This is Day 5 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in a classic film of my generation, Animal House.
When I was little, I thought I was Audrey Hepburn.
I thought we were dead ringers, in fact, and that when I grew up, I would probably be mistaken for her at the Stop & Shop ("Hey! What's Audrey Hepburn doing at the Stop & Shop?"), wear fabulous clothes and live a life of glamor and excitement (I did sort of mix up Audrey and her characters.) Here's what was similar:
- Audrey Hepburn and I were both painfully thin
- Audrey Hepburn and I both had proportionally large eyes for our heads
- Audrey Hepburn and I both had proportionally large heads for our bodies
Unfortunately, that's where the similarities ended. I had imagined that because I had these things, I also possessed Hepburn-esque grace, charm, beauty and lovely, swan-like neck.
I still remember the heartbreaking day my illusions were shattered. Apropos of nothing notable, my exceptionally beautiful mother made a wistful and admiring comment about Audrey Hepburn's swan-like neck. I smiled to myself, preening a bit, waiting for the inevitable followup: "Like yours, honey, oh, I wish I had the same lovely, swan-like neck you and Audrey have!"
Instead she just looked at me, the What? look. Then, probably (reasonably, really) thinking an eight-year-old couldn't possibly understand the significance of a swan-like neck, she elaborated, demonstrating by pantomiming against her own neck: "You know, long and thin, not stubby and thick...like ours."
I had to reassess. And when I did, the news was not good. I did not, in fact, look like Audrey Hepburn. I was short and bowlegged and lantern-jawed. Worse, if you looked at us side-by-side, you could clearly see that Audrey's head was perfectly proportioned to her perfect frame; it was my head that was the gargantuan freakshow.
So really, I was just painfully thin with unusually big eyes for my head and an unusually big head for my body, like...Nancy Reagan. Or Sneezy.
For years, I publicly mocked and privately bemoaned my big, freakin' freak head. The way I figured it, it was a smarter move to preempt any mockery, to own my stubby, big-headed, funny-looking-ness. But really, I wanted to be pretty. To be elegant. To be graceful.
To be Audrey Hepburn.
Two things finally cured me of this. First, reading about Audrey Hepburn's third act, the one where she became a tireless advocate for UNICEF, traveling around the world on behalf of the children. She was no-muss, no-fuss about the whole thing, including the clothes. In one article, the provenance of which I no longer remember (but knowing me, it was People, not The New York Times) she specifically mentioned one fact that shocked me: she traveled the globe with just one "fancy" outfit, all black and all, knowing her, Givenchy, but still. One small satchel of stuff to go to all those events, meet all those people, do all those things. She wasn't disdainful of her beauty, but it was, at this point, beside the point. She had used it while it was useful, and now she applied her additional usefulness to causes and interests which obviously truly moved her.
Second, someone, and I wish I could remember who, because I owe them a Coke, pointed out to me that a preponderance of successful TV and film actors have big heads. It was early on in my life, way before I'd thought such a career might be possible for myself, but somewhere in my own head, it stuck (hey, it's not like I was short the space for it.) And when I finally did start acting, I knew that the combination of all those years as a copywriter + my gigantic noggin' meant that whatever else, I could probably count on commercial acting as a source of income to get me through.
Which, as many of my readers know, I did.
So thank you, Sextons and Weinrotts, for the dominant big cranium genes. So what if I'm 7 1/4"? So what if I have to grow out my hair an extra six inches to get it into a ponytail?
So what if I am not Audrey Hepburn? Do we need another one? Hadn't the original done a bang-up job of it already?
My big head = my big career: eight years of decent wages and great health care and tremendous life experience to get me to the next thing. To my second act.
To my third act.
Which, if I'm very, very lucky, will be half as good as Audrey's.
Sketch by me for Illustration Friday. This week's theme: Hats.