Back in the late ’60s, when the TV show “Laugh In” was in it’s heyday, I was a scrawny middle schooler whom many thought I bore a strong resemblance to a very young and unknown cast member, Goldie Hawn. I was flattered by this, although I also wished they meant that I had her talent, which was fully recognizable even then. But I was content to simply look like this ditzy blond character, because I knew there was so much more to her than met the viewing audience’s eye.
Two nights ago, I had dinner out with a coworker with whom I have developed quite a kinship, despite the many decades between our ages. We went to the place where we heard a former coworker now works, just to reassure ourselves that he is okay, that he has landed on his feet. He is and he has, and seeing him in his new role surprised us, because we had never seen him in that role at our place, and he seemed so confident and in his element. And yet, the awkwardness of the circumstances that led him to this new place was palpable between us, despite how well he seemed to be doing, despite our efforts to tell him we were simply there to say hi.
Last night, I met my crazy friend for drinks after work. It had been weeks and weeks since we’d seen each other, and we traded work stories, dating stories, and the stories in between. About an hour into our evening, a TV star very close to my age sat down next to me, one whom I didn’t recognize at all because I rarely recognize film and TV stars, but whom my friend knew right away. Pretty soon the women tourists thronged around him, begging for photos to be be taken with their cell phones, each one telling him how much and how long they have “loved” him.
“This is your life when you go out?” I asked him after admitting to him that I had never seen him on screen.
He half smiled, and half shrugged, because I had stated an obvious point that wasn’t worth discussing. And he posed some more for photos and talked to a half dozen others who wanted to tell him exactly why their adoration of him was more meaningful than that of the gaggle of middle-aged women before them.
When we resumed our conversation, he talked about why he came here, how he has a crappy apartment on the water that he loves because it isn’t the “hamster wheel” life he led in L.A. Which wasn’t anything he wanted to discuss further.
“So, what is your story?” he asked, and I figured there was no more than a 30 percent chance he was actually interested in my response.
“Well, I used to be a writer and editor forever, then I wasn’t. Then I got into the restaurant business, which I grew up in as a young kid. Now I am separated and living the very first winter of my life on my own, here in a place where summer never ends. All good, mostly.”
He thought about that for a moment, staring at me almost a second or two too long. I mean, come on. How original and interesting is my story, anyway? Down here? No too.
“You know who you look like?” he asked, now anxious that I was paying attention to him.
“Um, no idea,” I said, inwardly cringing at what was coming next.
“You know, that actress–blond, cute. Your eyes, your hair. You really look like her.”
Okay. Please make her not dead or 1000 years old, I thought.
“Right. I remember,” he said. “I know you know her–Kate Hudson. Yeah, you really look like her.”
Goldie Hawn’s daughter? Are you joking?
“Well, that’s a great compliment,” I semi stammered, “But, actually, most people would say I look like her mom.”
He regarded me with a perplexed expression. He didn’t say a word.
Fine, Kate Hudson it is.
Because here it was, a day that started with my every-morning thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” A day on which I wasn’t even sure I wanted to get up. A day I faked every happy smile I forced my lips to form, even when the chef made me a gluten-free chocolate cake.
I can’t, for the life of me, get the half-full thing going because I worry and fret every day about what I am supposed to decide should be my tomorrow, and it is so uncertain that I can only see it all as half empty.
Then a TV star whom I don’t recognize says I look like Kate Hudson. It turns out that I don’t really have to worry about my former co-worker, because he has landed quite well on his feet. D.C. pals, including my Wonderful Friend, are coming into town this weekend. Today, maybe, my smiles will be for real.
As a friend recently said, a friend whom I hadn’t spoken to in years, “Take your time sorting through all these changes in your life. Take all the time you need.”
Last night I caught a glimpse of what others see when it is all clear, half full, no questions. So, I’ll definitely be taking my time.