A Polka Dot Bikini and the Kindness of Strangers

Self Portrait 1

Self Portrait 1, New Years 2014

A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –

When I was in my early 20’s I went to visit my friend Michael in Miami Beach for a month. I also wanted to get an audition for Miami Vice–which I did, but that’s another story.  My first day, I figured since nobody knew me at the hotel pool, I’d try out my new Bill Blass black and white polka dot bandeau bikini.


Ode to Bill Blass

Looking down from the pink and aqua diving board in my skimpy ruffles, I noticed a group of retired New Yorkers observing me from their lounge chairs.  Their bodies were round and their smiling faces were crinkled and dark from the sun.  They made me think of walnuts.  One large woman shouted up at me cheerfully in a Brooklyn accent, “He-ey, lady!  I want your figurah!”

The wizened gentleman next to her nudged her teasingly and with a Yiddish sing-song inflection replied, “You want her figurah? I want her figurah!”

The kindness of these strangers has stuck with me.


Brown-Eyed Girl

The entertainment business is filled with negative commentary aimed at people’s insecurities.   I once went to see a talent agent who told me it was a shame I had brown eyes instead of blue ones.  A modeling agent once told me I had the wrong nose.  An acting teacher told me another time that I didn’t have what it took to “make it.”  And after all of those things happened, I went on to book print and television jobs.

We must guard our confidence.

Legs no scarf

Self portrait 2, New Years 2014
Celebrating in vintage Betsey Johnson

These days I choose to celebrate myself.  It helps that I’ve been on the planet long enough to watch changes in trends.  I can remember when the ideal lips were a bit smaller and the ideal eyes were bigger.  Cellulite was not invented until 1981.  No one talked about it before then.  Because I’ve been around to watch the fashion shifts, I refuse to believe in them.  I  wear what I want, much to the dismay of people who think I should wear blazers
and toss my short skirts.

But every once in a while, this positive attitude slips.  I still like to swim, and sometimes it’s hard to walk by those annoyingly cute young lifeguards who wear so little so well.   One day recently at the community pool, these irritating Baywatch wannabes even let the Senior Water Aerobics Class into the pool before lap swim was up.  One old woman began to do her power walk across all seven lanes, including mine. She bashed into me. Two ladies, one with a shape like a withered carrot and the other with a shape like a withered potato,  stood in my lane, talking.  I kept brushing them as I went by. All of this warred with my compassion for the elderly.  But as I paused in my swim, the carrot stopped me with a sparkle in her eye and indicated the potato.  “We’ve been talking and we were wondering,” she said, “If we started doing lap swimming like you’re doing, do you think we’d get to look like you?”

Still Life 2

Still Life with Walnuts

I know that in time I will have the figure of either a withered carrot or a withered potato.  There is nothing I can do about it and it’s not that terrible. After all, as an actor, I will be still be castable (just reread the story above). More importantly, I hope that I will not feel envy or dismay at the beauty of younger people, but celebrate it, as well as what is left of my own.

I also plan to keep rocking my miniskirt until the day I die.







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7 Responses to A Polka Dot Bikini and the Kindness of Strangers

  1. Greg Brown says:

    Nice wheels, Katie.

  2. Eleanor says:

    Thanks Katie! I am appreciating your wisdom. As I gear up to premiere a new solo show at Fertile Ground, I find my confidence leaking everywhere. “I’m an actor, not a playwrite! What am I thinking?!” It’s lovely to be reminded that we need to guard our confidence. I’m going to stop uttering the words “WHO AM I TO ________” and just get the hell on with it. So it might suck? I’ve seen a lot of sucky shows in my life. It just might be the theatrical equivalent of a carrot or a potato. But so be it!

  3. Carly May says:

    Katie B., thank you for this. Amen sistah! (to rocking’ the mini-skirt and to gaining perspective with age) well done…

  4. michelle says:

    me likey 😉

  5. kathryn himes says:

    This is serious perspective. What I found to be such a gift in your post is that you actually are recognizing, whilst still being young, the compliments and the things that one day you will look back on with misty eyes (like your great bod)! Many of us don’t enjoy the beauty we possess in our youth and let far too many other perspectives weigh on our minds and dampen our existence.

    This was refreshing, Katie!

  6. Katie Bennett says:

    Thank you! I have a few more posts now too. Hope you are well!

  7. Joni Ball says:

    Loved this, Katie!!

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