May 18, 2000
I never thought I'd find myself in any place called "The Winner'sRoom," mingling with soap opera stars and clutching a huge gold statue.
But there I was. Well, that's where my body was, though some other partof me was hovering above the Century Plaza Hotel, just watching myself theway you watch an awards show on TV.
After I heard the first syllable of "Win Ben Stein's Money" -- the showfor which I was nominated for an Emmy as a writer -- I went into some kind ofshock. It wasn't bad shock, like "cover her with a blanket she's losingblood." It was a whole new kind of stunned, a blast of morphine-like euphoriathat shot from my stomach out through my limbs.
A wide spotlight landed on the Ben Stein writing team and my numb feet,teetering in brand new $29.99 pumps, had to take me to the podium. As ourelected speaker, Gary, struggled to thank the requisite producers, I stoodbehind him and gripped the prop Emmy, hoping my bra strap wasn't showing.When he finished, I leaned into the microphone and said stupidly, "Thankseverybody."
We were ushered down a hallway, where Gary was so shaken he had to takea knee.
"You okay?" I asked, helping him up.
Someone far more spiritually advanced may have gleaned a deeper meaningfrom that message, but I just adjusted the statue in my arms, dutifully.
I'm not trying to be self-effacing when I tell you that I have never,ever, been a winner at anything.
When I got the call last month that we were nominated, I felt prettydarn good for a couple days. But life has a way of turning on you, doesn'tit? My car died. I didn't get a job I wanted. I had to charge my rent. Mydate, an ex-boyfriend, suddenly remembered he had a prior commitment to gohiking with his brother in Hawaii the weekend of the Emmy's.
Great, I thought. I'll be sitting next to an empty chair in a dress fromthe mall I'll just have to return the next day because I'm the loneliest,brokest Emmy nominee in town.
"You'll have a good time by yourself," the ex said, shrugging it off.What I heard was, "It's just the technical awards. It's just the DaytimeEmmys. It's not even televised."
My good feelings faded. I told the ex-boyfriend to take another kind ofhike. I cried at the thought of myself sitting there alone, no one to comfortme if I lost or squeeze my hand if I won. I cried that deep kind of cry thathits you when you first wake up, that cry that sops up all the old painfulexperiences from your past and wrings them into your present. I got in myemotional time machine and felt sad for every time in life I ever feltabandoned. I got out of hand.
"Snap out of it," said my therapist. Well, he didn't put it like thatbut I'm translating from therapease.
So I did. I hauled myself to the used car lot and bought a car. Justafter I put a down payment on an old Taurus, I got a call for a new job,starting immediately. I splurged on my dream dress, a black, jerseywrap-around from Lura Starr that won't be going back. An old friend fromcollege offered to accompany me and I was all set.
At the reception following the show, I walked around with my award anda glass of champagne, drawing stares. I wished I could mill around that hotellobby forever, experiencing the unfamiliar end of the envy equation.
My date was perfect company in his rented tux and freshly washed car,telling me when my lipstick was smeared, refilling my drink, making easyconversation with my co-workers. The thing about platonic dates, however, isthat like rented tuxes, they aren't really yours.
He dropped me off at the end of the night and I clomped up the stairs tomy house and propped the Emmy up on the coffee table. I sat in thesemi-darkness, smoking and staring at her pointy golden wings, the arch ofher back.
I poured myself a mood cocktail, equal parts gratitude, pride andloneliness.
"Wings out," I said to myself, for no reason at all, and Emmy and Isettled in to watch Saturday Night Live together.
Teresa Strasser is an Emmy-winning twentysomething writer for the Journal.