Monday, June 4, 2018

His Intellectual Trophy

It's not like you have to be head over heels in love to appreciate an unexpected romance.

Back in 2009, I went to see "Julie and Julia" expecting to come away with a fuller picture of how Julia Child became Julia Child. Instead, I was captivated by the love story between Julia and Paul Child and how devoted to each other they were, while the storyline about Julie was downright annoying.

The movie sent me straight to Chop Suey in search of a used copy of  Child's "My Life in France" so I could read more about how their romance and relationship began and flourished. I reread it five years later just to remind myself about that kind of love because I hadn't experienced it yet.

Tonight's film choice, "RBG," at the Criterion was based on nothing more than being a documentary dork and wanting to have a fuller sense of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legal accomplishments. Really, that was it. That her life contained a major love story was a complete and utterly wonderful bonus to learning how she changed the legal landscape for women in this country.

And while I vaguely recall those landmark gender disparity cases she argued as a lawyer in the '70s, when you look at them in hindsight, it was a remarkable entity she was knitting together to enlighten the all-male Supreme Court about the realities of being a woman in a weighted society.

I'm sure my Mom would have been even more impressed with the fact that the Notorious RBG lived by her own mother's cardinal rules: Be a lady. Be independent.  In many ways, those two things were mutually exclusive during the first few decades of RBG's career.

But where I fell hard for the well-executed documentary was with her romance with her husband Marty. RBG was up front about why she'd been so attracted to him after a string of first dates that never turned into second dates: "He was the first boy I ever knew who cared I had a brain."

Can we just have a moment of gratitude for all the men astute enough to be drawn to a woman's brain back in the dark ages of the 1950s when women were expected to excel at housekeeping and motherhood, not forming opinions and reading law? And RBG wasn't shy either about saying, "Meeting Marty was the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me."

Call it mush, if you must, but I call that pure romance.

Clinton was downright blunt about considering her for a Supreme Court nomination, saying that he'd known within 15 minutes of talking to her that he wanted that mind on the nation's highest court. The interesting part was that, despite her legal accomplishments and days on the DC Court of Appeals (a feat accomplished because President Carter was determined to put women and minorities in judicial positions - go Jimmy, incidentally the first president I ever voted for), her profile was too low and her demeanor too reserved for her to be on anyone's short list for a judgeship.

Enter Marty who began a campaign for her to at least be considered and, lo and behold, she winds up in Clinton's sites, allowing her the opportunity to wow him with her keen mind. And I think we all know Clinton appreciated a good mind, even if he was, shall we say, distractable.

The documentary tried to unpack RBG's lofty place in popular culture usisng millennial lawyers and even her own granddaughter gushing about what a role model and brilliant thinker she is. But, of course, it's bigger than that. The Notorious RBG is cool in a way few 85-year olds could ever hope to be.

Which reminds me of a screened porch discussion I was having with Pru and Beau the other night after a sensational meal at Lucy's (snapper with the texture of lobster in a coconut/ginger sauce with jasmine rice and matchstick green beans and red peppers, oh-so tropical-tasting) and seeing the Golden Girls-esque "Always a Bridesmaid" at Swift Creek Mill Theater.

Favorite line: "I just want to met a man who hates all the same things I do!" Good lucky, honey, that's harder than it sounds.

And on that night, Pru was looking at the big picture, inquiring of us, "Is this the coolest you've ever been in your life?"

Beau didn't hesitate, announcing that he was most definitely at his coolness peak (have you seen that swoop?) and frankly, this is probably as cool as I can ever hope to be after so many years as a nerd. Maybe not full-on cool, but at least less non-cool than before.

But when I turned the tables, her disdain was immediately evident when I asked if this was her coolest period.

"Uh, no!" she said with all the conviction of someone who'd been breaking rules and breaking bad for decades, while Beau and I had been ensuring that we never colored outside the lines.

And RBG's been exhibiting her brand of effortless cool even longer than Pru.

Legal accomplishments aside, I'm even going to say that her storybook romance with Marty alone elevated her into the cool kids' club. Let's face it, most people never get lucky enough to meet their person, so when it happens, it's automatic cool cred.

Which means I may have a shot at cool after all. Thanks, brain.

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