My parents are in the process of completing an insane amount of home renovations in Cincinnati. Our house has always been extremely tidy with pleasant decor, but now they are getting all “HGTV” and making their dream home, as we Americans are entitled to do.* As part of their clean-up, they have been purging baskets of old magazines, catalogs, and (more than anything,) my mother’s half finished books.
My mother loves to read, and she is very knowledgable on many subjects, especially holistic health. Unlike most people, who will change their entire diet according to an hour long episode of Dr. Oz (this, including 15 minutes of commercials), my mother will buy the book from which the health movement was derived, take copious notes in the margins, and conduct
a thorough search through all materials that might refute it. Unfortunately, holistic and homeopathic studies are constantly evolving, and she can rarely finish a book before having to go buy a new one. I have no doubt that the bottom of the “Reading Basket” by her bed still contained a book from 1994 entitled, “Eating Lite! What Aspartame And A Bottle of Fat Free Ranch Can Do For Your Cholesterol!”**
My mom isn’t the only member of the family able to ruin a book club. My Dad and I both own Kindles that conceal shameful amounts of unfinished books. Still, Dad’s unread materials, like Mom’s, are at least respectable: dense texts on the Civil War, blues legends so old no one has heard of them, and various other anthropological subjects (and honestly, he usually does get around to finishing them all). By comparison, my pitiful Kindle assortment might as well be a bunch of “Highlights” magazines.
How bad could my reading tastes be, you ask? Well, here it is: I really enjoy disturbing, often-grotesque memoirs about people whose lives are far worst than my own! For example, I LOVE the book “My Lobotomy,” about a twelve year old boy whose cruel parents were so horribly misguided by 1950’s psychology, they allowed their young son to receive one of the first, documented, frontal lobotomies. The clumsy procedure shaped the rest of his tragic life! Another fun read you might enjoy on, say, a beach somewhere, is entitled, “Coming Clean.” This one is about a girl raised by hoarders. Not pack rats. AandE-worthy, stinky piles of mush-living, hoarders.
I read these types of books for two reasons. First, reading a memoir is the most respectable form of voyeurism (especially when compared to, say, reality TV). After all, they did get it together enough to eventually write a book, right? And they are hopefully making a good amount of money from peeping toms like myself. The second reason is that my life has been too idyllic. Not everything came easily, and I have worked my butt off to over-achieve, but my parents are still together, we have always been comfortably middle class, and my brother and I never received a GPA below a 3.6 from kindergarten through college. This would all be great if I didn’t act for a living. What am I supposed to say at my “Inside The Actors’ Studio” some day?! That sometimes my mom makes me so angry because she will send care-packages full of hand towels and dog clothes from TJ Maxx AND I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH ROOM IN MY APARTMENT FOR THAT KIND OF FRIVOLITY?! Five minutes in and I would be more hated than Anne Hathaway.
Yes, I blame my parents for all present and future career mediocrity (you’re thinking, “Ah! So THAT’S where the title of this entry comes from!”). Twenty years from now, when you still haven’t heard of me (but acting is still paying my rent, hopefully), I will curse them for all of their pleasant, book-collecting, suburban bliss. I will revel in the fact that I live in a small New York apartment because it is the only thing I have in common with the story of a young Dustin Hoffman. And the next time a director asks me to dig deep into my past, I will have to hide that fact that I’m digging deep into 15 years of Lifetime Movie Network dramas.
You know what? I can’t even keep typing because my parents bought me this iPad for Christmas and I’m too disgusted with how much I love it, and them, to go on. Hmmm… Maybe I can use that anger somewhere. Let me just call my therapist and make sure that’s legit…
*Despite my sarcasm here, my parents are exceptional people who truly deserve their dream home. Only true love could create a little brat like me.
**Do not look for this book. It’s wrong.
We are living in the future! Everything we imagined about the future is happening, except for flying cars. (We all know cell phone-obsessed Americans can’t be trusted with them, anyway. Best to create more bike lanes.)
An unfortunate side-effect of living in the future is that we have to take responsibility for our health. Long gone is the era when a single sneeze meant your days could be numbered, spurring complete strangers to wish blessings on your inevitably shortened life. You sneeze now, I assume you have not been juicing like I have. Shame on you.
The middle class has every type of diet and/or workout within reach, the ability to self-diagnose via the interweb, and multitudes of “friends” with online weightloss testimonials for inspiration. As a result, when we futuristic cyborgs actually contract/develop a real illness, we have to battle not only the symtoms, but also the inevitable guilt: Had I not eaten those occasional Mexican Pizzas, maybe I wouldn’t have sprained my ankle. Stronger ligaments, y’know? If I hadn’t watched so much TV, I wouldn’t need glasses now. If I had just stuck with P80XOXTorture Home Workout, I wouldn’t have aged… at all.
Unfortunately, we will all get sick, and we will all die (WAH wah) at some point. You can turn your life around from your repulsive college freshman habits, but you will still feel backpain as you near 90. You can lose 7000 pounds in your twenties, but you might still have to change your diet AGAIN later in life. This humanness doesn’t make us failures! Just humans!
I personally hate all the responsibility we now put on ourselves to be one step ahead of nature. My reason for eating well (most of the time) and walking to a yoga class is not “so I can beat cancer in its tracks.” That is too much pressure, and unfortunately impossible (I believe we are all just breathing in various plastics at all times now, right?). I could eat nothing but wheat grass for the rest of my life and still get cancer. I watched one of the healthiest, most graceful women in my life develop cancer, and subsequently beat it this year. I didn’t learn some new health craze from her; instead, I was reminded how beautiful and real prayer is. How strange and scary life can be. How necessary REALLY living is. And you can’t really live in fear… or without a glass of red wine now an then.
Basically, my somewhat healthy lifestyle is so my jeans allow me to breathe and I don’t have horrible indigestion. THAT I can pretty much control. And the results are fairly instant, not part of some daunting, lifelong to-do list.
I urge you all to join me. Say it with me: “We are all dying. Even more reason to not feel like shit right now. Pass the hummus, and turn off that exposé about tomatoes preventing high blood pressure BUT ALSO causing gout. The Japanese live to their hundreds and eat white rice everyday!… ” I’m still working on my mantra, but you get my point. Life is too short to try to outsmart nature. Besides, doesn’t anxiety cause stroke?
I just endured the sheer discomfort of walking by a group of rowdy (read: inebriated) teens as I left my boyfriend’s theatre on 52nd Street. There were four boys, dressed up as junior accountant types, in shirts purchased for school dances and “Game Days.” As they all clumsily humped the air (reasons unknown), one of them yelled in the gravelly voice that is unique to someone three years into puberty: “ALL NIGHT LONG, BABAY!” Walking away from said boys, and toward the Roseland marquis (showcasing a musical act unknown to anyone over 17) were three girls in hoodies, the stockiest of them in what I like to refer to as a “denim diaper.” Without missing a step in my two block walk to the train, I told (in my head) these kids a thing or two:
First things first. You are not extreme. In any way. I know you feel like you are because you push envelopes your parents have repeatedly tried to lick closed. You are, perhaps, more sexually active than the guy who sits next to you in Geometry. Maybe you are the only one in shorts. But guess what?! Your parents used to be idiots, by the time you’re 35 your sexual conquests will outnumber no one else’s (and even if they do, no one cares), and we all opted for long pants because it is 20 degrees outside. That’s right, you’re not the sexiest, but you are the coldest. In fact, seeing that much skin in a 14 degree windchill is actually the least sexy thing you could do. Even perverts are repelled by a purple, frost-bitten thigh.
My suggestion to you all is to not try to out do one another. Why strive to be the most “extreme?” Years of living, and the ups and downs that will come with adulthood will prove to be much more extreme than your occasionally smoking a “J” with friends. For instance, there is a middle-aged man around the corner from you all who is yelling to no one, and wearing a skirt made of umbrellas. He is so impressively extreme that I, a New Yorker, actually stopped for a second to look at his skirt, before running away from his crazy gaze. You can’t, and should never strive to be extreme, because if you succeed, you WILL be wearing umbrellas someday.
And another thing: it’s OK that you aren’t adults, yet. Your pseudo hipster garb isn’t fooling anyone; a true hipster has not been spotted above 14th Street in five years. And no junior executive in an Express Men button down has that much acne. So put on some sweats, have a (same-sex) sleepover, and save the mundane truths of adulthood for actual adulthood! Let your mom take you to PacSun and buy you a hoodie, because that’s the most comfortable item of clothing available, and you can’t get away with it after college. Save the humping for later! You have a lot of life ahead of you, and you’ll want your hips to be healthy when you are gardening in your seventies someday.
And you WILL garden someday. I know this because you aren’t original. In your isolated little world, you might feel like a pioneer, but I went to school with your clones 15 years ago, and in Ohio no less. Teenagers are all the same, no matter where you go: insecure, smelly, out-of-proportion monsters. I say, enjoy this sameness. Enjoy being the least, or at most, mid-level extreme. If you stop seeking extreme-ness, you might actually relax enough to become a truly interesting person someday.
And if that is not reason enough, well, a lot of “popular” people become really fat. So slow down while you can still see your feet.
Hating Valentine’s Day, huh? Couldn’t find a more cliche version of “rebellion,” eh? We all KNOW it’s not a real holiday and that we are being encouraged to spend, less for the sake of St. Valentine than for capitalist greed. But in 1st grade, Valentine’s Day made me bold enough to give my crush an anonymous, homemade card with bears on it. My six-year-old self embraced that “now, or never” feeling, and left it in his cubby at the end of the day… He promptly ripped it up, overcome with embarrassment and SO not ready for that kind of relationship. What can I say? I’m an old soul.
Twenty-seven years later, I can also thank Valentine’s Day for encouraging bold moves. Preston and I have been anticipating, all week, the fancy dinner he has planned for tonight. We are going to be bold enough to get off the couch, turn off the TV (no worries… we have DVR), dress up despite two foot tall snow drifts and/or puddles, and stare into each other’s eyes for a few hours. I’m so excited! We have spent every Valentine’s Day, for the past five years, doing something like this, and I still feel giddy.
I have made countless gestures, some big, some small, on this day. I remember getting so excited to give everyone in my class a Valentine in elementary school. I loved the feeling of giving, (and I loved picking out Valentines that represented my complex, Barbie-obsessed, personality). I have also remembered to just take a moment to really say, “I love you,” and to feel the power of that statement before moving on to another task. I say “I love you” everyday to my family and friends, but making it extra special is hardly a burden.
I encourage you, whether single or attached, to be bold enough to embrace the day, bold enough to act, bold enough to be vulnerable, for the sake of love, not consumerism (like I said, WE KNOW it’s a fake day… you aren’t exactly an anarchist). Tell that woman you ride the train with that she is beautiful, and you hope she has a Valentine, even if it isn’t you. Take your coworker out for champagne. Tell them you love working with them, and feel the joy that comes from being kind. Wear a shirt with no stains and hold in your farts while sitting around the house with your spouse. However you do it, I guarantee that to give love is the best feeling, and you never know… you might get some in return…
Every now and I then, I leave Facebook. Now, don’t be confused; I don’t leave because I yearn to pursue nobler pastimes. I leave because it gives me heart palpitatations. I don’t like seeing my thousands of closest “friends” as they reveal their crazy, more and more readily. Strange, sad selfies that include disturbing song lyrics about slitting throats in the same post as “#longhairdontcare #stripedshirt #lovemybabydaughter,” can set anyone’s day off on the wrong foot. Facebook seems to be the go-to platform for the unhinged, and I don’t want all that crazy messing with my already tenuous mental health.
Adding fuel and links to the shared fire are the otherwise sane people on social media who are mad. They’re not ANGRY; they’re not toiling and ruminating over something about which they can no longer stay silent. No, these people are mad about something new and topical, and they are gonna express their mad before anyone can talk them out of it. AND they are going to do this on a platform where equally as fired up people will try to do exactly that: talk them out of it. These hapless challengers will be foiled, of course, by self-righteous agree-ers. Said agree-ers are dangerous because they have found a person who shares their view, which of course makes them REALLY smart. Gifted, even. Possibly deserving of a trophy baring a plate engraved with the words “World’s Best at Agreeing with Someone In a Way that is Articulate Enough to Warrant One or Two ‘Likes,’ One of Which Belongs to the Person Who Made The Original Post.” Now that they have received such high honors from themselves, the agree-ers will turn around and post some mad material of their own, without any hesitation, thus starting the whole masturbatory cycle again.
The mad posters are irrational in the way only unchecked, isolated people can be. Scrolling through the News Feed is like catching snippets of hermits ranting to themselves, using blunt, hateful language that would shut down a face-to-face conversation faster than “Debbie Downer.” Hey! Mad guys! You couldn’t use this type of language in real life because you would immediately out yourself as defensive. That’s right: you’re this mad, and your language is this strong, because you are aware, deep down, of how easily you could be challenged. Your hope is to scare away actual conversation, dropping your mic after leaving a big, scary poo of a statement on the Facebook stage.
Don’t worry! A lot of us share your mad urges. Every time I begin to post something mad, I run it by Preston, first. My verbal delivery is apologetic from the second I ask him to listen, because I already know: it’s too much, Sydney, and someone could call you out within seconds of reading it. Even when I get far enough to hit “Post,” I usually delete it within minutes, because I just don’t care enough after typing it to hear anybody else be mad about it, too (whether agreeing with me, or not). Moreover, everyone being mad is not productive, especially if all we do is type it out while sitting on our asses. Mad doesn’t make anyone’s thoughts evolve. Mad doesn’t encourage empathy. Mad usually fails to employ basic skills like comparison, deductive reasoning, understanding… It just leads to a bunch of people, arms crossed, eyes staring into devices, as they suppress their natural instincts to either move to action, or to approach a friend IN PERSON and ask to be talked away from the ledge.
Don’t have a friend? Hash it out with a therapist, and make yourself into even better friend material! Because honestly, I have too many “friends” on Facebook, so my real friends need to work that shit out before we open the wine.
I’m sorry. I can’t resist.
Opinions and a computer do not a critic make. I remember studying theatre critics in college. We learned about how necessary and impactful they can be, how they are paid to review, and how they are feared, revered and HATED. Interesting stuff, but our image of these critics was less-than appealing: surely they were solitary, eccentric, 50-cat-owning weirdos, consumed with their constant critiquing and wishing they could just enjoy DORA THE EXPLORER! LIVE! for what it is. My classmates and I had no desire to ever become critics… that is, unless, we were drinking wine with friends. No, we were positive that singing and dancing for a living was much more rewarding, as I’m sure you feel, now, about your chosen profession of… professional online troll, or what have you…
Enter: social media. Ugh. Suddenly, we are reaching for our iPads before our friends and/or wine! Thus, I offer this advice: If you aren’t getting paid for your opinions, and you aren’t positive of your intent (hint: “shit-stir” and “bash” are not the same as “encourage intelligent conversation” and “sway minds”), try to find a real-life friend and have a convo. That way, you don’t end up hated AND posing as something you’re not (and would never want to be): a bitter critic.
Yes, I am responding to hubbub about THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE!
Yes, I performed in the special last night, so I am personally invested.
Yes, this is “preachy.” I may not get any cool points, but passive-aggressive zingers have never been my thing. Also, I should get some points for stopping myself from making this a VERY long Facebook status.
Yes, this isn’t about Nelson Mandela. Grieving can be an offline endeavor, as well.
Lastly, yes, I’m aware of the contradiction of posting my thoughts online. C’est la vie!
If you are over the age of 25, you have most likely begun to dabble in HGTV. Although I hate the slow torture that is the show HOUSE HUNTERS, I could very easily die in a house fire in order to finish watching a home renovation program. One of my favorite shows, second only to PROPERTY BROTHERS, is LOVE IT OR LIST IT. This brilliant show is expertly crafted in Canada like all programs on the network. It features a mannish, British lady interior designer, and an irritating, asexual realtor guy. The two of them find people who own an unlivable home, the woman remodels said home, and the man uses Craigslist (I assume) to find a better home. Then, the homeowners decide if they will “love it” or “list it.” My boyfriend and I get hype for this mild competition like it’s the Superbowl.
Oh! And when I tell you the homes are unlivable, I am not exaggerating. They contain “unique” nonsense details like a closet with wood-panelling and no place to hang anything, or a fire-place instead of a kitchen sink. The interior designer walks in and says, “Adorable! They are definitely going to want to stay when I take down a few walls,” (“open-concept” homes are very trendy). And then the realtor guy says, “This place is a shit hole and they should definitely move.” I usually agree with him. But still, shut up, dude (I’m on Team “love it” for life).
Who is designing these ridiculous little homes where you have to climb a ladder to get to the half-bathroom? I imagine a good-natured, inbred mountain man, downing the Canadian equivalent of Natural Light Beer while he scribbles out the blueprints for a monstrous, death-trap of a house. Proud and filled with a sense of accomplishment, he goes about the business of ordering 2,000 planks of wood-panelling and 100 square feet of shag carpeting…
Fast forward to the dimwitted homeowners who, after three years of living there and never unpacking, are miserable. The sole bread-winner of the family makes a living writing a blog about pickles, yet they suddenly fancy themselves in a higher tax bracket: “We need six more closets, a five car garage, and 20 foot ceilings… I mean, we do have two children after all!” They reveal their remodeling budget of a whopping 5 grand, and that they will only buy a house listed for 10 grand more than they paid for the current home. IDIOTS. The small budget makes the remodeling plan impossible, and they could only find houses in their budget in Greenland. Every episode, the interior designer essentially folds their clothes and paints the walls, and the realtor shows them three homes they can’t afford in another county. Honestly, it really isn’t about the hosts and their competition. It’s about the homeowners learning to compromise, live within their means, and gain some perspective. Their experience is expensive and traumatic, which is awesome TV.
Yes, my boyfriend and I are addicted to the Schadenfreude of HGTV. We revel in it like people who watch The Real Housewives, except… we have souls. We’re nice, but there is something so satisfying about watching an entitled suburban couple have their hopes temporarily squashed. Of course, we are watching in a one-bedroom apartment that still had some of the previous renter’s belongings (and scent) in it when we moved in. Our entire home could fit into the HGTV homeowners’ garage, and they complain as if they live in a hut. To their credit though, these people, unlike the Housewives, are as broke as we are, and they have managed to acquire granite counter tops, wooden bowls filled with apples, and CHEVRON THROW PILLOWS! The program ends, and our gleeful hatred is replaced by a faint optimism. Someday, throwing a tantrum comprised of middle-class delusion, we too could acquire mountains of unnecessary mortgage debt and have a model home of our own. The Canadian Dream!
My boyfriend has a lot of really cool friends in Brooklyn. Their parents are rich in Jersey, so they can afford to be cool in Brooklyn. They have pitbulls, and gardens, and banjos, and dreams of singing barbershop on subway trains together. When my boyfriend is on a break from tour life, he likes to spend the day with these interesting fellows. Drink beers, pick basil, and meet graffiti artists who strut through the borough like the Mayors of Alt-Earth-Punk-Town or something! It’s an absolute man camp out there.
Cue me, the 70 year old trapped in a twenty-something’s body, returning from a 14 hour day consisting of horribly adult pastimes: chiropractor, talkback to theatre investors, two shows, and a voice lesson in between. My disarmingly laid-back boyfriend greets me with, “Babe…we should move to Brooklyn and have a garden.”
I know it is an innocent daydream, and yes, I am jealous that he is cool. And YES I took on all of this responsibility myself, but seriously… who are you, my audience or my therapist? Despite my current clarity about the conversation, I had imbibed a couple of drinks in the moment, so I decided to be a dutiful girlfriend and burst his bubble. “Really? We can barely take care of our own one-bedroom apartment. You know you have to pick and prune any herbs you grow, not to mention clean and eat said herbs so they don’t DIE, right? We have had a bag of pre-washed kale in our fridge for two weeks that apparently we BOTH refuse to cook! It has been a freaking kale standoff in this place, and you want to add a garden?! We have a stick that was once an orchid, for Pete’s sake.* I only make my coffee to go. I have NEVER had coffee in our home, so I will never sit and drink coffee in a garden. Oh, OH! AND you want to add an extra 30 minutes onto our commute, too???
I’m not actually mad that he fantasizes about Brooklyn, and I am fluent enough in psycho-babble to know that my being upset has nothing to do with his Brooklyn dreams. Afterall, I have an extensive Home Decor Pinterest account myself, and I don’t even have enough rooms for my shoes, let alone fountains and shit. Still, I find myself teaching my sweet man the harsh realities of New York life because he has been away so much of the time I have been living here. I mean, he is having to re-learn the subways, a task I find both charming and upsetting, a reminder of how much time I have spent alone traversing this city. So, yes, I have a “duty” to burst his bubble and catch him up! I want him to know where home is, and know why it is awesome, and know why it can be hard, and know that it is better here, with me, than anywhere else in this city. An out and out LIE, of course. There are much cooler people and places in New York. And because I know this, I will buy him a freaking basil plant from Trader Joe’s, and take day trips to Williamsburg. I’m not too proud to admit that neither one of us knows the trains in Brooklyn, but I don’t mind. We can get lost together.
*Yes, I did say “for Pete’s sake.” I told you: 70 year old in a twenty-something’s body.
Ok. I’m now blogging.
It is 2013, (almost 2014, actually). I set up this account in 2010. And I’m JUST now starting to write.
My ability to procrastinate is truly advanced and requires little to no persuasion. A TV show with one continuous plot line and multiple seasons on Netflix can immobilize me for months. Likewise, a “trip to the dog park” can culminate in dragging my pup through Zara for hours (he needs to be socialized!). Or nachos happen! But all of these distractions have been trumped by the greatest of them all: Broadway.
Now, to be sure, Broadway has been an incredibly rewarding distraction! It has been my last 5 years, and it more than pays the rent. I have been “soy blessed” to work consistently, and I hope not to slow down anytime soon! But anyone who does 8 shows a week can tell you that Broadway affords the energy/time for little else. Especially anything you actually want to do WELL (taking up running for a week and counting a ten minute mile as a personal best is hardly an accomplishment, Sydney). So, I set up this account, determined to write down my thoughts and share them and do it well. And then I did shows and ate nachos for four straight years.
And they were delicious! However, as I’ve gained wisdom (and a cheese-induced heart condition), I now realize that there will never be a perfect time to devote myself. As with having children, adopting a dog, or buying a Louis Vuitton, one can never have enough money, time, or maturity to feel “ready.” You just have to dive in. Let your life adjust. Make mistakes.
I anticipate that this won’t be anything like the instant gratification of booking a show and, subsequently, identifying myself publicly as a “Broadway ac-TRESS,” (proclaimed with as much false-humility as someone in a MOTOWN hat can muster). I will write, and even if no one reads it, I will hopefully grow the balls to quietly label myself as “some sort of writer or something,” as I slouch in my chair at Starbucks, draped in pseudo-intellectual angst. Still, this whole blogging thing does share one similarity with theatre. Once you hit the stage, you have to commit. So, as I pause to catch my breath between cheesy bites, I’ll just scroll over and hit “Publish.” Curtain up!