The Appropriate Response

It was about this time last week that the world was ready to lynch Neil Patrick Harris for botching the Oscars.  It’s a wonder that anyone signs up for that gig as you are performing in front of  a group of performers.  It’s like going out to eat with a chef, no matter who cooks the food he/she is going to find something wrong with it.  I thought he did a good job, but one line seemed to get everyone’s knickers in a twist—-everyone but the person he directed it towards.

This perceived faux paus for Mr. Harris occurred after the Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject went to Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.  Director Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry took the stage to accept the award and Mrs. Perry was wearing a very unique ensemble.  I am going to plead ignorance when it comes to fashion and one peak into my closet and you will agree that I have no expertise on this matter whatsoever.  Let’s just say it was different, and different at the Oscars is good.  Mrs. Perry is in the black outfit in the photo below:


For me it’s hard to see the outfit beyond that wonderful smile, and please note this from a woman who has probably cried a river of tears in her day.  You see suicide is an important subject to her as she had to bury a 15 year old son because of it.  In fact she dedicates the Oscar to her boy, Evan Scott Perry,  and it’s so moving that the producers of the show turn off the music intended to get people off the stage so she can finish.  It’s that important.  Well she exits the stage and Neil Patrick Harris returns and delivers a line that sets the “twitterverse” into a collective tizzy.  Twelve simple words he utters when he takes the stage again:  “It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that”.  Cue the critics.

Cringe worthy, insensitive, callous, ill-timed, inappropriate, the night’s biggest blunder,  and the list of adjectives describing Mr. Harris’s ad-libbed line get worse from there but this is a family blog and I can’t type them without having to go to confession.  It seems that everyone is in an indignant up roar except one person—Dana Perry—the person the line was directed towards.  Upon hearing what NPH said she had the most appropriate reaction a grieving mother could ever have, she laughed.  Not only did she laugh, she even had a witty retort ready saying “That’s adorable, I invite anyone to feel my furry balls.”  Way to go Dana!

In case you missed that reaction, she laughed– much to the media’s dismay.  Dana Perry remembered the great philosopher, Robert Plant when he said “Does anybody remember laughter?” and she freaking laughed.  Dana Perry, in addition to winning an Oscar,  you won my heart and here is why.  I know a thing (or two) about suicide and know enough to realize that when you start to laugh again, it’s a sure sign that there is a little bit of healing going on.  Let me explain.  In 1983 I lost my older brother Mark to suicide and eleven years later my younger brother Matthew as well.  There I typed it and it’s out there.  I do recall that after Mark died my friends dragged me out to a party I did not want to go to and while there someone said something really funny and I laughed.  And then I immediately felt guilty for doing so.  Shame on me, but laughing is exactly what I needed to do at that time.  I won’t lie, it took me a very long time after my second brother died from suicide to laugh again, but after a while it comes back, and the term “a while” is strictly dependent on the person who is grieving.  Everybody grieves on their own personal clock, but if the laughter never returns, I would recommend seeing a mental health professional to find out why.  You need to laugh to get through this crazy thing called life. 

Enough about me, back to Dana Perry.  In a more lucid moment Dana Perry made sure we all knew she meant to laugh as she clarified her reaction on Twitter the very next day:



In her acceptance speech Dana Perry said suicide should be talked about “out loud” and she is right.  All of the numbers for suicide seem to be heading in the wrong direction and we need to have a serious dialogue about what we are going to do about this as a country.  A national dialogue with our outside voices and do not be surprised if we laugh or smile while discussing this tough subject.  For many of us if we don’t laugh we will cry.  I prefer laughter.  Crying makes me tired and gives me a headache, and I too have cried a river for Mark and Matthew.  Thanks Dana for not making me feel guilty when I laugh, and thank you for elevating the conversation we all need to have regarding suicide.  You rock!


Dennis Gillan is a motivational speaker who delivers a great talk on his journey to healing after the loss of his two brothers to suicide.  You can find out more by going to www.dennisgillan.com