When I lost my job I knew I was in for a rough time. It was unexpected, it wasn’t pleasant, and I did not take it well. I didn’t exactly help my future job prospects when I got drunk that night and sent my ex-boss a passive aggressive text followed by three dancing lady emojis. Fingers crossed that came across as “charismatic leadership” in a job reference, but probably I will be referred to only as “drunky rage freak.” Hey you lose some, you lose some, right?
All my friends called unemployment the National Endowment for the Arts. “Think of all the time you’ll have to do the things you really love!” said people with stable jobs and lives! “Sure wish I had some spare time away from all my degrees and accomplishments!” declared my friends! I tried to imagine the positive sides, tried to envision myself disciplined and active and using all my new freedom for learning and growing. I even got a little excited.
For a while, unemployment was pretty awesome. It was basically a luxury lifestyle centered around The Twilight Zone and bags of $3 frozen dumplings. I tried to get back into smoking pot so I could free my mind, man, but then I found myself locked in my room listening to jazz with four sweaters on trying not to look at myself in the mirror. Remember that Twilight Zone episode where a woman has all the time in the world to do whatever she wants but it becomes a nightmare prison of her own dread and feelings of worthlessness? Me too, such a good one!
After a few weeks, I was too broke to do much of anything except pay my bills and rent, and even that was stretching it. Spending hours in coffee shops wasn’t romantic anymore, I just felt anxious. I was always alone because my friends were either at work or out doing things I couldn’t afford to do. I’d always struggled with depression, but I was sinking into depths I’d never experienced before. I didn’t realize how much my job had shaped my life and without that structure I was at the mercy of whatever hopeless future I imagined for myself. I read a book about Sylvia Plath at the library like a cliché sad girl.
Applying for jobs and getting repeatedly rejected sank me even further down. I sold my blood a lot. I got $50 in cash from a guy named Eric who would take a wad of money out of his pocket and peel off my share. It felt pretty dramatically grim bleeding for food money on a cold winter’s day. I wish I could say I ate spoiled gruel that night but it was probably just a stir-fry or something.
One afternoon I was scrolling through craigslist and I came across a post looking for an actor to portray a bulimic girl in a hospital training video for doctors. That’s super weird, I thought. Also super weird that it pays $1000 and by weird I mean How the hell can I get this job? I’d been in commercials before, and I thought, well, you’re already selling your bodily fluids, why stop at blood? I emailed the casting director and she emailed me right back, with a lot of questions.
Have you ever had an eating disorder?
Uhhh should I say yes because that counts as experience, or no because that disqualifies me?? I’ll say my sister does.
Can you make yourself vomit on cue?
Yes duh I went to college.
What are your measurements and weight and please send a picture of you in a bathing suit or underwear.
I’m 32-2-WAIT WHAT GOD NO. (Okay so I should say that I did verify this casting director and she seemed legitimate. But this was still a tough one.)
I got my boyfriend at the time to take the most uncomfortable, intensely clenched picture of me in half-bathing suit, half-underwear and sent it in, praying I was thin enough to convincingly portray a bulimic, which is the biggest mind fuck I’ve ever willingly participated in.
I made it to the second round of “interviews.” I was practically hired! The casting director said she was pulling for me, and that there was just one last part of the process.
I had to videotape myself throwing up.
I had to videotape myself throwing up in my underwear and preferably a crop top or something that “bares the midriff.” There were also detailed instructions on how exactly to binge and purge, how I should drink a lot of water and make it as “graphic” as possible. I was determined to nail this, I needed $1000, and as God as my witness I would barf my brains out on cue. I called my best friend Sarah, reaching out for the first time in months.
“I need your help.”
“Sure, what’s up?” my sweetly naïve friend asked.
“Can you bake me one of your blueberry pies?”
Sarah made the pie. I went over to her house, clad in lycra, and together we sat at her kitchen table, laughing at how insane everything was. Laughing at the lengths I was going to for a doctor’s training/sex scam video. I ate the pie as fast as I could, I shoveled it in until I started to feel sick and then I kept going. When I felt like throwing up, Sarah gave me a shot of cheap leftover rum, I ran to the bathroom, and movie magic was made. We were laughing so hard we were crying, and I kept yelling at her to make the angle more flattering.
I didn’t get the part. My first thought was, I wasn’t skinny enough. My second thought was, Holy shit that was hilarious. Not only was it funny, I had somehow, through one weird craigslist ad, gotten out of bed, bonded with a friend, taken charge, and tried for something I wanted.
I felt like maybe I still had some fight left in me. I felt like ME. And at the very least, I got to eat some delicious pie.