Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Spoiler: Part 5 -- The Women

I wouldn’t have become a spoiler if it weren’t for two people. The first was Katlyn (pronounced CAT-LINN) who I met at an acting class led by a woman named Marguerite who ran her workshop like a cross between group therapy and the Manson family. A cult of bad actors. The kind who wouldn’t just drink the Kool-Aid, but let it dribble down the edges of their mouths while doing a melodramatic scene from “One Life to Live.”

Marguerite had a lot of rules – no discussing the workshop outside the workshop, no questioning her inside the workshop, men should wear ties and women knee-length dresses and “sensible” shoes, and the one cardinal rule that Katlyn and I broke: No dating other actors from the workshop.

Katlyn was tall and had cheekbones like Mt. Rushmore. She came from nouveau-riche Westchester money and who called herself as a “progressive.” She was always talking about “social justice,” “the Sandinistas” and “the Shining Path” who if they still existed, would be touring college campuses playing their old hits in some left-wing “Ozzfest,” and “helping those less fortunate,” a rule that, as it turned out, she broke when it came to me.

It was also very clear that, like many people of her generation – X, Y, Z, like chromosomes – she felt that fame was her due, whether or not she earned it. But if she called herself an “artist,” people would feel she had nobler aspirations and wasn’t just another of the multitudes with a jones for the spotlight.

Also, I questioned what she meant by “art” when her main preoccupations were entertainment gossip (“Abscess Hollywood,” I called it) and reality shows. Each time I caught her watching them, she would either pretend to be channel surfing -- like I’d found her masturbating – or deliver a nonstop, condescending critique of the performers, as if you’d never in a million years catch her eating grubs or sharing a house with six strangers and 25 video cameras.

Katlyn and I first hooked up after improvising the death scene between Hitler and Eva Braun, in the Fuhrerbunker – in German. (She spoke it; I didn’t.) No matter that Marguerite disapproved of my Hitler – “he’s too full of himself,” she said – Katlyn was so hysterical at my pidgin-German, which I’d channeled from watching tapes of Sid Caesar on “Your Show of Shows,” that I had no trouble convincing her to pop the cyanide capsule and to date me afterward – a sequence of events that, looking back, was in the wrong order.

Now don’t get me wrong. I found her magnetizing. All of her – her almond-shaped face, thin, tapered nose, long, boyishly narrow-hipped torso, breasts almost imperceptible through those white Brooks Brothers shirts she liked to wear, her flat backside that receded into the tops of her thighs…I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not a closet case or ambivalent about my gender orientation or any of those buzz-phrases people these days like to drop on you. (Even Katlyn. She’d get insecure about her flat chest and I’d reassure her that I liked her that way, and she’d say, “You sure you’re not gay?” I mean, impossible, women.) I’m just different from your average cave-dwelling guy-in-a-suit. Big boobs and ample hips? No, thanks. If I want to see curves, I’ll watch Pedro Martinez.

Besides, Katlyn was very much a woman. Dewy lips, soft skin, fresh smell, soft moans. The sex was good – Katlyn was the first woman who showed me that clean sex could be dirty, too, or at least reasonably satisfying. No tie-me-up, tie-me-down, horse-fucking, peg-the-boyfriend fantasies. If our love life was a designer sandwich, it would’ve been called the Westchester. Ham and Swiss on Arnold Brick Oven, hold the mayo.

I fell for her because she laughed at my wisecracks, she was smart and unlike most of her generation, could speak and write in complete, grammatically correct sentences.

Katlyn and I were together for almost a year, during which we were discovered by Marguerite and banished from the workshop. (Actually, one of our fellow classmates, a gay man named Hirold – “it’s not ‘Harold,’ it’s ‘Hirold’” – who flirted with me, happened to see us together on Eighth Avenue and turned us in.)

We weren’t distraught; far from it. We’d both been onto Marguerite for a while, and let’s face it, New York City is not exactly short on failed actors -- and failed acting teachers. Besides, Katlyn knew that in her worst-case scenario – failing as an actor -- she could always marry some son of a cement company magnate and act part-time. A guy her family deemed appropriate for the Wedding Announcement page of the Times – or as I like to call it, the Breeders’ Guide.

But even if she wouldn’t admit her own dreams of stardom, from day one, Katlyn let me know what ambitions she had for me. “You should be on ‘Saturday Night Live’” soon became “Why aren’t you on ‘Saturday Night Live’?”, which morphed into, “If you weren’t so lazy, you could be on ‘Saturday Night Live’.” Despite her nagging, I was hooked on her. She had what I wanted – confidence.

Sure, we fought but unlike with all my other girlfriends, things were relatively stable. She even took me home to meet her folks, a couple of martini-swilling WASPs who I thought only existed in A.R. Gurney plays and who acted toward me like leaders of a superior civilization from Alpha Centauri. “Dinner” was a single slice of roast beef so gray that I felt somebody should’ve played “Taps” for it and some “heirloom” potatoes so musty-looking, I thought they’d actually been handed down from a previous generation. And string beans. Always string beans.

She took me home, I think, for her folks to reaffirm what she’d already decided: That I wasn’t marriage material. The folks made their intentions pretty clear by A) the way they called Katlyn “Katherine,” which I discovered was her given name; and B) the way they grilled me: “Where are you from?” (“Newark” is never a good answer.) “Where did you go to school?” “What do you parents do?” (Again: “Bet on NFL games” – not good.) “What’s your background?” I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d asked me to take a blood test. Or state our three branches of government, like I was applying for citizenship. Which in a way I was.

My unsuitability was so obvious that they actually warmed up to me after that. But while Katlyn knew she had to dispose of me, she chafed at her parents’ influence and decided to break up with me in a way that would most embarrass them.

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