dear robbie benson, save me

Dear Robbie Benson,

My granddaughter has been locked in the spare room for over three hours now, listening to music on her walkman and looking at your picture. She cut it out of a magazine.

She did show it to me. I hope you won’t be offended when I say that I fail to see the appeal. I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen what a real haircut looks like. Then again, I don’t suppose you’ll actually read this, so what is there to get offended by? Millie – my granddaughter – tells me that movie stars don’t read their fan mail any more these days. She also tells me that no-one calls them “movie stars” any more.

I’m afraid that you have become somewhat of a bone of contention in this house. Millie is spending the first few weeks of summer with me, while her parents, my daughter and her husband, are in Spain trying to save their marriage.

Millie and I haven’t seen each other for more than a weekend at a time since she was seven. This was supposed to be our chance to spend time getting to know each other. But all she wants to do is listen to her music and read those tacky magazines.

She waits for each one to come out, then reads and re-reads them until the next one comes along. She could probably recite them from memory if she had to. She even goes through the stacks of old ones at the second-hand book shop. She gets especially excited if she finds a picture of you, or an interview. There aren’t that many. I’m not even sure how famous you are.

She won’t talk to me. She won’t take off her headphones. I should be grateful for the invention of these walkmans, I suppose. Given current tastes, as indicated by those magazines, I imagine that I wouldn’t care for her music. I wonder if my mother would have complained about Elvis so much if I had had headphones?

I wanted to write to you, even if I know you will never read this. Especially as you will never read it, as a matter of fact.

I do wish you’d stop giving interviews, Mr Benson.

Sincerely yours,

Linda Dougherty

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

Do you know, that was the first letter I had written to anyone in months? I used to write several a week, and receive my fair share as well.

Maggie Collins from next door was over yesterday, and she brought it up. I hadn’t noticed, really, how big the change had been, until she mentioned it. She said that she had wanted to write a letter to the local newspaper editor the other day, and the office asked her to email it in.

She was vastly displeased, and clearly expected me to feel the same.

I don’t.

I never liked writing letters. I always ran out of things to say. (Polite things, I mean, of course. One can never express oneself properly in letters, unless you can trust the recipient to burn the thing after reading it.) But the big blank sheet stares up at you, and you feel pressured to fill up the space. And there are all those rules about what should go in which paragraph. And not starting sentences with conjunctions. Emails, apparently, can be acceptable as a single line.

Perhaps I should get a computer. One of those new portable ones. I will ask my daughter to get me one, as soon as she’s back.

Or perhaps I could write all my correspondence on post-it notes.

Yours,

Linda

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

Moira – that’s my daughter, did I mention her name was Moira? – just called from Spain. The marriage is still in the process of being saved, it seems, and they will be there for a while longer.

Millie’s disappointment was evident. I imagine mine was too. We grimaced at each other and each went to our rooms.

The idea that a marriage is something to be “saved” is not something I can fully support, really. You can’t just swing in and rescue the thing like a cat from a burning building. If it is to be saved, you have to save it every single day, the way I did with my late husband, Anthony. Still, I admit that many couples don’t even try, so I have to applaud their efforts. Although why the saving had to take place in Spain, I’m really not sure.

Yours,

Linda

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

I tried staying in my room every afternoon this week, just to see what was so nice about it. Maybe it’s nicer if you sprawl on your bed. I am physically incapable of sprawling, and have to sit up against the headboard or a mound of pillows like I’m a renaissance maiden recovering from a long illness, which I’ve hardly the figure for.

I’ve migrated back to the living room, and have purchased a large pair of rubberized headphones. They were very expensive, but I have managed to attach them to my record player, and am currently listening my way through my entire Elvis collection.

Now there was a man who knew his way around a haircut.

Linda

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

I just wanted to see how much of a letter I could write on a post-it note. I think this could work well as a correspondence option, though it might stick to the inside of the envelope.

Linda

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

I haven’t worn makeup in years, but this afternoon when I walked into my bedroom I immediately smelled face powder. Nothing was out of place, so I couldn’t be certain. But at dinnertime, Millie refused to leave her room. She obviously thinks it some kind of utopia in there – blessed if I know why, it’s got all of my ugliest furniture – but she at least leaves to eat.

I waited for her to go to the bathroom, then pounced. It was worse than I’d feared.

She’d managed the lipstick and rouge all right, though neither suited her skin tone. I hadn’t any eyeliner left, however, just partially desiccated mascara, which she had applied in liberal quantities to her lashes – and then to her eyebrows. It had not gone well. She had obviously attempted to remove it, but had only managed to smear it so that her eyebrows not only appeared to join in the middle, but run into her hairline at either side.

I gave her some makeup remover. I suppose I should have reprimanded her… but then I started laughing. I couldn’t help it.

She scowled, which given the state of her face was truly horrifying to witness. She went into her room and slammed the door.

I have been trying to remember whether her mother ever did anything like that. I recall more shouting and rolled eyes than slammed doors. I was the one to send her to her room, she’d never send herself.

I’ve no idea how to deal with a child who won’t speak to me. Really, this hardly seems fair; I thought I was done with parenting. Shouldn’t it be like riding a bike, when it comes to the second time round? All that “it takes a village to raise a child” stuff must have something behind it, no?

I guess you must know a lot about makeup, being an actor. You’ve never used mascara on your eyebrows, have you?

Linda

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

I’m tired.

I have no reason to be tired. I’ve not done anything strenuous today, other than going down to the town centre to buy Millie some cheap makeup from the pharmacy. Taught her how to use it, too.

Then Moira called, and kept trying to explain some sort of epiphany she’d had at night on a beach in Spain. I didn’t understand it, so she asked to speak to Millie and tried to explain it to her. She didn’t understand it either. The main gist of it seems to be that they’re still not coming back yet.

Millie went back to her room after that, and I put on Johnny Cash.

I never listened to Johnny Cash, he was always Anthony’s favourite.

Linda

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

Millie was very excited to see your show mentioned in another magazine today. I bought it for her. She was excited again when we got home and found a message from her mother asking us to call her back.

We did. Moira said that she’d been thinking long and hard about her epiphany, and she had written some things down, and she wanted to try explaining it again. Millie listened politely, though I sensed that it wasn’t going any better this time.

When there was a break, Millie started telling her mother about how good she was at putting on makeup now, and how we’d been looking today for a special sparkly eyeshadow palette she’s seen in a magazine. Moira started speaking again, her tone quite different this time, and saying some very unpleasant things from what I could hear. You’d think Millie had said she was going to move to Paris to dance at the Moulin Rouge.

Millie tried to say that she had only wanted to look pretty, and Moira really lost it. Shouting, her voice breaking. Millie had started to cry too. I took the phone from her, and told Moira to call back when she had calmed down. I recommended that she have a cup of strong tea. Then I hung up.

I suppose I’m still on my first round of parenting, after all.

Do you have children?

Linda

~

Dear Robbie Benson,

Millie and I watched that Disney film you were in. We rented it from the library and watched it while eating fish and chips from out of their newspaper wrappings, no plates. We’d both seen it before, but I hadn’t realised you were in it. It’s very good. You should be very proud of yourself.

Tomorrow, she’s agreed to watch one of my favourite films, with Tony Curtis, to whom I vaguely recall once writing a letter.

I hope you’re well.

Yours,

Linda

2 thoughts on “dear robbie benson, save me

  1. Kate – This was my suggested title! I love your take on it.
    “I just wanted to see how much of a letter I could write on a post-it note. I think this could work well as a correspondence option, though it might stick to the inside of the envelope”

    I have been working on a story about a young girl in the late 70s/early 80s who writes in her diary to Robbie Benson called, Dear Robbie Benson. The story begins with a woman in her 40s going back to her childhood home and finding her old diaries. And yes, I can recite Ice Castles line for line…

    1. Thanks for the great title! …I’m going to be honest, I had to look up who Robbie Benson was (sorry). I’d love to read your piece, it sounds great!

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