I Was a Teen-age Mime!
By Amy Rhodes
In high school, I was a mime.
Back in those days, it didn't occur to me that I would someday be ostracized for saying that. As I sat in front of my mirror, carefully applying black eyeliner on top of my white cake make-up, as I squished into my black tights and leotard, as I adjusted my green bowtie and put on my white vest and gloves, I never thought to stop and say, “Don’t do this, Amy. You’re destroying your future.”
See, being a mime at Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, was cool. We were The Baker’s Dozen; thirteen comedic actors handpicked after two rounds of auditions. Everybody who was anybody crammed into the auditorium for both the Fall and Spring Nites-o-Mime, breaking fire codes with reckless abandon. We were in demand beyond the halls of Valley, too. We played birthday parties, summer camps, PTA meetings, and grade school assemblies.
My first clue that being a mime was not considered hip came my freshman year in college, when a guy I was dating saw a picture of me in my mime outfit.
“What is this?” he asked, taking the picture off my dresser. “Is that you? Why the hell are you dressed up like a clown?”
“No! Not a clown. Please, like I would be a clown.” I scoffed. “A mime.”
“Oh.” Then, “Why the hell are you dressed up as a mime?”
He broke up with me the next day, citing sexual incompatibility. But I am really good in bed, so you tell me.
My friends in my college improv group were not much better. Four years of jokes. “Don’t put me in a box!” they would squeal. “Pretend like you are running into the wind!” they commanded. “Mime, Mime, Mimety McMime Mime!” they would sing.
I hoped that as I got older it would get better. It hasn't. My friends don’t even attempt to be clever anymore. Now, they simply shake their head and say, “You were a mime. Ridiculous.”
Conventional wisdom says that I should just stop telling people about my mime past. But, the truth is The Baker's Dozen gave me confidence. At an age when girls are conditioned to hide their true selves, being a mime made me feel like it was okay for a girl to be funny. Ten years later, it is the one thing I learned in high school that has stuck with me.
So, I persevere. Occasionally I even laugh along with the mime jokes that people make. But when I laugh, I am silently judging you. After all, you can take the girl out of the mime troupe but you can’t take the mime out of the girl.
Amy Rhodes is an actress and improviser living in New York City. She performs regularly with the team Dr. Awesome at Upright Citizen’s Brigade.
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