Dear Mr. Cosby,
When I watched you yesterday on the news, at 81 years old, be taken to prison in handcuffs to serve 3-10 years as a convicted rapist, I was very sad. Sad, not for the condemnation by the court or guilty verdict, but for the 10 year old girl who loved watching your show that first season straight through my early high school years. You were Cliff Huxtable beloved dad to all of America living under the age of 15. You were funny and patient and made your wife, Claire, laugh even when she was mad at you. I remember thinking that is what marriage could be even as a little girl. You were a hands- on dad, who because of your at- home office, was the primary one to deal with fighting siblings or school drama, and you were so, damn believable. You were sensitive to each of your five pretend children’s unique personalities, and you brought humor and relief and conflict resolution to every argument and situation between Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy.
If Cliff Huxtable’s daughter had come home from school upset because a boy stood her up on a date or called her a disrespectful name or spread a nasty rumor about her, she would have told you, and you would have helped her to handle it. If Cliff Huxtable’s son had come home from school accused of being anything less than respectable towards a young woman in his class, he would be punished and held accountable for his treatment of a human. If Cliff Huxtable had so much even glanced in another woman’s direction, Claire’s look alone would have killed you in a glance. But sadly, you were just an actor in my childhood, the pretend dad in a role I thought you were born to play.
My parents had a lot of rules about TV, and I’m grateful to them for that now even if I didn’t always appreciate it as a kid. But due to their good sense, I grew up an outdoor child of the 80s, building tree forts, riding bikes and playing with neighbors or reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys on my bed. However, the one midweek show we watched TOGETHER AS A FAMILY, most times, was your show: “The Cosby Show” on at 8 PM on Thursdays, if I remember correctly. Otherwise, we were permitted to watch 1-2 hours of Saturday morning cartoons during those formative years of elementary school. My point being, though, that I really looked forward to your show every week, especially as I grew older in those later years of middle school because as I grew up, so did your children on the show. There was something for everyone– some school conflict or childhood challenge or friendship issue ranging straight from little Rudy up through the grown up and seemingly “on her own” Sondra.
And for the longest time after these women came forward with the sexual assault allegations, I did not want to believe them because you were Bill Cosby, but you also, by default, were Cliff Huxtable. And Cliff Huxtable NEVER would have done what you did to those women from your real life. As a 43 year old mom and wife and high school teacher, I am capable of understanding the difference between a man and the role you played on TV for so many years. I get it. I get that you and Cliff are not the same person. Yet, I so wished you could have been.
So, those red pens in the picture above are collected in my desk drawer, and it struck me as funny the other day that I buy these “fancy” multicolored pens to make comments on my students’ papers– but I never use the red. Red is the angry color of my own adolescence when teachers (even the best ones) used red pens to “provide commentary” on my papers or homework or essays. All I saw was what I did “wrong,” even when the comments were often positive. Please know that this letter I’m writing in my head to you is only written in angry red ink. I don’t really have anything positive left to say to you Bill Cosby, unless maybe you are capable of an appropriate apology for these women you assaulted, stripping from them at least temporarily their safety and dignity.
I reserve my purples, greens, pinks, oranges, blues, and turquoises for my students who deserve my best real effort in the classroom– the reds will remain imprisoned in my desk, just like you for the next 3-10, tucked away and forgotten. As for Cliff Huxtable, I’m sorry it had to end this way.