The journey of self-discovery is long and never-ending. And as we all rush to uncover more about ourselves and discover more about this world during quarantine, Jane Fonda’s memoir is a reminder of the extent of such a process. It is lifelong.
And it is honest. Being honest and harsh are nearly synonymous within these discoveries. Something Fonda learned and adapted in her journey. My point in this review is to not reveal too many of the intimate details or discoveries she makes, what moments she had and ideas she had to grapple with, while praising how she nearly examined herself into lists of facts and myths.
To be brutally honest to one’s self is, obviously, uncomfortable. But to do it center stage as she had and to put it all together for millions to read, is not only brave but incredibly helpful. She was a mother that had to deal with her shortcomings and how they became such. What growing up in Hollywood and thriving in film really meant for her personal life, and all the simple truths us ordinary folks tend to forget ourselves, no wonder the book is over 600 pages.
For mothers, she is a role model for accepting one’s failures. Something, we all know as either the children or the parent of such, is a struggle. There is a belief that parents must be perfect. When perfection is impossible, accepting the imperfection is perfect. Parents aren’t Gods. Although they may see themselves that way in the creator relationship that is parenthood or they may treat themselves that way. Whilst Fonda, from an early age, saw the cracks in her parents facades. She never had the air of perfection for them, and in turn, she never had the confidence of such perfection as a parent herself. What it lead to was many hurdles and struggles for connection while the kids were growing up and an intimate vulnerability within their relationship as adults.
For teenagers, she is a warning story. Of doing things one’s not comfortable with, of things not fully understood, of taking control of one’s life in the wrong ways, rather than follow her path of comparison, she persuades readers to stand on their own two feet. Fonda spent her influential years at a girls-only boarding school. Instead of focusing on her studies or even herself, she focused on others. The pretty one’s she remembers. The infamous one’s she remembers. And all the ways she didn’t measure up to them, she remembers. As social media encourages further comparisons—you between her, you between him, your life to their life, their body to your body—it has become harder and harder to see yourself for only yourself. The male gaze has shifted to a robotic perspective. How will this track on Instagram? Do you conform to today’s beauty standards? Can you be your own person when they’re so many types of identities to follow? Comparison shopping is a whole new beast, but not a young one.
Fonda’s memoir is full of messages and lessons for all confused persons. It deteriorates the idea that celebrities are some mythical creature who suffer from abstract problems that the rest of society doesn’t. Fonda suffered from an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, bad relationships, lack of confidence, poor communication, moments of ignorance, speaking before thinking or even educating oneself, misogyny, abuse, and addiction. I think you can relate to at least one of those.