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GatorIt’s been awhile. To fill in the gaps: I got the job my friend was gracious enough to filter toward me. It was as a production assistant for a reality TV show. For me, it was very much a strange new world, and it took some getting used to. The hours were insane – 12 hour days (60-hour weeks!) not including 90 minutes of travel time – and for the first time in ages everything in my path was foreign. I kept saying it reminded me a bit of my semester in Paris… new people, new culture, lots of stress. Everyone was very nice, which was helpful as I was flying blind much of the time. I was equipped with a walkie and “surveillance” (the earpiece thing that makes everyone look like a Fed), and much of the language used was more or less in code, at least from my angle. Moreover I had a horrible time hearing what was being said, period. Too many concerts, maybe? That made things difficult. Also, conversations would occur during which I was asked to switch channels, and I’d forget to switch back. Whoops. They’d have to hunt me down and remind me. All of the filming equipment was new to me as well, so when someone would ask me to bring something over near the boom or the jib I’d have to ask what they were referring to. Awkward. The first week I was so exhausted from the abrupt shift in schedule I could barely cope. I went from sleeping nine or ten hours a night to getting up around 5:00 AM and not getting home until 8:00 PM. I’d eat dinner, watch a show or two if I could stay awake that long, shower and go to bed. I averaged five hours of sleep a night… it was brutal!

When I started I assume the intent was to have me as a general P.A., which meant I could have been doing anything from emptying trash to wiping down porta-potties (eww!) to restocking the “crafty” (or snack) areas. I learned to drive a “Gator,” which is something between a golf cart on steroids and an off-road vehicle, a 15-passenger van (hated driving it) and two different mini-vans, all in the first week. (I don’t hate mini-vans as much as I thought, and owning a Town and Country wouldn’t suck.) But day two they switched me over to exclusively dealing with talent. I’m not sure why, but I am grateful. Apparently my new title was something like “Talent Wrangler,” although I was officially just a P.A. Regardless, I moved on from toilets and trash to people, and my experience was better for it.

I can’t offer any detail about the show, but the “talent” I was working with were all incredibly fit. The first half of the job I was solely dealing with men. I didn’t mind that, actually. They were all very nice. Some were younger and so were a bit more immature, but as I am impossible to shock, that didn’t matter much. They were entertaining, and often appealing to look at. As I am not prone to comparing myself to men, their level of fitness wasn’t upsetting to me. I could just hang out and take it all in. For a variety of reasons, they weren’t allowed to talk to each other. This meant they spoke almost exclusively to me. Yes, I got paid to chat with athletic guys all day. That part of my job didn’t suck, I can assure you. Also, I like to talk, even to people with whom it would seem I have little in common. Fun stuff!

But eventually I had to deal with the girls, and that was harder. It wasn’t that they weren’t nice, almost all of them were. There was definitely a different dynamic, though. Also, if you have the tendency to struggle with weight/self-esteem issues, I can’t in good conscience recommend hanging out with athletic women 12 hours a day. Hello, giant mind fuck! Sorry… there might be a more delicate way to express that, but that was how it felt. Spending my days surrounded by women with six-pack abs, cut arms and a notable lack of cellulite really did a number on me. I didn’t realize how much my perspective had been altered until I found myself having a mini-breakdown in a Target dressing room. There in that mirror, there were no six-pack abs, no chiseled arms. There was only me, and I had a hard time coping with my own reflection. Rough stuff. In my normal world, like most of us, I am surrounded by a range of bodies. Many are better than my own, absolutely, but some are worse. There is at least the suggestion of balance. On the job, there was none. I had few days off and little to no exposure to the “real” world, and the world I existed in involved nothing but ridiculously fit women. I’m sure there was a lesson to be learned here, and I hope at some point I latch onto it. For now, I’m just grateful to have made it through to the other side, and to have found my way back into my world. Not everyone there has six-pack abs, thank God.

Filming ended yesterday, and as suddenly as the whole thing had begun, it was over. I made friends among the crew this month, and I was more upset than I imagined when the whole thing ended. It wasn’t my normal world, but it was a fascinating one. I learned a lot, about TV production and about myself. I learned that I can handle more than I think, and am still fairly adaptable when I need to be. I learned that I have no idea when I’m being flirted with (long story) and that you can make friends in very unexpected places. A strange new world, indeed. I’m glad I got a chance to experience it. Would I do it again? It’s funny, I was on the fence the entire time, but when the show ended I learned that yes, I would absolutely do it again. I miss it already. Crazy, right?