Friday, October 13, 2006

She's back!

Chris said to me yesterday, "She's back!" She being me, of course. I've been pretty down around home, hence the soul-searching blogging, nothing more than a little funk. I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t been flourishing creatively, thus the funk.

With the pending wedding and the fact that my agent has been calling me in for Mom roles, I’ve started to feel the effects of getting older for the first time in my life. I’ve noticed little tiny lines creeping onto my face and, and the downside of pursuing commercial print modeling, is that I’ve been thinking more and more about my appearance. And I thought being an actor made you insecure... Although I am merely 27, at least I am also comforted by the fact that 30-something actors work a lot in this city. And getting older means that I am coming into who I really am. There is comfort to be found in getting older.

Meanwhile, Poor Chris. He’s been so good to me and I’ve been such a self absorbed pissant lately. I'm sure he's sick of hearing me complain about looking like a plus model in my comp card photos. The photographer took shots of me in 4 "looks" to be used in my modeling comp card. To be fair, there were 3 looks wherein I photographed fairly well, to the point that I came to terms with those little lines around my mouth and eyes, the slowly sliding features. After seeing the photographs I said, “I look older and I don’t mind it in these photos. I like my older face.” Of course, the photos were carefully styled by a stylist and shot by a skilled photographer whose job is to make me look really good, but nonetheless it is part of growing into this new-old skin of mine.

Smoke and mirrors be mine.

Anyway, in one series of shots, the "suit shots," I actually look like a plus model. Chris confirmed. It would have pissed me off had he not, because there was definitely an elephant in the room. Ha! And I can’t stand anyone patronizing me, much less my Love.

Of course, I’m exaggerating about the elephant part. I realize I look like a Plus Sized model mostly because of the way my jacket is hitting my pants and the angle at which they are shot, straight on. But, to be fair, I’ve gained weight and the suit pants are tight. So there is some truth in that comedy.

Do I think I'm fat? No. Have I gained weight for only the second time in my life, the first being when I was 19 years old and drinking beer and eating pizza and oversleeping every night of the week? Yes, I have. Has it been hard to lose the weight, for the first time in my life? Yes, it has. Can I hardly fit into my wedding dress? Yes.

The last time I tried it on, it was very tight.

Boo-hoo!!!! Wah! Poor Carrie finally has to deal with hard truth that the other 4.5 billion humans (minus the poor, sick and starving 2/3 of the population) have to deal with--that most human beings can't eat anything they want and never go to the gym and maintain the same weight.

I realize that it seems pretty ridiculous that a 5'10'' 135 pound girl should be complaining about this. To look at me in clothes, I am very thin. To look at me without clothes (ew, gutter brains!), I am still thin, but I am flabby. I have no muscle, no firm padding, yet my fat percentage is surprisingly high because I don't exercise. As the ex-model, makeup artist at my comp card shoot said, "People don't realize, skinny people can be flabby." Hear, hear! There is no amount of weight gain that would really bulk me up and make me curvy. Until I get muscle, I will always look like a skeleton draped in pasty flesh colored Jell-O. There is no amount of explaining that will make strangers accept that.

There is a reason that I have been hesitant to go to the gym. “Why do you need to exercise?” I have been asked in regards to my small frame. I have been on the receiving end of remarks such as “Do you eat?” and “You are too thin.” and “You need to eat something.” A few months ago, I was told by a co-worker, “If I didn’t know you, I’d totally hate you because you are so tall and thin.” And when I was in high school people would just come out and ask, “Are you anorexic?” How do you answer that? What can you say in response? It is a touchy subject for all involved. And by discussing it, even in this blog, I run the risk of being called a braggart or “high on myself.”

It doesn’t matter that you may grow up to be thankful for those traits that earned you teasing as a kid. I was called “Bony Barrett,” among other names, as a child. And I am thankful that I’ve been blessed to not have to worry about my weight. But at least part of the insecurity stays with me for life. I have constantly felt judged for being too thin. Judgment is judgment, even if it seems a ridiculous complaint to some.

So it is funny, ironic even, that I am complaining about looking like a plus size. Shouldn’t I be happy?

I've been 128 pounds since I graduated high school nearly 10 years ago. And all of the sudden, I'm ten pounds heavier and I can shed it to save my life. What kills me is that because of my stomach ailments, I already eat so healthfully. Oatmeal and nuts and fruit and whole grains. I can't remember the last time I stepped into a fast food restaurant. Eating well is good for you, but not enough to lose 10 pounds in time for your wedding. I sit at a desk 45 hours a week--I need to exercise, for more reasons than just my weight. It has been a hard adjustment to the way I have lived my life for the past 27 years. And change is hard, even if its relatively silly to the ails of the world.

Other than that, I realize I am blessed.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

This Morning

Cab Driver: Huh, it looks like that guy’s using a garbage bag for a roof.

Cab driver points to convertible car with duct-taped garbage bag ragtop billowing in the wind.

Me:Yeah, it does look like that.

Cab Driver: He must have holes or something.

Me: Yeah. Looks like it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And not far, my love, from where we were before.

Last Friday, while I was listening to my iTunes on shuffle, a song came on that I hadn’t heard since I was a child. It was I Loved You Once in Silence from Camelot, sang by Julie Andrews and I don’t remember downloading it.

Unexpectedly, a wave of nostalgia washed over me and I started sobbing. These were not silent tears; these were levies being broken open by a storm surge of tears; guttural, animal-like sounds escaped my body; my eyes were throwing up tears. It was pain and catharsis. I haven’t cried like that in a long time.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to sing to me all the time. Like me, she was a performer, an actor, a dancer and a singer when she was young. She wanted to study theatre and acting, but her parents refused to support such a cause. My grandmother has told me she regrets not watering my mother’s talents. My mother’s singing repertoire was mostly show songs from the days of her youth; I Feel Pretty from West Side Story; My Favorite Things from Sound of Music; and I Loved Him Once in Silence from Camelot.

I loved you once in silence
And mis'ry was all I knew.
Trying so to keep my love from showing,
All the while not knowing you loved me too.
Yes, loved me in lonesome silence;
Your heart filled with dark despair.
Thinking love would flame in you forever,
And I'd never, never know the flame was there.
Then one day we cast away our secret longing;
The raging tide we held inside would hold no more.
The silence at last was broken!
We flung wide our prison door.
Ev'ry joyous word of love was spoken.

And now there's twice as much grief,
Twice the strain for us;
Twice the despair,
Twice the pain for us
As we had known before.

And after all had been said,
Here we are, my love,
Silent once more,
And not far, my love,
From where we were before.

The song from Camelot is beautiful and sad indeed. But that is not why I cried then--and cry now writing of it. It was homesickness that made me sob, the wistfulness of remembering those intimate moments with my mother singing during long night drives, the overwhelming warmth and comfort I’m so lucky to have had, the awareness that with age I travel farther and farther from that home in search of my own home, my own family and my own daughter to whom I’ll sing.

I very much look forward to that journey with Chris. But I love my mother so very much. Despite our low lows, I think of our relationship in terms of our high highs. She is a very good mother and I am lucky to have that. I cry tears of joy that I have and have always had such an amazing love in my life.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Its a small world after all.

When I was in first grade, Mrs. Barnes tried to explain the phrase “Small World”.

“If you were at Disney World and ran into someone you know, you would say, ‘What a small world!’”

Crickets. The class blinked confused looks at her. “Its hard to explain,” she conceded.

Like the rest of the class, I had no clue what she meant by that and it took me years to figure it out. I would go so far as to say I would have figured it out sooner had she not tried to explain in it at all. The fact that she used Disney World to explain it only made it worse, as I kept thinking it had something to do with the Small World ride. Would I say “What a small world!” anytime I ran into someone I knew? Why not just say “Hi! How are you?!” And could I only say it in Florida?

Years later, when I was a senior in high school on a European holiday, I saw a girl I knew in Pisa, Italy. I first saw her singing opera at a talent show at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts summer program. A 16 year old opera singer, they didn’t have any of those in my hometown. I was blown away. The program was small, around 200 people, but I never got a chance to meet her, but I remembered her nonetheless.

When I saw her in Pisa, Italy, my jaw dropped again. There she was in her signature oversized sunglasses with a group of teenagers all wearing kelly green youth opera program t-shirts. Her group was walking away from the leaning tower, we were walking to it. We locked eyes, and stared at each other inquisitively, me dumbfounded. She recognized me, but I can only presume that she couldn’t quite place me. I am not, after all, something as memorable as a 16-year old opera singer. I smiled weakly and we went our separate ways.

The world is indeed small, Mrs. Barnes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blowing off the dust...

When I was 12 or so, I mentioned to my mother's friend that I wanted to be an actor. Linda casually told me that actors live difficult lives and that I'd be better off picking something easier. My cheeks burned and my heart sank. I was crushed by her comment--not because she was telling me something I didn't know. It was her condescending, teaching tone, her presumption that my wanting to act was nothing more than a naive childhood fantasy. Her remark, so seemingly fleeting, has left an ugly scar on my heart. It has very much shaped how I view myself, how I view others, and how I’ve conducted my life.

After my first year of high school, I gave up performing and enrolled in a pre-business program at the University of Virginia. My mother begged me not to do it. I thought I was being practical. Although I loved UVA, probably for its aloof un-attainability, I was miserable there. I wore pearls and sorority pants and drank a lot of bad beer. I made out with boys at parties and tried to be someone I'm not. But all in all, it was good that I went through that then and not when the stakes were higher. And I had a lot of fun so, of course, that year and a half was not a total loss. I joined an improv troupe, which is, in a roundabout way, the reason I am so happily living and performing in Chicago.

More than she could ever know, Linda made me afraid of living the life I wanted for as long as I can remember. I have been afraid of looking stupid, afraid of wanting something so difficult to attain, afraid of dreaming, afraid of not conforming to untailored expectations. I would love to be naive, but I can’t take myself seriously enough for long enough to know what that’s like. And these fears have extended beyond my career choice. I have since defaulted to the role of the cynic, which is not fun for the cynic or her friends and family. It wasn’t until I met Chris that I resolved myself even to love without feeling silly.

For a while, I have struggled with these issues, a sort of quarter-life crisis, if you will. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized that I wasn’t willing to put my neck out to get what I want. And if I wasn’t willing to do that I might as well give up. A little courage was needed to repair the damage Linda’s words wrecked on my confidence.

I have since rectified the situation and my neck is out further every day. I like to think myself as one of those African women with beautiful gold bands piled high about my shoulders and below my regal chin. To spite my reservations, to spite Linda, I tell anyone who wants to hear that I’m an actor. It doesn’t matter that my executive assisting pays the bills; I am and have always been an actor. At first I couldn’t do it without proactive wince. But the more I said it the more proud I’ve become that I, most likely unlike Linda, am exactly where I wanted to be when I was 12.

But, oh, what damage advice can be. I wonder how easier things would have been had she not said it that day. No doubt I’d have heard it elsewhere, but would it have been different? Who knows? We’ll both have to wait and see how this story ends.