You Have to Do Better Than That, Lea.
Sorry, sweetie. This is gonna be long. Considering the disdain you reserve to the masses less talented and fortunate than yourself, my imploring may seem like a drop in the bucket. I hope you hear me out, though.
Let me take you on a trip to perhaps the darkest moment in my recent years. Sophomore year at Luther College. Fall of 2012.
I met a charming, young man struggling through his senior year. To respect his privacy, I’ll refer to him as Jacob. We became friends through work study, and in that fall semester, we established a tender bond. I was definitely overbearing as far as emotional baggage was concerned; I had only come out of the closet last spring, but he was a true friend and listened and stuck with me. For all of my maladjusted tendencies, he accepted me as I was and delighted in our various night talks and banter. It seemed like a friendship that would endure outside of that pristine collegiate period.
I was wrong for two reasons.
One, Jacob was afflicted with cystic fibrosis, an incurable genetic disorder with a fluctuating survival rate. Who knew if he would live be 30? Jacob was the first person in my life I encountered with an incurable disease, and I couldn’t handle that matter gracefully. I wanted to be understanding, but I was too prideful to accept I couldn’t.
Two, he had a girlfriend. He was straight. A deeper, more intimate relationship was impossible. I developed feelings for him, and that compounded my frustration and inner angst.
Both of these reasons tore me inside. Worse, I refused to confess my feelings to him in fear of rejection and embarrassment. I didn’t want to confront these cruel realities.
And that’s when it began to unravel.
The spring semester was a long five months. My sadness morphed into jealousy and resentment. I was passive-aggressive to him. I crossed personal boundaries (touched his beard or rubbed his back), and when he called me out, telling me he was uncomfortable and that I should stop, I took it personal. I emotionally manipulated him and played mind games with him and even some of his friends. One night, my horrendous, unacceptable behavior reached another level. I got drunk and picked fights with his friends and even him. In that semester, there were countless opportunities Jacob gave me to apologize and make amends. His friends, my co-workers, were mercifully forbearing. But I refused to admit I had a problem. I didn’t want to face the mirrors everyone was pointing at me. They were practically begging for a revelation that wouldn’t come.
And that was it. After my sophomore year, Jacob rightfully cut all ties with me, and hasn’t seen or spoken to me since. He had every right to shut me out, so he finally did.
Even then, having sent a sincere apology to him, I didn’t confront the horrid cruelty I inflicted on him, for something out of his control. It wouldn’t be until a couple of years, right out of college, I would actually sit down, stew over the past events, and accept and admit the fact I had truly hurt him. I exploited our friendship to take out my resentment and anger on him. It was gut-wrenching, realizing I had ruined a beautiful, cherished relationship, realizing the damage was irreparable, that it was too late. Alone in my room, I asked Jacob for forgiveness, hoping he would somehow receive my spiritual message. I mentally reached out to him and prayed he was safe, awaiting the time he could find it in his heart to accept it.
That was the first step. The next was excruciating and soul-crushing, but necessary.
I had to forgive myself. I realized my refusal to address my past stemmed from procrastinating on the hard work — becoming a better person. Actively striving to be better. Learning from my mistakes, insuring I would never again inflict the harm and heartache I had on Jacob to anyone. It wasn’t simple. It was hell. Contemplating what I had done wrecked me for months, but I reminded myself what has passed has passed. I had sent him my apology, and it was my duty to make a change, grow from my sins, and prove to myself, Jacob, those co-workers, and others I am a different, better person.
My penance walk hasn’t ended. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about Jacob, praying he’s doing alright, living the best life, a life he deserves. I hope one day he forgives me, seeks me out, so we can start anew. There are days, contrarily, when it’s difficult to face myself in the bathroom mirror. There are days I worry that those co-workers will think of me with scorn, rightfully deeming me as a flawed, foolish man, capable of being needlessly cruel. There are days I see what Jacob sees if he envisions me: an ex-friend who betrayed his trust and loyalty. It’s a consistent battle, it’s grueling, but I’m not afraid anymore. I accept the consequences of what I did and use it for good. Being empathetic to others, reflecting the nuances of forgiveness, mercy, redemption, and striving to be the best person I can be.
That’s what I offer my former friend. I just hope one day, it’ll be enough.
So why this long post, Lea? Why did I share this troubling story of hurt, pride, and broken friendship?
Please, please, please, please, please, don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Pride truly is a monstrous entity. It ruined my chances to reconnect with Jacob when there was still time. From what I can tell of the unfolding drama surrounding your recent and past behavior on the sets of Spring Awakening, Glee, and The Mayor, to name a few, pride has certainly eroded the potential for your relationships with fellow artistes and collaborators. The one silver-lining in my case was the lack of enablers. My co-workers saw through my carnival act and called me out on my shit. No one was there to coddle my toxic behavior, unlike you. And now, there’s an end to your echo chamber. There are a handful of transgresses who fell prey to your demeaning behavior, who were left feeling subhuman, who even questioned whether to pursue an acting career because of their encounter with you. You have a lot to atone for, Lea. As do I.
I understand how terrifying it is to be confronted with your past sins. It requires thoughtful, painstaking soul-searching to face the hurt you’ve caused. It’s not gonna be pretty, Lea, but you have to do it. You’re running out of excuses. I did. “Bad days” never justify treating someone like garbage. No amount of reasoning and explanation justifies how I treated Jacob. I am responsible for my actions, and I need to account for the hurt I caused him and his friends. Believe me, the sooner you confront your horrendous attitude and ugly heart, the better off you’ll be. You say you want to be the best role model for your child. How about the aspiring freshman in high school who dreams of Broadway or Hollywood? How about your fellow colleagues who would love, more than anything, to watch you transform into an outstanding, virtuous actress who connects with other actresses through empathy, appreciation of arts and their varying nuances? Who’s to say your behavior would’ve remained unchecked if you weren’t expecting a child or if George Floyd wasn’t murdered?
One of the main contentions of the current racial and class struggles is the principle of accountability.
Everyone must be held accountable for their actions. EVERYONE.
Did you hear me, Lea? YOU. ME. EVERYONE.
For too long, systemic racism has enabled corrupt officials and officers to disregard the law and cover their tracks. Especially at the expense of black lives, protesters’ lives, and other POC communities deemed less significant than white lives. Centuries of police brutality, violation of human rights, it adds up, and eventually the oppressed is going to stand up, shove back and yell, “Enough is enough!”
For too long, you, Lea Michele, have been enabled to demean your understudies and colleagues, ridicule and insult actors/actresses you perceive as unworthy of your time, and exploit your privilege when you don’t get your way. Years and years of treating your peers like garbage, selfishly appropriating a tragedy when your actions contradict your sentiments and condolences, it adds up. You were called out because now those “cockroaches” have a voice. They can read your filth just as you tried to read theirs. And to be clear, I don’t necessarily think you’re a racist. I do have to agree with actress Samantha Marie Ware. Your behavior is merely the result of a system guilty of fostering white privilege and white voices. You are most likely a product of the system. Thankfully, you have the capability, the might, to subvert your upbringing. This is your time of reckoning. I’m begging you, do not waste it.
That said, let’s briefly discuss your apology.
It was disappointing. No point in wasting time with that.
I’ve danced that pathetic dance before. No one can pull it off, not even someone of your caliber. It’s cheap, lazy, and a blatant denial. You need to do better than that. If you intend to uphold your promise. you have to do better than that. You’re running out of excuses, and you’re running out of time. Your “perception” and lack of memory speak volumes. It’s obvious you’re deflecting the blame, absolving yourself of any wrongdoing. Stop prolonging the inevitable. Admit your mistakes, apologize, and actively strive to be better. I’ll say it again, it’s hard work. No one likes being wrong. No one wants to exchange their suits or dresses for sackcloth. No one likes to say “I’m sorry.” It’s a hefty blow to the ego. We dream and joke about getting away with pranks. Yet, we write different comedic fodder when we’re caught. Please, Lea. You must apologize, and you must do it right. You have to want to want. People can detect a lie or any trace of insincerity. As Kirsten Dunst quipped in Elizabethtown, everyone is less mysterious than they think they are.
Lean into the times, Lea. We’re experiencing a social and political unrest we haven’t seen in decades. The time for change and self-evaluation is now. It cannot wait.
Do not waste this opportunity. Do not spend years refusing accountability. Do not make my mistakes.
You are a talented individual, an artist who has touched the lives of many, inspiring hopefuls to pursue their dreams. You can be a genuine human being, but it can’t happen overnight, it’s not going to be glamorous and instant like a Rachel Berry subplot, and it won’t happen until you take that first step. It won’t do any good unless you want to want. I speak from the depths of my heart. You can do this. You can forgive yourself and make amends to those you have hurt. It’s not too late.
Please, for the love of God, Lea. From a foolish, prideful dumbass who constantly regrets and mourns the demise of a dear friendship, please listen to me.
You know what you have to do. Do what’s right, and do it right.