Lifestyle The Word 4 minute read

When Everyone is Watching It’s Tough to Be Real


“She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.”  Saffo said her sister had been concerned that any inpatient treatment would harm the Kate Spade brand.  This statement by Kate Spade’s sister following her suicide hit me like a summer cold: hard, fast and made me want to hibernate in the bed for days.

And now Anthony Bourdain, has also committed suicide.  This is a man who said of his life: “I’m doomed to have the best job in the world.  How could I ever not do this?  I go wherever I want.  I work with close friends.  I tell whatever stories I like in whatever fashion I choose to tell them, with the muscle of a major international cable news outfit behind me.  It’s a dream of a job.  It’s the best job in the world.”

Both, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain seemed to have incredible, enviable lives.  They presented that image to the world; and yet they ultimately decided to end their own lives.  Beneath the smiles and the well-crafted images, both stars obviously struggled emotionally; but they didn’t get / wouldn’t get help.

I feel nothing but sympathy and sadness for Spade, Bourdain and their friends and families.  I wouldn’t presume to understand what either was feeling when they made the decision to end their lives; but I can’t help but to wonder: what role did the need to maintain the perfect image have in creating the storm that drove their decisions?

I can’t help but to wonder:  what has happened to us—as a society?

Yes, Kate Spade was a wealthy, White millionaire — different in many ways from me and my friends; but, in at least one way also very similar to many of us – affected by the drug of appearance.  Social media has made us all stars: some to 100, some to 5,000, and some to 50,000; but all of us live lives that others are watching, evaluating, and commenting on.

What an incredible pressure that creates.  Not only must we survive life, try to thrive at life; we must (or rather, we allow ourselves) to be contestants in life with a live audience.  We are contestants in a 24-7, never-ending pageant.  Best parent, most successful kids, best marriage, best looking, richest, most exciting, closest to God, most popular are all being vied for — post by post.  According to social media, life is pretty freaking grand for most of us.

But that can’t be right—can it? That is completely unrealistic.  Life is full of ups and downs for us all; but evidently, the majority of us have difficulty admitting when things are down.

When five of your college friends post their kids’ straight-A report cards, or their kids’ inductions into the honor roll—you can’t help but feel worse that your son has a D in math (even after paying $120 an hour for the “top” math tutor).

Or when you must be flooded by all of the happy marriages when you haven’t had a good date in a year or when your husband just forgot your birthday;

Or when everyone seems to be traveling the world, when the only way you get an international experience is to order Chinese food;

Or when everyone always seems to be surrounded by a great group of girlfriends and you really only feel close to two women and one is your mother; how do you continue giving your pasted, pageant smile?

What do we do when we feel as if we ain’t winning?  It’s hard to lose; it’s even harder when an audience is watching. Having to put on that fake pageant smile for our audiences when we want to cry is taking a toll on each of us.

How do you fail, lack perfection, or be sad when everyone around you is happy and perfect?  Sadness has become a very lonely state.  When we need support the most, I fear that society has made it where asking the difficult has become asking the impossible.  The price we are paying for unachievable perfection isn’t simply fully filtered, posed pictures that loudly scream of our happiness; but isolation, depression, and temporary and permanent silence.






My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more


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