Caitlin's Real-Life Lessons in "Legally Blonde"
For about 34 years, I was chained entirely by fear and haunted by horrific experiences even if they happened years ago. An online trolls who wanted a sequel of the bullying he gave me in middle school, tried to use this as crude fuel to explain how others have been through much worse than myself. But this does not change the fact that at the time it seemed like the end of the world when something bad would happen. For years there was mild Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) regarding an incident that happened at a CVS in Dutchess County. I thought the day would never come when the intrusive and involuntary thoughts would stop polluting my mind at the absolute worst possible times when I should be enjoying myself.
I remember in my mid-twenties, there was a woman at CVS who was extremely gregarious and effervescent. She would speak to me about her personal problems related to things such as trouble with school and car repairs. Her cheerfulness forever bubbled to the surface like champagne at a wedding reception. While this did not seem like an open invitation for a marriage proposal, there still seemed to be enough of a rapport that could be considered “friendship.” I sent her two of my cards spaced out for at least a year. In one of the cards I had gingerly asked her out to a coffee shop or diner when she had time. Perhaps in retrospect, this made an awkward situation much worse, but I had innocently mentioned that I thought she was very “pretty.” To make an unbearable story a little bit shorter, this was the catalyst for “stalking allegations.” (I will elaborate on this in a future blog entry because this experience is a whole story in itself. But I do not want to detract from the main subject who is deserving of our attention in this particular social media entry.)
When the excrement hit the fan, my family told me that I had “brought it on myself.” But I thought they were wrong and was previously congratulating myself for sending only two handwritten greeting cards while not asking her out more than once. In my book, this counted as “backing off.” It was not nearly enough, however. After this experience, I started having daytime, waking nightmares about the allegations that were made against me at CVS because they were afraid of a threat that did not even exist. Worst of all, I was terrified of reaching out to others. My mother and father meant well when they told me, "You brought this on yourself, Jesse! You create these situations for yourself all the time! Why don't you think about how the woman feels when you do something like that." Technically speaking, they were 100% right! None of this would have happened period if I had not sent this acquaintance a couple of cards over at least a year's time. But it infuriated me how they did not give credit for the efforts made to not ask her out more than once or make it a habit out of contacting her with these over-the-top gestures. I never really told them how angry and bitter it made me that they seemed to take the side of the CVS manager instead of realizing how hard I was trying to fit into society. But now I understand they were not out to get me, but they just wanted me to have an easier life. At the time, a decent percentage of Dutchess Country treated me as a social pariah. My unorthodox benevolence and runaway eccentricities were not exactly helping to improve the situation. The chains were finally broken link by link when I saw the play, “Legally Blonde” at Colonie High School.
“Legally Blonde” is actually a show about bullying, premature rejection, and the battle to scratch one’s way into the realm of social acceptance. It had always bothered me the way Elle Woods was treated despite nobody having given her anything that resembled a fighting chance. She was treated as a floozy, airhead, moron, and a spoiled brat by those who had only exchanged a few words with her. Those who made her feel as popular as poison sumac were former victims of bullying themselves and should have known better. But they felt superior than Elle and clearly outnumbered her. Perhaps they saw their former tormentors in this beautiful, blonde woman who did nothing except try to be their friend. I know it is just a fictional woman, but it still haunted me and is a reminder that anybody can become a victim of unrelenting bullying at any point of their life. The day it finally stops is dependent on the tenacity of a victim to win over their tormentors as well as the perpetrators who will hopefully come around and realize they may have misjudged their target. Sometimes things are resolved soon enough and other times everything gets much worse long before it ever gets better. I was able to relate to the character of Elle and her experiences trying to matriculate at Harvard are exactly why I have always feared as well as hated transitions. Many of my life transitions have always been synonymous with a disastrous start and fresh bouts of bullying. There was no guarantee it would ever get much better and even when circumstances finally fell into place…it was often time to leave and start the cycle all over again! Only next time there may not be the same chance of a recovery from the disastrous start.
Speaking of judging things before even giving them a chance, I was cynical about attending that production of “Legally Blonde” considering it was merely a show based on a popular movie. It seemed like a testament to our society’s tendency to remake and adapt things instead of reaching for originality. The lead of the play was Caitlin Tizzone who played the multi-talented, kind, and well-meaning character of Elle Woods. She was fictional but completely real at the same time. I fell in love with her portrayal more so than Reese Witherspoon. Nobody gave her a fighting chance at the beginning and having a 4.0 grade point average was not enough to make people take another look at her. It is true that Elle Woods was a fashion major, which is not exactly nuclear physics. But she still had to take the prerequisites of science and math classes in order to graduate. She did not get through her undergraduate years by being stupid and/or lazy. I know it was just a show, but things like this happen in real life all the time. It is just not fair. While it is true that nothing will ever be perfect, it still could be a whole lot better if others would give someone else a fighting chance. Or if others were given the benefit of the doubt and were allowed to explain themselves there would be far less hard feelings. Take the CVS managejr who said, “You have been stalking our shift supervisor! If it happens again, we are calling the police!!” There could have had a much more human reaction if she has asked me about my side of the story before passing judgement.
I could not stop thinking about this woman and her talents with regards to how she perfectly embodied Elle Woods. It was important for me to congratulate her on all of her talents. I also wanted to explain how much the performance meant to myself and the individuals who are part of the Alumni Activities Club that wanted to see the play as I initially went through the motions of honoring their request. Furthermore, I also thought about that terrible manager from CVS who thought of me as a joke and a stalker without having a friendly chat with me before throwing a poor customer under the bus. Even though most of my harsh realities had ended a long time ago, the show brought a lot of flashbacks of that incident in CVS. I thought of all the connections, friendships, and even potential romances that had been squandered out of fear of something terrible happening or a misunderstanding escalating out of control. It was critical to engage in a form of catharsis by engaging in similar actions to make me stop thinking about CVS all the time. What I did was exactly the same thing that led to the trouble at CVS. It could have been one of the creepiest, but best, ideas that I had thought of for a long time!
After finding Caitlin on Facebook, I found out that her birthday was coming up very soon when I had the nerve to reach out to her for the first time in 2019. Therefore, I ended up writing one of my infamous birthday cards to her in which I fill up the entire card with writing left to right and on the back. People either fall in love with my cards or they are overwhelmed and flustered in the worst way possible. In the spirit of “fool me twice…shame on me” I wrote a little disclaimer at the beginning. It was simply explained to Caitlin how I do this kind of thing all the time and have a history of stalking allegations due to misunderstandings over benevolent intentions. And the other thing I wrote is, “If this bothers you, please tell me nicely or you do not even have to respond at all.” If this were not creepy enough, I sent the card to her father’s workplace to bring home to her due to not being sure about her home address. There was the fear he would think, “Who is this man and why is a thirty-something year old person writing letters to my daughter who he does not even know.” (I mailed a birthday card to my best friend’s older sister years ago who has Down Syndrome before the family even knew I existed. The father later admitted that he thought I was some dirty, old man trying to worm his way into the family!)
Caitlin sent me a very kind message back through her own handwritten card and a friendship immediately started. I thought it would end there, but instead I ended up becoming a follower of her band, Lucid Street while getting to know all of her friends and family. Her boyfriend, Quinn’s family even bought me dinner one time at a restaurant where the band was performing and his mother, Maggie gave me some good advice that reassured me as I began dipping my toe in the roller coaster of the stock market. She said, “As long as you are in it for the long haul, you should be alright.” It was something I needed to hear as money began to disappear and reappear every new day. Following the talents of Caitlin and her bandmates was exactly what I needed to get myself out in the world again during that brief period of time when people were starting to get vaccinated and the world appeared to be going back to normal for a brief, precious period of time. The worst thing I could have done is not send that random card to Caitlin. One of these days, I am going to get the monkey off my back and let the manager of CVS know how much more anguish could have been caused if I had listened to the traumatic, ridiculous lesson she tried to instill about how “stalkerish” I was back in the hellish days of yore and yesteryear. I will also add a disclaimer of how this is not a threat, and there is no reason to contact the authorities for absolutely no reason as she threatened to do in the past.
The biggest lesson I took from this experience is that if we are never upsetting or annoying people 10 percent of the time, it means we are not taking chances. I now realize that Caitlin performed that role so damn well because she did not have to act. It was just like the 1980s movie, “Stand by Me.” Director Rob Reiner chose the actors of Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, and Corey Feldman because their real-life personalities were exactly like the characters they portrayed! Such a thing is rare, but deep down I knew that Caitlin’s heart was as golden as her hair in the show. This is why I took the chance of a lifetime that paid off in dividends! Reaching out to Caitlin was technically even creepier than the disastrous stunt at CVS. Unlike the attractive acquaintance at CVS, Caitlin did not know me from a hole in the wall and she was probably under eighteen at the time. But after Caitlin and her family have changed my life over at least seven months, I would gladly have braved nine stalking allegations and/or unnecessary calls from police officers over misunderstandings than have just missed out on just one of "Caitlin." I would happily go through the drama of my family demanding that I explain myself, too. In some cases...it is always going to be wrong. But sometimes it is the Right Wrong and that is more than enough!!