August 28, 2013

Ready for My Closeup

There's a luxury to being single, underemployed, non-union, unrepresented, and hardly ever cast: you can be invisible.

Of course, for attention whores like myself, this is torture, but you get used to giving into your nervous ticks as you're driving, combing fingers through hair, peeling skin from nose, rubbing dirt off forehead, checking if ears are clean.

You get used to living alone, letting the dirty dishes pile up, using the same bath towel for what seems like months, only changing the sheets when you think someone else will be lying upon them. Which is hardly ever.

You use the same fork and drinking glass over and over again without washing in between.

You let the bottom of the shower tub get so grimy, it grosses even you out, making sure you never ever ever take a bath in there.

You stare into a lit, magnified mirror for too long, exploring your pores, searching for blackheads, squeezing at blemishes, tweezing at eyebrows too much, until you bleed.

You see yourself - you see it all - but you know that no one else does. You can hide this from the world. You can sit in dimly-lit bars, under the glow cast by a red Chinese lantern, where no one knows your age or how long it's been since your last lip wax, and you drive home in the dark, grateful that no one noticed the fat rolling over the top of your jeans.

You slip into your dirty sheets, smelling yourself and traces of the last other person who was there, letting the oscillating fan blow your nightgown immodestly high. With the lights on, maybe the neighbors can see, just as they might see when you shower with the window open. But when you can't see the neighbors, they are as invisible as you think you are.

And then, one day, someone turns a camera on you. Someone shines a light on you. Someone watches everything you do, closely, with keen interest, admiration, curiosity, bewilderment, surprise, judgment.

And panic ensues.

When I first got contact lenses a few years ago, after a lifetime of hiding behind eyeglasses, my prevailing reaction to my new look was: "I don't like my face." In fact, I'd never really seen my face before, being more than half-blind without my glasses, and my face being completely transformed Clark Kent-style by them.

I had wrinkles I didn't know about.

Was I really that freckly?

Oh God, I'd rather not know.

Oh God, where is the bag I can wear over my head?

Later, after a bout of sexual harassment in the workplace, I wanted to disappear completely. I never wanted anyone to look at me, much less see me, much less desire me, or make any judgments at all, whether favorable or not.

But we humans are naturally social beings. The entrepreneurial, capitalist emphasis on the success of the individual is unnatural for us. We're supposed to pair-bond, breed families, travel in groups. Here, you've got a little something on your back, let me get that for you.

After spending nearly my entire adulthood alone (finally escaping my roommate sister and my parents' house where I wasn't even allowed to close the bathroom door), I was nearly convinced I'd never be able to share close quarters with anyone ever again, at least for any extended period of time, which in my life would mean more than one night (or more than a couple of hours).

But I just had a houseguest who visited me in LA for nearly a week - an event that sent me into a frenzy of hair coloration and removal, nail salon visits, and scrubbing everything - and, under the magnifying glass, I did just fine. Not only did I let him see everything, I wanted to show him everything.

And that made me realize: I'm tired of being unseen. I don't want to be one of the hidden parts of LA. I'm ready to be explored.

I might flub my lines. My makeup might flake. My nose might run. But someone's got to see it.

I'm ready for my closeup. I am no background player.

Related Post:
Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

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