Winter 2001.

An Open Letter to Eve Harrington

by Mary Panza

Dear Miss Harrington,

You have been bothering me for some time. Please understand that the biggest betrayals of my life have come from females. My biggest scars are from the sharp claws of someone I called 'friend'. Perhaps I have been the most naïve of all, since I expect women to be respectful of women. I believe in them, and as I can see now, with too much faith. Women are human. That is why, Miss Harrington, I am writing this letter to you, and all that have come before you.

I choose to call you 'Miss Harrington' because I believe Bette Davis watches over me. She, like me, was not very pretty, nor very talented, and she led a lonely life. She did, however, have a big mouth, and if she didn't like you, you knew it. No dances, no games. She and I are very much alike. So, Miss Harrington, here is the truth.

I always thought of myself as Margo Channing, Grand Diva of All. I was wrong. I am Birdie. Birdie was Margo's main friend/cheerleader. She loved Margo. She loved her enough to tell her the truth and risk their friendship. She lost. I am Birdie, and you, Miss Harrington, are not a nice girl. You have played on the kindness and sympathy of all the women you have come across, and won them all, except one. You and your kind are opportunists. Still, I feel that the worst thing about you is your ambition. I have a few years on you and I know remorseless ambition when I see it. I know that this truth will cost me. I know that my last scene in this move will be before it is half over. The truth is a cold lover, Miss Harrington, and I have been cold, and am prepared to be again so.

Why now? Why you? I am too old to have my feelings hurt by female friends. I have been fighting this fight with Miss Harringtons for far too long. You win by default. Take, use, abuse, and God Bless; it hurts too much. Some things you can expect: Praise, Press, Publishing, Photos, and in ten years, some young bitch crawling up your ass for your most cherished possession. Position. It is a small town, and your position in the pecking order can become everything, or so I thought. In fact, it is very empty. With your success, you can expect very catty things to be said about you. Your past will become present, right out in the open. It might be fine at first – you will want to let the 'scene' in on your life and pain. Let them in, and they will pick your bones. or even worse, cease to care. But it is a chance you will take because, after all, you have all this 'love' and 'support' behind you. By all means, go forward! There will be great feelings of accomplishment. It will bring you men, and free drinks, stalkers, great tables at restaurants, area charities beckoning you, brushes with icons, a smile and welcoming gesture at the head of the longest lines, and above all, Miss Harrington, a high place in the pecking order. Congratulations to you. It will be fine, at first. Then reality sets in. Which reality, Miss Harrington? This one: the rent will still need to get paid. Has your 'support system' already contributed? The party will age you, quick. You may want to go into a different direction. Whose toes get stepped on first? Your opinion may differ from those around you. What then? An open letter to Birdie? What about real life? How much suffering are you going to do for your art? Your furniture gets old, the literature you are so bound to gets outdated, software changes, quick. Is there more than one story in you? How many people did your ambition alienate? I know of one. What next? Are you that secure to know your accomplishments came from talent and not from those whom you were associated? Welcome, Miss Harrington, to the number thirty.

It took me a while and much frustration to write this. I questioned myself many times. It would have been so much easier to pretend to like you and then act surprised when the truth came out. Women like Birdie are not built that way, and the knot in my stomach tells me to be honest. So here is my honesty and a shitload of free advice. I never give advice, for the reasons I am giving it to you: You will think I am talking about someone else or you will never use it. It is my consolation prize. It will be the thing I laugh at when you cry 'victim' to all of my 'friends'. Or perhaps you will be above it all, or you will come up with something even I can't see. It doesn't matter. Not to me, not anymore.

I crown you, Miss Harrington. I appreciate the courage you have given me. I am not the diva. Margo was fragile. She had no street smarts. Birdie did, as I do. Thanks to you and all the Miss Harringtons, I have eyes in the back of my head and the courage to trust my instincts. I can stand alone. I can want, but not need, help. I am the gal with her head on straight. Thank you, Miss Harrington, for being you.

Yours most sincerely,

Good old what's her name

MARY PANZA knows all about Eve. And Adam, too.