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Alex Carnevale

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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

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Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

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John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in lilibet snellings (2)


In Which We Monogram Absolutely Everything

An Invitation


Most every surface in my parents’ Georgia home is monogrammed — the bath towels, the coasters, the seashell-shaped soaps. Give a waspy Southern woman a millimeter of material and she’ll figure out a way to put someone’s initials on it. During the holidays, the monogrammed cocktail napkins are replaced by a stack of green ones that say, in gold letters, “Holidays with the family are always a trip. A trip to the liquor store.” I think these napkins were created with my family in mind. Or, as my grandmother once said, elbow-deep in a Scotch-and-soda, “Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the head of the church. Baptists don’t recognize each other at the liquor store.” We’re not Baptists – but based on my family’s idolatrous worship of alcohol – we might as well be.

While most children spend the week before Christmas shopping and wrapping, I prepare by resting, hydrating and stretching. You have to understand, these people are animals. And by animals, I mean my two grandmothers, ages 86 and 91, my grandfather, age 88, and the biggest booze-bag of them all, my great-aunt, age 89. If these folks don’t have a drink in their hand by 4 o’clock, they rattle their canes in protest. And they only drink the hard stuff, or “meaningful drinks,” as my dad calls them: bourbon-and-water, scotch-and-soda, gin-and-tonic, vodka on the rocks, Bloody Marys, (but only if it’s before noon), and wine (but only if it’s with dinner). If there is one thing dignified, upstanding, Southern wasps like to do to celebrate the birth of Christ it is get hammered.

At the helm of this holiday operation is my mom, a perky perfectionist who was once crowned “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” at The University of Georgia, and the “Miss Augusta” runner-up. Christmas gives her an excuse to be as peppy as she already is — being in a great mood at 7 a.m., showering people with presents, decorating and re- decorating, drinking in the afternoon. So hopped up on the holidays, she didn’t even notice one year when I wrapped a cashmere sweater I had borrowed from her two years prior. “Oh I just love this,” she said, swirling a celery stalk into her Bloody Mary. “And it’s just my color.”

My mom desperately wants us to share her zeal for the holidays. One Easter, she so wanted her “children” – ages 29 and 26 at the time – to participate in an egg hunt that she stuffed the plastic pastel eggs full of money. Sitting on the patio, hungover, sweating, hands shaking, her “children” were barely breathing let alone showing any interest in skipping around the yard for eggs. Finally, she yelled, “Damnnit y’all, there’s money in them!” Some eggs had singles, some fives, others tens and twenties. My brother and I tore towards the lawn. After several slide tackles and a yellow-card’s worth of elbowing each other in the ribs, our knees skinned and covered in grass stains, my mom got just what she wanted: joyful holiday togetherness.

My mom never turns down an invitation and certainly not at Christmas. Every year on Christmas Eve she insists we go to this god-awful caroling and Yule log-lighting party and literally drags the entire geriatric wing of the family along, all of their various contraptions – a walker, two canes – clunking beside. But they don’t seem to mind. After all, these bloodhounds can smell eggnog from a mile away.

My least favorite of our holiday traditions is the dreaded staging of The Christmas Card Picture. While this was a perfectly acceptable tradition when my brother and I were kids, now that we are adults, it is just plain embarrassing. At least for me. My brother now has a wife and two children so in our Christmas card picture it’s very obvious that there is 1) an older couple in their sixties 2) a cute young married couple in their thirties with two darling little boys and 3) shoved somewhere on the periphery: me.

I am sure the 400-plus recipients of the annual card must wonder:

“Is she still single?”

“She must be a lesbian.” 

“Betty with a lesbian daughter, no.”

“But she does live in California.”

“And I think worked for the Obama campaign.”

“Oh, the horror.”

A couple of years ago after the cards were delivered, my mom got an e-mail from a friend in Texas: “Just wanted to say I’m so happy to see that Lilibet is expecting!” My mom called me, immediately, horrified. I ripped the thing off my fridge. “Oh my god,” I said, “I do look pregnant.” Something had gone horribly wrong with the lighting, the angle, something. We discussed this, in disbelief, for the next hour. “She was the only one to say something,” my mom said. “I wonder how many people thought it but didn’t say anything? I mean, my Lord, do these people actually think I’d put you in the picture pregnant with no husband?”

At the other end of the jolliness spectrum – the very other end – is my dad. He sees the holidays as nothing but one giant MasterCard bill. Bahumbug doesn’t even do it justice. Perhaps ba-hum-to hell with these damn Christmas lights, why don’t we have any vermouth, damnnit Betty if I have to listen to that damn Rod Stuart Christmas CD one more time–bug.

My dad absolutely hates getting presents and typically responds with, “How much did this cost me?” instead of “Thank you.”  That is, unless he really wants something, then he buys it for himself, wraps it, and signs the card, “To Bill, Love Kiki.” Kiki is his imaginary girlfriend and he thinks this is hilarious. Throughout the years Kiki has given him every club in his golf bag.

The only presents my dad does like are ones that did not cost any money. When I ran track at the University of Colorado and my brother played golf at the University of North Carolina my dad received every possible university-logoed item: socks, hats, shoes, t-shirts, golf balls, women’s-sized shoes – he did not care – as long as it was free. At my first job after college I raided the office’s supply room for gifts. That year he got boxes of pens, staples, paper clips, a bundle of highlighters. I’ve never seen him so proud.

While my brother is more willing to spend money on presents, he never purchases any of them until the day before. “I’m just headed out to get a coffee,” he’ll say, meaning: “I’m going to the shopping center down the street to buy all of your presents.”  Fortunately, there is a bookstore, but aside from books, his presents are, for the most part, entirely useless. Over the years he has given me a George Foreman grill (how was I going to get it back to California?) a Slap Chop (“As seen on TV!”), foot cream, and a pair of men’s socks. His last-minute wrapping jobs are a vision as well: always an abstract experiment in torn paper and Scotch tape. (I don’t think he’s ever used scissors.) Selfishly, I like it when he lacks creativity and just gives me money. This, however, is never your standard affair either. One year he wrapped up a crumpled handful of bills – some ones, some twenties — just whatever was on top of his dresser I am sure. It totaled 68 dollars. The card read, “Dear Lilibet, I hope this helps get you back above the poverty line.”

One year, a friend asked my dad if we had any Christmas Day traditions. My dad thought for a minute, and then replied: “No, we generally just sit around, drink Bloody Marys and insult each other.”

Being funny is something to be with this group. Everyone is always trying to outwit one another with the notes on their gift tags, the more absurd the present, the better. The worst wrapping job wins.

Gathered around the dining room table for “supper” on Christmas afternoons, my dad will say, “Cheers,” clinking a dessert spoon against his wine glass, “To your mother. Who managed to only burn three of the five casseroles this year.” I’ll look around the table. Yet again, my mom has found a way to put a pecan in every single dish. Somehow, every year, she manages to forget that her daughter is deathly, gone-to-the-emergency-room-four-times allergic to nuts. My grandmother refuses to believe I’m allergic to nuts. “That is just the wildest thing I’ve ever heard,” she’ll say, heaping a giant piece of pecan pie on my plate. Picking at the crust, I’ll decide the only way to avoid anaphylactic shock is to drink my dinner. So I’ll dive nose first into a glass of Cabernet so large a small bird could bathe in it.

An hour later, after everyone has gone back for many helpings, and me for many refills, my teeth will be stained purple. I will get up to go to the bathroom and, while zigzagging back to the table like a shark swims, I will think: As crazy as they are, I love these people. I’ll plop down in my chair and put my elbows on the table. “All I have to say,” I say, with a slight slur, “is that we are not taking a goddamn Christmas card picture this year.”

My mom, still in monogrammed apron, will say, “For goodness' sake, Lilibet, don’t say that word, it’s Christmas.” She’ll shake the ice in her fifth vodka-cran. “Now be a lady and fix your grandfather another drink.”

Lilibet Snellings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here, and she tumbls here. She twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about the auditions.

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In Which Sometimes She Plays Pretend

The Auditions


My first husband’s name was Todd. He showed up in a t-shirt and jeans, which I thought was a touch underdressed, but he was polite and seemed like an all right husband all the same. Our child’s name was Elsie. She was six years old and told me she had a zoo in her backyard. (When I asked what kind of animals she didn’t have any specifics.) Todd and I went through a lot together – a proposal, a pregnancy, and six-plus years of marriage – all in the fifteen minutes it took to audition for a Nationwide Insurance spot on national TV.

In one of my many harebrained attempts to stay financially afloat while living as a writer and graduate student in Los Angeles, I decided to become an actor. I should rephrase. I decided to go on auditions. I have absolutely no idea how to act.

For an "active lifestyle" dating service commercial audition, I recited the lines, "With my busy schedule it’s just so hard to meet people. I wish I could find someone who shares my passion for running and the outdoors" — while jogging in place.

For a Cox High Speed Internet commercial audition, I had various household items thrown at my head – an oven mitt, a ruler, a handful of markers – while a giant, industrial-sized fan blew my hair. For a Capri Sun audition, I stood on the sideline of a make-believe field and cheered on my make-believe son, who was apparently playing soccer with other make-believe children.

For a Bare Naked Granola audition, I rode on the back of a German model named Rolfe while pretending we were on a hike. (Because don't you always hike with your boyfriend piggy-back style?) And I feigned true love at a Match.com audition. Yes, I hate to be the one to tell you, but the people on the commercials did not actually meet on Match.com. They met in the lobby of a casting facility on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood.

The only commercials I ever actually book are running, or fitness-related, and that’s because I ran track in college. That, and the fact that the other actress girls interpret, "Come to the audition in running attire" to mean, show up smelling like cigarettes in yoga pants and flip-flops with an iced coffee in one hand and a small dog in the other. The art director for an Asics campaign said he knew he was going to book me as soon as I got out of my car. "You had on running shoes," he said. "And your hair was in a ponytail." The bar was set pretty low.

from a beer commercial I did for "Arrogant Bastard Ale" ... for free

That I have never booked any other type of commercial hasn’t deterred me from google-mapping my way across Los Angeles to go to auditions. After all, the waiting room of a casting facility is a treasure trove of material.

One Tuesday morning instead of commuting from my bed to my desk to play the role of "graduate student" in the wardrobe of "sweatpants, t-shirt and tube socks," I took a detour to the bathroom to take a shower, put on makeup and blow-dry my hair to play the role of "wife" in a Nationwide Insurance commercial. My agent called me with the specifics the night before. Role: Wife. Age Range: 27-35. Description: Attractive yet approachable, not too model-y. Wardrobe: Upscale Casual.

The only reason I have an agent is because I used to be her assistant. At my first job after college, my journalism and political science degrees were put to excellent use at a Hollywood talent agency. There, my primary responsibility was getting models to go to their castings, which, I would learn, actually takes some skill. From the models I heard excuses like "I can’t make it to the casting because I burnt my eyeballs in the tanning bed." Another model told me she wanted to get a gap put in her teeth, because, she explained, “Duh, messed up teeth are so in right now.” This was the same girl who once referred to parentheses as “those half-moon thingies.”

I knew it was time to quit, though, when I returned from lunch one day to find a sticky note on my computer screen that read, “Amanda H. needs a bikini wax.” Now it was one thing scheduling haircuts and highlights for these girls but quite another to be making appointments for the removal of their pubic hair.

When I quit, my boss suggested I go on commercial auditions. So by sneaking in the back door, I am occasionally one of those girls, and some poor assistant named Mona has to call me with audition information. I do, however, make a point to schedule my own bikini waxes.

The day of my Nationwide audition was hot and the air conditioning was broken in my car, and by broken I mean it had never actually worked the entire time I had the car – a 1989 BMW convertible that I bought on Craigslist. This left me with two unappealing options: roll down all the windows to stay cool, which would whip my hair into a beehive of sorts or keep the windows up, to keep the hair in place, and arrive at the audition looking like I’d just walked out of the steam room. When I left my apartment, freshly showered and deodorized, my hair slightly spritzed into its on-camera position, I looked like someone who could at least fake it as an actor, someone presentable enough to be in an insurance company commercial. But by the time I arrived at the audition I looked like exactly what I was: someone who didn’t even have insurance.

Inside the casting facility a giant flatscreen read: "Quaker Oats: Room 1. Alltell: Room 2. Budweiser: Room 3. Nationwide: Room 4." I took a seat outside room number 4 and filled out my "Size Card" – name, agency, height, weight, bust, hips, waist, inseam, glove size, hat size; the last two of which – glove and hat size – I never know and sometimes just write “regular” or “proportional.”

I pulled out my book and pretended to read. At the far end of the waiting room were the Alltell guys – all in their mid-30s, all dressed in suits, all with brown hair, all holding the same piece of paper. Some sat and read silently while others paced, pantomiming their lines. They became increasingly distracted as the room began to bustle with busty blondes arriving for their Budweiser auditions.

I swear some guys only go on castings to pick up girls. And if they don’t, they should. It's like a buffet. Everyone is skinny and pretty and between the ages of 20 and 30 and there are 50 or 60 of them all in one waiting room, all in similarly low-cut tops. The Budweiser candidate to my right – platinum blonde hair, jeans, heels, low-cut top – seemed to be having some sort of dispute with a salon receptionist. “Well then can you at least squeeze me in for a pedicure?” she said into her cell phone.

The Budweiser candidate to my left – golden blonde hair, jeans, heels, low-cut top – recognized another girl – dirty blonde hair, jeans, heels, low-cut top – and greeted her with, "Heyyyyyyyyy. How are youuuuuuu?" The words dragged out like a wind-up doll that needed to be wound. The dirty blonde one replied, "Oh my god I left my cell phone at home and I am like totally freaking out." The golden blonde one said empathetically, "Oh my god, that suuuuuuucks."

As I enviously eyed these girls’ perfectly curled and coifed locks, I tore my fingers through my hair attempting to untangle its nautical-sized knots. I adjusted the collar on my shirt. I was wearing a blouse and slacks (two words I rarely use and two clothing items I rarely choose) but I was going for the "conservative" and "responsible" look. The insurance commercial look.

A few minutes later the casting director emerged to inform me I would be auditioning twice since they had, at the moment, a shortage of women for the role of "wife" and a surplus of "husbands" and "children." He then explained that the Nationwide commercial will show three major snapshots of my life: the marriage proposal, the pregnancy, and then, cut to five years later: a portrait of my new little family.

Husband Todd entered and we exchanged awkward hellos. For the first shot we were told to sit on the couch and pretend we were watching TV but what we were really watching was another chair across the room. Todd was then instructed to – ever so casually – put his arm around me and dangle an imaginary engagement ring, on an imaginary string, so it would lightly graze my right shoulder. I was then told to notice this imaginary ring and gasp and smile and scream and look at this complete stranger and say, with orgasmic enthusiasm, "Yes! Yes I will marry you!" And then we were told to embrace in a jubilant hug.

For the next shot I was told to stand in our pretend living room holding papers from the doctor’s office which apparently informed me I was pregnant while rubbing my belly and smiling gaily into the distance. Husband Todd was told to walk in as if getting home from work, see me smiling gaily and rubbing my belly, notice the papers in my hand and just know, and exclaim, "Yeah?! Really, hon?! That's great! This is so great!" The casting director chimed in, "This is something you have both been hoping for, for a long time. Be sure to look as excited as your wife, husband."

For the final shot the child actor joined us. Child actors always sort of scare me. So much bravado at such a young age. It's as if at any moment they might bust out a tap dance rendition of Fiddler On The Roof. They are unnerving, and sort of creepy. At any rate, Todd was told to pick up Elsie and I was told to stand next to them, my arms around both, and smile like we were taking a family portrait at the softer side of Sears.

Todd and Elsie left and in came my next husband and child, Wes and Haley. Like my first husband, Wes also interpreted "upscale casual" to just mean "casual." I was the only dope in the room dressed like someone whose day would be made upon hearing the news there’s cake in the conference room. Wes was clad in your standard East L.A. actor uniform: a flannel shirt untucked but not entirely, the sleeves rolled but unevenly, the collar not popped but not totally flat either – a very orchestrated, calculated disarray, a level of disheveled-ness that can only be achieved with the finest attention to detail.

Our child was five and three-quarters and was missing her two front teeth. She told me she got twenty dollars per tooth. My mouth dropped open like a codfish. This may seem like an indication of astonishment. What it was really expressing was jealousy.

Wes and I went through the same motions, the proposal, the pregnancy news, the glamour shots at Sears, all in around five or six minutes. My life's most momentous occasions cranked out twice and packaged up tight, all for the sake of selling insurance. I always imagined I would someday get married, get pregnant, and have a child, or maybe even a few. I just never imagined all of this would happen with two different men, and within ten minutes, in a windowless, soundproof room with coffee stained carpet on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Lilibet Snellings is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here, and she tumbls here. She twitters here.

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