Thursday, September 6, 2007

Must. Look. Young.

I have had the great privilege for the past six years to contribute to the community in a most unique way: I perform a one-woman play on relationship violence at many of the area's high schools.

The 30-minute performance entitled "The Yellow Dress" deals with signs of abuse, the reasons people stay in abusive partnerships, and the consequences of not trusting (or listening to) your instincts. Each performance is followed by a 20-30 minute panel discussion (the panel consists of professionals from the region who specialize in helping victims of abuse pick up the pieces.)

Students can ask questions and get direct answers. No subject is taboo. After each performance, I always leave the school with a sense of wonder at what some of these kids are dealing with in their personal lives. (They tend to really "open up".) It's amazing any of them can function at all.

(As an aside, the group that organizes each performance is The Donald Heiter Community Center, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. They are a phenomenal community resource and I am awed by what they are able to accomplish.)

Being able to educate young crowds of up to 300 students and teachers has been so fulfilling... but there's a problem that's been brewing for the past two years: I have to look like "one of them." (Or at least look like I'm in my early-to-mid twenties.)

At 35, that isn't easy.

Fortunately, I've been blessed with "good" genes. However, the day is fast approaching when I simply can no longer fool teenagers into believing that I'm close to their ages. No matter what I wear, no matter how well I can act, the lines on my face are a dead giveaway that I have several years under my belt.

I've never been what you'd call "vain"--make-up is something I only occasionally wear, and my fashion sense is woefully lacking. However, I've begun to investigate "firming" creams and moisturizers in the hopes of eking out another year or two of doing this play. I feel almost guilty for doing so, as if I'm trying to cheat Mother Nature or Father Time or any of their kids. (You knew they were married, right?)

Is it wrong for me to want to continue doing this play? I'm not certain. I do love it dearly, and although it's emotionally demanding, it's one of my favorite roles from a theatrical perspective. (And I've had plenty in the 25+ years I've been addicted to the stage!)

So I'm constantly telling myself, "You must look young." All the while, I know that I cannot stop growing older. (And, let's face it... I'd much rather keep celebrating birthdays than stop living.)

Damn.

No one said being an adult would be easy.

5 comments:

ybonesy said...

Well, you have a good reason for willing yourself to look young. The rest of us just hate growing older. I remember when the youngish grocery check-out guy called me "Maam." That was in my late-30s. Then it was an anomoly; now it's standard. Ugh.

Hey, but maybe you can take on a different character for your one-woman act. Be a teacher or a mother. Grow into this next persona.

the individual voice said...

Actually, ybonesy's idea of a mother is interesting, since a lot of girls abused in relationships have mothers that are/were as well. But the other thing I was thinking was that your acting ability should be able to overcome aging issues, no? I remember when older, really much older actresses used to get away playing much younger parts. That's changed, with practically pre-teen models pretending to be grown women. Also, if you're wearing a lot of make-up, it can be viewed as simply exaggeratedly "theatrical" or there because of the "bruising." Although I also know exactly what you mean about looking older, especially around adolescents with their unlined, glowing baby skin.

SzélsőFa said...

If you behave and feel young and can truly relate to the youngsters, find a friendly and trustful relationship with them, you don't need to look young.
You don't have to pretend you're one of them.
It must be difficult to avoid becoming a sort of 'I'm older so I know better' for it's the best way to turn teenagers away :)

If you do not deny that you are older (keep the wrinkles and gray hairs to come...) PLUS you are a reliable and 'useful' person with your acting and help, you do your job honestly... I think those teenagers would even like you the better.

The Quoibler said...

Y: That would be an awesome idea, but I didn't write the script. It's produced (and copyrighted) by a group out of Massachusetts, Deana's Fund. So I can't mess around with the character.

Tiv: You're right--acting ability helps, but only so far. I still need to make sure that I don't "look" too old. Uggh. Believe it or not, I'm using anti-wrinkle cream every night. It's so unlike me to be this vain--BLECH!

The Quoibler said...

Szelsofa: Again, I wish I could be more open, but the script calls for a young gal! :)