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First Person

Pretending It's Chocolate

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Pretending It's Chocolate
I don't have 'showmances' as a rule. Getting involved with your romantic opposite is not only messy, it is a breach of a professional relationship—one which inevitably interferes with your performance in the workspace.

This isn't really an issue for me as I try not to date actors anyway: One of me is enough in any relationship.

But that doesn't mean I completely abstain from relationships with my co-stars. They're just pretend. Whoever my romantic opposite is, I make him my boyfriend, my lover, my husband, every day on set together or on the stage. I love him with the strength that I imagine I would love a real lover, a real spouse.

True to professionalism, the only things sexual involved are flirtation or the possible scripted kiss. But when the camera turns on, this relationship is so real to me that acting is easy; because I'm not acting: I'm living out a fantasy.

And I use the fantasy love that I create on location to fill the voids in my life left empty by real love.

Fantasy love is not a bad second best; it's like substituting carob chips for chocolate, which satiate you temporarily until you crave chocolate again, then you can stuff yourself with more carob.

Fantasy love is beautiful because it's simple. Your lover is perfect, his flaws insignificant, and thus it's easy to throw your heart at him with wild abandon. He may bend it, but he won't break it, as real lovers do.

But the key to keeping that simple perfection intact is parting with that love at the end of each day when you leave the set.

It's not easy. Today I almost broke that rule.

I rushed onto set, flustered and sweaty, as I had been called in as a replacement and wasn't as prepared as usual. The second I opened the big concrete doors I saw the most gorgeous man I have ever seen in my life. And he was playing my husband.

Things got tricky when we ended up waiting two hours to shoot. We talked about everything, finding out that we were both spiritual, both writers into yoga and hiking, and gung ho travelers.

Still, nothing had permeated through the ordinary fantasy until one of the other actresses butted her head in. Looking at us, she said, "You two make such a beautiful couple. You should just dump whoever you are with and get together." That's when my heart jumped and I had to tie it back down, reminding myself that this was the beautiful fantasy love I treasured so much, not reality. 

The shoot went well—we held hands, we gazed into each other's eyes with the admiration of newlyweds, we improvised about our life together and our careers; me a teacher, him an entrepreneur. Per the needs of the shoot, we even spoke openly about our sex life together.

The worst part of leaving that type of shoot is the awkwardness—the moment where you pretend that you never shared anything intimate with one another, where you pretend that you didn't see their heart and they didn't see yours. A sort of strange guilt pervades you that you were able to feel so close to someone you had only met that day.

And so it was on Flushing Avenue as the Orthodox men with peyos passed us by.

"Well," he said to me. "Well," I responded, with a vestige of forbidden longing. Equally speechless, he opened up his arms and we hugged, strangely, uncomfortably. Once again we were the strangers we had been when we walked into the studio.

"Great working with you," I said. "You too," he replied.

I was about to turn around and head west when I thought, hey, we can be friends professionally. I pulled my card out of my purse.

"Here's my card," I said. "Call me when you are having auditions for your play." (He had just finished writing one.)

"I sure will," he said. We gave each other one last look and then quickly turned our separate ways.

But two steps down the street, Samantha the person kicked in. I turned back around, hollering out, "And let me know if you ever need a hiking buddy!"

He turned back around, walking backwards in order to face me.

"I will!" he said. "I might go this weekend actually."

"Great!" I replied. Then we both turned back towards our destinations and I couldn't help smiling. Maybe there was actually something there, something other than fantasy. Part of me hoped that he would call. The other part of me hoped he wouldn't so that we could retain our perfect images of each other and our blossoming love-filled marriage.

Although it wouldn't be easy, I guess sometimes I wish those carob chips could turn into chocolate. 


When Samantha Karlin is not writing for Back Stage about fantasy love, child murderers, or (for the love of god, help her) auditions, she is the "Dating Diva" picking apart her friends' boy problems for her column on www.meezoog.com.  On a given day, you might see her singing jazz at The Plaza or crooning tunes with her doo-wop group Norma Jean. She will perform at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre in a singer's showcase on Oct. 28.  Oh yeah, she acts, too: This spring, you can see her in "Hello Irish" at the Bleecker Street Theatre.  Truer to her roots, keep your eyes peeled for the hilarious mockumentary-style series "From Date to Mate" on Shalom TV.  If you desire, please contact Sam at samanthabackstage@gmail.com.  



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