Sometimes I Had Friends

Posted: January 15, 2013 in Acting, Life, Mom
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I think most would agree I didn’t have a “normal” childhood in many respects, and social outlets were no exception. Between being home schooled and being on the road all the time, I didn’t have a lot of options to make friends. Most of the people I hung out with were adults – Uncle Richard, Uncle Carlo, Russ, and Mom. If they were not well educated, they were well traveled and wise. They were funny and interesting, and I considered them my peers far more than others in my age group. This cliquishness bred a bit of contempt for normal people – when I met “normal” kids, I could not believe how immature they were. They didn’t talk about books, or talk in depth about  music (other than what bands they liked – they wouldn’t tell me why they liked them, just that they did). Beyond video games, I had little in common with them. I was friendly enough, but they could tell I wasn’t like them and resented it. I didn’t play in the dirt – I despised getting dirty (still do). I didn’t understand them, and they didn’t understand me. When it came out what I did – the music, the acting – even kids I had managed to become friends with would flare in resentment. I eventually learned to shut up about it, but this made me uninteresting to them. Neighborhood kids would sometimes come over if Mom ordered pizza. They’d pretty much eat the pizza and leave. If they did stay, they’d try to take advantage of me in some way – a lot of things went missing from my house, for instance. Not big stuff – mostly toys and maybe some video games would disappear. The big trend at the time was trading cards, and my brother and I got into Magic: The Gathering with the neighborhood kids. They played with us, but they laughed at us a lot. We traded cards with ignorantly (or sometimes gave them away when we were told they were “worthless”) – we got the raw end of a lot of trades. I suppose that’s fairly normal for kids to take advantage of each other, but I did feel as if this had an edge – I was the “rich kid” (I wasn’t, really, but everyone assumed I was).

If the normal world held little for me, I did find members of my own tribe I could connect with. I would see these kids at auditions, and we’d chat in the waiting rooms. Sometimes, if the stars were aligned properly, we would all go out to lunch or hang out. These times were pretty rare – maybe a few times a year – and a lot needed to fall perfectly into place. For starters, Mom had to be in the right mood – if she was grumpy that day, or distracted by her delusions, or wanted to race home in time to catch Russ at the studio, I was likely not going to get to hang out with my friends. My friends, of course, had to have nothing going on as well, but they also had to be doing something that interested Mom. If it was something “weird” (like grabbing Chinese food or watching a foreign film) she was instantly disinterested. Most importantly, of course, Mom had to like them – or at least decide they weren’t plotting against us. If she thought they were “in competition” with us, she’d never have agreed to hang out. Perhaps I should explain what I mean by that. In those days, you had a ” type” and you were sent out on auditions based on that. If they wanted a bookish kid, I got the call. Someone with red hair and freckles wouldn’t be competition for me – or a 300lb kid, or a Jewish kid, or a black kid…you get the idea. The people who weren’t likely to get the same calls as me were the people Mom would gravitate towards.

There used to be a pretty cool place in the city called Ed Debevic’s – it was a retro type place. It had a full on, unapologetic 50’s atmosphere – complete with waiters and waitresses on roller skates who smacked gum and were rude (they were supposed to be). Sometimes they’d even hop on the tables and sing. There was even a giant atomic warhead in the waiting area – I was a little skittish about it at first, because I wasn’t interested in getting radiation sickness. But my friend insisted it was only a metal shell, and I relaxed. My friend and I talked about Batman over dinner, and Mom even let us hit a comic store afterwards. I was euphoric.

Had I lived in the city and gone to school there (there was at least one school of “child actors” that probably would have fit the bill for me), I no doubt would have been happier socially. As it was, I lobbied Mom vigorously for more time with friends, and when I got it I treasured those times. Aside from having my brother, I was pretty freaking lonely. I have no idea what I would have done if I were an only child. Hell, I still have a picture of me and a kid I knew and hung out with a couple times – it sat on my dresser in a frame for a full decade after our last visit together. Like I said before, I eagerly held on to those times I was able to socialize with members of my own tribe.

I read in a book once that the universe subtracts. But I think it can also add and multiply. A lot of things are a tradeoff – I could have had a Dad who wasn’t a psycho. I got a bum deal on that count. But in return, I got not one but 3 incredible father figures. I could have lived a “normal” life and had “normal” friends and done “normal” stuff. Believe it or not, I longed for that normalcy and stability so much I could taste it. In return, I got a career in an industry whose veil few manage to pierce. And I did have friends – as a kid, I called them my New York friends  – and they were all vibrant people. I am, ultimately, who I am supposed to be. I know the people I know and experienced the things I was meant to. Sometimes I wonder how different things might have been – and even if as a kid I had wished fervently for things to be different, I embrace it today. The tradeoffs the universe gives you may not always be fair – they may not even always be what you want – but you need see them for what they are: they are a gift.

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