Even though I'm no longer an actress and no longer (thank goodness!) live in L.A., I still live my life as if I am and I do. I already knew L.A. had messed up my head, but the longer I'm away the more I understand just how much I let myself get caught up in all that crap.
What messages do we, the general public get from Hollywood? Too many to count, but here are a few: 1) Women are stupid (check out any movie on Lifetime for examples). 2)Women are helpless (again, Lifetime, or pretty much any movie ever made with a male hero. So, 90% of movies). 3) women are there to have sex with. In any movie, women are usually the Wife, Girlfriend, or simply Random Girl Whom Hero Hooks Up With. And if there's a female character who teams up with a bunch of guys, she will inevitably fall in love with one of them. 4) Women must look 25 all their lives. Whether they are 16 or 50, this must be so. 5) Women must often be paired with men who are, literally, twice their age. At least. 5) The ONLY thing women need worry about is their appearance. If you're attractive, you will be taken care of. As long as you put out, and until whoever's doing the caretaking decides you're a gold-digging bitch. And if you're "TOO" sexy, well, whatever happens is your own fault. Because, after all, men cannot control their urges, right? And we need to REALLY worry! If we don't fit the narrow definition of "hot," which changes with the wind, we must do everything in our power to make ourselves fit it.
Those are a few.
So what does Hollywood tell its actresses? All of the above, and much, much more: 1)Women should be grateful for ANY role they get. Yes, this goes for men, but very few male characters are rape victims, or walk around in a thong with a camera up their butt, or have to wear white tanktops without a bra and their nipples in constant stand-at-attention mode. 2)Women should have a thick skin, so that when a casting director or producer tells her she's old, ugly, fat, and worthless, she doesn't take it personally. But if she DOES grow a thick skin, well, then she's a bitch. 3) Women should be seen and not heard. And if she opens herr mouths, she gets a reputation as being "difficult." 4) Women must be attractive and look young (see above), but if they have obvious plastic surgery, they are to be ridiculed and belittled. 5) Womens' bodies, especially celebrity women, are public property. They belong to agents, directors, producers, and magazine publishers. If a celebrity is chosen by a tabloid as A Worst Beach Body, or as a possessor Celebrity Cellulite or something equally ridiculous, it is her fault and she must get to the gym AND cosmetic surgeon's office asap. 6) Women are useless unless they are hot. ALL women. Not worthy of love, of happiness, of a good job or a halfway decent life.
Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Add all of the above to young women who are, invariably, lacking in self-esteem, and you have a recipe for disaster. Here I am, in my middle-age, and I still buy into it all. I don't look around at real people and think "No one here is a supermodel, and yet they are all living their lives. They are happy, fulfilled, confident, competent, and, yes, many of them have sex on a regular basis." WHY don't I do that? Because I'm still thinking like an actress.
I had neuroses before I moved to L.A., but they revolved around my abilities. I put A LOT of time and effort into being a good actor and a good teacher. I was pretty confident when I made the move to L.A., but it was slowly stripped away. I also found myself becoming bitter: why should women with less talent and less experience get all the jobs, simply because they looked better in lingerie?
So I guess the question now is, what do I want to be when I grow up? Because I'm not going back to acting, that's pretty much guaranteed. At least, not professionally. And as much as I enjoy teaching acting, I'm getting a little old for the kinds of jobs I've been doing: an hour here, 2 hours there, pulling a paycheck but not a salary. Trying to teach freelance, the way I did in my 20's, AND be a full-time mom. There's also the fact that my kids are still pretty young, and they still need me as much as possible. Right now they get picked up from school by their grandparents one day a week, and, to be honest, I hate it! I want to be the one to pick up LG and talk to his teacher. I want to get WG off of her van, read about her day in her notebook. I want to get their snacks. Yes, it's one day a week, and they don't mind it, but I do! Time goes by too fast. Before I know it they may not want cuddles and hugs from their mom after school.
And, truly, the thing I do best is being my kids' mom. Yeah, for a while I was a pretty good actor, but I'm a REALLY good mom. Not perfect, not by a long shot.
But damn good.
So we'll see what happens.