Living Unscripted: The Me Nobody Knows

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The meaning of diva is closely related to that of “prima donna.”

On the opening night of TIME STANDS STILL, Broadway producer Nelle Nugent grabbed my arm . . . “come on!! — Walk the Red Carpet with me!” An icon in both theater and film, she’s a veteran of flashing bulbs and flashing smiles but I, hooked on to her right elbow, wished I had worn camera slimming black instead of taupe!

“Look here!” flash flash flash “over here!!” flash flash flash – two baby steps further- pause – “here, Nelle!” –flash flash flash – “again, here!” – flash flash flash . . .

My 30 seconds of fame were over in a flash flash flash but it’s 30 seconds I’ll remember forever: Diva d-e-v-i-n-e.

Divas fascinate me. It’s only since I made this mid-life career change and entered the zone that I’ve actually been elbow to elbow with the Divas of the American stage . . . the gals who buy their shabby chic retail, have their make-up applied daily by professionals with 20/20 vision and their hair coiffed by “artists.”

One of our leading ladies is in a Master Class of her own on stage and as lovely as you image her to be off stage . . . she takes subways. The other is still so young, fantastically talented and works hard at her craft — she takes taxis. Both are as unlikely as the proverbial operatic diva to bop outside for a Starbucks – or hit the sale rack at Macys and engage in comic banter with other women in the dressing room. No one is going to stop them on the street to ask for directions or accidentally bump into their shopping cart in the grocery store.

Their jobs require them to be center stage in perfect voice with perfect memory, in front of 1000 people every evening, who pay a handsome price to see them “in real life.” So they can be forgiven for not getting close enough to us mere mortals to catch a nose cold or for not setting their alarm clocks for much before noon . . . They’re publicly glamorous and privately shy.

My gal pals and I on the other hand, are just the opposite: publicly shy and privately glamorous . . . We leave our diva resting dormant just beneath the surface until we give ourselves permission to be queen . . . late at night in a tub with bubbles perhaps or opening a bottle of wine to loosen up a bit of gal gab. Squeezing manicures and pedicures in between jobs, grocery shopping and laundry, we are the gals who sign up for make-up parties on the main floor at Bloomingdales on rainy Saturdays. We feel like a headline when we find the perfect dress or one of us notices something new/different/fun that another of us discovered and shared . . . when my teenage daughter opens up to me, when my granddaughter calls me Monday mornings. It’s often without fanfare, without the crowds.

New York is a city of tourists and I notice all the young girls, starring in their own daily Soap with their iPhones and baby pink digital cameras focused on them clicking away at arm’s length. Giggling, smiling . . . feeling pretty – celebrities of their own making, prancing around in a fantasy world, recording it for posterity. Someday they’ll find those photos and be reminded of . . . uninhibited girl who posed in all those silly snaps . . . the adult Diva waiting behind those smiles for the appropriate – or inappropriate moment to bellow out loud or tap dance on a subway platform.

In my 30 seconds of fame walking the Red Carpet pre-show and watching them pose for the cameras in the pressroom at the post show party, I caught a glimpse of the brightest stars but have to admit I prefer a life of relative anonymity to the spotlight. It’s only from 9-5 (with an occasional evening performance) that I get to taste and thereby imagine “glamour,” as I mingle with left hand creative types who inspire us with their words, their music and their (in many cases “awesome”) ability to reach us on intellectual and emotional levels. I watch them on the learning curve, going from page (the first reading) to stage (Opening Night). I see them up close and personal, meet their spouses, their boyfriends, their children, their parents. I see how vulnerable they are, how anxious they are to do good work and how appreciative they are of the standing ovations. They are as real actually as we are and probably imagine what it would be like to live just a bit of the life we’re living as much as we fantasize living just a bit of theirs.

NOTE TO SELF: Find lipstick – with gloss.

About Shaz

I’m 59 and never expected to be divorced and, having raised a big family in the city I grew up in, to be still living there now completely on my own. My parents are gone and my grown children have opted for smaller towns. My father passed away this past February and my children suggested I take off and make a world tour of all my friends overseas…In piecing that together in my mind, I imagined taking a boat across, as I did the first time I went to Europe with my grandmother, as a teenager – and in that vision, I imagined taking those first five days and writing. Writing about where I’d been, writing about what I want, writing about the crossing over from my past to my future.

In reestablishing myself as a single woman, I’ve made new connections with some fabulous women and realized I’m not the only one going through this; there are other women out there who are also on a journey to becoming whole again. I hope my personal adventure will help us all find humor in the aging process –and confidence in following our hearts.