Wings Out


I never thought I'd find myself in any place called "The Winner's Room," 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 part of me was hovering above the Century Plaza Hotel, just watching myself the way you watch an awards show on TV.

After I heard the first syllable of "Win Ben Stein's Money" - the show for which I was nominated for an Emmy as a writer - I went into some kind of shock. It wasn't bad shock, like "cover her with a blanket she's losing blood." It was a whole new kind of stunned, a blast of morphine-like euphoria that 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 our elected speaker, Gary, struggled to thank the requisite producers, I stood behind him and gripped the prop Emmy, hoping my bra strap wasn't showing. When he finished, I leaned into the microphone and said stupidly, "Thanks everybody."

We were ushered down a hallway, where Gary was so shaken he had to take a knee.

"You okay?" I asked, helping him up.

"I just can't believe it," he responded, his eyes big and his legs shaking. I called my mom on someone's cell phone, I hugged everyone in sight, and next thing I knew, I was in the Winner's Room, picking up my very own Emmy, posing for pictures with the weighty golden lady in my sweaty paws.

"Wings out," people kept saying. "Those golden wings are sharp."

Someone far more spiritually advanced may have gleaned a deeper meaning from 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 pretty darn good for a couple days. But life has a way of turning on you, doesn't it? My car died. I didn't get a job I wanted. I had to charge my rent. My date, an ex-boyfriend, suddenly remembered he had a prior commitment to go hiking 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 from the 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 Daytime Emmys. It's not even televised."

My good feelings faded. I told the ex-boyfriend to take another kind of hike. I cried at the thought of myself sitting there alone, no one to comfort me if I lost or squeeze my hand if I won. I cried that deep kind of cry that hits you when you first wake up, that cry that sops up all the old painful experiences from your past and wrings them into your present. I got in my emotional time machine and felt sad for every time in life I ever felt abandoned. I got out of hand.

"Snap out of it," said my therapist. Well, he didn't put it like that but I'm translating from therapease.

So I did. I hauled myself to the used car lot and bought a car. Just after I put a down payment on a Taurus, I got a call for a new job, starting immediately. I splurged on my dream dress, a black, jersey wrap-around from Lura Starr that won't be going back. An old friend from college offered to accompany me and I was all set.

At the reception following the show, I walked around with my award and a glass of champagne, drawing stares. I wished I could mill around that hotel lobby 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 easy conversation with my co-workers. The thing about platonic dates, however, is that like rented tuxes, they aren't really yours.

He dropped me off at the end of the night and I clomped up the stairs to my house and propped the Emmy up on the coffee table. I sat in the semi-darkness, smoking and staring at her pointy golden wings, the arch of her back.

I poured myself a mood cocktail, equal parts gratitude, pride and loneliness.

"Wings out," I said to myself, for no reason at all, and Emmy and I settled in to watch Saturday Night Live together.