I can’t believe this. I’m crying. I’m sitting on a JetBlue flight, seat 5B. I’m on my way to Los Angeles to tape a show with Dr. Phil, and I’m crying like a child. I have a pit in my stomach, bubble gum in my mouth and tears rolling down my cheeks.
The reason: Gene Simmons. Yes, Gene Simmons… from KISS. Gene is making me cry.
The gentleman sitting in 5A just leaned over and asked me, “Are you OK?” He is Pastor Tom Crouse from Holland Congregational Church in Holland, Mass. I wipe away the tears and explain to him what I’m about to explain to you.
I had selfishly turned the JetBlue TV to A&E to see if commercials for my new television series Monster In-Laws were airing. Instead, I got drawn into another A&E reality show: Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.
At the moment, I’m on my seventh episode. I can’t stop watching.
In case you don’t watch it, allow me to fill you in. Gene Simmons is the guy with the crazy tongue from the rock band KISS. He is now 61 years old, and the show follows his family in their everyday lives. He has a relationship with a former Playboy playmate named Shannon Tweed. They’ve been together for 27 years and have two adult kids, but they are not married.
In the first couple episodes I watched, Shannon and Gene were in a massive breakup because TMZ had run a photo of Gene leaving a hotel, rock-star style, with two young blondes. It seems that for 27 years, Shannon tolerated his rock-star ways. But with the added exposure that this A&E show brings and the kids out of the house, she had reached her breaking point and could no longer stay in a relationship and be so disrespected. So she moved out.
I watched as the two kids tried to stay neutral but were clearly pissed off with their dad. Gene moped around the house and went to therapy, and close friends tried to talk some sense into him. He realized how much Shannon meant to him and became determined to win her back. In one episode, their daughter had tricked them into showing up at a jazz club at the same time. It was reality TV gold as Gene approached Shannon, wrapped his arms around her, and she just collapsed in tears. So did I.
I got reminded what it feels like to just love someone for everything they are and everything they aren’t. Through the heartbreak and through the heartfelt moments, we are all just human after all.
Over another few episodes, I watched Gene and Shannon take a trip to Israel because Gene was receiving an award in his hometown. I learned a lot about him along their journey. Gene’s dad abandoned the family when Gene was 7. He hated his father for leaving, and that anger fueled his success; he wanted to prove to the world that he didn’t need a father to be successful.
But the truth was, he was empty. Anger is what we feel when we don’t want to feel the emptiness and pain that’s inside.
What Gene didn’t know is that his dad hadn’t abandoned him; his mother kicked him out and then immigrated to America. His father had started another family. Turns out, Gene has half-brothers and sisters. And Shannon had secretly arranged a surprise meeting in Israel with the siblings Gene had never met.
I cried with Gene as he met his brother and sisters and as they all watched home videos of his father, who looked so much like Gene. And I really lost it when Gene’s new family took him to his father’s grave and read a letter that his father had penned to Gene on his deathbed.
Gene said what we all do when we realize it’s too late: “I was so stupid. I don’t know why I didn’t go see him. I’m so stubborn. I make a rule for myself and then that’s what it is. Because I never want to be wrong.”
We are all just like Gene.
There’s someone in your life that you’ve wronged or who has wronged you. Perhaps, like Gene, you are estranged from a parent, a sibling or a child. Stubbornness keeps you from fixing it. Pride, fear and anger will do that to you. But remember that, like Gene, you may be feeling anger to avoid facing the pain and fear inside.
This is the year you stop it. Stop being so damned stubborn and open yourself up to what you really want: to feel loved and connected again. It doesn’t matter what happened, or who the distance is from. You are capable of fixing it and of feeling connected and loved again. It only takes one of you to take the first step, to admit you were wrong, to forgive the human frailty of someone you love.
That’s how you start your year powerfully.
As for me, I’ve got more TV to watch. After all that’s transpired, Gene has realized that the most important things in his life are not his rock-star ways or always being right. The most important thing is love: He proposed to Shannon and they’ve filmed the wedding for the show. Get out the Kleenexes!