Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Wife

Tamar wrote an positively brilliant post about being a screenwriter in LA...or, rather, choosing not to be a screenwriter in LA. Baroy isn't a screenwriter, but he's both an actor and a playwright, and many of the issues are nearly identical. So much of Tamar's post resonated for me; in fact, it resonated so loudly that I had to write about the part of it that is my experience rather than hers, and that's being the significant other of someone whose dreams and obsesssions are tied up so intimately in an industry that's so devastatingly capricious and demoralizing.

When I first started dating Baroy, he warned me: Actors are selfish people, he said. If you're going to be involved with me, you have to know that.

And it's true, though not in the ways I'd assumed. The man is incredibly generous with his love and he showers me with gifts. (Gift-giving is clearly his 'love language,' and I fail him miserably each and every time...) But, deep down, when it comes to the dreams and wishes of our lives, he's selfish, or rather, self-absorbed in the most literal senses of the word. He's persuing two crafts--acting and writing--which are extremely difficult to make a living from, and which do not necessarily open up to you on the basis of talent or even of dogged determination to break in or break through. And he is utterly singleminded about them. Never mind that that means that most years, mine is the only significant income we have. Never mind that this is not really what I want from my life.

That's not to say that he would tell me no if I said I was quitting my job to stay home and freelance or write another book or whatever. But it's that he knows I won't until he has something at least equal to my job in terms of money and benefits and stability. Because I crave stability, and he has absolutely no intention of persuing such a job if it's not in his chosen field, if it means giving up on his hopes and his dreams. That's what I mean by selfish: His choices are made in terms of what he wants and what he needs, while mine are made in terms of what our family needs, now that it includes two children and a mortgage, our family has many needs. (Anyone who doesn't think that a mortgage is a full-fledged member of your family has never owned their own home.)

Does it make me bitter? Yeah, sometimes. Lately, a lot. I've had a raging case of spring fever, and I'm tired of being the worker bee. I'm tired of seeing all the SAHMs hanging around the school while I drop Em off in the carpool lane. I'm sad that Staff Appreciation Week, which was supposed to be my baby, had to be taken over by people who could actually attend the bulk of the events, and spend time setting things up. And before you say it, no, it wouldn't help if Baroy did those things. I don't need him to do those thing. *I* want to be doing them.

So, yeah. Bitter. But at the same time, the pragmatist in me, the ever-vigilant hypocrisy scout that inhabits my soul and regularly tortures me, points out that I am in no different a position than men have been in throughout most of our history. They've long gone off to soul-numbing jobs to bring money home. They've long been the breadwinners even when they didn't necessarily like doing it. They've sucked up to bosses in order to keep food on the table, or a roof over their family's heads. It would be wrong for me to complain because I'm in that position now. And besides, I'm actually in a better position. My job's not soul-numbing, for one thing. I like the people there, my boss especially. It pays decently. And I only work 80% time, which means I get to pick Em up at school two days a week. I essentially never work late, and almost never on weekends or evenings. I have time for the PTA, and for taking Em to swim lessons and N to gymnastics, etc. But I still want more. And it's so out of reach.

Behind every struggling actor or playwright or screenwriter or filmmaker or whatever...behind every--or, rather, many--of these creative, talented, overlooked masses, there's someone else. Someone supporting them emotionally. Someone supporting them financially. Someone who may have their own dreams and hopes, different though they may be from those of the "Hollywood" types. If it's to last, that someone has to push those dreams aside a bit, or try and make them fit in around those of their more flamboyant and creative partner. I've seen it happen time and again. I once joked with a coworker at a magazine where neither of us wanted to be (her husband, too, was persuing an acting career) that we should start a support group for people who support creative types. The people who, if things go well, will some day be named in an acceptance speech at an awards show, but more likely than not will simply slog on through, taking every rejection almost as hard as their significant other, and waiting for their turn to shine.

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