The Ghost of Career Past

[source: A Southern Thing]

   As a stay-at-home-mom of two, I don't get out very much anymore. When I do, I feel like a caged animal that has just been set free. I eat too much, talk too much, and might even drink too much. However for the first time in many, many years, I've found myself content with staying home most of the time.  I don't hear those little whispers talking of late-night escapades much anymore.  But every once and a while, a wedding or a birthday pulls me back into a different realm of civilization. And a familiar face or two reminds me of a life I so quickly forgot.

   Growing up on a quiet little street in the 'burbs, I lived within a few houses of two other girls very close in age to me. I am beyond grateful the three of us have now been dear friends for 26 years.

Camping as kids!

Allison's surprise 21st birthday in Vegas!

Sarah's wedding in Houston!

   Allison and I still live near one another and went out to celebrate her dirty thirty "So fresh and so clean, clean" Thirtieth Birthday! We had a great time catching up over a delicious dinner and drinks at a casual eatery in Uptown, Nick and Sam's Grill. Looking around at the table, seeing her and her brothers all grown-up, each with their own partners, careers, and opinions- it hit me just how far we had all come. We had all changed so much since Grant "pantsed" me in the middle of a neighborhood soccer game, or since Trent was a brand-new baby and his mom came rushing over to our house for help when his fever was dangerously high (911 kept giving her a busy signal), or when Allison broke her arm on the trampoline springs. It was frightening and fantastic to laugh about how "old" we're getting. We're the same age now that our parents were when they all moved on the same street and we began our friendship all those years ago.

   After dinner, we decided to check out the new watering hole that just opened a few weeks prior, Kung Fu Saloon (Dallas). While in town for Sarah's bridal shower last year, the Houston location was celebrating its grand opening but we never made it over there. And since Allison and I are both friends with the wife of the power couple who owns the Dallas-Houston-Austin trio, we knew we had to make it to the Dallas location soon after it opened.

   As we all walked over from the restaurant, the clip-clop of six-inch heels echoed on the sidewalk lit by the glow of headlights piled up on the streets, the music thumped and teased from down the block, and then I felt a tremble. It started in the pavement and then sent a flutter up my spine leaving behind only a little tingle in a few of the softly-teased hairs on the top of my head. It was the rumblings of the old me. "(Sighhhh) Now this feels good," I said to myself, "The sounds of the city. The tastes of the night. Before diapers, mulch, and writing on the slates of who our children will become...a ghost of the past- the old me." My thoughts trailed off as soon as I realized the walk over would be a great time to call my mom and see how the girls were doing. "Quit fantasizing over a life so irresistible you were so ready to replace it," I scolded myself.

   Once inside Kung Fu Saloon, I was pleased to discover the hyped new hot spot wasn't a pretentious, 700% mark up bottle-service, smoke and mirrors gimmick unequipped with an ejection seat, but a lighthearted love child of a vintage arcade and a modern version of Cheers

   Ever since my exit from the late night scene in 2007, I can't remember being anywhere that anyone knows my name (excluding the group I came with, of course). But a little turn of facebook fate changed that. In a feeble attempt to prove my life is interesting and that I'm still with it after becoming a stay-at-home-mom, I 'checked in' on facebook. And even worse, I logged back in a few minutes later to see if anyone had 'liked' or 'commented'. (Oh, hush. We're all jumping off the same bridge.) I was completely surprised to see that one of my "model friends" (as I like to call them because they really are on a different wavelength...not superior or inferior to any other group of friends...I just mean that after all living under the same microscope for so long, we communicate on a different frequency than any of my other friends and I do) had commented that her and a few from the old group were on their way up there too! Eeeeek! I was elated! I didn't want to take the focus away from my sweet Allison's thirtieth birthday with my excitement, but it was pretty difficult to contain myself since I hadn't seen any of my "model friends" in almost six years after working together for over ten.

Happy So Fresh and So Clean, Clean Thirtieth, Allison!!

   In the few moments leading up to our mini reunion, in between giddy, little cheerleader claps and high-pitched "eeeek!"s, I actually got a little nervous. The main reason it had been so long since I had made an effort to see anyone I used to work with is because I am ashamed of the walking cliché I've become- "girl models...girl gets pregnant...girl lets herself go...girl doesn't model ever again." I had meant to get back to my model weight/my happy place after Little Girl was born and go back to work. I did try. But the transition from feeling like an incompetent, fluffy, depleted, new mom to faking it as a fearless, fit, and ferociously sexy model proved impossible for me.

   After my old/ageless friends arrived, it felt like old times. All the familiar names and fond memories poured over the calcified corners of my mind's eye and I began to see again. I saw that I wasn't the only one who morphed into a stereotype (girl models...girl marries an extremely wealthy man; girl models...girl becomes a wise and worldly nomad; girl models...girl succumbs to a downward spiral of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll) and slunk away. And who the hell cares anyway? What does it matter? Being models was how we became friends, not why we stayed friends. It didn't define us. Well, it didn't define all of us.





   I also saw that even though I wasn't holding my breath in fear behind the camera lens or bright lights anymore, that I was/am still a slave to my insecurities. I need to work on that. Now. Being a parent of two daughters and a woman myself, I need to stop fooling myself into believing that if I never speak of my physical failings that my girls won't know how unsure of myself I really am. Please. Women know. We always know. Even if no one is saying a word, we can feel the truth in our bones.  I need to take responsibility for my own self-acceptance, my own peace. I need a different tape to play in my head.  (Sorry hipsters. I may adjust my traditional self to slightly accept tweets and epic fails, but it will only ever be a tape that plays in my head.)

[mixed tape from: motley mama]

   I left that night with a happy heart. It felt so good to celebrate another milestone with such a loyal, loving, lifelong friend, and to reminisce and reunite with old friends who are so beautiful inside and out. What I didn't realize when I headed home that night was that I was being followed. Hot on my trail for the next several days was the Ghost of Career Past. I started having nightmares again about missing flights and upsetting clients, missing my change (which means completely skipping one of my times to walk in a runway show) and infuriating the producer, or uncontrollably blurting out how hideous my outfit is with the designer standing right behind me (also known as the lethal injection of the fashion industry).

   Though haunting, the life that came with my former job was also very lucrative and provocative. Suddenly, I found myself scheming to get my foot back in the door, ironically after bathing in relief for so many years that the shallow and unnatural phase of my life was finally over. "Maybe I could get into plus-size modeling again (I tried that for a hot mess of a minute after Little Girl was born)," I strategized, "or I could finally get back in shape and resume acting? (pause...guffaw) Nahhhh. There's no turning back now."

   Years removed from my miniscule place in the fashion industry, I now realize nothing can ever replace the feathery feeling of walking a runway in a cascading gown, or being so on point at a shoot that your role is promoted or advanced. I will always miss the runway, miss the giggles and butterflies backstage, miss seeing myself in a storefront or in print, miss the freedom and solitude of travel, but most of all, I will miss the sense of accomplishment and the confidence that comes from being in complete control of my own business. I am no longer self-employed and patting myself on the back for nailing an audition or repeatedly forgiving myself for following up too many margaritas with a trip to Whataburger. Nope. My job description can now be summed up in a post-it:

I should have invented post-its.

At least I never broke up with anyone on a post-it.

   I will be grateful for the people I met and the wisdom they gave me, the lessons I learned early in a life of per diem and culture shock when I could have been budgeting for textbooks and sorority parties, and the insight I gained while being immersed in an enigmatic industry. Despite having little to no transferrable job experience (Hi. I can type 67 WPM and wear my work attire well.), I did learn a few things.

  • No matter your level of intelligence, beauty, or status, there is always someone out there more adept, more dazzling, and more influential than you.  Be humble.
  • No. The behind the scenes really isn't that glamorous. Younger men charm you with lies and older men lure you with money. You get to see the ugly side of both.  And behind any "perfect" outfit, there are clamps and shoddy hems holding it together to sometimes cover a body that would look too thin naked.
  • Some models actually don't eat...for years.  It's sad.  Pray for them.
  • The entire goal of advertisements is to make you feel uncomfortable. As soon as you feel less than, magazines, commercials, and ads of any kind seek to manipulate you into believing their product will make you "better".
  • If a product is made so well that it will last forever, it won't make it to the shelves. I once heard a Rep telling a Buyer not to order too many of a particular bathing suit for their stores because it would last forever and then the customer would't need to come back as often.
  • There are two reasons models are very thin and have little curves:
      1. The fashion industry is run and influenced mainly by gay men, not straight men, and women. Gay men don't dress women with the goal to get them into bed. Women are the more complicated and creative sex. The odds are what pleases a gay man and a woman when it comes to the world of art and fashion won't usually align with your average red-blooded, heterosexual American male.
      2. A model is hired to make the clothes look good- all clothes from all designers in all corners of the world. You start to throw in a rounder hip on one, or a muffin top on another, and those particular models become a bad investment. It is not cost-effective to have to dress models for each show or shoot according to their respective body types. If all the models are tall and thin, then they only have to cut the collection for one size (sample size). If you don't fit the clothes then they'll find someone who does. When tall and thin models make the clothes look good, the consumer will feel uncomfortable and buy your clothes so they can get a little closer to looking like she does. 

"No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted."
 Yes, I'm definitely much better off now hiding behind a computer.

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