My first kiss took place at a jungle gym in New Jersey back in 2006. You could feel summer growing restless, though the humidity had not yet shown itself; my curly locks thanked the weatherman for that. Back in those days, at the ripe age of eight, I liked to joke, “The weather’s always the opposite of what they say! It’s like every day is opposite day for the weatherman.” Thank goodness my rose-gold, wire-rimmed glasses made up for my undeveloped sense of humor.
On action, I asked if the boy beside me, with the bowl-cut, honeyed hair, knew how to French kiss. Seconds later, I was teaching him. Me—the girl who’d never. But don’t fret; in a matter of moments I was biting off his tongue. Well, pretending to and spitting up his fake blood.
And that was just take one.
That’s the most peculiar part of growing up in the industry, in my experience, at least. The fact that all my firsts are fictional.
It was 2016 in Los Angeles when I had my first sip of alcohol in pre-WWII Berlin. All I drank was Sprite, but it sure did lull me to a sweet, introspective, mellowed state. Perhaps it was the fact it was a night shoot and we were all half-delirious. Perhaps it was because we were dancing with the lights dimmed. You could say it was mind over matter, that we willed ourselves to that space, that mindset… or maybe I just sound grotesquely actor-y right now. But that’s my recollection of the moment: time-traveling through thought, getting oh-so-drunk on life.
The Geffen Playhouse gave me a blue Zippo lighter to borrow so I could practice setting the flame afire. My hand was weak from lack of experience and petulantly refused to push down hard enough. Once my inner pyro revealed itself, I was able to practice smoking harmless herbs that made my head tingle. The smoke escaped me too quickly, with no mirrors through which to hide my failure at my professionally-assigned delinquent-dom. Hold in, they said, you got this. Just breathe. Apparently I suck at sipping in oxygen, let alone wannabe pot.
Then there was the time I lost my virginity on-screen in a tent at a Christian camp with an actor with whom I actually attended middle school. It was the martini-martini shot, the last of the production; not of the world, but I was on top.
Before that, however, on the very same set, I learned how to drive in a red Mustang that was not mine. Though it was my character’s emotional climax of the film, my sole goal for the scene was to not run over Marisa Tomei.
I’ve also given birth to a fetus Jeffrey Tambor, which is something I won’t ever have the privilege to do IRL, so there’s that. Giving birth had long-since been on my acting bucket list. Faked birth before I hit adulthood—I’ll take it. I guess there’s something tantalizing about it—experiencing the world first from the safety of a set. Maybe that’s why I wrote a short film about the loss of my virginity way before any real-life sex-ploration.
It is a wild thing: analyzing the world, inhabiting the lives of others before you’ve even had the time to figure things out for yourself—not that you can ever do that, really. But is an oddly beautiful thing to do under the lens. And, if done with care and thoughtfulness, it can be weirdly breathtaking to witness: watching a person meander toward understanding. It is that vulnerability we crave once it is lost. And it is gratifying that this industry, though it often can be exploitative, can also gift this protected environment for experimentation. You learn from every character you play and every story you tell. It is a dare to constantly go further, discover more, and delve deeper.
And I’ve lucked into living through these firsts, on screen and otherwise, with my favorite humans. Thank you for the safe spaces.
Painting by Caius Stzuk.
Adolescent is psyched to be able to bring this and other articles from the pages of Crybaby Zine to our readers. This piece was originally written for their Fame Issue—if you like it, check out their store to buy this or other issues!