One of the most common romantic fantasies that men and women in this country tend to have is to date an actor. The men all want an Angelina Jolie, and all the women want a Brad Pitt.
And why not (besides the mildly inconvenient fact of those two being married to each other)? Actors are famous, influential, loved by all, make oodles of money and
look good on your arm. And your friends
will be mightily impressed. Right?
Now I’ve been living in Los Angeles for some years, and for better or
for worse have gone out with enough actresses to know what it’s really like. So if you're seeking a fulfilling relationship, here I present to you why dating an actor
is a Bad Idea. My experience is with the
females, but the generalizations below being of the vast variety, they apply regardless of gender:
1. Actors are financially unstable.
The number of actors who are making a decent living out
there is vanishingly small. There are a
few dozen household names; the rest are mostly struggling. They sling drinks and wait tables, waiting
for their big break.
One of my mentors put it bluntly: “If you’re hungry, you’ll
forget about love. And if you need to
pee, you’ll forget about the hunger, too.” Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says that base-level needs like
shelter, security, employment and resources supersede higher ones.
If scarcity prevents fulfillment of those basic needs, you
don’t get to rise to the higher ones involving love, esteem and
self-actualization. So someone who’s
struggling with making ends meet doesn’t just lack time for love but may not be
in a position to offer (or receive) love at all.
2. Actors are in a state of perpetual emergency.
Here comes the next audition! Next callback! And another!
Every call and meeting with producers and agents is an emergency. Even though there’s a less than 10% chance of
anything coming out of any given audition, she never knows which one’s going to
be the big one, so she has to show up every day.
If you’re dating her, you try to be supportive the first few
times. But after she cancels on you for an audition for a Charmin' ad again,
you start wondering whether being left high and dry is your idea of fun. Which contributes to the next problem…
3. Actors have funny schedules.
In addition to the sudden-death auditions and callbacks that
usually happen on weekends when you’re trying to get together, actors also have
paying gigs that happen at inconvenient times for workaday mortals.
If she’s in a theater production, she may not be available
on any weekend evening for months. Film
shoots happen at midnight; callbacks pop up out of nowhere. And if she lands a really big job that shoots
on location, she could be gone for 3 months.
So you can go out for dinner or to your friend’s birthday
party – just not with her. If
companionship is an essential part of your fulfillment in a relationship, then
you’re not going to be fulfilled.
4. They are constantly exposed to rejection, hurting their self-esteem.
I once accompanied a girlfriend to an audition for a
commercial, just to see how the other half lives. What I saw was quite enlightening: a roomful
of preposterously good-looking folks, all vying for 2 roles in an
advertisement. The chances of any one of
them landing the job was well under 5%.
So day in, day out, actors walk into
situations with a 95% chance of rejection – often for reasons they can’t
control, like height, complexion or butt size.
You can imagine that this could wreak silent havoc with the
self-esteem of anyone not made of stone.
The dating problem arises because psychologists have found a phenomenon
called the marriage shift: in a
long-term relationship, someone with low self-esteem will eventually come to
disbelieve her partner’s kindness (“Why would he want me? He must be lying or crazy”), think him a fraud
and walk out. That doesn't sound like a party to me.
5. They are in constant danger of being criticized publicly
and therefore feel insecure.
If you have a regular job, chances are that you receive your
periodic work review in private behind closed doors.
But there are a few jobs out there whose job reviews comes
out in public – in a newspaper article or worse, on a magazine cover. Tabloids go further and include the actor’s private life, too – it’s all fair game. So actors never know when they’re going to be
swiped at by some unaccountable miscreant who endangers their self-esteem and mood.
6. Their self-absorption leaves little room in their lives for others.
The work of a good actor involves total focus on the physical
self so it becomes an instrument of expression.
Because of this self-absorption and the aforementioned perpetual state
of emergency, she will call on you to be understanding and be patient.
However, she will not have the time and energy to be
understanding and patient in return.
It’s not her fault – the nature of the business simply precludes
it. In the meantime, there’s no one to
support you in your time of need.
7. They are incapable of sustained, deep happiness.
One of the characteristics of meaningful work is that it
gets rewarded. For the reward to register
in the human brain, it has to arrive immediately after the completion of a task
– within seconds to minutes.
For film and TV actors, the reward of their work – applause
or good reviews – comes weeks to months after the work is complete. So their neural reward circuit never really
gets lit up, and at a deep level, they never feel truly gratified, even when
they do their best work. So you’re stuck
with someone whose life work is incapable of making her truly happy, and
there’s not much you can do about that. If
you like her, that’s bound to affect you as well.
8. Their satisfaction is externally determined.
If you were to summarize all the thinking of the ages about
happiness and living the good life, it may come down to this: if you can
generate your own good feelings from within, you win. If you depend on the outside world to
generate good feelings for you, you lose.
Like all art, acting has no absolute value other than that
conferred upon it by public opinion. So the
actor’s happiness is perpetually determined from the outside: the opinions of
casting directors, producers, reviewers, and their audience. As Lao Tzu said in Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching, “Care about people's
approval, and you will be their prisoner.”
And a prisoner’s not all that fun to hang around.
Also, an actor’s whole way of existence is about expression
rather than introspection. As my friend
the author and producer
Adam Gilad pointed out, “The Oracle of Delphi’s gate inscription didn’t say
‘Express thyself’ – it said ‘Know thyself.’”
There’s a big difference between the two.
9. They inhabit a perceived state of permanent decline
I’ll never forget when my friend Anna told me on her 24th
birthday without a hint of irony, “Omigod – I’m so old.” Forget that Anna is
accident-causingly beautiful. She already
sees herself as over the hill, knows she’s not getting any younger, and checks
for wrinkles and other supposed defects every day.
So you’re the one thinking she’s a piece of heavenly
perfection, but she’s convinced she’s turning into Quasimodo. Eventually, you’ll get tired of
your compliments going nowhere, she will think you a fraud (see #4) and things unravel
Of course, my dear reader, you will still be attracted to
actors in spite of all of this, and you may still date one of them someday. If so, perhaps by knowing what you’re getting
yourself into, you’ll be the one who bucks the trend. But just knowing it’s raining outside won’t keep
you from getting soaked, so proceed with caution still.
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