EXCERPT: 'The Kids Are All Right'

Typical. Mom never wanted to take me shopping, and when she did, she'd let me buy things only if they were on sale. Dad, on the other hand, would deposit me at the Stamford Bloomingdale's and tell me to meet him at the cash register in twenty minutes. It's because of him that I was the first girl at Fox Lane Middle School to own Jordache jeans. On our last spree, I got the kelly- green Ralph Lauren cable- knit sweater I was wearing that day for my audition.

"How about tennis?" I offered. "I'll ask him to play a set." I had been taking lessons that winter at Chestnut Ridge, an indoor tennis club in town. I could show off my new and improved overhead serve. It was the perfect ploy, Mom agreed.

Soon we reached the outskirts of the city. Dingy buildings replaced trees along the parkway, which had doubled from two lanes to four. Suddenly, the buttery sweet scent of vanilla biscuits penetrated the diesel and gas fumes; then, minutes later, the Stella d'Oro factory whirred by.

"Lock the doors, Lizzie," Mom instructed as we approached the Third Avenue Bridge. She always said this here— not back in Bedford or anywhere in Westchester County, but here, as we were about to enter Manhattan through Spanish Harlem.

After we parked the car, we passed a blind man selling pencils. "Can we buy one?" I asked.

She shook her head and then said under her breath, "He makes more money than you do." I wondered if that was true. Other than the fivedollar weekly allowance I got for feeding the dogs and loading the dishwasher, the only money I had ever made was one hundred twenty- five dollars in seventh grade to model for a Macy's catalogue, and five hundred dollars for a Jell- O pudding commercial I did when I was eight. I'd had to eat so many bowls of chocolate pudding that I got a stomachache. After the twelfth take, when the director said, "Action," I looked into the camera and instead of saying, "It's delicious!" I said, "I think I'm going to throw up." And then I did.

For the Star 80 audition, I had to do a sad scene. The waiting room was chaos: Young girls dabbed their lips with gloss and brushed and sprayed their hair into place while their mothers filled out call cards and handed in head shots. Mom and I found a quiet corner in the back stairwell to go over lines. She was more interested in craft than in cosmetics.

"Never rely on your looks, Elizabeth," she warned. "They'll only get you to thirty."

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