When I was in middle school I wanted to be a movie star. I thought I loved acting. Being on stage gave me a sense of control and purpose. In life I was painfully shy and socially awkward, but on stage I was the center of attention. I knew all my lines and people always applauded for me at the end. They would stare, but it was because they were watching me perform. I was addicted to their applause. It sounds so pathetic, but that’s how desperate I was at the time for people to like me.
In the summer of ’92 I attended a theater camp in upstate New York called Stagedoor Manor. The camp prided itself on A-list alumni including Robert Downey Jr and Natalie Portman. It was the summer before I entered high school. I was still trying to shake the very unpleasant experience of middle school, where I was a huge outcast even among other outcasts. I was petrified at the thought of high school. But summer camp was full of promise. It was a new environment with brand new people who wouldn’t know I was a loser. I was an actress and I was going to be with other serious actors.
That’s not what happened. For the first two weeks I was my usual awkward self with no social skills, trying too hard to make people like me. My roommate was a beautiful, lanky blonde named Shae whose main purpose at camp seemed to be learning how to model and calling me fat. It was middle school all over again. It would take a few more years for this to completely sink in, but theater camp was where it first dawned on me that I didn’t love acting. It was simply a chance to be someone else for awhile. To be a confident and important person.
It seemed like camp was going to be a complete waste. And then I met Lisa.
I remember keeping my distance from her at first because I could see she was another outcast and I was trying so very hard to belong. But I just wasn’t like everyone else and none of them seemed to like me. Even the director of my summer play, Godspell, seemed to dislike me. Lisa was also in the cast. Slowly but surely, we bonded over our mutual distaste for the theater girls and our shared love of bad heavy metal and being weird. I can remember her strumming ’18 and Life’ on the acoustic guitar as we both dramatically sang along with all of our teenage angst. One evening she took me for a walk into the woods near the main building. I was stunned to see many campers and even camp counselors hanging out and smoking. Lisa handed me a cigarette and I gladly took it, happy to finally belong. Even if it was with the outcasts, once again.
It would take me a few more years to move past my desire to be an actress. To realize that for me it was all about being in control of my life. Lisa and I remained long distance friends for a few years and then gradually lost touch. I wish I knew where she was today.
If you enjoy this gazpacho recipe, you might enjoy these recipes as well:
- 1 ripe cantaloupe (or 2 pounds peeled and seeded cantaloupe)
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded (approximately 1½ cups)
- ¼ cup shallots, chopped (approximately 1 small shallot)
- ¼ cup fresh basil
- ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Cut the cantaloupe in half and scoop out the seeds, discarding them. Slice each cantaloupe half into quarters and use a large spoon to scoop the fruit into a blender, discarding the skin.
- Add the cucumber, shallots, basil, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and salt to the blender. Add a few twists of fresh ground black pepper. Puree until smooth.
- Place soup in a large container with a tight lid and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to blend. Do not skip this step!
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