Friday, December 4, 2009
“At Liz Claiborne…Our primary constituency… is women” Tim Gunn said as I began to come back to my senses. “And while we can help dress them, we know that at the very core of someone feeling great about themselves is self esteem. You can look as fabulous as possible but if there is something in the way, inside, it’s going to impact the way you navigate the world. We know domestic violence is something that is pervasive and something that is often talked about in a whisper behind closed doors; and it frequently starts with teens”.
And at that point, I opened my big mouth and interrupted him out of pure nerves. Ok, strike one, someone needs to come over here and stuff a baffle in my mouth so I stop INTERUPTING TIM GUNN. Kthanks.
“I’ll tell you about my method,” He continued, completely unaware that I am about fourteen seconds away from breaking into the opening number from “Hair” and asking him to join in from just sheer, palpable nerves alone, “Navigate the world with respect for yourself, respect for your fellow human beings, and be a good citizen of the planet.”
Words to live by, uttered by one of the most identifiable fashion icons of our time.
Tim went on to explain a little bit more about what the day is about “Its important that we all receive education about the signs of being a victim, as well as identifying the signs of being an abuser because they can be subtle. So frequently people go right to the most obvious and iconic signs of abuse… physical abuse... but the signs of domestic abuse are much more subtle… think about the cyber aspect of abuse. Texting for example ‘you didn’t get back to me you didn’t get back to me you didn’t get back to me, then your response is, ‘ I’m in class!!’" He exclaimed. "the intent is not always to be abusive, but that persistence… it sets up the possibility. This is not acceptable to do, and to those on the receiving end, they need to realize, it’s not acceptable either.”
“It’s important that parents play a pivotal roll in this” he continued, and just as my nerveous habit of breaking into show tunes started to dissipate, Strike two, I interrupt THE GUNN AGAIN. Oh my heavens, I think, shut up Stacy.
“Where does it start then?” I ask, maybe a little too obnoxiously, though Tim never once made me feel like I am anything but fabulous. “Why are some teenage boys respectful, and other’s go down the path of abuse?”
“ I don’t have children, “ Tim explains, “but I have taught for 27 years. And it is learned. I have to add also, as an observer of the world, I am concerned about a lot of the things on television that kids are exposed to. It puts bad behavior on a pedestal, and glorifies aggressive behavior. Im not saying no TV, no internet, no facebook by any means, but I am concerned with the types of things young people are viewing… it says to them, ‘Its ok to act this way.’ "
Tim and I went on to have a two way conversation about where the prevention starts. I am profoundly curious, when it come to the cycle of violence in families, how nature and nurture play a part in crafting the mind of an abuser. I mean, besides the obvious things like watching your father abuse your mother, or having alcohol abuse or neglect in the home, what other red flags are there in a modern family that would trigger the negative-energy rollercoaster that makes a child grow into a person who believes its ok to abuse? “I don’t want to blame it all on the media,” Tim says, “ But it does seem to glorify bad, and negative behavior. I mean, just look at the White House crashers.”
“ I… kind of thought that was cool, “ I say, and instantly want to shove a nearby prototype handbag into my mouth to ebb the spew of verbal diarrhea “ I think it’s going to make the White House safer. Tell the secret service to step up their game a bit. I mean it's the secret service, not Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”
Tim bursts out laughing, and my goodness, it is genuine, and I feel at ease with him. I instantly develop an urge to invite him over, take all my clothing out back, and set them on fire. To say Tim Gunn is just a regular guy is not accurate. He is not a regular guy, and I think blogs that say "he is just a regular person and so nice” are missing the point that he is so much more than this. Tim is a philanthropist, he is a character, and he is kind, witty, and caring, with a quick tounge, soft tone, and a gentle nature. In person his appearance is perfection personified. The way he presents himself tells the world how he feels about himself, another point him and I touched on. When you feel good about the way you look, you command proper treatment. This actually ties in with preventing domestic violence, because when you feel good about yourself you know you deserve respect. The men and women in your life won’t have an opportunity to start the cycle of abuse.
For the next 15 minutes, I talked with Tim about other topics, like his lunch with Michelle Obama, ( apparently she is all about portion control) his experiences as a teacher with a very ungrateful and disrespectful student ( he had me in stitches) and by the time it was all over I was devastated to see him walk away. But I was profoundly affected by my short time with Tim Gunn, and it’s not because I’m “star struck” or impressed by his fame. I am completely taken with the man based on how committed he is to stopping domestic violence, and how he has a real desire to make people feel good about themselves. And if you are wondering if Tim offered me clothes, or a make-over, no, he didn't and do you know why? Because I don't need it. I know I am fabulous just the way I am. Overall, I am greatful that I got to sit down and talk with Tim about the incredibly pressing issue of dating violence. And just as importantly, I’m glad he liked my outfit.