Monday, December 18, 2006

Stage Mother

My childhood dream was to be an entertainer. I would awaken at an ungodly hour to watch Kids Incorporated. I was riveted by Stacey, (who went on to be Fergie in The Black Eyed Peas). She was blonde and blue eyed. She rocked the side ponytail. She got to sing and hang out at the soda bar. I was obsessed.

My mother had told me that when I was very young, she was often stopped by strangers and told that I should be on television. I had a mop of remarkable blonde curls at the time. In my re-creation of this tale, I envision my mother being approached by actual agents with business cards, but in reality it could have just been friendly strangers. Nonetheless, my mother always responded graciously but with an emphatic "No". She did not want me to have "that life". And I am sure she did not want that life either, the shlepping to castings, with three kids who were a combined four years apart in age.

I remember as a pre-teen, when my obsession for all things Hollywood piqued, I screamed at my mother in response to a re-telling of this story. Something about how she killed my dreams, how I could have been famous. I was furious. By that time my curls had frizzed and I was awkward with braces and glasses. Still, I felt that she had made a decision on my behalf that thwarted my dreams.

I dabbled in entertainment in any way that I could. I sang in my school choir. I danced ballet and jazz. I enrolled in modeling school.

In high school, I sang on in my bedroom to the Les Miserables soundtrack even though I had never seen the show. I was a tormented teen, haunted by "a world that's full of happiness that I have never known". A angst-filled Cosette, using my four poster bed as a stage.

I was les miz, to say the least.

Early into my college career, I had the opportunity to audition for this or that, but by that time, I was too accustomed to the audience of only my mirror and too afraid of rejection. One day, I was jogging at the park when home visiting my parents on some break. A commercial was being shot. My heart raced, as I watched the lights, the cameras, the whole production. I sprinted home and announced to my parents that "THIS" is what I wanted to do. They were not pleased. You'll never make any money, It's a diffficult life. What happened to law school? Still, I was renewed. I interned at production companies as a PA, anything to get closer to the business. The work was tiring, with early call times and menial tasks. But I loved the energy - even for a lotto commercial. I interned at MTV, in series development and production. My parents remained unenthusiastic when it came to "the industry". The implicit superficiality, the difficult personalities.

In the end, I did not have the strength to pursue this passion without my parents support. Or, I did not have the ambition and the drive to make it happen on my own. I took the road more readily traveled, the consumer PR life that inevitably lead me to the world of non profit. Both careers have proven to be largely unsatisfying, uncreative and riddled with the difficult personalities that my parents feared on my behalf.

As I watch my daughter dance to music in a manner that has been so staggeringly intense and dare I say, gifted, I am convinced that she will somehow want to pursue a path of performing. And if she wants to do this as a job, and not just as a hobby, what will I say? Despite my wish that my parents had been more indulgent of my dreams, Lindsay Lohan scares the hell out of me. But is her way the only way to be successful in that area?

An old friend had a sister who danced her way into the New York City ballet. While there were difficult times when the family had to rally behind one child in a manner that may have lacked equity, they remained generally healthy and normal. I am sure this woman, who is still dancing in her 30s, can not imagine her life any other way.

I hope that Chloe will find a way to chase her dreams in a way that does not take her too far from us. And I hope that I can find the strength to support her choices, and to let her go.


At 11:47 AM PST, Anonymous Leigh said...

When my mom and I lived in Jersey, she got some solicitations to have me audition for commercials, etc. and also never followed up on them. I think she was "working." Full-time, single moms....


I still tease her about this - about missing my chance for fame and fortune. And as a result, I'm also still working on that route!!!



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