This, by far, has been one of the weirdest jobs I've ever had. I've had a handful of odd jobs before, ranging from flute-making (drilling holes into PVC tube) to selling imported Chinese paintings to rich ex-pats, to serving lemonade (the real-deal shake-up kind) at the Wisconsin State Fair. I've been a bartender in a traveling country fair in Mexico. I've been a nanny, been a "hostess". Sold coloring books at the Shrine Circus, sold my own dinky bracelets to street people. I've been a clown. Been a street canvasser, a door-to-door girl, a dishwasher, of course a waitress, a produce girl, heck, I've even been a lecturer at an Islamic University. I haven't been so bored for hours on end quite like this as I have while working as a "celebrity" in Indonesia. (Okay, sometimes you do get bored-up-the-wazoo kinds of jobs) Sure, I've had doors slammed on me and drinks poured down my skirt, but this one is definitely the weirdest.
Sitting in the boys dressing room waiting for the moment I begin to glisten under the beaming lights, waiting to be probed by the piping glare of electric fame, on a stage with an entire production crew milking their way through headphones in a frenzy. It's a dating show, a type of show that I only secretly love, it's not true love by any means, I'm only here to be a star on TV. I'm here with real people, real boys who are here out of desperation. They expect to meet their "life partners", their "soul mates" on this here trashed set, a stage composed of nothing but garbage from the nights prior. The white wall on the main stage is no longer white, instead it's grey with strips of fabric that are decaying off. The toilets reek of that "urinal" smell and have no soap. My butt (I had to take a dump after eating the fish box meal) had to drip-dry its goo in that heinous shitter. It's a waiting game as much as it is a "dating game", it's a small-talk atmosphere backstage. It's a mask I wear that they can see is crumbling when they realize I'm only here for the money and the fame.
I met the dancer girls of the show at the Canteen when I needed to pop out. There was a homely cat tip-toeing along the shelf of hot food when I saw them. We sat and chatted for a while. Chatted about the latest exorcism in East Java and celebrity scandals. They recognized me from the last TV show I was on (as did the entire crew of immigration officers yesterday). You know, folks in the street actually recognize me as being the white girl who can sing dangdut and "goyang lucu" ("shake her bum funny"). It's getting a little bit overwhelming. But I like it. I don't want to quit it.
The production assistant beckons me into a new hall. Turns out I'm headed hurriedly down to the girls' dressing room. They need me on stage. The girls' dressing room is cluttered with girls, all actresses like me, none of them real girls looking for their "soul mates," (unlike in the boys' room where I was laying on the floor typing while they were sitting there eating chocolate bars and trying to get my number). High heels are flying across the room, it reeks of iron-burnt hair, gay boys are standing in front of the lit mirrors blowing in girls faces and batting their hands drying fake eyelash glue. I walk in, unmakeuped in junky tennies. They throw me into some high heels and a skinny dress that they borrowed from one of the other girls. (Thank god for mentholated baby powder. Just completely emerse yourself in the crap like a chinchilla in the Mexican desert dust at sunset. Yeah, so you smell like a Throw-up Baby and your skin feels like a friggin shuffleboard, but you don't sweat and you're simply cooled the heck off.) Man, so now that I'm on stage, I've got to choose between check it out: A super wealthy Indian businessman who doesn't wear deodorant, a kid from an East Javanese hick town who bleaches his hair and is the son of one of the female contestants, a Frenchie ex-pat in suspenders who is just very Eiffel towery, and a kid from Afghanistan who enjoys going clubbing and dressing his women in traditional Afghan clothing (ahem...burkas). Wow, the choices! I, surprise suprise, am very disinterested in all of them and I've got to bang this darn buzzer to switch my light from green to red. For Chrissakes, it's like banging a cardboard box and telling it to brew espresso. I don't normally wear high heels, the pain was excruciating let me tell you, I have never been a hold-your-farts-in kind of a girl where your abs are literally acting like God at the gates of heaven trying to negotiate with a Puerto Rican Jewish lesbian serial killer if she can enter or not. "No, farts, you can't go out there, It's just not gonna happen. Keep sucking girls! Keep sucking!" And the fake eyelashes I had to wear were horrendous. I had to do eyelid lifts to strengthen the muscles just so I could keep my eyes open under the weight of the damn log of glue they rolled on me. Most of the other girls insisted I shave my armpits because it would just be too embarassing if I could only raise my arms from the elbow down and not by the shoulder during the energetic dance numbers.
It was so much fun. The lights, the massive warehouse studio, the laughing audience, the loud music and the mic checks, the amazingly organized and friendly people dressed in black, the speed, the adrenaline. It's me in a new light. It's a secret life that I adore. It's another aspect of the "real me" when you see it on television. Behind the scenes, I'm another girl and goddamn is it ever a blast living the American dream in Asia.