Sometimes a movie that’s been panned turns out to be more enjoyable than those that appeal to critics who pay attention to words like auteur and oeuvre. Sometimes a bowl of mac and cheese is preferable to pate de foie gras and so it is with great pleasure that I urge you to treat yourself to some comfort food in the sizable portion of Viggo Mortenson as you haven’t seen him before.
There’s a grand guignol atmosphere in “The Favourite,” with 18th century men coiffed in long sheep-like wigs, made up to look like drag queens and Queen Anne herself looking more like a madwoman than a regal character. Though the story of the queen and Sarah and Abigail, the two women who service her in every sense of the word, is loosely based on historical fact, the language is full of contemporary curse words which seem anachronistic. Surprisingly, they turn out to have been in use during that century - especially the two four letter words with a “u” as the only vowel; this is significant because it lends credibility to some of the sexual behavior you might have thought was not in vogue at that time. Certainly there is no historical record to support the movie’s contentions.
We talked over a relaxed dinner at an intimate K Street bistro, Romeo and Juliette, and later in his office where, between votes on the House floor, we shared a little brandy – the Spanish brand, Fundador, Ryan’s favorite – to celebrate the imminent recess.
Women are reshaping America’s leadership as evidenced in the November mid-term elections. Now a former First Lady has been packaged as a seductive rock star the likes of Madonna, Cher, Oprah, Beyoncé and now, Michelle. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker are expected to be along as well when Michelle Obama launches her book tour in her hometown of Chicago, Nov. 13. Her inspirational memoir entitled “Becoming” is the first of a two book deal with Crown, part of Penguin Random House.
Americans are living through a period of constant disgruntlement - political, social and historical. No matter what your ethnicity, there’s a statue or a painting of someone in your city or at your school that has to come down, perhaps because of slave-owning, or ancient harm to indigenous people, or womanizing or having too much money. Some people object to the plaque of David Koch on the side of the new fountain he installed in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - never mind that he paid for everything, helping to keep that site the most visited by tourists to our city. Some want Columbus toppled from his perch atop the circle named for him - five centuries is apparently insufficient to forgive his misdeeds to the Indians And nobody wants the name Trump on their building for a million reasons that you surely know by now.
You won’t know this if your information comes mainly from the NYT and the WSJ, but Alyssa Milano (founder of MeToo) has withdrawn from the Women’s March to protest its organizers’ support of Louis Farrakhan. Leader of Nation of Islam, Farrakhan chanted “Death to the U.S” and “Death to Jews” while in Iran last week, while on the domestic front, he denied being an anti-semite and called himself an “anti-termite” instead. Linda Sarsour, a self-described brown Palestinian and Tamika Mallory, an African-American have endorsed the statement that “no Zionist can be a feminist” and Mallory refers to Farrakhan as “goat” - greatest of all time.
There’s more heat in a New York Times putdown of Melania Trump’s wardrobe than in Jason Reitman’s biopic of Gary Hart’s aborted run for a presidential nomination in 1988. Overstuffed with tons of newsroom and campaign chatter, Reitman neglects to give the primary players - Hart and his wife - sufficient opportunity to deal with the complicated and conflicted inner feelings of a man and his wife watching their shot at a brilliant future slip down the drain. And not because of a grand love affair, but rather a casual dalliance with a young and as played here, vapid Donna Rice. In real life, Donna had a fresh–faced prettiness but Reitman casts her as an overly made-up girl who looks more like a lap dancer than a model or pharmaceutical salesman, both of which Donna was.
The upcoming midterm elections are more important this year than perhaps ever. That’s because the country is more divided than in the past. The Democrats are pushing to win the House as the party out of power traditionally does in midterm contests. The Republicans are fighting to keep the Senate. A lot is at stake from the Supreme Court to the stock market, gun violence, healthcare, women’s reproductive rights, immigration policy, China and trade. All are reasons to get out and vote before the Tuesday election.
Woman are running this year in greater numbers—more than 3,200– most on the Democratic side attempting to close the gender gap. A lot is at stake—all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate. America’s future is in the hands of voters.
Roughly 40 percent of voting-age Americans don’t exercise their right to vote — and we often assume disenchantment or indifference keeps them away from the polls. But that’s not always the reason. One in six eligible voters has a disability—that’s more than 34 million people— and for many of those, that is what keeps them away from the polls. The challenges are many.
But what if it is fear that’s keeping people from casting a ballot? It may not be fear of any potential candidate or of which level to pull — although some may claim that’s a problem, too. But there may be a very real fear of voting, of public places, waiting in line, signing your John Hancock in public or just feeling trapped in the voting booth – as an amalgamate of many different fears.
If while standing in line at the polls, your palms get sweaty, your heart pounds, you feel that your legs are on the verge of buckling under, your vision blurs, butterflies take flight in your stomach or your muscles stiffen and you want to run home to a safe place — you should know you are not alone.
About 8 percent of adults in the U.S. have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at any given time, according to NIH the National Center for PTSD. Returning veterans and civilians alike have been diagnosed with this and other anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia (fear of crowded spaces) and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). This feeling of being trapped can be incapacitating and paralyzing, both while waiting in line and while in the voting space itself.
Anxiety can be a master manipulator, so people often avoid situations that provoke it. Voting is one we can’t control — not just the election outcome, but our surroundings and often excessive stimuli.
One agoraphobic woman in North Carolina, after voting for the first time, told me she couldn’t remember whom she voted for. But she did recall, “My palms were sweaty. It was like going into a lion’s cage. I felt I had to do it, but then had to get out before he bit me.”
Maryland photographer Stuart Pohost admitted his fear of voting overwhelmed him. “It was the same anxiety I felt when going in for major surgery. I was standing in line at the polls in a perfectly safe place feeling like I’m not safe at all, like I’m going to die, or pass out, or lose control.”
Voting caused him such tremendous anxiety that his therapist once accompanied him to the polls as part of his treatment. “The thing that bothered me about voting was not voting per se, not making the decision,” Pohost said. “The problem was waiting in line, which is a commitment. It was feeling trapped and feeling like I couldn’t leave the line if I wanted to.”
Shannon Evans of Council Bluffs, Iowa, found a solution: “I don’t vote unless I can get an absentee ballot mailed to my house. Too many lines, too many people with unattended children — just the thought makes my head hurt and my skin sweaty.”
Accompanied by her service dog, Pamela Thomas voted in Oklahoma. “My nerves were bad. I was shaking. Buddy, my service dog, tried to get me to leave. I just marked stuff, got my sticker and left. I honestly have no idea who or what I voted for. My brain could not focus on anything. I sat for 15 minutes before I could drive home.” Thomas vowed that the next time, “I will make sure I take a human with me or do an absentee ballot.”
Jodi Aman, LCSW, a psychotherapist in Rochester, New York, and founder of “Give Fear The Boot,” agreed with this plan. “Bring a friend to support you.” She also suggested concentrating on the ceiling or on a spot under the curtain. And “take a few breaths; focus on feeling empowered to take some action.”
“Anything can be a trigger if associated with past trauma,” Aman said. It could be sound, smells, a voting venue in a church if you are a victim of past abuse, or the fear of not making the right decision. “If you messed up a decision in the past, that could create anxiety.”
The chaos of the election and our feeling out of control and overwhelmed also triggers uncertainty. “It triggers us to get ready, and it often means danger. When we have chaos, we crave order.”
Aman’s philosophy is: “Disempower anxiety and empower yourself to take some action.” This advocate of self-compassion penned, “You 1, Anxiety O,” which explores how competition causes anxiety in our culture. “Your vote matters, but it’s not the only vote,” said Aman. “Some anxious people may feel too much responsibility.”
The good news, according to Aman: “Anxiety is usually curable. You can overcome it.” Early voting in some states is a step to mitigate some of the fear. Time will tell how successful it was.