Kate Spade is dead and I can’t stop seeing quotes.
They are laid out beautifully, worded gracefully, decorated with whimsy and sophistication, just as the woman, her goods, her creations, and – by all accounts – her life was. And yet, none of it mattered.
The tone deaf nature of the predominant response to such an untimely and wholly unnecessary death belies all the American platitudes of “caring about mental health”. We care. But don’t ask us to think about it, examine it, or question our own responses to the epidemic of suicide. We could all be sick, and we still wouldn’t get it. In fact, *maybe* (just maybe) we ARE all sick.
I will say this isn’t nearly as bad as that time a few years ago, when Robin Williams killed himself and some asshole on my Facebook ranted apathetically, sociopathically about how selfish he was, how there was simply no way Williams’ life had been as bad as theirs had as a child, and they had never committed suicide, so why would he? Thank goodness…I have cleaned out my life and social media enough to the point that I’m mostly left with people who have a pulse and/or common decency. I’ll say that.
But still, all the sorrow of how much we loved “her bags” makes me think we need to dive deeper here.
Now, listen, I don’t want to upset anyone here: There is NOTHING wrong with loving a fashion brand. Joanna Gaines could spray paint plastic mannequins to look like tacky trailer park mermaids and I’d probably love it. It’s okay to just dig something frivolous – so no judgment there. That’s not what this post is about. I like Kate Spade bags and what-have-yous as much as the next person. I will be honest to say I’ve personally never owned one, and it’s not just because I’m cheap AF. Being fully honest: I’ve never felt like the Kate Spade brand was really “for” my lifestyle or personality. Allow me to explain.
The Kate Spade brand was established on the idea of this fanciful, impulsive, lovable, charming girl. She embodies grace, fun, magic, and basically everything that makes us still hang pictures of Audrey Hepburn in busy salons. There’s a striving that happens here.
And the truth is? I don’t make sense in this ideal. If Audrey Hepburn was a Kate Spade bag, then I am a Target clearance special – beat up, utilitarian, practical, and keenly aware that I’m not “something better.” And I’m not saying that I don’t like myself – I do! It’s just…I’m not a Kate Spade girl. I’m a Target bag. Or maybe one of those canvas totes from L.L. Bean, I don’t know. In any case, the point is, the brand – the Kate Spade ideal – was prefaced upon something we need to think harder about:
A crushing, lonely, and depressing striving for perfection. And not just any perfection – a fluid, individualistic perfection that is almost lethally unattanable.
Think about that for a moment, and don’t get pissy (that would be too predictable, darling, and a Kate Spade girl is anything but predictable). Why did THIS woman, this successful, adored, well-to-do mother and wife with a 13 year old daughter to love and finish raising, a still newer and growing brand, and millions of adoring fans decide to hang herself in the middle of her luxury apartment? None of us can answer that, of course. But we need to look at everything she had, and everything we have, and realize that there’s something darker in all of us that begs to be let out of its cage. There’s an emptiness, a longing, an insecurity, a loss, a wound still gaping, or a God-shaped hole that could be filled – but may never even be so much as acknowledged.
Whatever the case, I can tell you this: If your value can be replicated in a sweat shop and sold on a street corner in New York City as a knock-off for a cut rate, you really need a bigger identity. Rooted in something more valuable. I could suggest God as a starting point, but people get pissed off when I do that, so I would just say: Start somewhere that can’t be set on fire. If it’s flammable, if it washes away with the tide, and if it can be picked up and hauled away by a garbage collector or a Category 2 hurricane, you need a bigger identity. Edit: I am not a healthcare professional and if in the process of finding your true identity you realize that you may also need a mental health provider, professional counselor, or prescription medication in order to manage your challenges, PLEASE DO THAT.
It’s worth mentioning that Kate Spade actually legally changed her name – CHANGED HER NAME – to match her new and growing brand, Frances Valentine. Doesn’t anyone else find that heart-stoppingly odd, and maybe even a little bit sad?
We need to think more about how we talk about mental health in the wake of a suicide, no matter how famous the person was or how much of a nobody they were. We need to look at one another and acknowledge the darkness, what Glennon Doyle Melton calls the “hot loneliness,” that thing that burns you alive but leaves you cold as ice. Whatever it is, you need to find someone to talk about it with, and you need to pour your heart out and leave nothing in the reserves. And if you’ve already acknowledged your hot loneliness (I have – there are people in this town who will tell you I’m a pile of ashes, and there’s truth to that), you need to start pouring water on your friends. You may not be able to stop a downward spiral. You may have to watch from the sidelines and feel utterly helpless. It happens every day. But you have to be ready to help those around you.
Because if you cannot do that, it eats you alive. The darkness. It devours you.
Right now, I have not one but two Kate Spades in my life. They are sunshine, hugs, smiles, and lies.
Maybe they are reading this. Hello, friends – oh, how I love you. Dancing as fast as you can, thinking I don’t see what a mess lies underneath. But oh, I see you. And I’m not giving up. I love your mess! I love your ugly! I’m not accepting the lipstick and champagne you’re giving me. I don’t believe your pretty things or your witty words. I want to see your Target bag. Show it to me.
Ponder for a moment that the person who sprinkles their glitter on your day may actually be drowning in a black hole of shit that they do not know how to crawl out of. Consider, if you will, that nothing is as it seems, and the more quick-witted, ruffle-hemmed, stiletto-heeled, and colorful the character, the higher the propensity to completely hide their darkness.
You will never know they are on fire. Unless you get to know them, be real, and open the door for honesty in return.
Do not let this woman die and the only thing we do be posting charming quotes.
Let’s start having real conversations about who we are and where our heads are at. Do it with your mothers, sisters, and friends.
Do it today.