Hi there friends!
Last time we spoke, I imparted some (sure-to-be) world famous wisdom regarding the okay-ness of losing your Vcard before marriage. Ya know, how Jesus doesn’t actually care if you keep that chastity belt locked. Well. It’s been 4 months since that entry and some real shit has gone down in our world that makes continuing to write this blog feel trivial and a waste of energy. Admittedly I have neglected writing because I feel there is so much trauma in our world right now -- blatant murder based on racism, anyone voting for Donald Trump, ISIS -- that writing a blog entry about my general coming of age doesn’t seem at all useful. So. That’s where I’m at (I’m fully aware that, according to some, I shouldn’t end a sentence in a preposition. Welp. I’m doing it anyway while I still have my freedom/basic human rights). But I’m going to write anyway. I hope this doesn’t suck.
The end of my senior year of college was a whirlwind. Despite the fact that I was a stressed mess, I would absolutely re-live it all over again. I was a principle role in MSU’s Pajama Game, had to prepare for my senior recital, raise money for Open Jar Institute (the training intensive I was accepted to during my previous trip to NYC), and pass Biology for Educators with a D. Not to worry, everyone. I completed each milestone with grace and elegance (See picture at end of blog) because I am grace and elegance personified. No but seriously. After graduation, I could finally breathe. I had my money for Open Jar, my diploma, and a (basically) one night stand in the experience wallet. I was 100% ready for New York City. EL OH EL.
#GraduationPic. I don't even wear glasses
SIDE NOTE: How do people move to NYC without preparing? I know this is a bit arrogant of me but…I visited the city at least once a year, stayed in different boroughs, and saved enough money to move without fear of starving or getting evicted for at least 4 months. Completely unsupported! When people complain about the City being hard I just want to be like…ummm...literally go live anywhere else. It’ll be way less cool but also a lot less work go away. Anyway. I hate that. Don’t complain about the City. It’s not the City’s fault. It’s yours. #Millennials
After summerstock performing and the last time I’ll ever live in the same timezone as my best friend, the time had finally come for me to attend Open Jar Institute in NYC. You know where this is going…
The first night I arrived in NYC, my friend Jonathan invited me out for a show and drinks. Although I was exhausted from the flight and anxious to begin training at Open Jar the next day, I had learned from my previous trips to NYC to never turn down an evening with Jonathan. The nights usually end pretty well. Or exciting at least (see: cast of TROUBLE). I met up with him at the Long Acre theatre to see a show called First Date. I had never heard of the show but tickets were $32 so I said sure. I thought the show was good fun and the lead guy was fucking beautiful. I also felt like I could be besties with everyone in that cast. Anyway, I enjoyed myself. After the show, we grabbed a drink at Hurley’s, the pub right next door. Catching up and what not, I shared with him that I would be in NYC for two weeks: one for Open Jar and a second to find a job(s). Then I would go home for two weeks and return when my lease began in September. Jonathan, being the uninhibited person that he is, kindly asked the bartender if Hurley’s would be interested in hiring me. The bartender scoffed and then stoically responded “No.” How very New York of you, cool bartender with (I’m sure) a giant penis. Meany.
Anyways, I got over that and began chatting up the sort of cute older guy next to me. I discovered he was the box office manager at the Long Acre. We chatted about the various box offices in which he managed and surprisingly I’d seen a lot of the shows he’d worked. I told him what I was up to for the week and I’d soon be moving to the City for good. “Usually I’m concerned for novices like yourself. So bright eyed about this whole business. But you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. You’re a pretty girl with a great personality. That will actually take you very far.” Oh thank you, kind of cute old guy. If he could see me now! (cue Tinkerbell tutu). Then he invited me to the opening night party of First Date.
I don’t know how this stuff happens to me. Weren’t we just talking about that Judy Garland play that shouldn’t have flopped? But okay. Sure. See you there, dude.
SEE! IT HAPPENED!
This was right before I crashed the Opening Night party. So I guess I didn't look terrible.
I miss that dress. Did I sell it? Also. Stark Sands (heart eye emoji)
Details and Determination
My week at Open Jar was amazing. I trained with Tony award winning performers, chatted with agents, and got to workshop with top casting directors. I realize at that moment in my life I wasn’t ready to be a Tony Award winning actor or get an agent. But damn if my headshot wasn’t chosen as the best example #MissPhotogenic
Okay. I’m kidding (although that headshot thing is true). But Seriously. My time at Open Jar was an invaluable experience and the perfect way to jumpstart my life in New York. I was doing everything right, I just needed to jump in! I let all my directors know I was job hunting, which brings me back to Hurley’s. During Open Jar, we ate at Hurley’s every night (coincidentally). The director introduced me to the restaurant owner (who would later be the woman I dislike maybe more than Donald Trump…) who offered me a job on the spot.
Her: Do you have restaurant experience?
Me: Oh yeah, tons. I’ve been working in the food industry since I was 17.
Her: Would you like to host? We pay 14/hr.
Me: Uh, sure. Of course!
Her: So can you start next week?
Me: (Pauses. Thinks “Shit. Is this really how it works? I thought I needed to like get my Equity card before I could work at a restaurant in the Theatre District. No? K cool.) Yes.
And just like that. My ass got a job at the same restaurant some fat bartender told me I couldn’t. HA! Me and that bartender remain unfriendly.
So fast forward to First Date opening night. I had just finished seeing Kinky Boots (for a second time. PEE WHERE YOU WANNA PEE) and I’m supposed to be heading to the Opening Night party. But shit. Oh no. I DON’T KNOW WHERE IT IS. Great. Total Mattie Jo move. I’m texting the box office manager like crazy but of course he’s not picking up because he’s enjoying free booze I assume contain diamonds and cocaine at a Broadway opening night that HE INVITED ME TO. So I do what any millennial would do. I got on Twitter and see where the cast is tweeting from. It was at that famous bank. Gotham? Idk but I walked there having truly no idea what I was actually doing. When I arrived I saw the ear piece guys with clipboards looking all official. “I’m not even WITH anyone.” I thought to myself. “Why the hell would they let me in? Also I look sort of ratchet.” But then I did what I had to do to remain true to Mattie Jo. “Do it for the story, MJ.” I said to myself. And I walked right up to ear piece guys, gave them Box Office guy’s name and told them he wasn’t answering my texts. Showed them the texts. They let me in.
OH MY GOD I’M IN A BROADWAY OPENING NIGHT PARTYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.
Wait. This would be a lot cooler if I wasn’t totally alone and had no idea where my “date” was. I walked around a bit, feeling super awkward. Then I spotted Seth Green and really needed to shit my pants. I scurried to the bathroom and slammed myself into the stall. Took a few deep breaths and gave myself a little pep talk. “You made it INTO this party. ALONE. You are not going to chicken out. You are Mark Cowsert’s daughter, damnit! Grab a glass of wine and get to mingling.” Then I touched up my makeup and headed for the bar. After thorough group scanning and trying to look like I knew what the fuck I was doing, I finally found Box Office guy.
Box Office Guy: Oh my god! You made it! I’m so sorry but my phone died and see, no one has this charger (Shows me, shit you not, a Nokia circa 2004. Like really dude? It’s not in the Broadway budget to get you an iPhone? Damn. This business really does suck.) How did you get here? I was worried.
Me: Oh I checked Twitter. And then I just told the guys at the front I was with you. Good thing I’m not a terrorist (terrorist jokes don’t land well in New York. Don’t try them).
Box Office Guy: Ha. Well, anyway…meet my really important friends.
Or something like that. So then I mingled with more Broadway old guys. Some of them regular producers I’ve now seen at many opening nights. Hearing them talk about the reviews of the show made me very nervous. I liked the show. Why does the New York Times matter? Oh wait you mean young broke actors’ opinions aren’t keeping Broadway alive? Good to know. And then I spotted one of the actors from the show. I guess I must have been super bored with those producers because I literally knee-jerked myself into an introduction with him.
Me: Oh my goodness! I’m so glad I ran into you. You were so hilarious! Definitely my favorite part of the show.
Actor: Thank you so much! What’s your name?
Me: Oh I’m Mattie Jo. I…
And then I tell him about Box Office guy and how I’m here and all that. We took a picture and he introduced me to some more people before handing me back over to Box Office and producers. Me and this actor are now very good friends. And his best friend is the C.E.O. of my babysitting agency. SMALL WORLD BIG CITY, YA’LL.
I took some pics in the photobooth and got sufficiently tipsy. Tipsy enough to brave the dance floor where I ran into Seth Green (again!) and got a picture! What I didn’t know is that Seth Green and Hot Lead Actor are great friends, so HLA was close by. When I saw him, I froze. “How could a real human look like that? How is he so beautiful? And charming? Oh he played a prince in a Disney Movie? Got it.” I was about to leave because taking pictures with celebrities just feels weird (but I still do it, obvs) and then I did the whole bathroom pep talk thing only this time I was on the dance floor and told myself I’d made it this far. I have to talk to him.
So I did. I walked right up to HLA, told him he was amazing in the show, asked for a picture and then actually shit my pants a little (that’s a lie. I causally shit in many circumstances. When I get nervous is, fortunately, not on that list). I also got a picture with Krysta Rodriguez, which should have been more exciting for me considering she a Broadway diva. BUT OH MY GOD HLA. Then I went home and the following day showed up to my “final mock audition” for casting directors and agents at Open Jar in gym clothes. Because, again, I am great at details (Don’t worry. Since I was staying on 83rd street, I could quickly make it back to my apartment to change into audition close. Phew. Thank God for the Upper West Side).
Okay Okay The Reason I’m Writing This Blog
So I was working at an NYC Restaurant that happened to be right next door to the show in which I had crashed the opening night. Being the charming individual that I am, naturally I made quick friends with a ton of the cast and crew of that show. Including, you got it, HLA. I didn’t know him well or anything but he was generally very nice and I didn’t act too weird around him. So one evening as I was passing by Hurleys (off the clock) with a friend who was a huge fan of his HBO show, she asked if I’d introduce them. Being Mattie Jo, I said yes. Against my better judgment of not bothering a celebrity when they’re trying to enjoy a salad and whiskey alone. My friend and HLA chatted for a good while about politics and religion because why not? I didn’t know anything about politics at the time but I did have a lot to say about Religion. But they seemed pretty occupied so I just listened (lol. Did you know I could do that?). During my intense listening I discovered HLA was not Jewish as his last name would suggest, but actually a very devout Christian (My Jewish friend was very sad to hear this). My still pretty Jesus-y heart, however, perked up at this fact. Anyway they ended their heated conversation about an hour later and we started to head out. As I stood up, a little sad I didn’t speak up to impress HLA with my vast religious wisdom, he placed his hand on my lower back (WHAT THE FUCK) and asked “Hey Mattie Jo. Can I get your number (WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK TIMES TWO)?”
Me: Oh. Sure it’s…
HLA: Cool. We can maybe grab coffee and talk about Jesus.
Me: Ha yes. I’ll bring my journal and high lighter (wait. Do all Christians do that? Does he understand my joke? Whatever HLA JUST ASKED ME TO COFFEE!!!)
How could this actually be happening? To my knowledge, I had barely said 4 words to this beautiful perfect star-of-a-Broadway show, HBO Series, and Disney film person. And now he was asking me to coffee? Wait. Does this mean God doesn’t actually hate me for giving up my Vcard before marriage? Could I maybe actually still score an amazingly talented, beautiful, smart, sort-of-famous husband regardless of my Vcard status? HA! Take that youth group leaders!
Morals and Other Things You Should Never Have
I had a few more days of (pent)house chillin before I headed back to MO to pack all my shit and actually for real this time move to New York City. As I lay awake watching Damn Yankees parodies (That I participated in... take note of my missing the Red&Blue memo. Again. Details. And if you really know Damn Yankees, you'll love this one) on Youtube in the maids quarters, I receive a text.
HLA: Hey! I was just at 54 Below. What are you up to?
Me: Just chillin. Having trouble sleeping for whatever reason (the reason is that I was wondering when/if you were going to text me)
HLA: Well you’re welcome to come down to the West Village. But that would probably just end in trouble ;)
MJ’s Internal Monologue: Okay. Okay. This is a booty call. He is being flirty and it is 11:30pm. Dig deep into that morality chest you’ve locked all your good girl bounty in. WWWMD-What Would Wife Material Do? Wife material would say no. Let’s stick to the date we already have planned. We are going to talk about Jesus and he will RESPECT me. You want him to respect (and marry) you, don’t you Mattie Jo? Men don’t marry booty calls.
Okay. That’s Boring. What’s the other option?
WWTGD - What Would "That" Girl Do? Fuck him. Go to the West Village and have sex with him. There are no typos in his texts. He’s probs still pretty sober. Go have the sex HLA is happily inviting. But then will we ever date for realsies? Will he respect me? No respect for bootycall answerers, right? RIGHT?
Hmph. Kay. I’m ready. (fingers typing…)
Me: Ha! Well that is tempting seeing as how this is my last official night of “vacation” in the City. But we better stick to that chat about Jesus over coffee ;)
MJ’s Second Internal Monologue: WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS IS A TERRIBLE MISTAKE
HLA: There ya go ;)
MJ’s Third Internal Monologue: Oh. Okay. Maybe he doesn’t think I’m a freak and I’m still on the marriage candidate list.
And then we made plans for meeting up when I returned from Missouri.
Okay. Let’s just recap. In case you didn’t get all that. HLA TOTALLY INVITED ME TO HIS HOME. And I chose THEN to have a moral compass? It couldn’t have been back when that unimpressive engaged guy was manipulating me into a love affair? Or, I don’t know, NOT binge eating a bag of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies? And other things I just will never put on the internet. WHAT THE FUCK?
I waited a long brutal week back in Missouri packing, getting rid of sorority tanks, and wondering if HLA was planning our official date (wedding) because he had so much respect for me being the ONE girl who’d ever turned him down. After a longass cross country roadtrip with my parents and a tearful departure from my new home (I still remember that day so vividly. I dreaded the moment I had to say goodbye. It was like that moment you had to say goodbye to your dad after spending an afternoon with him at the dentist, away from school. Away from reality. That’s how I felt. “Dad don’t leave me back at school with this numb cheek!” I cried so hard I thought I was going to saturate mom’s shoulder pores with my tears), HLA texted asking if we were still on for our “date”. We met at Hurley’s and walked to a nearby outdoor seating area. Okay, this part I’ll abbreviate: We got salad. He didn’t pay. We talked about him. He didn’t even inquire about my religious knowledge! (P.S. I don’t like when people don’t care about what I have to say. Especially when I actually know a lot about the topic. REWD). When I brought up him inviting me over that one night, he got really awkward and didn’t say anything. ANYTHING. Then we never had a real conversation again. Except when he got drunk and tried to convince me to have sex with him (again). And I still declined. And he sometimes bought me vanilla latte’s because he felt bad for being a prick. Or that’s my guess.
Wait. He doesn’t want to marry me? But opening night and then the job at Hurleys and then THE DATE. It was all divinely planned, wasn’t it? No? Just coincidences? FUCK. What did I do wrong???
Here’s the real answer: Nothing. I did nothing wrong.
Here’s what I did do. I made a choice based on an idea that sex (or lack thereof) could manipulate this guy into wanting a real relationship with me. Again, this method communicates a message that I’m only as good as my sexuality. A guy won’t stick around if I give it too soon. I gotta hold out, dontchya know. “Look, mom! I’m keeping him on a hook! I’ll force him to get to know my personality and use my sexy time as bait!” I didn’t know how to think just me was awesome enough. I thought the sex thing had to be some mysterious lure. But the truth is, I could have slept with him, and he would have not paid for our salad and not actually cared about me just the same.
This was a huge revelation for me.
It was the first step in my learning that, in my new world, blanketed rules about romance (and life really…like maybe the not paying thing wasn’t such a big deal? But no. He’s a Christian…Christian guys love gender roles) have no relevance. This fact, of course, sucked (sucks). This meant I couldn’t follow a clear “go out for coffee, share our testimonies, make-sure-we’re-physically-attracted-to-eachother-by-maybe-getting-“woo”-feeling-after-we touch-the-same-coffee-cup, pray together and YAHOO!” blueprint for my romantic life anymore. Because here is another huge truth no one ever told me: You can’t follow a particular plan for dating if no one around you is willing to also abide by that plan. What I mean is, in New York, everyone is following different rules. And part of the dating scene is getting a feel for what “rules” a person prioritizes.
This was my new world. A world that didn’t (and still doesn’t) follow cut and dry, black and white, Jew or Gentile rules. A world that wasn’t just going to hand me husband because I was 22 and “isn’t it about that time?” What did this mean? I guess it meant I had to figure out what I really wanted. And who I really want to be. Make rules for myself and not worry about everyone else (including God) being predictable. Because by truly knowing and loving myself, I’ll be totally okay with whatever decisions or “rules” I choose (and I’d also be content with whatever results from a romantic encounter. Not judge my self-worth on whether or not someone wants to sleep with/date me). But I had to become privy to all this internal information first.
This was my new world. A world that didn’t (and still doesn’t) follow cut and dry,
black and white, Jew or Gentile rules. A world that wasn’t just going to hand me husband
because I was 22 and “isn’t it about that time?”
This was scary for me because 1) What did I know about making real choices? I'm still deciding if I should eat dairy And 2) most every decision, concept, anything in my life until this point had been supported by religion. If I couldn’t follow that “blue print”, was I going to do life wrong? I can’t do life wrong. A few mistakes, fine. But all of life? What is my blueprint? This is going to be messy…
So. Although I’m incredibly resentful of HLA for being kind of shitty by bootycalling me and then not even addressing it on our “date”. Or for not taking me to real lunch. Or not listening to anything I had to say. And also thinking Vanilla Latte’s made up for all of that (okay but they sort of did. Lattes is espensive), I also understand nobody is perfect. He’s not a villain. He’s human. Probably still trying to figure out his own blueprint (luckily for him, that blueprint now includes a Tony). So thanks, HLA. For sort of crushing my romantic dreams. And also teaching me that being a “good girl” doesn’t put you in God’s favor or always make you the most coveted. In fact it could matter less. Because it’s not about being the good, bad, crazy, drunk, or sweet girl. It’s not about whatever adjective we’re supposed to attach to ourselves to feel more secure in a system of boundaries. It’s about knowing and loving exactly who I am. And being totally and 200% “that” girl.
And a final reminder from our good friend (and my personal favorite) Judy.