2 min

Jodie Foster’s pain

A defiantly reluctant coming out of sorts

If only she didn’t seem so uncomfortable.

Accepting her lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes Jan 13, Jodie Foster seemed anything but at peace with her life.

As one commenter put it, “No matter what we thought of the speech, rambling terror, determined privacy plea, brave coming out talk, I think we can all agree that no one should date Jodie Foster until she gets some therapy.”
For the two people who missed her seemingly confident yet hesitant speech, it can be summarized in four sad words: she pulled her punch.
Coming out can be scary. I should know; I’ve done it more often and unexpectedly than most, and, unlike Foster, I haven’t had to do it in Hollywood’s glare or with a crazy stalker trying to get my attention through attempted assassination.
“So while I’m here being all confessional, I guess I just have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public. A declaration that I’m a little nervous about, but maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now. But, you know, I’m just going to put it out there, right. Loud and proud, right. So I’m gonna need your support on this. I am, uh — single.”
“No, I’m kidding,” Foster said as surprised laughter filled the room. “But I mean, I’m not really kidding, but I kind of am.”
A pointed and even funny jab at her detractors?
A defiant stance from an intelligent woman determined to live life on her own private terms and challenge Hollywood’s obsession with tell-all TV?
A last-minute abort in an age of increasingly casual coming outs that Foster just can’t stomach?
A defensive statement from a woman whose first coming out, in 2007 (when she publicly thanked “my beautiful Cydney, who sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss”), was hailed by some and panned by others as not enough?
A heartfelt thank-you to that same ex-partner, “one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life,” whom this time Foster openly acknowledged, adding, “I am so proud of our modern family.”
I’d say all of the above. 
“I want to be seen,” Foster concluded, “to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.” 
It’s the loneliness that haunts me. 
In the same 2007 speech where she thanked her then-partner (without saying the word partner) she also revealed her pain. “I don’t feel very powerful. I feel fragile . . . unsure, struggling to figure it all out, trying to get there, even though I’m not sure where there is.”
When I look at Foster today, I see a reflection of the beautiful, strong woman that I loved as a teen, weakened by a lifetime of living less than openly.
I remember how strong she looked when she shook off the expectations of the gown-wearing gala-goers and strode onstage in a tailored pantsuit to accept her Oscar for Silence of the Lambs in 1992, three years after she awkwardly hitched up her strapless gown for The Accused. Both strong acceptance speeches, but to this day I remember the confident stride that brought her onstage, on her terms, in 1992.
“I’d like to dedicate this award to all of the women who came before me who never had the chances that I’ve had. The survivors and the pioneers and the outcasts — my blood, my tradition,” she declared 21 years ago, in what might have been her first step toward publicly coming out.
Imagine how confident her lifetime acceptance speech might have been had she stayed the course and fully embraced her life sooner.