Research has shown that the people with whom we bond as children become the internal working models that influence the formation of attachment in later relationships. I believe this to be true about all our relationships. All of my life I have been blessed with friendships of remarkable women. I begin this blog series with the following four angels with skin. My earliest attachment was with my grandmother. For my first twelve years, we shared a bedroom so tiny that our knees touched as we shared secrets beneath her makeshift altar that supported the Jesus, Mary and Joseph statues. She began sharing her cigerattes with me when I turned twelve, which felt like a loving ritual that we shared. I loved her so much I thought I would die if anything happened to her. My childhood church told us that we all had a guardian angel. I was certain that my grandmother was my wingless angel.
Looking back, I see that I have chosen women companions who were beautiful, smart, high achievers who searched for life’s deeper meaning. I also notice, with few exceptions, they all came from backgrounds of scarcity and often abuse. I believe we have a felt sense of knowing, without realizing that we know, something of the pain of others. In psychodrama the term for this is tele, meaning feeling/sensing at a distence. Tele is a part of empathy, intuition and transference.
I think being deprived can foster an kind of “I’ve got your back covered” loyalty–an unspoken trust hat you never betray one another because your very survival depends upon it. It means keeping each others secrets, just as my grandmother and I did while holding our roseries and perfecting smoke rings. Hmmm, I wonder if it is mere coincidence that all of my friends used to smoke cigarettes?
Lynda Day George Cronin
Lynda and I were just nineteen when we met. Our husbands were friends from the University of Miami, and both were affiliated with the motion picture industry. Lynda and I bonded immediately,
as wounded girls often do. Our husbands were 13 and 16 years our seniors. Since we were all involved in the entertainment industry, Lynda and I often accompanied our spouses to parties. We were so shy that we hid together in any available corner or in the ladies room. At nineteen, we were no match for the “sophisticated” party goers.
We each had multiple fathers, families laced with alcoholism, and had witnessed knock down drag out family fights. There was never enough money or food, but there was an abundance of abuse and pressure from our mothers for financial support while we were still in high school. Some would see our upbringing as hard times, while others would call us “trailer trash.”Our mothers were obsessed with our posture and the flatness of our tummies. Lynda’s mother made her practice walking with a coat hunger down her back to perfect her posture. My mother simply slugged me in the stomach as a reminder to stand up straight and suck it in. We both acquired excellent postures.
We were cautioned against being too smart–not a problem for me with my failing high school grades and diagnosis of retardation. But Lynda was gifted, and had high IQ scores. People once came to Lynda’s house to enroll her in a scholarship program for gifted students. After they left, Lynda was in serious trouble with her mother who screamed, “What have you done now Lynda Louise? I have told you and told you that men do not like women who are too smart.”
That was just the way it was in those days. Looks, stand up breasts, the way a woman walked, and stockings with seams had everything to do with “catching a man.” Our mothers’ greatest gifts to bequeath to their beloved daughters were the skills with which to survive in a harsh, patriarchal world. Snagging a man, any man, was the only sure way to survive. That was the highest form of success in the minds of our mothers, who never had many available options.
After high school, they wanted us to support them financially. I escaped this undeserved ill-fated recompense by marriage at age seventeen, thereby trading the temporary hell of financial reimbursement for the permanent hell of matrimony. Lynda, five foot nine, posture like a stick and gorgeous, succumbed to the family’s financial desperation and became a model in New York City. She was helpless against the matriarchal guilt that was bestowed upon her shoulders to sustain a family living in poverty.
Lynda went on to become famous for her acting talent. She first gained attention when she appeared in the popular TV series “Mission Impossible,” a role for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.
She is so like my grandmother in terms of a “felt sense” of kindheartedness. Nothing of her sweet nature has changed in the many years since our first meeting. However, we have both acquired the strength of being who we really are rather than acting just out of fear in most situations.
It is a wonderful thing to have another human being lovingly hold your history so close to their heart. We have remained close, and just last week we had lunch and saw a movie together. Once again we mingled tears with laughter. Oh, the sweet power of women angels.
Marie and I met in 1968 in Miami while attending a luncheon for ex-stewardesses. She was working as a makeup artist on the television series, Gentle Ben. Ten years my senior, Marie was beautiful, talented, funny, smart, bilingual and gracious. I was amazed that she chose me to be her friend. Because I had young children, she would come to my house for afternoon visits while the children napped.
These were exciting times for me as I had no family or friends and was totally under the control of an older, dominating and abusive husband. The only reason he allowed my friendship with Marie was, he and her husband were both in the motion picture industry.
Marie and I had the most lively and provocative conversations about psychology, religion and societies. She evoked thoughts and ideas that I didn’t know I had. She was the first person in my life to treat me as if I had a brain. Until Marie, I believed that I was dumb in the same way that I knew I had ten toes and fingers and was five feet four inches tall. Being “dumb” seemed to be a common descriptive fact that everyone knew about me and had emphasized for as long as I could remember.
Marie took exception to this label. When she pleaded with me to take a college course with her at our community college, I told her she was crazy. She replied that I had insulted her intelligence. She said that she would not have chosen me to be her friend if she thought that I was dumb. Stunned and excited with her belief in me, I told my then husband that I wanted to enroll in this course with her. He said that I was not college material and I would make a fool of myself. But because he didn’t want to look bad in the eyes of our friends, he “allowed” it.
Not only did I make an A in the course, I left my abusive husband and have never stopped pursuing an education. It only took one person to hold out a hand and inspire me. I am forever grateful for the self actualizing fire she lit in my soul. She was an angel in disguise.
To be continued