It has been a while since I have read a book that I could not put down — until this past weekend. I read a book titled: “After Perfect: A Daughter’s Memoir” by Christina McDowell. It is about the Prousalis family and their demise. Think Bernie Madoff. Think scandal. Think fraud. At first when I started to read it I thought this is going to be an annoying book. It will be all about the 1% that had it all and so much more and lost it due to lies and deceit. And it is, but also about so much more.
The book is told by Christina, Tom Prousalis’s daughter. It is her story. It is how she learns about her father and his crimes. He goes to prison for three years after taking a plea deal. They lose everything and she and her sisters and mother must learn how to live. Her mother has never had to pay a bill and Christina realizes that her mother has been taken care of for so long that she does not even know where to begin to pick up the pieces of her life that is now in shambles.
It gets worse. Christina finds out that before heading to prison, her father had taken out multiple credit cards in her name and racked up debt to the tune of $100,000. She believes that he will fix her credit and pay off her debt. He makes her believe on the infrequent calls and letters from prison that he will take care of her. It takes her years to learn who her dad really is, and to truly understand the lies, and deceit, until eventually he literally vanishes from her life.
You might look at her story and think she is a child that had it all. She lived in such extreme wealth, she had things most others did not. Yet, in a lot of ways she was just the victim all along. She did not know about her father, the kind of man he truly was, she knew only what she knew. Her 20’s turned into a period of abuse. She lost the footing of who she was and turned to drugs, alcohol, and sex. Until she had enough. She came clean and searched for the truth. As painful as it was to find. She changed her name, and set up a new identity, free from the past, free from her father.
“After Perfect” was a page turner. It makes you see into the world of the 1%, and those that fall from that world. How they deal with it, how they do not, and in the end they are people just like the rest of us. If you are looking for a book to read (especially a memoir) I highly recommend it.
We just finished Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black.” The show is clever, fascinating, complex, and while maybe you figure out the surprises, it still entertains. I remember after watching a few episodes of the first season, I point-blank say to Chris: “I never, ever want to go to prison.” What hell it must be. I am sure that every prison and jail is different, especially depending on its level of security. Regardless of whether it is maximum or lower, I want nothing of it.
“Orange is the New Black” showcases a women’s prison and I can only image what it is like to mix women and men that are locked up. Maybe that is not even possible, which tells you how much I know about prisons…but this blog is not about how much I know about the incarcerated. I did a stint in college for what we called “Community Service” with a local juvenile correctional facility. I facilitated poetry and writing courses with the young men that were in the facility. It was fine to me. I never really felt unsafe. I was definitely a minority, and most of us that frequented were white in a mostly black facility. These boys craved interaction, and having someone focus on them, and so most responded well and seemed quasi interested. Maybe they were just bored, or maybe they had never really been exposed to writing, poetry, and their feelings.
While I was at a fairly nice liberal arts college, the surrounding community was not as affluent, and mostly farming. I am not sure what access they had to literature or exposure to their own writing. Yet since they had plenty of time to themselves each day, writing might have been just what they needed to process their thoughts. And, maybe it was just a way to have interactions with individuals from outside the facility.
Back to the women’s only prison. “Orange is the New Black” was created by Jenji Kohan, the creator of “Weeds” and she is clever. She has taken a mostly unknown cast (with the exception of Jason Biggs, Michael Harney, Laura Prepon, and Pablo Schreiber). Taylor Schilling plays the main character and she has definitely made a name for herself.
If you have not seen it on Netflix, you will want to spend a weekend or two this summer watching both seasons. It will make you appreciate all that you have, your safety, and that being good is not without its benefits.
I was talking to a colleague yesterday about “Orange is the New Black.” I had mentioned that scenes from the series kept coming back to my mind. She asked if there was a reason why, and I relayed a few ideas. One being that I NEVER want to ever go to prison. While you might have a simple response: “well then do not do anything stupid, Tami.” Easier said then done. We live in a culture that sues. You piss someone off, they sue you, and sometimes the law is not alway on your side. Maybe I have watched too much of “The Good Wife” but I am not optimistic about our legal system, and I do believe that innocent people often end of in prison. Sad but true.
I digress. One of the things I mentioned about Orange is the New Black that got me thinking was about being touched. They only subtly show you this in the show, but I picked up on it immediately. Inmates are not allowed to touch each other. When the main character gets her hair cut and is getting her hair washed (not sure how many real prisons have hair salons) she groans. Having her head touched by someone else is just so foreign, yet matters so much to her. They are starved and crave the human touch.
Yet, as the thought continued to spin around in my head yesterday I realized we ALL crave physical touch. Whether it is a gentle hand on our arm telling us we are going to be fine, or a hug, or maybe just a pat on the back. Touch grounds up in ways that words sometimes cannot. We are reminded that we are all right. We can make it through today, and tomorrow. So when I saw this Chevrolet commercial “Maddie” (ugh I know another car company ad), the impact of this girl and her dog I thought to add that it is the snuggle of your pet, their sloppy, wet kiss, and the lifetime of comfort when we need it most. A dog always knows.
So not to jump back to the early ’80s but “reach out and touch someone.” [old AT&T slogan]