Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Late Bloomer

Last Friday, May 26, was the ten year anniversary of my first kiss. At sixteen, I was a late bloomer.

I am a girl, so I remember these kinds of things. I remember that I had, after months of chicken-shit debate, made a $5 bet with a friend that I would finally kiss the object of my infatuation. I remember that I planned my outfit carefully: a blue and white shirtdress from dEliA*s, my brand-new blue Airwalk sneakers, my CoverGirl Lipslicks lip gloss. I remember looking at myself in the mirror before leaving the house with ridiculous gravitas: This, I remember thinking to myself, will change everything.

It wasn't a date, this kiss. It happened at a family gathering - our parents were friends, and we had over the years been forced into companionship through countless similar occasions. He was younger than me, but cocky for fifteen. We had been flirting steadily for a few months. He was an actor, had been in a couple of movies. He made my heart beat really fast.

Now I laugh, but that night I felt like a seductress in my Airwalks and Lipslicks. I remember playing with my food, giving him meaningful looks, twirling my unruly hair. When I was finished eating I put down my fork, looked pointedly at him, and told him I was going upstairs to his room. To this day I have not been so ballsy or breathless.

Up in his room, I waited, looking at his posters. He came upstairs a few minutes later, and we feigned interest in a photograph, making awkward conversation. I expected some dramatic build-up, some slow, movie-perfect moment of our faces moving closer and closer together, but instead he just kissed me, suddenly, mid-sentence. Like so many rites of passage, I barely remember what it felt like, as I was so distracted by the realization that it had finally happened.

I never did kiss that boy again. It turned out he had a girlfriend, and it turned out that I had a lot of growing up to do before I'd be ready for anything more than kissing. At the time, I felt painfully inexperienced, but now I can appreciate a nice, slow bloom. I recounted this story to my boyfriend the other night, and when I finished he smiled, leaned over, and said, "Well, get ready for your 5,000th." He kissed me, and this time, I remembered all of it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Happy Medium

I have never lost the hope that I will someday be discovered and propelled to international fame and fortune. Notice I say ‘discovered’ – I have always wanted to be famous but have never wanted to try for it, stuck as I am in an ever-vacillating battle between fear and laziness.

I actually think I have a shot, even though I’m a little old for an ingénue. Take a look at my name: Una LaMarche. I have what is surely meant to be a famous name. It’s a good marquee name: distinctive, elegant, easy to make splashy titles out of. I also have an impressive performance resume. To date:

I am featured on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily as part of a feature on sweaters.

No, I was not a child model; I just learned early on how to coordinate my outfits in an attractive manner.

Premiere of Emmanuel Midtown Pre-school Winter Play, in which I am credited as “Sheep/Triangle”. That’s not a typo, my friends. I played the triangle at three years old.

I am the lead-in to a Washington Post Article (June 21, 1983, B4) about the ACLU: “Children's rights, according to Una LaMarche, age 3, of New York City, include the right to skitter up a marble wall, put your toes in the bronze grill, vault up to the window ledge and -- jump. But her guardians, Gara LaMarche and Ellen Chuse, in defense of parents' rights to keep her from killing herself, soon deprived her of jumping rights.”

Oh, and it was in the STYLE section. Perhaps my reputation as a WWD style icon had preceded me?

I am featured in the opening credits of a John Ritter TV movie. This, I admit, was total luck. Maddeningly, I am not credited; my acting debut goes largely unnoticed by the cognoscenti.

At the Waldorf school in Austin, TX, I am the only girl to cross hetero-normative lines on Halloween, and am very fetching as Peter Pan. This groundbreaking event foreshadows some of my riskier future roles, in college, as a lesbian, a small boy, and Eddie from “A View From the Bridge”, respectively.

I appear in a children’s community production of “A Wrinkle In Time” as The Happy Medium. My bright orange turban and flair for improvisation are crowd-pleasers, but my performance fails to garner notices of any import.

In the morality play “It’s All The Fault of Adam” at Public School 282, I am the only African washerwoman not to be given lines. This marks a low point in my career.

1989 – 1993
Adolescence – and an increasingly troubling complexion -- keeps me from the stage.

I headline as Marty in the Park Slope Dance Studio’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie”. I am by far the oldest member of the cast, and so am easily able to command attention, as I am able to deliver my lines without crying.

I am cast, in another breakthrough role, as a Puerto Rican hanger-on in Hunter College High School’s production of “West Side Story”. Despite an unfortunate costume of latex Capri leggings with horizontal stripes, I am able to successfully tap into some Latin flavor.

1999 – 2002
Easily the high point of a distinguished career, I enjoy a three-year period of theater, film, and dance work. Alas, my quasi-celebrity extends only to the city limits of Middletown, Connecticut.

2002 – 2006
Tired of the stage, I turn my attention to “my music”. My rendition of “Flashdance (What A Feeling)” is well-received at Sing Sing karaoke. Looking for a challenge, I take on the Whitney Houston canon in late 2005.

Granted, I haven’t had a really meaty role since, well, let’s be honest, since Sheep/Triangle, but I think I can make a comeback. Surely my daring fashion efforts will be noticed by a WWD stylist again – they can’t have forgotten me! Surely my dramatic exit from the supermarket will grab the eye of a talent scout – they’ll think, “Why, that young woman looks so convincingly angry, look how her arms strain to hold the weight of twelve bags of groceries! And she doesn’t have a car … how tragic! I can almost … why, yes! I can almost see her wearing a schmatta in the desert, carrying pails of water to her quaint and dusty village! Yes, yes, she’ll be perfect. I must call Ridley Scott immediately.”

As a writer, of course, the only thing I can really focus on is my Oscar speech. I know the journey is the point and all that, blah blah blah, but until then since I’m just sitting around waiting to get discovered, I figure I might as well get the ending all worked out. I will definitely start with a few seconds of charming startledness – that will get everyone thinking I’m really cute and unprepared, and will totally win them over. I think I’ll even buckle a little bit under the weight of the statuette and then laugh self-consciously. Then I’ll say something like, “Thank you all so much. I … I really can’t believe I won!” I won’t say that the other nominees all deserved to win, because you really only have to say that if you worried about coming off like a total dick, and since I’ll already have won people’s hearts with my little buckling routine, they won’t care that I’m not gracious to the losers. I’ll thank my Dad, for taking me to see inappropriate R-rated movies that gave me a leg-up over my peers, none of whom had seen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by the second grade. I’ll thank my Mom and her whole family, for giving me the raw, emotional, and vibrant personality of a true Method actor (Incidentally, my Oscar-winning role will be based on an inconsolable evening in 1992 when I dropped a tray of Christmas cookies).

Then I’ll make a joke or two, and thank my co-stars, and then I think I’ll throw in an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace”. I’ll say that it’s in honor of some marginalized group, but really I’ll be spotlighting my vocal talent for any record execs that might be watching. I’m pretty sure that I won’t get cut off by the orchestra, because cutting off “Amazing Grace” – especially when it’s for disabled children – is in really bad taste. And just as I reach my haunting crescendo, the camera will cut to Jack Nicholson, and he’ll be crying. I mean, he’s Jack Nicholson, so he’ll be subtle, he won’t be bawling like a baby, but still, there he’ll be, Jack, a tear rolling slowly down his leathery cheek. It might have to be Clint Eastwood, I haven’t really decided. But then, you can’t really plan these things. You have to let the magic happen.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Unbearable Color Me Baddness of Being

I am working at a very *hip* place this week as a temp, and by hip I mean nobody smiles at you. Like, ever.

Now, I’m not a very hip person, by which I mean I smile at people all the time. Sometimes I even cross my eyes at them and make silly faces. Also, I own a Color Me Badd CD (which I always blame on my best friend Anna, but actually I bought it myself. What, it was 1995! By the way, sorry, Anna -- you would never listen to CMB un-ironically, though you DO own a lot of Poison and Skid Row CDs, which is why you made so much sense as my beard. But I digress.) I’m more of a ‘40s jazz kind of a girl. I take cabs home if it’s after 11:00 and I’m alone. I frequently shop at Old Navy and the last concert I went to was the Philharmonic in the Park. Basically, I’m into personal safety, cheesy pop songs, and making eye contact. Hip = not me.

I keep thinking I want to be a freelance writer, but I’m starting to fear that it requires that je-ne-sais-quoi, that elusive hipness, that effortless lack of manners and perfectly coordinated shoes. Though born and raised in New York City, I have a kind of aw-shucks naiveté when it comes to life. I am always at least a little bit unkempt. I believe in true love and not spitting on the sidewalk. When I served on jury duty I actually wanted to give a little twelve year-old Chinese girl money because she broke her tooth in a car accident. My fellow jurors talked me out of it because, as they said, she "wasn't a very good actress". Now, don’t get me wrong – I like these things about myself. Somehow, though, I don’t think they translate.

At my old job, there was this guy who would always loudly announce everything he did. It wasn’t Tourette’s or anything; he just liked to cap off a Google search by standing up and saying “Wow – there are fourteen different places to buy swords in Manhattan.” If he was on the phone with someone, he’d give us all a review of the conversation as soon as he hung up. I thought that this was annoying. I did tons of research and made tons of calls, but I sort of figured that I should work softly and carry a big Excel spreadsheet. I figured that if the work got done, my job was done. Little did I know that a little self-congratulatory PR would have gone a long way – that guy still has his job, while I am temping at the uber-hip frown factory.

There is a guy at this hip culture Mecca who sits behind me, and yesterday he asked me what kind of music I listen to. I bristled, because this kind of question is never innocuous if asked by an unsmiling person. They might as well tack on “so that I can judge you” to the end of all of their questions. I had just listened to this guy name drop all day and organize his iPod to shuffle between many indistinguishable whiny emo songs, so I knew right away that “jazz” would elicit, at best, a smirk and dead silence. I didn’t want to expose myself to scorn or scrutiny, so I did the only thing I could think of: I was mean to him. “I don’t listen to what you listen to, if that’s what you’re asking.” I said, not looking up from my computer screen. I heard him exhale sharply, and then, a moment later, the music changed. Somehow, by being rude, I had out-hipped him.

I’m not proud of myself for this, I have to say. The world may be in the midst of a massive cultural identity crisis in which men who wear small girls’-sized t-shirts and skinny jeans are hailed as apostles of coolness (and, you know, it’s not even cool to say cool now, is it?) and frowns are considered “artsy”, but I’m proud of my totally, totally square existence. I would rather stay in and make it a Blockbuster night than be seen at a trendy bar, I would rather drink a glass of Cabernet than anything-tini, and I would rather wear non-nipple-bearing apparel, make an impression on a scale, and not read “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” on the subway. I am still a sucker for John Cusack and I don’t really like reading subtitles. I like restaurants with signs on the door and the longest I’ll wait to get in anywhere is 20 minutes. I don’t belong to a gym, and yes, I do still go to Jazzercise with my mom. What? It’s really fun. In short, I don’t really belong here.

And by here, I mean this millennium.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Can't See You

Yesterday I had the kind of New York moment that I thought was reserved for Seinfeld and Sex and the City exclusively: I ran into an old high school classmate in the waiting room of – wait for it – my therapist’s office.

It gets worse (or better, if you’re amused by extreme awkwardness): this was a guy who I pretty much hated. He was a giant dork, he had a crush on me, and when we acted in the annual musical together someone thought it would be funny to replace his prop comic book with a porn magazine in which all of the bodies had our faces on them. Oh, it gets worse. To top it all off, the night after graduation when I drank too much and puked all over myself and had to go to the hospital, he rode – against my wishes – in the ambulance with me.

All of this flashed through my head in the split second that it took for my brain to register that he was sitting in the chair opposite of the one I would be forced to sit in. I thought he saw me, too, but he was busy talking to – wait for it – his fiancée, who was sitting next to him. And, yes, it gets worse: He pretended that he didn’t see me.

I understand the ‘I-don’t-really-see-you’ brush-off when it happens in the street; hell, I do it all the time. Who wants to have that awkward, pointless banter with someone they hardly know apart from having suffered through puberty alongside them? But we were in a waiting room. A waiting room the size of an elevator. With three chairs in it. His pretending not to see me (he pulled the classic, but easily fallible ‘I’m scratching my head, so my hand obscures my peripheral vision’ move) just made me feel bad. In certain situations, you just have to suck it up and say hello, so that’s what I did.

The funny thing is that when I said hi, he replied, “Yeah, hi. I didn’t know what the protocol was for old high school friends,” thereby acknowledging that he had been pretending not to see me. Um, the protocol? When trapped in a small room, it’s say hi. He then introduced me to his fiancée, who said hello and mentioned that she’d heard my name. He immediately interjected: “Just, you know, old high school stories, nothing … you know ….” Had he not spoken up, I would have assumed that I had been mentioned in old stories and nothing more. Now I knew that I was probably referred to on a regular basis as “Una the Fucking Bitch”.

To add to everything, I had a huge wad of gum in my mouth that made me slur my speech, and, lest you forget, we were in my therapist’s office, so, really, the cherry on the cake was the fact that I was wallowing in my own depression. You know, before I walked in the door.

It didn’t occur to me until they both got up and went in together that they were there for couples’ therapy. That made me kind of sad. I may have wanted to pummel him for the past five minutes – not to mention the duration of high school – but I’d been glad that he’d found someone who loved him ….

Or, at least, who would want him along in her ambulance.
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