cliché.
LESLIE: She's so right. What a wonderful point. Anyway, somehow Bob felt there was something worth saving in me.
WILL: Two questions: How did Bob go about helping to save that someone worth saving? And who would you say she is?
LESLIE: How did he do it? Good question. He is an unbelievably loyal and tolerant person. [Plus he continued drinking beer in secret --BG] So he did as much tolerating as he could until he had to take action. He reaches a point and then, no mas. I had a very annoying set of personality traits, but I truly did want to be a better person. I would put myself through anything to grow. Kicking and screaming, but I really wanted to be healthy.
WILL: Like I said, that's what makes for a spiritual warrior -- the desire to change and the willingness to put forth the effort. Still, as you admit, you were naturally resistant. How did Bob --
LESLIE: Bob's two chief weapons were Truth and a sense of humor... And amongst his weaponry were fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency... you get the point.
WILL: And a comfy chair. Yes, I get the point. [Series 2, Episode 2: nobody expects the Coonish Inquisition! Don't forget the plastic dish-drying rack to keep her at bay during emergencies --GB]
LESLIE: Well, it wasn't exactly the Spanish Inquisition, but I suppose it felt like it at the time... He didn't allow me to wiggle out of logical arguments. He pointed out that I was a bad sport when I flipped over the Scrabble board when he used all of his letters for the 50 point bonus....
WILL: ... umm... well... yeah...
LESLIE: -- and however pissed off I got at him for challenging me and not just giving me a hug when I would cry, I realized that whatever he was doing was helping me to grow.
WILL: In other words, Bob is the anti-Oprah. [What, Harpo? --BG]
(to be con't)