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The Tonya and Nancy Lurking Within Us

March 11, 1994|IAN SHOALES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; San Francisco-based humorist Ian Shoales does regular features for Weekend Edition each Sunday on KCRW-FM in Santa Monica.

The epic Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan tale is behind us, joining other brief blips on the screen of human history. I think I've isolated its significance, and its ultimate meaning. Our fascination with Tonya and Nancy is nothing less than the yearning for our own psychic dualities to be merged.

See if these helpful comparisons don't strike a chord: TONYA is to NANCY as Freud is to Jung, as bowling is to golf, Joan Crawford to Katharine Hepburn, Nixon to Kennedy, beer to lite beer, macaroni to spaghetti, Fox to PBS, or cigarettes to nonsmoking. Tonya is to Nancy as a doughnut to a bagel, TV to movies, domestic violence to divorce, a dirt road to the information superhighway, a Chevy to a Volvo, John Belushi to Chevy Chase, an angry shout to a muffled sob, an all-beef hot dog to a turkey frank, a convenience store to a clothing store, or Tommy Lee Jones to Rickie Lee Jones.

It's AM to FM, Irving Berlin to Cole Porter, cheeseburger to cottage cheese, United States to Canada, K Mart to Target, Vegas to Disney World, Africa to South America, malt liquor to ale, 7 & 7 to margarita, dim piano bar to karaoke bar, World War I to World War II, crack to cocaine.

Tonya might be addiction, and Nancy habit, but if Tonya is habit, Nancy is cold turkey. If Tonya is cold turkey, Nancy is a 12-step program, but if Tonya is a 12-step program, then Nancy has always been a teetotaler. If Tonya has always been a teetotaler, Nancy is an addict currently working on her memoirs at the Betty Ford Center. If Tonya is the Betty Ford Center, then Nancy is a health-care professional.

If Tonya were Arsenio, Nancy would be Letterman. Yet if Tonya were Letterman, then Nancy would be Leno, and if Tonya were Leno, Nancy would be Ted Koppel. The irresistible force, the immovable object. Space, time, yard sale, estate sale, wink, nod. Which is the blind horse? We're talking rayon and silk here, felony and misdemeanor, passionate affair and guilt-ridden adultery, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis and Martin, Kansas and Oz, House and Senate, lust and desire, desire and love, losing and winning (relatively).

We're looking at gaps as small as the difference between "McGyver" and "Star Trek" or "Mission: Impossible" and "Star Trek: the Next Generation." The Nancy within likes any title with a colon in it, yet it's the Tonya inside who rejoices at sequels! We can be either one at any moment.

Feel like ordering a pizza? You're indulging your Tonya. Some Thai food might hit the spot? That's Nancy talking.

And what of the Jacksons? Interest in the Jackson family is certainly Tonya-esque. Yet if La Toya is Tonya, then Nancy is Michael, if Tonya is Michael, then Nancy is the Jackson Family, and if Tonya is the Jackson Family, Nancy is the Jackson Five.

Which is Partridge Family, which is Brady Bunch? We will never be content until we learn to marry the Tonya and Nancy inside.

So many of us despair before we've even begun. There's no blame in this.

After all, if Tommy Lee Jones did marry Rickie Lee Jones, she'd still be Rickie Lee Jones, even if she kept her maiden name. Think about it.

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