Dustin Hoffman is in a video that will most likely go viral. It is about the moment he realized how many amazing women he had missed out on meeting or interacting with in his life because they didn’t fit the image he had in his head of how women should look. He breaks down crying in the video as he’s talking about his part in the movie, Tootsie.
It reminded me of the work I did at a Dating Service in Sausalito when I was fresh out of the military. I’d been trained as a Photojournalist in the Army. One of my first civilian jobs was interviewing people on video. There were six questions I was supposed to ask everyone, but of course, that only made everyone look more or less the same. Being a long-time lover of Story, I shook things up and took time to get to know my clients, and then asked them questions that would engage them, make them laugh, help them forget there was a camera in the room. People appeared warm and genuine, because they were talking to me, and not the camera anymore.
It was wildly fulfilling in many ways. It also taught me to appreciate women, because they do so sincerely get better with age. I will never forget the feeling of being in the presence of greatness. Women in their 30’s, of course, were awesome. Women in their 40’s were rich and full of life. Women over 50 were something like goddesses in my 22-year old eyes. They knew how to laugh at themselves. They had so many life experiences. I couldn’t get enough of their stories. There were men who were tremendous too, there were just fewer of them. I got a lot of men describing the body type of the woman they wanted to meet, not the soul, or the spirit, or the heart, or the laughter.
One woman shocked me to my core. She was the head of a Biotechnology Company. She was in excellent shape, had a brilliant mind, was a savvy businesswoman, and had made enough money to never need to work again – she just loved her job so much. She had been so busy building her empire, she hadn’t had time to date. She was tall and elegant. She was simply breathtaking. In the few minutes we chatted before I started video-taping her, I was already quite impressed. Then the camera started rolling, and she became this mousey person, who had no backbone. I stopped the camera. “What are you doing?” I asked. “What happened just then? You went from powerhouse to doormat.”
She explained through tears in her eyes that she always intimidated men. She just wanted to be able to date and maybe slowly let the person get to know her. I asked her if she was willing to stay in that tiny shell forever, because by becoming smaller than she was, she was going to attract someone who would never want her to be all that she was.
As frightening as it was, she agreed to let me drive the interview, and bring out her best. She taught me, in whatever strange circuitous way, to not settle, to be myself, and to wait however long it took for someone to be man enough to handle all of me. I didn’t want to squeeze myself into a personality that wasn’t really me just to attract a man.
Our society tells us crazy things. It is a constant battle for women to be ourselves, and not lessen ourselves.
I have always been a fan of Dustin Hoffman. Today, I shared his tears, and remembered watching Tootsie, and I too felt the pathos. I didn’t really see it as a comedy either – although some funny things happened. He became Tootsie absolutely, and I’m so glad it was him, with his understanding of the undercurrents.
The news can be so depressing, generally. It was nice to see something that reminds me once again what a precious responsibility it is to raise boys who value their mom, who learn from their dad to see heart and soul and beauty that radiates from a place inside, not surface deep.