I’ve spent five years of my 20’s living alone. Me. An extrovert. A tumbling, over-communicative, hungry mess who yearns almost constantly for connection, who compulsively reaches out to people, who wants to draw everyone closer all the time. I’ve spent half of the most formative decade of my life alone.
It’s something that’s still hard for me to believe, because there have been so many moments when I’ve hated it. Nights I was so lonely that I just sat in the middle my floor and stared at my phone, not even knowing who to call or what I would say to them. (“Will you call me back? I’m desperate for your humanity.”) Days when I wanted more than anything to have someone to watch TV with. Or someone to avoid in the kitchen.
But for all five years, something has kept me from calling it quits. Because there is something fierce and alive about being alone, isn’t there? There is something sort of… sexy.
I felt it this January when I was traveling with my sister and her girlfriend in Thailand. Though I feel it often in my 20s, I felt it more accutely than usual that night, because they were together, and I was on my own… and I was angry about that. As we are. I was sitting there on the beach, struggling with feeling invisible and un-needed, and then there was this incredible gust of hot wind, that shook the trees around, and stirred some wind chimes and lanterns that hung from the palms in our resort, and it blew through me in this quiet, spectacular way, and the stars looked so stupidly close it was almost annoying, and suddenly, I felt unwatched and alive, in that way that we only feel in those moments when we’re really alone.
It’s that moment when we board an airplane by ourselves. Or stay up late when our roommates are out of town. It’s sexy. It’s ours.
I remember seeking it out as a child, on twisty mountain roads in the back of my Dad’s Suburban while we listened to Annie Lennox and I painted condensation pictures on the windows. Evergreens whooshed by us and silence filled the car and I imagined my grown-up self and got really excited about it. I’m here, on my own, turning into this special person, that I’ll someday release upon the world! How exciting and perfect! Get ready! Here it comes!!
I think I still imagine my grown-up self when I’m alone. And it’s still yummy and private. And I do feel like it’s accruing into some kind of understanding of myself, I mean, isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? We learn how to ”love ourselves so that we can love someone else” or something?
So from the second I could afford it, I’ve been on my own, even though being alone is not what I want, ultimately. In fact, I think it’s seldom ever what I want even for a couple hours, though I do it, obsessively. How weird. It’s a journey that I feel a bit obligated to to be honest, and a bit resentful of. And it’s beautiful, but also sort of self-obsessed, and definitely not desirable as a final destination, which may explain this constant wrestle. I love living alone, but it also makes me miserable. Which may be why both my little apartments have felt so transient. Precious and secret and important, but also not quite right. They long for company. They want to be filled.
A year ago my boyfriend, the boyfriend, broke up with me, and I had to make peace with the independent, quiet fierceness being the norm again. And I was so… so angry about that. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want it back. The wondering, quiet independent thing. I had wanted to be done. I wanted to have my company in the mornings, and at night. I thought I’d earned it, like the important person said I would. Since then I’ve been quieter, and more thoughtful. More serious, I worry. I feel weathered. I wonder obsessively if I should just get a fucking roommate and get over myself, because I’m tired of my own head.
But I still haven’t. I’m still here, in this little life-raft of a one-bedroom, trying not to complain to my friends too much, buying really cute stuff at Cost Plus World Market, and loving and hating my solitude here.
Sometimes I want to shake myself. Give your 30 days and move in with someone, Sascha!! Give yourself that gift and shut the hell up about your yearning! Be happy! Be young! Have company!
But I think I can’t. There’s just something fundamental about being on our own that I can’t let go of, even though I can’t always explain that. There is a flex of our muscles. A confrontation. Miles and miles of free time that we have to fill with only ourselves so we have no choice but to examine the outcome. And maybe I’m addicted to that. To that forced introspection, and the quiet, and the wondering. Maybe I’m just incredibly stubborn, or love having all the closet space, or love an excuse to be self-absorbed. Maybe it’s just part of my DNA now, and there’s no going back.
But I also think there’s something more universal here. Because that night on the beach, when I was so very angry to be alone, I wrote something that in retrospect, was actually pretty amazing. I wrote about how that moment on the beach reminded me of another windy moment alone, the week that my ex and I met.
Three days after our first date, I was on a hike alone. I crested a hill at the top of Runyon, and suddenly, the wind started blowing. Like, blowing. And I found myself there at the top on my own, running between two rows of scratchy, ugly, Hollywood shrubs and out of nowhere, struggling to stay upright and it was so unexpected and thrilling and powerful that I started laughing out loud about my feet on the ground, and the wind in my face, and about what I was about to embark upon with this man I barely knew. And I thought about all the years behind me, and the ones ahead of me with the same wonder and excitement that I knew on the beach - the absolute knowledge that no one would ever know me quite the way that I know myself. And in this one moment everything here was only mine, alone, and it was perfect.
Alone is uplifting and fire-y and thrilling. And small and scary and sad. It has been that way forever. I think it’s part of the deal. And I’m not willing to give up the uplifting and fire-y and thrilling. So here I am. Taking the medicine because I subconsciously believe it’s worth it.
And maybe I take too much responsibility for my loneliness. Maybe my choice to live alone is not masochistic, or self-involved, maybe it’s just a surrendering into something that is true for all of us, that no one will ever quite care about us the way we can care about ourselves, and that that is a truth that is both wonderful, and difficult.
I think I’m just ready to stop believing that maybe I did it all wrong. Or that I am so very responsible for my own happiness. So I’m choosing alone. Again. Still.
I think there’s a reason New Year’s Eve always rocks me. It’s a night when an entire strip of the world celebrates being alive at the exact same moment. Millions of separate lives, running in this perfect parallel for one second.
This year, Rachel and Jess and I ran it. We ran through the streets in those last fifteen minutes, trying to meet our friends on the hotel rooftop in Bangkok. There wasn’t enough time. We knew we’d never make it, but we ran anyway because we wanted to try.
We passed lots of people on the way. Lines of people. Crowds of people. People praying and burning flowers, families lighting lanterns, or dancing, children buying coconut cakes, tourists, and street vendors, and couples, and babies. We ran past monasteries where monks were chanting, and into hushed backstreets. And there in this city halfway around the world from my home, I felt it again. The years of life behind me and the years of life in front of me. And the muscles in my legs and the air in my lungs.
With two minutes to go I realized we might actually make it. I pulled ahead of my friends and started running alone. The glass door of the hotel gleamed ahead of me and I thought about my year, a year in which I felt so lonely, and so sad, and how it didn’t kill me, actually and about how there were still things that I loved about my independence, even when I’m was in so much pain. Thirty seconds, and I’m thinking about how quiet my little home is, and about my cat that’s waiting for me back there in LA, and my clothes, and my bedspread, all my special private stuff. And I’m thinking about the people that we ran past, all of them celebrating, and praying and hoping for their future.
I ran up the spiral staircase and heard people start to count. 10-9-8, Rachel’s footsteps somewhere behind me, 7-6-5, one more flight and am I in a movie?, 4-3-2, my foot hits the top stair. 1. You’re kidding. You’ve got to be fucking kidding.
Every New Years, I get that exciting, thrilling twist in my stomach like I’m standing on a precipice, stealing time for one more day and one more year, and so is everyone else.
Someone whose face I never saw handed me a glass of champagne, and I started laughing into the warm breeze.
I made it.
I made it.
I’m here for the celebration.
I’m here with everyone else.
I love women. And as I get older, my life is becoming increasingly about them. I dance with women, I speak with women, I am coached, sponsored by, and counseled by women. I meet them for coffee. I talk to them about sex. I ask them for advice. I hold them while they cry. I love the deep feelings. And the competition. The struggle to be seen and held. The intimacy. The complication. The ability to heal.
My experience at S-Factor has deepened this for me, surely, but on some level, it’s always been this way for me. I remember reading Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” in middle school and being just obsessed with the vivacious, earthy, female community of the novel. It was this raucous irreverent crew separated from everyone else just because they were female. They were special, ancient, and secret. Aunts, cousins, daughters, grandmas, sitting on moss and bleeding in a tent in the desert, while rubbing each other’s feet with oil and cackling about their husbands. Oh my god. I wanted to eat it. I wanted to be there.
It echoed for me. Because even as a middle-schooler, I knew that being a woman does feel like that. Quarantined and venerated. Ever since I went through puberty, I’ve felt like I was a part of a club that everyone was obsessed with and also couldn’t wait to abuse. On the public bus, in a piazza in Italy, I remember those first pre-teen moments, when people started watching me. The power you’re gifted just by being a woman. It comes without your permission, and it’s heady, potent.
But the lack of control over that power; it comes too. The first time you feel it, it’s both. It’s neither. You don’t have tools to deal with it yet. You didn’t ask for it. It just arrived. On that same trip to Europe, just as I started to glow under male attention, someone in Turkey tried to buy me from my family. My parents joked. The man was serious. I was 12.
It’s a complication that I’ve spent years trying to unravel, and one of the main reasons I went to S-Factor in the first place. Before I learned to dance, my sexuality felt like something that was always a reflection of someone else. Desire was put upon me, but I could only mirror it back, enjoy it sometimes, but know that it wasn’t mine. So as a woman, when you start hearing stories of rape, on TV, from your friends. It isn’t a surprise. At least, it wasn’t for me. Because on some level, I’ve always known that I was prey. You feel it. You do.
But as an adult, my outrage at these stories is becoming difficult to carry. Suddenly, despite knowing about this quiet threat for years, sensing it in corners and alleys and at clubs, and in class, I can’t handle it anymore. The more empowered I become personally and the more obsessed I become with women and what they hold inside of them, the more I’m starting to feel like I can’t live in a world where sexual assault continues to happen. Globally. Epidemically.
And I do mean “feel.” I actually feel it. The nausea, watching the gang-rape scene in “Top of the Lake,” the helplessness, watching the news coverage of the Ariel Castro case, the absolute horror, the outrage, the disgust, rising up in the back of my throat as I hear about the rampant rape of women officers in the army, or in prisons, or the insane spinning blathering about the Woody Allen case. This happens over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, to my friends, to my teachers, to my role models, to my sisters. It happens so much that it’s on TV. It’s a part of our entertainment. Of course, “Top of the Lake”, or “The Killing”, didn’t spare me from the gory details of their fictional gang-rapes. Why would they? We’re used to this. We aren’t horrified anymore because it happens so fucking often. Women are victimized, women are victimized, women are victimized. Bodies chopped up. Invaded. Buried. The end. Tune in next week.
There is an entire “Law and Order” series dedicated to sexual crimes. We tune in to watch it with a tacit acceptance. A sigh. Yes, this happens. What a shame. We shrug and watch and feel better that fictional justice is meted out, but don’t worry about the fact that no one helped her in the moment. No one stopped it - not the abuser, not the people who may have heard her screaming. No one decided that this woman, that all women, are too beautiful and complex and real to dehumanize and violate, and just stopped it. These fictional abusers took what was there, because they’ve learned that we allow that. And we do allow it, don’t we? Doesn’t it continue to happen? Everywhere?
In order to function as a woman in the world, you have to walk around pretending you’re not that vulnerable. As individuals we believe that we’re stronger. I remember, at 24-years-old, play-fighting with my boyfriend in his bed. “Bet you can’t pin me” I teased. I did spin-class. I did yoga. I believed it. So we tussled. We rolled around, and pushed and hit. And he pinned me. Easily. So we tussled harder. Then we tussled again. And again and again. Because he could always pin me. All skinny, pale, 6 feet of him could pin me. Every time. Even when I fought past the point of flirtation. Even when I started to get pissed. To really try. He could pin me. He could always fucking pin me. And it all came home to me, right then, that I couldn’t get away. If anyone wanted to do anything to me. I couldn’t claw, fight, scratch my way out of it. Not even me, who felt so strong. Who did so much research. It doesn’t matter how capable you are if someone decides to take something from you. And we’re living in a world where that happens all the time. Where subconsciously, we must be validating this behavior, or it wouldn’t continue on such a profound level.
Should I be surprised that I asked, in bed, to be dominated by my boyfriend? In the safety of a man I trusted, that I should seek to explore what is such a fundamental part of the female experience? Being held down? Being forced?
Watching TV today, I felt that it was a fucking miracle that I made it through high school and college without being raped. And how deeply fucked up is that? We’re steeped in it. A fellow actress in my acting class had to pretend to be fucked backwards over a table while reading off a list of missed calls to her fictional boss, once. She had to walk into an audition room, and let people see her that way to try to get a job. How deeply dehumanizing. How disgusting that someone even felt entitled to write that role. And don’t even get me started on Khaleesi, everyone’s favorite princess on “Games of Thrones” who, just an episode or two after we meet her, is raped on her marital bed by an enormous Dothraki man who has recently purchased her, and proceeds to then fall in love with her (apparently gentle-hearted) rapist? Please. This is so widespread and so sick. And yet is it better to acknowledge these things by writing stories about them, than to keep them secret? Is it better to tell these stories so that we feel this outrage?
I don’t know. I don’t know if it is. At least, I don’t know if it’s better to tell them in this way. In this, throw up your hands, clean up the mess sort of way. The cops come afterwards. Couldn’t save her. Couldn’t stop it, but at least someone will be punished. Sort of. Unless they’re famous. Or rich, then it’s pretty much whatever. Right?
What I’d rather see, than sad stories of abuse that someone swoops in to try to half-assedly address, is an absolute refusal to tolerate these crimes in the first place. Rather than TV shows trying to mete out justice in one-hour segments, I’d rather see men on TV becoming empowered to stop each other in the moment. High school boys resisting peer pressure, not succumbing to it. Father figures who even though they’re in a half-hour comedy, defend their women, rather than being cowed by them.
I’d also rather see law enforcement becoming accountable for stopping these crimes before they happen, not just cleaning up the mess. Part of the horror I feel watching these crime dramas is that by the time they start investigating it’s already too fucking late. It’s over. She’s dead. Or raped. Or brutalized.
And this passivity is not just on TV. At 25, while living alone in Hollywood, a drug-addict neighbor started leaving notes in my mailbox and waiting for me on my porch when I came home at night. He would bang on the door when I wouldn’t answer. He would yell at me through the windows. I went to the cops. ”Has he hurt you?” They said. When I told them “not yet,” they said “You live in Hollywood. What do you want me to do?” And in response to my shocked silence? “Don’t be that woman.” ”What woman?” I asked. “The woman who whines that we won’t help her until something bad happens.”
Yes. God forbid we act BEFORE something bad happens. God forbid we fight systematic oppression with a little proactivity. If we want these crimes to end, then it’s clearly not enough to just document these stories and sigh and look away or to tell your daughters not to walk down alleys alone at night like it’s her responsibility to keep herself from being raped by someone. We have to try to right this terrible wrong that keeps being perpetrated again and again, not just mop it up afterwards. What the fuck are we doing? Why is this still happening? And why are we watching it happen while we eat popcorn on our couches? Would we all tune it to see a series about lynching? Torture? Racial profiling? Then why we do tune in to see women being cut into pieces? Publicly humiliated? Raped? It is not entertaining. It is horrifying. And it’s closer to home than anyone would care to admit.
I’ve always known that being a woman was complicated. That it comes with a price. That the joy I find in being desirable, is also a liability - I’ve been taught that. My life has taught me that. But even I was shocked, as I sat in a group therapy session just a few months ago, to hear a friend, an incredibly beautiful 23-year-old girl, a girl I was jealous of, to be totally transparent, tell us, with horrifying casualness about a recent sexual assault and wrap up by saying “I know this isn’t my fault. I know that when I look this way, these things will happen to me. It’s just the way it is.” She understood the price of her body. She understood that over and over again, no one fucking helped her. Not even her mother believed her when she came clean, because it’s too painful to open your eyes to a world in which this happens, epidemically.
You guys. It just doesn’t have to be this way.
Talk to your sons. Talk to your friends. Write about your experiences. Defend your daughters. Stop laughing at misogyny. Go pick something you can do and go to work. It’s not just women who have to fix this. It’s all of us. So get outraged. Start with your own community, and do something. I know I fucking have. And make better TV, people. Give us men who give a shit, and cops who get there in time. I am done feeling this helpless.
In pole class right now I’m trying to learn how to slow down.
That’s not entirely true, more like, I’m trying to learn how to do nothing. And not just for a brief, sexy pause or something, like, a moment of sensual lingering just for a beat, no, like… nothing. Then more nothing. Then more nothing…In front of people.
Apparently, my body wants it.
Uch! How uncomfortable. Am I even allowed to do that? To just gorge on laziness? Waiting, waiting, holding while everyone watches me? Isn’t that like, selfish? Or boring? Or selfish and boring? Doing nothing when I know how good I am at doing a lot?
That sounds annoying.
I mean, S-Factor, is this perfect place. Where my body is supposedly allowed to do absolutely anything for absolutely any amount of time, and everyone has a responsibility to lose their minds over it. Joining the studio was effortless. Most of my three years there have been effortless. But there is this one color that emerges out of me like, 15% of the time, that I flat-out cannot make room for. It’s the, “I’m tired.” The “come to ME. I’m not going to you.”
Which is different than the “come to me because I demand it!!” or the “come to me because you know you’re dying to!!” Those are fun.
This is: ”Come to me, because I feel so fucking good exactly where I fucking am and I will not allow myself to move just because you’re watching me.”
Yeah, it’s terrifying.
I am TERRIBLE at saying yes to it.
And I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse. I mean, if I can’t demand space for nothing now, how will I ever do it later when I have a socially-mandated responsibility to never chose nothing again? Like… when my someday maybe hypothetical child wants for anything!? I mean, Motherhood is out there! Somewhere! Just waiting, for me to be ready to never have “nothing” again!
After class, I went on a walk to Trader Joe’s to mull this all over/pick up some food for lunch/linger a little longer in the drunken, nothing-buzz I always leave class with, and I noticed, as I tripped along rather quicker than I wanted to, that the world was just so quiet. So quiet on a Wednesday afternoon. Just so unbelievably quiet and full. Like, this insane, buzzing, immoveable force. You know those moments when you swear you can actually hear the Earth moving? Like that. It was screaming.
It’s like I forget to remember that all my crazy doesn’t extend past my skin most of the time. I’m so in it, that I forget the world just continues. Slow. …Lingering. Waiting, waiting, holding. Grinding forward, waiting for me to notice that it’s always been this slow, and I’m the one whose been running so quickly. On the sidewalk I slowed down to try to join it, but felt that same quiet panic. Is it allowed? Is it okay? Am I going to die here if I stop and just listen?
I wonder if we always feel thrust into action when attention is turned to us, like I do in class that 15% of the time. My sister tells me she is so exhausted sometimes by human interaction that she only really feels herself when she is absolutely alone. She needs it every couple days, or she’ll be crazy. She needs to be alone just so that she can do nothing.
The hardest part of any acting job is when the camera is pointed to you and you’re only supposed to listen. It feels like there’s no possible way you’re interesting enough, staring at someone and not moving your face. It’s just like crouching on the ground in front of a class and not moving your body while a song plays in the background. I don’t want to be caught dead doing either.
But when I remember about the Earth turning and everything, then I realize that I probably have to be caught dead, since I’m willing to bet that there is no way to make myself want to go faster when deep down I want to go slower. Those feeings tend to stick around until we finally listen to them, right?
So now I get to say:
"Welcome. I have room for you here, boring, tired, Sascha. There is space for you to claim a spot on the floor and sit in it until you are ready. We will watch you sit in it. We will not complain. We will watch you do nothing, until you are ready to do something else, and we will cheer."
Yeah, that sounds pretty terrible. But gloriously, this decision isn’t mine to make, only mine to accept. Oh, life. But at least it’s simple, even if it’s icky. There’s only one thing to do. Get out of the goddamn way and go be boring.
I wish I understood why this part of me is in here. Maybe to connect me to the Earth that just keeps grinding forward in suspension, when I want to trip around 10 feet above it. Maybe to show me that there’s a rebel underneath there, who wants to bring this all to a screeching halt just because she can. The point is, I don’t know, but at least I’m learning now (28 years old!!) that discomfort is usually a huge signifier for work to be done. And as we’ve discussed, I love work.
But even with perspective, It’s hard to leave the studio after a “so-so” dance like that. It feels icky, and un-solveable, and I start doing that projection thing where all the “beautiful!”s and “yummy!”s i heard from my classmates sorta fade into a blur I thrust aside out of stubbornness and all the “helpful” (“constructive” most call it) criticism (ughhhhhh) I hear is what I wear close to me like a big… heinous… criticism… sweater. I hear it, repeat it, agree, feel helpless, then after rolling around in the sweater for a while to somehow cathartically whip myself up into a frenzy about my own inadequacy, I become impotent to return to the good things they all said first. (Betrayed by the sweater. It happens every time). But my teacher did squeeze me at the end of today and say “I love you,” and even though the stupid part of me want to grumble that she’s obligated, I’m going to choose to believe that she really did mean it. I’m willing to bet she gives me feedback not because I’m disappointing and need fixing, but because I’m trying, and that makes people want to get in there and try with me.
Yesterday, on set for a movie, and I met a priest named Father Mike. As we waited for “Action!” in the foyer of his church, we spoke about his parish. And during the two hours I spent chatting with him, the thing that struck me the most, was the massive, still, terrifying quality of his attention. He just watched me, and listened. Each time I spoke he waited, very still, for me to finish. He didn’t look away, or fidget, or think about himself, then when I was done, he considered, took a moment, and spoke when he was ready. And he when was suspicious that there was more for me to say, he waited for it. Left some air, and invited me to fill it. It’s what Marie Forleo calls the Intentional Awkward Pause. Making room for someone to continue, to answer their own questions, to fill in the blanks. Is there more? Are you sure? Are you not sure? I’ll watch that, too.
I don’t know if I’m ready yet to do that for my body. I’m clearly afraid of what is inside all that nothing. (What does it mean, that heavy yearning to wait? Why do I so desperately want a captive audience to kneel on all fours in front of, and receive patience from?) Or maybe I’m not afraid of what it means, I’m just afraid of being seen in such an obvious state of question mark about the whole goddamn thing.
The real leap of faith is probably believing that my classmates have it in them to wait it out with me. Like Father Mike. Because if that’s true then maybe I can find that patience, too, to keep showing up and turning my attention to the nothing.
Leaving some air…and waiting for my body to fill it.
I squint in the Sunday morning sun, as I shuffle home from Robek’s in last night’s clothes. “Costume!!” a little girl yells at me from Starbucks, as I clomp by in heels and leather. Her Mom quickly pulls her hand down and turns her away from me, but far from being shamed, I smile, proudly. That’s right! Avert your eyes, child!! It’s me, walking home… in obvious club attire!
I smell like Old Spice, in that weird way that men leave themselves all over you in the morning - on my skin, or maybe in my bedraggled, beer-smelling scarf. Fuck. I like that scarf.
No matter. Look at how free-spirited I am! This is awesome!
I mean… I do feel a little weird? Which I think is probably typical when you’re a deeply heartfelt and historically prudish individual ejected early from a legit one-night stand (he told me pointedly half an hour earlier that he a) had a headache and b) had to “tweet for his boss” (??)), but I don’t know. Let’s be honest, I’m not super experienced with this.
Which is, ironically, how this dude got me into bed in the first place.
Ready for a play-by-play?
Club! EDM! American Apparel bodysuits! Dance, dance, dance! Grind up on each other! Make ironic joke about our douchey surroundings! Dance! Dance! Steal mouthfuls of guy’s drink! (Straight vodka on the rocks, who drinks this?)! Dance, dance! Surreptitious conversation with my friend who wants to leave, while still dancing with guy! Dance, dance, dance! Notice that guy works out! Notice that I’m kind of into guy! Notice that Friend is heading to the door to wait for me! Dance! Dance! Lean to to guy’s ear because music is too loud!
Me: “I’m gonna go soon…but we should hang!”
Dance, dance, dance!
Him: “I leave in ten days.”
Dance, dance, dance!
Him: “But what are you doing right now?”
Dance, dance, dance!
Me: “Haha! Wow. Bold!”
Him: “Is it?”
Me: (confident) “Sorry, that’s not something I should do.”
Me: “Yeah, remember all those things you said an hour ago about me being emotionally intuitive and empathic?”
Me: “That stuff has a price.”
Dance dance dance!
Him: “I think you’re afraid of having a good time.”
Dance, dance, dance!
Me (less confident): “What?”
Guy grabs my hand sensually!
Him: “I think you’re afraid of letting yourself have too good a time.”
Ughhhhh Now I have to sleep with you!
Because yes, okay? Yeah! I am afraid of having too good a time, weirdly astute Canadian named Dave! And okay no, maybe I’m not the free-spirited, down-with-it cool-girl babe that I maybe seemed like when you saw me dancing and yes, it IS my most deeply held insecurity you little asshole, and yes, now I AM gonna go home with you to prove to you that I’m not afraid of fun. JESUS.
But I’m sorry. Just a second, Dave. Having too good a time can be really scary. Or at least… People who have too good a time all the time, completely scare me!
It’s true. People who cut loose, adventure, go fuck people whenever they want to, leave at a moment’s notice? Those people are fucking terrifying.
Let’s talk about it.
I mean, right? Who are they? And how are they not worried, these cut-loose have a good time people? About everything? What they’re leaving behind? What they’re going to contract, or forget about, or encounter? Who they might disappoint or betray? What might happen to their bodies or their self-respect or their fucking schedule? And more importantly, how are we all supposed to live our relatively stable (happily-so!) lives with them flouncing about being so goddamn attractive and starry-eyed and free and fabulous all the time?
I’ve encountered many of these people in my life. These restless, beautiful, dreamy, different people that Dave is hoping I am,. They are like gorgeous, exciting, little aliens… who make me feel extremely bad about myself. This is a rough one. It’s deep. Hard to explain and also tangentially very tied up with recreational drug use, another thing that I am deeply judgmental of/simultaneously attracted to/terrified by. Go figure.
Perhaps the fear is that somehow I’m doing it all wrong; that I missed the boat and we all should be long-boarding through Europe on Molly wearing feathers if we want to be truly happy. I resent the aliens because they make me afraid that being connected to the world can’t happen in a Honda Civic listening to KISS FM - that it HAS to happen in Joshua Tree, or at a rave, or in bed with three other women and your boyfriend. They’re so gorgeous, and starry-eyed, and different that I’m terrified that maybe their happiness is just a little brighter than mine. Maybe it’s wilder, deeper, crazier, bigger, and I’ve been wrong all the along. This makes me want to touch them and reject them at the same time. Tell them they’re crazy, but also beg them to take me with them. Suddenly they’re right, I’m wrong. They’re exciting, I’m plain. OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO MY SELF ESTEEM, I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM!
But I get it. You know? Joshua tree IS pretty great. And I’ve heard that acid can change your life, or what the fuck ever. And feeling sexy and untouchable and free is really really spectacular when you do it right. Like, when all the elements come together and you’re a little drunk and in an amazing outfit and you’re just dancing for hours and hours and hours. Those nights are incredible. We’ve all had them.
But that sort of relentless drive to push outwards, that these unafraid people have? The desire to be rootless, connected to everyone, free from a life and a schedule and responsibilities? That thing that every club hit wails about, and every Coachella-going 20-something packs up their stuff hoping to find? To be brutally, horribly honest…I just don’t yearn for that.
I love my responsibilities, Dave. They ground me. They remind me that I’m needed here, that I have work here to be done. That I have a life for myself. That I’m in a rhythm, and a community, and that I have a place.
I love having a place. I love feeling like it’s enough.
I completely feel the benefits of expansion. When I go on a trip and don’t know what I’m going to do when I get there, when I say yes to plans I would normally reject, when I try something that scares me a little because I want to wonder about it, I usually come away feeling a little brighter, a little fresher to the world.
But I also hate it. I kick and I scream, I’m anxious and self-aware. The whole time I’m gratingly conscious of the fact that I’m pretending to be something that I’m not… I’m putting on a costume, to prove to myself and to these gorgeous, different, starry-eyed people that I can hang, and the truth is? Over the course of my life the outcome has sometimes been thrilling, but sometimes it’s been truly damaging. I’ve done things I’ve deeply regretted because I thought I had to push myself, because I was afraid that the alien people were right, and I was wrong.
So yes, I am afraid of having too good a time, Dave! I have reason to be.
Because it’s not in me, that thing. I so want it to be. I want to touch it, be close to it, have it rub off on me a little. But really? Terribly? Most of the time I need to play it safe simply because I like to. Because that’s authentic and beautiful to me. Because I like to know that I’ll be here in the morning, in my bed where I belong, safe, and ready to engage with another day of my beautiful, tender, simple life.
So I usually play it safe. The other night I didn’t, because some guy with a mustache called me on being afraid. I guess I wanted to prove to both of us that I wasn’t. And this time it worked out, and was actually pretty fun and great. I mean, he was Canadian, so. At least I have a story. But I’m happy to be home. And I wish I’d woken up in my bed, instead of his. And I can’t wait to go shower so that I smell like me again.
It’s a hard one to breathe with. I’m definitely going to read this tomorrow morning and worry that everyone, including myself, thinks I’m boring. But the truth is, I feel deeply alive in my life all the time, even without all that glamorous, rootless, scary shit. Even without Dave.
But Dave was fun. I’m so happy I get to play in that world sometimes. I’m not gonna be a citizen, but I’m grateful that Dave encouraged me to be a tourist.
At the end of the day we all have to be what we are, not what we’re afraid might be better than what we are. As my friend Megsie put it, “I think of myself as a free spirit….in the sense that I am finally [mostly] ‘free’ of feeling bad that I’m not free spirited enough… free from the constraints of what exactly it is that can free you.”
Sounds free to me.
I super miss having sex with my ex, guys.
This is new. I didn’t feel anything for a while except sad. But now, I don’t know, my cat sat on my lap this morning for just a little too long? and it reminded me that someone used to touch that area of my body for extended periods of time? and then, it was all over. I wanted to call him.
Except that I can’t, because the new girl he is seeing is here right now. Like, in town, right now. I know. It’s gross.
I’m having these incredible fantasies of just like bursting into his apartment and forcing my presence upon both of them.
That’s the end of the plan, there’s nothing else to it really. Just forcing them to open the door and look at me and deal with the reality of me and my horrible grotesque bleeding heart. That’s right, bitches! I’m still here!! I’m here to ruin allll your fun with my deep terrible authentic PAIN. Hopefully i would do this while in lingerie and actively pole-dancing at the time. Like, someone would go before me and secretly install some kind of pole? because come on! I can pole dance! Probably didn’t know that, huh, New Girlfriend from Burning Man? Thought you guys would get rid of me that easy, huh? Well THINK AGAIN, NGBM! (inverted flip!) - whaaaacha! Think again!!!
I wish she didn’t have quite so many tattoos. Somehow it feels more insulting to be replaced by a girl with ample tattoos, like she just had to draw all over her body because she’s just that deserving of embellishment. She’s just that Burning Man.
Anyway, today was the tenth day that I’ve prayed to “release” him. Yeah. And against all odds, that was working pretty okay until suddenly, this morning, I remembered that I have a vagina. And now…. I’m back here again; wishing that there was some justification I could find to call him. Anything. Anything. Bueller.
But there’s not. There really isn’t. And I know I’m gonna make it. I know I’m not gonna call. Because every day I think about doing it and then I don’t. I just keep thinking about doing it. And then I don’t. One day after another day. For 34 days.
And I looked at a photo of us with kindness today, so I know things are changing.
The hardest part is knowing that this girl will never know me. That I won’t show up naked and pole-dancing in front of her apartment, that I won’t call.
She won’t wonder if I have tattoos. Or see me and be disappointed that I’m pretty. She won’t hear about the things we did together, or wonder if I had better sex with him than she does. I won’t scrawl I was here I was here I was here all over his sidewalk or draw chalk outlines of our bodies on his sheets. I won’t seal off his rooftop with crime-tape, or invite his friends to a party to send stories back about how well I’m doing. My name won’t pop up on his caller ID. I’ll leave them alone.
My broken-heart doesn’t give me prerogative, even if it should. So she won’t know me. I’m just gone.
I think that growing up is beautiful, and just so hard. Knowing what the right thing is, and knowing you’re strong enough to execute it is lonelier than acting out ever was. I wish I could talk to her, or maybe hit her in the face. I wish I didn’t hate her. I wish she didn’t have so many tattoos. I just wish she was gone.
But that’s not up to me, even though I can pole-dance.
Which is something I get.
So will someone talk to my vagina about this?
The Oscars really upset me this year.
And it had nothing to do with the ceremony, which I thoroughly enjoyed, or Seth MacFarlane, who I was pleasantly surprised by, or the terrible Sauvignon Blanc from Trader Joe’s I was drinking that gave me a hangover while drinking it. What messed me up was my own leaden realization that as much as I feel “a part of” when I watch, and admire, and coo; I’m still not. That the Oscars are for movie-stars. And that they don’t need anyone else to join them.
I dress up for the Oscars every year. My friends and I make a big deal out of it, because we love movies; because we’ve dedicated our lives to them. But this year, as I sat on my friend’s couch on Melrose Ave, less than a mile away from the Kodak Theater, in my thrift-store heels giving my opinions like I’m a part of that world, it was impossible not to wonder, if any of us are actually going to get there.
I was taught to aim high. The highest. Our whole generation was. Will Smith famously said some shit like, “In my mind, I’ve always been an A-list Hollywood superstar. Y’all just didn’t know yet!”… or something. The point is, he said something about putting your mind to massive things and not resting until they are achieved. That if you KNOW something is possible you make it possible. Be the president! Go to the moon! Publish a novel! It’s all on you. You. You. You. You!
But the death of hope that I have seen in myself and my friends as these massive massive dreams that we were taught to attach ourselves to fail to materialize, is tragic.
It makes us want to give up. It makes us want to stop.
The cold truth is: the top is perfectly content to do without most of us. So what, then? Are we less special than them? Have we not set ours mind to it strongly enough?
Certainly not. But it certainly feels that way. This year more than ever.
And oh my God, how are we supposed to carry that? The constant dissatisfaction bred by the scarcity of work in this system is like this huge dark cloud that hangs over our artistic lives. And that, I think. Is a huge effing problem.
So I guess you could say I’m starting to wonder if artists have to aim lower. Lower like, on this planet still, lower like, still in the 99%. After all, that’s what artists are supposed to be for, right? Carrying the message of the common people, or something? Being the torch-bearers? Yeah! But the glamorization and monetization of art in Hollywood has caused us all to think we have to be beautiful, perfect, rich, and honored by other beautiful, perfect rich-people to be worth something.
I think I have to become Julia Roberts to be worthy of acknowledgment.
And in a way, I do. No one is holding nationally-telecast award ceremonies for my table-waiting, Breaking-Bad-watching, commercial-auditioning community.
They fucking should be. The courage, persistance, and sacrifice I see around me on a daily basis is a fucking inspiration. But they aren’t, so we are still, all of us clamoring at a door that’s closed. And the idea that it’s someday going to open if we just will it hard enough is the thing that keeps us scratching at the doorknob.
So. I’m sorry but… fuck that?
As I get older, and see myself no closer to the Oscars than I have ever been, there is a fire - a deep craving - for something better for myself and for my friends. What it costs those who have that kind of attention to keep it, what is costs young artists to try to earn that kind of attention when they aren’t getting it - these prices are too high. We should not be asking thousands of young artists to wait their turn, to starve, to scramble, to beg for the opportunity to be heard. We should already be listening.
So maybe we should start awarding the normal people. Because when we’re all trying so hard to be special because Will Smith says fucking we can, it’s difficult to notice all the intense specialness already present in our lives.
I wanna barf when I think about it being normal. Standard. About never getting to sit in those chairs with those people I idolize. But I also know, or try to remind myself, that it is that thing, that human-ness, that un-specialness, that makes me capable of creating things that are honest and beautiful.
I just want to love my unimpressive, stuck-in-traffic, zero-box-office-earning, 57,841st-on-imdb-star-meter, commercial-audition-at-4:00PM-in-Santa-Monica life.
So I’m hosting the “Groscars” next year in a neighborhood trashcan, for all the rest of us. Text for deets. It’s gonna be totally unimpressive. And way more fulfilling.
Almost exactly a year ago, I adopted a cat named Oscar from a shelter in Orange County. He had a mustache, and a fat fluffy butt, and I was obsessed with him immediately. But I was scared to bring him home because I was worried about the commitment.
As a waitress and sometimes-commercial-actress, I was in near constant financial stress as it was, and I had these horrible visions of myself guiltily tossing perfect lil Osc into a frozen alley on Skid Row and driving away weeping if he was diagnosed with anything more expensive than a nose-bleed - only to be haunted by his memory for the rest of my days. But the thought of another winter alone in my apartment was even scarier than my imagined catastrophes, so after several visits to the Petco where he was kept, I bit the bullet one day and brought him home.
Which was clearly the right decision. I was immediately in love. He would sit right next to me and purr and I would touch him awkwardly and scratch his weird smashed little mustached face, and stare around with my mouth open “Are you seeing this?!” I literally couldn’t believe him. There were facebook posts, and glitter collars, there were personally engraved name-tags and photo shoots. We peed side-by-side every morning, him in his little box, me on my old weho toilet. We were in love. It was awesome.
But a couple months in, Oscar started wanting more.
For a while Oscar had been looking out the window, yearning to play with the other cats that roamed in the courtyard. For the most part I ignored this behavior, and kept him occupied at home. But I had a new job and was away for 10 hours at a time and when I was gone… he’d go a little nuts. Like knocking things off the countertops nuts. Like, peeing on all my shit nuts. It was clear he wanted to be out. And I so badly wanted him to be happy. So one day, after a particularly aggravating bed-wetting, I held the door open for him and out he went. I thought he’d get his ya-yas out and come back in an hour or two. I thought it would be a nice little vacay followed by a long, purr-filled cuddle sesh.
Well. Turns out Oscar was quite the outsdoorman. Or maybe he was just a dick. Either/or, he turned into an absolute menace. He was gone for hours. He terrorized the other cats. He ate everyone else’s kibble. He broke in to everyone else’s apartments. He refused to let me bring him back in. He was an asshole, and he wouldn’t come home. I was worried sick.
After two days of Hitler-style courtyard domination, Oscar finally meowed at the door to come in for dinner. I threw myself at the doorknob, shaking with relief, arms open wide to welcome him back, and in he came, wild-eyed, scruffed-up and smelling like a trash-can. “Little man!” I yelled with enthusiasm, to which he walked right past me to his food bowl, inhaled every piece of kibble he could with his weird flat face then tromped RIGHT back to the door and cried like a bitch until I let him out again.
I was crushed. Gone was my companion waiting for me when I got home, and what I had in its place was a wide-eyed, garden-obsessed uncontrollable little terror. I knew our love was too pure to last. Oscar didn’t give a shit about me anymore.
To make matters worse, he was an angel to the neighbors.
I got phone calls: “Is this Oscar’s Mom? Yeah, your cat just came right inside! He is just so affectionate!”
“He just jumps right in the car with me when I bring in the packages!” said my mailman Juan. Fuck you, Juan. Fuck. You.
I would walk down the street, humiliated and jealous to pick him up when someone would call. I’d grab him by his furry little middle, apologize that he darted into their house, and cart him home, all the while him smiling up at me contentedly. “What Mom? What?” As soon as we got home he would wriggle out of my hands again, and some neighbor or other would cry out “Oscar!” - And so it went. I was so jealous. But I didn’t know what to do.
Then, on Christmas Eve, I came home from running errands, with an hour before I had to be at work, and 12 hours before I was on a plane to Mexico, and there was Oscar crumpled up on the front step, still as I came towards him. “Oscar?” I said, hopeful that he was at home, waiting to be pet, waiting to hang out. He watched me, but didn’t get up. Something was wrong. As I got closer, I saw that his eyes were glazed with pain, he was covered in dirt and leaves. I touched him and he growled and hissed. I rushed him to the vet, he’d broken his pelvis in three places and needed a surgical consult or cage rest for six weeks. He’d been hit by a car, only three months into my ownership. I was terrified. I was on a budget. I was leaving for Christmas vacation in 12 hours. I told them to board him there over my Christmas break, and I went to work.
I called the vet multiple times from Mexico City. Checking in on him whenever I could. When I went to pick him up when I got home, I winced as I handed over my credit card.”skid row, frozen paws, haunted for the rest of my life!”I thought. But it wasn’t so bad. Big; but could’ve been bigger. I had survived my pet owner nightmare, and the bank wasn’t broken.
From that moment on, I vowed to keep him in to protect him. That he would be an indoor cat and everything would be alright. And everything seemed to settle in for a couple months.
But then he began to get restless.
He hit the blinds. He meowed through the night. He stared at the other cats and hissed through the window. He started to pace. He started to rush the door as I came and went. And then one day…
“He has herpes! That’s why the ulcers won’t heal!”
Yes. Oscar had herpes. Black scabs were growing across the surface of his eyes. And once again, he needed surgery. Suddenly, the costs were climbing. Each vet visit was $150, every eye drop, supplement, or gel was $40, the total cost of his upcoming surgery a whopping $3600, and all the time Oscar, dismissive, restless, herpetic, wanted back outside.
I called my parents from the parking lot of the vet, sobbing, “Why can’t I take care of him? Why doesn’t he like me?!! I didn’t ask for this I can’t handle it!”
They told me to start looking or other adoptees. Someone who could afford to get him what he needed. At first I was horrified. But as the months wore on, and Oscar marched around my house bitchily as I fought to keep him healthy, their solution sounded better and better. It didn’t make sense. I couldn’t afford to help him. I started preparing to say goodbye.
Two months later I left for New York with a play I was performing. I left Oscar at a friend’s house with his array of pharmaceuticals and a list of eye drop instructions. And when I returned to him two weeks later, he was seeing more clearly. We were told we could wait on the surgery and watch him. He came back home. His eyes were clear. It was a miracle. I decided to keep him. I couldn’t stand the thought of him being anyone else’s. I recommitted. After all… he was the cutest goddamn cat I had ever seen.
I began to raise money for his surgery online. I petitioned my friends, my friends friends, strangers, persian rescues. Things were looking hopeful.
But the restlessness began anew. His brief sojourn at my friend’s place had made him hunger for the big world again. He was determined.
But so was I.
We fought it out for months. Me, knowing that another car accident and I wouldn’t have it in me to save him, and him, pacing about in front of windows, scratching things up, totally not getting why he was being imprisoned. My blinds were ravaged beyond repair, my down comforter permanently odorous from so many aggressive bed-wettings. He kept me up at night with his crying and meowing, I played bathtub peek-a-boo with him for hours and he was never satisfied, and the herpes continued, tongue ulcers, corneal scars, drops, suspensions, pills, pain drugs, my wits were at their very end. And then the phone call came.
Oscar had given my friend fleas while I was in New York. The extermination was going to cost $350. Bringing my total cost of Oscar care up to $2000 in under a year.
And still, he barely let me touch him.
That night I worked in wrathful silence, while Oscar stared out the window behind me. I couldn’t look at him. I couldn’t pet him. I contemplated stabbing him in his squishy little face with a kitchen knife. But instead I chose to just keep working. In stony passive-aggressive silence.
Then Oscar hit the blinds.
Sixteen million times.
And finally. I lost it.
“WHAT OSCAR?” I screamed at him “WHAT? WHAT DO YOU NEED RIGHT NOW??!”
He cowered at the foot of the bed as I yelled. Frozen, silent, puffed-up and wild-eyed.
"OHHHH I"M SORRY, OSCAR! I’m SORRY!! WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU RIGHT NOW OSCAR? HOW CAN I CAN HELP YOU?!!!”
He was still for a moment. Tense. Furious. Then he crawled away from me. He hid under the bed. He’d never hid from me before.
I couldn’t get him to come out.
That night I opened the door and let him out. I don’t think I really cared what the fuck happened to him. Somewhere inside me I probably wanted him to get hit. I was so angry. Angry he was so cute. Angry he didn’t behave the way I wanted him to. Angry that he was so beyond my control. That he needed so much and gave me so little. Angry that the neighbors were thrilled to have him back. That I didn’t get any return for the loyalty I showed him. I set him loose because I had nothing left to try. Because I hated how much I had scared him.
He didn’t come home for a week. He ate at other people’s houses, slept under bushes, wouldn’t let me put in his eye drops. He turned up his nose at the food he used to love. When I did see him in the courtyard, since he never came home, I would wrangle him to the ground, stuff his meds down his throat, pull the various shit off his magnetic cat door collar that he had collected on his adventures… screws, nails, bits of metal shavings, and then he was off again. Now a wet-nurse, a caretaker, not a friend. A part of me was relieved that the responsibility was gone. But most of me was sad. Jealous. Angry.
I told myself he wasn’t really my cat anymore. That he was going to do what he was going to do and I had to make peace with it. It was the only way I could make it okay.
Then one afternoon, just a couple weeks ago, Oscar scratched at the door to be let in. I watched, very still, as he went over to his scratching post, just like he used to, then right to his bowl, and ate a meal with me for the first time since the night of our big fight. Then he jumped onto my bed, and fell asleep all afternoon. Then he came back the next day. And the day after that. He was choosing me again. I was sure he never would.
In a strange way, Oscar has taught me about generosity. Real generosity. Like, giving without expectation. Like, letting go of what you “get back” and choosing to do something anyway. And as bizarre as it is that that lesson had to come from a cat, I really am profoundly moved by being so brutally educated about my own powerlessness. Oscar flouted my control at every juncture, and in response, I denied him love. Just as he persistently defied me with his heinous health problems and Christopher McCandless-esque passions I tried to defy him back by controlling him, blaming him, and placing all these expectations on him that had no realistic correlation to his animal instincts and capabilities. And ultimately when I didn’t get to have it my way, I claimed that his end of the bargain wasn’t being held up and I punished him for it.
But I committed to be Oscar’s Mom when I adopted him last October. And unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps?) for me, that means being a Mom to whatever kind of a cat he actually is, not the one I want him to be. It’s not his fault that he’s sick, or restless or that everyone who meets him wants his attention as much as I do cause he’s so fucking cute. And actually, loving something is all about accepting those things that we find difficult. Isn’t it? I mean real, love?
Last week, Oscar spent the whole night at the foot of my bed like he used to, because I realized I love him enough to meet him where he is, instead of where I am.
It cost me $2000 in vet bills to learn what it really means to love something.
But when I see Oscar run out to the street to greet me when he hears my car door slam, I feel like maybe that wasn’t such a waste.
Three weeks ago I got an email from my ex-boyfriend. He hoped I was well. He would love to catch up.
We met for gluten-free pizza at a loft-ish space downtown. I sipped water out of a beer glass, we talked his masters program. He asked about my play. And right when I started to think that he had nothing particular to say to me that day, right when I started to mentally outline a blog-post in my head about how crazy it is that there used to be a third on these dates (Our Relationship), and now its just walls and individuals and space, for the first time in four years, he started talking about Us.
We never spoke about our break-up. I expected us to. I assumed some further discussion would occur when he got home from the Dominican Republic, but there was none. Just a sterile g-chat conversation, and some passive-aggressive facebook statuses. We broke up while he was away, and never looked again at it, which I accepted it because I was forced to. When he got home he wouldn’t go into it with me, and left to my own assumptions about his feelings, I eventually stopped needing to hash it out.
But there he was four years later, earnest, hair grown-out, watching me across the table and saying “I want to talk about what happened.”
Which is so funny. Because I had forgotten that it had happened to him at all.
Ben had become part of my mythology. He had become a story that I tell; a part of my life that I only share when you get to know me better. I talked about him in hot-tubs, and on camping trips. I talked about them in therapy, and with my new boyfriends. I knew about our break-up. I knew it in-and-out.
But he wanted to talk about it now, too. I didn’t know what to feel.
That night, he sent me an essay he wrote about us. About being alone in Chile on the night Obama was elected, and ending a 15-month relationship from thousands of miles away. It was being published. He thanked me for reading it.
There was my name in the third person. There were the excerpts from our g-chat break-up. There was the talk of the girl that came right after. I imagined him writing it. Talking to friends. Comparing our sex to other sex with our people. Talking about me in hot-tubs, and on camping trips.
I didn’t write him back, because I didn’t know what to say. But the next week I took him out for his birthday, for the first time in four years. Because somewhere in there was gratitude, to be shown that I’m not only author of this.