What are your most treasured possessions?
My most treasured possessions are memories. Here's a couple:
I was walking my now twenty-four year old, Ezra, to school in 4th gade so they must have been nine or ten at the time, and as we crossed St. Andrews Place and 4th Street in Los Angeles, just a few feet before we stepped up onto the sidewalk, they took their hand away. Their hand was still a little bit soft and fleshy, a child's hand, let's call it chubby, and I remember the air hitting my skin where just seconds before their fleshy palm had been pressed. The gesture had deliberation and I had the sudden thought: "Is this is the last time that Ezra holds my hand when crossing the street?" It was.
During a rather bleak moment in the first of our Covid years, my sister Lisa flew in from New York and as we'd had our vaccinations and things had just opened up, she decided to treat me to a night at a hotel. We drove up to Santa Barbara and checked into a rather luxurious spot that was clinging to the side of the continent. It was our first night in a hotel in over a year. My sister, Lisa gave me the bedroom and she took a fold out couch in the suite because she's the most ridiculously generous sister in the world. I dropped my bag as soon as we entered the room and stretched out onto the sheets and made snow angels in the little folds of the sheets that were such high thread count, they almost felt liquid. I took a bath and shower and then another bath and a shower and used every single towel in the bathroom, there were two bathrooms in the suite, and we headed out to dinner overlooking the ocean. A light misty fog settled over the coastline and the view was breath taking and each time a server came over we thanked them and couldn't believe our good fortune at being able to have someone bring us food, be in each other's company, and get to enjoy a night off from the woes of the world. That feeling of gratitude at every small pleasure has stayed.
What age do you feel right now and why?
I hesitate to say the age I am right now, but I feel happier than I've ever felt because I feel more comfortable in my skin than I felt when I was younger, my skin was brighter, my body had just a bit more stamina, but my brain was more racked with doubt. Every day when I sit down at my desk, I still wonder if I can write and the words will form sentences that have meaning and I won't look up later and see that I've typed "All work and no play, make Jack a dull boy," like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, every writer's nightmare, but overall, I have more moments of productivity than anxiety, and that's what winning feels like to me.
Do you believe the way we dress affects the way we think?
Growing up I was in a continual war with my mother over the clothes I wanted to wear and grooming habits concerning my hair. It started with a refusal to brush my waist length hair when I was maybe 8 or 9. I was always getting gum stuck in it or let it get so tangled that the knots had to be cut out. I was regularly lost in thought or a book or dreaming of a far distant future day when I might join the Starfleet- I was a dedicated Trekkie. I couldn't be bothered with brushing my hair! Then, when I got a copy of Patty Smith's album Easter, I still have my copy, I felt validated. Smith's look seemed to express my inner landscape and that's when I announced that not only was I not going to be bothered blow drying my hair into neat "wings" the Farrah Fawcett inspired style of the day, there would be no need to do any "back to school shopping," that annual ritual which, depending on our finances at any given moment, might consist of ponying up for numerous outfits or in lean year, mean scaring up at least one good sweater or dress at a vastly discounted price to wear to the high holiday service at our Synagogue. My mother's ida of attractive and appropriate was a neat twin set sweater and an A line skirt, but now I felt driven to scour thrift shops and withstand my mother and grandmother's begging me to stop looking like a vagrant. "Why does my grandbaby have to dress like a prostitute?" my grandmother Rebecca would wail, she was southern and very dramatic.
Later, in New York, I had an acting teacher who also fretted over the way I looked- "Annabelle, you look like a French revolutionary, this is not going to be good for your career." He nicknamed me Robespierre. And, he was right, because I insisted on wafting into auditions in a torn slip with my wild, wavy, chaotic mane, I didn't get roles in Neil Simon plays, which were very popular at the time, instead I acted in avant garde interpretations of Kafka short stories and Jacobean tragedies. I still subscribe to same general attitude toward clothing. I am drawn to clothing that looks like one-of-a-kind pieces, garments that evoke the distant past and an unknowable future. Deconstructed elegance? Curiosity and confidence? Fabric and form can communicate these values and I love when my inner landscape is reflected in my appearance.
Any advice on getting a good nights sleep?
I love getting into bed at night. Especially if I've tackled a problem in my writing, or made headway on a project in my garden. I try and observe good sleep hygiene- no screens before bed and I try and eat several hours before sleep. My favorite night ends with a bath, I’m an avid bathtub reader. Right now, I'm re-reading Sapiens by Yuval Harrari, I've read this book numerous times, but it's very dense and I always realize I missed something. I’m also reading Vagina Obscura by Rachel E Gross, if you have one or reside vagina adjacent, you might want to read about the history of how we understand this essential and for eons, mysterious part of our anatomy. I'm kind of insane for moisturizers, I feel like scent can be transportive. Finally, after lathering on my favorite scent: Le Labo Rose 31, if I’m lucky enough to have some on hand, I put on my pajamas and that cues me into my sleep mode. I love the Domi kimono set: when I’m wearing it, I imagine myself a present that requires a bit of unwrapping. I happen to be enjoying the company of a fantastic sleeping companion and spooning into sleep has been a welcome treat.
ANNABELLE GURWITCH is an actress, activist, and author of five books including the New York Times bestseller and Thurber Prize finalist I See You Made an Effort. She’s written for The New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Magazine and Hadassah amongst other publications. https://www.annabellegurwitch.com
Check out Annabelle's very smart and funny new podcast Tiny Victories.