Not Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street, although I confess some days there is a resemblance. I’m referring to the Oscar for Best Actor. I already have a place, accented by a spotlight, reserved for it on my fireplace mantle. Alas, that Oscar will never be mine. I can’t act. In the meantime, serving as a place holder is a replica of Rodin’s statue The Thinker, perched on a toilet seat, discovered at a souvenir shop in the Smokies. During the holidays, it’s switched out for another replica of The Thinker featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (antlers draped with Christmas lights) sitting on a toilet seat, which was a gift from my grandchildren, who’ve apparently inherited my taste in fine art.

I first became aware of my lack of thespian skills when Caller I.D. became available on our landline phones. I found I couldn’t even present a convincing performance by voice only. Caller I.D. totally unnerved my mother. She was convinced (incorrectly) that she could tell from my voice when I answered the phone that I knew it was her and was busy and didn’t really want to talk to her.

Sometimes I wasn’t even within sight of the I.D. and didn’t know it was her. Still, her first words were, “I can tell you’re thinking, ‘Oh, no, it’s her again.'” This may have been more of an indicator of her lack of self-worth than my lack of acting skills.

My honest and fervent protests fell on deaf ears. She didn’t believe me. I’d panic when I saw on the I.D. that it was her. While the phone contined to ring, I rehearsed my greeting over and over. When I finally answered, instead of the warm and perky welcoming tone I was striving for, my exaggerated gaiety bore the undertones of someone who had just backed into a cattle prod. I couldn’t take the pressure.

Before that, I used to think I was a pretty good actor. That skill was called upon often at my job as a school secretary, where I worked with many young people. It’s the nature of teens to try to form a unique identity through various styles of dress, makeup, hairdo, and body ornamentation. If it presents an appearance which shocks and appalls adults, so much the better.

When I looked up to greet one of them, no matter how shocking or horrifying the image, I refused to react. One young person, whose appearance was startling, was often in the office complaining that people were staring at her and making fun of her. “It’s my right,” she insisted, “to look any way I want to look.” I agree. However, if a person chooses to costume herself like the Bride of Frankenstein, she’d better develop the thick skin, the self-confidence, and the courage to go with it.

Center stage is not the domain of the annonymous. If you want to hide among the sheep, don’t dress like the coyote.

My acting skills were pretty good on the job, but it was harder to present a “poker face” when the person you are talking to has a row of tiny gold rings piercing his or her eyebrow, and a few dozen more in their ears, nose, and lips. One young lady mentioned she also had a navel ring. The only logical purpose of that would be if it were intended to serve as a zipper pull for an anticipated Caesarian section.

For a while, as a less permanent fashion statement, they often wore imitation tattoo jewelry. Snug-fitting bands of fine black wire, twisted into lacy patterns, adorned their necks, wrists, or ankles. From a distance, they looked like feathery stitches, as if the wearer’s head, hands, and feet were assembled from spare parts by a surgeon with creative flair and a knowledge of crewel embroidery.

While I was able to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance of someone who was uninterested and unimpressed, I wondered why today’s teens couldn’t dress more sensibly, like we did back in the 60s and 70s? They should be ironing their hair smooth, painting their eyelids blue and their lips white, and wearing micro miniskirts, fishnet stockings, white go-go boots, or pants with bell-bottoms wide enough to shelter a family of refugees. And why is their hair dyed brilliant blue, pink, or purple, when everyone knows the only acceptable color to dye one’s hair is platinum blond?


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