Friday, January 3, 2014

Still I Think of Him


June 29, 2013

Dear Mister Heartbreaker,

This letter is more for me. I doubt that I will ever send it to you, or that you will ever read these words.

I still think of you every day. I still love you, even from afar, even apart. When I told you I loved you I meant it.

Here's the thing: even though I may have thought you were the perfect guy for me, it didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't the perfect one for you. I wasn't what you wanted. Realizing that doesn't hurt as much as it used to, thank God.

Eighteen years. It's been more than eighteen years since I first met you, eighteen summers since I was so devastated and heartbroken over you during the hot, humid summer in Japan. I will still be thinking of you eighteen years from now when I am 65-years-old.

I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. I'm thinking of you even more this week because of DOMA being repealed.

I'm grateful to be with Domestic Partner still. We will grow old together. I need him. But he's not someone I would marry. More to the point, I am not ideal marriage material. My family does not have a good track record for healthy marriages. So, even if you had wanted to stay together, I wouldn't be the best candidate to be your husband. That would not have been fair to you.

I am not jealous of your partner which is a relief. But I look at him and think I would have been willing to be Mrs. Heartbreaker. I would have been willing to be your silent and supportive partner in all of your endeavors.

And maybe that would not have been fair to me. But I would have done it.

I regret telling you, after the last time I drove out to see your production company perform, that I still see the young man I fell in love with all those years ago. I regret it because I think it caused you to put some distance between us again. You were probably right to do so.

So, I apologize if I've continued to make you feel awkward with me. I'm sorry if any effort to pull you closer to me only made you push me further away.

God, I love you, Mister Heartbreaker. But here's the other thing: in the last seventeen years since we've left Japan, in all my heartache and despair over you, I think I've built you up in my mind as someone that you're truly not in actual life, kind of a fantasy figure. Again, that's not fair to you, not allowing you to be who you really are.

I keep thinking . . . even if our relationship had been given a fair shot, even if we had tried to stay together when we got back home to California . . . maybe we would not have lasted that long? I wanted to be monogamous with you but I wonder if we would have been faithful to each other? I know that at I least I might have ended up cheating on you, with all of the insecurities I felt when I was with you.

I would have messed everything up.

And your cigarettes! I would never date anyone who smokes, ha ha. I could never stay with a smoker. I keep trying to come back to that one fact . . . but still I think of you.

We met at a bad time. I had spent my twenties attempting to be celibate, had spent the majority of that decade in ex-gay ministry. When I met you I was like a junior high school kid discovering boys for the first time, trying to date with a limited emotional skill set - at 29-years-old! Too bad I didn't meet you when I was more mature, emotionally, and less prone to falling head-over-heels so quickly.

My life is good, I have no real problems. If I did, I probably wouldn't dwell on you so much or think of you on a daily basis. So, I am grateful for that. You've become a symbol, a reminder that I have no serious problems to worry about (even being unemployed for the last several months).

I need to change. I need to let you be who you truly are, the Real You. Mister Heartbreaker 2013.

I'm hoping to audition for your production company in a few weeks. Maybe I'll be good enough for you to hire me as one of your performers. Maybe we'll start working together again this fall.

And maybe we'll spend enough time together, as friends and as coworkers, for me to get to know the Current You better.

One-sided as this obsession may be, I love you, Mister Heartbreaker.

I always will.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Catching Up, Two Steps Back

I was unemployed for eleven months. I am now back at California Pizza Kitchen, the one in our neighborhood, a mile away. The "commute" is much more favorable compared to my former fifty mile round trip.

I am very fortunate. Tips have been good and I like my new coworkers. We've been having fun even though I am about twice the age (or more!) of most of the other servers. I like the changes that have happened in the last seven years since I was last with the company, including more casual uniforms (denim jeans and no neckties!).

California Pizza Kitchen had always been my fallback job in the past, whenever I was out of work as a dancer/performer, which was frequent. I had always looked for the first restaurant job available any time I was out of work. I wish I had followed that old instinct instead of applying for unemployment benefits as a handful of people, including Domestic Partner, had recommended.

But if I hadn't received unemployment benefits maybe I wouldn't have enjoyed being in three musicals this past year. Perhaps I wouldn't have signed with a talent agency for commercial and print work this year if I had taken a restaurant job sooner. Who knows? I am choosing to put performing on hold for now, conflicted as that makes me feel, so I can work night shifts and keep my day time free for auditions.

Okay, not really, not completely. I am also going back to working part time for a children's theater company, the Imagination Machine, a group that tours elementary schools. I had worked for them twenty-two years ago! My first show back is in ten days.

So, I feel as though I've taken two giant steps back. I failed in my attempt to be a real adult, although I deliberately avoided exactly that status for a couple of decades, mission accomplished (poor Domestic Partner!). I've been joking that I tried reality but I didn't like it.

It's good to be making regular, consistent income again. I appreciate the fact that I do not have to be at a job forty-five hours a week. I still feel I should figure out how to accomplish some sort of career, maybe get some additional schooling or training - I still have no actual real-world skills! Management training at the restaurant is one option . . . I'm not sure yet if I'll take advantage of that opportunity.

I've enjoyed my year off, my "vacation," but I'm glad it's over. Here's to 2014 and new beginnings, even if they're "old" ones. Happy Sorta' New Year to me, and also to you!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Grandpa Chuck

Grandpa Chuck was a mountain of a man, at least, in my 11-year-old eyes he was. He had a pot belly which, rather than making him look fat, only emphasized his status as an imposing yet gentle authority figure. He was my grandmother's second husband and the primary grandfather figure in my life.

Grandpa Chuck was brave. He had nicked his hand with a knife in the kitchen, once, and there was quite a bit of blood. I was awed and impressed as I watched him pour salt from a round, blue canister into his other hand before pressing it directly into the open wound.

I regret to say that I don't know or remember where Grandpa Chuck was from, originally. But I think he was from the Midwest, maybe. He seemed Midwestern because he was typical of traditional grandfathers from an older generation. He sprinkled salt on his watermelon, which I thought was weird. He took my brother and me fishing, showing us how to impale an earthworm on a hook.

Grandpa Chuck had an amazing tool collection on one side of his garage where he helped me to imprint designs on a leather belt, a craft needed for a Webelos badge. He grew zucchini and other vegetables in the backyard. Near the vegetables were the elevated cages where he raised rabbits. He had only one male rabbit which he gave to me for the asking when our sixth grade wanted to have a class mascot.

He also raised chinchillas for a while, which makes me a little sad to think about now that I know why he was raising them. But as a blissfully unaware 11-year-old I loved going to the middle part of the garage to look at the cute rodents in their stacked cages under the fluorescent lights.

I was surprised to see Grandpa Chuck be vulnerable. I watched this mountain of a man crumble in tears when my grandmother died of a heart attack. This strong, brave, traditional man stood between the dining room table and Grandma's organ and unexpectedly started crying in front of us, the whole family, as a church friend comforted him with hugs.

I haven't seen Grandpa Chuck in over thirty years. After my grandmother died he remarried. Our family get-togethers with him dwindled, being that there were no longer any blood ties. But he remains in my memory as a male role model. Like many "typical men" of his generation, he didn't talk much. But I'll always remember the example he was of a strong man - strong enough to be weak.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Who's Not Your Daddy?

I used to get asked, now and then, if Domestic Partner and I would ever consider adopting a baby. Domestic Partner always disagrees (or doesn't remember) but I would mention how he was the one to bring up the subject, more than once.

"I'm willing to make that commitment," I had told him. "But you have to think about the fact that it's going to be a commitment for twenty to twenty-five years. It won't just be a year or two of having a cute baby."

I asked him to look around the house and picture it covered in laundry and toys. "Oh, no," he countered. "It wouldn't be that bad with just one baby."

"What does your brother's house look like?" I asked.

Domestic Partner has a niece and a nephew. "Oh, yeah," he admitted.

"Your clean and tidy house would be history," I continued. "All of the nice things you have out now would have to be stored away if you don't want them broken. I imagine you never feel caught up on housework, once you become a parent, especially a working parent."

I also asked him to consider the fact that I would only work part time, if at all. I would be the Mom figure if we adopted one or more children. I would be the one driving kids to soccer practice and dance classes. I would be the PTA parent. I would have to learn how to cook and clean better.

I would also have a perpetual pot of coffee ready, 24/7. I think about BFF Kathy staying up later than her husband and kids - the only time where she can get a few minutes to herself to do things such as read - and getting up in the morning before everyone else. I know I would be tired all of the time, as a parent, but I would do it. You do what you have to do.

Domestic Partner made me really angry during a discussion a few years ago. He didn't think I could make the necessary sacrifices in my own life to become a parent. I guess he meant my selfish desire to perform, to sing and dance in shows. I argued that he should know how nurturing I can be from how I treated his dog when I first met him, although I'm going to guess that caring for dogs cannot be compared to the daily care of actual human children.

I didn't argue further. I was still mad but we had already decided by then that we were not going to adopt. There was no point in fighting about it, seething as I was at the time.

Domestic Partner is seven years older than me. I had asked him to think about how old we were going to be by the time an adopted child was college-age, or finally old enough to move out of the house, even if we adopted a child who was in grade school.

So, it never happened. We decided to continue adopting surrogate kids instead, the canine and feline varieties.

I used to think a lot about being a parent when I was in my teens and my twenties. I used to make plans about how I was going to raise them, how I was going to demonstrate love to them, and make them feel safe. During my thirties I realized that part of my desire to become a parent was to compensate for what I felt was neglected in my own upbringing. Once that realization surfaced, the desire to become a parent decreased significantly.

But I still think about it sometimes. I hope I would have had the patience to be a parent, even if I didn't always have the energy. I sincerely think I would have been able to give up what I need to, put my life and goals on hold, and put my family's needs before my own. I would have tried to be a fun parent, dancing and singing with my children in the house while they were growing up. I would have probably ended up being that Embarrassing Parent as they got older, so maybe it's better that we didn't adopt.

Still, if I hadn't met Domestic Partner, I could have dated a divorced dad with kids. I could have become the evil step-monster.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How I Spent My 48th Summer

Earlier this year I took Miss Jay's on-camera commercial workshop. I knew I was getting my money's worth when I recognized one of the classmates from a Nationwide commercial. I was actually the most inexperienced in our class of eight, having no film or television credits to my name, but I didn't mind being the beginner. It was a good workshop.

Miss Jay turned out to be the real deal. I decided to sign up for her second package where she works one-on-one with her clients to find a commercial agent. Miss Jay knows what she's doing. She is meticulous about details and very business-professional. Plus, she's been doing this for a few years (She's on a current back-to-school commercial that has been airing every day this month).

The process to actually start looking for an agent took longer than I had expected. I wanted to do everything right, as much as possible, so I was willing to wait. And Miss Jay's objective view of my "look" and how to market me turned out to be gold. Once I submitted my new headshots I started receiving responses within the first twenty-four hours.

Holy crap! Why did I wait so long in life to attempt this?

I had a few meetings with talent agencies this past week. They all told me the same thing: They need my look. They're all getting calls for older Asian males. One even told me that they have trouble finding older Asian males that can speak English without an accent.

Really? I find that hard to believe, knowing the competition that's out there, at least for musical theater.

I have a few more meetings with other talent agents this week. I feel like such a novice - again. So I'm a little nervous about making the right choice. I'm also anxious to get started. I'm hoping for beginner's luck.

I'm not so concerned about becoming famous as I am about finding gainful employment after being terminated last year. Fun gainful employment. I was also fired from Disneyland in the 80's. A few months after that I was hired for my first theater job, dancing and singing on stage, and for better pay. Getting fired turned out to be the best thing that ever happened back then.

It's a pattern I'm hoping to repeat this year but on the small screen. Fingers crossed!

The photo above was Miss Jay's first choice to submit to agencies, which worked like a charm! I am grateful for her expertise.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Old Man and the Cheese Sandwich

We still used the word "hobo" when I was a boy, instead of the word "homeless." Neither word seemed to apply to the old man sitting in the public laundry room. He just seemed out of place in his white robe and simple head covering. Only English-speaking Americans lived in our new apartment complex, as far as I knew. I was seven. My father taught English as a Second Language, and we had just moved to Saudi Arabia.

The old man wasn't scary-looking. I don't remember whether or not he made my mother feel nervous. He was probably just looking for a shady place to rest. His robe looked light, airy, and comfortable: ideal clothing in the oppressive desert heat. The white cloth on his head was shorter than what most civilians wore in the city. There were no black rings to anchor his head covering in place as I had seen other Arab men wear.

His beard and mustache were also white, both neatly trimmed. He didn't seem poor, exactly, just from a different era. He was like my great-grandmother in Japan, who still wore yukata robes and sandals on a daily basis, rather than adapt to western slacks and hard-soled shoes.

Did he speak to my mother, ask her for something? I can't remember. I doubt that he would have spoken much English, and we had not learned any Arabic yet. My mother went into the kitchen and unwrapped a thin square of cheese which she placed between two slices of bread. The old man accepted the sandwich silently and graciously.

We never saw him again, but I have never forgotten my mother's quiet, simple act of kindness.

Friday, June 7, 2013

I Am the Girl in the Splits

There was a time when I believed I would never be able to do it. My body just wasn't shaped right. I would never be able to do wide second splits in dance class, no matter how much I trained. I was forever doomed to be merely hunched over, with my legs spread out and my back curved, hovering pathetically several inches above the floor. I didn't think I could ever "pancake" my upper body flat on the floor the way my dance teacher and some of the women could.

As I got older and started lifting weights more, I learned to use my increased body temperature and warm muscles to increase my flexibility. Certain weight lifting exercises put significant stress on the lower back (and no, I don't wear a weight belt). So, wide second stretches turned out to be a great way to relax the lower back and calm my strenuous breathing.

There was also a time when I was embarrassed to do dance stretches on the weight floor, especially dropping down to touch my toes for a hamstring stretch - as if I was "presenting" to anyone behind me. I had written about that before, when I had first started blogging. Funny how writing about certain fears and insecurities helps to diminish them, once you see it in print.

"Live here," I tell myself while in certain stretch poses. Not forever, just for now, just to give myself some patience to take enough time and stretch slowly. I would picture the girl from the 1980 movie, "Fame" (pictured above), the one who was effortlessly in the same warm up stretch during the dance audition scene. She was relaxed and casual, and so flexible that she could prop her elbows on the floor. I wanted to be like her.

Going to the gym regularly has taught me that it helps to pretend to be other people when I am feeling too weak or limited. Lat pulls are especially hard for me, but I've gotten better at them by pretending that I am Jackie Chan or Jet Li. In certain Pilates poses and exercises, I am Jane Fonda from the 80's. (Have you seen her lately? I'll take being Jane Fonda from this decade!)

I will always have role models, it seems, no matter how old I get. When I feel discouraged, when "being Peter Varvel" isn't good enough, I put on a persona, someone who inspires me, whether they're real or imagined. Just for now, until I can absorb it enough to feel better about myself.

I'm putting on costumes, playing different characters, even when I'm not on stage.