I'm having a crazy fantasy: A woman -- who, in real life, recently lost interest in me -- is writhing around, singing along to Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself For Loving You" and tormented by my absence.
Normally, no one gets to me. I forget people right after I meet them. When they speak, my mind soars, and I don't hear a word they say. They can give me a standing ovation or boo me off stage. It makes no difference. Except for her. She electrified me. And what did I do? I came at her like an emotional tidal wave. Too much. Too soon. Handled it wrong. In my fantasy, she's longing for me and wailing "I Hate Myself For Loving You." In reality, she's stopped texting me. Additionally, in reality, I'm driving over Laurel Canyon and into Hollywood to interview Pauley Perrette, gothic lab rat Abby Sciuto of the CBS worldwide smash NCIS. Pauley and I haven't seen each other in a while, and we both haven't been getting out much. This should be good.
I'm always juggling. This time, I'm driving through the canyon, having the Joan-Jett-song-fantasy, and texting with Pauley. I don't text while driving, so I keep pulling the car over to reply. Pauley asks if I use Uber? I text back that I've never heard of Uber, that I live in my own little, behind-the-times world. She explains that Uber is a transportation service app. I text back: "It also rhymes with goober." ( I actually texted this nonsense to one of the most popular TV stars in the world. What the hell is wrong with me?)
I enter our meeting spot. The Joan Jett song rocks in my head. Pauley is at the bar. She's talking with her fiancé Thomas, a British ex-marine who looks and vibes like Superman. Born to protect and stabilize. He can probably fly. Everything is okay when Thomas is around. (Frankly, I wish Thomas were in my life, protecting me. There, I said it.)
I've interviewed many celebrities. Pauley Perrette is the smartest, the coolest, and the most fascinating. A psychology/sociology/criminal science student who unintentionally fell into acting while working on her Master's in New York. I wasn't surprised to learn the Q Scores have her tied with Morgan Freeman and Tom Hanks as the world's most likeable and favorably seen star. "I have an old station wagon," Perrette says of the car she still drives. "I want a safe car and I also don't like change. I will never get rid of that car unless it dies, but it's never going to die. And I've never washed it. Everybody in LA washes their cars obsessively. I only washed it once. We were filming NCIS in the desert and there was a dust storm. I couldn't see out of my windshield, so I hosed it off, just that one time. When they say there's a water crisis, they ask people not to water their lawns, but they never say, 'don't wash your cars!'"
Pauley is also the most appreciative celeb I've written about. She's sent flowers, tweeted my writing to her 500,000 Twitter followers around the world, and given me endorsement quotes to help promote my work. Tonight she's providing me with sliders and Jack Daniels, and paying attention to me. What more could I want? Seriously. I don't even have to go through a publicist to meet with her.
"I don't have a publicist," Perrette says. "I have dogs." This is a very typical Pauley Perrette statement.
We talk about Courtney Love, David Sedaris, the success EMDR therapy has in treating Post-traumatic stress disorder, the importance of rescuing dogs, and the sad and recent demise of my eight-year relationship with my now ex-girlfriend. I also tell her about the latest woman I've met, the one longing for me in my Joan-Jett-song-fantasy.
Pauley's vibe is different than the last time I saw her. She's much more centered, calm and happy. It's nice. I ask how she arrived at such an emotionally healthy place?
"One of the most important things you can do is surround yourself with only good people," she says. "There are toxic people who only want to poison the well all around you. I'm such a softie that I used to allow toxic people into my life, and that never works. You really have to clean house and keep only kind, good people around you. I used to not have the self-confidence to be with a partner that I really looked up to and really respected. So, I used to have horrible dating relationships. My self worth was not at a point where I thought I deserved to be with someone awesome, but that changed."
"How'd it change?" I ask.
"I briefly dated a guy -- for about three months -- who was so awesome and so nice to me," Perrette shares. "He was smart and funny and fun, and he gave me the idea that I don't have to be with people who are harmful and toxic. This gave me a sense of self-worth."
"Then why did you stop dating him?" I almost scream, projecting my relationship issues directly at the gothic princess of NCIS.
"We're better as friends," she says with a loving smirk. "But he helped me realize that I'm worth being in a healthy relationship. It took me a long time. My worth as a human being had been chiseled down by several people along the course of my life, in my childhood and my upbringing. It's hard to come back from that and say, 'I deserve to be happy and be around people who are kind to me' because if you are familiar with people being mean to you, you continue to be around toxic people. It was a big leap, but now it's great. I met my fiancé Thomas. He's kind and nice and solid and good. My favorite thing about him is that he's incredibly happy. Everyone I know says they've never seen me so calm and so happy."
I've gotten into an unusual habit lately. I interview famous celebrities and hijack the conversation with my own personal shit. Tonight is no different. I launch into a discussion about the breakup of my eight-year relationship. Pauley strongly urges me to abandon the sheets and pillows I shared with my ex, and to replace them with nice, completely different, new sheets and pillows. My very own sheets. My very own pillows. The beginning of my new life.
I further discuss the Joan-Jett-song-fantasy woman. I know it's not healthy, and that she's detached. I tell Pauley I'm aware, yet something inside keeps me riveted.
Well studied in the behavioral and social sciences, Perrette fires back: "You're projecting your old relationship onto that one. You just got out of an eight-year relationship. Your infatuation with this new chick comes from your being lonely. You own your groin. You own your sexuality, but you're assigning that power to her. That's where your infatuation is coming from. After a big breakup, after eight years, you're targeting the first thing that turns you on. You have to learn that other things are fun. New sheets and new pillows are fun, too."
There is something about being told this by Pauley Perrette -- who sometimes rocks rhythmically from side to side as she talks -- that snaps you right out of turmoil. She's right. I know it. There is instant emotional healing. My fever breaks, my clarity returns, and the Joan Jett song fades. If the Red Sea were there, I swear it would've parted. This is why Pauley Perrette is a global superstar. There's a force of compassion and wisdom in her that cuts straight into you and hits you where it matters. On TV, it's lovable. In person, it's religious.
It's late, and I'm back home in bed with the old sheets and pillows. Pauley and I continue texting. I promise to take her advice, to buy nice, brand new sheets, pillows and pillowcases. An intimate symbol of my new life and journey. I send Pauley Perrette the final text of the night, and it's a strange one: A closeup of a stuffed Curious George I happen to own. I won't tell you why I sent it. I've already told you too much.