My mother called to ask if I'm going to the Oscars. Um, no. If I'm lucky, I won't be watching alone in my yoga clothes. Or if I'm really lucky, maybe I will be.
She's asked every year for almost a decade, since 2002 when I actually did go to the Academy Awards with my friend Ted from college. That time, I took my cellphone on the red carpet, watched Renee Zellweger twirl around (repeatedly) in her yellow vintage gown and J. Lo sport a 50s do, and called a few friends. I also called my mother, sealing my fate that she would assume I belonged on the red carpet of every awards show the rest of my life.
My mother phoned in January to see if I was going to the Golden Globes. Though I did go to the In Style Globes Viewing Party for half a decade while I worked at the magazine, I never attended the actual ceremony. That fact never swayed her notion that I was inside that festive ballroom, laughing and drinking champagne with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, and she would possibly see me on TV, maybe even accepting some kind of award. Impossible, since I was an employee at a magazine, not a film or TV star. Didn't matter. She thought, and still thinks, I belong inside.
I haven't worked at the magazine for three years. My life is quite different now. This year I watched the first half of the Globes at home alone. Then I drove my Jetta to a friend's house to watch the second half so we could drink wine.
Truth is, I'm happier to watch on a large HDTV than to be a working spectator. For me it wasn't "fun" to go to the Oscars or Globes or any other awards show that's a competition between famous, gorgeous people unless I were a famous, gorgeous person, or had a real professional reason to be there. And even then, perhaps those inside would say it's a drag unless you win. And even then...
A viewing party is supposedly the next best thing to going to the awards show. Here's how it works at the Globes: A large company (like a magazine) hosts a dinner inside the Beverly Hilton where the ceremony is taking place nearby. The dinner is in a makeshift fancy room, constructed atop the hotel's outdoor swimming pool. The awards ceremony is televised on closed circuit TV while you eat chicken. After dinner, the viewing party is transformed from banquet to bash in a matter of minutes, with waiters folding up dining tables and guests not knowing where to stand. This becomes the after party. When the actual Golden Globes ceremony was over, the people who went to the real Golden Globes would hopefully then come to your after party.
I was always awkward there, pretending I had some reason to be chatting with Bradley Cooper or Alicia Witt. I didn't want to gawk, or act like a friend, or talk about a magazine story. I'm cringing at this second, even though I did have a legitimate professional reason to chat them up. It was slightly thrilling when George Clooney squeezed my arm and asked where the bar was. But I was always left wanting. Wanting more, wanting real, wanting the expectation in my mind to be fulfilled. I thought the famous people would be more everything, but just like regular people you and I don't know, they weren't all that. It also made me want more of myself, to not feel like an outsider with a big "L" etched on my forehead, which of course I placed there myself.
I will admit it was spectacular to borrow and wear Erica Courtney's Rock Star ring with the 15-carat diamond or the micro diamond earrings from Martin Katz when I got all dressed up for the Viewing Party. (I had to Master Cleanse for weeks to wear the sample dress.) But the anxiety over losing the gems outweighed the pleasure of wearing them. Christina Hendricks lost her borrowed $850,000 Chopard diamond bracelet on the red carpet at the Globes this year. It was recovered. What would happen if it were really gone? Or if I accidentally dropped the Rock Star ring down the Porta Potty? I couldn't sleep till I returned the jewels. Reality punctured my fantasy.
Before you say "Poor baby," "She's a whiner," "anyone would want to go" -- I get it. I am happy I went. Just saying I'll be happier to watch the Oscars on TV Sunday night, wear my hair in a ponytail, and maybe win a friend's Oscar pool (it won't be the first time). I'll call my mother from L.A. and discuss the gowns on the red carpet. I'll keep her fantasy intact. And be happiest of all that someone has that blind confidence in me. She doesn't need to know I'm on the couch in my yoga clothes.