bird in a twisted, gilded cage.

millbrook lane

When we were growing up, she was one of my sister’s friends. She lived over on Millbrook Lane (number 773 if memory serves) on the Haverford College and Delaware County side of Haverford. In 1973 her father committed suicide.

As kids you are sort of aware and sort of oblivious at the same time to the tragedies of other kids. It was before the age of the Internet and adults still spoke in hushed tones of “certain things”. Her name was Amy Whittlesey, and perhaps the subtitle of this post should be Defending Amy (once a newspaper headline read Judging Amy and it never sat well with me.)

I remember her as a teenager only a little because there were three years between my sister and I ….and once you hit high school, that’s an ocean. I remember her as soft spoken with an almost shy smile. I remembered at the time that her mother was a politician. I wasn’t even sure what that really entailed at the time and well, it was someone unimportant to a teenage girl. When I first met her we were all at Shipley.

Her mother was indeed quite the politician. A State Representative, Delaware County Council, and she ran in the Late 1970s for Lieutenant Governor (but lost). Then Ronald Reagan became president, and her mother, Faith Ryan Whittlesey, became Ambassador to Switzerland.

Her mother, Ambassador Whittlesey, is more than a little bit terrifying on paper. Like a modern Catherine de’ Medici sort of, if I can say that out loud without a case of “off with her head” , that is?  I can’t recall ever meeting her, I just remember Amy. Her mother is perhaps in some senses more driven and disciplined than Hillary Clinton ever will be.  Hillary truthfully could take a page or two out of Ambassador Whittlesey’s  book.  She has always to me represented the ultimate female politician and political survivor meets public saint. So yes, scary. She came up in a political climate of more subterfuge and in many senses, more brutal because women just weren’t doing much of  politics, then. So it was an era of politics that were rather medieval. And it was Delaware County where she got her start. Very tough. Crazily so.

MOTHER, LAWYER, POLITICIAN, ENVOY

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 3— For Faith Ryan Whittlesey, who is often described here as the most powerful woman in Pennsylvania politics, life has become a little more hectic than usual since her nomination early last month as Ambassador to Switzerland.

There was, of course, her swearing-in last Wednesday at the State Department in Washington, but that was only one of the many details to be handled by the new Ambassador, a widow with three children, who has a law office to close, a local political career to pack away in mothballs, a household to move and shopping to do….Mrs. Whittlesey, who has been a supporter of President Reagan since 1976, was co-chairman of his defense and foreign policy committee in 1980 and presented the defense plank at the Republican National Convention.

Two of Mrs. Wittlesey’s children, Amy, 14, and William, 8, will accompany her to Switzerland, but her eldest son, Henry, 15, will continue at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H.

But you have to wonder about those saints, right?

When her mom became ambassador, Amy appeared to be thrust into this whirlwind jet set glamorous kind of life. But was it? As an adult, in retrospect, maybe not so much. I kind of think she was like a bird in a gilded cage…a twisted, gilded cage. In retrospect, she lived a Victorian girl’s life in a modern world. It was modern all around her, but she wasn’t really ever free. Ever.

In 1989 on a Sunday in the New York Times there was a wedding announcement:

NYTimes

I remember it because at that point in time I had a few friends who had married and I thought they were nuts because everyone was so young, and she was like at least 3 years younger than I. And I also remembered wondering because her husband was so old was she like some sacrificial virgin married off in some Elizabethan drama? How many goats, horses, casks of wine,  and estates was she worth?

Then she faded from many of our memories as she went on living her married life.  If you did not swim in those social oceans, and it was quite the stratosphere with rarified air, well, you are young, people fade from memory and life goes on.

Then BAM! It’s the millennium and in January 2000 this shocking article appears in Vanity Fair by writer Lisa DePaulo hits the newsstands.  It’s called Irreconcilable Rockefellers .  I re-read it again recently and it is still quite the stunning tale of how rotten a fairy tale can get. It was quite the talk of the Main Line and beyond when it was published and all those pretending it was so awful a series of events to be aired in public, were pouring through the many pages of the article in private.

And that is the thing of it, isn’t it? We sit here with our ordinary lives sometimes envying what appears to be a rather fancy life of someone we know or have known. You wonder what would it be like? Would we do fabulous things, meet fabulous people, and would life sparkle more? Well after reading about the life of someone who was a contemporary of my younger sister and seeing it splashed across media outlets in one headline after the other, wow, be grateful for the magic of more ordinary days.

When I would read the articles, and even today as I re-read them again I am still struck with the same thought: why the hell did her mother sacrifice her? Power? Politics? Social ambition? Money? Mothers can be ambitious for their daughters, yes, but wow, right?

So the media dies off as Amy gets divorced and once again people go about their lives. In 2012 her mother makes local papers about her biography (she moved years ago and I assume still lives in Florida) . (Reference Main Line Media News October, 2012)

Keeping Faith: Former Haverford politician is the focus of new biography

From the time the former Haverford resident entered the political arena as state representative for the 166th District in 1973 until she entered the West Wing of the White House as President Ronald Reagan’s public liaison in 1983, the “Kennedy Democrat”-turned-Republican made headlines in her old hometown.

Along the way, the mother of three suffered the loss of her husband to an apparent suicide, became Delaware County’s first female county council chairman, was appointed ambassador to Switzerland and survived a congressional investigation into her management of the embassy and its link to the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal supervised by fired National Security Council aide Oliver North.

I became reconnected to Amy via social media and have been enjoying getting to know the adult I only knew in the most peripheral of ways as a kid.  (Face it our lives are all filled with people who are friends of other people, that touch our lives in different stages, and then the scene shifts and there are other people.)

mother and son

Amy as an adult is amazingly creative and writes this achingly beautiful poetry. She lost her beloved brother Henry in 2012 and wrote about him so lovingly and eloquently. She is incredibly kind and sensitive.

She loves her kids, she lives for her kids. Her youngest child, a boy whom she had post-divorce drama, is with her in Cambridge MA. Or should I say was because as I write this post, he has been removed from her quite literally.

And yes, I told Amy I was writing this post. I felt almost compelled to because since I have come to be a small part of her circle I have not been able to escape the horrible thought that this woman, this nice gracious and gentle woman is still a pawn in the chess games of life of others.

You don’t reach the age of 50 and beyond without hearing the horror stories of divorce and child custody…and the explosions when those related to the affluent and powerful step away from the shadows of control and into the light on their own. And I am sorry, but Grace Metalious and her fictitious Peyton Place have nothing on things rooted in the Philadelphia area. It’s no wonder Agnes Nixon had decades of things to write about , right?

I think Amy deserves to be free and happy. She is a good woman. The rest can be told in these screen shots I am posting. They are public, and again, I told her I was writing this.  My heart breaks for her right now.  People we love can often be quite cruel. It is a lesson you wish on no one.

Amy, stay strong. People care.

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from blue dress infamous to social activist

bully 2

From blue dresses and White House scandals before there was the television show Scandal, to a line of failed (?) purses (see article in New York Magazine from a few years back), to social activist, Monica Lewinsky has spent years being an unfortunate household name stemming from poor choices made literally as a kid while a White House intern.

She opened up about the blue dress years and the aftermath of being a fallen star in the Clinton universe in the June 2014 edition of Vanity Fair. It was her article and it was fairly well written and interesting, I must admit.

Like millions of others at the time I remember thinking “What was she thinking and why can’t this politician keep his pants zipped?” (Face it, Clinton might look like the grand papa bear of Democrat politics today, but the man has had his issues with the ladies à la Pennsylvania’s own Ed Rendell, right?)

I don’t have the moral code that is able to justify cheating, or justify why a very bright young woman couldn’t stay away from a married man who happened to be the President of the United States, except I am guessing that was exactly why she couldn’t stay away.  However, after the first few weeks of hearing about her and that, I felt as if it was enough already.  There were after all, far bigger issues going on in the Clinton administration, weren’t there?

So now Monica is what? About 40 years old give or take? And she made a whopper of a mistake and has spent almost 20 years paying for it.

Yesterday she spoke in Philadelphia  on the subject of cyber bullying.

I have to give her props for stepping out onto the stage at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.  That took guts, all things considered. I am sure she was amply compensated for her time but her topic was of personal interest to me. Her topic was cyber bullying and that is also apparently now her personal cause.

I listened to the replays of her speech and could totally understand when she said “It feels like a punch in the gut.”  After all, cyber bullying = abuse.

That isn’t the first time I have heard a similar description applied to being cyber bullied. Of course those who perform the cyber bullying always blame their victims. Much like abusers who tell their victims it’s their own fault they had to beat them.

I make no bones about the fact that I have perverse admirers, otherwise known as cyber bullies. In part, when you become a writer or a blogger it sort of comes with the territory.  It shouldn’t, but it does. Only my main bully doesn’t bully me because I am some random blogger she doesn’t like, for her it’s personal. She used to know me, and used to be in my life.

It is odd to think about this late middle aged woman from several states away being so angry and so hateful because well she was someone very supportive of  me when a few years ago now, my ex abandoned me and his old dying dog quite literally and then a year or so after that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and isn’t that strange? How can someone go from being caring to being pathologically angry and hateful when there was no fighting or anything like that?  This person chose to leave my life so what was I supposed to do? It was her choice and I tried to respect it. It’s like she had this weird unrequited crush on me and I am being punished for ignoring that, and her. It’s truly bizarre.

It came as a shock when I realized I not only had cyber bullies, but they had been essentially stalking my life.  I am not a public figure. I am just an ordinary woman living my life.  Yes, I write, and I am not just a blogger given my published bylines here and there (albeit local and regional), but I am just a regular person. I write more about my recipes and gardening these days than anything else. I share my photography, as well. Apparently and ironically, it is very upsetting to people when you are happy. And apparently it’s all my fault they have to bully me because I am happy in my life and they are miserable and stuck. Bullies like other forms of abusers have a limited sense of personal accountability, have you noticed?

Since this cyber bullying and cyber stalking began shortly before my 50th birthday I have been fascinated by the people who have supported the efforts.  People I have never known or spoken to. And why do they cheer on negative and spurious activity that there are laws against? I guess because at some point in time I wrote something they didn’t agree with and isn’t that so bizarre coming from “adults”?

But as far as adults go, I have seen a lot of strange behavior. Especially recently.  Take for example parents of teenagers who not only support their teen’s scorched earth bullying behavior, but in essence bully other parents themselves and how crazy is that? People who are parents and who you know love their children but who can’t see right from wrong on their own?

People spend so much time hating and why put all that negativity out there? Its not so much a Zen or spiritual thought as it is  that I just don’t get people of any age who wake up with the intent to be mean or malicious. Life is a precious gift and having survived breast cancer I know full well we are all on borrowed time on this earth so why not try to be better human beings, not worse?

Cyber bullying is as pervasive and invasive as physical bullying.  And there is a certain disconnect from reality with it on the part of the bullies.   These bullies seem to think in their minds their behaviors are justified, and that they are invincible, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth.   They also only have power if you allow them to have power because the truth of it is, bullies are cowards. They only accept their version of reality as the ultimate reality and get totally tweaked if you mess with their perception of how it should all be. With mine I marvel at how literally crazy and unbalanced they are and pity them at the same time.  This hatred is all they have to do all day, and that is truly and incredibly sad.

Cyber bullying is something, however, that not enough people take seriously even if it is illegal. So if Monica Lewinsky wishes to use her unfortunate celebrity to shine a light  down the dark rabbit hole of bullying, I am all for it. After all, bullying happens most often to the less obvious in this world: ordinary people both adult and kids.

Monica Lewinsky being a social activist will take some getting used to. Of course she was immediately trolled after doing this. In addition to the article excerpts below, follow this LINK and check out an interesting perspective in the Washington Post and another CNN article.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Lewinsky makes emotional plea to end cyberbullying

By Dan Merica, CNN
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014

(CNN) — Monica Lewinsky told an audience in Philadelphia on Monday that her new mission in life was to end cyberbullying. Her speech — and her goal — come as the former White House intern steps into the public eye after years of trying to live privately.

“Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too,” she told the audience at Forbes’ 30 Under 30 summit. “I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”

Lewinsky, who as an intern in 1995 had an affair with President Bill Clinton, said she was “patient zero” of online harassment.

“There was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram back then,” she said. “But there were gossip, news and entertainment websites replete with comment sections and emails which could be forwarded. Of course, it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial up. Yet around the world this story went. A viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly ‘social media’.”

Forbes:  Monica Lewinsky Speaks: ‘It’s My Mission To End Cyberbullying’

Clare O’Connor Forbes Staff

Monica Lewinsky has broken a decade-long silence to announce her campaign to end cyberbullying and today’s toxic culture of internet shaming.

In her first ever public address, the former mistress of President Bill Clinton revealed her plan to launch a “cultural revolution” against the sort of online harassment she experienced firsthand in the late 1990s…..Lewinsky described her life since the 1998 sex scandal that resulted in Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representative and subsequent acquittal by the Senate as one marred by a deep sense of shame and even suicidal thoughts….She intends to share her story with victims of cyberbullying and online harassment. There are many of them: almost 54% of young Facebook users describe being bullied or harassed online.

Forbes:Full Transcript: Monica Lewinsky Speaks Out On Ending Online Abuse

(Click on hyperlink above to go to the Forbes website and read the full transcript.)