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Musing #6: Beauty (or How Barbra Streisand Ruined My Youth)

Writing this post is extremely painful for me.

The comments I’m about to make pertain to the defining issue of my life. I cannot believe I’m about to discuss this in a public forum. I know I will regret it. But (as I mentioned in Musing #4) all the writers on this site are posting reactions to “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat” by Kasey Edwards. So, here’s mine…

I am tiny. I do not struggle with fatness. Weight is only an issue in my life because other people make it so. Whether it be rude Facebook comments from FAMILY(!) on my eating habits, snarky remarks from ignored construction workers/homeless dudes or subtle, dirty looks from fellow chicks, I endure near-daily psychological abuse over my not-weight-problem. Always have.

It is politically incorrect in this society NOT to struggle with weight. If you don’t have the problem, you’re part of the problem. That’s how we end up with monstrously offensive titles like REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES [2002].

If “real” women have curves, I guess I’m an aardvark.

Photo: Aardvark sniffing the ground

Skinny girls aren’t allowed to have opinions on weight, and it’s well within the bounds of “propriety” for fellow chicks to blatantly insult them. (“Uch, you make me sick. Go eat a sandwich.”/”Skinny bitch.”/”Real women have curves.”/etc.)

But crack a fat joke, and you’re a terrible person.

It’s a sickening double standard, and it makes me angry at the world. But, in the realm of bodily self-image, one thing makes me even angrier: my face.

My goddamn face.

So, instead of writing about weight issues passed down from mother to daughter, I’m going to talk about face issues passed down through generations of Hollywood. For me, that story begins with the face below…

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m554x8fSyV1rw3fqbo1_1280.jpg

…a face that has caused me inordinate pain.

How many times have you been told you’re ugly? (A tweet from Amanda Bynes doesn’t count.) It’s got to have happened at some point to at least 50% of the population. Of those, say 50% of us endure it on a regular basis. I hail from a smaller swath of the oft-reminded quarter; one that willingly endures the reminder as the self-inflicted reality of a dream.

I’m talking about actors, for whom it is NOT superficial to be concerned with such things. (Again, Bynes doesn’t count. She’s just…beyond.)

I know I did this to myself, and I can’t help having always been an actor. That’s just who/what I am. The beauty garbage comes with the territory, so bring it on. I accepted that burden long ago. And by the actor’s standard of beauty, I agree with the industry that I’m ugly.

Such is the premise on which the rest of this essay is based. If you want PC bullshit about how everyone is beautiful, stop reading now. I’m talking about my damn livelihood here, not your experience with “beauty” in your life.

This is business.

And this is a blog about an artist’s real struggle, not about some utopia wherein everyone loves each other. If you can accept that this is the painful truth of an actor’s psychological torment and judge the following words on those merits, read on. Otherwise, don’t ever read another word I publish. Seriously. You’ll hate my guts. (If you don’t already.)

Phew! Glad we’ve gotten the PC bullshit out of the way. And now, back to reality

You might have noticed that you’ve never heard of me. That’s at least partially because I have the curious experience of being told (frequently) by agents who allegedly “love [my] work” that I’m “not ugly enough to be ugly, and not pretty enough to be pretty,” therefore “uncastable until [my] body catches up to [my] face.”

Charming, those agents, don’t you find?

Apparently, I’m going to “work all the time in [my] 40s.” But, until my chassis has the decency to age like fine wine, I’m saddled with “the body of an Ingénue and the face of a character actor.”

No one seems to care that I am a character actor.

Doesn’t someone need to play the bitchy, non-bombshell best friend? Why should a skinny body be a problem? If I were fat, would I warrant representation? I can deal with being industry-standard ugly. I cannot deal with the industry writing me off because it doesn’t think I get the industry reality of myself.

Such is the dilemma in which I find the actor aspect of myself. (I’m also, obviously, a writer.) It’s absurd and maddening. And painful.

“Tell me about Babs already!” says you.

I have put off “facing” the dreaded operative word with all this exposition, because I’m still trying to summon Senhor Testiculo and actually go there. It’s just that hard for me.

Alright then.

OK, good. He’s with me. (This story has nothing to do with testicular cancer. I’m just trying to lighten the mood for all of us, here. Especially for myself. And Mr. Balls is a friggin’ riot.)

If not now, when? (Deep digital breath.) Here goes nothin’…

NOSE!

I was incapable of speaking (or writing) that word until I was 20. To use it was to draw attention to it. I couldn’t even bear to be in a room where someone else used it. Fled countless rooms over that damn word in my youth.

Until sixth grade, no one had ever made explicit reference to the horror protruding from my face. (At least, not to my face.) The schmuck who broke the mold on that one was a notoriously cruel (I would even submit, psychotic) seventh-grade boy.

Every day for years prior to the schmuck moment, I had struggled to delude myself that I was the only one who noticed. This asshole took it upon himself to assure me that everyone noticed. When he served up the phrase “huge schnoz,” my stomach sank into my shoes. (I can still feel it.) And the coup de grâce was a dig at my ugly-girl dream of the screen.

This was a very small private Jewish day school. The schmuck was a fellow Jew. That made the comment sting even harder than it would have coming from a gentile. We are not supposed to do that to each other. It emboldens the REAL haters. (Sound familiar, ladies?) But I was a walking stereotype, and so I was treated like one. Even by my own people.

The schmuck wasn’t the last Jew to go there with me. Nor was he really the first. In truth, that distinction belongs to old ladies at the synagogue.

Which brings me, at last, to Babs…

I’m an acid-tongued, aardvark-nosed Jew-girl with a dream of the screen. It happens that I’m also a classically-trained, big-belting alto.

Right.

You can, no doubt, picture the little old ladies pinching my cheeks after a solo and extolling my virtues as a budding Barbra Streisand. It’s probably harder to imagine elementary Stacy lashing back at those sweet old ladies with her go-to retort:

You know, you could have said Linda Ronstadt! You could have said Chita Rivera or Judy Garland! You’re talking about my FACE, not my VOICE!!!

And then I’d flee the room from collective shock and awe.

Yup! More vintage Bat-Shit Stacy.

I need to wrap this up before it’s no longer Friday, so I’m splitting this essay in half.

Tune in next week for further comments on my arguably irrational war with Babs (and how she has broken zero glass ceilings for “ugly” actors)…and the story of what changed when I was 20: Musing #7: Stacy, Plain and Short (or How Glenn Close Saved Me from Babs).

Until then, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Stacy

2 comments

  1. I was 8 and in summer camp the first time I was told I had a big nose. I was 18 when I had plastic surgery to fix it. Up until then, the word nose was the worst 4 letter word I could think of.

    • Thank you, infinitely, for saying that. It wasn’t easy to put those feelings out there, but you just proved it was worth doing. And I shall continue! :)

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