Going through life with a sharp sense of intuition has its pros and cons.
Pros: Knowing that the new “super awesome” hire at work is bat-shit crazy.
Cons: Knowing for certain that your boyfriend is no longer in love with you.
At times, I’ve been jealous of people who can turn a blind eye to bad things that are happening in their relationships. “Luke, cheat on me? Nah, he’s just super private and compulsively changes his password on everything every week.” I know that’s not the mindset I could ever really live with, but it must be nice to be able to tune it all out. Sometimes, I feel so highly tapped into my partner’s feelings that it hurts.
Things with my boyfriend had been dreamlike for the first seven months we were together. We laughed until we cried, did thoughtful things for each other, and were over-the-top romantics. In my mind, this ship was sailing blissfully into the sunset with Nicholas Sparks and a Pomeranian at the helm. But in reality, we were about to go over the edge of Niagara Falls in a barrel with Bobby Leach. (Google, “Daredevils of Niagara Falls” -- you will be glad you did)
I still don’t know exactly what it was that made him fall out of love with me, but I knew it was happening and that it was happening at a rapid pace. One day would be amazing; the next would feel like we were complete strangers. One dinner with friends would be warm and fun; the next tense and awkward. The disconnected days were unbearable, and our earnest attempts to address this new “off” feeling were only making it worse. I tried to brush it all off as growing pains, but my intuition, forever strong, wouldn’t let me.
This relationship was going to be over soon, and I felt it in my bones.
From that moment on, my appetite vanished. Late night pepperoni slice? Nah. Mom's roast pork and mashed potatoes? I don’t think so. Mexican corn!! Nope. It didn’t matter what favorite dish I ordered. My stomach just couldn’t handle it.
Instead of being hungry for pizza, I was hungry for answers. “What went wrong? How did this happen so fast?? Was it something I did? Am I just being oversensitive? Is this just what happens at this point in the relationship? Should I just let it be? When’s the next time we even have plans? Did he meet someone else? Why can’t I just go to sleep? Someone just tell me what straws I can reach for to get things back to the way they were?!?”
I know. Bangs! Maybe I’ll get bangs.
By the time we formally broke up (over a delicate cheese board and cornichons) I was a wispy size zero with bangs. Bangs that my best friend’s husband proceeded to tell me made me look like Shelley Duvall in “The Shining.” For the next two weeks, I had circles under my eyes from crying, splotchy skin and bitten nails. I felt sad, mentally exhausted, and lonely.
But darlings! When you’re an actress who also works at a restaurant, there’s simply just no room to be a downer! So I tried to fake it the best that I could and smile. I even had a talk with myself in the mirror one day, “Yes, you do look way too thin... but the upside is you can finally pull off Audrey Hepburn-inspired looks!” But let’s face it, there aren’t enough black turtlenecks in the world to coast on that silver lining. I just had to ride this shitty feeling out.
Then, something bizarre started to happen.
“YOU. LOOK. AMAAAAAZING!” people started to say. “What’d you do? You look so chic, girl!!" A brunch regular even touched my face and sighed, “Did you lose weight? I’ve never noticed these fabulous cheekbones before! Jealous!!”
Can we just pause for a second here?
I was only a size FOUR two months before all of this. A healthy, occasional-fried-chicken-cutlet-sandwich-eating, yoga-practicing, SIZE FOUR! What the hell?!? All of these people were treating me like some Biggest Loser unveiling, “Nan, a hoarder who’s been attached to her La-Z-Boy for the past ten years, finally sheds 500 pounds. AND HERE SHE IS TODAY!”
Did I really look that different?! Come on people.
I went back and forth between feeling totally insecure and completely incredible. In one ear, my closest girlfriends were expressing concern. After gin martinis one night, we got into a crying fight because they told me that they were sad, “Even your jeggings look baggy!” (Gin martinis are never a good idea, but you know they’re especially bad when your fight revolves around the word “jegging.”)
Meanwhile in the other ear, casting directors were telling me how “fab!” (thin!) I looked. I was getting called in for a ton of auditions, “This network pilot, this guest star opportunity… callback for Friday! This, that, THIS! That!”
And then, to my complete shock, I actually booked something. It was only three lines playing a snarky socialite on "Gossip Girl," but what did it matter?? I hadn’t booked a TV role since "Strangers With Candy" in 2000. It was 2010.
But wait. Was the heartache weight loss really to thank for all of this newfound momentum? I ran into my downstairs neighbor, (a delightfully blunt British singer) on the way to my fitting. When I told her I had booked this role, she looked at me and said, “Well I’m not surprised, you’re finally the size of a Hollywood star. You have always been fit, Val, but now you just look like you’d be on television.”
As I got measured and pinned for my socialite’s wardrobe, I asked myself, “Would I even be here if I were my regular weight happy? Did I only book indie films and voice overs all these years because I wasn’t leading lady weight for the networks?” If the answer was yes, did that mean I would have to maintain this weight to keep my the bookings coming? That was a terrifying notion.
A few months later, I started to feel more like myself again -- which meant my appetite was back. For a hot second, I did try to stay the size zero that had garnered me so much favorable attention. But I hated it. I hated counting calories; I hated obsessively spinning, and I hated having hunger breath. And when I tried a juice cleanse, all I got from it was a bad attitude and a five o’clock shart. Not interested. So I went back to eating what I loved to eat, got a trainer and hoped for the best.
I’ll never know if my auditions slowed or if my theatrical agents let me go because I was back to a less desirable camera weight, but I don’t care. If others wanted me most when I felt my absolute worst, then sayonara. I’ll work my ass off to write my own roles. Roles where best friends drink margaritas, eat Barbuto’s roast chicken and laugh their faces off. Because it makes me fucking happy.