One thing I have been in 2018 is scattered. First I was a whirling dervish, then I crashed like a bad 90s band. So tonight I’ve been doing what I always do when I desperately need to collect myself: I’m cooking. There’s something about the slow deliberation of cooking–the foraging for ingredients, the chopping and scrubbing and peeling, the tuning into what wishes to be prepared–that is more centering than lotus pose, tadasana, or even the New York Times crossword puzzle.
Simmering on the stove is my first real kitchen endeavor of the year–a moroccan lamb stew, with cinnamon, lemon peel, ginger, garbanzo beans, tomato paste, chicken broth, apricots, onion, carrot and parsnip, bits of cilantro and mint and garlic and cumin tossed in for good measure. Like all good witches, I’ve gone way off book, and am trusting the wind to tell me what to sprinkle in my cauldron. My house smells great, but only tomorrow will reveal if my culinary magic is still in place. It’s the day after that tells the real story.
This morning, as the sun rose wanly here in Truro (yes, I’m back for the rest of the month), I caught up on the Harvey Weinstein revelations. Nothing unpredictable, I’m afraid, which made them all the more appalling. Woman after woman coming forward with the same clutch of details: the bathrobe, the massage requests, the obsession with showers, the need—nay, the demand—for sexual attention. What angered me most: Harvey claimed he was offering career ascension to these hundreds—maybe thousands—of young women, which is loathesome unto itself. But all he really was saying was: If you submit to my sexual demands, I will not harmfully, aggressively cockblock your career.
He is a larcenous pig not unlike, say, our alleged president.
As the estimable Gloria Steinem has written—as the Academy of Motion Pictures itself has acknowledged—such predatory behavior is hardly unique to Weinstein. Instead, this “isolate and destroy” brand of toxic masculinity has meant that we women have felt damned if we do and damned if we don’t in terms of sexual resistance.
Again, not news to anyone walking as female in this life.
But Sarah Polley did raise an issue I hadn’t considered in 15 years. In this week’s New York Times, the director addressed her reason for walking away from acting: She felt like prey. Scratch that. She was prey. And it made me think about my own career as a tween actor.
I never talk about why I quit acting. The truth is that it’s probably no loss to the world. As as an adult, I’m good enough on stage or in front of a camera as a commentator but not especially adept at pretending I’m anything but myself. As a young person, though, I really, really wanted to be an actor and experienced a surprising degree of success. Continue Reading →