“I never loved another person the way I loved myself.” Mae West
I love Mae West. She was fierce before fierce was in vogue. She was an extremely talented, funny, confident woman. And unlike so many other Hollywood starlets, she never succumbed to the downsides of fame. Mae was never a pawn in anyone’s game, she was always the Queen. At 14 she was already a professional vaudeville performer noted for her “snappy way of singing and dancing.” Her first starring role on Broadway was in 1926 in a play entitled Sex, a play she wrote, produced and directed. Her film career began quite late really, she was almost 40 when she made her screen debut in Night after Night. She only had a small role to begin with, but in typical Mae style, she rewrote her scenes leaving her more famous co-star to remark that in the end “she stole everything but the cameras.” She never had children, was married twice and at 61 managed to snag herself a man, who was not only 30 years her junior, but who declared to all that he believed his entire purpose, his reason for living, for being, was to take care of Mae West. And he did, faithfully, until the day she died at age 87. Hers was a life filled with love for others, she was an outspoken supporter of gays waay before it was again in vogue, she was an outspoken supporter of women’s rights and their sexuality. Again way before it was commonplace and in fact it cost her her radio career as she was deemed too “vulgar and indecent” by the Federal Communications Committee. By all accounts Mae lived her life the exact way she wanted, by her rules, by her, well I suppose you say , by her devotion to the self. Mae West was once again ahead of the curve, she was doing selfies way before mobile phones were even invented for crying out loud. And yet when I first heard this quote my knee jerk reaction wasn’t one of admiration. It was, well, it was quite mixed. Isn’t it terribly selfish and vain, narcissistic to be so in love with one’s self? And especially as a mother – aren’t we supposed to love our children more than anyone or anything? If I did feel this way about myself- and I’m not saying that I do – Christ I could feel the guilt, the remorse, whooshing through my body, ready like Jonah’s whale, to swallow me whole. I threw myself a life ring – after all don’t the philosophers etc always say that until I love myself, I can’t love others. So it’s not like I looked at my reflection and went wow and fell in love. No it’s more about feeling that I am not looking to others for validation, for acceptance, for happiness.It’s about finding all that in myself. It is inherently selfish, taking care and looking after numero uno, and obviously thinking I’m worth it – no flick of hair needed- but if by loving myself I am happy, confident and able to voice my support for people different to myself, to people not accepted or loved by society, where’s the harm in it? Mae loved herself, but she also loved everyone else no matter their sexual preference, skin colour or religion. I think her sense of herself and ensuring she was always serving herself allowed her the freedom to be so open, so non-judgmental.Again, where’s the harm there? So thanks Mae for making me laugh, for making me wish I could swagger into a room like you could, but most of all, thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to love myself. Cue now the hair flick.