As a teenager, usually when I was walking through the park on my way home from school, a familiar refrain would often run through my head.
"I’m going to be an actress."
That this would happen is mystifying chiefly because I never actually wanted to be an actress. An Oscar-winning film director married to Leonardo DiCaprio, yes. A Lily Allen-style pop star who’d cheekily satirise the Grammies while holding hands with her newly-cool boyfriend, Taylor Hanson? Abso-fucking-lutely. I had more than my fair share of delusions of grandeur. But being an actress was never among them.
I mentioned this to one of my friends at the time, and she suggested that this recurring thought was more metaphorical than literal. That it wasn’t “being an actress” that interested me, per se, but what it signified.
My thesis may be ostensibly about “sex”, but it’s also partly about this cultural fiction we have around youth; this idea that the under 20s are these supremely self-confident, super-attractive, sexy, self-possessed, libidinous beings. It’s bullshit - for most people, at least. One of the things I like most about the musical Spring Awakening is how it captures the uncertainty and pure suckitude of being very young. The song ‘My Junk’ captures my later years of high school perfectly:
In the midst of this nothing, this mess of a life
Still it’s just one thing just to see you walk by
It’s almost like loving, sad as it is
It may not be cool, but it’s so where I live
I lie back just kicking, and lay out these scenes
I ride on the rush, all the hopes, all the dreams
I may be neglecting the things I should do
But we’ve all got our junk, and my junk is you
We cringe at the desire of the young (in particular, if not exclusively) to be famous, but I think that desire stems in part from our positioning fame as an escape, a means of elevation, a protection mechanism - even if its reality is something much more vulnerable. That’s certainly what my mantra was for me: a means to protect myself from my internal insecurities and the outside risk of derision. A fantasy of a better, future life in which nothing could hurt me.
Did anyone else entertain similarly outlandish fantasies as a teenager?