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Joshua is an actor based in Chicago. He’s been happily married to his wife Jen for four years, and they’ve been together for ten. Josh gives us a glimpse inside the many roles he’s played in preparation for his greatest part yet: leading man. ♥
I got my idea about relationships from my parents. Well, obviously, you kind of start with your parents and, for me, my parents fought all the time, so that was something I rebelled against. I did not want to do fight. That was probably the most important thing for me.
I had really romantic ideas. As a kid, it was this kind of fairy-tale ideal where I’d meet this woman who was thinking exactly like I did and who wanted to go off and have adventures exactly like I did. It was the eighties and my idea of beauty was whatever was on TV. At that time, it was really big blonde hair. In the early eighties, even as a kid, before you have lusty impulses or anything, you already have an idea of what someone else says is beautiful. So that’s what I wanted as a kid, someone to go have adventures with, someone who was attractive in the ideal of what was considered beautiful by TV standards of the eighties. A lot of learning and growing experience happened that tempered those views, but the idea of the companion to have adventures together was always there.
When we were growing up, we were really restricted and all the boys at school were going with other kids at school. It was always like, Are you going with so and so? and Who are you going with? Do you have a girlfriend? And we were definitely not doing any of that. Those were the rules, at least the ones my mother was brought up with: you had to be sixteen to date. That made it easy for a long time because I could hold onto that ideal without having to actually do anything – because I wasn’t allowed to. I knew I couldn’t get away with sneaking out to date, I couldn’t just go off somewhere. I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I just held on to the fantasy.
Because of the ideas I lived by, I was used to liking girls for years without doing anything about it. Years. I thought that if I did everything right, if I was good and constant – dedicated – then nobody could say I was faulty. The Good and Constant Lover, that’s how I wanted to see myself and be seen. So, I’d toss around the idea of asking the girl out – for years. It was unrequited every time because for so long I wasn’t allowed to express interest, even though I hoped a girl would like me and that somehow she’d say something that would get back to me. It was up until my junior year of high school that this was going on. I didn’t want anything to get back to my parents, so I couldn’t say anything because it would get out and that would be humiliating. Everyone would know that I’d broken the rules, and it just would have meant trouble all around. There was no way; I already had to live with that at home, and I couldn’t have that humiliation at school, too.
The bad part of that was when that magic day came and I was allowed to date, I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. I’d been living so long on the fairy-tale, I was terrified of asking anybody out because if they said no, then everybody would know and I’d get laughed at and shunned. I felt like I was an awkward-looking kid; I had braces and I was really scared of approaching anybody. After awhile, though, I finally did break loose from the rules and I took those girls down from the pedestals I created.
I remember going out on a double date that became a disaster when it turned out that my date wanted to be with the other guy. I was the driver on that date so it turned into me driving them around all night. Then there was a writer I liked. I thought, I like to write, so I had this romantic notion that she and I might like each other. It was based on nothing other than she was pretty and she wrote. It was a small community and a small connection, so you figure if there’s that one thing you have in common, then maybe… .
I was still scared of asking her out – I was just coming into this world – so I wrote her poems instead. But I was afraid to sign them. I didn’t address them either. I wrote them in red pen in what I thought was a really nice flowery style. In my mind it was the most romantic thing: she was going to get these poems, you know, from this anonymous person and it was going to turn out beautifully. She and I had this mutual friend who encouraged me to do it, and even dropped them into the girl’s mailbox for me, since I was too afraid to do it myself – for fear of word getting back to my parents and the humiliation. Eventually the girl asked our friend who did this, who wrote those poems.
Our friend ’fessed up that it was me, and I didn’t hear anything from the girl after that, so I started sweating because I knew the word was out. Finally I called her and said, Hey, this is what I did, explaining the whole thing. She called me a psychopath for sending anonymous weird letters and horrible poetry. The things I feared most had happened: unspeakable humiliation, my romantic ideas backfiring in my face.
I met my wife after a string of bad relationships through my twenties where I had to figure stuff out. The Cliff Notes version is that I met someone right before I went on tour with my acting company at the time. I was out in the desert, she was back at home, and I was with people I didn’t like. We couldn’t connect, and that’s rare for me. So this girl was kind of my lifeline to back home. But whenever I called her she’d make fun of me to her friends and eventually stopped returning my calls. There I was, stuck in Utah and the last piece of my idealism was killed right there.
When you’re in the desert alone and you have no one to connect to, and your lifeline gets cut, it can take you to some pretty dark places; you just feel empty, abandoned, alone. It was one of the worst times of my life because you just don’t know. The first week, you think maybe they didn’t get your call. Then you think maybe they’re upset about something, or something happened to them. Then you think, Okay, maybe they need space, so I’ll give space. I started calling every couple days or every three days, and nothing. Another week goes by and you realize, I’m being dumped and then you have to start coping with that. And you’re never going to get closure.
What made it worse was I was in the middle of a show and I couldn’t focus. You try to focus, but you realize your relationship is maybe, probably, definitely falling apart and you didn’t ever get that, This isn’t working out, let’s break up call for closure. Up until that point, I would always do anything to keep the relationship going. I’d take the blame, I’d say I was wrong, I’d keep quiet, anything to keep from risking the relationship.
When I came back from the road, I was angry. I decided I wanted to be a player. I tried that, but it didn’t work out. Later, I joined a dating service and met someone great; she was wonderful. We went out a few times, but we weren’t on the same page. She wanted a professional job and didn’t understand my acting stuff and how I could live on nothing and go from gig to gig like I did. I didn’t understand how she could measure her life by the amount of time she spent at a company. We were both like, How do you do that?
Before things got to a serious point, I ended it. I told her, I can’t do this. I knew she wanted a relationship and I didn’t. I’m not ready, I said. I’m broken, I’m decimated, and I just can’t use you like that. A couple of months later, I was in a show where I met my wife, Jen. I noticed her reading a book I liked, so I approached her. She talked a lot about things I was interested in, too. We liked the same stuff, and I thought, based on that, maybe we could have adventures together. But the problem was that she talked so much, she was so exuberant, I could never get a word in. I had a big problem with that, so I called up my first serious girlfriend from my twenties – we’re still friends to this day and, fortunately, I’m long-time friends with her husband. I told her what was going on, and she said, Josh, you never ask for what you want. You’re someone who is worthy of love, and you deserve love and respect. You need to communicate that.
One day, Jen was telling me about a movie I asked her not to talk about because I hadn’t seen it yet. But she kept on talking. I snapped at her. So much had been building up by then, I just couldn’t stand to be weak anymore. I said, You need to listen to me. All of these things you have to say, I have things too, and I need you to listen. That’s all. It came at that three-month mark where you’re out of the honeymoon and you start to see stuff. From there it’s been great. Standing up for what I wanted was a huge milestone for me. Being willing to risk a relationship for what I wanted, that was my biggest lesson.
Looking back, I’d probably tell the teenage me that even though I want to give my whole self to someone, it’s important to protect myself, too, because girls in their teens don’t know what they want. Girls in their twenties, don’t know either. Look how they’re acting, I’d say. Is she a wet blanket? Even if you like the same things, does that mean she’s someone you want to live with? Probably not. Just stand up for yourself and try to be a decent person. That way, you don’t regret anything. You know, I’m so glad I didn’t settle for any of those people I pledged my heart and soul to in the past. I thank whoever’s responsible for not allowing us to be together. Who’s to thank? An angel, the devil, the parents?
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