I met a celebrity last night.
But not just any celebrity. An idol. Someone I admire on so many levels and it was surreal.
Chelsea Handler is goals to me. Personally and professionally, and I had butterflies like a first date while I was standing in line waiting to say a quick hello and take a picture.
My husband and I attended her show in Miami and I sat there smiling from ear-to-ear the entire time. But, not just because it was Chelsea Handler and she’s famous. For me, she is so many things beyond funny. And that is saying a lot because she’s fucking hilarious. Here’s the thing about her humor – it’s effortless and relatable. She’s real and her no-bullshit attitude permeates through every word that comes out of her mouth.
REAL ATTRACTS REAL
I’m not going to get cheesy and say I felt like she was talking to my soul. However, when I took the leap several years ago to follow my dream as a self-employed writer, I made a promise to myself that every word I shared would ooze with transparency and authenticity. I didn’t give up a nice paycheck to write canned bullshit. So, as Chelsea sat on that stage and talked about getting real with herself and others, being vulnerable and making noise, I found myself nodding in agreement and identifying with all of it.
Once I chose to step out of my comfort zone as a writer and move past the funny stuff people expected, that’s when things changed. I learned that vulnerability begets vulnerability. Real attracts real. Every time I opened up about parts of motherhood and marriage people weren’t as forthcoming with, I was flooded with comments, messages and emails. Every time I put a messy piece of my own journey out there, whether it was about divorce, miscarriage or real life with kids and blending a family, that’s when I forged true connections with other people, other writers. That vulnerability is what opens to doors writing opportunities with publications I dreamed of putting on my resume. That vulnerability is scary, not easy. When you open yourself up publicly, you’re greeted with kindness from some and nastiness from others. It’s hard to not take it personally when it’s about something personal and developing a thick skin doesn’t happen overnight. To know that Chelsea experiences that on a massive scale but continues to put herself out there is inspiring. It took me almost 40 years to get comfortable in my own skin after a divorce that knocked me on my ass and kickstarted a new journey for me. Chelsea is the kind of confident I want to be. The “what you see is what you get” kind of person who’s happy to have you in her corner but cool if see your way out.
Chelsea is a supporter of women and talked a bit about making noise. Now more than ever, I feel this. If you don’t think women need a big voice and to drive change, then you are living under a fucking rock. It doesn’t have to be steeped in anger even if anger is what’s fueling it. But it should be based in facts and knowledge and understanding what the hell is happening in our country, with our society, with our current administration. It doesn’t make you a raging feminist looking for conflict at every turn. It makes you a woman, a person, who is doing SOMETHING to speak up and take action. And with two daughters, it’s my mission and responsibilities to teach them to make a shit ton of noise. I want them to be aware of certain injustices. I want them to know they have the ability to speak up and to never be afraid to make noise.
One of the things that has always drawn me to Chelsea’s brand of humor is that it’s smart and poignant and unapologetic. She doesn’t seem to care if people are offended because frankly, they’re probably not her people. I still hover over the publish button sometimes when I’m about to post anything that could be seen as “controversial”. Will I alienate readers? Will I lose followers on Facebook and Instagram? I have this inner dialogue and then I have to remind myself that if people leave, they are not my people and that’s ok.
WHAT DO I EVEN SAY?!?!
When I knew I was going to meet Chelsea, I started to panic about what to say? Should I be funny, say something about her books, say something really smart? What the fuck do you say to someone you admire without creeping them out and making them feel like you are in the throes of constructing a shrine and want to wear their skin? What do you say that doesn’t sound cliche?
After the show as we waited for her to come out for the meet & greet, I had grand plans. I figured she might be signing her book or other stuff. Knowing that she’s a self-proclaimed pharmacological wizard, I brought my bottle of Percocet prescribed from my kidney stone episode that landed me in the ER just two days prior to the show. I had visions of being witty and endearing and asking her to sign the bottle which would obviously be memorable for her and she’d be like, “Oh my god, you are adorable. Let’s be friends IRL.”
My plans were foiled when the security guards came and took our purses and cell phones and I saw that our moment with Chelsea would be a minute-ish in front of a professional photographer with no signing of anything. Since Chelsea talked about being real, I would do the same. No schtick, no gimmick, no trying too hard to make a memorable moment. Whatever came out of my mouth would be it.
When it was our turn and we walked toward her, she was sweet and gracious and welcomed us (and everyone else) with a hug. But not like a bullshit hug. A genuine hug and eye contact. As a point of reference I mentioned our mutual friend, who made this meeting possible in the first place. We talked about her and how amazing and kind we both thought she was. Chelsea said something about how we need more people like that and how there are so many mean people out there. She thanked us for coming to the show and we told her how much we enjoyed it, snapped a photo and went on our way. For her it was a typical fan interaction but for me it was so much more.
The whole encounter was a snapshot in time but one of the coolest moments I’ve experienced. To meet someone so entrenched in a world I could never imagine, yet to be so cool, kind, engaged and present was everything.
Reeling from giddiness, we did what any 40-something married couple would do and stopped for tacos & burritos on the way home. Upon exiting the car, I stepped into ankle-deep gutter water and immediately started wondering what diseases I had already contracted. I have never wanted to use a public bathroom so bad in my life so I could wash off god knows what and maintain what’s left of my sanity. There was no bathroom. We were starving so we ordered while I stared at my foot waiting for it to show signs of distress and ate our food on our laps in the car on a side street in Miami.
We got home at midnight and while our sweet babysitter was filling me in on the evening, all I could think about was stripping off my clothes and dousing my gutter water ridden foot in acid while I figured out how to save my suede shoes. If you haven’t figured it out, I’m neurotic. I’m Jewish so it’s in my DNA.
I begged my husband for reassurance that I wouldn’t need to have my foot amputated and that I wouldn’t wake up with some incurable condition. Even with my neuroses, I could not stop smiling and think about the higher points of the night.
Thank you, Chelsea for your voice, your honesty and your vulnerability and for inspiring me to do more of it in my own work. And if you ever want to sign my meds and hang out, I’m all in.