Learning to Let People Just Be (s/o to Kelso!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

To me, he’s always been Keslo. Eric Forman’s young, dumb and full of … uh, bad ideas best buddy on That ’70s Show. I mean, I know Michael Kelso is just a character on a sitcom played by actor Ashton Kutcher, but somewhere in my brain the two beings magically melded and Kutcher permanently became Kelso. It’s not like I was a crazy fan of the show and thinking about Kutcher-Kelso on a regular basis, so it worked out. He was this friendly, handsome idiot, and it was fine. Even when the series ended after eight seasons and the actor went on to do other movies and took pranks to the next level (creating a whole new verb) with Punk’d, I would see his face pop up in a glossy magazine or TV and think, “Hey, look at Kelso doing his thing. Good for you, Kelso.”

But that all changed a couple of weekends ago, and Kelso’s brilliance cut through my assumptions and shallow assessments to show up a whole other side to this new person name Ashton Kutcher. Actually, that’s Christopher Ashton Kutcher, but we’ll get to that.

It was Sunday night, a few minutes after nine o’clock. Breaking Bad’s final season premiere had just started, and I was doing everything in my power not to watch it. To be clear, like so many other people (5.9 million of us, actually) I had been waiting a year for this show’s return. I was so ready for it, but I had made that promise to my husband. You know the one: “I swear, I won’t start watching without you.” Please know that I have been busted before on this particular offense, so I wanted to stick to my word this time and kept my finger off the DVR PLAY button.

Couldn’t risk going online for distraction — folks love live-tweeting everydamnthing — and reading a magazine was not happening. My mind was itching. I needed my W.W., my Jesse (bitch), my blue rock candy of a show. I grabbed the remote and started flicking through channels before landing on the Teen Choice Awards. Of course I stayed. Remember I have a vampire boyfriendto root for on these things.

There were so many young stars that I had no idea who they were or what they did that when they announced a special award for Ashton Kutcher, I was relieved. I could thankfully tuck my foot-smart Easy Spirit shoes back under the couch and pay attention.

Kutcher was receiving a special honor, the Ultimate Choice Award. “Let’s be honest, this is the old guy award,” he said, when he hit the stage to collect his surfboard. (See? Even he knows what’s up.) But that was the last funny thing the 35-year-old said. For the next four minutes, all the words that left his mouth (though a bit rambling) were so earnest and thoughtful, that I actually forgot all about Breaking Bad-on-pause and Kelso and the screaming girls in that audience, and I just listened intently to what the man was saying.

He thanked all of his fans, sincerely, telling them that he doesn’t have a career without them, and that he wanted to share some of his “insider secrets.” It started with revelation that his real name is Chris. Ashton is his middle name and it all got changed when he went into acting at the age of 19.

“There were some amazing things I learned when I was Chris, and they’ve helped me get where I am today,” he said, to the slightly stunned/giddy audience. The three things he imparted to the youngsters were:

  1. “Opportunity looks a lot like hard work.” (Basically, stick with shit, young’uns. Don’t quit because you have to put your back into it sometimes.)
  2. “Sexiest thing in the world is being really smart, and thoughtful and generous.” (Hit the books. You can twerk later, because intellect is always fly. And be kind. It matters.)
  3. Build a life don’t just live one. (Dream it up and make it happen instead of sitting on the bench and letting the clock run out.)

Granted it’s not Dalai Lama-level, but it’s commendable that Kutcher used this platform to say something with a bit weight behind it.

I’m sure some folks were rolling their eyes, others were wondering if his upcoming turn as Steve Jobs will rate, but there are those who walked away from Kutcher’s time on the pulpit with at least one good thought, too. Mine? That Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover thing is almost always true. Also, Kelso’s all grown up into Ashton Kutcher, a guy who study biochemical engineer in college, who got a big acting break in Hollywood playing a ditzy dude, but who is anything but dim. (Sidebar: Kutcher is also quite the savvy venture capitalist, playing big numbers and winning at the high-tech investor game. We’re talking big investments in new-tech companies like Skype and Foursquare.)

This new (to me) light that Kutcher stepped into also revealed something else. Actually, more confirmed what I’ve known for a good while — what we all know, frankly: We are a judge-y lot. Some of us strive to better that defect, and are making progress. Others find flimsy comfort in pressing forward with the practice of making our minds up about a person — other parents, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and especially celebrities — about who they are, estimating their value against ours, and whether they matter all based on some thin slice of their lives that we glimpse (or think we do).

The truth is, we don’t know anything. We barely know ourselves. It might sound like a fortune cookie line or something to say, but I’m really striving to make it my standard: Let people be just that — people. Allow them the space and the grace to live life how they feel it. Let them be great. Just let them be.

  • 1
    Laura says:

    I loved this post. I am a new follower and I had heard about his acceptance speech but hadn’t seen it myself yet. Thank you for the thoughts and truthfulness. I totally feel like sometimes I don’t know who I am anymore since I had children and I get sick of everyone judging everyone else!

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Welcome to MMM, Laura! So glad you stopped by and left a great comment. Thank you.

      It’s interesting that you say you almost don’t know who you are anymore since having kids. That’s the main reason I started this blog! Talking about making that transition from “me” to Mom, is what I said. There was even a recurring section called “I Used to Be Me,” where I talked to other new mothers about this sometimes overwhelming life change. And, yes, Judge Judgey McJudgerstein having something to say about everything you choose to do does. not. help. It’s when it clicks for you that whatever works or makes sense for you and YOUR family is what is best — not what the others are doing — that’s when you start coming into your own. When you settle into this new skin of Someone’s Mama. Hmm…think this might just be my next vlog post, so more thanks to you, Laura!