For those of you who do not know who Constance Wu is she is an Asian America Actress famous for Fresh Off the Boat along with many other movies.
These were my favorite lines for the book.
“Became desperate. I looked up advice on how to get your boyfriend back. Everything on the internet said that you had to act like you agreed with the breakup, pretend you weren’t upset. Like you wanted whatever made him happy. And if you were happy and independent, he’d realize what he lost and come crawling back. So, I did that, writing him a long letter full of acceptance and grace, letting him go. Three days later he came back to me more wildly in love than I ever thought possible.”
“He was once my entire life, when I was young, when I thought of him every minute of the day. But then minutes became hours became days became months became years. Today, I only think of Rob on occasion. Maybe once a year. He is now married to a wonderful Midwestern blond woman and they have three daughters. They have a house in the suburbs with trees and a big yard. He has his PhD and is a college professor. For a while, he was a stay-at-home dad so his wife could work full-time, and I thought that was really progressive and rad of them. He has become who he wanted to be, and more.”
“I’ve always found that the turning point in recovering from a breakup is when you can look back on memories with fondness, rather than pain. And I am so fond. I feel almost proud of him. Proud that this extraordinary person was a part of my life.”
“If that’s true, no cellular part of the me that loved Buck remains. But somehow, love remains. Once someone touches your heart, they can’t untouch it. Buck will always be my first great love, when love was still a miracle that could happen out of thin air. “I hadn’t expected you,” he’d said, “you were a surprise.”
“Marrianne was always the more financially ambitious of the two of us, so when Good Grain offered her more money, she defected. I wanted to remain loyal to Rich and Sher, but eventually Marrianne convinced me to defect because Good Grain paid ten dollars an hour. I told Rich I was quitting, but I felt too guilty to tell him the real reason why…. “I got a job at the Gap, so I could get discounts on clothes!” I explained, my face burning. I told myself it wasn’t a lie because it was half-true—I had gotten a part-time summer job at the Gap but I only worked there two shifts a week to get the discount… and only ended up staying one month (folding clothes was so boring). I’m pretty sure Rich knew that I went to the new bakery with Marrianne (Marrianne had been honest when she quit), but he never pressed me. He just hugged me and thanked me and wished me well. “We’ll miss you,” he said. I smiled and hurried out as fast as I could, trying to outrun my guilt.”
“For some reason, I think I’d feel embarrassed to see Rich and Sher. Embarrassed of having grown up. My acting career feels flimsy next to something as substantial and real as a loaf of bread. Or maybe I’m scared that they won’t remember me, when they meant so much to me. I hope they know how much they gave me when they taught me about making bread. When Good Grain opened, it was cool and buzzy and paid lots more money. It had bright colors! It had gloss and flair! Montana Gold was spare and simple and made good bread and made your hair white when you walked out of the mill room. But it’s the one that lasted, that is still standing. It remains, to this day, my favorite job I ever had.”
“was racing the mailman. He was often in his mail car near my bus stop when I got off, and I’d RACE him to my house. Which is hilarious in hindsight. It became a kind of silent understanding between us to the point where he started waiting for me. I’d jump out of the bus and spot him, and he’d wave GO! I’d sprint home with all my might, backpack bouncing up and down, trying to beat a dude in a car. Having a car may have seemed an advantage, except for the fact that he had to stop at mailboxes along the way. That’s how I thought I could beat him, and you know what? I always did! The houses were spaced far apart, though, so I had to sprint pretty hard between mailboxes. When I finally got home, I’d be panting, out of breath, waiting for him by our mailbox (the “finish line”). He was a nice, older Black gentleman and I’m pretty sure he drove slower to let me win. “You beat me!” he’d say as he handed me our mail. I’d nod, serious, as a way of apologizing for destroying him with my incredible speed. There was one point where I honestly thought maybe I could become an Olympic runner one day because I was able to beat a guy in a car.”
“Olympic dreams aside, I missed my little sister, but I wasn’t sure she missed me. Whereas I was bold and daring, she was always the gentle and quiet one—the introvert to my extrovert, the snap to my whistle. Maybe she liked not having me around, I worried. Maybe that meant she could finally shine. As little kids, we’d liked how our differences complemented each other. But as I grew up and started worrying about perception, I began questioning which was the “better” way to be. I started thinking her way was better, more likable. A lot of the books I loved romanticized introverts. The Southern culture we grew up in seemed to praise sweetness in girls more than boldness. “Little girls should be seen and not heard,” people would say.”
“An early moment of this awareness happened at the dentist’s office. E and I both had checkups—her appointment took a little longer than mine, so when I was done, I was sent back to the waiting room to sit with my mom. When E came out, two female dental assistants were guiding her. They were smitten—fawning over her, praising her quietness. She was clutching three toys she had gotten out of the treasure chest. We always got a toy from the treasure chest at the dentist’s office. But they’d forgotten to offer me one that day. And E had gotten extra toys. I looked at her sweet, quiet face as she clutched the three toys and felt my eyes prickle. It was one of the first times I remember trying not to cry. They didn’t open the treasure chest for me because they don’t like me, I thought. They like her better. If I cried, I’d draw attention to that fact, and I didn’t want anyone to know, because I was embarrassed that the two pretty dental assistants maybe didn’t like me. That they liked her better. I didn’t play Barbies with E that night.”
“She never mentioned the letter, though I know she got it. I guess it would have been embarrassing for us both to talk about something like that. Especially for her. Sometimes it’s hard to know if an apology is meant for the receiver’s benefit or for the apologizer’s own selfish gratification. Probably the latter. It was unkind of me to force a conversation that I knew she wasn’t comfortable having.”
“Suddenly, out of nowhere, I broke down crying. Loud, heaving sobs punctuated by gasps of despair. It scared them both at first. The power of my emotions can do that sometimes, which is why I’ve always tried to suppress them. I want to be calm and introverted like her. To have the dental assistants like me too. But I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Between sobs, I choked out everything I’d held back over the years: How she was right. How I was ashamed of myself and hated myself for it. How I knew she had gotten the apology letter I sent her years ago. How she knew I had been trying to be better. I had been kind and supportive and deferential to her for the past decade. Didn’t those years of good behavior count for anything? Would I never be allowed to amend the mistakes I made as a kid? It was like she wanted me to remain the mean, sad teenager. Couldn’t I be allowed to change, the way I had let her change? Weeping, I said all I wanted was to be friends again, and I knew that wasn’t gonna happen but could she at least please stop shaming me for something I was already ashamed of? Yes. I was a damn adult, and I sobbed all that shit. I’m a fucking sobber. I hate it and I’ve tried to squelch it, but sometimes I just can’t.”
“E was quiet. Her boyfriend, not used to the intensity of my emotions the way she was, tried to calm me down. They both wanted me to stop crying. He wanted me to stop because it made him uncomfortable. But she wanted me to stop because she’s my sister and she loves me—the mean me, the clown me, the crying me, the me who snapped and whistled with her. And she didn’t want me to be sad. I think she finally saw that I hurt as much as she had all those years ago. We were even, I guess. Or maybe she realized that we weren’t in a battle; we were on the same side, even if we were far apart.”
“She never mentioned my childhood mean stuff after that. It’s funny, I was so confident when we were little kids. But she is the more secure one now. She’s still an introvert, and I’m still very extro, but she seems to have a quiet, grounded sense of her self-worth, whereas I constantly question my own. My identity has always felt like it’s in perpetual flux, except when I’m acting and I’m assigned a role.”
“think the one thing you’re missing from your essay is how I was very much your follower. You would test the boundaries of something, and make it feel safer for me to maybe try. You were the fearless one, the person who protected me from [the neighborhood bully] and his mean taunts. The one who always had a point of reference for other people sucking and could see outside other people’s lame values. I’ve always admired your strength, drive, and how bold you are in everything you do. But yeah, I did feel very much rejected by you in middle school. It’s surprising to hear that you missed me too.”
“This story is not that unusual or especially traumatic. Everyone gets bullied or hurt in some way during their childhood. Kids can be cruel. It’s a normal part of life. Childhood is a testing ground for what type of person you want to be, and part of that is trying things out, including cruelty, and seeing how it feels. Does it make you feel better? Or worse? Powerful? Or full of regret? The first few days after they banished me from their lunch table, I sat alone and was ashamed. But one day, a girl named Molly invited me to sit with her and her friends.”
“Your crying is an admission of guilt. If you hadn’t plagiarized, you wouldn’t be in this situation. If you had really written it, you would be proud. You would consider it a compliment. SO STOP CRYING.” At this point, I was full-on sobbing. I felt so helpless. What do you do when the truth is not enough? When someone’s disbelief is enough to incriminate you?I After class she told me she was going to be fair—she would check all the sources in my bibliography to find the proof of plagiarism, but if I just admitted it now, the punishment would be less severe. I think she was trying to scare me into confessing, but there was nothing to confess. In fact, her promising to check my bibliography made me feel a little hope, because I knew she wouldn’t find anything. So I said, “I really did write it, Mrs. Kantor.” She threw her hands up and walked away in a huff. She didn’t ever find any proof, but Mrs. Kantor was determined. So she did the meanest thing ever. She got my class schedule and took time out of her day to go to all of my other classes. She marched me up to my teachers, thrust my paper in front of them, pointed to the opening paragraph, and asked, “Do you think Constance is good enough to have written this?” No, said Mrs. Dean. No, said Mr. Brantley. No, said Mrs. Harrison.”
“No, said Mrs. Rogers. She was so smug, turning to me after each one as if to say, See? I was twelve years old. She made me watch every one of my teachers say that I was not good enough. Except Mr. Frizzell. Mr. Frizzell taught drama class, which had been my elective for the past two years. His name was pronounced fruh-ZELL. He looked like Santa Claus in Levi’s and had the easy demeanor of a George Clooney type. Mrs. Kantor walked into his classroom, nose tilted up, and shoved my paper at him. “Do you think she is good enough to have written this?” Mr. Frizzell read it quietly and handed it back without even looking at her. “Well, do you think she wrote it?” Mrs. Kantor demanded. Then, with the casualness of someone who had a class to teach, someone who couldn’t be bothered with such a nonsense question, he said, “Of course she did.” And he showed Mrs. Kantor the door. Mrs. Kantor was unable to find anything to incriminate me. She gave me a C on the paper, explaining that it should have been an F, but since she didn’t find the sources I had “stolen” from, she was being fair by not giving me an F. Instead, she took 20 points off for two run-on sentences. I remember feeling tired when she handed my paper back. I accepted the grade. I think I even thanked her. After that, I didn’t want to be a writer anymore.”
“Parents are generally smarter and more experienced than their kids. But there’s this thing that sometimes happens with the kids of immigrant parents. There’s a tacit understanding that because your parents didn’t grow up in America, they don’t get American stuff. My sisters and I either taught our parents about American problems, or we just handled them ourselves. My parents would not have understood a Mrs. Kantor type—the charm of her brashness, the way it overpowered everything else. I also thought that she’d use their foreignness, their very accents, to discredit me further. Nonimmigrant Americans often equate accented English with a lack of intelligence. But my parents are educated and smart. They can write in English beautifully with clear grammar. But their spoken accents are strong to some. I knew Mrs. Kantor would hear their accents and think they were stupid. I wasn’t going to let anyone think my parents were stupid. I had to protect them. That’s why I never told them.”
“Compared to other traumas I’ve been through, this one shouldn’t have been so bad. But for some reason, it’s the one that hurts the most. I’ve come back to it in therapy again and again, always crying fresh tears. Surprised that it still hurts, even after all these years.”
Th”e first time I addressed it in therapy was during my senior year of college. I decided that I needed to do something about it—prove myself, make her pay, get an apology… something to get it out of my system. I decided to call her. I was twenty-one years old when I looked up Mrs. Kantor in the Richmond phone book. My heart was pounding as I dialed her number. The phone rang a few times before she picked up. Her Velcro voice and New York accent were unmistakable.”
“One of the first things you learn in Method acting is called sense memory. Instead of dwelling on the emotions of an event, you recall the sensory parts—sound, touch, smell, taste, sight. Sense memories become the building blocks of your character history. When I first started writing this piece, I wrote like ten different drafts. Something didn’t click. I couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say or what the experience was trying to tell me. So I did what actors do: I went back to the beginning with sense memory—the smell of the library books and the mildewy blue chair. The color of moving leaves as seen through the skylight. That special summer quiet. The pleasure of a good book. Those sticky, sweet twin Popsicles that broke into halves. Mrs. Kantor’s voice, that gray sidewalk, the way my breath looked in the cold air. The heat of my tears and the sting that pulled them out of me. Mitchell’s hand on my back, his voice trying to comfort me. My cheeks burning in shame as every teacher said they didn’t believe in me. The way my heart soared when Mr. Frizzell said, “Of course she did.”
“As I went through the sense memories of that traumatic day back in eighth grade, suddenly it all made sense. Why this, out of all my life experiences, was the most formative. Why I couldn’t ever let it go. Why it meant so much. Why I stopped wanting to be a writer, and fled to the safe home of the theater. Because while there was Mrs. Kantor, there was also Mr. Frizzell. I never realized the significance of that until now. Isn’t that crazy? I’d spent so long dwelling on the hurt that I hadn’t been able to look beyond to see how it helped me. How it made me who I am today. It took me more than two decades to realize how significant it was that the only teacher who believed me was my drama teacher. And look what it led me to—a career, an entire life! So that’s why I became an actor. Of course I did.”
“As a kid, I never wanted to stand out. I’d always preferred to fit in—I wore the clothing styles that other girls wore, I adopted the mannerisms and slang of teens on TV, even modeled my handwriting after another girl’s in my class. You were a weirdo if you stood out. But as I watched those girls audition, I realized that here you were supposed to stand out. It wouldn’t make you a weirdo because it wasn’t you; it was the character. Those weren’t your words; they were the playwright’s. Wow! To me, that seemed like freedom. Why were these girls so stiff when they could be free? When my name was called, I felt a highly charged sense of purpose.”
the heavens as I fell to my knees, weeping: “Oh Papa, oh Emily, I have a friend… I have a friend!” I, um, definitely took it overboard. But the response from the audience was awe and applause. For what felt like the first time in my life, I wasn’t being punished or ridiculed for having big feelings. I was being applauded.
“Get the fuck out of your head!” my acting teacher screamed at me. My fellow company members yelled it at me too. Get the fuck out of your head! We screamed that phrase all the time, at ourselves, at each other, at the goddamn walls. The screaming wasn’t hostile, but more of a rousing battle cry, like that of an athlete rooting for her teammate. I was screamed at for not going deep enough (too cerebral!) or for trying to go too deep (pushing!). We wrote fierce quotes all over the studio walls in chalk: Be real. Get the fuck out of your head. Go deep. An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words. The men in my company were particularly passionate. If something felt really deep and intense, they would say things like “Blau! That shit is fucking hot!” as they jumped from the slanted window ledges, barefoot, like wild animals. For some reason, a lot of the boys loved to hold the rubber prop gun to their head while putting on tough, dire faces, pretending to be on edge or tragic. They were important; they were going to take the world by storm.”
“How it felt to see someone else with so much hope during times when I couldn’t conjure it in myself. Then I thought about what “hope” meant to Lady Macbeth. We did that with each word in the ziplock. It took forever, but Jennie made sure we took time for language. Until that exercise, I’d never realized how one little word could hold so much. Exploring the personal, emotional history of language was formative for me.”
“It was the first time I truly “got out of my head” and lost myself in Lady Macbeth. Everything felt like it dropped in, and what had once seemed so hard didn’t take effort at all…. It took a freedom and surrender that I discovered in the safety of Jennie’s faith, her hands holding mine. It was a thrilling moment.”
“a snake—for his role in The Silence of the Lambs. For the assignment, we would each choose a specific animal to study. And then we’d… become that animal. This was before YouTube, so we studied the real thing. Our teacher, Eulalie, took us to the Bronx Zoo to spend the afternoon observing our animal. I chose a kangaroo, studying its movement, facial expression, behavior, vocalization. After a few weeks we went into the acting studio to battle each other as our chosen animals. Monkey vs. Horse. Lizard vs. Bear. Eulalie lived for intensity, so the more guttural and animalistic the encounter, the better. She wanted commitment. But back then, animal work made me self-conscious. I was too immature to fully commit; it embarassed me and I wasn’t any good at it. Some people were great at it—I remember Dorothy did some kind of monkey that used its own poop as a weapon, flinging it at enemies. When she went into her animal battle onstage, she pantomimed the poop with her hand cupped beneath her butt and threw it at her “opponent,” who faked being hit by it, the way you’d fake getting a stage slap. I still remember Dorothy’s face, eyes wide and wild, body squatted and loose, arms waving above her head as she screeched and threw imaginary poop.”
“It would be years before I became emotionally mature enough to commit like that. Outside the bubble of community theater, the world often mocks sincerity and commitment—especially in Hollywood. There are entire genres of comedy devoted to ridiculing passionate people. LA cool kids, New York cynics—if they had seen my audition for A Little Princess or Dorothy’s animal work? They’d have laughed, turned it into a joke. That’s why it was so comforting to be in the safety of that first audition room when I was a kid—big feelings were rewarded. Or in Shakespeare class, where I was free to give meaning and passion to language without eye rolls or jeers. I’ve spent half my life trying to shrink my big feelings, and when I was unable to do that, I spent the other half trying to not be ashamed of them. I still struggle with this.”
“Then I step back and see the whole orange tree and it is so lush and wide and wonderful! I can feel its years. How many years did it take that tree to get so big, to bear such fruit? How many seasons has it known, how many people have plucked its fruit? How many ladders have leaned against it? I think about that tree and how it is rooted in the same earth I stand on and how I can move my body all over the earth. The tree can’t move from its roots, but its fruit can. So in a way that tree has moved to me through a quiet grove and a woman’s hand and a truck on a dusty road to the dining hall, where I got it out of a ceramic bowl and brought it to my acting class, where I am tasting it and the juice drips down my chin and it’s bright and wet and sweet and sharp. I suddenly feel a part of that orange, that tree, that woman who plucked it. It feels like a community of the world, and I’m connected to all of it, like Becki’s amoeba exercise. We are an amoeba, she told us. And then I remember Becki and community theater and the excitement before the curtain went up. I remember being a happy kid, how it felt to be a happy kid. I mourn that kid a little bit. And then I am flooded with gratitude and grief and love and hope and memory. And it pierces my heart with a tender, exquisite pain as I float on the most delicate magic in the world, and suddenly, I find myself crying because I realize that this orange is a miracle. This orange, and the opportunity to explore it. What a privilege to be an actor, to examine life in this way. To take the time to do right by our animals.”
“Asian Americans use the word “assimilation” a lot. It’s kind of a fancy word for fitting in. Like lots of kids, I wanted to fit in. I was born in America, and I wanted to feel like I was supposed to be here. That my birthplace wasn’t an accident. When American things like Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July happened, my sisters and I had to “teach” our parents: “Mom you’re supposed to do it this way,” I’d grumble. Or “Dad, you don’t do it like that here.” My parents had grown up in another country; they had another culture. Mom and Dad were easygoing types who never pushed their culture on us, so when we “taught” them what they were supposed to do, they didn’t mind following our lead.”
“While none of the other girls ever said anything, my face always burned with shame, especially if that character spoke with an Asian accent. I didn’t want to be associated with them. I had done such a good job of fitting in and I didn’t want the dumb TV character to ruin it. It was like in that movie Jurassic Park when they figured out the T. rex can’t see you if you don’t move. Anytime an Asian brought attention to their Asian-ness on TV, it was like they were running around in front of a T. rex. Shut up! Go away! I wanted to yell at them. Stop making us look bad. I spent the next twenty years of my life trying to avoid being seen by T. rexes. Then came Fresh Off the Boat. FOTB would be the first American network TV show in more than twenty years to center an Asian American family’s story. It was inspired by Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name. Eddie, like me, was an Asian American kid who grew up in all-white suburbia. But he’d had a very different experience. He hadn’t always fit in, and his parents were strict, not easygoing like mine. I was cast in the role of his mom, Jessica Huang. When I got the part, I felt a mixture of happiness and uncertainty. I was elated to have an acting job, but FOTB hit a lot of soft spots: It was a mainstream comedy, and I’d always considered myself a serious, dramatic actress. My character was a mom, ten years older than I was, which, I’ll admit, was a blow to my vanity. The softest spot of all was her Asian-ness—her demeanor, her values, her accent. She wasn’t trying to avoid the T. rex; she was taunting it.”
“I landed in the water. Not only was Fresh Off the Boat a success, it was critically acclaimed. But there was a lot of criticism, too. The word “stereotype” got thrown around a lot, especially by Asian Americans themselves. “Aren’t you perpetuating stereo-types by playing a tiger mom?” “Why do you have to have a stereotypical accent?” They all seemed to be saying: Don’t you know that you’re in Jurassic Park? It brought back the feelings I had as a kid, where I wanted to yell at the TV: SHUT UP, GO AWAY. Stop making me look bad. I don’t want to be associated with someone who sounds like my parents.”
“That’s when I realized that my whole life, I’d let someone else’s ignorant ridicule of my parents matter more than my actual, lived experience of them. To lots of people, sure, my parents’ accents sound like stereotypes. But to me? They’re my parents.”
“I got into acting to be creative, not reactive. There will always be people who don’t get it. You don’t make art for them, so why let their ignorant ridicule inform your artistic choices?”
“Stereotypes are not harmful for their mere existence; they’re harmful for their reduction of a person or group.”
“When Betty and Syd found out I’d brought my boyfriend back home to visit, they wanted to meet him. So I took Aaron next door. They were so happy to see us. Betty made sugar-free zucchini cake—she’d heard I was dieting at the time—which she sliced and put on blue-and-white plates for us. We sat down on the wicker furniture in their carpeted sunroom and caught up. They asked questions about my life. Asked my boyfriend about New York. I said dumb, braggy stuff, trying to be cool. I wanted to prove I’d outgrown my roots and that I was fine after my parents’ divorce. Great, even. That I was a cool city girl with an older boyfriend. But as obnoxious as I was, they thought every answer I gave them was just wonderful. They shared their love so freely. That was the last time I ever saw them.”
“A couple years later, Syd passed away. Betty followed shortly thereafter. I didn’t know about their funerals until after they happened. My mom cried when she told me. My chest felt hollow, like the air when it’s cold and raining. I thought about Betty’s azaleas in that cold rain. Syd’s boat and the gray sky over the Chesapeake Bay. That final time I saw Betty and Syd, when I took Aaron to meet them, when they made me zucchini cake and loved me even when I’d been so obnoxious, I remember feeling proud that they were my neighbors. Almost like I was showing them off. I thought my boyfriend would be impressed by their kindness. But the second we left their house, he started complaining. “Jesus Christ,” he said. “I’ve never heard anyone talk so slow. It was killing me. How the fuck does someone talk that slow?” He laughed. I felt a twinge in my chest. Suddenly, I wasn’t proud of being a city girl anymore. Upset, I picked a fight with him—babbling nonsense, unable to find a point to anything I was saying because I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I didn’t know who I wanted to be. I had come home to Virginia and my house had been different because of the divorce, but my next-door neighbors had been the same wonderful people, and suddenly I was sobbing and couldn’t stop. My boyfriend was baffled by the tears, which kept pouring out of me. “That’s just how people talk here,” I kept crying to him, over and over again. “That’s just how we talk.”
“Making a Scene New York City could make you feel invincible, like any shit you were given rolled right back to the shit giver, and the same thing happened with love. The love that pulsed through the city was built on aggression: I give it to you, because I know you can take it. Because we’re both here. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to live in New York. Movies about the city had a grit that felt honest, earned. New Yorkers were unfazed. They didn’t participate in bullshit. They had dry, sarcastic senses of humor. Their facial expressions were neutral and unaffected. Even the way they walked felt gritty: hard, brisk, and with purpose. I remember once, after stepping out of the subway car, I paused briefly outside the doors to locate the stairs. “You have to keep moving,” someone scolded me. “You can’t just stop.” My face burned; I was ashamed for revealing myself as a tourist. From then on, I pretended to know where I was going even when I didn’t. I thought that was how I’d finally earn the badge I’d longed for—the badge of belonging to New York City.”
“I couldn’t call it “rape.” Like, I couldn’t even say the word. It felt way too dramatic and out of control for something that had been so… quiet. I did talk about it with my therapist. She said it was rape and that the lack of violence didn’t change that. She called it a trauma, a designation that felt wrong at times, convenient at others, and sometimes made me cry surprise tears. But what was most mysterious to me, what I couldn’t fucking get over, was how could I have forgotten? I was angry at myself for forgetting, angrier than I was at him for raping me. And why had it suddenly come up out of the blue? More than ten years later? My therapist told me how the mind can repress traumatic experiences—denial can be a survival tactic. But if it was so traumatic that it merited repression, then why did it come back at all? Why couldn’t I have forgotten it forever? I couldn’t figure it out. So instead of asking myself why now? I began to ask why not before?”
“She wasn’t yet ready to bear the insults and derision that follow when women make scenes. And I wouldn’t make her to do something before she was ready.”
“And then I shed Apollo’s chains, my shawl dropping to the floor. In that moment it was like I shed everything and everyone who’d ever hurt me, underestimated me, humiliated me, made me feel small. I curse you as you have cursed me. Trampling these, I feel some freedom From the curse of my life. … I’ve finished with tears. Finished with prophecy And the pitiless designs of fate. FUCKING BALLER SPEECH. Hard as FUCK to do. When I started it, I had no idea how much would flow out of me, but Cassandra came alive in my body—a roaring fire of pain that pummeled through me. My emotions were enormous. Greek! Who was little now? Hugo was stunned. I got the part.”
“He never loved me. I know what love looks like—opening up from the center of the face, love melts the outer corners of a man’s eyes, drooping them down toward the softest smile. It’s a mixture of joy and sadness and need and wonder. I’ve had four men look at me like that and you absolutely know it when it happens. Matt never looked at me that way. That’s how I knew it wasn’t love.”
“And then one day, I was talking to my friend Kit when I casually mentioned our fuckbuddy relationship. After a few questions, Kit realized that he knew him and then he asked me if I knew that Matt had a girlfriend of fourteen years who he lived with in Park Slope. I didn’t. Her name was June and he had been cheating on her with me the entire time. Matt never had any social media profiles (smart cheaters don’t do social media), but his best friend, Chris, did. I looked up Chris on Facebook and scanned his photos for someone named June. I found her. She was really pretty. Blond, blue-eyed, with the softest smile. She looked like someone who came from one of those families who like hanging out with each other. I clicked on her profile. She liked volleyball. She didn’t wear makeup and her hair was usually in a ponytail. She was always smiling. She played the drums, and I saw some old pictures of her and Matt, when they were teenagers, in a band together. They really had been together for a long time. I was stunned. His care had felt so sincere. How could a person lie so easily? He was coming to LA the following week, so I waited to talk to him in person. When I confronted him about it, he broke down and admitted everything. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Constance. I’m awful. I’ve never been faithful to a woman. I can’t help it. It’s like I’m a shark, following a blood trail. I can’t stop moving or I might die. June doesn’t know anything. What’s wrong with me? I’m a horrible person.” He started to cry. I ended up comforting him. It was a next-level manipulation that preyed on my sympathy. Poor shark, I thought. But really, poor June. Matt was a shark, but June was a person. I bet he had squeezed her shoulder in front of his parents too. Made her feel loved, heard. Her face was so kind. How could Matt have done that to someone so kind? She looked like someone he should have treated better. She deserved better.”
“I are still learning each other,” he said. I realized he possibly knew me better than he knew her. He’d certainly known me longer. I ribbed him a little about how he had texted me that night of the film festival. “God, I’m such a dick sometimes!” he said, shaking his head and smiling. When I hadn’t texted him back, it made him crazy. “I couldn’t believe you didn’t respond. I thought maybe you had changed your number or something.” “Ha. You would think that,” I groaned, rolling my eyes, poking fun at his narcissism. We both laughed and the hatchet was fully buried. We talked until I had to go. We shared a genuine hug. I walked out of that coffee shop happy to remember the good stuff. To know that, throughout all the lies and drama, our bond hadn’t been false. That was a while ago. We haven’t called or texted each other since that day. But if we ever bump into each other again, I know it will be peaceful. And for that, I am glad.”
‘When you pet her, she relaxes into an almost hypnotic state. And if you stop petting her, she’ll gently lick or nudge your hand to ask for more petting. When she was little, I’d pet her into relaxation mode, then stop and put my face right in front of hers. When she finally licked my nose, I rewarded her by continuing to pet her. That’s how I taught her to kiss. Now, if I hold her up to my face, she automatically licks my nose. It’s become a natural reflex for her, that kiss.”
“When I picked her up, she was still drowsy from the anesthesia. Her sleepy face looked almost grumpy… and insane! Half her face was shaved down to the skin—which was pink with black patches, like a cow—and her eye socket was sewn shut. I started crying immediately. Not because I was scared or upset but because that ugliness in her half-shaved face made me love her so much more. The surgery was a success. And once the fur grew back, it just looked like she was winking; I almost missed seeing her weird half-shaven look. I could tell by the way she moved and pranced that she was so much happier, glad the pain was gone. She had been blind in that eye for a while. Now it was just normal to her. Having one eye means you always know when she’s looking at you. She likes to lay spread out on her side, her eyeless side against the wall, the other side keeping watch over her world.”
“People often ask me, “Why do you love bunnies so much?” and I always want to ask back, why do we love anything? Listing reasons almost cheapens the love, in my opinion. I don’t have an explanation for love. It’s also kind of an insulting question. Like, no one ever says, “Why do you love your dog?” Why is it that love for certain kinds of animals is understood, but others require explanation? As if they’re saying: It’s unusual! Hardly anybody loves bunnies, so please explain to me, how could a bunny possibly be as lovable as the love you give her?”
“Why had I been worried that removing her eye would make her less lovable? That’s not how real love works. If someone stops loving you when your body changes, then they just don’t understand real love.”
“In hindsight, I should have asked for help. The income I made from the show provided me with the resources for it. But I’d only recently graduated from waiting tables, so the idea of hiring an assistant or asking for any kind of help seemed like an insane jump. I didn’t even hire a cleaning person for my apartment until season 4 of the show. Why pay someone to do something I can do myself? I thought. Growing up, my family had never had a cleaning person; it seemed like an extravagant expense.”
“But Randall wasn’t like that. Ever. He hadn’t known (his publicist’s error) and he felt awful—apologizing profusely and calling his publicist immediately (in front of me!) to make sure it didn’t happen again. But I remained upset, punished him for days by pouting every time he came near me. Looking back, I cringe at my childish behavior. He didn’t deserve it and I’m still so sorry.”
“Another time, when a director seemed to favor Chelsey, who played my friend and neighbor on the show, I became cold to both of them—it was my petty way of punishing them when really, I was just jealous that they were able to enjoy themselves on set. Bitter about my own inability at finding happiness on set, I was trying to deny it to others. It was awful. I wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with me either.”
“Then, like a good big brother, he made Ian and Forrest come over and hug me too. I had come into that conversation with the intention of caring for my kids. And instead, my kid took care of me. I’ll never forget that.”
“never really spoke to M— again, but I eventually forgave him. And myself. We were both in high-pressure situations without precedents—it’s only natural to stumble along the way. Hollywood has a history of mocking and belittling Asian men. It’s hard to have big dreams in a culture that makes you feel small. And M— was always grasping at the things that made him feel big—his power as my boss, his constant name-dropping, his pleasure at “making offers.” A lot was riding on the show, not just for Asian American representation, but for him personally. He’d been an assistant to a successful director for years, and FOTB was his first big show as a producer. I imagine he must have been under a lot of pressure, but he never talked about it. He was always trying so hard to be cool—maybe he felt like a good producer had to be. As someone who has tried and failed to be the cool girl for years, I don’t envy that pressure. I’m not making excuses for him—just trying to understand him. Because when I do that, I stop blaming myself and feel better.”
“I began retreating from the public eye. I quit all social media and turned down magazine cover offers. I chose acting roles that wouldn’t put me in the limelight too much—choices that have restored peace to my life. No longer hustling to be someone, posting to prove something, striving to get somewhere. I chuckle when I think of how my dreams used to be so big. Little did I know how much better the small things would be: The plain beauty of the breakfast table—my daughter’s two-toothed grin, food on her face and all over the floor. Every new thing, a discovery. Watching her grow has been the greatest pleasure I’ve known.”
“In my hometown, being a provocateur felt exciting and freeing. But once I left Virginia to study at an acting conservatory, it was less special. Soon, even arts college became comfortable and bland—the cable television and vegan grilled cheeses and snooty music tastes. Just like I’d felt the urge to separate myself from the ease of my suburban youth, now I longed to distinguish myself from the art school crowd. Like Thoreau, I dreamed of going to the woods to “live deliberately.”
“It was mindful, intentional eating, which somehow made the bland vegetarian food taste really good. When you were eating, you were eating. It’s a ritual I sometimes miss, when I see people eating meals with scattered attention—scrolling on their phones or reading the news.”
“After that guided meditation, the rest of the days were just flow. My mind hummed with the insects outside. My breath rose and fell with ocean currents. For the first time in my life, it felt like every single cell of my body was oxygenated, hydrated, and nourished to its most perfectly optimal level. There are no shortcuts for the true things in life. You have to sit through the discomfort. Sometimes, you have to sit through it for a very, very long time.”
“After I left the monastery, I went back to New York City, where I lived with my boyfriend. The experience was jarring. Traffic, billboards, subway cars, mirrors, sex, the radio, my family and peers and their questions and enthusiasm.”
“Even the foliage of the city trees felt agitated. The air became itchy again. Only now there were so many distractions to scratch it. Night clubs, money, substances, jealousy. In New York, I didn’t have to sit and suffer through the itch.”
“And then the itch wasn’t an itch anymore; it was impatience, and then impatience wasn’t impatience but ambition. Rushing wasn’t rushing anymore; it was productivity. What’s so wrong with that? I rationalized. What is wrong with goals and productivity? I stopped meditating because there were things I needed to do… waitressing to pay rent, exercising so I could have what I perceived to be the body of a castable actress and desirable human. I was hustling to get somewhere, be somebody. Everything became goal-oriented or character defining. Even the monastery and its lessons became an adornment—something I could talk about to make me seem interesting. And for a while, that’s how I used it—to impress people. It always worked. Wow—you lived at a Buddhist monastery…. Was it life changing?! And while I was proud of it at first, people’s reactions began to fatigue me. In their impressed faces, I could see the way they romanticized the religion the way I’d once done too. I couldn’t ever match their awe. Or I was jealous of it. Then I’d become irritated and attempt to do whatever was the opposite of romanticizing it. Then I’d become disgusted by my own irritation, knowing it was borne of arrogance, impatience, a bitter heart. Next, I’d become disgusted by my own ego and vanity for even bragging about the monastery in the first place.”
“The urge to roll my eyes again was overwhelming, but instead I watched them pray. Normal, suburban folks giving thanks for cheese balls and for each other. Suddenly, an unexpected wave of shame flooded through me—why couldn’t I just leave it the fuck alone? I had culture, experience, travel, stylish boots on my feet, and interesting books in my bag, but I was mean and judgmental. I couldn’t even let someone pray without scoffing at them. Then I remembered what Bud had said about how to worship…. And here it was, right in front of me in this carpeted living room in my hometown: the utmost sincerity. I may have lived at a Buddhist monastery, but I wonder if the Christian cheese ball guy got it better than I ever did.”
“After a few weeks, I stopped going to the Quaker church. Just like at the monastery and the cheese ball party, I was never able to feel like I really belonged there. The few times I was approached, post–Quaker meeting, by friendly folks introducing themselves, my heart pounded and my palms sweated. I smiled and stumbled away from them as fast as I could, half laughing and half mumbling excuses about needing to be somewhere. I don’t know why I was so ashamed of my loneliness. Why I ran away from the one thing I wanted so much.”
“We read books next to each other, drank cheap Old Grand-Dad whiskey, made sandwiches out of soft bread and cold cuts, watched the Olympics on TV. One weekend, we drove to Fallingwater and looked at a beautiful thing that humans built. It opened up something in us, and during the drive home, we talked. About our families, our feelings, our pasts. We wondered about our futures. I told him about how Mrs. Kantor accused me of plagiarism in middle school and how it broke me. He told me how he loved playing chess as a child, but his elementary school principal chided him, saying, “Ha! You may know the rules of chess. But you don’t really know how to play.” He’d felt so embarrassed that he never played again. Stories about acting school, first feelings of shame, what it felt like to have been deemed a “gifted” child. In that cheap rental car, we learned each other. I still remember the white-gray sky and his dark hair. His face gazing ahead as he drove. It was a wonderful trip, and I went back to New York totally in love.”
Overall, I enjoyed the depths of the human emotions and the curiosity of the diving deep into the human condition. She’s a great writer, story teller and I can see what she’s had so much success being able to play so many different roles.
Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills
People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.
Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.
It was hell.
After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.
Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.