The kid and I were at the mall, doing what one does after the holidays; using up gift cards and store credits before the cats eat them. A woman walked past us, smiled. I smiled vaguely back, assuming I knew her from someplace. She stopped, turned, pointed to Daughter and said "Is she your daughter?"
I frowned and said "Depends." Whatever the opposite of outgoing is, I am its queen if a stranger is interested in my child.
"Well," she continued, smiling warmly at me, "I'm a scout for Disney television and they are having an audition..."
This has happened to us before. I'm not saying the child is exceptionally beautiful or unbearably charismatic. I think she's rather nice but the scout wasn't responding to her dry wit or her interest in science. What the scout noticed was that Daughter is a carbon-based life form under the age of 13 in a city looking to constantly keep the machinery of tween television oiled with new bodies. If they ask a thousand children to come to an open audition, a few hundred might come and in there might be a single child who can read a line. It's worth their time so they keep sending scouts out.
The woman waited. I realized she had kept talking while my mind drifted. Luckily, I knew my line.
"Thank you, but no."
We all smiled at one another and the scout walked off towards a mother with twins.
I loved acting; specifically, no one loved the bit between "Action" and "Cut" better than I did. If that was all acting was, I'd still be in it. I'd be unemployed, but I'd be in the game. But even if you're lucky, that part is no more than about 10% of your career. The other 90% -- the uncertainty, the powerlessness, the unhealthy fixation on weight and appearance -- erodes even the most resilient adult and I wasn't walking around the mall with an adult. My mother, my parents, had the character to have kept me sane and whole even with this nutjob hobby I had, but I wasn't prepared to gamble that I could do as well for the kid. Lucky for us, Daughter has friends who are actors and knows that acting mostly means you aren't available to have fun in the afternoons and that even if you could talk your mother in to it, you can't have a blue streak in your hair. In sum, acting is unenviable.
I couldn't agree with her more.