Friday, November 30, 2012

These Weren’t Supposed to Be My 27 Dresses

How about we start off with a sensible slow-clap, for the members of society who GOT the memo.

            …‘Cause I certainly didn’t.

            Do I even know the exact contents of said “memo”? I do not: it is known only by those elite few who are fortunate enough to receive it. Even its delivery is shrouded in mystery: does it come by way of unicorn, in a glittery Lisa Frank envelope, covered in obscure Tamagotchi stickers? (Oh wait. That’s the envelope in which I hope to receive a marriage proposal – MY BAD.) It’s probably unique – seriously, one of a kind, shabby chic, embossed-in-a-vintage-foreign-language, delivered by a hip and trendy... barista.

Oh yes, I’m talking about that memo.

(If you don’t have a vague idea of the kind of memo I’m talking about by now, the rest of this might be troublesome for you. And if it’s because you’re stuck on the “vintage-foreign-language” line, don’t worry– I don’t know what that means, either.)

           If you do have a vague idea as to that of which I am speaking, then yes, it is that memo: the one that tells those chosen few how to literally assemble ANY combination of clothing and still be able to look fashionable. And not just “fashionable,” more like: just-stepped-off-the-runway-(or-perhaps -a-private-jet-from-somewhere-in-Eastern-Europe-cause-I-do-things-like-that.)

           Does anyone know what I’m talking about? The idea of the memo was actually conceived by my roommate when we were driving home one night and seeing the girl in the car next to us, Carolyn mumbled, “She got the memo…”

           I didn’t even see what the girl was wearing, but as soon as I heard the words “shabby chic,” I made a sound of acknowledgement. Which was probably more of a groan, because with my understanding of the Memo reference also came the reminder that I was not one of the chosen Memo Recipients.

           I’ll never forget the first time I realized that I hadn’t gotten the memo. I was in third grade and our cousins were visiting for the weekend. My cousin Dee needed a pair of dry clothes; we’d probably been to the pool or something, and she ended up with a pair of spandex and a t-shirt of mine. (She’s two years older than I am, but I was so pudgy that she could easily fit into a pair of my clothes, awesome.) So she puts on these green shorts and a St. Thomas VI t-shirt (it had a fish wearing sunglasses on it, for crying outloud) and somehow…  It was the coolest outfit I’d ever seen. I don’t have pictures here in California with me, but I know there is documented evidence of Grace trying to duplicate this outfit, ‘cause it was basically all I wore for the next two years… And somehow I wore it with confidence, having convinced myself that I looked just like Dee had, but deep down, I knew… I probably looked like an orphan.  I’d also like to take a moment to say: this self-deprecation is only for the sake of entertainment. Because, hello: if I’d never had to face the failure of my atrocious fashion concoctions, I’d never learn to laugh at myself. (Special thanks to Jim and Lou, for letting me do things like wear an entirely lavender dress to a cotillion ball, or frequently paint my nails White-Out white, among other things…)

I bring the Memo up, because I encountered the good ole Douglas Dress-Up box this past weekend and was thoroughly entertained, looking through the dresses that I used to prance around in, twenty years ago… Then, before I knew it, I was trying them on and then… yes, I took some self-pictures. I refuse to use the word “selfie,” because, well, a) it’s not super myspace; there’s no shower curtain in the background and b) I used the self-timer so I could see the whole outfit – DUH.
Now you know that our dear friends who have gotten the memo can delve into the dress-up box, throw on anything they lay their hands on, and it will actually look socially acceptable. If I dared to venture out of the house in any of these outfits, I’d be publicly mocked and/or flogged.
I was sort of hinting at this earlier, but in case anyone missed it: this is all for entertainment. These pictures and dresses were too good for me to resist gloriously mocking myself with the rest of the world…
We should obviously start with the failed attempt at a self-timer picture. You're welcome:

Ok now we’re in business. Where did this dress come from? I don’t even understand what’s going on with it, hence I used my hair as a distraction from the obscure pattern…

Ah, here’s an old bridesmaid dress of Lou’s… I tried so hard to make cleavage; I really did. But all that resulted was some really poor posture.

This dress isn’t so bad… Well, I mean, it is bad, because I could never wear it out in public, maybe it just relatively fits, which is unusual for the dress-up box… (*UPDATE: Oh this is rich: Big Daddy just called and informed me that this is the dress Lou wore "when she crashed Amy Grant's first wedding..." I heard some hollering in the background, followed by his addendum, "Ok she says to tell you she didn't crash it and that she went as someone's date..."*)

Another bridesmaid dress of Lou’s. Shhhhh, just let the lavender happen. (No, NOT my cotillion gown, thank goodness...) 

 a)      If you haven’t seen Drunk Uncle on SNL’s Weekend Update, you should.
       b)      He likes to sing advertising jingles. This is what happened when he serenaded Seth Meyers with “Nation Wide is on your siiiiiide.”

       c)       That’s what I was going for, obvi:

Ok this one is actually awesome and it should surprise no one that I’m obsessed with it, but it was Lou’s when she was about 18, so it obviously barely fits my leg. My grandmother went to a wholesale and got a bunch of Lilly patches and my Mom put ‘em into a dress. But Lou weighed about 30 pounds at the time, so I actually couldn’t wear this in public, even if I got the guts to…

I mean, this one isn’t so bad, actually… But like I said: I didn’t get the memo, I’ll play it safe and leave this one in the Dress Up Box…

And for the grand finale… SLOW CLAP FOR THE 1980’s, where I don’t think ANYONE got the memo… (And yes, this ensemble was at the bottom of the box...)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Please Pass the Mod-Podge...

While I don’t think it’s very appropriate to compare myself and my degree to that of a Medical Doctor, I sometimes see similarities: I can’t help it.
Don’t worry – I’m not about to say that the nobility of my profession is anywhere near that of a doctor, but stay with me, here. In med school, you practice on surgery on dead bodies, dead animals, and probably even your roommate at some point (kidding), but there’s no way to actually simulate all the factors you’re going to encounter when you’re eventually in the Emergency Room one day, trying to get a heart beating again.
I spent four years of college preparing for every kind of audition imaginable, (including dead bodies, dead animals and yes, my roommates) but there is no way to even… well, imagine all the possibilities of what you’ll face at an audition.

So I got my first one, this week.

This is it, Grace. This is what you’ve spent the past four years preparing for. Go get ‘em, Tiger.

No, it wasn’t the audition to play Claire Danes’ surprise-step sister on Homeland or Stephen Amell’s surprise-girlfriend-from-the-deserted-island on Arrow, but trust me: I’m still waiting for those phone calls…
So all I have to do is bring a copy of my headshot and resume and do a one minute monologue. I'm feeling pretty capable. Now we all know that I have about 3.5 monologues that I do EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME and this list will never get any bigger. I mean, I memorize new ones all the time, but there are a solid three of them that I will use until I die, then will probably be published on my tombstone. 

Oh that will be great. I can see it, now: “Here lies Grace Douglas… “I’m better now. May I have my job back?”

So I practice said monologue. I’m feeling good about it. I keep reminding myself, throughout the day, to print my headshot, even though I've always held the belief that if they’re really in love with me, they won’t need a headshot.
But like I said: four years of practice. I’ll print the darn headshot. I’d actually just inherited a new printer, so I’d be able to print, right in the comfort of my own home.
I should probably mention that I had to print out a picture because even though I had over one hundred 8x10 headshots stapled to 8x10 resumes, I’d left those at home.

....Nashville "home."

Really, Grace? Was it truly necessary for you to pull the Insecure Actor card on that one and leave the headshots at home because:
“I WON’T NEED THEM!” she wailed dramatically, hurling herself onto the chaise and draping the back of her hand across her forehead, “No one ever hire me, anyway. Get them out of my sight!”

No, I don’t have a chaise lounge, and I’m pretty sure the cushions are so firm on those things that if one were to actually “hurl” themselves onto one, it wouldn't feel too good. But the point is: I had zero headshots onhand.

So I plug in the new printer… And it ran out of ink, mid-headshot.

This was literally worse than freshman year. Oh, because what happened freshman year? My friend Clyde came up with the nickname “Dr. Devilish,” for me, because he found some leftover copies of my headshot in the music library, complete with devil horns, a pitchfork, tail and title “Dr. Devilish” scribbled on them, in red Sharpie. I would like to take a moment to remind the general public that I am ready to be CIA Agent Carrie Mathison’s step-sister on Homeland: I usually don’t leave a trace of my dirty work. But in the music library, that fateful afternoon… I left some loose ends. And God knows, some Asian kid was probably pissed that I’d been monopolizing the color printer AND the stapler for too long, so he took his revenge.
This time, there was no one demonizing my headshot, although I probably would have been better off/more memorable if I’d submitted a “Dr. Devilish” headshot, as opposed to the disaster that the printer had just spit out.
But you know what? Better to have a joke of a headshot than no voice, or a monologue that wasn't fully memorized. Four years of Dr. Devilish-auditions had prepared me for that.
I’d already printed my resume that was, oh whoops- in an 8x10 format, printed onto 8.5x11 paper – where were the scissors? Ah, they were next to the bunny cage, from when I’d used them to cut matted feces out of the little bugger’s nether regions the other day. (Carolyn and I were keeping a bunny for the week. I don't even want to get into it. And NO, it wasn't my idea to remove the matted defecation that way; obviously.)
So now I had the headshot and resume, trimmed with what looked like the hands of a third grader, where was the double-sided tape? Time was running out. But I refused to show up without these two being attached  - I HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE; I AM A PROFESSIONAL! So naturally, I resorted to the Mod-podge, on the mantle, applied it with my index finger, and stuck the two pages together.

Congratulations, Grace. You officially have a summer-camp-craft to submit as your application.

I flew out the door, third grade craft and all, to find my sweet roommate backing my car out of the front parking spot, so I could get out of the garage without having to move her car. “Break a leg!” she hollered, as I thanked her for moving the cars, and yelled back, “Thanks! Does this outfit look ok? I look frumpy, right? Mousy intern, yeah?” I got the thumbs-up as I peeled out of the garage.
Somehow, I got to the theatre without getting terribly lost (only had to pull over ONCE to figure out where I was) and I parked and made my way toward the building, all while trying to talk myself out of admitting that I was, in fact, in the ghetto. (I’d already sent a text to Carolyn, saying “Oh hello Ghetto, my name is Grace,” as a make-sure-I’m-still-alive-in-an-hour courtesy) I’d like to think it’s not my Nashville roots talking when I say that this was a shady area – it’s not like I was looking for Lilly Pulitzer patterns to be displayed on the side of the building, but no joke, on the wall across the street was a graffiti-ed Barack Obama, holding a revolver.
So I walk in, subconsciously wondering if I've stumbled upon some kind of GOP fortress, but trying to look as California-native as I can, with an attitude of something like, “Dude, no I don’t eat cookies. What do I look like, a private-sector, Capitalist machine? Anyone who eats processed sugar should be burned at the stake and have their ashes smoked by the Governator.”
The guy sitting at the computer by the front desk is wearing headphones and is angled slightly away from me: my presence was not immediately known to him. And so begins the Great Greeting Debate. The same one I have every time at the Belle Meade Harris Teeter Pharmacy, when I know that Vicki knows I’m there, but we haven’t made eye contact, so it’s socially acceptable for her to ignore my presence and get away with it, until I cough or drop my keys on the counter: the social cue that she can no longer ignore.
Obviously the dude at the front desk wasn't deliberately ignoring me, but the kind of debate I’m talking about is that age-old “what’s-a-socially-acceptable-way-to-announce-myself?” one. With Pharmacist Vicki, I can’t ring the bell on the counter: that’s patronizing. More socially acceptable salutation must be sought out. With this guy, I was going to scare the living daylights out of him if I just started in with a “Hi, I’m Grace and I’m a STAR!” which would then mean that the first thirty seconds of our relationship would be really awkward because he would be so taken off-guard /I’d be apologizing for scaring him/he’d be apologizing for having been the scared one/I’d feel bad cause he’d become so apologetic that I’d be apologizing more/his apologies would be especially sincere, because I’m pretty sure he wasn't supposed to be quite so zoned out when he should have been doing his job/I would feel the need to assure him that I wasn't going to rat him out as the lazy secretary who wasn't paying attention… You get the picture.
Fortunately, I went with the safe-but-effective Spastic Gestures Move, meaning: I went through way more of a flurry of movement (than is usually necessary for the average human) to adjust my keys/purse/camp craft project, upon walking through the door, so the movement would catch his eye. As we all know, the visual cue is much less startling than the auditory cue.
With much more ease than would be the case if I'd given no warning of my arrival, we introduced ourselves and he then proceeded to tell me that due to plumbing issues, the auditions had been moved, and told me the building I was looking for was across the street and about a hundred feet down. I stared at him and didn't waste any time, “Let’s just get to the point, here: if I have to walk over there… Am I gonna be safe, right now? I mean, I have pepper spray, but let’s talk about that mural on the wall outside…”
He assured me that I would be fine and sent me on my way. I made it across the street without incident, filled out an audition form and took no more than fifteen seconds to comment on the juvenile quality of my headshot to the stage manager. She was as sick as a dog, and blowing her runny nose on toilet paper: the least I could do was make her smile. Looking back, I’m thinking I also made her job pretty easy with this, because while I would have loved to be one of those silent, polite types (well… if I were either of those things, I would have had a decent headshot on hand) it woulda been great if I could just keep my mouth shut, and pull Puffs Plus out of my Mary Poppins bag that I would be toting, since I was a girl who could be described with words like “meek” and “well-prepared.” But based on my inability to be any of those things and my desperate need to let her know that I was actually aware of how unacceptable my headshot was, when she went to give my paperwork to the director, she probably said one of two things, “Oh, there’s a funny chick here. Her headshot is a joke” Or “ I've got a real lunatic for you. Based on her headshot, she may or may not be homeless.” Those meek girls: it can take a while to figure ‘em out. Grace, on the other hand, laid it all on the table immediately; kindly leaving only two options: juvenile funny chick, or homeless lunatic.
                I think I’m going to blame Jim and Lou for this one. It is their fault that I’m still holding onto the deluded hope that I could one day be taken for a shy and reserved type. Sensible parents would have told me on the first day of kindergarten: “Stop trying to blend in, Grace. It isn't going to happen. You’re just not going to be like the other calm, reticent children.”

You see, I was disciplined by having to "put a crayon in the Lost Crayon bin” on the first day of kindergarten, for speaking without raising my hand. True story: the teacher asked where the Statue of Liberty was, and I was the first to raise my hand and proudly declare, “Birmingham, Alabama!” 
                OK, IN MY DEFENSE, THERE IS A HUGE STATUE OF LIBERTY REPLICA IN BIRMINGHAM (for some reason, when I tell people that story, they automatically assume I’m referring to the Vulcan statue – NO, THERE IS ACTUALLY A LADY LIBERTY STATUE. And I wasn't even allowed to see the Vulcan one up close: Mimi told us that his buttocks was exposed and it wasn't appropriate for young children to see.) So Ms. Daniel politely said, “No, guess again…” and while I racked my brain, none of the other bozos in the class spoke up, and in the adrenaline-charged moment where I realized that I could reestablish my dignity as a kindergarten student for knowing the answer, I blurted out, “New York City!”
To which I was promptly met with, “Grace, please go put a crayon in the Lost Crayon bin.”


Actually, now that I think about my parents’ reaction, (I expected them to be mad that I was disciplined, on the first day of school, no less) their shrugging it off is probably what led to my downhill spiral into developing the personality of “a colorful child.” Maybe if they’d actually been mad that I didn't follow the rules, I would have become a rigid rule-follower, and would have had a professional headshot and travel size container of Puffs Plus that day.
(In all seriousness, it was probably their ability to laugh at the absurdity of a Kindergarten teacher issuing this kind of discipline on the first day of school that led me to submit a wretched headshot and still be able to laugh about it, but I’ve strayed so far from the original point that I’m now wondering why I didn't use crayons to edit my headshot at the time, but none of this is even relevant…)
So I get into the room, fortunately have enough tact to keep my mouth shut about the headshot because at this point, what’s the use? Here’s to hoping my monologue was better than my headshot…
The director glanced over my resume and then asked, “What was your favorite thing about working with… Bruce Miller?”
I had this answer in the bag. But before I could compose an articulate response, a Gollum-esque, reverent whisper slipped out before I could stop it, “HE’S A GENIUS.”
He and I both chuckled at my sudden transformation into a mythical, debatably-sinister woodland creature, before I spoke about Miller in a way that was… shockingly eloquent, compared to how I’d spent most of the night presenting myself. He then asked about my recent move to Los Angeles and posed the question, “So what’s been the hardest thing, about packing up and moving across the country to where you know no one?”
Again, with the Commentary Filter inexplicably shut off, I replied, “Hmmm… I’m trying to decide if I should give a witty answer or a deep answer…”
And in that moment, all the answers that could have been perceived as “deep” were things that I’d actually already faced with a move to Miami, four years before. (ie: not knowing anyone, crazy traffic, crazy people, few potential husbands in sight, etc) So I went with witty: “I’m gonna have to go with the time difference. In all honesty, it’s just really, shockingly inconvenient to be earlier than literally everyone, and I never saw it coming…” (For those of you that might be banging your head on the desk at the daft nature of my reply, worry not: I briefly touched on some things that might have been hard to face, had I not dealt with them in moving to Miami, so he didn't think I was a total headcase.)
The climax of the story isn't nearly as dramatic as the rising action: I did the monologue and got called back on the spot (cue Sally Fields’ “You like me!” speech). So there’s really nothing else to say about that, except to maybe invoke a sensible slow clap for the moral of this story:
Crayons in the Lost Crayon Bin or no: sharp-wit and Mod-Podge are the glue that hold our dreams together.