Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Posted by Maggie May
It is 2001 and I am in Culver City, California, on an enormous sound stage worthy of old queens like Elton John or Cher. Music thrums through my body, at maximum capacity volume before eardrum rupture, so loud that the bottom of my feet sting slightly from the constant vibration. I am dancing, I am covered in shimmer body lotion and my taut mid-section is exposed as I tip my pink cowboy hat over blonde braids and wink at Justin Timberlake.
The room explodes in an incandescent shimmer bomb of confetti and Justin, two feet from myself, is perfectly groomed, gorgeous, slim, electric- a dancing dynamo with twenty-five cameras pointed at his face. CUT! the director roars, and the entire room sags like a deflated balloon. Justin smiles at me as I pantomime being overheated, waving at my pink cheeks, and I smile back. The group of girl dancers I have been hanging out with for the last ten hours giggle behind me like a cartoon chorus. A few hours before, when I stood in a circle of four people talking, one of which was a world famous pop star, I felt the same kind of ridiculous giggle threatening to erupt inside of me. ' Everything is so close to happening, ' I thought. ' There are so many things that I believed were out of my reach and now I know that they aren't. '
Two weeks later I was looking at the pink positive sign on a pregnancy test. I was twenty-six, unmarried, and already a single mother with a child from the same man I was now pregnant with again. We had broken up just a few months before.
I was working part-time at a preschool so that I could work my hours around my son's hours at school, also attending college at night, when I decided that I was going to pursue my life long interest in acting. My own ability to handle so much more than I thought I would be able to- school, good grades, single motherhood, work, writing- had inspired me to look above and beyond goals already set.
I began answering ads for bit parts and auditions, sending a headshot and an inflated 'resume' of my past entertainment experience. I answered an ad for dancers in an N'Sync video, and received a yes, you are hired! The set for the video was enormous and thrilling, with two gigantic white staircases on each side, climbing up to a top platform with a circular spinning disk that N'Sync danced on, and in the middle of all this, on the ground, there was a gleaming dance floor with secret doors and mirrors for special effects. All the N'Sync members were friendly and sweet, some definitely on the prowl for a quick hook up with an 'extra', which is what I was. Justin was very likable- polite, funny, charming and an incredibly hard worker who contributed ideas to the director all through the shoot and entertained us with an impromptu beat box session on the overhead mike. We danced and stopped and danced and stopped from 5pm one night until 5am the next morning. We ate free food and smoked cigarettes and chatted with the singers.
The positive pregnancy test two weeks later was possibly even more life altering for me than the first one had been. The first time, yes, I was young and had nothing- but: I was young, I had nothing- nothing to lose, everything to gain. This time, I was in a place in my life I found intoxicating, a place of empowerment and learning and mothering and dancing on sounds stages with famous singers. Meeting and watching Justin work was a formative experience. Not because of his celebrity, but because of the level of success he had achieved at such a young age. It was clear, watching him talk with the director and shoot jokes to the staff before practicing his dance moves while the rest of the group chatted up the gorgeous extras, that Justin was the standout,- and not only because he was talented, but because he clearly did not take that talent for granted. I was impressed that despite his fame, he was not smug.
I had to make a decision. I have never in my life felt so entrenched in a cliche- the fork in the road had come thundering out of the sky and Zues's hand, and speared me right between it's points.
I chose my baby. I chose to be a single mother of two. I chose to become large and unwieldy and impregnated and breastfeeding, everything opposite of a lithe young dancing queen. At first, I mourned. I knew I was giving up something, something mysterious and thrilling that probably would never come my way again.
I felt deeply at the time that I was being tested. I am not a religious person, or a person who has a particular set of beliefs about what human life means or is. Yet I had a sensation so powerful it reminded me of a physical workout, in which you are tempted to give up, but know that enduring will bring a deep satisfaction and sense of pride that will last long after the memory of a struggle has faded.
I know that my bright lights, big city moment did not come at the cost of my heart. Am I pro-choice? Yes. Do I believe that everyone should do what I did? No. Do I know it's what I had to do? Yes.
Now we tease Lola that Justin Timberlake is her 'real dad'. She actually looks so startlingly much like him that I am tempted to wink up at the sky and say ' I get it! '