Clubbing baby actors

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I just wanted to fit in.

Desperately.

All 15-year-olds just want to fit in. They skulk around like those fish on the ocean floor who can alter their skin color to match the rocks. That was me – trying to blend like my survival depended on it.

But Mrs. Doubtfire was still in theaters, breaking all kinds of box-office records and 20th Century Fox was putting two-page ads in The Hollywood Reporter thanking everyone for buying a movie ticket. Blending was getting harder to do. But L.A. was my life now and I needed to figure out how to be part of that Hollywood crowd. A club on the Sunset Strip seemed like a good place to learn.

We didn’t even want to drink. My friend Christine had a crush on the singer of the opening band. Her sister had been in a movie with him, and our entire intention for the evening was to jump up and down in front of the stage and scream.

The place was dark and throbbing with coolness. People oozed cool and rubbed it all over their already cool friends. People moved around the place so comfortably that it seemed like it was their living room. I used all the acting skills at my disposal in an attempt to copy those people — and knew I was failing miserably.

Just before the band was due to go on stage, Christine and I headed to the bathroom to preen. She dug through an extensive bag of tools, expertly applying and lining and touching up. I didn’t wear makeup and having no preening abilities of my own, I glanced around the dim, grungy bathroom. I noticed a condom machine hanging on the wall. It was apparently  “for our convenience.” I nudged Christine and snickered.

Both of us had sadly undeveloped chests and few social skills beyond giggling – the machine hardly intended us as its target audience in need of such a convenience.

Nevertheless, flavored condoms were intriguing. The machine’s label reported that they came in three thrilling flavors: piña colada, chocolate and strawberry shortcake. I didn’t drink and was allergic to chocolate, so the strawberry shortcake was the clear winner. Christine and I had a lengthy debate about whether the chocolate condoms were made with real chocolate and if they would induce an allergic reaction.

I thought it would be a horrible time to find out.

She thought I was an idiot.

She started rifling through her purse and pulled out some linty quarters.

“Here. Get two.”

“Wait, why are we buying these?” I asked.

She snorted at me and handed me the change.

“Research.”

As I loaded the machine with Christine’s quarters, she leaned on the bathroom door. This was a scene best kept between the two of us. As our 50 cents went into the machine, slick pink and green packages slid out. They looked cheery. Fun. Yet, I was still scared to touch them. My heart beat quickly.

Christine appeared savvier, though I don’t think she really was. She was just one of those people who always appeared to know what she was doing. Whether on a film set or in a club bathroom holding a piña colada flavored condom, she always seemed as if she has been through it a million times. She was a stark contrast to me – it didn’t matter what I was doing, I always looked like I was about to get yelled at.

She ripped open the packaging with her teeth, a move she must have seen in a movie. I approached the wrapper more tentatively, pulling on either side like it was a bag of Doritos. We removed the smooth creatures from their packaging. We unrolled them. We concluded that they probably looked kind of like penises…if penises were florescent, semi-translucent, covered in a strange powder and stinking of sweet chemicals.

“Ready?” Christine asked. I certainly was not but I was standing in a bathroom holding a condom, what could I say?

“Okay. Lick it!” Christine demanded and we each raised the limp rubber to our tongues.

At that moment, the door swung open, catapulting Christine from her guard post and a Goth girl, bedazzled with safety pins, blasted into the bathroom. Christine and I panicked, threw our condoms into the trash and ran the hell out of there.

Taking refuge in a dark corner with humiliated tears flooding my eyes, I cursed Christine for not guarding the door properly and letting us be the freaks who got caught licking flaccid condoms in a bathroom. She also had tears in her eyes, but hers were caused by stomach-cramping laughter. She smoothed out my hair and attempted to comfort me.

“Don’t worry about it, Lis. Besides, you are not going to need one of those for a long, LONG time.”

Before I could respond with something like “Shut up” –  she grabbed my hand, ran to the stage and screamed for the cute lead singer like nothing had happened.

There were many enviable people in that club, owners of designer handbags, prestigious addresses and powerful careers, but I only wanted what Christine had. Her lightness was admirable and something I could never quite locate within myself. My friend’s skin fit her just fine and she never seemed to care too much about outside opinions. Her ease in this world was like a foreign language that seemed impossible to master. I borrowed some of her sparkly MAC lip gloss and hoped something deeper would rub off on me.

That night, I thought the worst thing that could ever happen was getting caught by a Goth. But four years later, Christine got sick. The lupus moved quickly, and she passed away when we were 19.

I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to capture her lightness. Admittedly, whenever I think of that Sunset club, I can still taste strawberry condom dust and palpable shame in the back of my throat. But whenever I feel myself trying desperately to blend with the cool people, I always feel Christine smoothing out my hair as she laughs at me.

“Don’t worry about it, Lis.”

 

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32 thoughts on “Clubbing baby actors

  1. Stop making me laugh and then making me sad! Think the goth girl had any idea what nefarious deeds you two were up to? Or did she just have to pee or re-pierce something?

    • Awww…but being sad and laughing are the greatest parts of life! I don’t think the goth had any idea. Actually, I doubt she even saw us…

  2. What a funny story. You are ‘so’ not alone when it comes to trying to be cool around people you think are cool. I grew up in a wealthy town – I was not wealthy – where everyone had the new shoes, the new designer pants, nice watches, fancy cars (at 16), went for exotic vacations every spring break and summer, and had wild parties with alcohol and drugs. I wanted so much to fit in with them, like you, for survival, but I really didn’t care about the things they cared about. It was a trial to have confidence in my own beliefs. Then I moved to LA. It’s an interesting twist – you were kept from truly being yourself because of LA, and it took me moving to LA before I could find myself. My secret: practice being weird. Practice being different than everyone, but smile the entire time. Make them wonder why I am so happy being me, even if it was only an act. I practiced being a dork, doing silly things, and when people laughed at me, I laughed with them and continued smiling, even when fear consumed me. In the end, I made many friends who loved how weird I was, and they constantly made fun of my weirdness, but in a very loving manner. It was liberating. I learned that it was okay to be weird. Not only was it okay, it was actually preferable. Eventually the act became my reality. I also learned that the ‘cool’ people were actually more insecure than I was. They were bound by the handbook of cool people, whereas I had a newfound freedom to experiment. Practice being different. Writing about your pain and your history is important, but it’s equally important to break from the team and be the maverick. You just may find that ‘cool’ people will abandon their coolness and join you. Every trend was started by someone who didn’t care if they looked different. I think the most important thing I ever learned in life is that absolutely everyone else is just as insecure as I am, and they are all just trying to find a place to fit in. All those cool people you looked up to? They were only cool because you thought they were cool. And because they were plied with liquor, probably.

    • I love this – thanks for sharing. So glad you found the place that allowed you to find yourself. I’ve realized that what makes someone cool is self-assuredness. Being confident in ones own weirdness is a perfect way to be cool!

  3. Oh god she lived only a year-ish after diagnosis? My sister’s doctor thinks she has lupus. Imma go freak out now…

    • Don’t freak out – her situation was incredibly aggressive and highly unusual. The majority of people can manage it with medication. But I’m sending good thoughts to you and your sister, anyway!

    • Alex, my mom’s best friend was diagnosed over 20 years ago. She has lived a pretty normal life. (She has other medical issues and allergies as well) Hope your sister lives a long and happy life

  4. That’s a very beautiful article, firstly it made me want to laugh … and then to cry, I was so sad to read what happened to your friend. It’s very moving.You have chosen the perfect words.

    I think we all do stupid things during our teenage years but looking back, it gives pleasant anecdotes and/or there are lessons that can be learned from what we did. Sometimes we tend to over dramatize the small things that happen, but life teach us what really matters ( and that can be painful.)

    • I’m always amazed at how I learned the most profound lessons from the silliest things… Thanks so much for the kind words!

  5. That story did not end how I thought it would! 🙂

    I do relate about wanting to feel like other people who are lighter, and appear to have more fun, but we serious, introverted people are known to have fun in controlled situations (I might have the wrong definition of fun). I had friends like that in high school, and our paths diverged so much after graduation. Like night and day. It’s insane.

  6. This cracked me up. I’m terribly sorry to read of your friend’s passing, but those “awkward” years sure do make for great stories. Have a wonderful day Lisa.

  7. What a beautiful post ! Thanks so much for sharing that amazing story you made me laugh and tear up at the end. So sad about Christine , but I am so glad that you always feel like you have her over your shoulder.

  8. Your words are beautiful, as an avid reader I can’t wait to read your book one day. I had no idea that you are a writer now, thank you for sharing your life. It’s refreshing to read, as a 22 year old still feeling lost and shy you have encouraged me, thanks for being strong.

  9. Somehow, I found this. You know how when you go on YouTube and end up somewhere you never thought you’d be? Most times, in a weird place. This time, for me, has been nothing but enlightening.
    Someone posted something on Facebook that Mara blogged about Robin Williams. I read it, and ended up here. And I’m glad.
    Throughout my life, I’ve always wanted to be an actor, or rock star, or anything in between. But I knew that it would have its consequences. Plus I had crazy stage fright and social anxiety for as long as I can remember. Now, after reading Mara’s and your blogs, I know that it wouldn’t be for me. You two, today, showed me that it’s not all that it seems. Robin Williams showed me that, too. Anyway, now I’m just a server slash bartender. And that’s okay. Even at 40. So…thanks.
    The story of Christine is one that you’ll never forget. Aren’t you glad she was a part of your life?
    Your blogs touched someone today, so mission accomplished. Good luck in everything you do. You certainly deserve it.

  10. That must have been hard to leave this story out of your book. Thank you for sharing! It reminded me of stories from when I was a teenager and took me back in time. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. What a sad twist, but you wrote it for her memory so well. It sounds like she taught you an important lesson about life. My best friend sounds a lot like Christine and taught me to take chances and laugh things off. I’m glad I took the time to read and I’m very interested to read your book when it comes out.

  11. That was a good teenage story, reminds me of a lot of things my cousin/best friend did, I didn’t think your adventure would end like that though. I’m glad you two made great childhood memories.

  12. I always enjoy reading your posts. I guess we all have stories like this one, it’s great to be able to share them. Have a great day Lisa!

  13. I Love your stories, though sad you were blessed with an Awesome friend who gave you tools to continue on with her in your heart. ((hugs)) and Love and have a great day!

  14. If this is just a taste of what I have to look forward to finding in your book, I can’t wait! You’ve done an excellent job of capturing those early-pubescent feelings we all experienced and how they relate to the harsh realities that invade our lives as we get older. I have no doubt that your friend gently sits on your shoulder from time to time to remind you not to take things so seriously and that in the end it – all the silly day-to-day worries and anxieties – doesn’t really matter.

  15. I semi-recently started following you on twitter and found my way to your blog when you tweeted about this post the other day.

    Very well written, and very relatable. I was very much like that for most of my teen and early adult years; I could never quite find a way to fit in with the lightness of others or seem like I belonged, whether it was at a high school dance, or the local pubs and clubs when I was in college.

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