As I headed out to a busy Kentucky shopping center, clad in full mime costume and makeup, my sister DC suggested I carry a sign reading, “Pretend to Honk if You Like Mimes.” Clever play on words, but considering most people I knew had few kind words to say about street-side pantomimists, I wondered if a more appropriate sign might be, “Honk if You Pretend to Like Mimes.”
I, too, have never had a real
affinity for mimes. Consequently, I geared myself up that morning for
feeling awkward, out-of-place, and unloved: much like my adolescent
Popularity be damned, I knew I at least looked fabulous. I'd
assembled a nearly professional costume: navy-striped Parisian boat
shirt, red suspenders, white gloves, and beret. And the caliber of my
makeup, done by an artistic family friend, left me speechless.
But looking good wasn’t good enough. I would need to manage a routine,
acting out a series of stories simply through body motions. Being silent
for the duration of my performance would especially be an effort,
considering none of the women in my family can stay quiet for more than,
say, two minutes.
So, I spent the previous evening in a hotel
room, studying mime routines and tutorials on the internet. I found over
270,000 Google hits on “mime skit.” Currently, the most popular
pantomime trend appeared to be something called “twerking.” Apparently,
this gets a real rise out of an audience.
I doubted I could pull off twerking. Regardless, as I approached the
outdoor shopping center in Kentucky’s Newport-on-the Levee, which would
serve as my stage, I knew I should focus on more kid-friendly fare.
Dozens of families wandered about, many headed to the aquarium. It was
time to dive in, even if the humiliation killed me and I ended up
sleeping with the fishes.
I danced, mime-fashion, toward my
first victims, a couple with two young sons. As they spied me, they
paused. I stopped in my fancy-footed tracks, too, suddenly apprehensive.
I realized this wasn’t just about taking on a crazy, funny
lark of an experience. It was about succeeding at actually being funny
and crazy and clever. If there was one thing I’d learned in the past
several months, these new life experiences didn’t mean much if I didn’t
give them my all. I wanted to be a good mime. A skillful mime. A classy
mime. Wait, was that an oxymoron?
I straightened and took a
deep breath. Then, I bent my arms, reached my palms out, and attempted
the most famous mime skit of all: being boxed-in. It wasn’t much of a
stretch. At that moment, I did indeed feel trapped. I could fail on the
spot, and there would be no way out.
But the boys and their parents smiled. I felt a rush of adrenaline.
Next, I pretended to eat an apple and pull out a worm. This was met
with head-cocked, squinty-eyed expressions from my audience. Clearly,
this move was a losing ball of confusion.
of confusion? An idea struck me. I improvised and pretended to toss a
baseball at the older boy. I pounded my “bat” on the plate. His eyes lit
up, and he pitched the pretend ball. I swung and stumbled in circles.
The boys laughed. Even their parents grinned. My impromptu baseball swing was a hit.
I relied heavily on the baseball sketch for the rest of my gig. It
proved popular, as did my swimming in front of the aquarium. Another hit
was pulling strings out of ears and using them as a jump rope. I was
way better at fake jump-roping than I ever was at the real thing. While
my childhood jump-rope skills never made me any fast friends on the
playground, these kids were enchanted with watching me hop and trip over
a pretend rope.
The comments from the kids made my day. My
favorite was from a young boy who turned to his mother, laughed, and
said, “She’s having a hard time talking.” Oh, if he only knew how hard
of a time I was having not talking.
By the end of my nearly
ninety-minute routine, I was exhausted. Given the nonstop hopping and
twirling and keeping my mouth shut, this proved far more a physical
ordeal than I expected.
The physical exertion wasn’t the biggest surprise. I was amazed by how
much the children—and even many adults—enjoyed my performance. Dozens of
people stopped to watch, and some went out of their way across the
plaza to interact with me.
Oh, sure, a few adults brushed past,
trying to not make eye contact. I chased after them. And, a few
children shrieked and hid behind their parents. I chased them, too,
until my observing family members wandered over and suggested I not be
quite so aggressive, for fear I be mistaken for a white paint-faced
The biggest surprise of all was that I actually
proved good at this. Whodathunk that being a mime could be so difficult,
and yet I could still somehow pull it off?
Miming may not be
the greatest gig for the faint-of-heart or the loud-of-mouth.
Considering I’m both of those, it’s not something I’m ready to replay
Yet, it did serve as a lifetime reminder that the craziest, most random ideas often prove to be the most memorable.
And when it comes to being a mime for a day, no words can express that unexpected amount of fun.
What's the most wild and random thing you've attempted? Mimes: Love 'em or leave 'em? Is this image of me why I only manage to attract clowns on Match.com?