Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Sight

The first time I saw the love of my life Max, he was wearing a t-shirt that said "I'm not wearing any underwear, film at 11:00!"  His long wavy brown hair was flowing over his shoulders right to the top of his tattoo of a pig devil named Hot Stuff holding a musket.    He was cutting up with his friend Richard, smoking a cigarette and going over his lines.    I had never really been into heavy metal bands, but was pretty sure this guy was probably in one. 

I was 24 at the time and dressed in a white shorts, a white shirt that was tied in a knot at my waist, white sneakers and my long blond hair was spilling over my shoulders (apparently I wanted to play the part of the vestal virgin).   I asked if this was the place for the auditions and expected to be condescended to  (as a life long blond, folks generally assume you're not very bright right off the bat - a big mistake).   But instead of making fun of me, he made eye contact briefly, immediately looked down and said "Yes" quietly.     "Oh, my God, he's shy.  That's so cute," I thought as we waited to go in and read for the show. 

We both got cast in the show All Men are Whores, (that was the original name of the play) for the FIU Playwrights' FestivalAs the weeks of rehearsals progressed,  I found myself drawn to this man who smelled of cigarettes and Wella Balsam.   For a guy with long hair, it was always very well conditioned and soft.  Best of all, I could talk to him easily.  But because I was dating another actor in the improv troupe Mental Floss, he had to remain my buddy Max.   He was also dating someone else, a gorgeous actress in Miami, so our relationship had to stay friendly and nothing more.   Ironically he played the two timing lead with me as his thing on the side.   

One day, we were rehearsing on the set with the rest of the cast watching and we had to do a long passionate kiss.   We had been just stage kissing in the other rehearsals, but something about that day - his minty fresh breath, the cream rinse in his hair, the warmth of his neck and the fact that he never treated me like a dumb blond converged into the moment when I forgot where I was.  I genuinely kissed him - a full on french kiss.  The scene ended and I felt mortified.  "That was so unprofessional, what must he think of me?" I thought as I hastily got up from the couch, shook his hand and said, "Good working with you," and then left quickly, my heart ready to pound out of my chest.   How could I have done that?  He's my buddy, nothing more I told myself and didn't say anything to Patrick, my boyfriend.  He was an actor too, but he wouldn't understand - our relationship was tentative enough as it was.   We had a five day break in rehearsals so I was hoping that Max would forget all about it. 

A few days later, I was auditioning for another play, called Raining Backwards.   I did my monologue and afterwards talked to the producer and then saw Max talking to the director.  It turns out he was also a designer and would be building the set.   I said a quick "Hi" and felt my face starting to flush.  "Hey," he said and we exchanged some quick pleasantries about the play we were in.   It seemed weird and random to see him there.  I had not mentioned this audition and he hadn't mentioned that he was the designer.  "Okay, what's going on?" I asked the universe as I drove home that day.  

I got over the tonsil hockey incident and we kept rehearsing  All Men are Whores.   One weekend, shortly before we were supposed to open, I auditioned for another play called Robin Goodfellow which was the children's theater version of A Midsummer's Night Dream.   I was auditioning for Titania when Max walked in.  "My God, does this guy know everyone in town?" I thought.  Again, another random meeting that neither one of us had mentioned.   We both got cast as the fairy queen and king for this show which had a six months month rehearsal schedule which under normal circumstances I would have objected to -- but it gave me an excuse to see Max on a regular basis.    On the drive home from this audition it was clear that the universe wanted us to be together.  

Whore Dogs  opened and was pretty well received (we had to change the title from All Men are Whores since the playwright had stolen the original name from a David Mamet play).   Patrick broke up with me shortly after it opened.   I was a little sad but not devestated.  It had never really been a good relationship from the start, just convenient.  I grew tired of his passive-agressive behavior.   I called Max that night using a ruse about starting an improv group and pumping him for information about decent theaters to work with.  He sensed that something was wrong but didn't press me for details.   The last thing I wanted to do at that point was date another actor - I just needed my buddy Max to talk to.  

As the rehearsals for Robin Goodfellow continued, Max and I got to know each other better and I let him know after six weeks that Patrick was no longer in the picture.   He told me that his girlfriend had gone to New York, but hadn't called in two weeks and it was pretty much over over.   So we went out, had chicken wings and talked about acting, our lives and the future.     

If you had told me 25 years ago I'd be married to a guy who was a dead ringer Ted Nugent, I would have said "Who the hell is Ted Nugent?"  Then after finding out,  I would have said, "No freaking way!  I'm going to marry a yuppie like Miles Silverberg," who was a character on Murphy Brown.    That was supposed to be my type - the career driven guy that would work all the time, be a little neurotic and make tons of money - that guy was supposed to make me happy.    But I wonder how many women have walked by guys like Max and never given them a second look in their quest for a doctor or a lawyer who could give financial security but not much else.   I've been around tons of women who had the nice house, cars,  and vacations.   But after being around them and their husbands for 10 minutes, it's pretty clear they've sold their souls for designer clothes, handbags and lunches at Bal Harbor.   I used to come home from work and think they could buy and sell me 10 times over but I wouldn't trade my life with them for anything.  Of course not all women who are married to well to do men end up like that,  but I feel for those that didn't give themselves a chance to be happy with someone who was not their "type."

In our 19 years of marriage, we've survived Hurricane Andrew, the deaths of three of four of our parents, a malpractice lawsuit, Max's near death from chicken pox, a child diagnosed with autism, and moving to Georgia without really knowing a soul.    It's been a challenge at times to make ends meet and we've had our fights along the way, but everyday I look at him I thank God and our guardian angels for those random auditions.  He's still my lover and my best friend - my buddy Max.  I think tonight we'll cuddle on the couch, say how much we love each other and watch a film at 11:00.  

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