Sunday, March 18, 2012

A case for vanity

I went to a catholic school  with very scary nuns. The kind that inspire movies like the Exoricst. Maybe they weren't that bad, but I can't be sure as I've spent the past twenty years trying to forget.

But one thing that sticks out particularly well was the lesson that vanity was a sin. A deadly sin, one of the seven, in fact that quickly spiraled you to hell. 

Well no offense to mother Teresa, who was a wonderful hip lady, but I have to make a case for examining and de vilifying vanity. 

First of all, let's define vanity. I work in casting and talent so, I completely understand how obnoxious it can be. I see hundreds of girls and guys on a regular basis who tell me how wonderful they are. Not just confidence, mind you, but out right shameless vanity. As a matter of fact, my favorite all time answer the question "Why are you right for this job" always ends with some variation of "because I'm beautiful". Gets me every time.

That ugly obsession with beauty and building your own self worth on it is not only disgusting, its harmful. I've had girls tell me in the same breath that they are confident and beautiful and then break down and tell me how this one gig is going to change their lives and this is their shot and their moment and break apart at the seems when really, the reasons for casting someone versus someone else, has nothing to do with whose better looking. Sometimes its an energy someone got, or a million other reasons I can't get into but 9 times out of 10 it has nothing to do with whose "hotter".

So, why was I defending it again?

Well, I just got out of the hair dresser and I was reminded about the power of feeling beautiful. A woman in the chair across from me came in and didn't say a word. Nothing. She walked in in sweats, was slightly over weight and had no make up on. While we the rest of us all were all chatty Kathy's this woman just sat there reading her email and playing on her phone. She didn't chime in, she didn't participate, she just kept to herself slouched into her chair.

When she was done, she looked in the mirror, apparently thinking it was just another of the same and she started crying. The rest of us in the small salon all began to shower her with compliments thinking she hated it, trying desperately to make sure she stopped feeling sorry for herself. We passed tissues, we hugged her, we tried to console her. She finally gathered herself together drank some water and spoke.

"I feel so pretty" she said sobbing. She continued. She said she felt like she needed to go to the gym, that she should start treating her husband better, that she wanted to be out in the sun, that she wanted to plan a trip, that she felt good about herself.

It reminded me of my trip to Africa, specifically Zambia a few years ago. There was this orphanage, well, it was really a room where little kids with no families went to be with other kids. They slept God knows where all together, trying their best to just survive. I couldn't believe it. I didn't know how anyone was suppose to be hopeful there. What was there to be hopeful about! Desolate, horrible conditions with no signs of getting out. What is the point? I felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

That is until I started talking to some of the moms in the area who looked after these kids. One of them was a fan of my hair. I had clip in extensions at the time (i know how vain of me) and they matched her hair color perfectly so I gave them to her. We put on some make up and looked in the cracked mirror she had propped up against her cardboard home. She smiled, she was excited. She felt pretty and confident.

Now, is a new hair do going to magically change her life? No. But you know what, it made her feel great, and why doesn't she deserve that just because she doesn't have any money? Does poverty mean she has to  always pretend to not be a woman and not want to feel pretty and sexy? No. F that.  Obviously this woman needs food and a house that won't collapse with the rain, but she gets to feel pretty too. Why shouldn't she?

I know it might seem shallow, but feeling good about yourself can sometimes start with a new hair cut, with a little lipstick, with a new pair of jeans. And who has the right to begrudge you that? I'll tell you what, when you've been miserable and in a hole feeling like you're already in the depths of hell (if you're divorced you understand!), and a little vanity gives you just the rope you need to start climbing out, good for you. Of course like any rope, gives you a little room to hang yourself too if you let it.

Like anything else, moderation is the key, but vanity is certainly not the enemy, excess is. Feeling pretty and confident are cornerstones for great relationships with yourself, with others, with business. I know, it's like the dirty thing we're suppose to feel but not say out loud.

Well, I'm saying it. If there is anything that being a Lady of Leisure has taught me , its that I deserve the things I work for. If I want to buy a new pair of jeans that helps me feel better about myself, I'm going to. If a new hair cut gives me that little boost to go in a pitch something, I'm going to. And maybe I should start looking at other volunteering opportunities that inspire men and women to feel good about themselves.

Having grown up never feeling pretty and always looking outwardly for validation, this is a radical new concept for me, but one I believe is universal.

There is a case to be made for a small dose of vanity. If a little outward primp can make you feel like a million bucks and help give you that extra push to inspire success, I say go for it. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shampoo is better, No Conditioner ...

It's amazing how impacted we are by our surroundings.

I lived in New York for six years and without knowing it became a New Yorker. My friend Nicole says that my New York persona is me, but colder, tougher, stronger, ruder, slightly more outgoing and no nonsense. I thought it was a bit of an exaggeration, until I woke up this morning after my first 24 hours in the city, post our split.

Now, it could be because I'm casting, because I'm sick or because I'm operating on virtually no sleep, but New York fits me like a glove and I embody all of the descriptors above. I am annoyed with tourists, I push little old ladies out of the way who just stand in the middle of times square taking pictures (oh, don't look at me like that, they deserve it), I walk, incredibly fast, everywhere, I gave the finger to the guy cutting in line at the bagel stand.

It's not all bad thought right? I mean, I saw all of my hosting hopefuls yesterday every 15 minutes on the dot with a quick efficient pace, my meal was served quickly and my gyno this morning was quick and impersonal, just like I like her to be.  Here no one has multiple careers. If you're a banker, you're a banker. If you're an actor, you're an actor. You may be starving, but you are working as an actor. Sure, you may also be a barista, but everyone knows, you're an actor.

And it's not all vapid and superficial. I use to work in the times square area and my coffee guy still remembers me and more importantly, remembers my order. I'm pretty sure my ex husband and I wouldn't still have that kind of intimacy, and we lived together for five years.

And as anyone whose lived here can attest, as much as we bitch about it, there is something magical about New York. It has what we call in casting, the "it" factor. That indescribable, intangible, uniquely special quality about it that just makes you

But it would certainly be an adjustment to be back for any extended amount of time. Life is lonelier here. People like their own space and are very set in their own, individualistic ways.

We aren't like that in California. We are friendlier, we are more courteous, we are more laid back. Yes, our food takes a little longer, our auditioners aren't exactly ten minutes early, we don't use public transportation. Our cab drivers aren't as colorful and my coffee girl is a different beautiful model who barely remembers he's seen me, much less my coffee order, everyday.

LAers are also the kings/queens of several hats.

 People are producer/ director/actor/writer/barista/banker/surfer/blogger/gardenenthusiast.
 And no one bats an eye. Everyone has ten different jobs, at the same time. We are dreamers; dream enthusiasts if you will. No one is putting anyone in a box. I took a conference call on a surf board the other day. 

So how is anyone suppose to decide what they like best? I'm a Gemini, so by nature, I'm a dualist. I live comfortably in both spaces. A true bi-coastal. I like being lonely sometimes and then other times I want to be surrounded by all of my girlfriends in the open air. And have you driven up PCH with no traffic? It's amazing. Of course the New Yorker in me likes to remind me that there is ALWAYS traffic on the PCH.

I thought being  a lady of leisure was about defining some boundaries, discovering some truths, and finding out where I was the best fit. As it turns out, much like my mother who lives in some village in Africa...I too am pretty adaptable. Who knew.

It's like my favorite line in Billy Madison.

"Shampoo is better, I go on first and clean the hair. No Conditioner is better, I leave the hair silky and smooth. Stop looking at me swan."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Up in the Air

I spend a lot of time on planes. I love travel, my family lives abroad, my friends are all over the place and as a Lady of Leisure, my work always takes me somewhere. I've been dreaming about planes recently and have actually made a few friends on planes. A friend recently commented that all of my scripts or manuscripts have some sort of "plane" element in them, whether it's someone beginning a journey of sorts or it's a way for the character to separate themselves from whatever has just happened. I just really enjoy and relate to the concept of the plane as a means of starting something fresh, I guess. At least, that's probably what my therapist would say. 

When asked why the plane tool, without thinking I thought, well of course, I've met many amazing people on planes. To which, my friend asked that I tell him who are these amazing people he's never heard of. I kicked off my shoes and began to tell the stories of my plane encounters and quickly realized that I am the queen or rose colored hindsight and revisionist history as none of these stories are remotely amazing in any positive way.

Fresh off of my divorce I struck up a friendship with a man who lived in LA. After a few weeks of emails  we decided we had to see each other and I put myself on a flight to LA giddy and excited to meet up with a guy I'd literally only ever shared a cup of coffee with. I got to the airport early, settled into my seat and was about to put my head phones in when an incredibly handsome, surfer looking, scruffy but sexy guy sat next to me. He was a writer, he was a professor, he was unlike anyone I'd ever met before.  Nevermind that I was on my way to see someone else. Not my proudest moment, but by the end of the flight, we were making plans to see each other and had almost convinced me to ditch my plans and nice boy that was waiting to see me in LA.  I didn't have the heart to however and got into the car with my planned suitor. I was so confused! How was it that in five hours the past several weeks had been wiped away. Surely it was the cabin pressure and I would return to normal once I settled. Plus my LA boy was cute and smart and funny...and confessed to me on the car ride, after he let me fly across the country...that he had an incurable STD. I immediately asked to be let out of the car and called my disease free new friend. we spent a week in San Diego and basically decided we were somehow destined to figure it out. After i got back to New York the realities of a long distance relationship set in and he quickly met a nice girl who lived in his time zone and forgot about me. I felt so...stupid.

And I was! I mean, seriously, after the age of 15 if you somehow think that these things work out that way, you're asking for trouble. It was nice, and romantic and sweet but to think that any real relationship would be built on a five hour conversation thousands of miles above the ground, was just silly. But post divorce does that to you for a little bit. (I can hear the AMEN's from all of my divorcee's). Immediately after it happens you panic and hold on to any intense feeling of romance, scared that you'll never experience it again. It's careless and dangerous, but I'm incredibly grateful for that experience, for no other reason than it makes for good writing material...and I'm much more careful about jumping on a plane across the country for a rendezvous with a stranger. 

well, you would think. It took me one more plane romance to learn my lesson but really learned it when I met:

We were headed to Vegas. Sin city promised not only sin, but romance when I met a handsome stranger. Tall, tan and blue eyes with a bunch of his friends on a bachelor party extravaganza. I should have known this would have gone south when he professed himself a Red Sox fan, but I was blinded by those shiny baby blues. 
I won't bore you with all the details, but he basically dumped his friends to hang out with me for a few days. I was on cloud nine and couldn't believe he was spending so much time with me. Who knew the Vegas fairy granted boyfriends? 
Well, she doesn't. The next morning at breakfast with his friends, everyone was giving me the third degree. What the EF!! I mean I know I stole your buddy away from all of the bachelor party activities, which is kind of shitty, but really, not my fault. So i tried to break the ice. I said, "god, you all must hate me for stealing XXXX away from the bachelor party...who is the bachelor anyway?" 

There was a moment of silence that seemed like five minutes while I processed the look of surprise and concern on everyone's face. No. It couldn't be right? There was no way that a guy ditches his friends who have flown across the country to celebrate his impending nuptials to hang out with some random girl he just met who he wasn't even sleeping with...right?

My internal monologue was interrupted with his voice saying "Don't freak out."

But freak out I did and ran away in tears like an asshole.

He called, he texted, he seemed very sorry. I almost had a moment of sympathy. That is of course until he sent mass address book links to his wedding pictures. I blocked his number. 

So now, as a rule, I remind myself that no matter how great a five hour conversation is up in the air, there is probably something wrong with them, unless proven otherwise. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Prince Harry Wins

Every little girl who was around Prince William's age always dreamed of becoming a princess. We all imagined that he would see us and convince his family that being with a commoner was not only a great idea, but something he couldn't help. I mean, how could he, look at you!

As a result, I believe a whole generation of women grew up translating that to certain characteristics they wanted in men. Someone who was strong, proper, regal even. Someone who had a good relationship with his mom. The immature 'little brother' type was too much for you. You wanted the guy who was going to be the King, for Christ's sake!

Prince Harry on the other hand was thought of as a royal disaster.  He was also known as the party boy, the irresponsible one, and the least compassionate one. While William was excelling in matters of State, Harry was out, making mistakes and getting randy with Co-eds.

Well, Prince Harry and types like him, certainly pulled the wool over our eyes. Sure, he made many mistakes on his road to premier prince (We've all been trying to forget the SS costume) and the aforementioned indiscretions but in the end, there is a case to be made for supremacy of Prince Harry and types like him.

This "PH" type, the party boy,  the one who did everything he wasn't suppose to seems to be approaching this time in his life with no regrets. We've seen his mistakes, we know what he's like. It's very disarming. As a result, it's a little easier to buy that he would now be more settled; more comfortable in his own skin.  Unlike the "PW" types who have always done what they are told and have always been the exceptional sons or boyfriends. They have way too good of a relationship with their mothers. This level of perfection is not only annoying, but unsustainable. There has to be a certain level of growth or change right?

My therapist would say I'm projecting. I think its not that deep and I've just developed a crush on Prince Harry. Ginger is the new black. That was a style comment, not a racial one.

Check out Prince Harry doing Reggae -

Thursday, March 1, 2012

When I grow up

I don't understand it when people say that they always knew what they wanted to be when they grow up at the ripe old age of 5. I'm pretty sure that depending on the moment you asked, I would have either wanted to be a fire fighter or a veterinarian or a princess or a singer/spy. Who knows that stuff? I mean, really knows it?

When I was born in third world Nicaragua, my country was going through some of its darkest days with people standing in line for food and my mom working several jobs just to get us by. I don't remember most of the time, except coloring in my little notebook about horses and princesses and not focusing on the soldiers with guns around. Kids are resilient that way.

But I recently met a girl on one of my casting jobs that told me that she ALWAYS knew she wanted to be  on camera. Not an actor or a host or a singer, but just ON CAMERA. I prodded her more, I wanted to know what that meant exactly. She finally caved after a few margaritas and told me that she always knew she wanted to be not just on camera, but famous. She said it was one of those dirty little secrets that no one said out loud, but that secretly they all wanted and she wasn't afraid to say it.

I was incredibly curious about when she KNEW she wanted to be famous and what kind of circumstances she grew up in that kept pushing this "dream". She confessed, that it was because she was so pretty and she felt that it was a tool she should use to her advantage. I was shocked. I had NEVER heard a woman say that before. Not out loud. She repeated herself, "It's because I'm beautiful".

 Now, I have several thoughts about this. One, we could all use a little dose of her self confidence and two, you should probably, never, ever, ever say that out loud. To anyone. I couldn't help myself and leaned in thought provokingly. I asked her to elaborate on what it was like to grow up being so pretty. She insisted that it was very difficult. Much more so than one would think. She said that for instance, girls always hated her because she was prettier than them, guys just wanted to be with because she was the prettiest not because they actually liked her. She said it only got worse as she got older when she was given jobs she couldn't do over people who were more capable and when all of her bosses just wanted to sleep with her. She found little camaraderie among her colleagues and finally decided to go back of pursing her childhood dream of being famous, which according to her, she never wavered on, never gave up on. She then asked me if I knew anyone who would want to make a sex tape. I think she was kidding about the last part, or at least I hope.

Equally annoying is a man I was recently set up with who told me that he ALWAYS knew he wanted to be a lawyer. He said that real vocation comes from a young age and that he had always known that this is what he would be. His whole life he never wavered, he never hesitated he always knew. He said he didn't trust people who didn't know what their calling was in life. When I confessed that I was still figuring it all out he replied that I was a woman, so surely things would work out my way anyway and I'd just find a nice guy to take care of me. He didn't mean it in a dirt bag way, but that's how it came out.

REALLY? Not one of these people who always KNOW had a moment of hesitation? That's the kind of thinking that got me into my first marriage. This kind of certainty exits? I don't buy it. I think you can be attracted to certain things as a child, but what do you know? Even picking your major when you're an 18 year old child is mostly a struck of luck right? You think you like certain things based on the TV shows you watch, your parents, the music you listen to, etc. But are you ever really certain about anything?  I don't think so.

The fun part is playing dress up and trying on all the different hats. I am certain, that I will always write and produce. I am certain that I love LA and that I miss my family and that I like a good Flor de CaƱa rum, but that's about it. I still don't know what I'll be when I grow up and I kind of like it that way. It keeps things exciting and fresh. You don't have to be the same as everyone else. It's all about luck, experience and opportunity right? It's gotta be or I'm gonna call up my new friend and ask her how well she can operate a camera. (I'm kidding, mom. Just so you know. )

Maybe a Little off

So I can see how dating me would be slightly scary and intimidating and not just because I'm a dating disaster divorcee with a blog. Let's face it, dating anyone who writes is scary not just because they might write about you, but because of the content that they write.

In the not so distant past I dated someone briefly who was curious about all of my unpublished novels and murder mysteries and my screenplays. After I sold the first one he became increasingly curious and asked if he could read one. I wasn't ready to be naked, I mean, emotionally with this guy so I wasn't sure. I waited it out. Finally I let him read one of my murder mysteries.

He read it in a day and then asked me out to dinner. He was a writer too, for a very sweet television show which could not have been further from my genre of writing. At dinner he seemed very concerned that I had some classic unresolved daddy issues and abandonment issues and spent the entire night trying to convince me that he would never hurt me, that I would never be alone and that I should perhaps not write this thriller-dramedy type "thing" that would clearly portray me as a psychopath. He insisted that I needed to settle down, that we should make it official, that I needed someone to protect me and he was that guy. He insisted that once I was more well adjusted, those characters would become more adjusted. He insisted that my female villain characters wouldn't be so complicated, because people don't like complicated. They like simple, he said. That's why he was attracted to me. He thought I was simply and uncomplicated.

I never called him again. I don't know what part of my "creation" at that time screamed "please save me", but that was certainly not my intention. Why is it that whatever I wrote was somehow indicative of my current mental state? Sure your characters have some inevitable traits that are yours and some of people you know, but to think that everything is autobiographical or about the person you're dating makes, as Carly Simon would say, "You so Vain".  And ps, I am complicated, by definition, thanks to my gender.

You know, I get it though, it's not everyone's bag. I know that my chick lit stuff was probably more popular and my old agent in New York thinks I've thrown my life away by not pursuing that, and maybe sometime I will, but for now the fun, thriller stuff suits me. I mean, its not like I'm writing Eli Roth movies and by the way, I think he's great even if I don't watch them. The torture porn stuff isn't my genre but if it were, is that somehow a glimpse into my feelings about men? I'm gonna go with no on this one. I'm sure I can't escape the obvious issues that sneak in there, but I'm getting it all out in my writing, so where was the damsel in distress bit coming from. I don't ever want to be the damsel in distress.

Besides, TV writer guy, I would be much more afraid of the blogging thing. You never know what one might say or reveal.  Though only a couple thousand people read my blog on a good day so you're probably safe.  Ohh...I feel the next novel creeping up. Creeping, being the operative word.