by Jenny Lee Stern

Jenny Lee Stern is a Broadway Actress. Ex-Wife. Cool Mom. Copycat Yogi. God Chick. And she writes about it.

He's a cheater. She's a slut. He's a womanizer. She's a diva. He's a liar. She's a gold digger.

Says WHO? In what context? Says your best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend who heard from this guy who knows this kid that's going with this girl? Ya know, the same one that saw Ferris Bueller pass out at 31 Flavors last night? Come ON. Grow up. Commenting on another's personal reputation is nothing more than adults trying to justify the fact that they are – gossiping.

My ex-husband cheated on me while we were married. (I think I established that a couple months ago for those of you following. Not harping on it, just making sure everyone's up to speed!) Does him having an affair DEFINE who he is as a person? Should he have a life long reputation as a cheater? I mean, it is true. He is. Or, he DID. With me. But he's many more things. He's a fiercely talented actor and singer. He's fun to be around. He helps around the house when he can. He shows up for work. He never gives less than 100% at every performance. These are other things about him that factor into who he is.

Now, look. I'm pissed. Still. I'm angry, and sometimes I hate him. Forgiving doesn't always mean forgetting. But even I – “the scorned” – wouldn't brand him a cheater because he's beyond that. And so am I. And he also happens to be the father of my super smart and gorgeous daughters. So shaming him Hester Prynne style is nothing anyone needs to read or see. Make no mistake, I'm not sloughing it off or dismissing this completely. Infidelity holds weight. Bad behavior holds weight. But I won't hold this weight against him. Or you. Or whoever.

Look, here's what I need to know: I need to know if you're a felon. Or a murderer. Or are an accused or convicted child molester. Or a secret raging addict. And see, these things are a mater of record, not reputation. So you don't need to warn me about some guy I've been out on two dates with that you heard that he cheated on his ex-wife a hundred years ago or got naughty texts from some girl while he was dating your brother's college roommates co-worker.

Okay? I want to deal with someone in the moment. In this moment. With me. I'm not naive. I just believe in people. I do. I believe in people's ability to change. I believe in redemption. I believe in rebirth. Listen up, buttercup: at the turn of the century through 2003, I know I did many questionable things in East Village bathrooms all over New York City and parts of Brooklyn. And I know I don't want to be judged or represented by those things now. So I'm not interested in judging others on their past. Every day is a new day. Every day is a fresh start.

Now, sometimes folks confuse reputation and resume. Or…use them interchangeably. Wrong.
To explain, I will use the parable of The Unsuspecting Understudy.

I recently saw the Chicago production of the Broadway phenomenon, Hamilton. I sat down and decided not to open my Playbill. I didn't want to see who was “in” or who was “out.”  I just wanted to watch the show. Within the first minute, it was obvious that one of the leads was “out” and his understudy was on. I chose not to focus on the actor who was not there and chose to focus on the one that was there. And when I allowed myself to embrace this moment and this man telling me this beautiful story, nothing else mattered. He did his job. He delivered. And it didn't make a difference in those two hours if he'd been in 22 Broadway shows, or had an Academy Award, or 7 Emmys, or was fresh out of college. I didn't care. And honestly, I still don't know. All I know is he transported me through art for two hours of my life. And that I'll take any day of the week.

See, confusing resume and reputation can be a literal recipe for disaster. Suppose you owned a restaurant and were looking for a new bartender. A guy comes in. impeccable resume. He's worked in several high end, celebrity joints. Wine expert with a knowledge of craft spirits and beer. Great right? Hire him on the spot! You even call and get references and all seems well. Within a few weeks you begin to notice he's rude to customers, demeans the waitresses, curses, and kinda smells. So…who cares about the guy's resume (or reputation) at this point? He's not performing for you. For your needs at this moment, and for your establishment he's not the right fit. He's gotta go.

This is true of all relationships. If you allow someone into your life, regardless of their reputation and they're not working for you: “bye bye.”  Reputations good or bad are simply irrelevant in my opinion. It's about the now, man. What's happening breath to breath. If a store or bar put up a sign that said “Under New Management” it's worth a shot, right? Regardless of your opinion of the place before? See what it's all about! Maybe start thinking of people like that. Maybe someone's heart or mind or way of thinking or stance on a certain political issue is now “Under New Management” and you didn't get the memo. It would be a shame to miss out on a human connection because of past rumors or who you think someone is.

Let's wrap this up and take it to-go:

  • No grudges. Holding a grudge is holding you back.
  • Infinite chances to do right. As many as YOU want to give. Your call. For yourself and for others.
  • Judging someone for their past, their reputation, is like someone judging you for that heinous bang perm you had.
  • Stop being concerned and “warning” people about others' reputations. Start thinking about your own. When you're “telling me this as a friend” (which no real friend ever says, by the way) you're not. You're gossiping. And a gossip is worse than, well, almost anything. It means you're untrustworthy. It does. I always say, if you think that MAYBE you should be wearing Spanx…you should be. And if you think MAYBE you should keep you're mouth shut…you should. Because it's probably, in the immortal words of SALT-N-PEPA, “None of Your Business.”


This banana bread will have them running back to you for more and will give you the confectionery reputation you've always dreamed of!

  • 3-4 super ripe bananas
  • 1/3 c melted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • Half a bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non stick cooking spray.
In a microwave safe dish, melt the butter. Usually takes about 45 seconds. In this minute, peel the banaynays and plop into a large bowl. Pour butter over bananas and add sugar. Mash with a potato masher. I like some chunks left in, mash to your preference. Add the egg, vanilla, soda, and salt. Stir together until combined. Slowly mix in the flour. I do this all by hand. It's just as easy as using a fancy mixer. But if that's what you're comfy with, use it! When flour is totally mixed in, pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top.  I've made this in many different ovens and it can bake anywhere from 50 minutes to 1 hour. Test with a knife or chopstick to test for doneness. If it's slimy, keep it going. Let cool completely, then carefully remove from the pan. Slice with a serrated knife and enjoy with the all the new people who want to be your best friend after tasting this deliciousness. Reputation as an awesome baker: CHECK!

-Jenny Lee

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