Learning to say “No” and vote “Yes”

The movie The Big Chill is not really a touchstone for anyone any more, given that the topic of all-white boomer naval gazing is kind of past its sell-by date, by a lot. However, there is a great piece of dialogue in it delivered by Jeff Goldblum, playing the one friend in the group about whom everyone is constantly wondering, “Why are we still friends with this guy?” (we all have one), when he says “I don’t know anyone who can get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations, they’re more important than sex.” 

Crew people are the absolute masters of rationalization. How else would we be able to do our jobs under the ridiculous conditions in which we generally work — a standard week of 60-70-hours; one half hour break daily, for lunch, if we even get that; nine or ten hours of turnaround to get home, eat, interact with our partners or families, feed the dog or water the plants, sleep, and then travel back to set; and overall, never having any control over what we do all day or how or for how long —  and continue doing them for years and years, and tell ourselves that we aren’t batshit insane?

You can divide our rationalization styles, as crew people, into types.

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Are We There Yet?

Goodbye old friend. (Yes, I will need to wash my new car more often).

It can be hard to find markers of adulthood in my world. Basically, because I don’t have kids, I often feel like I’m living the life of a child, or at least a youngish millennial. That not only is because my husband and I live without childcare concerns curtailing our ability to do things like go out with friends, take vacations, have sex, and get drunk whenever we want — though, of course, Covid, acid reflux and general exhaustion have done that to us instead. It’s also because so many of the milestones my friends are experiencing these days have to do with things their kids are doing, like graduating from high school or college, or getting their first jobs — providing me with that mind-blowing experience of having full-on conversations about the state of our country with a person whose hand it seems like I was just holding to keep him from running into the street. Not that having kids necessarily makes you any more of an adult. One colleague who’s now showing me pictures of his one-year-old daughter tunelessly banging away on a tiny xylophone was just a couple of years ago giving me detailed advice about how to take hallucinogenic mushrooms (granted, it was excellent advice), and I often see men on set who have multiple offspring or even grandchildren getting into idiotic pissing matches that wouldn’t seem out of place in a sandbox (“I’m not moving my cart unless he comes and asks me personally!” comes to mind from one recent, extremely mature exchange).

There are also career milestones, and many of my college friends are getting promoted to vastly superior jobs — one even mentioned the “C Suite” recently, which is term that I am so distanced from that I had to Google what the “C” means. But the only way I could get promoted in my current career would involve me investing tens of thousands of dollars in equipment that scares me so that I could move up to mixer, a position that, like most jobs for which you only get noticed at when you fuck up, empirically kinda sucks. Instead, I just keep writing more blog posts and scripts and fiction and directing more tiny projects in the hopes that I will be paid to write or direct full time, which realistically for most humans is more of a Hail Mary than a career choice, because, sure, I’m choosing it, but nobody is choosing me, which is kind the important part. I also have friends talking about retirement, but while I do have a 401K and an IRA, they are growing at a pace that reminds me of the slow, frustrating and icky experience of trying to walk through the blue ball room at the Color Factory (hahahaha remember ball rooms?), which makes me feel like for me to even fantasize about retiring is going to require a lot more mushrooms.

So what I’m settling for as a sign of how I’m progressing as a grown up right now is trying to buy a car for the first time. Now, you might think it weird that at 52 I’ve never bought a car before, but bear in mind that I live in New York City, where plenty of people never even learn to drive. I only finally got a car when I got sick of having to get up at 4 am to take a train to Manhattan to get in a courtesy van in order to be in New Jersey at 6 for a shoot, something I had to do so often in my 20s that the phrase one of my friends told me he most associated with me was, “I can’t, I have to get up really early tomorrow to take a van.”

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