When I was growing up my dad always said that you played how you looked.
Yet, no matter how well I taped my shin pads, or tucked in my jersey, I never was much of a hockey or baseball player, even though I was given the nickname of “Kamikaze” my first year in Mighty Mites because, while I was fast as hell, I hadn’t yet learned to stop.
When I realized I wasn’t going to make it playing professional sports I started trying out for plays at our local community theatre. It was a fit from the start. My dad’s advice carried over into the theatre world as I always made it a point to wear whatever the character I was playing might wear. If I looked like the character, I would play like the character, and so I started to collect all manner of costumes.
As I got older my closet grew.
Things I would never wear in my normal life, but things I might need if I was auditioning as a young business man or a bike messenger for a Budweiser commercial. As time went on I had fewer and fewer “everyday-Blaine-clothes,” and more and more audition and rehearsal wear.
This Christmas M got me a couple of fantastic shirts from J.Crew that didn’t quite fit. They were just a size off and up until a recent and rather lovely exchange with J. Crew customer service, I thought I might need to get them tailored. The thing is, I’d never been to a tailor or tried to get a shirt to fit “just right,” for my everyday life.
For a costume though? You better believe it.
In fact, I’ve stood in my underpants on a wooden block in front of a 4-way mirror and a Russian costume designer ready to pin and measure whatever she pleased more times than I can remember, but never for my actual, real self.
As those who know me can attest, I tend to romanticize and mythicize nearly everything, so as I’ve thought about being a dad you can imagine how grandiose my thoughts have become. And so I find myself lately asking the following:
How do I become a dad and what is a guy playing a dad supposed to wear?
At first I approached the role of “dad” as just that, a role. It’s been my easiest mental entry. I’ve played other roles before, how would this be any different? But as I debated getting these shirts tailored to fit me, it became clear that it wasn’t the clothes that were needing my attention.
Over the course of the last 31 years it seems that I’ve been the one in the process of being tailored to fit - as a dad. I also wonder if becoming a dad isn’t a role one assumes or puts on, but instead is something more akin to a person simply becoming their actual, real, everyday, ordinary self.
No role. No costume.
(Sidenote: there doesn’t seem to be any good “dad costumes” to wear anyhow. Instead, I've taken to parting my hair, wearing cardigans and plaid shirts, along with my rather manly, American-made Frye boots in the hopes that I’ll feel just a little more like a grown-up man/dad.)
Now every morning as I get dressed and part my hair, realizing I have a little less than 10 weeks before our baby girl arrives, I take a good hard look in the mirror.
My dad was right - you play like you look - and I look like a lot like a guy who’s becoming a dad.