Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor died this morning, of congestive heart failure. She was 79.

It’s kind of a rainy day here in New York, and I have a lot of work to do, but for some reason this news is really hitting me hard. They keep showing clips and photos of her, and I am fascinated by her beauty and by her talent. Violet eyes, perfect brows and lashes, creamy skin and a perfect body; She was once hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world.

I’m always saddened by women who are this beautiful, especially in this time. She was a child star, then a celebrated actress. She was a two time academy award winner. Elizabeth was married a total of eight times. Eight. She was a mother of four, grandmother to nine. In her later life she was an aggressive and outspoken HIV/AIDS activist, when the issue was not popular. She was a survivor, living through more than her share of health issues and heart ache. And yet, I feel like most of us (myself included) are mourning her eyes.

Beauty, especially in cases like her’s where it is truly remarkable, is dangerous. Women in Hollywood’s golden era were over worked, used and abused, handled. It was the men who had all the fun and the power, though it was performances like Elizabeth’s in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that we all remember. The Hollywood contract system kept its actors shackled, and of course women were especially powerless. Especially objectified. In later years Elizabeth was treated for alcohol abuse. I suspect that, like Marilyn, she was on the roller coaster of uppers and downers that beautiful women looking for love in all the wrong places used to get through busy days and lonely nights. With beauty and talent like hers, she was surely a commodity. A valuable, cashable commodity. And more often than not, the people around you see dollar signs and don’t have your best interest at heart. It’s a cliche, and an tragedy we’ve all heard before.

Beauty is fascinating. But I think, maybe, part of the reason it’s so fascinating is because of what it masks. Her violet, one of a kind eyes, were concealing secrets of what I suspect was an oft-broken heart. That is, at least, one reason why she was so captivating on screen. I am thankful for her talent, her legacy of caring, and for her beauty. It was a gift we all took without asking, a gift we feel entitled to. But we aren’t. I’m glad that she was surrounded by family, I hope they are comforted by the collective grief I’ve seen pour out. I hope we all remember the woman behind the classic face, and the heart hidden behind the eyes.

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