If you had asked me, at 13, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said, "Geena Davis." To a 13 year old girl, she was the most beautiful, most exciting, most wonderful woman I had ever seen, either in real life or on film (although my dad's friend Judy was a close second and remains, to this day, the funniest woman I have ever known). I think I might love her more than Walton Goggins.
The author, generously, at 13
As a 13 year old girl with stringy brown hair, big round glasses and three beautiful sisters, two curly blondes and one with an enormous mane of Indian-dark, crimped, waist-length hair, I dreamed of one day being beautifiul--and when I saw Geena Davis for the first time as Mogan Adams in the catastrophic film flop Cutthroat Island, it was as though I had fallen in love.
That was what I wanted to look like. She was handsome, strong, she had big full lips and her tits weren't fake and huge. When I later read an interview in the Parade magazine insert that came with the Sunday paper, I found out she was not only beautiful and talented, she belonged to MENSA and made her own clothes--as a bookworm, a beginning writer, fan of patterned leggings, (Lucca and I shared a proclivity for short boots) Star Wars geek and a general 6th grade weirdo, this spoke to me. Not only did I want to look like Geena Davis, I wanted to be Geena Davis. I wanted to be a pirate/ghost/journalist/bank robber/space bride/vampire. I wanted to be an actress/genius/fashion designer with giant crimped hair and Jeff Goldblum/Matthew Modine/Alec Baldwin (when he was cute) on my arm. I wanted the freedom to live out loud the way it seemed like she did. Because she confessed (as I realized all actors do, only she didn't seem like she was lying) that she had been an awkward teenager, but she went to Hollywood and never gave up and became this beautiful goddess on my TV screen. "It never occured to me to go home," I read over and over in that Parade interview. "I just kept telling myself, "it's just around the next corner.""
I STILL fantasize about this
I grew into all of her movies. My mom let me stay home from my dad's one friday night, got us a bag of mini Baby Ruths and Ranch Doritos and finally showed me Beetlejuice--it's one of my favorite memories of my mom (not like she's dead or anything, don't worry). I played Cutthroat Island endlessly, endlessly with my friends Jess C. and Jess LP. I was an still am an unabashed fan of this film, I don't care how cheesy and awful it is, and when I actually met Matthew Modine I would have told him this but I hadn't eaten that day and was concentrating more on not fainting when he kissed me on the cheek.
She wore fangs in Transylvania 6-500 because she was shy and wanted people to notice her, which is the exact reason I wear pink go-go boots or do silly MPDG things like give people Warren Zevon records when I can't get up the courage to tell them that I want to be friends.
Also fantasized about being Geena Davis RIGHT HERE
When my stepdad left, I was so angry and hurt that for days after I got the news, all I could do was lay on the couch and watch Earth Girls are Easy on loop--my stepdad had, after all, left his wife and kids for a nurse he worked with, so Geena prancing in pink lingerie singing "The Ground You Walk On" after she's thrown him out and is destroying all of his stuff struck a deep, lingering chord with me (especially because I had stolen his record player and turned his first pressing of Abbey Road into a bowl). I wanted Jeff Goldblum to drop out of the sky and take me away from the awful reality that I was ultimately disposable to someone who had entered my house seventeen years ago and expected me to absorb him into my life, when clearly I had no been absorbed into his.
I nurtured this fantasy that Geena Davis was my real mom and she'd given me up because she didn't want me being a spoiled Hollywood brat and that one day she would come and get me and I could get out of Cobleskill, out of my crappy teaching job, out of a life that was rapidly falling to pieces. I stared at myself in the mirror, looking for any traces of generic familiarity--after all, I didn't look like my mother, my father or my two full sisters (I do, however, bear an uncanny resemblance to my half sisters, although none of us look like our mother.) If Geena Davis was my mom, it meant that I wasn't stuck in Cobleskill--I could get out from a town that was suffocating me and would swallow whole so many people I loved. The best compliment I ever recieved was when my BFF Matthew told me I was a little pint-sized Geena Davis, that I did, actually, look a little bit like her. (I do have a little freckle the same place she has a small beauty mark)
Lately my late 20's/out of grad school/out of work/no agent/no book Geena Davis worshipping has turned to the Emmy-winning, immediately cancelled Commander in Chief. This was on during the terrible year I lived in NYC, and I used to flip back and forth between that and House. I never got to finish the series, so I got it on Netflix and have spent the last two weeks lying on the couch in a combination of utter misery and utter fascination--because seeing her, handsome and powerful, her deep voice commanding and tender and a little bit haunted, makes me feel 13 again. I am again that little girl, dancing around her room to Bryan Adams, imagining herself somewhere--anywhere--but my hometown hellhole. On stage at Radio City Music Hall or the Winter Garden. A sound stage in LA or on location off the coast of Thailand. Because it's just around the next corner. Whatever it is, it's not far from where I'm standing right now.