Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Behind The Times

This week I auditioned for the role of a milkmaid.

You’d think that blog would just write itself but actually it was surprisingly uneventful.

The only thing worth mentioning is that my commercial agent called me and told me I should wear “my milkmaid outfit” to the audition.

ME: My milkmaid outfit? I don’t think I have one of those.

HIM: Oh. You were never a milkmaid for Halloween or something?

ME: Um – no. What would make you think that?

HIM: I don’t know. Just that you’re from North Dakota…and you probably have one…and stuff.

I hung up feeling like I should send him the Wikipedia article about North Dakota and highlight the part describing when electricity was introduced to the state.

Sometimes I’m convinced that people assume just because I’m from North Dakota I’m behind the times. Essentially unhip. Lacking some kind of cool factor that every other kid is born with.

I thought about that as I headed to the ‘hip’ capital of Los Angeles – Silverlake – to listen to a super-cool new band for my friend, Lydia’s, birthday.

I was cool! I was with the times! I was wearing the right clothes and knew the right bands!

I did not own a milkmaid outfit!

My friend Noah rode with me and we met two of my other friends, Katie and Kristen, at the venue.

I walked in determined to be the hippest I’d ever been in my life. I was going to show those LA hipsters that I could be just as cool as them.

I got my drink and planted myself directly in the middle of the crowd. The “sweet spot,” as the birthday girl told me, where the sound was going to be the best.

I was ready. I was ready to look hip, sipping a hip drink, listening to a hip band.

I looked up eagerly as the they began to play.

This was going to be so good!!

Suddenly, the band’s “sound” shot out of the speakers and began its violent assault on my eardrums.

I felt like they were playing right next to me with the express purpose of trying to make my ears bleed.

I gritted my teeth and smiled.

No! It is NOT cool to move to the back of the room, curl up into a ball, and whimper. You can do this. YOU WILL BE HIP.

But slowly I realized that I couldn’t handle it. That my looking cool was not as important as my being able to hear.

And by “hear” I mean ever again.

Like, EVER.

I looked at Noah and Katie and they were wearing an expression similar to mine.

Without speaking (because it was impossible) we moved further and further back until we were pressed up against the back of the room.

Katie ripped up pieces of paper, which we rolled up and put in our ears.

At this point I was still trying to hang on to a scrap of being cool. I tried to shove the paper far into my ears so no one would see it.

I glanced at the other two and gave a thumbs-up.

But to be honest, the paper wasn’t working. The band was so loud I started to become concerned that my head might actually explode.

Finally, I sacrificed what little cool I had left.

I pulled the paper out , sat down, and plugged my ears with my fingers.


I did that.

In a super-cool club in one of the hippest areas of Los Angeles.

I looked like I was an eight-year-old girl refusing to listen to her mother but I didn’t care.

Being hip was not worth never being able to have a conversation that didn’t include the word, “WHAT?”

The band finally, MERCIFULLY, ended.

I felt like I might vomit.

Noah and I left shortly after and as we stepped outside he noted that it sounded like we were underwater.

What???” I yelled at him.

I looked over and started to talk much louder than was probably appropriate.

I feel like I’m eighty-years-old. I’m so not cool.

Noah looked like he hadn’t quite heard me.

Jessica, you are not un-cool just because you value one of your five senses.

He had a point.

I did enjoy hearing things.

And I like other hip things like…cake.

Cake is hip, right?

And to be honest, there are some ‘cool’ things I just refuse to take part in.

Like cocaine.

And jeggings.

And that’s okay with me. I think being super-cool is overrated.

In fact, excuse me while I go scrounge up a milkmaid outfit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Sometimes I feel like my friends are leaving me behind.

Their lives seem to be perpetually moving forward with marriages and house-buying and babies.

And I’m still here. In my little apartment trying to buy food.

My conversations lately have gone like this:

“So, friend, what have you been up to?”

“Oh, you know. I got married and we just bought that house and, oh by the way I’m bringing life into the world – no biggie. What’s up with you?”

“Oh. Umm – well…I bought some bread yesterday.”

I hang up always feeling a little low.

And I hate myself for it.

I’m a determined, career driven, big-city girl. I’m single and proud and strong!

But sometimes I can feel my country-girl heart crying out for what all my friends back home have.

It’s probably not very feminist of me to say I feel that way and I’m not under any illusions that I’m old. But time is passing more quickly than I’d like. And sometimes I want it to just stop.

Stop and slow down and give me time to have both.

To give me the reassurance that I am not going to have to sacrifice one for the other.

That it is possible to have everything you want.

That’s probably why I’m so obsessed with Book Club. It’s like my baby. Or my marriage. Or my new house.

It’s my something that I’ve spent time and money and no sleep on.

I just want it to work so badly.

Because I want to stop saying that I just bought bread.

I want to start saying that I paid a cast and produced a show and people loved it.

Because those things make me feel like I’m moving forward. Like I’m going somewhere. Maybe it’s not having a baby or buying a house – but it’s putting something out there.

Contributing to the world.

Being brave enough to take a chance on myself.

And if that’s not moving forward I don’t know what is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day Job

I want to quit my day job.

Wait. Let me rephrase that.

I want to quit my day JOBS. (I have three of them.)

Sometimes, when I’m serving dinner to someone who won’t even look me in the eye or trying to sympathize with a pregnant woman at the maternity store that just doesn’t know how she’s going to fit a baby into her Gucci-filled lifestyle, I feel an anger that is so sudden and so violent it surprises me.

It’s like a rage of fire that’s trying to work it’s way up through my esophagus and threatens to consume the poor, unassuming, rich person I’m trying to be nice to.

The closest I’ve ever come to letting the anger overtake me happened last week.

I was at my serving job and did not want to be there. My very first table included a young girl, a sullen teenager, and an older father figure. I walked up to the table and smiled.

Hi! Welcome! I’m –

But before I could say anymore the older man interrupted me and without looking my way, barked.

Can I have a menu?!

I stopped my cheery little speech and just stared at him. I mean, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’ve been interrupted before.

But suddenly all the mean and disrespectful things anyone ever said to me boiled up to the surface.

Like the time I asked a man what he would like for dessert and he replied, “How about you jumping out of a cake.”

Or the time someone brushed my ass and said, “Thank you, sweet thing.”

Or when someone wrote on the Internet that I was the worst server they had ever had (after I had been nothing but nice to them.)

I was tired of it. And this man – with his stupid menu and his rude request – had sent me over the edge.

The table realized I had stopped talking and they stared at me, unsure of what to do.

I started to wonder how long I could remain silent until they would say something.

I also started to wonder if I could unhinge my jaw and eat them.

I was outraged that this man didn’t know immediately upon looking at me that I was a valuable member of society.

That I had dreams and goals.

That I was the kind of person worth not interrupting.

But of course, he didn’t.

I noticed the table getting extremely uncomfortable.

And so I broke the uncomfortable silence and said – pointedly – I SAID, MY NAME IS JESSICA AND I AM GOING TO BE YOUR SERVER.

In other words:

My name is your worst nightmare and if you interrupt me again I will spit in your food, steal your credit card number, and give you regular coffee when you ask for decaf.

And something changed. The table smiled and I saw something pass over all three of their faces.

It was an expression I rarely see in the service industry.


When they left, they tipped me 30%.

Probably out of fear.

I mean – respect.

Sometimes it’s hard working at a million jobs you don’t necessarily like to try and be successful at one you do.

But every day I walk into that restaurant I always think – this might be the last day I’m here.

And also – maybe I’ll get free food tonight.

And those two things keep me going.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Boo Hoo

I’ve always wanted to be a “Serious” actor.

When I was six-years-old I had the solo in our Elementary Christmas concert (yes, Christmas – North Dakota doesn’t follow the rules of political correctness.)

I had beat out Jenny Clarys fair and square for the part when our music teacher pulled my name out of a hat – not hers. First grade is cruel. (Little did I know that was a pretty good indicator on how they cast things in Hollywood.)

I prepared for the role with seriousness. I was sure people were going to be impressed with my brilliant interpretation.

Our song was a cute, six-year-old-appropriate tune about kids riding a sleigh and falling off until there was only one child left. I was that child.

Clearly, this was going to change lives.

It came at the end, was set to the tune of “Shave and A Haircut,” and went a little something like this:

Nobody left. Boo-hoo.


Are you weeping from being overwhelmed by brilliance?

Well, pull yourself together.

The big night came and I was ready. I wore my nicest dress, my glasses were polished, and my hair was pulled back with a giant bow.

The Kindergartners were the first to perform.

I scoffed at their childish rendition of “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” and resisted the urge to boo.

I glance over at the audience. They were clearly not prepared for the brilliance I was going to bring to this auditorium. A standing ovation was sure to follow.

We approached the stage and I took my place in the dead center.

The song moved along quickly and I was ready. I wasn’t even nervous. I knew I was going to bring the house down.

Finally, it was just me.

I heard my lead-in notes, stepped up to the microphone, and with all the pain, despair, and longing my six-year-old self could muster, sang my little heart out.

Nobody left!!! Boo-hoo!!!!

I waited.

Waited for the applause, the tears, the accolades.

Instead, they laughed.


And said things like, “Isn’t she sweet.” And “Oh, that was precious.


I’m pouring my heart out here people!!!

My face immediately changed from satisfaction to utter dismay and embarrassment.

Suddenly the lights were too bright and I wanted to hide away forever. I felt tears pushing at the back of my eyes and I struggled to get away.

I saw my mom in the audience and I could tell she knew exactly what was happening. I sniffled my way back to my seat to watch the rest of the pageant but couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes.

I had failed. I was going to quit acting. From that moment on I decided to pursue my backup plan:

Animal Trainer.

I know, solid planning, right?

On the car ride home, I was silent. I could tell my parents wanted to help but didn’t quite know how to talk their crazy, unrealistic, six-year-old daughter off the ledge.

Finally, my mom spoke up.

Jessica, you did such a good job tonight.

I grunted.

You are a very talented actress.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

Well then why did everyone LAUGH AT ME?!?!?

I felt crocodile tears running down my face.

My mother, used to my drama, remained calm.

They laughed because you were funny. And sweet. And cute. I know you wanted a different reaction but they loved you. I promise.

I thought about that for a second.

It did seem that people had enjoyed my performance. And it wasn’t my fault if I was too cute to be taken seriously…

I decided that I was resilient enough to try it again. After all, I did have my eyes set on the role of Martha Washington in the third-grade play.

This year, during pilot season, I auditioned A LOT. And although I desperately wanted to go out for serious roles, I didn’t audition for a single one.

I always play “crazy girl” or “stalker girl” or – wait a second…something just made sense.


I would really love to be taken more seriously. But then I look at my life (and this blog) and the fact that my acting seems suddenly to be moving forward, and I think, I will take funny any day.

Funny got me here. To this place. To a place I really love.

And I feel like that audience back in North Dakota was trying to tell me something…

That I’m funny.

And that’s a good thing.