The last moment of the movie Bridesmaids shows lead actresses Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph singing along to the song "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips. It's the best moment in the entire film - two amazing improvisers who love playing together, engaged in a moment of pure, unadulterated playfulness.
I saw Bridesmaids on Friday night with a theater full of women in comedy, an outing organized by G.L.O.C. or Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy. Walking home through Union Square a few minutes after the closing credits, on a cool spring evening, I was happy and nostalgic, flashing back to an afternoon more than twenty years earlier (boy, does that make me feel old).
It was the summer of 1990, and I was on a trip organized by Interlochen called "Northern California Adventure." I was 15 years old. It was toward the end of our adventure's itinerary and we were staying at a KOA campground whose main building had a juke box. One afternoon I stood at that juke box and played a song over, and over, and over again, singing along at the top of my lungs.
Yep. "Hold On":
Hearing this song takes me RIGHT BACK to that campground, to that juke box, to my 15-year-old self, ponytail intact, about to start my first year of high school. My first year of HIGH SCHOOL. A few years later, I'd meet Jordan, my future husband, and our journey together would begin. I'd begin to separate from my parents bit by bit, turning into my own woman, my own self. I'd find improv. I'd own up to the ache inside me - the ache of an artist, that burning desire to create, connect, perform.
And then, at the age of 35, I'd find myself in a theater full of female comedians, in New York City, on a cool spring evening, watching this film about a woman who figures out that she is the problem in her life, and she is the solution (as summarized at one point by the character of Megan).
It takes the wind out of me, reflecting on how far I've I've traveled since that summer day more than 20 years ago. I marvel at that young woman (or was she a girl) -- so unformed, and yet, so many parts of her (of me) already there. I was already an actress (I performed in school plays - it wasn't until my 20s that I let go of acting for a while, only to come roaring back to it through the vehicle of improv). I was already passionate, filling diary after diary with writing about how I hoped the world would be.
And I already stood apart, though less comfortably then than I do today. I found out months after that trip ended that every night, all the other kids had snuck out of their tents to smoke and drink. They never invited me, because they assumed (correctly) that I wouldn't have been interested. I was a good girl, and I had no interest in disappointing the adults who counted on me by breaking the rules.
In that way, my 15-year-old self and I are worlds apart. Maybe that's the journey I've been taking for these past 20 years: Learning to break the rules. No, scratch that: Learning to make up my own rules as I go. Learning to improvise.
(Postscript: I am available to star in a movie like this. Contact me!)