Of Meisner and Men

So for almost the last two years, I have been taking a Meisner Technique class down in the West Village on Saturday afternoons with a great, no BS teacher named Alan Gordon.  For those unfamiliar with the Meisner Technique, it is so named for Sanford Meisner, one of the preeminent American acting teachers.  Meisner came out of the Group Theatre alongside people like Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, and Elia Kazan and eventually created his own approach to acting, which became known as the Meisner Technique.  The main points of the Meisner Technique are about not doing anything until something happens to you, doing something because of how you feel, and doing whatever you do fully.  Get that?  It’s all about DOING.  No thinking.  No trying.  It involves a LOT of repetition, which most people would assume is boring, but it disciplines you to listen, focus on your partner, and get out of your own head.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s basically a magic sedative for your neurotic tendencies. 

Well, at least it is for me.  I can’t speak for the OTHER 8,999,999 people in New York City.

Anyway, in Things That Never Happen To Twentysomething Female Actresses in New York (which will probably be the title of a chapter in my memoirs), my acting class happens to have quite a few straight men. 

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This is a vision board I made this past summer while drinking a glass of white wine, and yes, features a Beyonce quote. #hypocrite

Yes, you read that 100% correctly.  I am just as baffled as you.  I spent four
years at an artsy university where our unofficial slogan was “gay by May or your money back.” (That is a real thing. #goStars)  I haven’t been around so many straight men in a creative scenario for so long, it feels like being in a foreign country.  The best part is I didn’t even have to make a vision board (which, if I understand correctly, is where women drink white wine and cut pictures of yachts and six-pack abs and Beyonce quotes out of magazines?) or use the Secret to manifest this, it simply happened!

I am at an unusual stage in my development as an adult woman, I think.  My last relationship ended over three years ago, and I really haven’t dated anyone seriously since.  Yet, 75-85% of my closest friends are all in serious relationships now.  I’m 28, and I’ve basically had all of about two actual boyfriends in my life.  I realize I shouldn’t really compare myself to other people, but sometimes I look around and think, am I doing something wrong?  Even my ex is dating someone else (and honestly, I don’t even want to get into THAT right now).

And did I mention that I pretty much work with all men, the majority of whom are straight?  I am surrounded day in and day out by single, eligible men, and I didn’t even have to subject myself to being on the Bachelorette to do it.  No roses to give out.  No weird hot tub conversations.  No fantasy suites.  I wouldn’t mind chatting with Chris Harrison, because we went to the same university, but I don’t want to do it while I’m also trying to court twenty-five dudes with appallingly preppy names like Chad or Geoff (apologies to all non-douchey Chads and Geoffs).

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Chris Harrison, fellow OCU Star, and red rose/love advocate

ANYWAY…College Emmy would excitedly down half a Four Loko (the original version with caffeine, because those still existed in my day, sorry body) and proceed to try to get one of these dudes at work or in her class to be interested in her.  She’d try way too hard and get very drunk and force her best friend to drive her to get cheeseburgers from Whataburger at 3:30am and help her take her pants off before going to bed (which may or may not have happened…several times.  Sorry/Thank you, Caitlin.).

But Current Day Emmy can’t be bothered.  It’s not that I’m not interested, exactly; it’s that I’m less interested in TRYING.  Why should I TRY to make any of these men like me?  Why should I TRY to force my way into a relationship I’m maybe not enthusiastic about for the sake of saying I’m in a relationship?  I tried very hard to make my last relationship work, but truthfully, his heart wasn’t fully invested in it or in me.  Trying just isn’t good enough; it isn’t active enough.  Trying isn’t enough.  It is because of my Meisner class that I have become less interested in trying and more interested in DOING.  In FEELING.  In BEING.   I believe it was Yoda who said, “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  I subscribe to that more than ever these days.  It’s like carrying my OWN little Yoda on back through my personal Dagobah training ground (i.e. New York City…which CAN actually get quite swampy in the summer heat).  And that is why I just DO my work and don’t try to make men like me anymore, and you know what?  I have noticed interesting things have started to happen to me.

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I carry my Meisner Technique training on my back like it’s Yoda…except my sweaty hair never looks as good as Luke’s.

The more I have focused on my work and doing the things I want to do, the more opportunities have started to come my way.  Better creative jobs.  People wanting to collaborate with me.  Money is flowing in.  I’m happier (other than the deep worry over the spectre of fascism associated with this dumpster fire of a presidential election).  It feels as if the universe is conspiring on my behalf (I know, Amy Schumer; I’m the worst.) the more I DO my own thing, the more I DO my work.  And that has also led me to feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin and worrying less about whether or not dudes are into me.  It’s actually really freeing.  And when you’re comfortable in your own skin, I think it also makes you more attractive to others.  It’s amazing how when you let yourself be seen for who you really are without apologizing for it (which is a major struggle for women, because we always think we have to be someone else in order to please everyone in a way men never do), the right people start making their way into your life.  You are far more interesting when you’re really being yourself.  And some of the gentlemen around me these days are noticing that confidence and noticing me…if you know what I mean.

And as great and flattering as it is, I realized I actually like having my skills and work validated more than my relationship status on Facebook.  It’s taken me awhile to get there, and I could very well change my mind tomorrow, but if I’m really being true to myself, I’ve always cared more about what I’m doing and putting out into the world my whole life than whether I’m attached to somebody else.  I KNOW.  That’s a pretty big life realization, but it’s the truth.  I never really remember dreaming about my wedding as a kid; it was always about what I was going to DO with my life.  But you all know that if Benedict Cumberbatch or Oscar Isaac or Tom Hiddleston or Michael Fassbender (or any of my other Dream Internet Boyfriends) came knocking on my door, there’s no way I’d be turning THAT down. Honestly, if I feel a strong attraction to a dude now (and maybe I currently do to one one of the fellows around me…which I will neither confirm nor deny at this moment in time), and I feel it’s worth doing something about, then I will (okay, fine, I’m currently doing something about it; I’ll confirm it).  But gone are the days of TRYING; that only led to me feeling unhappy and like I was less than others.  I may not have all the same things in my life right now as many of my friends, but that doesn’t mean anyone is better or more fulfilled than anyone else.  It’s just different is all.

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Oscar Isaac: deserving recipient of my pancakes, $12 maple syrup, and my undying love/devotion

Do I get lonely sometimes?  Sure.  I’m a really supportive, smart, funny person who makes awesome pancakes that I think an intelligent, funny guy would enjoy eating for breakfast, but I’d rather the RIGHT intelligent, funny guy get those pancakes than waste my precious time and energy and maple syrup on a string of wrong guys (Hey, real maple syrup from Vermont or our Canadian neighbors is like, $12 a bottle. Not giving that liquid gold to just ANY Chad or Geoff.  Chris Harrison, you may have some.  Also Oscar Isaac.).

And it’s only natural that so much of what I’ve learned in nearly two years of studying the Meisner Technique has begun infiltrating my personal life.  If art truly imitates life and vice versa, then how could I possibly avoid speaking my mind/feelings honestly with others both onstage and off?  I’ve always been a confident person, but having grown up in the Midwest where politeness is prized above plainspoken candor, I haven’t always felt comfortable communicating my wants/needs out of fear of insulting others or being a burden.  But you reach a point where that repression is unbearable and you have a choice: wallow in it or DO something about it.  So now I DO something about it.  And that has made all the difference, because when you are clear about what you want and/or how you feel, it makes it easier to deal with others and for others to deal with you.  You can’t control how others will respond, but you eliminate the guesswork.  Honesty is still, most of the time, the best policy.  DO something because of how you feel.  DO it fully.  Meisner’s mantras are now MY mantras.   They should be all of our mantras.

So DO your work.  DO things that make you happy.  Don’t worry about the other stuff.

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Nothing says “I’m a confident, independent Millennial woman” like a hipster filter-y Instagram selfie on a mountaintop (that probably has a caption like #wanderlust)

“We know what we got, and we don’t care whether you know it or not.”

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

14

I nearly moved to New York City four years ago on September 11, 2011: the 10th anniversary of the most horrific day I’ve ever lived through. I had been looking at flights for mid-September during that summer after I graduated college, and not even registering the date, I almost booked my one-way flight on that day. I was wondering why flights were so much cheaper and then it dawned on me that no one wanted to be on a plane that day.  I quickly booked my one-way flight for two days later, September 13, 2011 instead.

I have never been a very superstitious person.  I’m not given to throwing salt over my shoulder or carrying garlic around.  I have no Egyptian ankh necklace to ward off evil spirits.  I don’t cross my fingers when I drive past cemeteries or avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk lest I “break my mother’s back.”  While I believe in ghosts, I take a skeptical view of Ouija boards, which are more about the power of suggestion than the power of spirits.  And while I’m a religious person, I don’t see images of Jesus or Mary in my toast.  I’d consider myself an imaginative, open person, but a level-headed one; I’m more Scully than I am Mulder on most days.

But September 11 is not “most days,” and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to set foot on a plane on that day.  I haven’t in fourteen years, and I imagine I, like so many other people, will never be able to fly on any September 11 ever again.  Rationally, I know the likelihood of another such event happening on the same date is statistically low, but fear isn’t rational.  Anguish isn’t rational.  I can never un-see the things I saw that day; they’ll be with me for the rest of my life, shaping me in ways that I do not always understand or even recognize.  Everything and everyone changed, so I think I’m allowed one superstition; one belief in something born out of a fear. black ribbon

Maybe there is a parallel universe out there somewhere where September 11 never happened and all of us had very different lives.  Wars didn’t start.  People didn’t lose loved ones.  The Towers still stand.  In that world, you don’t have to remove your shoes when you go through airport security.  No one worries about receiving an envelope of a white powdery substance that could be Anthrax.  There’s not a cloud of fear and paranoia hanging over everyone’s heads.  I probably watch too many science fiction television shows and movies, but I’d like to believe that such a place exists even if we can’t see it.  I don’t understand enough about advanced quantum theory to explain it, but maybe it’s possible.  It sounds like something Mulder would say.

When we fly now, we all have to pay something called a “September 11th Fee,” which gives a couple extra dollars to the TSA for the numerous baggage and security screenings we all have to go through.  Flying used to be glamourous once.  Back in the 1960s, it was the height of sophistication; you know, the Jet Set and all that.  People got dressed up, were excited to “pack up and fly away” like Sinatra’s song goes.   Gone are those days.  No longer can you see your loved ones all the way to their gate, watch their plane taxi down the runway while they wave at you from their round, plane window.  Airport travel today means arriving early enough to wait in long lines to have a security guard search your shoes for bombs or pat your body down.  There’s nothing glamourous about knowing security guards are looking for anything that could cause an entire plane of people to crash.  Maybe there is an alternate reality where that doesn’t happen, but this is OUR reality, and we have to live in it.

When I arrived in New York on September 13, 2011, I was hopeful about the future, and I could feel that same hope hanging in the air of the City.  I gratefully stepped off my plane into a New York that was very different from the one it had been ten years previously.  Four years later, the City is still hopeful, growing and changing and adapting as it always has.  People from back home in Missouri often ask me if I am ever scared to live here, and I know what they mean.  The truth is we’re all a little scared, but the hope outweighs the fear.  The perseverance outweighs the fear.  The love outweighs the fear.  If I walked around every day throwing salt over my shoulder, I’d never get anything else done.  Am I afraid sometimes?  Yes.  But even though none of us got a choice in September 11, we all have a choice in how we live the rest of our lives, and I choose to live with hope.  I choose that, and that choice is what gives me strength, even on days like today where it is harder to do that.

So no, I’m not going to start throwing salt over my shoulder.  After all, when salt enters an open wound, it burns.

White Nights: An evening at the 2015 Diner en blanc NYC

I realize I have been gone for a while.  Turns out I have something called “friends,” which are people who share common interests and ask you to do things and spend time with them.  Who knew?!  I have had many, many ideas for posts and started writing many times only to abandon ship at the last minute because I let myself convince myself that they were all crap (which totally isn’t true).  It isn’t that I haven’t thought of this blog but rather I’ve been thinking so much I’ve blocked myself from actually writing anything!  I mean, I’m writing all the time, but none of it has ended up here.  Oops.  That changes NOW.

SO my dearest gal pal, Gretchen, has been on the waiting list for the New York City Diner en blanc for two years (!).  For those who don’t know, this exclusive, secret white dinner party started in France back in 1988 with just a few friends meeting for dinner in a park who decided to wear all white so they could identify each other.  Fast forward 27 years, and it has become an event, darlings, that is held worldwide.  New York City has only been holding theirs since 2011 (where just 1,200 people attended), but it has quickly become one of those super-exclusive, trendy NYC events people like my friend Gretchen are on years-long waiting lists for.  This year alone, 35,000 people were on the waiting list!

So last night, Gretchen and I met our team leader at Tribeca Park at 5:30 pm to find out where we were going (did I mention no one knows the location until literally the last possible minute?).

Gretchen & I (aka the #BlondeAmbitionTour) at Tribeca Park meeting location for the Diner en Blanc looking cute with no idea where we're about to go.

Gretchen & I (aka the #BlondeAmbitionTour) at Tribeca Park meeting location for the Diner en Blanc looking cute with no idea where we’re about to go.  How fab/mod/Wonka chic are Gretchen’s white shades?

Finally, we grabbed our table/chairs and picnic baskets and began the trek with a record-breaking 5,000 other chic-ly dressed DeB participants over to…PIER 26!  Now, I realize this sounds SUPER bougie (and you’d be right) and maybe WASP-y (coming from the very definition of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant-but-who-actually-doesn’t-have-a-country-club-membership), but there were people from literally all walks of life dressed in their finest white accouterments, and it was quite the sight to see this mass exodus of people in white walking towards the Hudson like it was the Promised Land of Milk & Honey.

Following our proverbial

Following our proverbial “Moses” across the “Red Sea” aka the West Side Hwy to Pier 26 in Tribeca

We arrived at Pier 26, set up our table next to a very lovely mother/daughter pair from the Upper East Side named Linda & Meryl respectively (and no, not THAT Meryl…though she always looks lovely in white as did THIS Meryl).  They really went for the beautiful table setting portion of the evening and were great company to dine alongside.

Our dinner companions, Linda & Meryl's table setting.  How cute!  And even though they are fancy Upper East Siders, they bought half of that at DOLLAR STORES. #werq

Our dinner companions, Linda & Meryl’s table setting. How cute! And even though they are fancy Upper East Siders, they bought half of that at DOLLAR STORES. #werq

Obviously, there are lots of Fancy Rules with a capital F about dress, decor, demeanor, etc.  Like how you can’t sit down until the “waving of the napkins,” which feels more like a moment from an Olympic Opening Ceremony or weird cult-y Scientology thing, because 5000 people are doing it all at once all while wearing white and maybe we’re about to sacrifice a bunch of virgins or something.

I would like you to know that despite looking clean and fresh, I am sweating.  Like, not cute girl sweating...but like my back could be the setting for Fern Gully because it is rainforest sweaty.

I would like you to know that despite looking clean and fresh, I am sweating. Like, not cute girl sweating…but like my back could be the setting for Fern Gully because it is rainforest sweaty.

Gretchen and I went for tapas-style dinner...yet we still had WAY too much food because #CARBediem

Gretchen and I went for tapas-style dinner…yet we still had WAY too much food because #CARBediem

How cute is Gretchen?!  And how tan...

How cute is Gretchen?! And how tan…

But mainly, this event is about style, flash mob-ery (which is a term I just made up; go with it), and dining outdoors (even when it’s 91 sweltering degrees) so you can be photographed for society blogs/magazines, the NY Times, etc.  It is a See And Be Seen Event, darlings.  It made me feel very akin to going to Truman Capote’s infamous black and white ball in 1966.

No, this isn't a Debutante Ball, it's just a LOT of ladies & gents at the Diner En Blanc keepin' it classy.

No, this isn’t a Debutante Ball, it’s just a LOT of ladies & gents at the Diner En Blanc keepin’ it classy.

This kween was werq-ing the dance floor with her cape.  SO many creative costumes!

This kween was werq-ing the dance floor with her cape. SO many creative costumes!  I felt like I was at a weird garden party/drag queen pageant hybrid…so the best party ever, basically.

The funny/sad thing is Gretchen started out around my coloring earlier in the year, but HELLO SUMMER TAN. I am forever the #porcelainprincess.

The funny/sad thing is Gretchen started out around my coloring earlier in the year, but HELLO SUMMER TAN. I am forever the #porcelainprincess.

Also, Gretchen and I learned very quickly that any cute, stylish man was either there with a girlfriend/wife or boyfriend/husband, so no chance of any meet-cutes. Quel dommage.

All in all, we had a great time and were glad to add the Diner en blanc to our rotation of fun, fabulous #BlondeAmbitionTour events for the year (Up next?  Probably the Grease-themed rollerdisco party in Brooklyn).

Merci, Diner en blanc! Vous étiez merveilleux!

You’ve gotta (un)friend

I have spoken many, many, many, many times about my ex.  I’m sick of talking about him, but the fact is, I’m still learning a lot of valuable lessons about myself from him sort of indirectly these days.  I’m also pretty sure all my dearest friends are sick of hearing about him too, but they put up with it because they love me so much (Thanks, y’all.  You know I love you.).  He and I have been broken up for well over a year, but—brace yourselves as I defy all logic—I still haven’t unfriended him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Scarier than pressing a button to launch a nuke

Now, this isn’t necessarily uncommon among people of my generation.  We seem to like holding onto these impersonal social media ties.  I think it has something to do with the fact that psychologically, Millennials, as a whole, like to have as many options as possible so we have the power to choose our own destinies in a way.  Whole sociological articles have been written about how we suffer from something called, “the fear of missing out,” which is the idea that there is always something better we should be doing with our lives or some other person who might be a better fit for us to commit to.  We are paralyzed by having too many choices, so we wind up keeping a LOT of doors open just in case the one we actually choose to walk through doesn’t feel right to us.  The problem with that is by never closing any doors and keeping them FIRMLY closed, we are confusing ourselves and possibly frittering away time and energy that could be spent on people and things that actually make us happy and more fulfilled.  “The Fear of Missing Out” makes even the most committed of us Millennials (myself included) pure commitment-phobes.  So even though I know in my heart my ex and I are never ever EVER getting back together, I haven’t been able to totally sever those ties.  Why?

  1. I don’t like admitting defeat.  Like so many Millennials, my biggest personal fear is of being a total failure at life.  I was the kid who got straight A’s (up until trigonometry in high school; B+), and everyone knew it.  If someone in one of my classes found out I got less than an A on a test in elementary or middle school, they would tease me about it.  “Awww Emmy didn’t get an A!” or “Guess Goldilocks isn’t so golden.”  You know, REAL highbrow wit (Oscar Wilde is shaking in his very dead, probably fabulous boots…NOT).  I was a real life Hermione Granger.  My parents expected good grades from me too, and so I put a LOT of pressure on myself to be the best all the time in everything I did.  In many ways, this work ethic has paid off for me, but it also led me to having at least two emotional breakdowns (one in high school, one in college) by the time I completed my formal education in 2011. 

    Wise words from Commander Peter Quincy Taggart

    I think I still have this “straight A” mentality when it comes to my life and that if I am not constantly achieving, I am not a successful person of worth.  It has taken me a long time to learn I am liked and loved because of who I am and not what I do, and I still struggle with that constantly.  In terms of my relationships, I work as hard on those as I did any paper or project in school and so when they have ended, it’s hard for me to accept some things were out of my control and that it wasn’t a “success.”  With my most recent ex, I often felt like our relationship failed because of things I did (“Um, you realize he’s an asshole for making you feel that way, right?” —my very blunt, wonderful friend, Ariana), so unfriending him feels like the waving of the last white flag on our relationship.

  2. We agreed to “try to stay friends.”  Now, no actual contractual (I could write raps for Empire with rhymes like THAT…or not; you guys, I am OBSESSED with Empire. #hereforCookie) agreement exists binding us to “be friends” after having our “irreconcilable differences” (which, for the record, I finally understand what that means whenever I see it listed in celebrity divorce papers on Extra, which I am ashamed to admit I watch sometimes, because Mario Lopez is probably immortal and will be fine and beautifully sculpted until the end of times).  The thing is that I have always only ever been able to stay friends with the majority of my exes after our “mourning period” ended, so I’m stubborn and think life works like sitcoms where I can be the Elaine to his Seinfeld (You’re not and never will be as funny as Seinfeld, dude, and I am a WAY better dancer than Elaine). 

    When you realize exes can’t be like Jerry and Elaine

    But he’s also a different person than my other exes, so why do I think what is true for them is true for him?  It’s not.  Honestly, I spent as much time with him as I did because I liked him and wanted a boyfriend, but now that I see him for who he really is, I can’t say he’s someone I’d actually hang out with anymore.  I’ve changed a lot since we dated, and I’d like to think that means I’ve grown into myself more as a woman, an artist, and human being.  I have less tolerance for certain people, things, and situations that do more harm than good in my life, and he’s one of them.  I’ve severed ties with other “friends” before, and I am better off, because I have friends who are actually friends in that they cherish me and support me and make me better.  Why would I want to “stay friends” with someone who causes me pain and makes me feel worse?  “Staying friends” only works when you’re Elaine and Jerry…because you’re just characters written that way for the sake of entertainment.

  3. I’m selfish.  I really hate owning up to my less than desirable qualities.  I, like literally every other person on the planet except for maybe Ann Coulter, am afraid of being totally disliked (and good for her for giving zero fucks about spewing the pure festering turds of opinions/hate-speech to the world she does on a daily basis; it’s kind of sickly admirable, really).  However, I have learned over the last couple of years—whether in conversation with close friends or vulnerable moments in acting classes—that admitting these darker thoughts and feelings, really owning up to them, actually feels SO much better than trying to hide and suppress them.  TRUTH: I am NOT always a nice person.  I am not always a “good” person.  I have a lot of anger I don’t always let out.  I have had shitty thoughts about others and myself.  I have done shitty things and lied about them.  I’m selfish sometimes.  I want to be the center of attention sometimes.  And unfriending my ex means I no longer will occupy even a tiny space of his day (at least that I’m aware of and can control).  I want him to occasionally think about and be reminded of me; to see how I’m doing and what I look like, because I’d like to think it will make him feel a little bit sorry for letting me go.  I guess I think that will make me feel better, prettier, etc. 

    Thank you, Beyonce.

    Rationally, I know it won’t, and that this is a completely egotistical reaction, but honestly, it’s what I want.  I want him to feel a twinge of something whenever my face lands in his newsfeed, but honestly, I’m not sure he thinks about me at all anymore anyway…and I’m not sure he ever really thought about me at all back when we were dating.

  4. I have an outlet for my anger.  You guys and gals, here’s something no one tells you except for Bond villains: anger can feel euphorically good.  Screaming feels awesome.  Simmering, seething anger just below the surface can be very weirdly invigorating. 

    Xenia Onatopp: literal Bond femme fatale, killing men by asphyxiation with her legs.

    Anger and rage make you feel really alive, you know?  My ex’s posts give me a sharp intake of breath or an eye roll or a punch to the gut.  They rev me up and get my blood going on days when I feel like a zombie at work.  My friend, Shannon, wisely pointed out that maybe I am addicted to the pain and anger my ex brings out in me; that I would rather keep feeling these things than let them go because I like having an outlet for them.  That anger, which is not an emotion in which I choose to operate on a daily basis, feels so good to me is the very reason I know I need to stop.  I am not a Billy Joel or Alanis Morrisette song protagonist, even though it feels very good to act like I am sometimes.  No one is benefitting from my anger but me, and truthfully, anger benefits no one (though those two singers made a lot of money from their angry songs; and actually, so have a LOT of singers).  Why hold onto it?

  5. Mostly, I’m simply scared.  He was someone who was really important to me for a while, and completely letting him go and not keeping tabs on his life without me means I have to accept he has a life without me.  It means I have to accept he might forget about me even if I never forget about him.  It means taking a firm stance and slamming a door on someone who I know didn’t love me, doesn’t love me, will never love me and being okay with not giving any more of myself or my emotions to someone who never deserved them in the first place and never reciprocated.  It means risking not being liked by at least one person for the rest of my life (though I’m pretty sure other people don’t like me, and I’m pretty sure he’ll never actually think horribly of me, but who cares if he does?).  It means forgoing a designated outlet for my selfishness and anger.  It means really, REALLY moving on in all aspects.  It means taking sole responsibility for my general wellbeing and happiness and admitting he is not a person who contributes to either of those things.  It’s scary to let go of all that junk because it makes you feel important in a way, I think; it gives you a self-indulgent sense of importance in a way only a character in a movie or book feels.  But self-indulgent behavior is bullshit, you know?  No real reward comes without risk.  Goethe said it better: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

But see?  All of that is just bullshit excuses.  I’m not “missing out” on anything by not being with him.  Do I miss being in a relationship?  Yep.  Am I going to have others?  Absolutely.  I have plenty of other doors left in my Choose Your Own Adventure novel. 

The title of my story, which works both literally and figuratively

Closing the door on something or someone who doesn’t contribute to your health and happiness is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, because it helps you find open doors (and sometimes windows) to things that are better for you.  To PEOPLE who are better for you.  Walking away from something you wanted but ultimately isn’t good for you is difficult, but it’s necessary if you’re ever going to become the person you’re meant to be.  Sometimes, it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other until you literally walk into the life you’re supposed to have.  And you will.  But that’s only when you start closing doors and walking through others.  Making hard choices.  Letting yourself fail sometimes.  Eliminating negative things from your life can only increase positive things in your life!  We have to stop being emotional hoarders; keeping people and things around us that we think we “might need later,” because what we’re really doing is cluttering our life with a lot of people and stuff that aren’t truly serving us instead of looking for what really does.

Pretty much all of my favorite romantic comedies take place in the days before Facebook and Twitter.  When Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman break up in Sleepless in Seattle, they’re done.  They might run into each other at a mutual friend’s party or the supermarket, but other than that, they won’t know how many people “liked” a picture of them running a marathon or constantly “see” one another over Facebook. 

Ah the 90s…when you had to deal with awkward moments and exes in person instead of via Facebook.

Julia Roberts would use Facebook and Instagram to stalk Dermott Mulroney and Cameron Diaz’s relationship in My Best Friend’s Wedding these days, but back in the mid-90s, she had to use a PHONE and her own two FEET.  We give away so much of our personal lives these days (writes the girl currently sharing a LOT about her own personal life), but people didn’t do that before Facebook.  When they broke up, they cut the cord.  And if they did stay in contact, they were basically Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

Well, I’m not planning on boiling anyone’s bunny anytime soon, despite being a Scorpio (and we DO get a bad rap for being vindictive).  I can’t promise I won’t be like Sally in When Harry Met Sally the day I find out he’s getting married, crying into the arms of my best straight guy friend “But why didn’t he want to marry meeeeee?!  But I know a simple click of the “unfriend” button on all his social media profiles isn’t going to be the end of the world.  Truthfully, he hasn’t been my actual friend for a long time, so it’s time he’s no longer a virtual one either.

[click]

See ya.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of my life.

Going Solo: Movies Edition

Going to the movies solo (and I don’t mean Han Solo) can be a terrifying prospect for some.  It seems unnatural in a society where we’ve been trained to think about it as part of a classic date scenario (dinner, movie, terrible or awesome goodnight kiss) or a group activity where at least one other person is involved in the rite of watching images on a gigantic screen in a darkened theater.  And I certainly can understand the need for someone with whom to share popcorn during and discussion after.

Ridin' Solo

Ridin’ Solo

But we also live in the golden age of binge-watching where we can watch hours of television shows and movies without changing out of our sweatpants, and the majority of us participate in THAT rite alone (save for maybe a bag of our dear friend, Doritos).  I realize a night in with ye olde Netflix may seem a bit different than one out at your local movie multiplex, but with a little courage and maybe a gentle swath of mascara (if you feel like it), it’s not as different as you might think.

Since moving to New York a little over three years ago, I have become a pro at the solo movie date.  Now, I know it’s a little easier to blend in when you live in a city of nine million people, but I started going to the movies alone when I was in Oklahoma City for college, and I still managed to be an under-the-radar solo movie-goer.  So let me give you the pitch for why you should start hitting the Cineplex on your own:

  1. You always get to pick the movie. Wanna see J. Lo’s new sure-to-be-a-guilty-pleasure-but-probably-terrible-movie, the Boy Next Door?  Go for it!  No one can sigh loudly and politely yet pointedly suggest something with a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Feeling more like indulging your gangster side with A Most Violent Year?  What about a Truffaut marathon at your local art-house theater? C’est bon!  Allons-y!  Going alone means you don’t have to ever compromise; your choice is the only one that matters.
  2. You always get to pick the snacks/drinks. You’re basically the Kevin McCallister of your movie going experience.  A lovely cheese pizza just for me. Or you.
    "A lovely cheese pizza just for me" = the excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    “A lovely cheese pizza just for me” = an actual excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    No judgments.  Full disclosure: one time, I snuck in a 10-piece chicken nugget combo with waffle fries from Chik-Fil-A to a Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double feature.  Because I’m a BAMF…and I was starving.  Also, you never have to share, so have a calorie fest on your own, because you can.

  3. You can wear whatever you want. Obviously, you have to learn how to not care what you look like in public, but this is the most freeing part of the whole experience.  There is no one you have to impress because you’re just sitting in the dark.  Like, who actually is going to notice if you’re in an old college sweatshirt, jeans, Converse, and no makeup?  I personally do not need winged-tipped eyeliner and red lipstick if I’m wearing 3-D glasses and watching the T-Rex attack Lex & Tim’s SUV in Jurassic Park…unless I want to feel fancier, but that decision is solely up to me.
  4. Nobody talks to you during previews. I think we can all agree we’d like to swoon over the next Avengers movie and its hunky stars without any extra commentary.  (Am I the only one who finds Mark Ruffalo CRAZY HOT as Bruce Banner?  Is it seriously just me?  And also obviously I have had several dreams involving Iron Man and Captain America…)

    OKAY BUT THE HAIR. THE SMIRK.  BRUCE BANNER/MARK RUFFALO IS A TOTAL DREAMBOAT. NOBODY TELL ME DIFFERENTLY!

    OKAY BUT THE HAIR. THE SMIRK. BRUCE BANNER/MARK RUFFALO IS A TOTAL DREAMBOAT AND NOBODY TELL ME DIFFERENTLY!

  5. You can double-feature it whenever you feel like it. Maybe you want to see Wild and then maybe you want to see Night at the Museum 3.  Tomato, tomato.  No one can stop you.

So now that I’ve told you why it’s amazing ridin’ solo (and also ridin’ Solo…wink wink), let’s talk logistics!  Here’s a little starter guide to how I personally do the whole going-to-the-movies-alone thing.  Feel free to adapt this to suit your own heart’s desires.  After all, as the wise and dreamy Dr. Ian Malcolm once opined in a dinosaur breeding lab on Isla Nublar,”Life finds a way.”  You’ll find yours.

...just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later, Ian.  Thanks!

…just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later in the movie, Ian. Thanks!

  1. Pick your movie(s). Remember, nobody is going with you, so you have free reign.  I actually have gotten overwhelmed before because when you don’t have to think about what somebody else wants to see, you suddenly have way, WAY more choices.  Know that you can make more than one trip or see more than one movie in a day (budget allowing).  This may sound obvious, but if you’re used to always seeing movies with other people, it might seem like a strange concept to wrap your head around.  See what YOU want to see!

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

  2. Opt for a morning showtime (before noon) when possible. In New York, it costs $14.50 for a regular adult priced show and up to $18 for an IMAX.  However, most movie theaters here in the city offer early bird prices around $8 for movie times before noon.  The great thing is most of these showings are relatively empty, so you’re guaranteed your choice of seats and an almost private viewing experience.  If you don’t have problems with hanging with the elderly, you’re golden (just like the Golden Girls).
  3. Buy your snacks/drinks outside of the movie theater. Okay, so generally, this is frowned upon, because the big corporations who own movie theater chains want you to give them as much of your money as possible (and possibly your first-born child) like the Scrooge McDucks they are.  In no world should a small Coke cost $5.25.  So I stick it to the man and hit up the Duane Reade or 7-Eleven before I go and always remember to carry a slightly larger purse/bag with me.  Since I typically go to morning movies a lot these days, I like buying a pastry and iced coffee, which costs me less than the price of a movie theater concession stand small soda.  Take a big bag and be inconspicuous.
  4. Don’t worry about being there alone. Every single time I’ve gone to the movies by myself, there have been at least one or two other people there doing exactly the same thing as me.  I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies mostly because I love movies.  Occasionally, it’s also a form of stress-relief, but that’s a side benefit.  If you’re nervous about being alone, try to focus on the fact you’re there to be entertained and engrossed in a story.  The truth is that is what everyone else is there to do, and no one is paying attention to whether or not you’re there by yourself.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

  5. Double Feature-it on occasion. What’s better than seeing one movie alone?  Seeing two!  Now, I have been a bad girl and snuck into a second movie at larger multiplexes where it’s easier to do that (I’m a rebel WITH a cause!), but I have also simply bought another ticket to a second feature.  Recently, I saw both Whiplash and Nightcrawler back to back and realized I had unknowingly created a theme night (in this case: tales of obsession)!  Part of the fun of seeing movies this way is being able to tailor your own movie-going experience. But don’t forget we all need some sunlight!

So now you have a plan for hitting the movies on your own like a boss.  Hopefully, I’ve made you feel a little less apprehensive about leaving your house, your Doritos, and your Netflix behind in lieu of a cushy seat, large popcorn, and Meryl Streep.  It’s good to do things on your own sometimes, to be the master of your own cinematic destiny.  One last thing: enjoy yourself!

See you at the movies.  I’ll be the one clandestinely chowing down on chicken nuggets towards the middle of the theater while Benedict Cumberbatch tries to break the Enigma Code and beat the Nazis.

"Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?"

“Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?”

Free to be…you and me

I haven’t written anything in quite awhile, and I do apologize.  I could make a lot of excuses about how I’ve been living my life instead of writing about it, but the truth is that I have mostly been avoiding writing about some of the harder parts of my life, because I don’t want to drudge up a bunch of emotions.  Let’s call it emotional recall avoidance or something fancy like that.  I have even been avoiding writing in my own personal journal because I’d rather pretend everything is peachy than sometimes admit that it is not, or rather, I am not that at all.  It is easier to lie to oneself than to confront the truth, isn’t it?  Lies sound better but make you feel worse in the end, no matter how bad the truth makes you feel.  The lie delays the hurt, but also adds to it.

I know everyone is spending today reflecting on the past year, and I am no different in this regard.  New Year’s Eve is about looking backwards and forwards at the same time, planning out what to change or keep for the year ahead.  Other than our birthdays, it’s the only celebration of time itself; it is a call to be present in the here and now but ever mindful of the past and future.  We want more time to do the things we love or spend with people we love, we wish for less time spent on things and people who have or may hurt us.  We’re going to change everything in the new time given to us, so we all say each year.  Time is a valuable currency, and we’re all greedy for more.  We think a new year will solve all our problems, because we have three-hundred sixty-five new days to sort everything out, but life has a way of surprising us and filling up our days with events and people for which we never planned.

2015 resolution #1: get out of the city more

2015 resolution #1: get out of the city more

I could keep lying and say my year was capital and simply post all of the best parts on my Facebook to “keep up with the Joneses” as it were, but frankly, I’m a little exhausted with pretending my life is perfect and wonderful one-hundred percent of the time.  I’m not saying all of this to bum you out or to feel fatalistic, but because I want you to know it’s okay to not feel happy or “blessed” all the time.  It’s okay to feel morose or livid or terrified of the future.  It’s okay to admit to others (and especially to yourself) you really AREN’T “fine” or perfect (whatever THAT means to you).  I think we’re too obsessed with creating societal camouflage for ourselves; that is, creating a version of ourselves on and offline that looks better than maybe how we really feel or who we really are for the sake of “saving face.” I know I am so scared, sometimes, of really showing other people who I am, because I have been hurt deeply a few times.

Vulnerability makes us feel weak sometimes, yes, but I’ve also realized there is great strength in it too.  Recently, I was talking with someone very dear to me, and the conversation turned intensely personal.  He asked if I had ever been in an abusive relationship, and while the question took me by surprise, I felt safe enough to answer.  “Not that I am aware of,” I said, “why?”  He looked me directly in the eye and replied, “Because sometimes I will say something as a joke or whatever, and you’ll do a total 180 as though you’re afraid of having a differing opinion than me.  Your whole demeanor changes.  Did you know you do that?  You don’t have to ask permission to have an opinion, let alone to feel like you’re not allowed to disagree with someone ever.  It just seems like such contradictory behavior for who I think you really are.  I like who you really are, so why do you keep trying to change yourself for me?  It’s okay to be yourself; no one should make you feel otherwise.”

I felt so incredibly exposed, because I realized that I HAD been in an abusive relationship after all, and the abusive relationship was with MYSELF.  In the past year and a half, I have worked so hard to present myself to the world in certain ways that I have sacrificed and compromised too much of myself for the sake of others.  I have abused myself.  I have let boyfriends condescend to me and try to tell me what to think and believe.  I have let people in audition rooms make me think I am not good enough.  I have pretended I am fine when I have been falling apart inside because I have been so worried about burdening anyone else with my feelings.  The vulnerability I felt in that moment with my friend made me feel stronger than I have in months because I finally saw all of myself, but here was a person (among several I have currently in my life) who saw all of me too, and I felt relieved.  I felt relieved to be able to be vulnerable and flawed and human and to have all of it be accepted and encouraged and dare I say, loved, by someone else.  My “mess,” in all its glorious technicolor, is part of who I am, but he and others have helped remind me it’s not ALL of who I am either.

I’m not going to lie and say 2014 was my best year.  The first few months were spent in heartbreak and depression.  There were days I nearly fainted at work because I wasn’t eating; food seemed like the only thing I could control when I felt like the rest of my world was in chaos.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I’d scribble horrible, dark thoughts in journals.  I found parts of myself I didn’t even know existed, and I would rather pretend didn’t.  I am not always such a nice person, and I found out I am capable of saying and doing some terrible things when I am pushed to my limits.  And I am still dealing with some of my anger now; anger at people who hurt me deeply.  I am often scared I am too much for any man because the last one made me feel that way.  I still worry my feelings, especially the ickier ones, are a burden to others.  I often feel lost and anxious when I think about the future because I’m not one-hundred percent sure of what I’m doing, especially when I see what others are doing (and trust me, I know comparison is the thief of joy, Roosevelt).  I know I have let some friendships wither a bit because I haven’t done enough to cultivate them, and for that and those friends, I am sorry.  And I do so, so wish I had had more time with my friend James; not a day goes by I don’t think of him and wonder if I had tried harder to reach out, would that have made a difference?  Would he still be here?

2015 resolution #2: more bike/beach trips!

2015 resolution #2: more bike/beach trips!

But like I said, life has a way of surprising us with people and events for which we never planned.  I have met so many people in the last year who have healed me and helped me and taught me things.  Many have made me laugh until I cried (which is a far better kind of crying than what I was doing at the beginning of 2014).  I found freedom in bicycling and going back to ballet class.  My church gave me solace and solidity when I needed it the most.  I saw so many amazing plays and musicals and ballets and concerts and movies, which reminded me how much I need and love creation.  2014 was the year I knew true despair and also true joy; in essence, I learned what it is to be human, and that is humbling.  But also freeing.  Not to get all Marlo Thomas-free-to-be-you-and-me on you, but when you finally let yourself BE yourself — the good parts and bad — all the weight is gone.  You are free.  It may mean not everyone likes you, but that’s okay, because the right ones will, and the wrong ones won’t.  It’s the wrong ones who make you feel like you need to lie about who you are and how you feel; they’re not worth it anyway.  They’re assholes.

I know you’re excited and hopeful about having a fresh start tomorrow.  Trust me, I understand how important and necessary a fresh start can be.  So many of us focus on remaking the outer parts of ourselves by pledging to go to the gym or eating better, and that’s fine, but the inner parts need love and attention too, sometimes even more so.  As someone who feels a bit like a phoenix this year, rising from the ashes of her own life, I ask you to check in with yourself once in awhile and really consider how YOU are doing. 

2015 resolution #3: stay present!

2015 resolution #3: stay present!

When someone asks you how you are, why not be honest and really tell them?  You’re not always “fine,” and that’s okay; believe me.  Let yourself be human, because that’s what you are, flaws and all!  I say this because I don’t think these things get said enough, and I know what it feels like to have to be “on” and “happy” all the time when maybe you aren’t.  Whoever you are reading this, know you, all the parts of you, are ENOUGH.

Stay present.  Love yourself.  Love others.  Seek peace.  Have a happy, truly happy, 2015.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”  — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tempus fugit

I saw Richard Linklater’s extraordinary new film Boyhood opening weekend (at the always cool IFC Center here in Manhattan) and was treated to a Q&A with the man himself and his star, the miraculous Ellar Coltrane, following the film.  Chances are, you’ve probably been reading and hearing a lot about this film the last two weeks or so, and not without reason does it have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It is quietly moving, honest, and completely lovely; full of the real stuff of life that seems insignificant, but upon rumination, it is actually the important stuff.  It’s the stuff that shapes who you are.

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane: changing the face of cinema, quite literally

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane: changing the face of cinema, quite literally

And it got me thinking (and continuing to think as it is over a week ago I saw the film) about life.

But it also got me thinking about magic: both fictional and real.

Whether it’s coincidental or not, magic seems to be a recurring theme in the film.  In one scene, Mason’s mother (a sublime Patricia Arquette) reads from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before bedtime.  In another scene, Mason and his sister, Samantha (played with feistiness by Lorelai Linklater), dress up and attend a midnight book party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  They’re wide-eyed and excited, clutching their newly purchased books to their chests like precious treasure.  A third scene has Mason asking his father (the always reliably affable Ethan Hawke) about magic and elves.  “Right this second, there’s like, no elves in the world, right?” he asks tentatively.  And this propels his father into a wonderful moment of vocal philosophizing about the definition of magic itself.  He explains that magic could very well be the fact we have whales so huge you can swim through their arteries, but is that magic?  He doesn’t know.  When Mason asks again, this time a little more pointedly, his father answers, “Technically, no elves.”

Mason Jr. and his female friend = the new Jesse and Celine?

Mason Jr. and his female friend = the new Jesse and Celine?

The last scene of Boyhood features a now nineteen year-old Mason sitting on a rock in the wilderness of Texas with a girl he’s just met that day, his first of college.  They’re talking about life.  “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment?” she asks. “I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”  He replies, “Yeah, I know, it’s constant, the moments, it’s just — it’s like it’s always right now, you know?”  And just as he’s saying that, the sun is setting, and you know you’re glimpsing another fleeting, magical moment, but like Mason, you’re hopeful, because you know another one will come along if you ground yourself in the present.  And THAT right there got me thinking about another of my favorite Linklater films, Before Sunrise (really just that whole trilogy, but the first especially).  In a scene in that particular film which is all about seizing those fleeting moments, Celine says to Jesse, “If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.”

"If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt." - Celine

“If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” – Celine

So is that magic?  Connecting with someone else on an almost spiritual level?  The kind of magic we’re accustomed to is often the kind associated with witches and wizards like Harry Potter where there are spells and people are transformed.  If you really think about it, all magic is about doing something to another person: cursing them, making them fall in love with you, changing them or yourself in some way.  The Oxford Dictionary defines magic in four ways:

  1. The power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.
  2. Mysterious tricks, such as making things disappear and appear again, performed as entertainment.
  3. A quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight.
  4. Something that has a delightfully unusual quality.

So if we look at it this way, as magic being something that seems delightfully removed from everyday life that influences the course of the events in a life, then we really DO experience magic in the real world.  Mason’s father wasn’t wrong and neither was Celine: magic is very real and present.  I don’t think Richard Linklater featured Harry Potter in two scenes of Boyhood without reason; not only have the books changed the lives of millions of readers around the world in profound ways, but so too do Harry, Ron, and Hermione experience the magic of growing up, forging friendships, and discovering love (among other things like battling dark wizards and basically saving humanity).  Magic is ever present in all those milestones of life, big and small.

"We are the three best friends that anyone could have..."

“We are the three best friends that anyone could have…”

Celine and Jesse experience that magic as they wander the streets of Vienna, talking for hours and essentially falling in love.  I’ve written about it before, but we’ve all had those moments of connection with someone else.  It’s usually those moments we actually FEEL life happening to us and around us; we become acutely aware of our own mortality and the preciousness of it all.  It’s the thing where you feel infinite and finite at the same time.  Mason Jr. becomes aware of it at the end of BoyhoodCeline and Jesse know it too.  And so too do we when we allow ourselves to be swept up in those moments, to be seized by them the way Mason’s female companion posits during their conversation.  And those moments are also usually the ones that transform us with their magic, because our lives are never quite the same afterwards.  I just felt it late last Wednesday night as a guy and I recklessly climbed ladders to the roof of his office building just to look at the Empire State Building and essentially, each other.  To hold hands and talk about life, both of us sensing it was the start of something new and treating that beautiful fragility with reverence and wonder, because we know it will never be like that ever again; we will never have these moments again.

A now iconic movie poster for a now iconic film

A now iconic movie poster for a now iconic film

Boyhood often is about the mundane of life, but further examination reveals the mundane is the magical.  So often we remember these small things more so than the milestones.  The little setbacks and victories.  The way your mom would make breakfast.  Summer days spent riding bikes and drawing with sidewalk chalk.  Long conversations to your best friend on the phone.  Or maybe harboring a crush on a college professor.  Or climbing on a roof to look at the city lights with someone just because you’re young and feel invincible.  Things DO change, people DO change, and that’s the magic of it all.  Time is magic, because as it passes, it transforms you and the world around you.  You’re always under its spell.

Just as he’s leaving for college in Boyhood, Mason’s mother is crying and poignantly admits, “I thought there’d be more.”  So do we.  All the more reason to appreciate whatever time and magic we’ve got.

*Run to see Boyhood whenever it hits your local multiplex.  Heck, even drive to a showing nearby if it’s not.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of movie.  Truly something special.