hooters? maybe?

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It’s Day 24 in Los Angeles and I applied to work at Hooters yesterday. I sat in my parked car on Hollywood Blvd at 11 in the morning and poked and toyed with my cleavage until it was kinda propped under my chin. I took a sip of the beer I had poured into my Kleen Kanteen (yes, at 11am), and that thing happened that always occurs after I take a single sip of alcohol– my chest flushes, my eyes fill with tears, my heart tightens, and I am flooded thinking about all the possibilities for me and my life. There I was– in my car, drinking beer before noon, hoping my nipples weren’t showing, feeling very far from my dreams, and trying not to let any tears run my mascara because I still had to prance into Hooters and hum along to Taylor Swift as I filled out an application.

I’m reaching that part of the journey where things start to get a little murky. I can’t find a job, I don’t have an agent, the sight of celebrities and actors fills me with longing and dread, I’m running out of money, I feel selfish, I’m whining myself ragged, I don’t want to be an actress, the monster is here. It’s that particular brand of confusion and self-loathing that can make morning drinking and Hooters applications seem like good ideas. Job hunting, auditioning, hustling for an agent– these things do violence to notions I have of myself as individual. I feel like one of too many, I want to drink and sleep and eat fried food covered in creamy salad dressing in bed. Under the blankets. Wearing a sweatsuit. With the heat on. And the lights off. And no toilet paper anywhere in the apartment. Wait, but if I do that, I probably won’t get hired at Hooters. And I need a job. Damn.

But maybe there’s something to be said for moments like these, too. After the initial flare-up, there’s usually a reminder, albeit a tiny one, of why I’m here, of what I crave, of how many people I love, of all that is right in my world. For me, yesterday, it was knowing that in a few hours, after applying to ten more restaurants, I would be driving home. I would pull up to my apartment on Elmwood Avenue, I would give my roomate’s dog, Boo, a kiss, and I would open all of the living room windows. The afternoon breeze would come in, the hardwood floors would be warm from the sunshine, I would play Townes Van Zandt and change into shorts and lean against a wall with my legs crossed in front of me. I would think about watching the newest disc of “Game of Thrones,” I would contemplate walking over to Larchmont and getting an ice cream cone and a book. I would definitely have a glass of white wine. I would let the time, the air, the space, the hope wash over me. And so I knew, even as I checked the “no criminal history” box on my Hooters application, that there might be something else on the other side of all of this.

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the bitter end

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Before I left New York a few weeks ago, my cousin Nicholas performed with some of his classmates at the Bitter End, a West Village music venue. Nick goes to a performing arts high school, and some of the upperclasskids got the chance to tread the boards for family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. How often do you get the chance to watch teenagers sing their hearts out? I highly recommend it– watching kids perform is good for the soul, I think it shares restorative properties with kale and daily exercise. What I found so moving about the Bitter End performers (and believe me, I was moved– I cried into my vodka cranberry each time someone hit the chorus or craned to find the right note. My cousin Kyana teared up along with me, and we agreed that if we ever have children they won’t allow us to attend any graduations, no performances or school recitals, no occasions that might push us to tears. At the rate I’m going, an elementary school bake sale could make me nostalgic and embarrassingly weepy) was their absolute commitment, that life force that young people have that makes their art so clean and expressive and pure.

I love kids doing art. Anything– I love watching them draw, play make-believe, make up dances, paint, take pictures, sing songs, act in plays. When we’re young, that wall between our conscious and unconscious brain hasn’t yet calcified, I think there’s still a freedom to roam and a willingness to explore that doesn’t feel daunting. Youth allows our creativity to spool out away from us and live. At camp I would sometimes direct campers in our musical production, and there’s nothing that gives me goosebumps more than young voices tripping through a chorus together. Those kids. Their eyes were wide, their arms hung by their sides, their mouths wobbled, there was a glint just behind their eyes that told you they were communicating something crucial and necessary.

How lovely might life be if we could live that way as we grow older? I will pursue acting until the day I die, but often I feel far removed from my basic burn and need for it. I long for that eleven year old version of myself, the one who could live with all of her energy and seize moments on stage, the one who would have been up there singing Lady Gaga songs and show tunes with Nick and his classmates, unafraid of how she sounded as she hopped from one leg to the other, sticking her chin in the air, daring life to scare her out of saying all that she needs to say.