From the Bible to Tila Tequila

Bereaved women have never been pretty. (Hot, maybe, but not easy to look at).

I’ve been hearing these outrageous stories about the public trainwreck that Tila Tequila, the reality TV player (it’s not fair to say “star,” is it?), has become after the death of her fiancée, storied lost heiress Casey Johnson. (Johnson mixed diabetes with drugs and alcohol, a detail that is shamefully being left out of much coverage. Furthering the idea that something is "wrong" when someone young dies. ~buzzer~ FALSE!)

And Tequila (nee Nguyen)'s behavior has been pretty wild. Sixty tweets. Whoo hoo.

She’s showing off her grief so vividly. And I thought: she’s not that different from others I’ve known. Sorta, actually, like me.

It goes back to ancient days: the Hebrew traditions ask you to rend your garments, beat your breast, and tear at your skin. It’s supposed to hurt. And the skin is nothing when your soul has broken so wide open.

In the Bible, Tamar dresses like a whore after her loss and deceives Judah into fathering her child. Stealing sperm is turning some kind of trick! (What was she wearing?) Who would break all these rules? And why? Only a woman whose pain can’t be spoken loudly enough. And by this strange, horrific act of sluttiness Tamar mothers the race of David and Solomon. (Has anyone in a reality show done anything that freaky?)

In grief, I, too, wanted to look the way I felt. BAD. I wanted the world to see how I felt inside. I could never say it well enough, and no one seemed to hear.

Mourners seek to demonstrate, represent, and manifest these intense feelings. And grief is not just sorrow: we’re plagued by emotions without reason or apparent connection. Laughing hysterically one moment, smashing a favorite vase the next. Sometimes I felt like I wanted to disappear and break along with my world, a few hours later I’d be sure I’d never seen a more beautiful raindrop on a blade of grass.

Widowhood escalates our lives, and widows use their standing to make public statements. As others mourn the one who’s left, we often want to assert our own place in the world, whatever that place is. In grief, we sometimes becomes exhibitionist and often feel extremely sexual.

Tila Tequila is a widowed woman. If she’s different from how many of us would behave (and have!) in the same circumstances, it’s a difference of degree, not of kind.

Attention whore? Trainwreck? Loudmouth? Obsessed with fashion and Twitter? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

But isn’t that who she was before? She’s just more so in grief.

Widowhood is a journey, and she may come out stronger. I have, and so have countless others. Tila Tequila wouldn’t be the first to effect a radical change in her life.

In fact, her story sounds like one of the lives of the early Saints. Many of them were outcasts, pains in the ass, shallow and materialistic. I’m sure there was at least one, er, provocative dresser aside from Mary Magdalene.

So keep your eyes on this girl, she may yet have greatness in her. Try to keep your judgment to yourself if you haven’t been there. Mourners feel so alone, but maybe there's a Heisenberg Principle of Grief: letting Tila Tequila know she is heard, you might change what she does.

If you have lost a partner or a child, what do you think? Do you see any echo of your experiences in Tila Tequila’s behavior?

* * * Comments * * *


Anonymous said...

I have refrained from commenting on the harsh treatment of the poor girl. 60 tweets? That's nothing compared to some of the Twitteratti who tweet whorish drivel at far more alarming rates.

Living in the spotlight, as she does, her grieving in the open doesn't seem odd to me. I blogged my widowhood after all, so I am not going to judge her.

It's a shame that she isn't being afforded the title of "widow" b/c she is and being cut a bit more slack. But why should it be different for her b/c she is famous. We widows are supposed to suck it up and grieve silently and put on a stoically, heroically tragic facade for the world's comfort level.

Star said...

I was slutty for sure. I like to call it letting out my inner whore to borrow a phrase from Candice. Like, going to visit "friends" in the middle of the night. Making out with strangers in the middle of a dance club. Just to make me feel something.

I also wanted to look how I felt in the beginning. I almost didn't want to look nice. I didn't want people to think I felt better when I def didn't feel good.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Annie, you're right. I didn't mention how none of us caught a break, either.

Glad to hear from Star, and from several on Twitter, that poor Tila is not alone. We were all nuts. My words, not yours.



johnomori said...

I am not widowed but I saw your Tweet about this so I figured it was OK to post. I think people can show their grief anyway they want - publicly, privately, whatever. Tila Tequila's problem is that she has a very dubious background about what motivates her to do anything. She desperately craves attention and I think it offends most people that she would, possibly, exploit someone's death to get it.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Hi John,

I think you state the public's general case about her. The perception that she would profit from the death of her partner comes, I think, from the same place as their desire that she act like a good widow and show the emotions that are accepted as part of grief -- not the full range of feelings and expressions (particularly craving attention) that comprise real grief.

I also think it's really weird that anyone looking at her would complain that she's exploiting her loss. First of all, she's in a position to do whatever she wants with it -- the public, on the other hand, has no stake in her loss or grief -- if she profits it's just a variant on life insurance, which is 100% socially acceptable.

Second, that very public is the one fueling her expression by paying so much attention to it. Why are WE obsessed with celebrity morbidity? Since we are, we have no right to complain about anyone else being.

Hell, at least she knew the girl.

Just my 2c.



Sherry said...

The other part of the story, of course, is what happens to a lot of gay and lesbian couples (or heterosexual couples who weren't married). They weren't "really" married, so she's not "really" a widow. She doesn't deserve to grieve so fiercly for someone she wasn't even married to, right?

I had a friend whose spouse died the same time my husband did, and on top of her grief came the pain of justifying that she was allowed to, was supposed to, grieve for the person she had loved and lived with for more than 20 years. Add insanity to the grief...


Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Sherry, yup, can of worms alright. It's hard enough to be young, but to not even have the relationship acknowledged? Extra fun.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and ideas as ever!

Craig Waterman said...

I am impressed by this discussion, and I appreciate John's bravery in explaining his thinking, but I will agree (and perhaps present him with a widow card) with my cohort on this one.

Really I would take whatever I can reasonably get from being a widow, but it doesn't erase your faults.

Blessings to both of you.


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