Monday, August 17, 2015

To Mother, With Love (at Word Riot)

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Despite my mother’s ferocious objections, I was a child actor. I began in television when I was twelve. She drove me to auditions, and as we sailed over the Cahuenga Pass to Warner Brothers or east on Melrose to Paramount, I ran my lines and we talked.
My mother rarely dispensed advice about career stuff. She’d suffered at the hands of a stage mother. But she did say one thing to me.
“If this is what you want, never give up. In fact, no matter what you want, once you decide what it is, never give up. Don’t lose heart and never give up.”
She told me a lot of stories about men abusing power. She danced on variety shows and once Frank Sinatra wanted a Polaroid with all the “girls” wearing bikinis and lying on top of him.
She said “no.” The producer told her she took herself too seriously. He told her it was only for a joke. He told her all the other girls had “agreed.”
She still refused.
My mother has a pattern. She won’t give in and she won’t give up. She doesn’t lose heart. She doesn’t know it. She thinks she is weak from pain, from life, from being torn down one too many times.
Her mother abused her when she was small. She performed at Rockefeller Plaza and her mother hit her over the head with a hairbrush whenever she missed a jump. The year was 1946 and someone saw it happen. Nobody calls Child Protective Services in 1946.
A massive bleed irrevocably damages a seventy-year-old brain. Astonishing spirit and strident vanity may pull you out of the grave, but they can’t escort you back to full health. Once you’ve tangoed with Death, his cologne stays on your clothes.
For the full essay, please visit Word Riot .
As for the title of this entry, it is a reference to an episode of  "I Spy" on which my my mother first guest-starred in 1966. 
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Friday, August 7, 2015

Don't Tell Mama (at The Washington Post)

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“I’m doing all this to save your ass, when what I really want to do is drop you on it!”
My 3-year-old is standing in our kitchen doorway, and she’s exasperated. She’s pretending to be Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, in the scene when Baby snaps at Johnny while he teaches her to dance. Frances and Johnny are working on a deadline. They are sweaty and exhausted, and their friend is having a dangerous secret medical procedure. Also, they are attracted to each other. Tension fills the scene like humidity on a summer day.
My toddler hasn’t even a subliminal awareness of the reasons for the scene’s tension, much less of the tension itself. But she has a vague understanding of grown-up discussions and passions playing out on the screen, and I’m fine with that.
Please head over to the The Washington Post for more!
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Monday, August 3, 2015

Don't Tell My Daughter She Looks Like Me (at Mothers Always Write)

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“Mama, can I grow my hair very long?”
“Sure, darling, it’s your hair.”
“Can you cut your hair very short?”
“Um, how short are we talking about? I kind of like it this way.”
“I want people to stop saying we look alike. We look NOTHING alike!”
Ah. Got it.
People love to comment on resemblance between parents and children, even if it isn’t there. My daughter doesn’t look that much like me. But people like patterns; they like evidence of familial connection (even though not all families are genetically related); and they like continuity. Passersby love to smile approvingly at my child and me as we sit on our front stoop. They exclaim, “She looks just like you! She’s your mini-me!”
It isn’t hard to imagine how crummy that feels. Who wants to be a facsimile? Who wants, worse yet, to be a miniature facsimile?
Please continue reading at: Mothers Always Write!
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