an open letter to rob lowe and DIRECTV part three of three

Ed note: What follows is part of a three part series. Please read the first two letters, written by Rafael Castro and M Kelter respectively, here and here

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{image is a photo of me and my beautiful girl}

Dear Mr. Lowe,

I’ve been a fan of yours ever since Oxford Blues. Heck, I even wanted to row crew in college thanks to you. (I was too short and had no interest in being a coxswain, but I digress.) Point is, we go back a long way, you and I. And I’m writing to you because I need your help.

Four teenagers in my town committed suicide within the last eighteen months. Four. While I’d love to think that is an anomaly, sadly, it’s part of a terrifying reality. Our nation’s children are killing themselves.

In an effort to understand what’s happening and to try desperately to stop it, we investigate not just their deaths, but their lives. And every single time, we find a familiar refrain. Every one of these kids felt alone. Nearly every one of them felt isolated by something that differentiated them from their peers.

We hear again and again that bullying is to blame for those feelings of isolation. We have campaigns to end it, signs prohibiting it, celebrities making PSAs rejecting it. But at the end of the day, what we say matters far less than what we do – and what we do is continue to unwittingly model it for our kids.

In your commercials for DIRECTV, you have created caricatures of difference. The painfully awkward, the mentally ill, the unathletic – for the sole purpose of deriding them, mocking them, isolating them. And knowing what I know, it hurts like hell to watch.

While these recent suicides have been horrifying for our entire town, I have watched them through a somewhat different filter than many of my peers. You see, my twelve year-old daughter is beautiful, funny, generous, bright as a whip, and, like one in sixty-eight of her peers, she is also autistic. Thanks to the latter, you might well describe her as painfully, torturously socially awkward. She IS the caricature you have created to deride.

Brooke is in middle school – a tough time for even the most socially savvy kids. She tries desperately to interact with her classmates, but even the simplest conversation is simply not in her wiring. She works so damned hard just to talk to other kids.

She has been teased, mocked, and misunderstood. Try as she might, she will never be “Cool Rob Lowe,” nor, given how foreign that persona would be to her, would I really want her to try. Trying to be something you’re not for the sake of fitting in is a dangerous game.

And so there it is. This is why I so desperately need your help.

There is one tool with which my husband and I are bound and determined to arm our beautiful girl as she faces a world that is so often hostile to people like her – an impenetrable wall of self-esteem. That’s it. That’s all we’ve got to help her battle a society that thinks it’s okay to laugh at difference.

I am terrified that it won’t be enough. For so many kids, it wasn’t enough. So we need to stop letting it be okay to laugh at those who don’t – who can’t – measure up to some arbitrary version of cool.

If we don’t, we are complicit in the next suicide. And there can’t be another. There just can’t.

We need to get these ads off the air. We need to educate those laughing about why they’re not funny.

Please help.

For my daughter. For all of those at risk.

Respectfully,

Jess Wilson

Proud mom of Brooke (12) and Katie (14), author of Diary of a Mom and host of the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a vibrant, loving community of over 225,000 people – some painfully awkward, some not – all working together for a world in which no one feels alone.

Ed note: Please find comments below and HERE

12 thoughts on “an open letter to rob lowe and DIRECTV part three of three

  1. Oh my, do I love this letter. Well, let me clarify. I despise the fact that it had to be written. That any of these 3 incredibly wonderfully composed letters had to be written; but the meaning, the impact, the message is perfect. My boy will transition to kinder in the fall. He will go from a relatively safe bubble of kids who are atill too young to really understand that he struggles socially, to a whole elementary school full of kids. I’m so scared. I’m so anxious. The last thing we need is propaganda of adults depicting social differentness in a negative way. It’s heartbreaking and so ever lovin’ scary to me. Thank you for your letter to them, Jess. Thank you for speaking out!

  2. Hi Jess. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, but this is the very first time I have left a comment. I agre and support everything you are saying here and I wish we could raise awareness of this, not only to Mr. Lowe, but also to Direct TV and every single person that contributed to this sad message. Have you thought of creating a campaign in https://www.change.org/ to show Mr Lowe and his team how important this issue is? I am sure we could get thousands of signatures in a very few days.

    • thanks so much for commenting (and for reading for a long time!). We are hoping to deliver the letters to Mr Lowe through his agent, so I’m going to hold off on creating a petition. If anyone has any connections at DIRECTV though, we’d love to get a contact! 🙂

  3. Everything you just said struck home for me. When my oldest got in the van after school on Monday, she was shaking with emotion. Clearly, she was upset, and I asked what was wrong. She exploded with rage. (She has a command of language, but when she is trying to express anything connected to emotion, every word gets tangled.) It is rare to see her this angry, and I was honestly afraid to hear what may have happened. She described a group assignment in her 9th grade history class. The entire group had to come together to create a social media site to share interesting bits of history. My daughter has an extensive imagination and has always been encouraged to use her creativity. Although her initial ideas might be overly grand, perhaps even bordering on the impossible, somewhere in there is a really great idea. She just needs guidance in the process of narrowing it down and help in creating a realistic plan. As soon as she shared her ideas with a friend (also autistic) sitting next to her, a voice from behind her said, “That is a stupid idea. No WAY are we doing that. That’s so stupid.” Of course, this voice belonged to the pack leader of the class. She is a talented athlete, popular, confident, outspoken, and from a prominent family. My daughter went into immediate “fight or flight.” She wanted to lash back with her words. She wanted to speak her mind, but she knew that she would have a hard time reigning in her emotions, so she remained silent. Throughout the day, the anger built. By the time she was talking to me, you could see the pain and the feeling of powerlessness feeding it. Her brother and sister sat in stunned silence as she vented. We were actually on our way to occupational therapy at that moment, and I knew she needed some heavy work and some relaxation. But, she needed to let go and stop fighting the emotions. I know her. She turns all that rage inward, and she alone pays the price for her anger. I knew that I needed to push just the tiniest bit so that she could cry and have some release. I was having a hard time understanding some parts of her story, so it wasn’t hard to frustrate her, and the dam burst. After some time at therapy, she regained some perspective. She understood completely that SHE is not stupid. Her IDEA was not stupid. That this classmate was probably threatened or jealous or petty, and the “intimidation tactic” came easily to her. My daughter could see that she wasn’t at fault. She could see that this other girl needed to own her own choices and behavior. She did go with me to talk to the principal the next morning. She directed the conversation. She helped come up with solution. And it could not have been more clear to me that all of our hard work was starting to pay off. She could see her worth. She could see that she didn’t need to own hurtful words. She could rise above and look forward. I have never admired her more than I did in that moment. Is the world harsh and cruel? Oh, it can be, yes. Is my daughter’s self-esteem intact? YES! Is she starting to advocate for herself? Yes. Does she face hard things, afraid, and do them anyway? YES!

    • I’m so sorry that she had to burst, but so glad that her mama gets it when she does. joining you in admiration of her strength – may all of our precious children hold on to it.

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