How Being a Temp(orary Receptionist) Has Helped My Acting

I spend, on average, 20+ hours a week answering phones, sending emails, delivering packages, and re-stocking fridges in office buildings all around the great City of New York.  I have worked for Barnes & Noble Headquarters, NASCAR, Grey advertising, Patek Philippe, and tons of fairly prestigious financial investment firms.  And while I haven’t had say, an actual professional acting gig yet, I consider many of my temp jobs as an opportunity to hone my acting skills and use them on a day-to-day basis.

You might say then that I do, in fact, act 20+ hours a week as well.

So how exactly has being a temp helped my acting (other than padding my bank account and keeping a roof over my head)?  Let’s take a look.

The receptionist is the first point of contact for all guests, which means it’s vitally important to make a good first impression so every guest feels welcome throughout the duration of their visit to the office (and also doesn’t think ill of the company).  That means offering a smile, a seat, something to drink, and taking their coat.  Above all, the receptionist offers respect.  Most days, I am perfectly friendly and have no trouble greeting people, but like any normal person, I occasionally have days when I would prefer to be anywhere but the office and not have to interact with anyone.  As an actor, it’s important to be respectful of everyone around you from your fellow actors to the crew to the director to the audience, much like being a receptionist.  And even if you aren’t feeling up to the part (at least emotionally; sickness is a different issue), you still have to perform at one-hundred percent no matter what else is going on in your life.  You owe that to everyone around you, especially when they’ve brought their A-game.

Answering and transferring phone calls is a big portion of any reception job.  Again, it’s important to be friendly, but it’s even more important to speak clearly and to listen well.  So much weight in acting training is put upon all the complexities of various methods from Stanislavsky to Meisner, etc, that many actors forget the simplest, most significant part of acting: listening and responding with clarity.  What’s the point of living in the woods with nothing but prospecting tools from the 1880s and the clothes on your back as “Method research” for your character if you don’t bother to really listen to those around you and speak clearly and accurately?  When I answer the phone, I really attempt to listen hard to what the person on the other end is saying and then do my best to speak as clearly as I can so they know what’s going on or get the answer they’re looking for.  In turn, I’ve learned to be an even better listener (and have proper diction when speaking!), which is not only good for my acting, but just in life in general.

Being a temp is basically being a substitute teacher for offices.  I’m very lucky to often be asked back to offices in which I’ve previously worked, but I frequently am going to new places, which means I have to jump right into things quickly and often learn on the job.  Having to leap without looking can be scary, but it forces you to be confident with your choices and think on your feet.  It goes without saying that acting sometimes requires improvisation and always requires confidence and a commitment to making bold choices.  Because of temp-ing I have learned how to adapt myself quickly to new work environments and protocols and be more confident with my choices.  If I make a mistake, I don’t beat myself up, I just learn how to fix it and move on with my day, without anguishing over the fact I didn’t do everything perfect.  The goal is always to make as few mistakes as possible and make everyone else’s day go as smoothly as if the real receptionist were there.  Being confident also means not being afraid of asking questions.  If you don’t know the answer to something, just ask.  I’m a big proponent of asking questions, because I feel it’s part of my job to try to understand as much as I can about what’s going on around me (also highly important in acting).  I’m always surprised by how many people are too proud to admit they don’t know everything, so they never ask questions, fearing it will make them look unconfident or stupid or assuming people don’t want to help them.  This is totally wrong.  I’ve yet to meet a single person in one of my workplaces who doesn’t want to help my day go smoother by answering a few questions.  Ask and ye shall receive, kids.

So to re-cap, these things apply to both Temp Work AND Acting: 

  1. Show respect to those around you by being friendly and giving 100% at all times.
  2. Really listen to people and respond clearly.
  3. Be confident and make strong choices.
  4. Don’t agonize over making mistakes; fix them and move on.
  5. Be adaptable.
  6. Ask questions!
  7. Learn as much as you can about your role and what’s going on around you.

Apply these to your life (and acting if applicable), and I promise you’ll see instant, positive results!

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The Young and the Restless

I’ve been a little absent from my blog recently, but that seems to parallel my life.

(I know, I know; it sounds a bit melodramatic.)

A couple months ago during a somewhat dark-ish period of time in my life, I decided I needed to get out of New York and detach from everything.  Naturally, I called my mother and told her I needed a summer vacation sometime in June-ish, and I either wanted to come home to Missouri or go visit my brother in Los Angeles.  I figured I had the money to buy a plane ticket to one or the other place, but she insisted that she and my father would pay for me to come home for a couple weeks.

Things eventually got better for me, and I started feeling like my old optimistic self again, but I still felt strangely blasé about work and auditions.  It even started to feel like spending time with some of my friends was an obligation rather than a choice.  The world around me was moving forward in a blur, but I felt immovable.  It seemed as though everyone around me had found some sort of direction, and I had no direction at all.

As I got closer to my vacation date, I withdrew more.  I grew tired of fighting my own inner restlessness, trying to keep it at bay.  Indifference was easy, so I chose to be indifferent.  I chose to be a little absent from my own life.

Now I’m in my old bedroom at home in Missouri, and everything suddenly looks different.  This time last year, I was slaving away for hours and hours at the winery nearly every day, trying to make enough money to move to New York in the early fall.  Here I am back where I started and feeling nostalgic for last summer.  It’s so nice to not have to worry about money and to have a full fridge at my disposal.  My parents take me to movies and shopping and out to dinner.  I get to drive (Sadly not MY car as it was sold back in February.  RIP the Green Machine.) around town and control what time I get places.  My BFF Nicole comes over on Wednesday nights to watch So You Think You Can Dance, and we yell our criticisms at the TV over margaritas and chips.  It’s so easy to slip back into this life.  To pretend the last nine months didn’t happen.

But they did.  And in six days, I’ll be going back to New York where the last nine months happened.  And I have barely anything in my fridge (or my bank account for that matter).  Where I take the train five or six times a day.  Where I hardly ever go shopping (except for groceries).  Where I watch SYTYCD alone on my couch and HeyTell/text Nicole my commentary.  This life is not so easy to slip back into.

While I’ve been here in Missouri though, I’ve been thinking about a million things: life, the future, what I’ve accomplished so far, what I haven’t accomplished, where I want to be in ten years, relationships, my career, who I want to be.  I’m so restless right now.  I never want to be where I am; I always want to be somewhere else.  There are times when all I want to do is just pack a bag and disappear in the mountains of Montana or explore tiny French towns.  I want adventure and an escape.

But then I asked myself if I’m restless because I’m unhappy.  And I don’t know the answer to that.  I know I’m definitely not exactly doing what I want to be doing, and that has to change.  But at the same time, I don’t know if music theatre is even what I want to do anymore…or at least, right now.  Things that felt so certain a year ago don’t feel that way anymore.  I’m not giving up, but I know something needs to change.  I need to change.

Being away from New York has allowed me to have some perspective, and it’s made me realize how much more important other things are: family, friends, enjoying life.  When I’m in New York, so much revolves around either how I’m paying the bills or trying to get acting jobs.  I want a LIFE, and I am driving myself crazy with worry about too many things that aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

So I’ll go back to New York in six days because I have to.  I hope it’s also because I WANT to.  It’s just been…hard.

“It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.  The hard…is what makes it great.”

– Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own

I sincerely hope Jimmy Dugan is right.

BAM! or How I Woke Up From My Own Personal Matrix

“…And BAM.  It hits you.” – Brooklyn Academy of Music subway ad

Directly following a moment of impact comes a moment of clarity when the world just stops and buried truths bubble up to the surface for you to see and consider before you actually feel the effects of the impact itself.  In that brief space of time, you can see inside yourself for miles and miles as though you were looking out onto a vast canyon and marvelous vistas; the landscapes stretching into infinity, and sky blending into horizon.  For that moment of clarity, you see the whole iceberg instead of just the tip, and it’s what lies beneath the water that is most important of all.  It’s in that moment, you see just how precarious the situation really is, and that is when you finally feel the impact.  BAM.

When these moments of impact/clarity enter your life, it’s jarring.  At least, it was for me.  Suddenly I saw some truths about my life I had never seen before, and they were ugly.  I felt stripped to the bone; raw and naked.  I was utterly defenseless, my armor gone, and the truth went straight to my heart like the dagger of an enemy.  And what’s worst of all is that the Enemy turned out to be my heart itself.

A heart killing a heart.

(Sounds like something out of an Edgar Allan Poe story.)

pat·tern \ˈpat-ərn\ 

1. A regular and intelligible form or sequence discernable in certain actions or situations

The word “pattern” comes from the Middle English and Old French word, “patron,” meaning something serving as a model.  Webster’s says, “the change in sense is from the idea of a patron giving an example to be copied.”

Patterns are studied everywhere from math to science to psychology to traffic and I suppose, even the human heart.  How do patterns form?  DO patterns form or are they just inherently part of our own genetic makeup, our universe’s DNA?  And if our universe is made up mostly of patterns, how do we explain things that are patternless?  Or is not having a pattern also a pattern?

Needless to say, my brain hurts trying to consider this.

My question is: what do you do when you suddenly realize you’ve been stuck in a pattern you weren’t entirely aware of?  My moment of impact/clarity brought Matrix-level reactions to my brain: I had been quietly plugged into a pattern for close to twelve years and had just taken the red pill.  As I tumbled down the rabbit hole, I found myself confronted with just how much I had failed to see…or refused to acknowledge.  Like Neo waking up in the Matrix-created human farms of 2199, I saw for the first time how much I’d been deceived; only I was the cause of my own personal deception, and it was frightening.

If, like its origin states, a pattern is an example set down by a patron to be copied, then whose example have I been following?  Who is MY patron?

Perhaps a patron is not a person, but a feeling.  In my case, perhaps I have been following my feelings blindly rather than stopping to actually LOOK around at things; to see things and people as they are instead of as I want them to be.  One of my great strengths AND weaknesses is my imagination, my ability to romanticize events and create whole worlds out of nothingness, but now I see that perhaps I’ve been doing that a little too often in my life, and it has ultimately hurt me.  When reality doesn’t meet expectation, it can be excruciating; a hard slap to the face.

I don’t think I’ve consciously chosen this pattern for myself, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have one and MUST do something to alter it.  To be honest, I’m scared.  I’m scared to leave the comfort behind and possibly open myself and my heart up to be hurt in new ways, but I also know it’s the right thing to do.  I have no idea what’s coming next, and that’s scary too, but thrilling because anything is possible.  Choosing to stay in this pattern would hurt more than choosing to leave it behind; I know that now.  I just can’t go through something like this one more time.  Choosing the pattern is choosing the blue pill, and now that I’ve seen the truth, I, like Neo, could never go back.

So here I am, post-impact, ready to go through life without a patron.  Ready to be my OWN patron, setting down examples for myself to follow.  I’m in a new ocean and not quite sure how to navigate, but I’ll figure it out.  I have to.

It’s sink or swim.  Fight or flight.  There’s always a choice, and I’m finally making mine.

The Never Ending Pasta Bowl or How I Didn’t Audition for the Olive Garden

I worked yesterday at Grey advertising again, and they just happened to be having auditions for an upcoming national commercial for that shining beacon of all that is Americanized about Italian food (but you get great free, unlimited breadsticks!): the Olive Garden!

Ooh the unlimited salad and breadsticks...

Now before you get all excited and start thinking that you will be seeing me chow down on pasta Lady and the Tramp-style with some attractive fellow while you’re waiting for Modern Family to come back, I didn’t audition nor did I attempt to sneak into the audition. I was working reception, and thus, it would be inappropriate for me to try to crash an audition for which I had no appointment unlike the hordes of attractive child actors and adult commercial actors who did. While I would have LOVED to have the chance to say some line to my good-looking, fake family about how much I love the never-ending pasta bowl, I instead spent my day directing OTHER actors back to casting with a smile plastered on my face.

Ah the ironies of life.

Or is it just situations that suck? I always forget because I learned about irony, like most people in the 1990s, from Alanis Morissette’s song “Isn’t It Ironic,” which is probably not actually the correct definition. (But despite your incorrect definition of irony, I still love both you and your songs, Alanis!)

Anyway, as I sat ushering child actors in, it occurred to me that a lot of them probably have more professional acting credits than I do. Like, here I am, twenty-three years old with a college degree in acting but no professional credits, no agent, no SAG card, no AEA card. Here’s this like, eleven year old perky blonde girl who probably is SAG/AFTRA with an agent and a resume full of commercials and probably a couple random guest spots on Law & Order: SVU and Royal Pains.  How does this happen?!

I’m not sure I would have wanted to be a child actor where people expected me to always act like an adult and never get to completely enjoy my youth.  I think being a child actor would have made me not like acting as much.  It would have made me have to grow up faster.  Already I could see some of those children maybe being there with their parents out of obligation rather than for their own enjoyment because it was something THEY wanted to do.  There are plenty of child actors who have grown up into successful adults, but also plenty who felt like they missed out on their youths.

But seeing all these children coming in to audition and knowing they probably have a longer professional resume than I do put things into perspective for me.  Then I thought about how much lengthier my CHILDHOOD ACTIVITIES resume is than theirs, and I realized I was the one with the upper hand.  I got to play baseball and go to the pool and have sleepovers and play in marching band.  I got to have family vacations and go to normal schools.  I have experiences that make up for my lack of professional ones; experiences that cannot be replaced by SAG cards or Olive Garden commercials.  I may not be where I want to be professionally, but when I DO get there, I’ll be happier and better educated.  I’ll be better adjusted.  I’ll be grateful.

And when I get acting work, I’ll celebrate  with my REAL family…but maybe not at Olive Garden.

Who Am I Anyway, Am I My Resume?

Like many people my age, I am in the throes of an identity crisis.  I am rapidly approaching the date marking my one-year anniversary of being a college graduate.  I do not have a steady income or a job in the actual field for which I (or rather, my parents) spent thousands of dollars in training at a private university.  Also, I don’t have a boyfriend (or god forbid, a fiancé), much to my extended family’s chagrin.

In short, I’m a little lost.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and to be honest, that scares me sometimes.  I’ve always had a plan or known what I was going to do day-to-day because of school or my family.  We all grow up with a safety net, and the minute we reach a certain age, it’s yanked out from under us.  Once it’s gone, we’re in control of everything, and that is a lot of pressure to put on our shoulders.  Sure, we’ve been preparing for that pressure our whole lives, but until you actually feel it, you have no idea how much it can weigh on you.

Psychologists and news commentators believe my generation is self-absorbed, whiny, and spoiled.  They say we’ve been given more opportunities than any other generation and grown up with the latest technology, but we squander it by using our education and technology to complain about our lives and detach from society.  We’re branded as lazy and ill equipped to do “real work in the real world” because we majored in philosophy or world cultures or acting – things that actually interest us – and don’t want to sacrifice our principles to work a job for the sole purpose of just making money (even though eventually, many of us do).

So naturally, all these psychologists and news commentators don’t think the quarter-life crisis actually exists.

But I’m here to tell you it’s very real.  Though I’m about six months away from being twenty-four years old and thus, not a quarter of a century old yet, I still feel this aimlessness sinking in.  Who AM I?  What am I supposed to DO with my life?  Which direction should I head?  There are so many questions and never any tangible answers.  No compass.  No map.  No schedule.  I am the only one who can answer these questions and decide where I’m going and what to do, and that kind of controlled chaos is terrifying.

Though I suffer from the general form of quarter-life crisis I’ve been talking about, my real identity crisis can be pinpointed to the decision between film and stage.  All my life, I’ve been training to be a stage actor, taking dance classes and voice lessons and acting classes, doing shows.  I’ve always loved musical theatre, because it let me do everything I loved in one space of time: act, sing, and dance.  It’s the best of it all.

But over time, my interest in film grew.  I’ve always loved going to the movies, but as I got older, I became more interested in how they were put together, different directors and their styles, cinematography.  I would study certain actors I liked and look for all their nuances.  I started keeping up with what was in pre and post-production.  I read about Italian and French cinema and watched every indie movie I could.  I followed the awards season religiously and forced my family to play an Oscar prediction game every year.  I basically began having a not-so-secret love affair with film, and that’s where the guilt began.

As you all know by now, I have a degree in music theatre from a rather prestigious, if lesser-known, music school.  All throughout college, I felt as though I had to put my life and interests in a box.  I was there to study music theatre, and that’s it.  Though I had an excellent educational experience at my school, one I cherish, it was far from a perfect place.  There wasn’t a lot of room for exploration outside your chosen field of study, and I certainly felt that if I committed to studying music theatre in college, I wasn’t allowed to do or be anything other than that.  I felt like I had to be all about music theatre all the time and couldn’t be interested in anything else or I’d be branded a – GASP – traitor.

So I stuck to the plan: finished my music theatre degree and moved to New York City.  I audition for stage projects (unsuccessfully thus far, I might add).  My friends audition for stage projects (some more successfully than others).  And the nagging guilt is still there.  I want to do music theatre, I do, but I don’t know who I am in music theatre right now.  Nothing seems to fit.  And the only place I’ve been feeling a sense of belonging has been the few times I’ve filmed at NYU.  I haven’t felt boxed in by how I look or what “type” I am; I’m just me playing a character and saying lines to a camera.  It feels good and right.  And that’s where I feel guilty, because I’m here in New York with a music theatre degree, and I think I want to pursue film instead of musicals.  Even the idea of moving to Los Angeles at some point down the road doesn’t feel foreign or repulsive to me anymore; ME, the girl who has wanted to live in New York City her whole life, wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.

I’m so tired of feeling guilty about my own life.  I’m tired of feeling guilty that I have a degree in one thing but I don’t necessarily want to pursue that right now.  I’m tired of feeling guilty about hating open calls for a stupid chorus role or rolling my eyes when someone talks pretentiously about some obscure, brand new musical.  I’m tired of feeling guilty about knowing more about what’s going on in the film industry than I do about Broadway.  I’m just exhausted by all this guilt.  It’s MY life, and I don’t know why I’m letting my guilt (or how I might be perceived by others) run it.  I have to take control, because there’s no net to catch me, and the leap or fall is mine alone to take.

I don’t know who I am or who I’m GOING to be, but I have to trust my instincts and stop apologizing for or feeling guilty about them.  I know who I’d LIKE to be, and I have to pursue that whole-heartedly and hope for the best, and I’ll be damned if anyone tries to make me feel bad about it.  I will not be boxed in anymore; I will not be categorized.  I am not one thing, I am MANY things, and I will explore and develop all these things inside of me because that’s what life is about.  Life is a series of identity crises and you have to get lost in order to find yourself.

So I’m lost.  Big deal.  I’ll find myself soon.

LIVE from New York, It’s Saturday Night

5:54 am.

That’s the time my clock read as I crawled into bed Sunday morning.  I think it’s the latest I’ve ever been out in my entire life.  It’s also the first time I haven’t cared in the slightest what time I went to bed.

Saturday night, time became decidedly unimportant.  Obsolete even.  Maybe suspended is the best word.

It was a night straight out of an independent movie: the colors, the lighting, the subway rides, the glances.  Sofia Coppola could have directed it.

It’s eerie and yet magical how quiet and deserted Manhattan is between the hours of 4 am and 6 am.  There is no traffic.  Hardly a soul on the sidewalk.  Just the lights of the concrete jungle around you, blending in with the stars of the night sky.  It’s as though the whole world belongs to you.  I never thought I’d see a Manhattan so dormant and dreamy, but here I was, engulfed in its presence as I drifted through its streets all night with my Saturday evening companion…

The evening began at a bar in the East Village where a friend of mine was having a birthday party.  As I clacked down Essex St in my high heels, I started pulling out my I.D. to be checked at the door.  Right as I was about to go in, I noticed a familiar face arriving at the door at the precise moment I was.  I quickly turned around to block myself from view.  “This can’t be happening,” I thought in a panic, “he can’t be here.  You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.  Of all the bars in Manhattan, he shows up to this one the exact same night and at the exact same moment I am?!”  The guy in question was one I had some previous history with, and things didn’t end well.

By “didn’t end well,” I mean the asshole never called me back.

It was an unreal coincidence.  Stuff like that doesn’t just HAPPEN in New York, unless you’re Carrie Bradshaw from Sex & the City.  But here he was, in the flesh, surrounded by his group of friends and a few girls about to go into the same bar I was.  I pulled out my cell phone and called my best friend, Hassan, “You’ll never believe what just happened.  _____ is here.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No.  He was just walking up to the door at the same time I was.  I don’t think he saw me.”

“Oh Christ.  Well, this would ONLY happen to you.”

“I don’t know how to handle this.  I have to go in, and I CAN’T go in.”

“Give him five minutes to settle a bar location, and then just go find our friends.  He should feel like the embarrassed asshole, not you.”

“What if he sees me?”

“What if he does?  Just go in, boo.  I’ll be there soon to pretend to make out with you in front of him.”

“Ha.  Thanks.  Love you.”

“Love you too, slut.”

I ducked into the bar and found my friends; hastily explaining my situation and scanning the room so I could make sure my back was to him at all times.  Luckily, neither he nor his friends ever saw me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I stayed too long, he would somehow sense my presence and see me.  After about twenty minutes, I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I told Hassan and my other friends goodbye and departed for the West Village to try to sing at a cabaret and meet up with a guy I’d worked with the week before.

I was spooked by this sudden reappearance in my life (Seriously, how did Carrie Bradshaw do it every time she ran into some guy she slept with or dated?), and the guy I was meeting could tell.  “Are you okay?” he asked as I walked up to the Duplex.  “I will be, I just ran into someone I never thought I’d see again and don’t want to see again, and I’m processing that.”

“Friend or…?”

“Let’s just say a guy I…let’s just say a Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Fair enough.  No more questions asked.”

I was going to sing at a birthday party for another friend, a sort of open mic night, but the evening started running long, and at 1:15, New Guy asked, “There’s a party I need to go to for a bit, do you want to come?  Is it okay if we head out of here?”  I knew singing was a lost cause for the night (bummer), so I agreed.  Also, he was giving me a chance to spend more of the evening with him, and I sensed this was my opportunity to solidify my theories about our mutual attraction.  Plus, he’s just a genuinely nice guy.

So we boarded the 1 train and headed for the Upper West Side.  Despite being a local train with way too many stops, the trip seemed to fly by.  We talked about everything: favorite movies, career aspirations, money troubles, growing up.  Before we knew it, we were at the 86th street stop.  We left the subway and walked down to 84th St.

After being buzzed into the building, we walked up to the fifth floor (Got to love buildings without elevators).  We were greeted by riotous talking and laughing once we reached the door.  He used to be an NBC Page, and it turned out this was an NBC Page party.  You can imagine how I felt as I entered the apartment knowing I was literally the only person there who has never worked for NBC.  Knowing I was going to feel uncomfortable, he led me inside and immediately started introducing me to people.  As I settled in to talking to one of his page friends, he smiled, “I’m going to make some rounds, but I’ll be back in a few.  You okay?”

“Yes.  Go talk with your friends.  I’m a Midwesterner; we’ll talk to anything.”

After chatting with the most glamorously dressed page at the party, Crystal, for several minutes (I could NOT stop staring at her saucer-sized gold-plated earrings.), he came back and asked, “Can I get you a drink?” and led me into the kitchen.

“What do you want?” he asked once we were in front of the libations.

I replied, “Typically, I’m a vodka person, but for the sake of expediency, let’s just go with beer, shall we?”

He immediately popped the lid off a bottle of beer (some boutique-y ale I’d never heard of; granted I haven’t heard of a lot of beers since I hardly ever drink it), and handed it to me before choosing one for himself.  As I took a swig, he said, “Open your hand.”  I placed my palm in front of him, and he filled it with peanut M&M’s.

“Here,” he said, “M&M’s make everything better.”  With that, I couldn’t disagree.

“Peanut is my second favorite type of M&M,” I said in between bites.

He munched on a handful of his own, “Let me guess…you like peanut butter the best.”

I asked with a grin, “How did you know?”

“I just know,” he answered mischievously as he left my side to go talk to a friend who’d just arrived.

The game of dirty Jenga over near the couches was being more amplified by the minute as was the stench of pot.  I ducked into the bedroom where the coats were to check my phone; typical nervous party behavior.  He sensed my absence and found me inside a few minutes later.

“Are you okay?  Having fun?” he queried, hoping to ease my nerves.

I looked up from my phone, “I’m great.  Just texting a friend.”

“Okay, well, I just got an email from another NBC friend, and the after after party for SNL is happening downtown at 4:00.  I’ve got the location and password.  Do you want to come with me?”

It took about .5 seconds for me to debate this in my head.  It went something like this:

It’s 3:30 in the morning.  You should go to bed.

But it’s an after after party for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  And he’s cute.

But bed?

SNL.  Cute guy.  Invite.  Secret passwords.  What the fuck is wrong with you?!  GO!!!

“Yes.  Absolutely.  Let’s go.”

“Great,” he grinned from ear to ear, “get your coat.  Let’s go.”

Into the night we fled again; my heels clacking on the pavement, sounding noisier than usual on the deserted sidewalks.  He seemed to notice this.

“How are your feet doing?”

“Surprisingly well, considering we’ve been traipsing about New York all night.”

“I’m impressed you’ve made it around all night in those.”

“It’s a special skill.  I might just put it on my resume.  Might get me hired on Broadway.”

He laughed, “Well even if no one else thinks it’s impressive, I do.”

While waiting for the train, we sat in semi-silence, the late hour of the night starting to hit our bodies, making us sleepy.  I leaned against him, our legs and arms touching without either of us wanting to move away.  A train on the express tracks roared past just as he was about to ask me a question.  I looked toward him expectantly, but the question never came.  He just stared at me silently, smiled, and then looked back at the tracks, hoping to will our train into coming.  I didn’t care about whatever he was going to ask me; all I needed to know was already happening.

Just as we were about to close our eyes, our train appeared in the station.  We sprang to our feet and sat down inside.  That’s the one good thing about late night trains: there are always open seats.

We crossed our legs toward each other.  He started to nod off, so I gently placed my hand on his arm to keep him from falling over.

“Thanks,” he said quietly.  I left my hand on his arm.  As we rolled into station after station, his energy seemed to be returning, but he never shied away from my touch; instead accepting it warmly.

Breaking the spell, I quipped as we finally exited the train and made our way back above ground, “Secret passwords.  What is SNL?  A fraternity?  Is there some secret handshake I should know about too?”

He laughed, “No secret handshakes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone made one up.”

We walked down 26th street and stopped in front of a large, nondescript black door.  I would never have known what was hidden inside were it not for the imposing body-builder of a bouncer guarding the door.  We were here: La Pomme.  I felt like I was Sydney Bristow in ALIAS or something as we sauntered up to the bouncer and gave the password (Sorry, I just won’t tell.  Some secrets need to remain secrets.).  A wall of loud techno music, flashing lights, and go-go dancers greeted us as we walked inside.  I had never seen anything like this before.

I asked, “This is pretty standard, huh?”  He nodded and leaned in close to me so his mouth was right by my ear, “It’s okay, but I don’t like loud parties too much.  I’d rather be able to have a conversation.”  As he withdrew his face from next to my ear, I immediately wished to have it back.  There’s something sexy about whispering into ears; also the feeling of his slight stubble brushing against my cheek.

We found a place on the dance floor and let the music pull us into a hypnotic state.  I felt like Natalie Portman in Black Swan: just a few minutes of these strobe lights and beats and I could go home with Mila Kunis too.  As he said hi to some friends around the club, I found myself dancing with some guy named James, who upon finding out I’d come with another guy, immediately departed upon my companion’s return.

Sorry to deny you a belt notch, James, but I ain’t going home with you tonight, kiddo.  Mazel Tov!

Anyway, just as my companion returned, a weird couple in matching afro wigs entered the club.  Taking that (and the fact it was now 5 am) as our cue to leave, we gathered our coats and headed out of La Pomme.  The cold air was a welcome relief from the hot club, and though I shivered, I was happy to have fresh air.  Five a.m.  Manhattan is so quiet then.  Not wanting to disturb the magic, he and I stayed mostly silent on our walk to the subway, taking in the peacefulness of the abandoned streets and perhaps ruminating on everything that had occurred in the hours before.

We sat in the 34th St station, dozing slightly, waiting for the train.  I kept one eye open, so as not to miss the train and also to let him sleep a bit; he’d been so much of a gentleman, I figured he deserved it.  Finally around 5:20, the train pulled into the station, and we trudged inside, fighting sleep with all our might.  It took all my effort to not pass out on the ride home, but I let him rest, leaning against me, my hand holding his arm to keep him steady.  When we reached his stop to transfer trains, I gently patted his leg and whispered, “This is you.”

He smiled and stood up.  “I had fun tonight,” he said making his way through the open train doors, “we should get together again soon.”  He waved goodbye.

The doors shut, and I was alone, save for a few Hispanic workers and three hipster guys returning from a long night of ironic partying.  The rest of the ride to my stop was uneventful.  Though I couldn’t wait to get into my bed, I also didn’t want the night to end.  I hated goodbyes.  I hated when the magic ends.  I hated that he was gone so fast.

5:54 am.

That’s the time my clock read as I crawled into bed Sunday morning.  I shut my eyes and drifted off into a far dreamier world than the Manhattan I’d just spent all night in.

When I finally awoke at one in the afternoon, I found a text waiting for me in my phone.  It was sent at 6:14 am and said just this:

“Good morning!  Sleep well!”

Maybe the magic didn’t end.  Maybe it’s just beginning…

Loves Labours Lost Part II or How I Fell Victim to the When Harry Met Sally Dilemma

I didn’t mention one pretty major thing in Part I, but I felt, in serving
the story properly, it needed to be discussed here.  One huge portion of my
life has been spent in the dating purgatory (well, the other besides
“She’s One of The Guys”-iosis) known as Are-We-a-Thing-Maybe-We-Are-But-Not-But-Kind-Of which leads to lots of Kind-of-But-Not-Really-But-It-Feels-Like-It Dates.  You’re thinking, oh big surprise, guys with commitment issues.  Imagine that!  It really goes beyond that, though.  These aren’t necessarily guys with commitment issues; these are guys who are so enigmatic for whatever reason (be it chivalry, shyness, or god forbid something else), they never tell you what they’re really thinking or feeling.  These are guys who give you just enough of those stupid “expert-tested” body language cues you read about in Cosmo magazine (believe me, I’ve read like, ALL of those godforsaken articles) to leave you utterly perplexed as to whether they like you or not, but it’s usually not on purpose.  A lot of times, the whole Are-We-Aren’t-We thing goes hand in hand with “She’s One of The Guys”-iosis, but really it goes back to the When Harry Met Sally dilemma: can men and women be just friends?

And you know what?  I don’t think it’s possible.  If you asked me a few years ago, I probably would have answered differently.  But that was before.  That was before I started on the treacherous path of Are-We-Aren’t-We with someone.  It’s one thing for gay men and straight women to be friends, but it’s an entirely different scenario when the man is also straight.  You know why, don’t you?  Because at some point you’re both thinking about sex with the other person; it may not be at the same time, but at one time or another you’ve both at least considered what the other person looks like naked.  Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about.  With a gay male-straight female relationship, sex is immediately out of the equation, which allows for deep bonding without the worry of giving off signals or developing some sort of sexual attraction.  This is not the case with straight men and women; it doesn’t really matter what you do, there’s always going to be some sort of attraction there, even if it’s for five
seconds.  Until physical action has been taken, the tension can’t and won’t
subside.

I have been embroiled in this situation for over a year and a half, so you can imagine how horrible the tension has become.

For a while, I thought maybe I was making it up.  Initially, I thought perhaps I was exaggerating tiny little details in the hope that he was reciprocating.  We’ve known each other for four years and counting, so our friendship had been steadily building.  I didn’t really start feeling an attraction until about two years into the friendship when he and I started spending more time together and having more in-depth conversations.  As time and our conversations progressed, we became close confidantes, sharing sensitive personal information.  I could feel myself starting to wonder where this was going, especially since I’d had lots of guy friends over the years but none I’d talked to like this (except, naturally, gay friends).  This is where the trouble started.

I’d notice glances in my direction, the touching of knees underneath a table, random text messages, and bits of conversation I’d analyze to pieces.  It’s funny how attuned I became to the minutiae of his movements, speech, and overall interactions with me; it was like I was Daniel Day-Lewis doing some super Method Actor-y observations for a role.  THAT’S how attuned I was.  I’d spend hours talking with friends, trying to dissect him.  Some days, I’d purposely do something to try to coax him into making a move or saying something that would give him away all to no avail.  He’d give some small indication one day, and the next, there’d be none.  Finally I decided to be done with the whole thing.  The mental turmoil just wasn’t worth it.

Ha.  As if I could just give him up that easily.

To quote that fine singer of club songs (I use the term “singer” loosely here), Ke$ha, “Your love is my drug.”

So maybe it wasn’t or isn’t love, but it’s DEFINITELY a drug.  I’ve tried to quit cold turkey, but like the Millennium Falcon caught in the Death Star’s tractor beam (again, sorry), I keep being pulled back.  He has this hold over me, and I’m powerless to stop it.  It’s the Great What-If that keeps pulling me back.  The Great What-If can be a very powerful thing if you let it, and I’ve let it control me for a year and a half, though there have been a few times when I’ve ignored it altogether because I was in one of my I-quit phases.  Somehow though, like Luke Skywalker with a tie fighter on his tail (I really apologize for all these references.  I have Nerd Turretts.), “I can’t shake him!”  I keep coming back to it.  Back to him.

It’s when we’re alone together that slays me.  He says something that burrows itself deep within my soul and subconscious, and I don’t know how to react.  Then he just LOOKS at me for far too long for a normal conversational exchange, and I know that with any normal person, these are opportune moments for a kiss…which still hasn’t come.  It’s some weird, self-imposed barrier that we’re both too afraid to break.

BUT WE HAVE TO BREAK IT OR I’LL GO CHARLIE SHEEN CRAZY.

We’re stuck in a rut, and there has to be a natural progression to this, otherwise this cycle will continue, and he and I will keep coming back to each other, unable to move past this chemistry we never explored.  I keep wondering why we keep coming back.  I wonder why I’m not more upset that I haven’t heard back from a guy I had a little fling with over a month ago.  I wonder why I had such a hard time trying to tell my guy friend about that guy.  I wonder why he seemed a tiny bit jealous about it.  I wonder why he texted ME at 3 am one night from 1500 miles away instead of trying to get lucky with three girls he found cute at the bar he was in.  I wonder why he and I always seem to wind up sitting together at parties and bars and in the park.

My best friend, patient listener that she is, has told me on more than one occasion (including last night) that I have to break this vicious cycle.  I’m well aware of it.  I know I have feelings, I won’t deny that, but I also haven’t figured out what I want to do with them.  I don’t know what I want, and I sure as hell better know if he and I ever talk about the giant LOTR-ish elephant in the room (I think those are actually called Mumakil in Return of the King.  I had to look it up on Wikipedia.).  I know a huge part of me is just curious to see if he and I could work in that way, curious to see if we could work together physically too.  I won’t pretend that I think he also hasn’t considered it before.  He’s not stupid; I know he’s probably at least once noticed what’s going on between us, but he’s never done anything about it.

Well, kiddo, you can’t have it both ways.  Either you’re just a supportive friend or you want to be my boyfriend, but you can’t be jealous when I pay attention to another guy that isn’t you.  If that bothers you, then fucking DO something about it.  I can’t wait on you forever.  I won’t wait on you forever.

One of my favorite moments of When Harry Met Sally is when Harry, after years of are-we-aren’t-we moments, realizes on New Years Eve he loves Sally so he runs through Manhattan and finds her at a party to tell her, even though she is angry with him.  He tells her that “I love that you get cold when it’s seventy one degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above you nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts, I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Years Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of the life to start as soon as possible.”  It takes her by surprise, and she says “You see, that is just like you Harry. You say things like that and you make it impossible for me to hate you. And I hate you Harry…I really hate you.”  Then, of course, they kiss.

And while I know romantic comedies all have some sort of semi-cliched moment like this, I can’t help thinking that maybe THIS is what I want.  I want someone to know me that well and find all those weird little quirks about me wonderful; I want that sudden realization they can’t do without them.  They can’t do without ME.  And I don’t want them to be afraid to just tell me…even in the middle of an awesome late 1980s New Year’s Eve party.

I don’t know how all this will turn out.  I know I have to do something about this.  I am tired of indecision.  I am tired of being one of the guys.  I am tired of not being taken seriously as a woman.  I am tired of the glances and the missed opportunities and the soulful conversations that make me feel special but never really lead anywhere.  And as tired as I am where I should quit, there he will be to say that he would be lost without me or that I have a way of knowing exactly what he needs to hear and I just understand him better than anyone else.

You see?  That is JUST like you.  You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you.