November 11, 2008

The Genesis of Popular Girls, or A Mental Illness is Born

Remember I told you my favorite show ONCE AGAIN got moved and I was worried it was a death knell? HUZZAH! Life got a full season pick up! It comes on on WEDNESDAYS now, the meaty delicious filling in the Knight Rider/Law and Order sammich, and let us all as people of taste and sense watch with the fervent dedication of a cult. I need it to be picked up for next year, thus prolonging both my will to live and the idea that yes, Virginia, smart, well written shows CAN survive on Network TV.

If nothing else, it will stave off the day when every channel but HBO and Showtime have nothing but reality programming. Especially since HBO and Showtime spend only 1/10th of their time making good TV (Sopranos, Dexter) and the rest is devoted to recycled movies, sporting events, and late night soft core pR0n, NONE of which interest me in even the slightest. VIVA LA LIFE! LIFE FOREVER.

Meanwhile, we were talking about how we make friends…

The concept of The Popular Girls started in grad school, when I got a friendy-crush on two theatre department chicks named Beth and Rasa. They had long, shiny hair. They used lingo. They had an off campus apartment where people and beers comingled to watch this hot new show called “Friends” everyone was talking about. They were NOT popular girls in the traditional sense of. well, you know CHEERLEADERS or whatnot. They just looked like people I would like---funny and quirky and kind and strange.

I had a class on modern playwrights that was open to both English AND theatre majors. We sat on different sides of the room. Beth-and-Rasa of course sat with the grease-painted, a-little-too-slutty-for-class-and-all-black outfit wearing THEATRE people. I sat trapped with a bunch of Language Literacy and Rhetoric girls who wore thrift store dresses from the 70’s and glasses so ugly they were an effective form of birth control. Those people in all earnesty used words like hermeneutics, which is UNFORGIVEABLE, especially since not a ONE of them knew theurban dictionary definition…

I wanted to hang with the theatre crowd. I would come home and give a Beth-and-Rasa report to Scott every class day, repeat all their cool-girl insights into Artaud, and proclaim that they TOTALLY GOT IONESCO without having to PARSE HIM UP like the LLR harpies. I called them The Popular Girls, and I wanted to hang with them, but I was TOO DARN SHY TO CROSS THE ROOM and SPEAK.

So. I decided to audition to be friends with them.
I am SUCH a sad specimen, and PS, why do I TELL you these things? Is it a lack of shame or or a lack of tastefulness?


Our prof was in the habit of having us READ sections of plays aloud whenever they appeared in the textbook. She encouraged us to read “expressively” and “read it like an ACTOR,” which gave the LLR folks hives. Looking ahead in the book, I saw we were about to come upon a section of Sophie’s lines lifted from Uncle Vanya.

Now. I had PLAYED that part. It remains one of my favorite plays and may well be my favorite role I have ever had in theatre. It’s poor Sophie talking about her completely unrequited love for a country doctor, and her own ugliness, but under that, she is saying how she HATES that he respects her and her mind and how vile it is to have him value her friendship and see her as sexless---she wants to be a woman to him, and she is not, and it is a terrible speech because it has HOPE in it, and there IS no hope, and she hopes anyway. It’s lovely and human.

I knew EVERY note of it, all the meaning behind the simple lines. I knew the nuances. On top of my history with the part, at home, before the fateful class, I WORKED on those lines with Scott. He indulged me. Because he, I suspect, knew I was bat crap crazy BEFORE he married me. “Should I do this thing with my wrist when I say the part about hearing those women at church say I am so plain?” I would ask him plaintively, doing a wrist twitch thing, like an unconscious TICK. "Sure, baby," he would say, and then presumably go back to grinding up lithium to sneak into my O.J.

Later I would realize I had seen that wrist twitch thing before – when Disney's Little Mermaid overhears that PRINCE ERIC is going to marry that chick who turns out to be the SEA WITCH. *sigh* What righteous source material. Ah well, look, we can’t all steal from Lawrence Olivier…

ANYWAY, we got to that section of the book, the prof asked for a reader, and my hand shot up before she got all the words out. Then I did those lines like I was auditioning for STINKING BROADWAY. I mean, I blew it out. I projected. I did the wrist twitch thing. I TEARED UP, and then at the end let two big fat tears PLOP onto the page. Then I dashed them away and grinned while Beth-and-Rasa and the theatre people clapped and hooted in appreciation and the English deprtment people all shifted EVER SO SLIGHTLY away from me, as if they had only just now noticed my third eye and the tentacle. After class, the LLR girls BARRELLED out swiftly to go talk about what a LOON I was, but I did not care...because Beth-and-Rasa came over and asked me to come audition for a play they were working on.

I came home that day JOYFUL because I knew that two weeks into rehearsal I would be comfortable with them and we would end up friends---working together on a project like a play does that. And sure enough, soon I was sitting on the theatre side of the room, happy and in a place that felt like mine. But good grief, what’s wrong with HELLO! I AM JOSS! WANT TO GET SOME COFFEE AFTER CLASS?

Those were the ORIGINAL popular girls, but I have retained the term and the methodogy…GAH must go get kidlets at school. Sadly, there is MORE to this. Heh.

OH! LASTLY, and it goes in this entry because it can ALSO ve filed under “pernicious and unforgiveably self-indulgent navel gazing” I got a note from Lydia. I am pondering it. She said, “You blog differently when you’re writing. I just went and read your last few blogs – you have that “I’m writing” sound. I remember this from your last book. Between books you sound more like you’re talking. It’s weird!”

Posted by joshilyn at November 11, 2008 1:45 PM

Ahhh, the popular crowd. I never quite figured how to get in, so I just rolled my eyes about them! So childish! {{eye roll}}

Posted by: Lmerie at November 11, 2008 2:30 PM

Way to go! So that's how it's done - perform like a Broadway actress and the popular girls will come flocking.

Posted by: Holly at November 11, 2008 2:36 PM

I read that these people mixed beer with friends when you were in GRADE school and thought, "My gosh! No wonder the 68-year old guy hit on her!" Then I put on my reading glasses and discovered my error.

Posted by: Kalynne Pudner at November 11, 2008 3:05 PM

Auditioning for friends totally sounds like something I would do. I'm a shy/not shy person, too. It's an odd complex, but you explain it perfectly.

Posted by: nik at November 11, 2008 3:40 PM

I'm wearing pink socks RIGHT NOW.

Posted by: Kate Setzer Kamphausen at November 11, 2008 5:52 PM

I remember my "ah-hah!" moment about the popular crowd. It was when everyone but me was reading "The Lord of the Rings" and I knew, I just KNEW I wouldn't understand it and they'd all know (as if they didn't already) that I was a Loser.

And then I read it. And got some things out of it that the In Group hadn't gotten.

That's when I realized that half the time they were faking it as much as I was, and if I acted as if I knew what they knew, if I acted as if I was fun and popular, people would think I was.

It even mostly worked.

Posted by: Fran at November 11, 2008 11:36 PM

You always can make me laugh when you tell a story.

I bet auditioning works better than hovering on the edges of their conversation and throwing in a sentence or two from out of no where as I have been known to do. :)

So how will you audition for the Presbyterian mommy crowd?

Posted by: carrien (she laughs at the days) at November 12, 2008 2:44 AM

True Blood on HBO has me hooked, so if you need a new TV addiction, that's an option. I did a marathon to catch up over the weekend. My husband got me into it, due to everyone having sex. Gotta love HBO & sexy vampires. It's from Alan Ball, who wrote American Beauty & Six Feet Under. Only 2 episodes left & now I'm kicking myself for getting through 10 so quickly. Hope you enjoy it if you check it out.

Posted by: Amanda at November 12, 2008 8:04 AM

Perfect. Of course, I just spent 20 minutes reading ACT 2 of Uncle Vanya, thankyouverymuch
You are too adorable. I thought I was the only wacko who "prepares" for social situations. I've managed to create an exterior that says I am fun and you want to know me when inside I am a ball of nerves and shyness and I already know where the exit is and how many strides it takes to reach it.

Posted by: lindasands at November 12, 2008 9:23 AM

Now I'm going to have to go home and watch the Little Mermaid so I can see that wrist twitch because I just can't quiiiite picture it. Which is odd, considering that I have most of that movie memorized (especially "Part of your World" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" which Caroline makes me sing every night while she pretends to be a mermaid in the bathtub.)

Posted by: Leandra at November 12, 2008 9:49 AM

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Popular Girls were hoping that you'd walk over and say "Hello! I'm Joss!" They probably had similar insecurities to yours. The 'audition' just gave them a good excuse to walk over to you.

And, Amanda, if you aren't familiar with the book series True Blood is based on, check out Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. I don't get HBO, but I understand this season is based on her first book in that series (I'm blanking on the name). She has 3 other very good mystery series, the first two of which are being re-issued, and the latest of which has a protagonist who finds dead people (victims of crimes/disappearances). That series now has 3 books, all of which have the word "Grave" in them. I highly recommend all her books!

Posted by: Deborah P at November 12, 2008 10:23 AM

First, a big THANK YOU to my friend Tracy who pointed me to this blog. I think she was also the one who suggested "Between" for our book club. We are reading "Gods" currently, and it reminded me of why I am in love with you . . . another Popular Girl crush??

Thanks for the wonderful laugh this morning. Especially with the urban dictionary definition of hermeneutics. It will take a LONG time before THAT image leaves my head! 8^)

Posted by: DuckieMom at November 12, 2008 10:42 AM

Dead Until Dark is the first Sookie Stackhouse book!

I looooove those books. Almost as much as Joshilyn Jackson's books. Have you guys read those? ;)

Posted by: Erin at November 12, 2008 3:18 PM

Thanks for the book recommendation. I needed something to read! I've been trying to read Sceamfree Parenting & it's just served to make me realize how much I really do scream.
Reading has always been my escape. A guilt trip is not much of a vacation from reality. ;)
Any other great escapes?

Posted by: Amanda at November 12, 2008 9:14 PM

Would it make you feel more adult to frame this not as auditioning for friends but as seducing them? 'Cause that's one well-plotted and executed successful seduction. (Unless, you know, the idea of seducing two women in broad daylight in a crowded classroom feels just a little .... errrrrrr...)

Posted by: rams at November 13, 2008 10:38 AM

I watch "Life" too! Does that guy remind anyone else of Steve McQueen? Just a bit? Anyone? *crickets*

Posted by: Kathy at November 13, 2008 1:09 PM

am excited for Life to come on after Pushing Daisies because PD and Chuck are the only shows i remember to turn my tv on for. and when Life came on Mondays all i had to do was whore around for an hour and then watch it. and now no whoring required so hurrah!!

funny how i can have a delightful conversation with a total stranger in line at the grocery but completely freeze up when it comes to meeting someone i want to make friends with. but good to know i'm in good company between you and the other regulars here. perhaps we can start a support group . . .

or not.

Posted by: debra at November 13, 2008 5:15 PM

Ooh, thanks for the True Blood recommendation, Amanda! I'm a huge fan of those books (as well as yours, Josh ;-) ), and knew there were rumors of a series coming out, but didn't know it was already happening!

Posted by: Brigitte at November 14, 2008 5:39 AM