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Too Fat. Too Old. Too Gay.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you have limitations.
The first time an adult told me I was fat was in college. I was home on a break when a former teacher, a woman known for her caustic wit, said, “Wow. Someone’s been visiting the dining hall.”
It felt less than lovely, as you can imagine, and that snarky comment stuck with me. It’s been 30 years, and I can still picture where I was standing when she made her “joke.” Looking back on pictures of me from that time, I was nowhere near overweight, but I do remember always feeling bigger than my friends.
As an adult, I decided to pursue a career in an industry where looks matter. Nothing stings worse than finding out your team submitted you for a part of the unattractive bestie. Some will say, “Oh, it’s better than it used to be.” But I find that the only thing that’s changed is “hot and thin” has been replaced by “aspirational and athletic.” Different words, the same impact.
It’s not just about the physical appearance in the entertainment industry. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit thinking about not just my body, but also my age and my sexuality.
When I started off in the biz, as the folks in Hollywood like to call it, I was doing stand up comedy, hustling in the clubs, trying to get that Jerry Seinfeld development deal. At that time, I was also dealing with accepting the fact that I was gay. I had all kinds of internalized homophobia going on. I knew I’d never make it big as an actor who was also gay.
So I lied.
I told stories on stage about men that didn’t exist and sex on a beach that never happened. When I got a meeting with Disney after performing in a comedy festival, they diplomatically– in that late 90s way, tried to suss out if I might, in fact, be gay. I over-compensated with a jokey tone desperately hoping to convey that I was all-day, man-loving.
It was my worst acting performance to date. No development deal was forthcoming.
Over the years, I became comfortable with my sexuality. Having kids forced my hand because I never wanted my children to be ashamed of where they came from.
Then, in an odd twist of fate, I leaned into my super lezzy self, and it gave me one of the biggest breakthroughs in my career. I developed and hosted a podcast all about LGBTQ families, and for the first time, being my true self opened up doors that I had struggled to walk through my entire career.
The body image stuff has been (and may continue to be) a life-long struggle. I tend to look at myself with a sigh and a wish for body parts as perfect as all the air-brushed models on covers of magazines. I struggle to remain on a food plan and at a comfortable weight. But I stay connected to a 12-step program related to food, I do the best I can, and when I fall off the wagon, I hop back on and start all over again. And I work to figure out how to love my body for all that it has carried me through. Literally. I know this word is overused, but it applies here.
I now find myself on yet another frontier of acceptance.
Recently I was told by an agent that I was too old for their company. Again, just like that fat comment back in college, I find myself replaying his words in my head while imagining the texture of the walls of the WeWork phone booth I was in when he delivered this crushing blow to me. His opinion is one that I can’t seem to shake.
As a result of that conversation and my own insecurities about aging, I tend not to share my actual age, pretending to cough and mutter “forty-fifty something” when asked my age, like I’m in on the joke. I never want to mention that I’m pretty sure I’m moving out of peri-menopause and heading directly into menopause. I am afraid to tell people that I’ve started hormone replacement therapy so I don’t murder my family in a hormonal-induced rage while they sleep.
It’s so fun to live with me right now.
But recently, I’ve been thinking , “Haven’t I already learned this lesson?” Despite my insecurities, I have learned to love myself (mostly) as is. I show up at auditions, and I go for it,100 percent not worrying what those 20-something casting folks think of me. And guess what? I’m booking more parts than I ever have. When I let go of the shame, and learned to love my gay self, my career blossomed.
Inspired by folks like Leeanne Morgan– a stand up comedian who has seemingly burst onto the scene, hilariously sharing stories about menopause and taking Netflix by storm, I’ve decided to address the final frontier.
Here I go.
I’m a 52-year-old, gay lady, with a few extra pounds, who changes an estrogen patch twice a week, and is still trying to figure it all out.
And from this point forward, I’m declaring that I will no longer allow someone to tell me what my future holds.
I will continue to build my career, moving beyond where I am today. When I get out of my own way, my talent will walk through the door, with a tip of the hat and a jaunty “hello there” to boot.
Now it’s time for me to ask you this question, has someone ever told you that you couldn’t do something? That you weren’t enough? That you had limitations?
Let’s share these moments. Don’t be afraid to end your comment with declarations of all the ways you will thrive and achieve your goals and dreams despite what that asshat said to you.
Let’s not let anyone stop us from being all we were meant to be.
I’m with you.