I recently got an email asking me about the “recognizing thing.”
I get this question a lot, so I thought I would answer it here. People want to know if it still happens (yes, but not as much as it used to) and if I hate it (hate is a terribly strong word. I hate bigotry and raisins. I don’t hate getting recognized).
But mostly people say something like “I don’t get it – is it invasive if someone just comes up to say hello?”
The answer is no, it doesn’t make me angry or upset or annoyed – it’s nothing that simple or dramatic.
It makes me kind of embarrassed. It makes me shy. It makes me awkward. (Okay, more awkward.)
It’s never something I got accustomed to, so every time someone approaches me, I’m surprised. I worry that:
- I’m going to say something stupid to you
- you are going to see the pimple on my nose
- I’ll try to be funny and I’ll just be odd
- I’ll make a goofy face in the selfie we just took and that you’ll have that forever
- the friend that I am with – who is a nice, normal non-Hollywood mother of two – feels weird about me getting recognized and is now laughing uncomfortably and looking for an escape route
I never feel like I should be…human. People tend to call me by my character name and I feel the pressure to live up to whatever they thought Lydia/Alicia/Sandra/whoever should be. And should I be who they were at age fourteen? Or am I supposed be a projection of who those fictional characters would be in her mid-thirties? See? It’s complicated.
And then I get the people who think we went to high school together. They are absolutely convinced and won’t let it go. And then I never know what to do, because I can’t say, “maybe you know me from movies” – without looking like a self-obsessed-Troy-McClure-jerk.
So, no, I don’t find it invasive when someone just comes up to say hi. I find it flustering, just in the same way that I get flustered when someone at Whole Foods asks if I need help finding anything – I’m just not skilled at talking to strangers. (See: introvert.)
To be honest, what happens most often is something much more tricky to manage. It’s staring. It’s whispering. It’s pointing. It’s attempted incognito photo-taking. And I’ve never known what to do about that, so I just try to sit there and not feel too much like a zoo animal.
And then there is the really icky stuff – the stuff that started when I was a teenager and made me feel non-human to begin with. There is the feeling of being treated like a commodity and not a real person, like when someone yells “Hey, Doubtfire Girl!” across a room at me.
There is the lack of boundaries and demands of things I’m not willing to do, like the man who approached me at a hotel pool when I was sixteen and wanted me to take a photo with him in my bathing suit. When I asked him to please wait until I could put some clothes on, he said I needed to do it now because, “You’re an actor. You owe it to me.”
I could tell you lots of stories like that – several more appear in my book. I wouldn’t say it’s common, but it happens, and it hurts. So, now I have the moment of feeling on guard, wondering if it’s going to happen again.
When someone says they just don’t understand how getting recognized could be anything other than fun – I get that. When it happens in movies it looks fun. I am grateful that people want to express their appreciation for something that I have done. That’s lovely. But the attention and the feeling of being not-quite-human was never something that I was comfortable with. It was one of the many reasons for my retirement.
So, if you see me somewhere, you are absolutely welcome to come say hello. And if you want to help make me feel more human and comfortable about the whole thing – just ask about my dog or tell me about yours.
As long as you understand that I will totally make you look at photos of Grace on my phone.