I call this Still Life With Ikea:
Yep. That’s my gesture at being artsy.
I have to admit it. It’s deeply embarrassing, but here goes nothing. **deep breath** I’m completely addicted to Smash.
Every tiny fiber of my Recovering Actress body loves it, from the audition process, to the songs, to Anjelica Huston’s everything. I can gush on and on about it ad nauseum (and I do mean nauseum) but there are plenty of 14 year old girls to do that for me.
What I wanted to say about it is something weirdly adult and fundamentally grounded that I’ve discovered about myself watching it: this is a story about living with passion. It sucks. It’s painful. It involves a huge amount of rejection and loss and heartbreak. Every day feels like the world is crashing down on your head and oh god why do I do this to myself?
But. You get to feel all those things. There’s that cliche Jack Kerouac quote, about how the “only people for me are the mad ones” who “burn, burn, burn,” and he’s probably not a great source of advice, being an alcoholic with an overdeveloped sense of ennui and all, but he’s got a point dammit.
Here’s the thing: just like a lot of other good children of my generation I did good in school, did what I loved, graduated, and realized that in order to move out of my parents’ house I would need a job. A good-paying job, not just part time at the local Starbucks, but something fo’ realz. So that’s exactly what I did, I went out and found me a good-paying career, moved into a nice apartment, and lived like a responsible adult. I even liked it. It was like playing a new game called AdultVille, and I was winning at it.
Eight years later, though, and it doesn’t feel like a fun game anymore, it feels like a trap. And money doesn’t seem like freedom now, it feels like responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of things about my life that these choices have given me. I got to go to Africa and Greece, I got to live in San Francisco and Brooklyn, I got to get married to an amazing man. I own a fainting couch and a laptop and a smartphone and I take all of those things for granted on the regular, and they all cost money. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve gotten, so that I get to sit here and complain like a goddamned princess, and I would probably just curl up into the fetal position and let wild dogs eat me if I had to live in a third world country. Boo-fucking-hoo.
At the end of the day, though, it seems like if I have the gift of time and money and a first world lifestyle I should be doing something with it. Every day I do my work and get paid, but I never feel like the universe might tear apart at its seams or that I’m walking a tightrope to disaster, mostly because if disaster struck I wouldn’t care. Not even a little bit.
Because that’s the upside of all that rejection and sacrifice and world-ending: you get those sublime moments of joy. You get to feel goosebumps of excitement, and when you’re exhausted it’s because you’ve given your whole self over to something.
Look, I’m not saying pursuing your passion doesn’t have its boring moments. Its spectacularly, mind-numbingly disappointing moments. And Smash manages to show a bunch of part-time Broadway chorus dancers who live in fabulous apartments and don’t have any problem dancing perpetually in the background. Occasionally there’s a nod to Katherine McPhee working as a waitress, but it’s the kind of job where if she makes it big and leaves for three months there’s still a job waiting for her when she gets back. Hey. No problem. (It’s also the kind of waitressing job that somehow allows her to live comfortably in New York City with a large wardrobe and plenty of time for hanging out with her friends) So TV is far from realistic or perfect.
It’s still got me thinking though. Thinking about how good that felt, to be throwing yourself into something and letting yourself free-fall. To be risking your heart every day.
…Which brings me to this awful, terrible, deeply unfortunate conclusion: I need to live my life more according to Smash. God help me.
Conversations with my husband…
me: If I figured out a way to make our toilet look like a pipe from Super Mario sticking up out of the floor you’d probably divorce me right? I ask only in the name of science.
Justin: Um, no.
Justin: I mean, we’re so not doing that.
me: Backstory: I read a headline that was all “Super Mario Toilet” and I was imagining it was going to be a pipe, maybe with some sort of rigged up flower popping up for the seat, and then it turned out to be this, and I was deeply disappointed…
What not to do when you hit your head on the medicine cabinet:
Remember when it was All Michael Phelps, all the time? He of the giant ears and terrifying jubilation? You probably don’t remember that he had a bff on the team, this other dude who was a pretty okay swimmer himself, but never beat Michael. His name was Ryan Lochte, and it always seemed like they were both able to maintain their friendship because Michael was the better swimmer, but he was so goofy looking that he still didn’t get the girls. And gold medals are great and all, but it’s hard to be all that bitter when you’re the one with the hot girlfriend.
This time around, it would seem the bff is the winner. He’s beating world records! He’s winning gold medals! His ear stay appropriately close to his head! He’s every sports reporter’s wet dream, coming out from behind the shadows of his best friend to beat him hands-down. And yet. And yet. At the beginnings of every race is it Ryan we talk about? Is it Ryan’s mother and sisters given an awkwardly long interview? When he was the one anchoring the relay – and lost within an hair’s breadth, with his fingers reaching as far as they could go to get to the wall first – the first person they turned to was still Michael Phelps. America knows Michael Phelps. They love Michael Phelps. They’ve been mentally prepared for four years to cheer him on to even more ridiculous numbers of medals. And apparently we’re not quite ready to give up on that hero, even if we do have another one who’s been patiently waiting in the wings. And desperately trying to get our attention via embarrassing grills.
Speaking of that silver medal that Lochte, Phelps, and the other dudes won… they were upset about it. Not that I don’t get it; they wanted gold. They got gold last time. The story demanded that they bring in gold. BUT COME ON, GUYS. You won silver. A fucking silver medal at the Olympics. Anyone who tries to tell you that’s not good enough is a douchebag. And since you’re clearly all telling yourselves that’s not good enough… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Back in the day Greece was a hardcore place. Think about it – these guys basically lived on a bunch of rocks. They couldn’t grow anything other than olives, and while that’s pretty swell you can’t exactly live off a diet of nothing but olive oil, no matter how delicious that plan may sound. So they made their livings being mercenaries. Badass mercenaries, in fact. If you wanted to kick some ancient butt, you hired yourself some hoplites. We all know the kind of culture that made – Spartans shoving their kids out the door at the age of seven to learn to kill each other. So it’s hardly surprising that these were not a people who were into the concept of “personal best”. There were no comforting pats on the back if you lost. Hell, traditionally if you came in second place YOUR MOTHER WOULD NEVER SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN.
I love the post-race/vaulting/shooting/speed-walking interviews, and not just because watching people try to remember their media training while also desperately trying to catch their breath is inherently entertaining. It’s because, by and large, these athletes are proud of themselves. Not, like, “It’s an honor just to be nominated,” but deeply, truly proud of themselves. And they’re willing to admit it. Out loud. On national tv. Think about it – that’s pretty amazing.