Books

Casey Wilson Book Excerpt on Body-Shaming and ‘SNL’

The Spring of 2002 discovered me contemporary out of NYU with a theater diploma and an unfinished girls’s-studies minor. Ready to take on the world! I wasn’t too apprehensive that I didn’t have a job as a result of I used to be 100% sure that fame of an epic proportion was simply across the nook. A star so debilitating that I felt I ought to savor these final nameless days. But within the imply and between time, I wanted money.

A gradual employment ship sailed into harbor within the type of a really skinny, manic, reflexive documentary filmmaker named Barbara Monette, who’d by no means made one movie. She “needed” a personal assistant, and her fundamental requirement was that I really feel comfy “cheering her on” by way of speakerphone whereas she ran on a treadmill at Equinox. Jackpot.

It turned instantly clear to me that Barbara had a difficulty with meals. I wouldn’t see her eat something for days at a time. She would drink six cups of espresso, which made her jittery and aggressive and frankly imply. She frequently accused me of stealing, which I might by no means do. I informed her I solely ever stole hearts! She would tempo and ramble across the office, her decrease jaw jutting in and out virtually violently when she talked. This is when she would are available in in any respect. She discovered me dim, and I don’t blame her; I can’t say I used to be essentially the most motivated worker.

Photo: Courtesy of Casey Wilson

At this time, my finest buddy from faculty, the actress and author June Diane Raphael, and I had begun performing a two-woman comedy present, which we’d named Rode Hard and Put Away Wet on the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. I used to be overtly operating the promotional marketing campaign for it out of Barbara’s office. Barbara was all the time discovering flyers I’d left within the copier, hot-pink 8.5-by-11s with a picture of June and me splayed out sexily in a Manhattan road and licking lollipops. The caption learn: “Sketch comedy by girls who aren’t ugly!” (As you’ll be able to think about, we ingratiated ourselves instantly with the ladies on the theater. Just kidding! They hated us. To be clear, none of them have been ugly; this was simply our try to spotlight and problem the inherent misogyny of the sketch world! No one noticed it that approach. So that was a misstep.) I additionally answered Barbara’s telephone, so it felt solely truthful that the quantity ought to double because the reservations line for our present.

Barbara was, as many individuals with consuming issues are, obsessive about my weight. Skinny I used to be not. But not chubby, both. I used to be cute sufficient and simply couldn’t get it as much as care about a couple of further kilos. My passivity surrounding my physique appeared to ENRAGE Barbara, although. INFURIATE her. She’d peek between the crack within the partitions that separated our cubicles after I returned from my each day journey to Balthazar with a focaccia sandwich, large cookie, and can of Coca-Cola she paid for. You heard me. I didn’t even have the self-respect or dignity to get a Diet Coke. I believe I’m the one actress in historical past who has ever tasted the Real Thing.

One day she requested me to return into her office as a result of she needed to speak about “all this.” She gestured up and down my body.

ME: Come once more?

BARBARA: I’d prefer to give you a present. I’d like so that you can go away the office instantly —

ME: For a paid personal day?!

BARBARA: And attend a 12-step program meeting within the Village.

ME: I’m sorry?

BARBARA: For meals habit.

ME: But I don’t suppose I sdkndnfihfdi???

BARBARA: Please swallow your focaccia bread earlier than you converse. It’s a beautiful program for folks such as you who binge-eat and wrestle with or obsess over meals. Or under-eat, though that doesn’t appear to be your … affliction.

She checked out her computer.

BARBARA: Tom D. is main at present’s meeting within the basement of a church subsequent door to Bobst Library at NYU. He’s glorious. Used to place on diapers so he wouldn’t must cease consuming when he wanted to shit, and now he appears to be like terrific. I’ll pay you for the hour should you’ll simply go. You need to be an actress, and I’m telling you, it gained’t work out for you should you don’t go.

Long pause.

ME (brightly): Great!

And off I went. To seize a vanilla Frappuccino with whip and a blueberry scone from Starbucks, which is among the nice underrated bakeries America has to supply. I wasn’t damage by Barbara’s phrases a lot as confused. I liked meals, positive. I simply wasn’t fairly positive I had an issue with meals per se, past loving it so.

After all, I’d seen this explicit downside shut up. My mother struggled together with her weight, many of the wrestle being in her thoughts, and it was painful to look at. She’d routinely collapse after coming house from her full-time job as director of a preschool in our city and wrapping up her second gig as “Kathy I’ll Do Anything for My Daughter” (as my associates embarrassingly however precisely dubbed her). She would settle in and order two massive pizzas, then polish them off with two luggage of Pepperidge Farm Mint Milanos and her personal liter of the Real Thing. Afterward, she’d fall into what gave the impression to be a meals coma within the den/bed room. Every month or two, issues acquired darker and she would retreat to her bed room/den for a couple of days at a time. Then she could be again full steam and raring to go. I used to be by no means actually positive what was going on, nevertheless it didn’t appear … wholesome?

That stated, nonetheless unbothered I used to be by my very own perspective towards meals, I pretended to go to conferences for the whole year I labored with Barbara. It turned a tremendous excuse to expire noon for an excellent audition, like a Zelnorm bloated-stomach marketing campaign. Which, facet bar, I booked. Much like Carrie from Sex and the City, my abdomen was on a bus!

Barbara would periodically ask me the way it was going, how my sponsor (Linda R., totally made up) and I have been jelling. “GREAT,” I’d guarantee her. “Linda is there for me day or night. She was really in the food this week.”

Photo: Harper Colins

One day after I was close to the 12-month mark with Barbara, I felt 1 / 4 hit my head and realized she needed to see me. (She’d routinely throw pennies at my head when she wanted me and both of us was on the telephone. It would drive her loopy after I wouldn’t understand the supply of the pennies and put them in my desk or purse, assuming they fell from Heaven.)

I entered Barbara’s cubicle and discovered her in tears. She informed me the owner (her ex-husband she had just lately left for a lady who then instantly left her) was evicting her from the office, efficient instantly. He had lastly had it together with her and with funding her whims. Barbara was furious. How might he count on her to depart now??? She had JUST come again from a three-week analysis journey to France, the place she’d stayed on the Four Seasons to really feel the vitality of Truffaut and tinkered with a primary draft of an erotic brief movie she was fascinated about presumably toying with the concept of capturing together with his money. “This is outrageous,” I reassured her. “One cannot disrupt an artist at work.”

Her ex-husband was working in London for the following two weeks, however he needed us passed by the tip of the day. As she cried, I frantically puzzled how I’d reroute the RSVPs to my comedy present, then began packing my issues.

Barbara, ever defiant, had a plan. “We just simply … won’t leave. No one will be the wiser,” she informed me with crazy-eyed resolve. “If we don’t open the door, they can’t kick us out! We just have to avoid the super, use the fire escape, and once we’re inside, lock the door. What are they gonna do? Break the door down and drag us out?”

And so, every morning for the following two weeks, we waited within the neighboring deli to verify the tremendous wasn’t within the foyer, then scurried in like little mice. Then one afternoon, we heard a knock on the door. “FedEx!” a man yelled from the opposite facet. Barbara froze. Then she did what she would do when anybody got here to the door throughout this era: She acquired into the freestanding wardrobe and hid behind the coats. She whisper-shouted at me to look by way of the peephole and answer the door ONLY if the supply man didn’t appear suspicious. I’ll admit that after I peered out, I noticed that he was neither in uniform nor carrying a package deal, however I opened it anyway. He promptly served us with papers.

I’m not fairly positive why I opened the door. Maybe it was simply instinctive — I had signed completely for non-work-related packages for Barbara over the year — however possibly it was a cry for assist. A approach out.

Either approach, the jig was up for Barbara, and for me. She screamed at me for over 20 minutes for opening the door, and I let free a torrent of rage you solely dream you’ll ever get to yell at an abusive boss. I stated the sorts of stuff you usually kick your self for not saying after the very fact. I referred to as her a “creative succubus garbage-y talentless fuck.” I’d had sufficient of this unhinged wreck of a human. I acquired in her face — shut sufficient that I might scent her fortieth cup of espresso — and yelled, “WRITE ME MY LAST CHECK NOW, YOU FUCKING GODDAMN BITCH!!!” It was alarming to each of us. Hands shaking, she wrote out my remaining examine. Then I emptied my desk of all of the free change that had been thrown at my melon and walked out, assuming I’d by no means see her once more. Bridge burned.

Until.

We made positive our flyers would e book us appearing jobs by dressing as outdated girls. Sexy!
Photo: Courtesy of Casey Wilson

Months and months later, June and I have been backstage at UCB, altering out of our costumes after one among our final performances of Rode Hard. The present had been chosen for the Aspen HBO Comedy Festival, a dream we’d had for it because the very starting. That competition would finally begin our careers and solidify a lifelong inventive partnership and even deeper friendship between my touchstone, June, and me. It was in Aspen that we met an govt named Heidi Sherman Grey, who tapped us to write down a film for Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway referred to as Bride Wars. After we acquired over our devastation that somebody noticed us as writers fairly than STARS OF STAGE AND SCREEN, that single job led to extra and extra, and ultimately we acquired our beautiful mugs in entrance of the digicam. As God supposed. But on this explicit evening, we have been having amusing as we took off our make-up. We have been carrying fairly a little bit of it as a result of the ultimate sketch had been a fantasy about what would occur if Joan Crawford and Bette Davis met within the current day as their characters from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and began to bodily battle one another; June performed Joan, and I used to be Bette.

There was a knock on the door. It was Barbara. What ever occurred to child Barbara, certainly? She had come to the present, alone. Funny, June hadn’t gotten her RSVP on the landline of the antiques business the place she labored, which was now our central headquarters. June could not have recognized Barbara could be attending even when she had gotten an RSVP as a result of since I’d final seen her, Barbara had legally modified her final title from Monette to Monet. An worker of her ex-husband informed me this was to look associated to the painter Claude Monet and hopefully impress folks. Dark stuff.

I used to be shocked to see her. I had gotten into remedy due to her. Well, not totally due to her however as a result of the best way she handled me activated occasions from my previous I had been comfy burying however have been now comin’ to the outdated floor as they’re wont to do. I additionally went as a result of I used to be in my early 20s and, very like Barbara, was additionally an unhinged wreck of an individual. I stated good day and thanked her for coming. She had an expression on her face I’d by no means seen earlier than. She seemed awestruck. She seemed alive. She seemed impressed and … pleasant.

Barbara grabbed my hand and stated, “You are so good, Casey.” She had tears in her eyes. “You are so talented. I knew it. I just knew you would be, and that’s why I … why I always …” She trailed off. I might really feel she needed to say, “That’s why I wanted you to lose weight.” Why she’d pushed me.

I used to be shocked. I had spent a lot of my post-college life on her life. But now I noticed it as completely ass-backward because it was: She actually believed in me and all the time had. I nonetheless didn’t fairly perceive why she equated weight reduction with success.

But the supervisor who signed me after the Aspen Comedy Festival echoed Barbara. I wanted to drop extra pounds. Not rather a lot however sufficient to look on-camera like I seemed in actual life. I did as I used to be informed, which coincidentally coincided with my starting to get work as an actress.

In 2007, I auditioned for Julie & Julia within the morning for Nora Ephron and for Saturday Night Live within the afternoon for Lorne Michaels. I acquired each jobs. A miracle. But I’m undecided if I might have gotten them if I hadn’t lost the burden. I’d prefer to suppose so. There is a darkish adage that floats round SNL — you both must drop extra pounds or achieve it to be on the present, however you’ll be able to’t be “in between.” In the year and a half of utter insanity I used to be there, I started taking antidepressants to elevate myself up from all-time low, and I gained again all the burden I’d lost, and some extra, whereas nonetheless grieving my mother and attempting to deal with the Barbaras of 30 Rock. (She had ready me nicely in that regard.) When I used to be not requested again for what would have been my third season, I felt a rush of aid and utter disappointment in myself. I had the prospect, and I didn’t take my shot. But I by no means cried. The aid outweighed the remorse.

However, every week later, an article ran in The Hollywood Reporter saying that I used to be fired for being fats. Which was false! But clearly somebody felt that might have been the explanation. It was on the CNN ticker, too. My father needed to see that. (Although it’s his favourite supply for information … it wasn’t what you need.) Though it had been every week since I used to be let go, that was the evening I cried. I wailed. I’ve by no means been extra humiliated or felt extra uncovered. I needed to cover in my very own freestanding wardrobe. The murmurs and directives I had acquired from managers and bosses alike have been one factor, however to listen to this on a nationwide scale … I used to be crushed. And offended that my grief over the lack of my mother had contributed to a different trauma. I hadn’t been capable of maintain all of the balls within the air, and now everybody might see it. That’s the factor about weight; it may possibly’t be hidden.

I flashed on a scene from my childhood. My brother, Fletcher, and I and a few my girlfriends have settled in to look at Ally McBeal with my mother. We can’t discover the distant, however my mother spots it throughout the room in entrance of the TV. She has to bend down very low so as to seize it, and her pants cut up. And I snort. It occurs so shortly and is so sudden. Tears spring to her eyes, and she runs upstairs. I comply with her and stand helplessly whereas she wails from the mattress, “You laughed at me. You were all laughing at me.” I’ll always remember the look on her face. I’ve made peace with most of my regrets, together with being let go from Saturday Night Live. But not this one.

It happens to me now that Barbara had been attempting to guard me from the world that had been so merciless to her. As a self-loathing lady, she might solely act on her urge to like and shelter me by being merciless about my perceived vulnerabilities, which have been truly her vulnerabilities. She didn’t need me to be sitting within the second I used to be presently in. She knew what I didn’t but know, which was that the world is merciless to chubby folks.

When folks disgrace you in your dimension, they reach lowering you to the smallest model of your self emotionally. And I collapsed below that scrutiny. And decided. I noticed if I needed to do what I liked — carry out and make folks snort — I wanted to lose some weight. So I did. But not for them. For me. To defend myself. I selected to turn out to be a much less seen goal so as to shine. (Note: This alternative was made as a result of I’m on-camera. If I have been a trainer, I might sit my comfortable ass down, figuring out I look FOINE!)

I’m a millennial. Granted, one on absolutely the cusp, however as proud as I’m of my mill standing, I want to God I have been a part of the body-positive technology. Lord love ’em. I’m impressed by these younger upstarts who have a good time their our bodies and don’t give a great goddamn fuck what anybody else thinks. I’m so envious. Because I began off that approach. In center faculty and even highschool, I had confidence for days. But as I acquired older, I used to be swiftly taught by the Barbaras of the world that not solely ought to I not really feel assured however I ought to actually really feel embarrassed about my physique. Apologetic. Ashamed of the wreckage I carried round with me. And ever desirous to please, I fell in line. Which makes me unhappy.

But I attempt to forgive myself. I hope my mother has forgiven me for laughing. As I’ve forgiven Barbara. And I hope youthful girls will forgive me. And even youthful girls will forgive them. And so on. And so forth.

However, when Barbara despatched me a buddy request on Facebook, I hit “ignore” so laborious I virtually broke my hand.

From the e book The Wreckage of My Presence, by Casey Wilson. Copyright © 2021 by Casey Wilson. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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