My mother was a teacher; she was gone for most of the year, off helping to educate and raise other people's kids. My dad owned his own business. He opted to build his offices on the same property as our home. He needed to be there to keep an eye on me and my big sister. Since my mom left very early in the morning, my dad packed lunch for my sister and me every day. Sometimes he would leave us clever notes wrapped around a favorite snack.
Once, when I was five, my teacher assigned us to write a paragraph about who our hero was and why. My dad went to the parent-teacher conference and read a bunch of entries that were posted on the wall. The majority of what he read said things like: "My hero is my dad; he's a firefighter; he saves lives..." and "My dad isn't scared of anything. He's the best. He's my hero..." Finally my dad got to mine: "My hero is my dog, Ginger. She makes me happy when I'm sad..." For weeks after I would find dog treats in my lunch with a note wrapped around them that said: 'Arf arf arf, love, Ginger'. Wicked sense of humor on my good ol' dad.
My dad likes sports. He likes to watch, and play, and referee. He probably wanted sons, but he got two daughters; so he named us 'Sam' and 'Rae' and we played sports too. As a kid, my dad coached all of our teams. My sister was a helluva fast pitch softball pitcher. I played softball too, but I liked basketball more. I was a ferocious defensive player. I stole the ball a lot. I rebounded a lot. I also fouled out A LOT. I was an overly emotional player. I really wanted to make my dad happy. One thing I was not very good at was shooting. I was scared. I would rather have an assist than a missed shot. I usually scored two or three baskets, but not much more.
One time, we were playing a very good team. I think I was about twelve. My dad told me on the way to the game that he needed double digits from me. He needed me to score at least ten points that game. He told me to stop being scared to take a shot, and go for it. If I miss, I'll follow thru, get my own rebound, and make it on the next try. I scored twenty-eight points for him that game. I don't think I'd ever seen him so happy. On the way home, as I sat in the passenger seat, my dad reached over and slapped my knee and squeezed it really hard. I hate it when he does this; it hurts. But that day he said, "You did good." It was the best thing my father had ever said to me. (He's not one for compliments. It's not his style.)
I continued to play basketball. A year or so later, I was starting a new school. I knew I had to make the team for my dad. I practiced every day. The hoop he set up for me was right outside his office. I would shoot around for hours, practicing drills. But when I wanted company, I would lob the ball against the wall of his office until he came down to play with me. Sometimes he would pop his head out to say he was busy. I'd keep shooting. But then I'd keep lobbing the ball at his wall. He always came out eventually. Even if it was just to play a quick game of HORSE or Around The World. He never didn't come out.
I made the team. I was always a go getter. I was a smart kid; a straight A student; a bit of an overachiever. But I mostly sat on the bench. My tenacity and my genetics were not in agreement over how good a baller I could be. And the teenage years can be very rough for young ladies. At one very rough point, my dad made me quit the team I had worked so hard to join because my grades were suffering. I had gotten a C in Honors Algebra. That was not acceptable. Little did he know I had already discovered drugs and boys. My grades never fully recovered. He admits making me quit the team was probably the worst parenting decision he ever made. I admit he's probably right about that.
But I'm not writing this to talk about the things he did wrong, but the things he did right. We were so close throughout my childhood, but we battled so much throughout my teen years. He didn't like that I swore so much. He wanted me to act like a lady. He didn't like that I wore so much make up. He said, "Pretty girls don't need make up. And ugly girls it doesn't help anyway, so either way it's pointless. Don't go out looking painted." He didn't like the way I dressed. He'd say, "Don't dress to sell it. If you need to sell it, it's cheap." And he really really really didn't like my taste in boys.
Since I had discovered drugs and boys at the same time, one of the main criteria for being my boyfriend (besides playing in a band) was easy access to drugs. When I was 16, my delinquent boyfriend was 19. My father especially hated him. He set curfews that I broke constantly. And finally he said, "If I see that kid on my property again, I will have him arrested for statutory rape." I screamed and cried and fought. And of course I later realized my dad probably saved my life.
When I was 17, I decided I didn't want to go to college. My grades were shit anyway. I wanted to move to LA to make movies. When I discussed it with my parents they didn't tell me that I was naive or stupid or crazy. They told me I was brave. And they supported me, mentally, emotionally, and alllllllllll too often financially, as well. But I've been making movies. When the first movie I had a big acting role in came out, of course my parents went to go see it. My dad joked that he had to watch half the movie with his eyes closed. He wasn't a big fan of all my sexy scenes with both boys and girls. Sorry, Dad.
When we talked about it over the phone, I apologized for making a movie that he didn't like. He said that it's not that he didn't like it; it just wasn't his thing. And then he said this: "You know, what struck me about that movie, more than anything else? I don't know if I had forgotten, or I just never really realized how incredibly beautiful you are." Oy. That I couldn't take. My father was never one to give compliments. It's not his style. This compliment was too overwhelming, so I deflected it. I said, "Well the cinematographer did a really good job of making me pretty."
"No", he said. "I made you pretty. Those are my pretty blue eyes you have and that's your mother's flawless skin. We made you pretty. He just did a good job of photographing you." Thanks, Dad. Thank you for making me pretty. And thank you for making me feel beautiful.
My dad hasn't seen all my movies. My mother watched the arthouse short where I play a prostitute who is brutally raped and then kills herself. She thought it best that we didn't show that one to my father. They did watch the first feature film that I wrote when it came out. It was very autobiographical; I had done years of research. It was about raging alcoholism and dysfunctional relationships. It's a dark comedy. Neither one of my parents liked it very much. So it goes. Someday I'd love to play a newscaster, or a professor. I really want to make my dad happy. But for now I'll continue to play the slutty drunk girls, drug addicts, and lesbians that I usually play because those are the roles I'm best suited for.
And I'll continue to write dark comedies because I think life is a dark comedy. And I'll continue to make movies, even tho it is not financially stable because I love it and it's what I came here to do. Even when I don't get the role, or my film bombs, or another production company passes on my project, I keep my head in the game. I miss sometimes, but I always follow my shot. Even if I don't get my own rebound, I eventually get the ball back. I'll keep shooting. I'll make it eventually.
I'll continue to swear way too goddamned much. But at least I no longer dress "like a tart", as my father would say. And I rarely wear make up. Ain't nobody got time fo dat. My taste in men has vastly improved. My dad even liked a couple of my boyfriends. But for now, I'm still single. It's tough out in LA to find a decent man. And I don't want a decent man. I don't even want a good man. I want a great man. I want a man who is just like my dad. I want a man who is wicked smart and really funny. I want a man who is athletic and musically inclined and has a good sense of style. But most importantly, I want a man who is faithful and fair and honest and kind. I want a man who loves me for who I am but who is always pushing me to be better.