beauty, Life in General, makeup, men, Shakespeare

Skipping Middle Age

 

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older and softer

Recently I posted a picture of myself with no make up or photo shop tricks, and a fan from my movie days commented, “Wow! You look so different.”

Really? I look different than I did thirty-five years ago after teams (meaning multiple people in each) of hair and wardrobe and makeup and lighting and camera experts worked on me for hours to get that perfect shot?

Shocker.

Now, I don’t think he meant it meanly, but it gave me pause. Should I be insulted? No, because he’s absolutely right. Should I be amused? Oh yeah, because it feels much better (and is much smarter) than feeling hurt and indignant for denying the superior forces of gravity, time, and ‘nature’s changing course, untrimmed,’ as young Will would have put it in a sonnet.

Face it. Or should I say, Wrinkly face it. I look different and you will too.

Because it goes like this—and really quickly by the way.

You’re young, you’re naïve enough to get away with stupid mistakes, (live and learn, you shrug as you laugh off getting called out for pretending to be an expert on some shit that turns out to be some stranger’s dead wrong opinion you overheard in a coffee shop) you’re healthy, you’re gorgeous…

and then you aren’t.

Why stretch that excruciating transition out over thirty or forty years? Why torture yourself by denying the inevitable? Why beat yourself up at every one of those learning curves? All those middle aged ‘firsts’ that smack you upside the head because you were actually delusional enough to think you were going to be young and cool forever.

I’m talking about firsts like:

The first time you realize that cute guy or girl doesn’t just not notice you, they don’t even see you.

The first time you go to your doctor and instead of offering solutions, she just says, “These things happen as you age.”

The first time you get that AARP packet, (and it won’t be your last, those people are ruthless!)

The first time you realize you’d rather sit your ass down and watch kids play instead of challenging them to a race across the monkey bars. (Although I do still love a good playground!)

The first time you meet a twenty-year old who says you remind her of her grandmother. Her grandmother! And you realize you could easily be.

Take some advice from 56 year old who had a really good run in the young and stupid years, and who is now happier than any other time by a factor of at least 10.

Ready? Now focus because this is profound, I mean this is some seriously deep shit. Here it is.

When you get to about 40 say, “Fuck it. I’m old.”

Skip all that bemoaning and worrying, and suffering for the loss of your figure, hair, mind, sexual attraction, ability to blame your youth for your ignorance and/or bad behavior, and being able to read anything smaller than the top line of an eye chart in noon sunshine. And you get to enjoy all this while you gain weight, forgetfulness, jowls, and wrinkles that look like a compressed trail map of Yellowstone National Park complete with accurate topography. And let me tell you, if you’ve never hiked Yellowstone, there are thousands of criss-crossing trails, glacial ridges, mountains, valleys, and not a few geysers.

Brace yourself baby. Your ego is going to take a hit.

You used to eat spicy food, now you can’t. You used to drink all the tequila you wanted and bound out of bed the next day. (Can I get a white wine spritzer?) You used to be able to wear a bikini with pride, now it takes a certain amount of denial verging on belligerence, or at the very least a tankini.

Prescriptions take the place of most recreational drugs. (Notice the use of ‘most’ wink wink. CBDs rock for menopause and arthritis!)

For some unknown reason, you will need to blow your nose all the time. Sure, I had the same problem when I was 18 and 19, but when you snort a gram or two of cocaine every day that can happen. Now, the only white powder I use on a regular basis is Dr. Scholl’s moisture absorbent foot powder.

Dancing until two was an every night occurrence. I’m still up every night at 2 am, but now it’s to go pee.

You have to be on LSD to pretend you are still 29 and expect other people to buy into it. Your thought process there approaches the hallucinatory and the odds are strong that it will be a bad trip.

Let’s look at this from another angle. I’ve always been mystified why women lie and say they are younger than they are. The logic is lost on me. If you are, say, 50, and you lie and say you are 42, you risk people thinking, “Damn, she is not aging well at all!” The best you can hope for is someone complimenting your plastic surgeon. But if you are 50, but tell people you are 59, it’s far more likely someone will think and even say, “Wow! She looks fantastic!” Of course the unspoken finish to that comment is, ‘for her age.’ I mean, if what you’re worried about at my age is people notice that you’re aging—which translates, let’s be honest, to being vain—then you need to think this mo-fo through.

What are you grieving? Oh no, boo hoo, as you age you’ll loose the leering, sleazy admiration of jerks who think you exist solely for their sexual gratification. How ever will you survive the loss? “Alas I confront the gaping void! Such tragedy befalls me! Oh woe, calamity, the end of all I hold dear! Darkness descends, beauty fades and my worth is ended!”

Can we just take a moment of silence for your mental sanity, and your values?

Of course that’s what we get as a country for equating youth with beauty and beauty with happiness.

Talk about setting yourself up.

The moral of the story is; get the f’ over yourself. You are going to age, and as you do so you will begin to disappear more and more in the eyes of youth and a societal ethics you helped to create by valuing your own youth and beauty above things of actual importance. Will you panic and cling to the illusion that you can stop the clock? Or will you relax and enjoy the easy fall into shorter walks and birthday cakes that increasingly resemble burning man less the fun drugs and nudity? What is your option to aging? I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

Got it? Yes, the option is death. And whether you take the longer way or the express, your ticket disembarks at the same destination, so you might as well enjoy the ride.

You get to choose when you make your wish. Will you use that flame to set yourself on fire and end the shame of, dare I speak the word, unattractiveness? Or will you use the light of experience, of years, to be enlightened?

Is there an up side to living to be less physically attractive? What can we learn from all these bonus years on the planet?

Lots. You don’t have to impress anybody, and you learn to be fine with that.

You learn to say, “I don’t know,” and be fine with that.

You learn to be fine, in a completely different way.

You get to be who you are.

Finally, at long last,

You can be who you want to be.

Hello old friend!

Oh, it’s me.

 

Shari, August 19, 2017

 

 

acting, Entertainment, film, makeup, mental illness, movies, New Novels, schizophrenia

Sometimes I Scare Myself.

Not my best day. photo by John Dlugolecki

This image of me is a work of art featuring makeup by an incredible artist named Devan Weitzman.  I realized when I looked at this picture, how my priorities have changed over the last trio of decades, and all I have to say is…what a relief!

I spent my teen years as a competitive ice skater, so I understood that hard work, and artistic ability were things that fulfilled me, that moved and motivated me. But then the day came when modeling, and then commercials, became my bread and butter, my entire value was suddenly based on how I looked, not necessarily by me, but by the people with whom I worked. In that business, it was a somewhat understandable—if horrible—place to have your self-worth centered. I remember how important it was to always look ‘sexy’ and ‘attractive.’ I was proud to be the one on the cover of the magazines, on the billboard, or the one who turned heads when I walked through a restaurant. I was proud, because it’s all I had to be proud of then. Without realizing it, I became more and more discontent, distressed, and unfulfilled. But, of course, since I had what others wanted, I was not allowed to express any unhappiness. I didn’t even understand that I was unhappy, and certainly not why.

And then I went on a remarkable photo shoot.

There was a model in Atlanta, I cannot remember her name! because she was a few years ahead of me. When I was starting out, she was winding down. I’d heard about her, and seen her picture everywhere, but we had never worked together. Then one day we were booked to do a swimwear ad featuring us on a bicycle built for two. We shot together, and then each had a turn alone. I was so interested, (and yes, invidiously so) to see why everyone thought she was so great. I was ‘a model with a brain’ so I was well known for using the area, theme, space, movement, and being creative, but I always, of course, focused on looking ‘good.’ So I took my turn and then she was up. I stood in the dark behind the photographer to watch and learn, like the Chinese stealing trade secrets.

She did a few shots of standard smiling or pouting poses and then she did something that shocked me. She pretended to have slipped and hit her crotch on the cross bar, and she did this ugly, ugly, pained face.

And it was fabulous!! In that silly moment, I realized that there was so much more to being a contributing talent than just looking ‘good.’ It was clear to me that because she was less inhibited, she was just plain better at it than me!

Now, no one’s ever accused me of being inhibited, mind you, that was just a step up to being able to see the value of being a character, instead of a face/body.   A realization, in fact, that ‘unattractive’ could be brilliant!! That producing something from the inside out was far more rewarding. And—here’s the secret—It’s much more fun!!! When I came to LA, I deliberately worked on characters in class like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, or one of the witches from Macbeth. And it was really terrifying for me, as it would be for so many women and girls who equate ‘ugly’ with bad. We who were told when we raised our voices, or argued with authority, that we were ‘acting ugly.’ And God forbid we were deemed unattractive by a society that worships beauty.

Taking my ‘ugly’ characters out in public showed me how differently people treated me, though i was the same person inside, and that inspired me to write “Invisible Ellen.”

Thankfully, things are changing, women are increasingly being valued for who they are and what they do, but we have a long way to go. And girls, you all need to get on board! Don’t let men make you compete with yourself or others, and instead of tearing other women down, build them up!! Root for them, cheer for them, chant their name as they go in on the same audition as you are! After all, we’re all on the same team, and isn’t it great to celebrate a thousand victories than to hoard a few of your own and resent everyone else’s?

Theater and acting helped me change my center of self-worth. I was desperate for substance and creativity as opposed to surface appearance. I learned to work in a company, a group, be a part of a whole, and be proud of my talent and hard work instead of my blonde hair and athletic body. I got my worth back.

And now, full circle. In “Scream at the Devil” I play a schizophrenic who is anything but concerned about her looks. She recedes into madness until she’s terrified by every sound and flash of light, and that is what’s important.

“Scream at the Devil” opens Oct 24th at the North Hollywood Laemmle, and plays through Halloween. If you want to check out the theatre page and watch the trailer to see just how far down I can get, here you go— http://www.laemmle.com/films/38650

This character and her pain aren’t pretty, and that’s why I’m so proud of it.

And now I am happy.

Shari, October 9th, 2014

Acting & Experiences, Entertainment, Life in General, makeup

Creating the Mood.

Image

That’s me and makeup artist extraordinaire, Patti Denney, who is making me look beat all to hell. And I love her for it! She’s so good that the bruises actually hurt when I look at them. Patti did my makeup for 3 years on Y&R and she’s still there, head of the makeup and hair department, so I was fortunate to lure her away for this shoot. I was also glad to reconnect with such a loving and wonderful woman.

The end result will be the poster-‘one sheet’ for the movie “Scream at the Devil,” shooting in February-March. The poster will be me, disheveled and evil, with an image of the Devil over my shoulder with his giant arms wrapped around me.

But to get there, I’m standing naked in a small studio in Burbank, trying to remember how to hold my own body so that the CGI artist can place the scaly limbs strategically around me. It’s awkward, and I’m so grateful that the only people there are Patti, my husband, and the photographer, John Dlugolecki, who is a long time friend. These basic shots are never to be seen on their own, only as finished composites, so trust is a big issue here.

There are several factors that are important in creating this kind of image. First, we must remember that any shoot, movie, photo session, etc, is the product of many people sharing and expressing their mutual talent. In this case, my husband, who is the brain trust behind the film and the image, the photographer, who must light in such a way that the photo can be easily worked with as well as capture just the right image with maximum impact, the makeup artist, without whom, we would all be far less, uh, watchable, the CGI artist, John Eddings who will create and insert the Devil himself, and finally, me, who must emote the correct feeling and make the image play.

It’s a group effort, as you can see. And it’s fun to be a part of it.

Of course, that still leaves me naked on a white backdrop. Trust is a huge issue. These images will never be seen individually, only as a part of a composite artwork. Still…I’m a mom! So I’m really grateful to be working with these special, talented people who understand and respect the process.

Choosing how a movie character will be brought to life is always a group decision. First, the writer creates the character, then the director and casting director choose a person to play that part. Next the hair and makeup and wardrobe and art department all step in for input. The art director will select and create an overall look for the film, colors, motif, setting, etc. The Gaffer will set the mood with lighting and depth, the Director of Photography will decide on angles and how best to portray the story,( I equate this job to a theatre director creating stage picture, both inform the audience what to look at, focus on). Next, makeup and hair do everything from making us more beautiful to horribly ghastly. A good makeup artist helps with everything from red-rimmed eyes from weeping to aging bruises; red at first, turning purple on day two, to yellowed and green in subsequent days. Amazing really. And then there’s the post production team, that can do anything from making me cry blood to walls breathing. I can’t even tell you how important editing, sound design and music are, but I’ll try, a bit later.

I’ve always been in awe of the conglomerate of talent on any film, theatre or television production. What has alway angered and frustrated me is when actors or sometimes directors seem to have the attitude that their job is not only the most important one, but the only one that matters.

I’m calling BS. Sorry guys. Try making a film by yourself and see how that works out for you. No camera? No script? No lighting? No sound? Ooh, you’re not so good looking and talented now are you? Hard to impress others when you don’t have a project to be in, I would think.

And moving on to the good-looking aspect. One of the best things I ever did for myself as an actor was learn to look ugly. I mean this in two ways, physically, and emotionally. Being raised in the south by very cultured parents, ‘ugly’ was a term for ‘behaving badly’ and was decidedly unattractive and discouraged. Fast forward to a scene where I have to be a total bitch, yikes, hard to access, my upbringing is telling me ‘don’t go there! Be nice!’ Conversely, after modeling for years, being physically attractive was how I earned a living, so being ugly was scary, scary. Especially in a society that so highly values youth and beauty, mistakenly, I believe.

So what did I do? I went to a scene study class and worked and worked on playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame until I was slack jawed, drooling and dragging a half-paralyzed body across the stage.

The result? My fellow students just plain liked me more. Weird right? But it makes sense. They respected my choice, and saw me as more than the ‘blonde’ chic in the class and I was accepted as someone who truly wanted to act, not just be famous or glamorous. To me, that’s the point.

Rejoice! Worth from the inside, instead of out. I fell in love with it.

As a writer, I think that process helped me flesh out my characters more. I can easily resist the inclination to make a ‘good’ character sappy or one-note. Everyone has good and bad in them, and finding and isolating those traits is like a treasure hunt for me. I can let even my heroine behave ‘ugly’ because she gets in bad moods too, or resents being pre-judged by others, or is just plain pissed off. And as for the bad characters, well, I can go so much deeper if I’m not afraid of the dark.

This initial photo shoot is just a beginning. But it’s exciting to get started, and it will be fun to share the process as well as the finished result.  But bear with me, making a film or writing a book are not quick fixes. They are long, arduous processes, filled with cold days on sets, hair pulling during plotting and edits, and frustrating hours on the phone with distributors and agents or lawyers. It can be hard and lonely, so I welcome you on this journey. It’s like having a travel buddy. Thanks!

I hope your days are filled with creative endeavors that fulfill you. It might be a long project like a screenplay or a painting, or it might be baking a birthday cake for a friend or painting a wall in your house a color that speaks to you and your guests. It might even be placing a single flower in a windowsill so that the sunlight hits it just right. Creativity brings the soul joy, and it can be a very simple act, or a lifelong pursuit.

Whatever it is, may it fill you will wonder.

Shari, October 31, 2012