Over this past weekend, some very sad news came that singer-songwriter-actress Irene Cara passed away at the age of sixty-three. My deepest condolences to her family and friends as for many, including myself, she was a beautiful inspiration and an incredibly talented woman we will all remember forever. In 1983 she won an Academy Award for co-writing the song ‘Flashdance (What a Feeling)’ and I’m grateful I found that song again after so many years away from it. Because that song is where the title of today’s blog entry comes from.
In 1983 when the movie ‘Flashdance’ came out, I was nine years old, painfully shy, clumsy as hell, and I just wanted to be left alone. Most of all, I hated Physical Education (PE) class at school more than anything. Because I was fat, clumsy, and shy I did not do well in that class at all. That school year we always did our exercises to the song ‘Flashdance (What a Feeling’)’ and by the end of that school year, I learned how to hate that song because for me it was a reminder of being at the back of the class, picked last for any team, and feeling like a complete and total fuck-up in every way possible. Worst of all, I fought like hell to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself though I didn’t always succeed with that. And for over thirty years after that horrible school year, I would NEVER listen to that song.
But one day in 2018 that all changed. It was thirty-five years later and I was a grown-ass adult creeping into middle-age when one morning in heavy traffic the song came on the radio and I decided to give it a listen (and also because of the traffic I couldn’t take my hands off the wheel for even a second to change the station like I normally did). As I listened to the song for the first time in thirty-five years these lines in the opening verse jumped out at me:
All alone I have cried/Silent tears full of pride
Songwriters: Giorgio Moroder / Irene Cara / Keith Forsey
Flashdance…What A Feeling lyrics © Cloud9, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc
When I came home after that morning run, I cued up the song again with my headphones on and when those lyrics came on, I broke down and cried for the first time in so many years. I cried for the little girl I was all those years ago who felt so alone, and for the adult woman I was whose silence was cracking every day and on that day, it broke.
The reason it broke that day is because all my life I’ve heard the reason I don’t ask for help or share my feelings is because I have a shit-ton of pride stuck up my ass. THAT IS NOT TRUE IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM! I put that in all-caps because I’ve wanted to scream that out loud for forty years, and because it’s the truth.
Pride is not silent. It can be encased in silence as I have done so since I was very young but an overabundance of pride, which I will call egotistical bullshit, is never silent. It’s not pride that keeps people like me from asking for help or sharing my thoughts and feelings. It’s fear, fear of being shamed, humiliated, alienated, and hated simply for breaking my silence. I’ve said this before, but I’ll keep saying it until the day I die. Because those silent tears that Ms. Cara sang about all those years ago were tears of fear, fear that if I showed any pride in myself or my abilities that I would be hated, humiliated, and alienated. And that happened more times than I ever want to think about.
The first real crack in my silence happened about four years before this when I turned forty and told myself, “You’re not so bad after all.” I told myself then I wasn’t as much of a fuck-up as I always thought I was. That thought was a tiny kernel of pride coming to life inside me though I didn’t know that at the time. At the time I thought it was just a little affirmation I gave myself, the beginning of learning how to be kind to myself when I hadn’t been.
Pride is not silent. Pride is being kind to yourself. It’s about acknowledging your skills and accomplishments, and giving yourself encouragement to do more in life, and to reach out and try new things. In the past, I would have buried all this in silence, but I won’t anymore.
Pride is not silent.