Tuesday, February 19, 2013

If It's Not One Thing...

Well, we've got that out of the way...

Yesterday was my call-back audition for 'The Full Monty', which meant that (a) I would be seeing my direct competition for the role of Harold (the only character for which I'm remotely correct, age-wise), and (b) I would be... stripping, at least down to my underwear, and possibly all... the... way...


It's impossible for me to know, in any objective way, whether or not my self-image is worse than average, better than average, or about average, for men of my age.  I would say though, that it's far more comfortable for me to belittle myself, and to think I'm ungainly and fat, than to think otherwise. 

Part of this stems from that central maternal judgement I failed when I was nine years old.  Because I wasn't being beaten 24/7 at the orphanage -- even Mrs. Hunter's great arms got tired every so often -- I then had time to ruminate on the thing I thought about most -- how I had failed to be worthy of Selection.  I knew I had been good -- one of the most sacred, most important rules of the Zimmerman household was maintaining silence, so my father could take a nap, and often my mother would express surprise that I was at home, because I was in my room, reading, and not... making... a... sound.  I ate all my food, even the supremely disgusting canned peas that lolled about on my plate from time to time.  I got excellent grades at school.  (Well, there was that one 'M' I got in arithmetic, which still haunts me.  I remember my mother, looking with stricken disbelief at my report card, while I pleaded that M meant 'average', and that average wasn't actually bad, if you thought about it.  She looked especially tall at that moment, like Athena as she ponders what wreckage to wreak next)  I was almost preternaturally obedient and helpful -- hadn't I come out into the living room, the night after my parents had had an especially violent fight, and without disturbing my mother's sleep on the sofa, quietly righted the floor lamp, and swept up the broken glass?  All of these things were clearly true, and if true, then they were obviously not the reason(s) I had been rejected.

So I decided that the problem was how I looked.  I decided that I was so ugly that my mother couldn't stand to look at me, and that had sealed the deal.

Now, I've never been particularly photogenic.  Unlike, say, Jimmy Cagney, who was reputedly the most unnoticeable man on the planet, until he stepped in front of a camera.  In my entire life of avoiding being photographed, I can remember perhaps three pictures of myself which I can actually look at without shuddering.  But more important than how the photo lens projects my image onto its retina, was my determination, once I'd reached my conclusion about my looks, to be ugly.  Because if my ugliness was the reason I'd been de-selected, then I'd better really be ugly, so my mother's choice would make some sense.  So she would have been right, even if this rightness on her part was going to be one of the major life wounds with which I would have to struggle.  I had to experience myself as unsightly, while at the same time trying to be as attractive as my limited means would allow, but never really reaching that goal, because being good-looking was forbidden.  I guess a shrink would call this facial approach-avoidance.

And part of this stems from going to the gym, and even though the locker-room etiquette stops just short of willfully blinding oneself, in order to pretend that there has never been anything remotely resembling a naked man in those halls and locker aisles and shower stalls, I admit to having, on occasion, peeked.  These cursory glances have been, maybe 6 times out of 10, more or less reassuring.  More.  Or less.  There have been, of course, the exceptions both to the 'do not look' rule, and to the '6 out of 10 reassurance' ratio.  When John and I used to use the YMCA on the Upper West Side in Manhattan (do other cities talk about having Upper West Sides?), there was a 30-something man, with pale skin and dark hair, who spent a greater amount of time than most, walking around the locker/shower area naked, as though the concept of towels hadn't yet arisen in the history of human inventiveness.  The reason for this casual, almost luxurious parade, need not, I think, be graphically described, but if he had been wearing a downward-pointing arrow on his chest, and two upward-pointing arrows on his knees, it would have been about as subtle.

I never knew whether any of the other men who were going about their business, showering after a workout, changing into their gym clothes, shaving at the row of sinks, had any opinions or observations or, I don't know... thoughts in general, about this clear evidence of what we might think of as an extra helping of Nature's goodness, bestowed on this young man.  There being the rule, after all, of not seein' nuttin' at the gym.  I did find out, one afternoon, when Mr. Endowment had finally dressed, that he was a sommelier at a local restaurant.  Or so he said.  I felt an odd sense of relief at hearing this, at finding out that the scales of life weren't entirely tipped in his favor.  Besides, he wasn't really that tall, either.

In any event, at the call-backs last night, the director let all the men know that, indeed, we were going 'The Full Monty', at least for this audition.  He swore over and over again that the images being recorded on the little digital camera would be destroyed immediately, and I'm willing to wager that they've already been hacked, and are making a less-than-spectacular splash on either Facebook or YouTube, or both.  This exercise in naturalism would take place at the very end of the evening, and after the women under casting consideration had gone home.  We even learned a dance, which had included, during the rehearsals, miming the... unveiling, as it were.  And, when the hour had finally arrived, we were brought in, two by two, for our little moment of what I think of as MGE, or Maximum Groin Exposure. 

For once, I thought, perhaps wisely, perhaps not, that having a name beginning with a Z might actually be handy.  And as there was an odd number of men being seen, I was lined up with two other guys, thus mitigating, perhaps, the likelihood of my... falling short, as it were.  But while the second group was doing their gyrations, those of us still waiting our turn, heard a loud whoop from the audition room, and then the music started again.  I figured that perhaps another of nature's wonders had been discovered, but when those guys came back to pick up their coats and stuff, one of them confessed that the exclamation was a reaction to him.  Because, at the fateful moment, he completely forgot... to drop his drawers.  Blanked.  Just... didn't... do it.  Until, that is, the second go-round.  The rest of us laughed nervously.  I felt as though I'd just been dunked, up to my waist, in icy water.  Again.

As these things will do, my turn arrived, and I went to my fate as manfully as was possible.  The only difference between me and my comrades was that they chose to dance in their stocking feet, while I kept my shoes on.  Like that's going to be a distraction.  And, although I'm sure I looked like an arthritic turkey, I did get the middle hopping part right, and the hands slapped on the hips part, and the bending over forward while pulling on a strip of elastic part, and then the slow, full, rising extension, with arms held wide and higher than my cardiologist recommends, and then a quick arm retraction, to modestly cover what will, forevermore, never seem quite the same.  Bingo.  Done.  For good or ill.  Damn the (other) torpedoes.

Just minutes into my short drive home, while waiting at a red light, I realized that I couldn't remember if I'd actually... done it.  I couldn't remember.  I thought that was hilarious.  I knew that, if I'd unintentionally balked, as the other guy had, our group would've danced the Dance of Shame all over again, but we didn't have to.  So...  But for me, it was a complete blackout, without the expense of all that scotch.

Now, we're told, the cast list will be posted by Wednesday at the latest.  How can I be so eager to find out if I'm going to have the chance to do something that, in most peoples' dreams, is a horribly humiliating and confusing thing -- being naked in public?  At least I won't have to give a lecture.

But now, let's backtrack a bit -- one of the wonders of writing, this reckless re-ordering of chronology -- and watch Walter as he gets ready to leave the house for the audition about which you probably already know far too much.  He's dressed in shirt and tie and jacket, as that's what his character would wear.  He's got his little black bag from the Alexander McQueen exhibit, with notepads and sketch books and a novel to read, just in case.  Plus assorted throat lozenges.  (I had toyed with the idea of bringing along an uncooked hot dog to secret in my drawers, to see what reaction I'd get, but I forgot)  So all he has to do is gather his keys, alarm the house, and get across town in ten minutes or so.  Which would still make him a bit early, but...

Except that, in the space of about three hours in the house, I had managed to... Lose.  My.  Car.  Keys.

This is difficult enough for me to face, when all I've got to do is drive to the store for some milk and cottage cheese, and maybe a bag of carrots.  But I'd been looking forward to -- maybe it's better to say, anticipating -- this callback for two weeks.  I'd learned the song they wanted to hear me sing.  I'd ironed two shirts, because I realized that the first one was the wrong color.  I'd changed my a-shirt, because the one I'd put on after my workout at the gym, earlier in the day, had a few little rust stains on it.  Shaved, gelled, deodorized.  And now... no keys.

No, specifically, no CAR keys.

I keep the house keys in one clump, which 'lives' on a coat hook just inside the back door.  And if any keys are likely to be misplaced, it's usually them.  The car keys, along with the keys to the Newark studio space I virtually never use as a studio, 'live' in the right front pocket of whatever trousers I'm wearing.  I check, several times a day, to make sure they're still there.

Needless to say, I was beside myself with anger.  John says, sometimes, that I'm too unforgiving of myself, but this 'losing' the car keys, before this audition, is, I think, inexcusable.  I might as well have misplaced my own feet.  I quickly scoured the kitchen table, repository for all manner of small things, but no keys there.  I didn't have time to do an attic-to-basement search.  I knew there was an extra key someplace, but the one I found on top of the microwave wasn't it.  Fortunately, John was available, and told me right where the second Honda key should be.  Which it was.  So I could drive myself to Maplewood, instead of trying to figure out how to call one of South Orange's virtually non-existent, exorbitantly expensive cabs, to get me to the church on time.

And now, still seething, I'm trying to imagine where the (expletive deleted) those (expletive deleted) keys are, for (expletive deleted)'s sake.  I have looked in: the cheese and egg drawer, the vegetable drawer, and the lunch meat drawer in the fridge; in the bowl of apples and bananas on the kitchen counter; in the microwave, and every drawer, including the one where we keep the cat food.  I have gone through, peel by peel, coffee filter by coffee filter, the day's trash.  I ransacked my gym bag, and combed the basement area around it.  I took a flashlight last night, and searched the driveway and the leaf-filled side yard below the kitchen window John and I both hate.  The upstairs bathroom.  The bedroom.  The den.  I haven't yet x-rayed the cats.

Things like this make me crazy, and it's too much of a 'coincidence' that, in the brief respite between walking on a treadmill in Summit NJ, at a 4.2 mph pace, and having completely changed my clothes and prepared to go out, these keys should have just vanished.   I.  Hate.  This.

And, irrational or not, I blame myself.  As I believe I've already written, I have a kind of suspicion that, in my unconscious, is something that really hates me, and enjoys making me suffer, as much as possible, at the worst conceivable times.  It makes me feel insane, as though, as I know I've said, I'm not on my own side.  I'm not my own advocate.  On some uncontrollable level, I'm lying in wait, ready to tie my own ankles together, just before the big race.

The only slightly good thing I can say is that, after having slammed the back door hard enough to shatter glass (not a problem with this door, however, as a previous owner long ago replaced the original glass with burglar-proof plexi), I somehow changed gears, pulling myself out of the nose-dive for which I was poised, and found a way to circumscribe this torture.  I did get the extra keys.  I did arrive in plenty of time for the audition -- in fact, I helped another actor find the door we were to use, to get into the building.  And, for the time I was there, I either forgot the murderous thoughts I had, about my self-sabotage, and easily focused on the work at hand.

The keys are still missing.  Along with, as it happens, half of my favorite pair of gloves.  In some ways, I expect to find them, taped to my own forehead.  In some ways, I expect never to see them again.  The crucial thing, however, is my surprising decision to rise above this tempest, and do what was truly important.  The looking will, obviously, keep.  (I wonder if, without realizing it, I stuffed bot the glove and the car keys into the tea kettle?)

And the other crucial thing, which I just learned through the marvels of modern communication, is that.... I got the part!

Nacktheit uber Alles!        


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