On Not Being A Big Hollywood Film Director, and Other Life Choices by Marie Cartier

MARIE CARTIER- YOUNGAs you read this, dear FAR community, it will be my 59th birthday. I was born February 27, 1956. I have one year to go before I turn 60. For this last year I desperately wanted to dye my hair blue, purple and green and let the roots go gray.

However in a long conversation with my hair stylist she helped me realize that I have spent so many years dying my hair various shades of brown, dark brown and burgundy that if I bleach the hair out to white (so that I can then go blue, purple and green) the hair will fry and fall out—ah, Ok. I willhair live with my brown, black and burgundy hair until I am ready to go completely gray and watch it grow out (my hairdresser tells me it will take three years). Or I will decide to live with the choice I made to dye my hair since I was 35 or so and let it be and keep dying it – and have that be the choice I made.

I bring this up to illustrate how at some point we have to make peace with our choices. Aging is life—if we are lucky. And I have written about this before in another “birthday post” last year two weeks after my mother passed. So another year has slipped through the hour glass and now my father is gone.

Whatever eschatological formations or study of “end things” we hold dear or loose – aging happens if we are lucky. As we age, we see seasons, pets, people, cities we have lived in and will not again, places we visited and will not visit again, and ideas and things we let go of as we lighten our load. I believe firmly in George Eliot’s saying that “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” But it is also true that as our short time on the roller coaster whirls through the kaleidoscope of living—at some point we have to decide what are the things we still wish to do.

Dr. Cartier's Class at the Mazer Angela Brinskele©2011

photo by: Angela Brinskele | June Mazer Lesbian Archives | archiving women’s history project and field trip

And so with that I give myself a gift, and you as well (I hope). Below is a poem I found as I went through files that has never been published, titled, On Not Being A Big Hollywood Film Director. I wrote this 7 years ago (a magic number and my favorite number) and it seems appropriate to publish it now—here in the context of feminists and religion. What are we searching for? What are we willing to let go of? How do we make peace with our self and the dreams of the selves we are at all the ages we are/will be?

The reason I moved to Los Angeles was to be “a big Hollywood film director.” I ended up writing poetry, doing “underground” experimental theater, getting a Ph.D. in religion, and interviewing pre-Stonewall gay women to write a book about gay bars as sacred space. I was the first artist the state of California funded to do workshops with incest survivors, doing my own healing around abuse, creating the Dandelion Warrior Project getting a black belt, marrying a woman, teaching Gender and Women Studies, Queer Studies…and yes, also teaching screenwriting. As I look towards my “end time” and formulate my eschatology, I lean towards the phenomena of experience that has no name – the idea of the holy, to quote Rudolf Otto. I speak to that younger self—with love, and I invite her to love also the choices I have made.

oscasr with kim

On Not Being a Big Hollywood Film Director

I moved to Los Angeles
to go to film school, and learn how to
Write Movies. A good friend of mine
in film school said the best part of
being in the theater (as opposed to film) was sitting
in the back of the theater
all in black smoking a cigarette. She had just
magic marker-ed out all of the yellow letters
on the navy sweatshirt that spelled out “UCLA.”

I was trying to figure out writing
and living then, too. You see,
it was always about poetry.
That awkward kid with the long hair,
smoking cigarettes in the well of the school yard
and saying weird things that stopped conversation,
not necessarily in a good way.

I was always in love with her, the one
in the long flowered dress crocheting
snowflakes from a small bag of yarn
she kept in a Victorian purse around her waist.

In there she also had Kool cigarettes
for the peace sign filter, matches,
half a joint and Bonne Belle lip gloss.

As I got older it was the
young woman in the pottery class
who quit because the teacher made her
break her first bowl because it
wasn’t perfect and she left in tears –
who wanted perfection anyway?
That’s not what she signed up for.

The one in the “Silence equals death”
T-shirt, leggings and sequined high tops
at the coffee shop, crying into her cell
phone while writing furiously on a napkin and
having her pen go dry and asking the waitress if
she could borrow hers. And she sat there
writing, writing on napkins
for two hours and walked away with two final copies
of something on four napkins folded carefully into
a paper back in her weird plaid backpack.

That person. I wanted to fall in love with the
person who was good for me.  The woman with the
cashmere sweater
set over slacks and low heels
who spoke a few languages and traveled to study
ancient culture, or the biologist or the
film director with the equipment she knew
how to use.

I tried. I walked out on the director at
a camera class and wrote a poem by the
vending machine missing most of the lecture.

When I said “Action!”
the thing that came to life was the
pages to my journal. They would lift
into the air like Harry Potter’s
white owl and settle in front
of me – screaming for the letter
to be released, my “letter to the world,
that never wrote to me.” Remembering

Emily Dickinson I remember that she said also “I’m Nobody.”
She never made a living,
either. But neither did Van Gogh
or most of the people I went to film school with.
We are all that thing now,
Mid Life, and I read crisis is normal at
This Stage….So, I turn to poetry.
I approach the long haired girl with the
spray glitter in her hair and eyelashes
curled with blue mascara.
I lean against the wall she slouches against,
writing on her hand with a pen.
I don’t look at her but squint towards the sky
as if I didn’t care, and I ask,
casually, and still my beating…
“Got a light?”

–February 22, 2008
Long Beach, CA


Marie Cartier is a teacher, poet, writer, healer, artist, and scholar. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting) from UCLA; and an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University. She is also a first degree black belt in karate, Shorin-Ryu Shi-Do-Kan Kobayashi style. Ms. Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.

Categories: Activism, Aging, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General

Tags: , ,

16 replies

  1. Happy birthday Marie


  2. Happy birthday. You know I read somewhere that some ancient people believed the natural age to reach before dying was 120. Which means you are only at the half way mark… :-)


  3. Happy 59, Marie. On hair color, politically, I’ve always enjoyed a certain natural defiance, not angry, just refusing to be anything other than I am. I love my grey hair, it’s gorgeous to me, and represents that same liberal standard of rejoicing in who we are.


  4. The picture of the girl whose time has passed and will be no more says it all. I too have been thinking about my younger self of late in ways that make it clear that while she led to me, she is not here any longer.


  5. I love the poem. Thanks and happy birthday!


  6. Happy Birthday Marie!!! Hope you have a great day…. :)


  7. I strongly admire your dedication to following your bliss. The community of Los Angeles is very lucky to have you, someone who has reached out to heal hearts and taught them how to grow.

    It does not seem fair that the birthday woman should gift us with a beautiful poem. But thank you, it is wonderful. So, a birthday gift for you via Emily Dickinson:

    Is bliss, then, such abyss
    I m must not put my foot amiss
    For fear I spoil my shoe?

    I’d rather suit my foot
    Than save my boot,
    For yet to buy another pair
    Is possible
    At any fair.

    But bliss is sold just once;
    The patent lost
    None buy it any more.


  8. Well said, Marie! Happy Birthday!


  9. Brava! Love the poem! What you’re directing, of course, is the story of your life.

    I started coloring my hair when I moved to California in 1976. It was red-blonde for a couple decades, then I started bleaching it. I have no idea what color is it now or even what color it used to be when I was younger.


  10. I love your poem. And of course, I have a copy of your poetry book. It has touched me deeply. Happy Birthday!!! :)


  11. Happy Birthday Marie! Celebrate the choices made, and not made. They all combine to form a beautiful woman.

    I think you can colour your hair with jello powder and wash it out when you want. Haven’t tried it yet tho! ;-)


  12. Happy Birthday, Marie! What a beautiful post. I’ve recently been thinking about legacies (I’m about your age) and all the things I wanted to be, but never was and how now what’s important is the things we’ve done whose influence will last. I can think of few blockbuster films that will change lives forever, but the other things you’ve done certainly will, including your posts at FAR as well as all your other work. Well done! And, given the much longer average lifespan for women these days, 59 is just getting started.


  13. Marie, beautiful, multi-faceted jewel, Marie
    Your light sparkles in many colors of love
    Illuminating, for us, the places you have been,
    The women you have loved, the ones who have
    broken your heart, those who’ve broken you open
    When life stretched far ahead, beyond your sight
    A seeker of truth, art, love and meaning
    Propelled by life living itself through you
    Gradually becoming more real, more self aware
    More beautiful, more Marie, more true

    I join you now in gazing at the future
    and one truth shines so crystal clear
    That we are the authors, directors, the painters
    The makers of meaning, as we were in our youth
    Knowing this, our choices may seem fewer
    It is easy to grieve for the decades flown by
    To wonder if we wasted those precious years,
    not quite knowing that they were ours
    But weep not, for nothing has truly been lost,
    Just transformed by the alchemy of living

    The world is now yours, our dear Marie
    To paint with purple, green and blue
    Forever and ever, you know that it’s true
    The canvases are many and you get to choose!!

    Love and Happy 59th Birthday!!



  14. Marie —

    Thank you for this post on “coming of aging,” to coin a new phrase. I, too, have been thinking about my life, looking back and looking forward, from a few years ahead of you (I will turn 68 next week, on International Women’s Day). On Friday when you posted this blog, I sang a 45-minute concert of art songs. For those of you who don’t sing like this, that’s a lot of music. I had spent most of the prior three weeks working on the music, filing off the sharp points, brightening up certain passages, and getting ready to sing as well as I could. For the first time in a long time, I felt like a singer.

    When I was a teenager and early in my twenties, I believed that I would become a professional singer, i.e. sing opera, German Lieder, art songs, oratoria, etc. Instead, I sang a lot and enjoyed it. I even made a recording (“Chants for the Queen of Heaven…and Earth,” an album of goddess chants from around the world), and for a time was a semi-professional singer. But I never sang opera, like I thought I would.

    So this concert had a bittersweet quality for me. I’m pretty sure it will be last time I will offer this type of performance. It went well, but at 68 it’s harder to produce the tone that easily flowed in my earlier years. Maybe I’ll start singing jazz, where nuance is more important than tone quality. And for sure, I’ll start telling more stories, a different kind of performance, but one I enjoy just as much.

    It’s not that I regret the choices I made. Getting my Ph.D., teaching Women’s Studies, going on the road to do spiritual growth workshops (mostly with women), and finally writing have all been wonderful ways to use my skills and live my work life. I think the winding path I took was good for me and good for the world. But…I guess there’s a part of me that’s grieving. And discovering that by writing to you is a good thing. Because I didn’t know it until I finished this response.



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