Last September is hard to explain. I'd start at the beginning, but that's probably somewhere in the 80s, and thanks to college the "childhood memory details" section of my brain is a dead mouse in a mug. I'd show you the video of — let's call it "Septembergate" — but I already get asked to sign blurry screenshots of my areolas. I don't need to throw footage of the most physically disturbing moment of my life into the mix. So apologies, but sit back, we're starting with a metaphor.
My brain is a room full of women who take turns at the wheel. It's the only way I can make sense of what it feels like to be alive. These brainwomen stand in a conference room behind my eyes, looking out at my day and taking the controls when summoned. Some of them have been dormant for years, napping on crumpled blazers by the Keurig, waiting to be needed. But my key players are as follows:
Joni McLamb coos at babies and weeps when she sees an old lost man on the C train. Crags Garafalo handles Time Warner Cable and street harassment. Blanche VonFuckery calmly gathers her blood-colored ballgown and crosses to the controls when my husband says things like "I mean, my passion is cooking, and yours is vacuuming, right?" Veronica Curvingham sees a sleepy-fireman-looking-coed in a Borders and attempts to ruin his life. Ariel Gutknife journaled the shit out of 2003 and takes your brain on a dreamthink during financial discussions. Ingrid St. Rash tries to convince you every zit is proof you're a lesion to society and puts incoming compliments directly in the Betty Company shredder. Later, Shirley Tinsel tapes them together, smiling through her braces at the words she can make out.
Here's my terrifying secret: I don't have the crucial one. I don't have a Sheryl Manila. I see her in the eyes of every one of my best friends — one hand on the hip of her perfectly tailored pantsuit, the other shading her chic smoky eye, searching in vain for the corresponding Sheryl in my brain. She's not there. But I love to watch her work for my friends. Sheryl boldly asks after the milkshakes we ordered fifteen minutes ago, and while she understands that this baby shower is not a contest, she WILL make the best flower crown possible so that you will win the … you know … contest. She demands that your insurance company explain why a mole removal cost more than your refrigerator.
Most important, Sheryl stays up nights and transcribes your other brainwomen's poems and prayers into concrete plans. She waves away Ingrid's insistence you don't deserve it and Joni's fear you will alienate people along the way. Sheryl is going to take you by the wrist and march you to your destiny, whether it's for your rightful place in the Starbucks line or your rightful salary.
With no Sheryl of my own to do this, I carefully crafted my identity to never need her. I'm an actor, so I've been able to cheat the system. I've tried to make a living out of letting the fearful, darker-souled brainwomen sing what they see. I didn't want a Sheryl there to tell them to be reasonable or to take care of themselves. I was afraid they'd stop showing me their view of the world. In return, I promised them a life that wouldn't be too loud or extraordinary — I knew that with no Sheryl, we couldn't handle that. I worked, and socialized, but with long months of shades-drawn couch-hiding in between to assure myself the beta life was the best fit for me. When an opportunity came along that was too big, I would somehow sabotage the audition. Or convince myself I had.