Behavioral Norms

A wise woman named Anne Lamott said, “Every single thing that happened to you is yours and you get to tell it.” At this point in life, I have plenty to tell. A lot of what I have to tell is about people at their most vulnerable. I have often been the quiet observer on the edge of dramatic situations. Having said that, I would expect that I would understand people better. But that is far from the case.

I grew up around actors. Stage actors are good at figuring out why people do the things they do and feel the way they feel. Film or TV actors are good at remembering their lines, keeping a neutral expression on their face, and hitting their mark. In both case they are presenting the characters as written by the playwright.

I started life in a bassinet back stage every night. My mother was the lighting operator for a summer theater production. My father was away in the Army at the time. I don’t have any conscious memories of that summer but I expect it had some effect on my early development.

When I was seven, my mother and father and I were members of the cast and crew of another semi-professional theatrical company. The production was a play called Stars in My Crown and it told the story of the taming of the Tennessee river by the TVA. It was actually much more entertaining than it sounds. There were songs and dancing and an interesting story line.

I was much too young to understand the backstage intrigue that went on nightly among the adult members of the company. Actors are often vain, emotional, and self centered. It was fairly confusing for me. But I soaked it up like a sponge.

By the time I moved into my teenage years, I had internalized all of the archetypical artistic behavior. I participated in orchestra, choir, plays, debate, and speech competitions. I knew how to act like a tortured artistic soul. So much so that I sometimes wonder if there was any relationship between the way I acted and who I really was.

After I graduated from high school I worked in the summers at a western theme park, with gunfights, saloon shows, magic shows, and Kentucky long rifle demonstrations. The cast and crew were mostly college students working there during the summer. The typical actor behavior was the norm there as well.

I was consequently at somewhat of a disadvantage when it came to knowing what normal human relationships were like. My parents were both school teachers and lead rather Bohemian lifestyles, or so I thought. It turns out they were actually fairly normal.

I haven’t associated much with theater people the last half of my life. I find that sad. I enjoyed their company. I have often thought about getting involved with local theater productions but I have the disadvantage of knowing what hard work that is and can’t bring myself to commit to that level of effort on top of a full time day job.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.