Do you remember your first kiss? I remember mine: my lips are sticking to my gums because all the moisture from my mouth has made a mass exodus to my palms and armpits. Suddenly, there he is. Standing in front of me. And the fact that I actually like him amplifies my nerves by 110 percent.
My body is caught in a tractor beam pulled directly towards him, but I am eyeing the ejection seat with my hand hovering over the abort and abandon button. It is going to happen. There is no turning back now. I acquiesce. I lean in. Our teeth clink and the pimples on my hormone ravaged chin rub against his peach fuzz.
"Cut. Let's go again."
Looking around at the director and the 25 middle-aged men who just witnessed this epic moment of awkward intimacy I can't help but feel as though there is something abnormal about this experience.
You see, I don't need to remember my first kiss. This coming-of-age moment is forever burned onto celluloid, which can be re-run over and over and over again. One of my most personal, clumsy and intimate experiences is caught on camera for all to see... and see... and see.
So much of my life has been documented this way. Many of my most personal experiences are shared with the whole world. Type my name on your TiVo and you can watch me gain and lose weight, go through phases of bad haircuts and too many piercings, zits the size of walnuts on my chin, then on my nose, and, my personal favorite, right between my eyes. Watch me grow, morph and shift into the woman I am today all from the comfort of your living room chair.
This offers a unique feeling of familiarity between the rest of the world and me. The Truman Show-like life I have lived allows for a depth of intimacy with people I have never met. Leaving a restaurant the other day, a beautiful woman looked up at me and smiled, "Hi!" Her warm and open energy felt comfortable, so I assumed I knew her. "Hi!" I said back. But I didn't know her. I don't.
She knew Chloe. My weekly visits to her living room TV via Smallville created the illusion of instant friendship for her.
Experiences like this are both exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because who doesn't like instant lovely friends. This is delightful. But then there is the terrifying bit. She thinks I'm actually Chloe. She has no concept of all the many ways I am way more face-plant Allison than kick-ass Chloe. It could be really easy to hide behind the strength and power of a character I portrayed rather than opening up to the truth of my own very real blemishes and bruises.
I don't have a team of witty writers giving me snarky comebacks or wise remarks in real life. And no amount of cover up will conceal the scars on my arms and legs that come from the clumsy way I move through my days. Along with a fantastic wardrobe and perfect hair, my alter ego "Chloe" embodied a strength and integrity in the face of outside pressures and criticism that I don't feel I have yet. It is funny, but in a way I look up to her and admire her commitment to the pursuit of truth against all odds. I never thought I would see the character I played as a role model for the type of woman I would like to become.
Perversely, it is the typical "superhero" struggle. And it has me wondering if someone like Bruce Wayne feels lame without the voice modulator and all the fancy leather defining each muscle. Does he look in the mirror and feel like less of a man compared to Batman? Does the man behind the mask, the real man, feel less impressive than his alter ego?
In my case, the ideal super woman, "Chloe," always knew what to say and was never afraid to stand for what she believed in. Then there is this real woman "Allison," who is afraid of owning what she loves, is too hard on herself, and is struggling to figure it all out. Both "characters" have the same voice, the same body, and the same brain. There's just one simple difference: oh, just this little thing called reality.
As an actor I am in the spotlight of attention and I have the choice to either maintain the façade of my character -- infallible and special with ultimate strength and integrity plus no pimples, no cellulite and no wrinkles -- or, I can fully expose the truth of my struggles. It is interesting because I think we always glorify heroes. Culturally, at least in North America, we are drawn to beautiful, blemish free flawless heroes who face fierce external foes and then go back to basking in their perfectness. We superficially focus on the glamorous lives of the infallible heroes who look so brave and courageous.
So for many of us, the struggle to embrace our own imperfect selves is relentless and omnipresent in our society. The cover of every magazine lies to us, telling us beauty only exists after extensive airbrushing.
But for me it seems far more terrifying to stand naked and exposed with no suit of armour or special powers. The challenge of living a vulnerable and honest life takes way more guts than hiding behind a mask, a well fitted suit, and a smooth signature fighting move.
So I suppose when deciding how much I want to expose of myself in the work I do and how much I want to hide behind the perfection of a crafted and predetermined character the answer comes in asking myself what I want to promote. What kind of example am I going to set? This answer to this is clear. Not easy, but clear. Ideally I would like to promote self acceptance and love. True invincibility attained through the transparency of messy, screwy, honest, and human issues.
Now, a full year after Smallville, I am at a point in my life and in my career where I would like to be more active in the type of example I set and the type of character I represent. I am stepping out of the comfortable shell of "TV actress" and revealing my "woman behind the screen" as a writer. Welcome to my home, I am renting a "glass house" in an attempt to promote the idea that we are not alone as we struggle through our own maze of masks and mirrors. I'm pushing into the vulnerable truth and sharing this journey to craft my own, real, super character. I am grateful for the suits I have worn; each woman has given me a clearer picture of who I want to be, but I am looking forward to gently folding up the costume and placing it on the shelf. For a little while anyway.