“I had so much shame and blame. I'm grateful I felt safe enough to put it on the page," she told People.
Selma Blair has long been a cultural figure who has captured the zeitgeist. She was an early aughts it girl, starring in iconic films like Legally Blonde, Cruel Intentions and The Sweetest Thing. Now, she’s taking on another title: author — and a very candid one, at that. In her debut memoir out May 17, Mean Baby, Blair discusses her history of alcoholism (which started when she was 7 years old), her experiences of sexual abuse, and her Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
In an excerpt published in People, she described the first time a man betrayed her trust. A dean at her Michigan boarding school, with whom Blair had formed a loving mentorship, took advantage of her at the end of one semester. “I really couldn't believe my good fortune in having such a wonderful mentor and friend. What hurt me from this was that he would make such a mistake. That was it,” she recalled of the devastation.
“We embraced. It felt too long and too still and too quiet,” she wrote. “His hand went to the small of my back, tracing the space just above my tailbone. His lips were on my mouth. Please, I thought. Please don't go under my pants, my dress-code-approved Ralph Lauren khakis into which I'd carefully tucked a plaid shirt Please. You are a grown-up and I love you; please do not put your hand inside my pants. But he did. It was a simple thing. He didn't rape me. He didn't threaten me. But he broke me. Nothing ever happened again, but I never felt safe.”
Blair confided in her mother, who advised her to keep the incident under wraps so as not to be labeled a “troubled girl” — something many women who report abuse are all too familiar with.
That wasn’t the only time Blair was sexually assaulted. She also recalled being raped “multiple times, because I was too drunk to say the words ‘Please. Stop.’” She noted one of those assaults, which occurred after a binge drinking episode during a college spring break trip, was violent. “I came out of each event quiet and ashamed.”
Blair’s decades-long battle with alcohol abuse first started when she was seven years old, sipping Manischewitz wine during Passover seders. “The first time I got drunk it was a revelation,” she wrote, noting that her first (sanctioned) sips of wine left her feeling “[filled] up with the warmth of God.” But, she continued, “The year I was seven, when we basically had Manischewitz on tap and no one was paying attention to my consumption level, I put it together: the feeling was not God but fermentation. I thought ‘Well this is a huge disappointment, but since it turns out I can get the warmth of the Lord from a bottle, thank God there's one right here.’ I got drunk that night. Very drunk. Eventually, I was put in my sister Katie's bed with her. In the morning, I didn't remember how I'd gotten there.”
Blair’s drinking escalated as she grew older, but she has now been sober since 2016 — and in remission from her originally debilitating MS. In an interview Wednesday with Savannah Guthrie on Today, she admitted that the ramifications of her drinking might have distracted from early detection of her diagnosis. “It was definitely there for so long,” she said.
But writing through her trauma has helped the actress heal. “I did not realize that assault was so central in my life,” she told People. “I had so much shame and blame. I'm grateful I felt safe enough to put it on the page. And then can work on it with a therapist and with other writing, and really relieve that burden of shame on myself.”
And she didn’t just write it for herself; Blair is also hopeful that Mean Baby will be a balm for others as well. As she told People, “I wrote the book for my son . . . and for people trying to find the deepest hole to crawl into until the pain passes."