Thursday, August 1, 2013

Inside out

"Beauty is how you feel inside,
and it reflects in your eyes."

-- Sophia Loren

Self portrait 8-1-13

"I love the confidence that makeup gives me."

-- Tyra Banks

Self portrait (2) 8-1-13

"Telling an introvert to go to a party 
is like telling a saint to go to Hell." 

-- Chriss Jami

I am an introvert.

That comes as a surprise to some people, because I am also a performer.
People can't wrap their minds around what they see as a disconnect -- how can somebody who likes being onstage in front of an audience also be an introvert? It doesn't add up.

Well, I'm not a mathematician either. But I do know I'm not the only actor who finds solace and comfort in inside the skin of a character, who takes refuge in being someone who is not them.

Costumes. Makeup. Dialect. Somebody else's words to speak. Someone else's problems to solve. Someone else's life to live. It's the perfect hiding place.

You get to feel confident, because you've rehearsed.
You know your lines.
You don't have to be anxious about what you're going to say. The words are handed to you in a script. You are not allowed to add or subtract. You say exactly what's on the page.

You don't have to be self conscious, because you know what to do. How to stand. What to do with your arms. You don't have to worry about any of that shit, because all of your movements and actions are worked out in rehearsal. You do them over and over, again and again, for weeks, until they are right, and automatic, and essential. Perfect.

You don't have to wonder how you're ever going to get out of this place, away from all of these people, and you don't have the pressure of sustaining friendships and work relationships with any of them.
After about six weeks, rehearsals end.
A few weeks after that, plays end.
Performances last about two hours and they're done.
You may work with some of the same people in the future.
And others you will never, ever see again.

For now, you can get in your car, alone, and drive home, alone.
In complete and utter silence, if you like.
No chatting necessary.
Thank God.

The trouble for an introvert like me isn't performing on a stage. It is performing in real life.
When I have to be me, and say my own words, and make my own moves, my confidence falters.
My insecurities kick in.
My anxiety revs into high gear.
Fortunately, my acting skills usually kick in too, and I can improvise convincingly enough to get me through.

Yesterday I had to attend a meeting of all the football moms.
I wanted to go, for my son. It was really important to him. He kept asking me, "Are you going to the moms meeting?" Like he wasn't sure I'd be able to man up and go.
I can understand why he might feel that way. He knows my weaknesses.
But because it was so important to him, it was also really important to me, so of course I went.

I'm sure it's all in my imagination, but those gatherings of all those women feels to me like swimming with sharks, or walking the gauntlet ... it's junior high all over again and I feel like troll girl in my boys' jeans, black t-shirt and Doc Martens, trying to keep my buzzed head down as I navigate the crush of perky girls, and pretty girls, and mean girls, and cliques, and peer pressure ("Sign up to sell 50/50 tickets!!!" "Don't miss the family beach picnic!!!!")
So much tan.
So much pink.
So much hair, and makeup, and fingernails, and sandals, and pedicures, and energy.
So much ... much.

My introverted little soul was scared shitless before I even left the house.

So before I went, I put on my makeup.
My skull makeup.
I painted my face, not expertly, but as best I could in the limited time I had, and then I took pictures of myself. I felt beautiful and strong, creative and capable, but in my own secret and introverted way.

And then I washed my face. I dabbed on a little bit of regular boring makeup, and went to the meeting.

Even though I washed it off, the process of painting on skull makeup and taking the photos -- all of it gave me the confidence boost I needed.

Yay! Art therapy!

I guess it's a little like an Indian brave putting on war paint, or a soldier camouflaging his face, or a football player smearing on eye-black. I felt ready and able to swim with those sharks, to walk that gauntlet and be there for my son.

I'm really proud of him, and I want him to be proud of me.
I don't want him to ever feel afraid that I'll leave him hanging, or embarrass him, or make him feel unloved because I didn't show up.

Anyway, I only know how to be the mom that I am, and hopefully I'm the mom that my sons need.

And maybe those other moms aren't so bad after all.
I'm sure some of them are just as insecure and introverted as I am.
Maybe the tans and the nails and the hair is their war paint. Maybe that's what they need to put on so that they can feel ready and able, so that they can show up for their sons.
Some of them are actually pretty nice, and they do a lot of really great stuff for the boys, mine included.
The truth is, those moms get shit done.
They do a lot of stuff that I simply can't do, and seriously, I need moms like them to fill my gaps.