Jun 29, 2006

Wedding: Who, What, When ...Where?

I'm getting married! I've got my Who, my What, and My When.
Now about the Where.

Larry and I have picked a day for our wedding. August 26. Yeah, in 2006. No, he's not pregnant, his eggs are too old. it's just that, to quote When Harry Met Sally, "when you realize who you want to spend the rest of your life with, you wnat the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

We are two months away. Our friend Debbie pointed me to an online wedding Planning calendar

“12 months before the wedding…”

* Envision your wedding and draw up a budget.
* Assemble your "planning team.".
* Pick a wedding date and time.
* Look for and book ceremony and reception sites.

12 months before? 12 months ago I didn’t have groom!
“Hell, 12 months ago I didn’t believe you existed,” Larry laughed.

Well, we did exist. And even more miraculous, we found each other … no thanks to our mutual friends who never thought to introduce us. Because of your negligence, we’re now too old to bear children, and we are way behind on planning the wedding.

Seriously, though. We’ve got two months to go. Here are the things I should have done by now:

8-10 months before:
# Bride: Think about, shop for, and order your gown. (Did. Banana Republic)
# Envision reception food. (It's pot luck. Just come with chips)
# Decide what type of entertainment you want. A pianist for the cocktail hour, strolling violinists, a DJ, or band? (a cocktail hour? you kidding? What world do you live in? Music will be my ipod and speakers.)
# Think about your floral decor. (preferably alive)
# Research and book your wedding professionals. Interview vendors: photographer, videographer, reception band or DJ, florist. (wedding professionals? I hate them)
# Research a wedding insurance policy to protect your deposits. (insurance? Deposits? What's a deposit?)
# Research and reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests. (Woodland HIlls, you do the math)
# Register for gifts. uh, okay I can do that. Need sheets and towels.
# Contact rental companies if you need to rent anything for ceremony/reception, such as chairs, tables, and tent.

6-8 months before:
# Book ceremony musicians. ....
# Order bridesmaid dresses. ( oh gosh, bridesmaids. I gotta call my friend...)
# Start planning honeymoon. (Larry's domain)
# Send save-the-date cards. (everyone reading? Consider this your save-the-date card)

4-6 months before :

# Attend prewedding counseling, if required. (okay that we did. And on time!)
# Shop for and order invitations and wedding rings. (we did that on time)
# Shop for formalwear. (did that! Hey I'm feeling good)
# Envision your wedding cake and research, interview, and book a cake designer. (Mais oui. our pastry chef is Monsieur Costco.

3 months before : Order wedding cake. Attend your shower. (hey, friends!) Groom: Rent the men's formalwear. Hire wedding-day transport: limousines, other cars.

2 months before : # Mail your invitations. Write your vows. (I do, let's go) Purchase gifts for parents, attendants, and each other # Book your stylist and try out big-day hairstyles # Book a makeup artist and go for a trial run.

No wonder people elope.

Let's just start with 12 months before: planning a budget: I’ve already drawn up my budget: $128. And I spent it all on my wedding dress. I got it at Banana Republic. It’s a really pretty summer sun dress, has kind of an Audrey Hepburn air about it. I showed it to some friends and they smiled. “And if you find something else, you can always wear this for fun.”

Well, yeah, I’m wearing this dress for fun … to my wedding. It’s amazing the expectations people put on you on what your wedding should be. And it’s hard not to have your own emotion-charged feelings about what a wedding should look like or be.

I never really envisioned mine, except that it would be in a church and there would be a groom at the altar whom I felt excited to walk up the aisle toward. In my last relationship, I could never bring myself to envision the guy at the altar. (that should have been my first clue …)

Now Larry is here and I can see him at the altar waiting, and it feels so right and inevitable it’s like I can’t imaging it having ever been any one else up there. And, I can’t wait to run up the aisle and marry him!

But I haven’t envisioned what he’d be wearing. He saw a pair of groovy bell bottom jeans at a vintage store this past weekend. “I could go back and get those," he said today.

Uh. Wait a minute. Banana Republic, OK. patchworked, holey jeans from Wasteland, not OK. Or maybe it is OK? Just goes to show you all the expectations you can even put on your future spouse, when it comes to your wedding.

Here’s the biggest issue: But we don’t have an aisle yet. We have the Who (each other) the What (a wedding) a when (August 26) but not a where. Larry’s friend Doug has graciously offered us his back yard.

For the reception, OK, I said. But not a wedding. I want to get married in a church.

I’ve always wanted to get married in a church. But in a really beautiful church, with stained glass and high ceilings that an organ can fill up with majestic music, so I can walk up the aisle to Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring

But that vision alone will cost you at least a few grand. I went online to look for churches near Doug’s place, so it would be an easy commute from church to reception. Now, keep in mind the Woodland Hills area was settled and developed in the late 1950s through the 1970s. There ain’t no old school churches there. The churches were built between the 1950s and the 197os. You do the math. Cinder block structures, Trader Vic Tiki roof lines. James Bond meets Industrial Park. Depressing.

We thought about parks. Someone mentioned Serrania Avenue Park up in the foothills. But I went online and it’s also described as the Nanny park or the dog park. A dog park where owners let their dogs run free. You know where I’m going … away from Serrania Park. And anyway, if you figure renting the park location and renting chairs, and we gotta rent chairs and tables for doug’s barbecue … Maybe it's best to have the whole shebang at Doug's. that way we don't have to decorate two places. Maybe we WILL we’ll have it in our friend’s back yard. Larry’s got a small family, but mine is big. And together, our family of friends is big.

And then there’s money. If money were no object … I still wouldn't want to do all that wedding industry-generated stuff. I’m turned off by it. The wedding INDUSTRY is a billion-dollar industry. The average American wedding now costs over 26 grand.

When and how did this happen? I bet it really took off after Charles and Diana’s wedding was televised live all over the world. Know why we want the fairy tale wedding?

Marketing. It's the same reason women have convinced themselves that stiletto heels and pointy toed shoes are pretty. Marketing. Marketing sets up feelings of inadequacy and emotional hunger. It plays on your desires, even the legitimate ones, and twists it so you expect certain things.

Like the wedding dress: women go spend thousands of dollars on a dress. Why, because "in the olden days" a bride in polite society wore an expensive white dress. Right? Well but consider this: it was also customary that the bride wear that same dress e out in society for an entire year after her wedding. It was the bridal dress, so suitors wouldn't try to hit on her. IT's the same reason a widow was supposed to wear black for a year. . So next time you think about spending a few thousand dollars on a frock because ‘that’s what you’re supposed to do,’ ask if you'd want to wear it out to the movies or to Trader Joe’s or the Olive Garden. NO? Okay then.

My parents got married in 1947 at the Norwegian Seamen’s Lutheran church in San Pedro, California. Mom made her dress (and it was beautiful). They had a small ceremony with the family and a few friends. They had cake and punch in the reception hall afterward. And that was kind of it.

My sister and her husband got married right out of college. They had the wedding and reception at a church in Santa Barbara. We served cold cuts and carrot sticks with ranch dressing. I remember, because our motel room on State Street was cluttered with coleman coolers filled with ham and cheese. We were buttering rolls all night the night before. For anyone reading who attended Nancy and Phill’s wedding and got food poisoning, I am sorry for your loss.

So we want to do something simple. I want it to have beauty and meaning in it. Rituals are important. It’s important we celebrate the event. And paying some money to make it special is important. SO now we’ve got to figure out what makes a wedding feel special and beautiful? Well Larry cares about the reception, he wants to have a fun party with his friends to celebrate. I care about the ceremony, and want some beauty in it. SO I guess, he’ll do the reception, I’ll do the wedding. And we may do it all in Doug’s back yard.

I’m determined to never say, “let’s elope to Vegas.” We want our family and friends with us.

Jun 21, 2006

Where to Now, St. Peter?

So where to now, St. Peter?
If it's true I'm in your hands
I may not be a Christian
But I've done all one man can
I understand I'm on the road
Where all that was is gone
So where to now, St. Peter?
Show me which road I'm on
-- Bernie Taupin

No one gets everything handed to them. As Roseanne Rosanna Danna said, "it's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another." Once Larry and I found each other, Bob's Your Uncle, we found ourselves in financial slumps. Me, ALMOST booking 9 commercials, other jobs vanishing; Larry waiting and waiting ... and waiting, on a film to start that may not even pay him a living wage. The strain of not knowing, the dwindling bank accounts, don't make for great wedding planning. In fact, it makes for no wedding. Granted, neither of us want a mondo event. (check out the statistics at the obscenely titled sellmoreweddings.com.) But the reality is, I need some stability, or the promise of it, before I feel OK to tie the knot.

We wrapped up our premarital counseling and the therapist kinda stuck it to Larry: "What are you gonna do? It's your job to provide. Your future wife isn't being materialistic -- women have a greater need for security. A man can live in a box. As long as he has a stereo."
"And paper plates," Larry added.
"But a woman needs a home to be a sanctuary, a safe place," the therapist said.

I'm glad I'm not materialistic for feeling it.

I went home and read the previous days of my devotional. I ought to be doing something spiritual. After all, Larry and I were supposedly going to fast and pray. Well, he was calling it a fast. I was calling it a hunger strike.

June 19: Poverty, hardship, and misfortune have propelled many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulties challenge our energy and our perseverance but bring the strongest qualities of the soul to life. If God has chosen special trials for you to endure, be assured he has kept a very special place for you in his heart. A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen.

I agree, every person whose character I admire has gone through trials. But the statement, “A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen” sounds like abusive parenting.

June 20: When we have doubts or are facing difficulties, when others suggest courses of action that are conflicting, when caution dictates one approach but faith another, we should be still. We should quiet each intruding person, calm ourselves in the sacred stillness of God’s presence, study his word for guidance, and focus our attention on him. Soon he will reveal a sense of his direction. You will have a deeper concept of who he is, and his heart of love. All this will be your gift, a heavenly experience, a precious eternal privilege and the rich reward for the long hours of waiting.

I read the above entry and felt a twitch of hope. Something stirred me in me. "Yeah, go to God and he will answer. Wait in anticipation and he will show up .... "

When was the last time I went to God, and he showed up, like that? I reread that promise: a heavenly experience, a precious eternal privilege and the rich reward for the long hours of waiting... Now I read it, and it sounded like a syrup bomb of modernist evangelical wishful thinking.

What's true? Everything I've believed about God is thrown into question. How much does he get involved? How much am I anthropomorphizing him to call him father? If he is involved, then he's choosing not to involve himself with me. If he's not involved, then why go to him and anticipate a heavenly experience? I've got such a mixed bag of experiences, I couldn't tell you one thing or another.

Where to now, St. Peter?
Show me which road I'm on ...

The wisdom literature of the Bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) is filled with advice about the value of work, warnings of laziness. Life is hard and work is harder. And all is vanity and striving after wind. Of course King Solomon said that. He had hundreds of wives. If he was out servicing the ladies all day, I’m sure he felt pretty beat. But anyway, there’s lots in the Bible about the hardships of life. But there’s nothing about following your dreams.

So, this idea that God is involved with our hopes or longings, is this just our collective spiritualized narcissism talking? I’ve got a photo of a Kenyan girl on my fridge who can only go to school some of the time, because she's first got to tote water and firewood so she and her parents and six siblings can survive. How ridiculously self-centered if I think God should be involved in my artistic longings.

True, there’s the verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” But we can turn God our Genie in a bottle.

I don’t want to go into marriage with no money, living in my teeny apartment because we can't afford to live like normal adults our age. Like my therapist said, the onus falls more on Larry to provide. The longer he's not working, the more passive he becomes, the more his drive and hope leave him. Worse, so does his vision.

I wrote him: I don’t know what your vision or passion is, or is for, right now. I don’t know what the dragon is you need to slay. I don’t know what the dream is you want to fulfill as a writer and as a man. I know what mine is: to do my solo show, write my book, and make some money acting as I have done in the past. I’ve got a focus. It doesn’t seem like you do, and I can’t tell you what it is. I’ll support you in realizing your vision, in fulfilling your passion and slaying your dragon. But you’ve got to figure out what it is, and then you’ve got to do it.

Later as I lay on my bed, I glanced up at my Beatles movie poster on the wall. “HELP is on the way!” Before the sleep overtook me, a thought came: You need to pray for Larry. You need to pray that God will give him wisdom on what he needs to do, and the power to carry it out. You need to stand in the gap for Larry.

So I did.

Today I did what was on my plate. I tried innumerable times to call unemployment. I applied for two jobs. I took my cat to the vet.

"She's wheezing," I told them. "Can she get a shot or some antibiotics?"
The vet said he really needed to take tests, x-rays to find out what was going on. And blood work. He told me how much it would cost. $330.
"I can't afford that. What can I do for the moment?"
"Well, I don't know what I can do for her if I don't know what she has."
"What will the X-Rays tell us?"
"It might tell us if she has asthma."
"But it might not?"
"Yes, it might not."
"Then why take them?" (Other than to make money off me when I'm in a vulnerable situation with my terrified pet trembling in my arms)
"Because we need to rule things out."
"But it might not rule things out."

He stood there, waiting for me to give him an answer. I looked down at Honey. She'd let the vet stick a thermometer up her butt, his finger down her throat, squeeze her gut and her lungs. She took it all, and didn't fight him.
Another cat outside was caterwauling non-stop. Her body was shivering from fear. She silently buried her head in the crook of my arm. "Make it stop. Send help."

I told the vet to do the tests. How could I not? I'm her mom.
"Are you paying attention, God? I'm broke, but I'm taking care of my child. What are you doing? Is help REALLY on the way?"

The vet came back, her lungs were clear, so he had no answers for me.

"Well I'm not leaving here with a bill for tests and nothing to help her."
"She's wheezing, we can give her a shot and antibiotics."
"That's what I said when I walked in here. Before the tests."

He sighed. He gave my cat a shot and antibiotics. And a bill for
I cried. That's how much it costs to rent the chapel we want for the wedding.

I came home and called Larry. He'd had car trouble, a Vietnamese woman screaming at him because HE didn't understand HER, a Coke hurled at him. But he sounded different. He knew what his passion and focus were, which he wrote about in his blog today.

"Besides my writing, my greatest passion over the past three years has been my discovery and love for what's called the emerging or missional church. That is, how the church is discovering itself and reinventing itself in our postmodern time. I ache to be part of this. This is what I want more than anything else I can think of. But how? Where? What?

Last year, Christian researcher George Barna wrote a new book called Revolution, in which he talks about the throngs of people who are abandoning the traditional church to seek God and lives that matter for his kingdom, lives that traditional church cannot offer them. Barna has thrown his gauntlet in with the emergent, missional crowd. He and I are moving in the same direction. And his organization sits just up the road from me in Ventura.There it is. There's my dragon to slay. I need to find a way into Barna's mission. "

Larry had allowed other things divert his focus, but now he had his focus back, and more importantly, his vision. And a plan.

He'd been screamed at and hurled at, but he was back.

Larry was back. That's the Larry I fell in love with.

Jun 19, 2006

What's a "God Thing?"

Spoiler: I’m going to complain, complain, complain today. Complain about God like a brat. So if you’re not into it, don’t read.

More on The God Thing

When I was younger, I heard sermon upon sermon about the wonderful plans God had for my life. The sermons were laid thick with scripture verses about God directing your path. “You will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk ye in it.’ ” Or “God opens the doors no man can close.” Or verses about how “I called upon the Lord and He heard my cry.”

I believed it, with all the naïveté of Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. And God answered. Doors opened. Provision was met. Oh yes, that reminds me. One of the names of God is Jehovah Jireh. We even sang a song, “Jehovah Jireh, my provider, his grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me!” to the tune of some fake Hebrew Klezmer music. A bunch of white trash honkeys singing like we were Jews in shul. What a joke.

After last week’s list of almost-bookings, I had a callback for Subway. I walked into the callback and saw a director I’d worked with already. He gave me a hug, we chatted, blah blah, and I nailed it.
I nailed the audition. My agent’s assistant called 20 minutes later. “You’re on avail for subway!” That means they’ve called to make sure you’re “available.” The weekend came and went. The spot shoots this week.

This morning I called my agent to see if I was still on avail for Subway. The assistant said yes, in fact the casting director called to confirm I was still available and of course my agent said yes, I was.

I went to a yoga class, and when I got out I had a message. It was my agent, Peter Novick. “Call me right away.” When the agent, not the assistant calls, it’s good news.

“So?” I asked.
Peter sighed. “When I called you 25 minutes ago, I had good news. They wanted to book you for the spot. You were the director and ad agency's first choice, slam dunk. But the client wanted someone else. They wanted to have you come down for wardrobe with the caveat that you might not shoot it, but at least you'd get a session fee. So 25 minutes ago the casting director called to see if you were still available. But between then and now … well, the casting director called back to say they went with the other person.”

“What? Because I didn't call in that 25 minute window? They already knew from this morning that I was available! Is this some kind of joke?”

This does feel like a joke. In a world where there is only chaos and no meaning, then it is a joke. But in this world where God is supposed to be involved, what does this mean?

Last week I sat at a callback for 2 ½ hours, the front runner in an American Idol kind of elimination game. A woman I know told me about the commercial she booked that’s saved her daughter and her financially, and how it was such a “God Thing.” In the last half hour of the callback another actress booked the spot.

And now this. Not, “they didn’t choose you,” but rahter, "there was a war over choosing you, and in a sick twist of fate you had to call back in 20 minutes to answer the question a second time, but you called back in 25, so you didn’t get it. Ha ha ha!”

This is wreaking havoc on my faith. Is this a God Thing? If so, what does this say about God? Or what he must feel about me?

“Maybe God is closing all the doors so you’ll just concentrate on your book,” my friend Mim repeated to me today.

How could one day on a commercial shoot keep me from writing my book? In fact a commercial could ensure I'm making enough money so I can write, instead of doing a shitty law office job. Conversely, NOT booking this spot, or any of the other nine, no ten callbacks I've had, NOT booking them ensures I have to get a shitty law office job, and come home exhausted, not to mention depressed because I'm working a shitty law office job instead of the business I've done all these years. And you think I'm going to want to come home and write a book about my relationship with God? No way. What a waste of toner.

So my head goes: if God is involved, then he’s choosing not to help. So what did I do to you God that you don't care? The reality is, God probably isn't involved. The entertainment business is cruel. It just is. And it's full of teases and near misses and near-hits. That's the way it is. What's shitty about this is realizing the teaching I swallowed so readily. One of the many faults of modern evangelicalism and modern American culture, for that matter, is our narcissism: making God into our assistant, or life coach à la Tony Robbins. Use God as a talisman for better living techniques to success. And for that reason I am ashamed of my attitude, to even ask God to get involved.

But if he's not involved, then what kind of relationship do I have with him?

My therapist said, “All God cares about is your character. God is like a parent, teaching us to grow up."

What, am I in some kind of obstacle course, where I have to prove my character before God throws me the rawhide chip? Of course God cares about our character, but if he's a parent, wouldn’t a parent feel sad when their child is sad, or happy when their child is happy? And what kind of parent would heap one obstacle after another to stop that child from reaching a modicum of success, or at least make health insurance?

Larry and I have been reading, “People of the Lie,” by Scott Peck. He encountered parents who punished their children to keep them in line. Peck called those parents evil. It’s sounding really familiar.

It also disturbs me that at my age, I'm still thinking of God this way. Life is difficult, Peck wrote in "The Road Less Travelled." He said that emotional health is a commitment to reality at all costs." Or something like that. Which means, what? Which means, I'm screwed.

Larry said he was going to fast and pray for clarity about all of this.
I told him I'd join him. but I was calling it a hunger strike.

After some consideration, I realized I needed to fast and pray that God would forgive me for being such a big narcissistic baby. And ask him to change me and my attitude.

Jun 12, 2006

A Happy Ending, A Stumbling Beginning

Since I've become engaged, I've had so many wonderful emails and calls from friends. We’re so happy for you! It gives me such hope! At last, a happy ending!

And it is. When Larry proposed, it made a happy end of my 20 years of single life. But what happens next? A long ride into the sunset? Or the long, lonely bus ride at the end of The Graduate?

So begins the next chapter, and the next question: When? We haven’t set a wedding date because our livelihoods are up in the air. In fact, Larry’s been out of work for seven weeks. And before that, he’d been working on a documentary film for long hours and short pay. For nearly two months now the film has been on hold, and Larry's grown increasingly depressed and agitated over whether or not to wait for the film to resume production, or to go look for other work. And a man without work is an unhappy man. He hated being unhappy, and hated me seeing him that way.

"We can't get married like this," I told Larry. "This is hard on you, and consequently on me. I don't want to take that stress into a marriage." As the adage goes, trouble will find you out, why go look for it?

I remembered what our therapist said: the two greatest causes for divorce are money and sex. How ironic you search for a partner to share your lofty ideals like faith and art, and divorce them over crap like money and sex. Maybe I should have married the first rich guy who turned me on. Wait, I dated that guy, it was hell. So much for that idea.

Larry stuck his courage to the sticking place, hit the cyber-pavement looking for work, contacting the people he'd worked for in the past.
"I'll take a soul-killing job if I need to," he said. But who'd want him to? Not me. Not for me.

Fortunately, now it looks like the documentary is back on track. Larry's friend Anna will write the screenplay and he’ll be promoted to Story Editor. This was great news!
“Well, except they don’t have the budget together," Larry explained. "We may have to split the writing salary."
"So ...?"
"It’s Set,” Larry tried to reassure me. “It’s just not ‘SET’ set.
“That’s not much of a reassurance,” I sighed.
“Well, Anna said we better get used to this kind of insecurity or get out of The Business.”
“I’m 44,” I fumed. “I’ve been working as an actress since I was 21. I know The Business.”

I could have blurted, “I’ve been in this business more years than you and Anna combined. Don’t educate me about insecurity. Maybe I need to educate you about when insecurity becomes insanity: you want to live on Ramen, fine. You want to get married on that, fine. You just won’t be married to me."

But I didn’t. Because this is a dream for Larry. He’s wanted to out of the Christian writing ghetto. He’s proven journalist, so he knows nonfiction. With one short film produced, this could be a real break for him. That is, if this documentary doc becomes SET set. And if they pay him enough to buy soy sauce for his Ramen.

And as if I have a reason to be picky about money! Yeah, I’ve been working as an actor for 23 years. But it hasn’t always been flush. In fact, it’s been lean a good deal of that time. But even the lean years came the endless parade of promises and hopes and carrots dangled in front of me. “Susan is scarily talented,” said a director in New York. Danny DeVito said I made an entire screening room “die laughing” during dailies. “It’s going to happen for you, just keep at it.” And so I have.

In fact lately things were looking good. I was nominated for an arts grant. Two book editors have contacted me about publishing. I wrote one TV special for DirecTV, and they called me to do another for Fourth of July. Amazing! This is the stuff that keeps me trudging up the mountain, the stuff that gives me confidence … and maybe a snotty edge when it came to Larry and Anna educating me on the “Insecurities of The Biz.”

The Fickle Finger Of Fate

Monday DirecTV called: the second show was cancelled. There went my hope to pay my student loan balance before the wedding. Wednesday night I read at a hip, Hollywood essay venue. I read my On Fire For Jesus essay, which in the past has had audiences rolling in the aisles. Wednesday night they were quiet.
“They were listening,” Catheryn reassured me.
Anna took time out of her schedule to come. She was encouraging.
Larry said I was brave. Brave makes me think of Karen Finley’s friends, the first time she smeared chocolate over her naked body on stage. “Wow Karen. That was ... uh ... brave.”

It’s cool, I told myself. It’s not about being a superstar, it’s about telling a good story.

But Thursday I woke up to the aftermath of the “thinking audience," the cancelled writing gig, and my dwindling checking account; and I went down, down, down the elevator shaft, to mine the rich vein of despair. Last week it was Larry who was in a funk over his work. Now it was my turn to be frustrated and depressed. And who was there to encourage me? But the persevering, patient Larry, reminding me how much he believes in and loves me. It was my turn to be Frodo, and Larry’s turn to be Sam: “I can’t carry your load, but I can carry you."

Know those people who tell you that by being single you really get to rely on God? Baloney. It’s much better having someone there.

Close, but No Cohiba

Friday morning I had another callback. This was for Oatmeal Crisp cereal: “husband and wife at home eating breakfast.” They auditioned the actors in pairs, but in American Idol/Survivor fashion, we were told might be asked to stay behind for “whatever.” I went in at 10:40. They released my “husband” and asked me to stay. After two hours, I was the only actor they were hanging on to. And by now they were paying for my time. This was a good sign. A very good sign.

Wow, a cereal commercial. This’ll run nationwide on the major networks, daytime and prime time. It’s going to make someone a good bit of coin, so it might as well be me. God knows I am close: in the last two weeks I’ve had ten auditions and got callbacks for eight of them. I told Larry it’s because I’m in love and it shows. I’m so close. So, close.

In those two hours I wrote. A woman came over to chat. She’s part of the actor/singles church mob I’ve known over the years. Now she’s in her fifties, still single, and adopted a girl a couple years ago. She told me about the Ford spot she has running … how she almost didn’t go to the audition. But she booked it, and she's making money. “It was a total God thing,” she said.

I wondered about myself, sitting there as other actors were released. Was this a "God thing?" What if I didn’t get it? Would that also be a “God thing?”

By noon it was down to one man and three women, including “Sally,” a sweet, successful actress I’ve known for 20 years. Sally books tons of commercials. She owns a house. Sally doesn’t have a chin like the Florida Panhandle as I do. It wasn’t looking so good.

First they saw Sally with the Only Guy; then me, then the other woman. I was released at 12:30. I’m quite confident that I didn’t get it. So I guess that was a "God Thing."

In 22 years I've been in this business, I've gone through this cycle hundreds of times. And it never gets easier. Who am I to tell Larry that waiting for a low-paying job is insane? What's the saying? "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results."

Why was booking the Ford spot a God thing for that actress? Well, she had an adopted daughter to support. And she was going to Hawaii to a wedding. Well, I could use the money to go to a wedding: MY OWN. Right now Larry and I couldn’t afford to take our family to Red Lobster. Or I could use the money to pay off my student loan, or to take my cat to the vet for her asthma. Or to pay for crowns on two of my molars, which will need implants if I don’t get the crowns. And then there’s the jaw surgery to keep me from choking on my tongue in the middle of the night. Then again, if I suffocate to death in my sleep, I won’t need the money for anything. Except a funeral.

I’ve been thinking about something else this actress said: “God protected me from success; I wouldn’t have made a good famous person.” Someone told me that not long ago: “God protected you from success.”
I replied: "I wish he’d have been more negligent." I don’t know if I’d have made a good rich and famous person. I’d sure have liked the chance to fail at it.

My friend Mim consoled me. “Maybe God is closing all other doors so you can concentrate on writing your book.” I dunno, but I think I could handle a one-day commercial shoot and still have the focus for my book. Conversely, if I have to take that job at the Apple Store, I won't have any time or energy to write a book. And if I did, it wouldn’t be about my wonderful ride on the Jesus bus.

I took these thoughts into my quiet time on Saturday: Larry’s and my financial shortcomings. The cancelled writing gig. The parade of callbacks I didn’t book this past month, including Friday’s 2 1?2 hour close call that availed no cigar. So all of this is a God thing?

Okay God you want me to write a book? About what, how it all works out in the end? I can’t write that book. If you were a boyfriend, I’d call you sadistic. If you were a parent, I’d call you negligent. Except when it comes to protection FROM success. No thanks!

Sometimes I envy my atheist friends, for whom the world is chaos and absurdity. There’s no psychic maneuverings to explain the Why of things. There’s no God to rely upon for success or happiness. There’s no God to intervene. So it’s all up to them. They get a lot more done than I do.

Larry called that afternoon.
"You want me to come over tonight?"
"Please. And bring a fun movie."

I went to my yoga class. "Who cares if you can balance on one leg?” the teacher joked, as she made us balance on one leg. “What’s more valuable is if you can stay calm in a trying situation.”

I drove home. The air was fresh and the sky was clear. The jacarandas were in bloom, their purple flowers scattering in the breeze.

If there was a Devil, he’d gotten my head turned around. Well, enough.
“Look asshole,” I told Beelzebub. “I’m alive, I have a roof over my head. I have an amazing life, and an amazing man in it. I’m going to praise God. Because God is good. And you’re not. So BACK OFF."

Not much of an invocation, but it was mine. Then an old hymn came to my mind, so I fumbled through the words as best I could remember:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God.

I have a picture on my corkboard. It’s a Kenyan girl I sponsor. Hellen is wearing what’s probably her best dress. Her shoes are old and scuffed, probably hand-me-downs from one of her five other siblings. Every day she has to get water from a well. Her favorite pastime is singing hymns at church. She faces starvation and thirst, poverty and possibly political violence. And still she sings. She’s my hero.

Larry showed up later with the DVD “What’s Up Doc?”
We laughed our butts off. And mine was still sore from yoga.

Jun 2, 2006

How To Spell "Bad Internet Dating"

Larry's friend "Nate" is back doing Internet dating. I gotta give him credit. On his last round, he had to deal with misleading photos. Women who posted their high school pictures, their daughter’s pictures, pictures of a supermodel they were told they resembled. Of course he knew the photos to be misleading because he was gullible enough to meet them in person. Why would you do that? The deceit of it all.

This time around Nate is getting scams in his In Box. An email from someone of indeterminate gender “looking for Lady she is big moneyed for my happiness.” Another from some chick named Tammy or Debbie or Vishnu who claimed:

I can release karma and negative thought patterns. I can also help you set the energy to manifest thing’s in your life, like I can put things in my Tibetan prayer program. I am giving you superpower’s! Its $100 for 2 hour's. Its like your going, are you wonder woman or something? Well, I am!

Remember Highlights for Children?

  • Find the misuses of the apostrophe of the above paragraph.
  • And I’m like, find the bad grammar above.
  • Find the insanity of the above.
I saw a piece on E! or “Extra!” some infogossiptainment show. A professional "internet dating consultant" (it was only a matter of time) recommend that one hires a photographer and makeup artist for the perfect Introductory photo. You know, the 1-inch jpeg on your home page? Make sure it's flawless. He also recommended hiring a writer to compose your bio. And if you’re shy, maybe your first emails.
  • Name the French play to which this bears resemblance
When I was internet dating, a man's spelling was a big screening factor for me. One too many misused apostrophes and the guy was out of the car. Even more so was how a man expressed himself with words. How Larry wrote his bio was the first thing that got me. We corresponded for a month before we met. His words that drew me in: he was intelligent, funny and my kind of sense of humor, outlook on the world. I was so drawn in that, based on our emails I had a hunch he was “the one.”

But then I met him. On our first date Larry sent his nervous, ill-humored brother in his stead. This Larry slouched in the couch, constantly fidgeted with his hair, barely looked at me, and never asked a single question about myself.

I wondered: What happened to the intelligent, wickedly funny, soulful writer I met online? Maybe can only express himself in writing. Well no, because he's been talking for nearly three hours. Maybe he has no social skills. Maybe he'll never be good in person.

I’m surprised I went out with him a second time … even more surprised that he even asked me. He seemed to hate being on that first date. Larry later explained: I heard my therapist in my head, ‘Now Larry, everyone’s worth a second chance.’ So I gave you another shot.
  • Why would this make a woman feel like poo?
But I did go out with him a second time. Well, I met him and his friends for a movie. Then he went to an essay show I was reading in. (I’m OK with dangling prepositions). Then at our next official date, the writer whose emails had wowed me started to show up in person. It was like watching a face emerge in a Polaroid. Each date, more of him showed up. The writer and the live version became one. Then I really started to like him.

But I didn’t fall in love with him. Not until HE fell in love with ME first. It's not that women are stingy. There's something in our biology that works that way. It's the primordial dance: A man pursues, a woman responds. Or as my friend Catheryn Brockett reminded me, quoting our New York landlord: “He hyas ta love you mowah.”

Larry more than made up for his early ambivalence. When he finally gave up resistance, he fell like an avalanche, and I got buried by his devotion. He made me feel loved: in what he said, did. and wrote. Yeah, he may have faltered in person. But on paper? He has never failed to wow me.

Well until today. He told me a friend coming to visit: He's going to be hear next week.

I should call off the engagement. But perfectionism suck’s.

Answers To Highlights Quiz

1. Misuses of the apostrophe
  • Its like your going should be it's like you're going, because it's a contraction of "It is like you are going.
  • The apostrophe is used to indicate an object belonging to the subject.
    Such as: Susan's spelling snobbery. Larry's dating faux pas.
  • Its vs. It's: It's is a contraction of IT IS. Such as: "Wow, it's cold outside."
    Its is used as a possessive, such as Civilization and Its Discontents.
    Unless you wanted to write, "Hey, look! It's Civilization and its Discontents! Sitting at Starbucks, complaining about their lukewarm lattes!"
  • There's No ' in Plurals!
    To show there's more than one of something, you don't add 's. You just add s, and Bob's Your Uncle, you're done!
2. Bad grammar
  • I'm like and I go are here to stay. At least in informal conversation. But when you're writing someone, especially early in a dating relationship. You better "leave those doggies alone!" Unless you’re like, whatever beeotch, I work at a ga's station.
3. I can release karma ... my Tibetan prayer program gives you superpower’s!
  • If Tammy/Vishnu wanted to clean out Nate's chakra or feng shui his toilet, I'd turn the other cheek. But assigning superpowers via Tibetan prayer software is beyond the incredulity pale.
4. Why would "I gave you another shot" make a woman feel crappy?
  • If you don't know the answer, you should not be dating.
5. Name the French play to which this bears resemblance

Cyrano De Bergerac
. The eloquent Cyrano is in love with Roxanne, but she is put off by his huge nose. A handsome, stupid man also loves Roxanne, and hires Cyrano to write love letters for him. Roxanne falls for the handsome "writer" until she discovers she has been deceived (warning to all you internet dating liars). When she discovers the true author, she repents of her vanity and loves Cyrano, big nose and all. This is the perfect love story. Well, except that Cyrano and Roxanne were cousins. Roxanne and The Truth About Cats and Dogs both borrowed this premise. Fortunately they left out the incest.