Episode 83: Kathryn Hahn
Most people know her as Lily Lebowski on Crossing Jordan, or from recurring roles on Hung, and Girls. She has appeared in films such as Anchorman, Step Brothers, How Do You Know and A Lot Like Love. Funny, nice and self-deprecating, she opens up to Paul about her difficulty in saying what she means and asking for what she wants. Paul also reads a letter from a veteran having trouble adjusting after returning home, and one from a mother of four married to soldier currently in Afghanistan.
Paul: Welcome to episode 83 with my guest Kathryn Hahn. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck. I’m not a doctor, but I am a hypochondriac.
The website for this show is mentalpod.com. That’s also the Twitter name you can follow me at if you’d be so kind as to do that. Please go check out the website. There’s all kinds of good stuff there. Get signed up for the newsletter. You can post to the forum, there’s about a half dozen different surveys you can take. I’ve got a new one up about how have you responded in the past to sexual advances being made on you. So if you go and take that one, I would greatly appreciate it.
Quick—I wanted to mention about the interview with Kathryn Hahn, there was a couple of areas of the interview that we kind of went into, um, that, uh, she requested that I keep private, so if it seems like there are some things that you’re going, “Why is Paul not following up on that?” it’s for that reason. But I don’t think any of it is necessarily pertinent to what the interview that ultimately you will hear. I’m very happy in its completeness. And really, really enjoy doing it and I really enjoyed meeting her.
I want to plug something that a friend of mine has. I have a friend named Rich who has been working his ass off trying to get this product marketed that he invented. I believe he did it with another person as well. And when he told me what the idea was, I was like, “I think people should know about that.” And he’s not paying me any money to mention this, I think you guys should check it out. He created this—it’s a workout towel that is made of bamboo thread, it’s super soft, it’s called Zhu, which is Chinese for bamboo. And what it is is it’s a workout towel that’s made of bamboo fibers that have been spun so it’s like cotton. It’s super soft, it’s super absorbent, and because it’s bamboo, it’s natural anti-bacterial and bamboo is very, very sustainable. And here’s the really cool thing about this towel is, at one end of it are zippered pockets. So when you’re working out, you can keep your, you know, your smartphone, your keys, whatever, with you. And I just think it’s a great idea and he gave me one and I love it. So if you want to buy one, go to getzhu.com and again zhu is spelled z-h-u and I just think it’s a great idea.
I want to kick things off with an email that I got. This is from a I guy named Matt who is a vet and he wrote this about coming home, and I’ll post this on the website if you want to go there and read it as well. And he opens it with a quote from General Patton that says, “The object of war isn’t to die for you country but to make that other poor bastard die for his.” And then he writes, “I remember when I decided to join the military. It wasn’t for college money or to see the world or in order to shoot someone. I didn’t think of any of that. When I joined, I did it to protect my country, my people and my friends. I saw the planes flying into the buildings when I was in high school and I remember feeling in my stomach that I was going to go. I’ve always had a problem trusting people in my life and I wasn’t gonna start with a bunch of young kids holding guns. When I talked to my recruiter I told her, ‘I want to be the hardest, meanest, best soldier I can be. I want to be face-to-face with evildoers.’ She quickly signed me up for Special Operations and gave me a date to leave. The day I left, she drove me to my MEPS,” I forget what that—he hold me what that was an abbreviation for, I forget. Oh, it’s an entrance exam that you take.
“The day I left she drove me to my MEPS and told me, ‘Have fun now, cuz when you come home everything will be different.’ I didn’t know what she meant but I was too worried about basic and leaving my friends. I went through basic with ease but the next year-and-a-half of Special Operations training was hell. Nothing about it is easy and they made sure of that. I won’t even start to tell you the ways they tortured us. But it was all worth it to protect my people, friends, and country. I was deployed many times and saw my share of combat against the evildoers. I would have stayed in until I died, but after five years and a hand injury I was released from Special Operations. I remember the day I knew I didn’t fit into society anymore. I went to a party with some new friends because the friends I had before I was in the Army didn’t like me anymore. I wasn’t on their level of partying and I had deep thoughts about how to make this world better. They didn’t want to hear that when they’re drunk and high. They want to laugh. Problem was, was that they were in a state of mind continually so when would they think about it. At this party there was a man pushing around a woman violently but everyone just watched. No way was I going to, so I called the man out. I told him if he hit again that I’d break his hand. By this point everyone was watching but not one person stood with me. The man tried to hit me and I broke his fucking hand just like I’d promised. The girl who I stood up for called the police and tried to put me in jail. The policeman let me go and told me, ‘That’s why you mind your own business.’ I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and I’m no coward and I won’t stop helping when I see it’s needed. I knew then that I wasn’t like everyone else anymore. Everything has changed. I’ve seen my share of horrible and I wasn’t gonna let it happen around me, even if I’m the only one standing, I’ll still stand.
“I remember the day I figured out it was all bullshit. This took about a year after I came home, but this one hit harder than anything else. I worked as a special education paraprofessional. I only took the job because I thought it would help my karma balance out. I was going through a lot, thinking about what I did to other humans in the name of my country, my people, and my friends. A country that wouldn’t help me find my way or give me disability for my aching hand. The people who wouldn’t stand by me when they saw injustice. The friends who didn’t even want to give me chance when I came home. I broke down and spent a week in bed crying and broke, wondering why I did any of it. I wanted to die. No question in my mind that I would have ended it if I had the right tools. Luckily I didn’t.
“I quit my job but had to have some income so I started looking into construction. That’s when I finally put it all together. I looked at the customer’s bill, which was $12,000. I was paid $120 for that job. One percent. That’s all I made for doing 25% of the work. Well I brought this fact up to my boss and was quickly released. Now I sit here unemployed, beaten up by the way things are but not broken anymore. I had my time for that and the time has passed. My quest now is a different one. I want to educate the people about what we’ve allowed to take control of our country and our military. Our government is just a puppet to money and greed. It used me and it will use you if it can. Big business has not only destroyed our country, it has used the people’s good intentions to do horrible things. We give up our rights daily when we go to jobs that underpay and deal bosses that treat us horribly. The worst part about coming home wasn’t losing my friends, or seeing a man beat up that woman. It wasn’t the thought that I killed men for no reason, other than to make a rich man more wealthy. It was seeing my fellow humans not stand by my side to stop something that we all knew was wrong. It’s watching my fellow Americans go to shit jobs and get treated like shit and not stand up for themselves. I’m not saying take a gun to work, I’m saying be mentally strong and say, ‘Enough is enough, and I won’t be a part of this war machine or a part of making the rich richer.’ Demand respect.”
And Matt, I want to thank you for writing that and I wanna also add that I’m not trying to politicize things by reading that. That is just one soldier’s take on returning home and I felt like he needed his voice to be heard. And so that is why I read that.
I wanna read one more thing. And this—cuz this guy—the survey that I’m reading just touched me. This guy calls himself Fiddle Butt. He is bisexual, he’s in his 20’s. He was raised in an environment that’s a little bit dysfunctional. Never been sexually abused. “Deepest, darkest thoughts?” He writes, “Every time I see some show like The Office or Parks and Recreation, trying to make me sympathize with desk jockeys, getting paid to play solitaire, my blood pressure spikes. I work in a warehouse running my ass off, working lots of weekends, and always getting asked to put in even more hours and I still don’t make enough money to move out of the house. Fuck you. I’d stab myself in the thigh to get a job where I could sit on my ass and instant message my friends all day. I wish I could fuck my thoughts into their heads.”
“What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you?” He writes, “I want to be dominated by a woman much taller and bigger than me. Bordering on inhuman, like seven or eight feet tall. Sometimes I imagine her being firm and muscular, other times she’s fat with a soft, squeezable belly. I want her to lie on top of me and hold me by the wrists and cover me up with her body. Sorry if I’m going into too much detail here.” That’s ok, we welcome detail on the surveys. I encourage people to—I mean not for the sake of gratuity, I don’t want people to fill out pornography on the—I don’t want it to be erotic fiction but I want what it is that you are thinking and feeling to come across, is I guess what I’m trying to say.
Continuing with what he wrote, he says, “Other times I fantasize about cross-dressing in a public place and getting caught and being ‘punished’ by another man.”
“Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?” He writes, “I’d certainly tell people the first one but probably not the second, mostly because I’m still not entirely sure of my sexuality. I’ve never been in a relationship with another man, but my mind has no problem with thinking about cocks or attractive male bodies.”
“Deepest, darkest secrets?” He writes, “I spend almost all of my free time at home. I feel like I’m incapable of just going outside and being around strangers and talking to them. If I ever took a vacation I’d probably just lay around at home, surf the Internet, masturbate eight times a day and get irresponsibly drunk.”
“Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?” He writes, “I feel like an incomplete person for being so incapable of meeting people. I don’t even know where to start. Sometimes I’ll do things like go to a greasy spoon diner and just eat by myself with a book, just to be out of the house for an hour or two, the last refuge of the shut-in in denial, so I can tell myself at least I did something before I got to bed.”
And then the last thing that he writes, “Do you know any comments to make The Mental Illness Happy Hour better?” He wrote, “Give me $10.”
Paul: I’m here with Kathryn. God damn you, aw fuck it, I’m just gonna pack my shit up and leave. (both laugh) I’m here with Kathryn Hahn. I’m at h-her house in Los Angeles and I’m so excited we finally made this happen. We’ve been emailing back and forth. You don’t know me from Adam, you’re a friend of Jamie Denbo’s, who was kind of enough to agree to come do this podcast.
Kathryn: Oh I’m excited to be here. Are you kidding me? A half a year later.
Paul: I was just looking at her couch and her kids had started to draw on the couch and you said, “Fuck it. Just let them.”
Kathryn: Fuck it. What happened was I spent all this money getting it cleaned, it’s like a white couch, and I was like, “Stay away from the couch.” I have two little kids. And then I sat down on it and promptly just like bled all the through – I got my period – all the way through to the couch. And then I was like, oh fuck it, let’s get out the markers.
Paul: So there’s all these kids’ drawings all over it and it’s so awesome.
Kathryn: And period blood. That’s underneath it – we flipped the cushions so you won’t see that. Anyway.
Paul: Just so that there won’t be any question about whether or not it will be hard to get you to open up on the podcast. People, um, probably know Kathryn best from—well I know you best from Stepbrothers which I think is such an underrated movie. I’ve watched it like five times and you are so fucking funny in that. She plays emotionally abused—would it be fair to call your character a nymphomaniac?
Kathryn: Yeah I think so.
Paul: Who just kind of falls in love with John C. Reilly.
Kathryn: Obsessive. She puts it all on this innocent man, all of her unhappiness, you know.
Paul: It’s—the—you have to rent it. People would also know you from Anchorman. They would know you from—name some other things, the biggest things that people would know you from. Crossing Jordan, were you on Crossing Jordan?
Kathryn: I was on a television program called Crossing Jordan, a different milieu, yeah, I was the grief counselor in the morgue, so that was fascinating.
Paul: Well you’re a smarty pants who studied acting at Northwestern University and then went to the Yale School of Drama is that correct?
Kathryn: Yes, yes.
Paul: Smart pants (whispers).
Kathryn: I lot of student debt. It was not so smart to go into a career in this business and accrue as much student debt as if I was studying to be a doctor.
Paul: But you’ve paid it off now.
Kathryn: I’ve been able to pay it off. Barely. Thank god.
Paul: Do you ever get to do your, I suppose Crossing Jordan was where you could use your drama skills.
Kathryn: I don’t know, like it’s so strange, because I never got into this as a comedian, like I was always—I mean I come from pretty funny stock. Like we’re pretty tough on each other. There’s a lot of laughing going on in my house growing up. Just a lot of ribbing of each other. But we—I never—I just always wanted to be an actor. Um, starting with, I think—I went to Catholic school and I was Psalty the Songbook with a “ps”, P-s-a-l-t-y as my first onstage performances. I just fucking loved it so much. I loved the audiences, I loved the community, I loved the little world. Um, the play.
Paul: It is its own kind of world, the collaboration and the little community when you’re doing a play.
Kathryn: I hate—I like, I love the first day of rehearsal, I love the sharpened pencils, I love the script, I love the tech rehearsals, they call them ten out of twelve, ten hours out of twelve. You always feel like you’re in a—I just love—I love the first day of costumes. I love—I just fell so in love there.
So I never like went into it as wanting to be a comedian, or even an improviser, like that I couldn’t—I would never—there are people—I would never call myself that because I feel like the people that are in such a gorgeous, beautiful, pure skill, um, and the people that have devoted so much of their lives to learning that, like I am so humbled by, and so, you know, in awe of.
Paul: I got to interview Gene Wilder—
Kathryn: Oh, are you kidding me?!
Paul: I swear to god, it was at SketchFest up in San Francisco. And I was lucky to get to go out to dinner with him.
Kathryn: Oh my God.
Paul: And sit next to him, have dinner, and he said the exact same thing that you say. He did not consider himself to be funny. He considered himself to an actor. And I think that’s why you guys are so funny, is cuz you play the truth of the moment.
Kathryn: Oh stop. I think, I mean, yeah, I feel like also, if it’s—I always feel if I’m rooted in something that’s the given, if I know who I am or I have a POV, then it’s easier to improvise that way. Like I mean the worst is to go in and just—I mean, you know, some people would feel like that’s a gorgeous challenge. But it’s always harder for me when it’s from literally nothing. Like if I know who I am then it’s easier to go in, you know, I like a costume, I like a funny nose, I like, you know, all that business, you know. Then when it happens it’s easier to improvise in scene I think. But, yeah, I’m just in awe of it. I’m in awe of comedians, like I just really am. Like standup is, I just am in awe. Like I really am. It’s the most terrifying thing to me, to think of that.
Paul: You have, you have to really feel a need in your bones to do it because it is kind of insane to say, “I’m gonna have all these people quiet down and I’m gonna go up there and justify them paying $12.”
Kathryn: Sitting in the dark, tell me something new. Let me see something in a new—no, it’s like awe-inspiring. And even when it doesn’t work, you’re just like, oh, man, it’s the most—it’s just beautiful to me, like it really, it just kills me. I love it.
Paul: The desperation underneath it, you would not be in awe of. Cuz I think that’s what—the desperate need to be heard.
Kathryn: To be heard of course!
Paul: But let’s talk about, you know, what I know about you so far is you’re a super nice person and apologies flow out of you like your period blood.
Paul: What—where do you think that comes from? Was there alcoholism in your family?
Kathryn: Yes, yeah, I reading a book now called Codependent No More yeah, yeah.
Paul: Are you identifying with it?
Kathryn: Yeah, I mean, yes I am, I am. I’m like probably the most codependent person now that I’m realizing it. And it’s interesting to go through it because to start to realize this now, because I have two kids and I certainly don’t want to, you know, pass any of that on. Because my mom—I think I’m sure I got a lot of it from my mom as well, but—definitely alcoholism in my family. And mental illness. So there’s a lot of, uh—I think I was like the class cl—I’m the oldest, and the only girl. I think there’s a lot of—
Paul: How many kids?
Kathryn: Three. I have two younger brothers. And I think um, there’s a lot of tap dancing on my part, talk about the—can I say it?—a lot of tap dancing. A lot of like trying to keep all the plates in the air for everybody.
Paul: If I can keep the silence, the uncomfortable silence from happening.
Paul: We won’t have to deal with the elephant shitting on the dinner table.
Kathryn: Right. Silence is …
Kathryn: Painful. So like there was—that’s why there was a lot of—I mean, we had a great time, like underneath it, it’s so interesting now like… I grew up in Cleveland, um, you know, normal, like suburban, adorable white wooden house, like, so perfect from the outside. Like, went to the Catholic school up the street cuz it was like the cheapest private education, probably. And also again there was like that community, like, parents had the Couples Club every Tuesday, they’d all vacation together, we all like—you know, there was a group, you know, that went to Catholic school all the way through high school.
Paul: Were you parents practicing Catholics?
Kathryn: I mean like socially, practicing, you know. I mean when I was growing up it was more so because again, it was like social. But, you know, we fasted, but like, for like, I could make it for three hours and I was like, oh, oh. We had something, this is awful, ugh, when I think about, we had something called rice bowl Fridays, in which they gave us, the nuns would give us rice for lunch so that we could feel what it was to be poor, or to live in like, a poor country, but we could put as much butter on it as we wanted, I mean it was awful, awful, like when I think about that now. It’s like, what? Rice bowl Fridays.
Paul: So did you—eight years?
Kathryn: Yeah, more so, yeah, high school too. I went to an all girls' Catholic high school. So it was like uniforms my whole life.
Paul: That’s actually why I went to the public high school cause I was tired of uniforms.
Kathryn: Did you go to Catholic school?
Paul: Yeah. I did. But the Catholic high school has always kind of fascinated me especially when it’s all one sex. What are some snapshots that stand out in your mind?
Kathryn: Oh, a couple of great ones. Sister Deborah, our directress, um, what are some other ones? My mom thought I was gonna, I think, grow like seventeen sizes in the four years, so I was always, I looked like a Hassidic—my skirt was so long, because I think she thought I was gonna—the other girls would run over to—like, literally, pull it off me. Just like always pantsed, always. I would always open up my locker and there would be a dick, some sort of cut up dick, like, we were just gross girls, like, we would, there was like a little, you know, lake in the middle of the campus, and, you know, inevitably it would just be filled with people’s like maxi pads and tampons, like awful, awful. We learned—what else did we do? I mean there’s so much. Mrs. Gatos was our biology teacher. What are some other snapshots? We did a production of Annie.
Paul: Is there anything you want to elaborate on those two people that you mentioned, the …
Kathryn: So, yeah, Sister Deborah was our, or directress, as I mentioned. I was—I had been doing theater, loosely, at the Cleveland Playhouse, which was like the downtown theater whatever. And I had done a play called Sneakers. So I thought I was really—made it.
Paul: Cleveland Playhouse is a pretty big deal.
Kathryn: It was, but..
Paul: It is.
Kathryn: Something—the Cleveland Clinic has taken over like half of the theaters now, and it’s like a parking lot, and they used to have this awesome rep company of like grownup, just Cleveland actors that I worshipped, and then they started getting people from New York and …
Paul: Tom Hanks performed there if I’m not mistaken. At the Cleveland Playhouse.
Kathryn: Yeah, exactly, Paul Newman, like a lot—yeah, exactly. A lot of people—and it’s the most beautiful theater. It was. The whole theater was like, you know, those little like, and like the dream theater in my head, it was like, this little tiny black, this little tiny presidium, like all brick, lights on the stage, you know, that smell, I loved it.
Paul: So, Sister Deborah.
Kathryn: Sister Deborah, she directed in a production of—we did Annie my freshman year, in which I played Annie, with a clown wig on, just a red clown wig on, and my friend’s Laura Ashley dress. And her, Sister Deborah’s, dentist played Daddy Warbucks, he was the only gentleman in the cast. And as my mother would say, “It was worse than a root canal, listening to that man try to screech his way through Tomorrow.” That was my mom’s assessment.
We did Wizard of Oz. I played the Tin Man, um, I think I had, you know, a funnel on my head. And then we did, of course, Godspell, all female version of Godspell, where I played, probably, Judas, or the slut, I can’t remember her name, who tempts Jesus, who was my friend Bernadette. So it was kind of awesome lesbian undertones. Which I’m sure Sister Deborah was so excited by.
Paul: Was Sister Deborah a closet lesbian?
Kathryn: Yes! Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. There must have been, yeah, you know, yeah, yeah. You know, it’s so funny, like we were—I can’t even remember the order, like you know how there’s the different nuns, I guess. But my brothers went to St. Ignatius, which was the brother school, and they were taught by, I can remember the grade—Jesuits? They’re like the really good educators apparently. Apparently everybody thought they were like incredible educators but we would always laugh because his freshman year reading list was like Iacocca, the Iacocca biography, and we were like, why? How weird.
Kathryn: Yeah, just like capitalism. Right off the bat. Exactly. So it was so homophobic and so like, so weird.
Paul: What do you remember emotionally from grade school and high school? What do you remember thinking or feeling about yourself or about people around you or your place in the world?
Kathryn: I mean, ah, I never felt, you know, in my skin. I never felt like I was saying what I meant, if that makes any sense. I still feel like I have a hard time saying what I mean. Like I think so much of me is trying to like, say what people want to hear. And that’s an awful thing. Totally, when you’re a mom, like I’m—so all of this stuff is coming up now because I’m thinking like I just—I really want my kids to be able to say what they mean. As easy as that sounds, like for some reason for me, well, no, not for some reason, we probably know why, it was the hardest thing for me to do. It was like deflect, deflect, deflect. I just get—I just wanted people on—it’s not like I wanted people on my side, I wanted to be on their teams. Like it was like, I just—it was interesting—I think I fi—it was definitely a way of like isolating myself, I think, because I didn’t really have to get close to anybody, nobody really knew who I was because I didn’t know who I was so I didn’t really have like very close friends, do you know what I mean?
Kathryn: I stayed a girl for a really long time, like I—my mom, of course, like enabled, not enabled—like in the sweetest way. Like I remember being like 12, like a little too old, like buying doll stuff and keeping it under my bed, like it was my secret with my mom, like even when I was like early high school, I would wanna like still be a kid. Like I had a—it was really a, um, the thought of growing up was terrifying to me. Like terrifying. I didn’t want to like, you know when your friends start, you know, wanting to go out on the weekend, I would be so torn as to like, I wanted to be home. It was very hard. Like I knew I had to, like I knew if I did this then I could get through like, you know, socially in school I would be covered, like it would go a long way but I would rather have been at home with my mom.
Paul: What do you think you were afraid of that was out there or what was it that drew you to being home?
Kathryn: Oh, boy, I mean my, uh, I think I was, I think I was protecting my mom. I think I was afraid to leave her and also like I just—we had so many—we didn’t even talk about—our family had a lot of secrets I think. We were trying on the outside to be this like totally normal, functioning family and I think inside—but you know, inside the house we were anything but and we knew it, so I think there was always that push-pull that we never talked about. But I remember seeing Blue Velvet and the opening of it, you know, where they have the rock.
Paul: And they pan down to the earth and you see all the bugs.
Paul: I so related to that too.
Kathryn: So I saw that and I was like, “How did he get inside my mind?”
Paul: Yeah. I knew exactly what he meant.
Kathryn: Totally. That was like what my childhood—it was the most beautiful—like I’m telling you, you would see my house and it was like this perfect—like my bedroom like was so girly and it was like, it was, I mean, it was like a dollhouse. And we were—none of use could really handle—I think also like my parents—how do I say this in a way that’s like respectful, because I—because everybody’s doing the best they can, God knows, but I feel like they definitely—my mom was more of a friend than a mom, so I felt like I had this incredible like responsibility to everybody, I think.
Paul: God, that’s huge.
Kathryn: It’s exhausting. Especially when you’re that young. I’m not saying like—she’s amazing and she’s had, you know.
Paul: So many parents in that generation didn’t know that their kids aren’t supposed to be their best friend.
Kathryn: Yeah, I know.
Paul: They didn’t know that.
Kathryn: Yeah, she would send me cartons of cigarettes, like, I was like our thing, was to like smoke together. I think of that, and all my friends used to be like, “Your mom’s the coolest.” Like my freshman year of college. It’s only now, now that I have two little kids I’m like, “Wow. That is so interesting.”
Paul: What do you think you would have liked to have said out loud in your family when you were a kid? If nobody’s feelings would have been hurt?
Kathryn: I probably would have said like, “I need a parent. I can’t take care of your feelings and try to figure out who I am at the same time.” You know, because that’s what hap—I think I was so caught. And that’s not to say like she wasn’t—that either of them weren’t like amaz—you know, available and … But it definitely was—I think you’re right, I think a lot of parents, it’s that same, uh, a lot of my—a lot of that generation it’s the same thing. Like where you’re not quite sure. Like I read another book called, which has nothing to do with, called it’s called like Covert Incest or something, which has nothing to do being—nothing to do with anything sexual, it’s just like when the relationship is not, um, it’s not as—it’s not a parent-child, it’s like it’s more comforting. It’s like the parent needs something from the child.
Paul: The parents’ needs come ahead of the child’s.
Paul: It’s that—yeah.
Kathryn: Or they’re looking to—or, where a parent is trying to have a substitute spouse in a child. Because their own partner is—they don’t feel connected to that person or they don’t—so, yeah. I feel like that’s really common.
Paul: And it’s really, um, I don’t want to sound overdramatic, but it’s really—it leaves a lot of scars.
Paul: Scars certainly, well, scars make it sound like it’s something that can’t be healed, but it leaves a lot of, let’s put it this way, little cuts on your soul.
Kathryn: But doesn’t it take growing up to even, to like, because I didn’t even—I’m telling you, if you’d have asked me at 18, I would have been like, “I have the greatest family. All I want to do is spend time with them, like how lucky are we that we want to vacation together? Like, how many mothers and daughters want to spend this time togeth—how many family units want to be together?” Like, you realize, like, there’s a lot of other reasons behind that need to be together that just. Are you so uncomfortable in that chair?
Paul: No, I’m totally comfortable.
Kathryn: Good, I’m glad.
Paul: I was just gonna say that so often I hear people’s stories and they’re afraid to have compassion for themselves because what they experienced at the time didn’t feel awful.
Paul: People that were, uh, sexually molested, maybe their body got some type of enjoyment out of it. People that were a best friend to a parent, there was a feeling of you know, being involved.
Paul: But as you get older, you realize that there were things that were supposed to form inside you that didn’t get a chance to form – a recognizing of your needs, an inability to ask for your needs and be comfortable.
Kathryn: Yeah. Oh my god, exactly.
Paul: I think you and I are very alike in that we’re terrified of looking selfish.
Kathryn: Yeah, yeah, I really am, like I’m horr—I hear somebody say something positive about themselves, and I’m like, wow, I really wish I could, like, say that about myself. (laughs) Like I couldn’t imagine it.
Paul: It’s th-th-the biggest fear that I have, is that people are talking about me and saying how selfish I am.
Paul: I would rather die.
Kathryn: I’m telling you, me too! What is wrong? I mean, exactly, that is exactly—yeah, the thought of other, like, other—and I remember having—I remember some therapist being—that’s fascinating, not some therapist, my mother, saying, “What they think about you is none of your business.” And I remember being like—that is an amazing thing to say that I will never feel.
Paul: It sounds like she’s in some type of recovery. Is she in some type of recovery?
Paul: Oh, cuz that’s a …
Kathryn: I know. I don’t know where got that, but she said—that was something that she said to me, and I mean I was—I mean, she’s like—yeah I know. She’s an amazing, amazing—I mean, my family’s so amazingly screwed up. I mean, like, whose isn’t? I mean, it’s like, we’re having Christmas in Burbank this year, so for the first time I’m not gonna schlep my family to Cleveland because it’s too much. And it’s too expensive and, you know, my poor kids think that Santa, everything is from Amazon, because the only way I can ship toys is to like go through Amazon, so like under the tree is just like a sea of that blue wrapping paper with like their tags.
So everybody’s coming here this year. But I’m done—it’s my mom, my brother, and my dad. They’ve been divorced for I can’t tell you how long, and they’re all coming here. Amazing, I’m still …
Paul: Are you stressed or are you happy?
Kathryn: No, I think it’s gonna be—I’m actually excited that it’s—I mean in terms of like growth or whatever, I’m like, ok, it’s on our turf. I’m taking care of what my family needs. Still can’t say what I need, but like what my family needs, you know, me and my kids and my hubby, it’s what we’ve—and they were great, it was hard—the thought of asking the was harder. And they said of course, and I thought, what’s wrong with me? Honestly, like what’s the worst that could happen if you just ask for what you want? You know what I mean? It’s so stupid.
Paul: You could be ridiculed or told that you were selfish.
Kathryn: Are you the type of person that like lays in bed at night worrying about what you said?
Paul: Oh my God. Oh my God.
Kathryn: Isn’t that stupid? Don’t you want all that time back?
Paul: Yeah, well ….
Kathryn: What do we do, Paul? I need to sleep!
Paul: Well, for me, I, you know, I had to go to therapy and I had to go to support groups and—because I need that feedback on an almost daily basis to say—to be reminded that I have value, that I’m worth something cuz there were just a lot of messages that were kind of pounded into my head. Sometimes verbally, sometimes just by a lack of something that makes me feel like I’m not—my needs aren’t worthy and to ask for them would be selfish. And that fear of that is, it’s so deep.
Kathryn: It’s so deep. It’s so deep and then you think, man, we’re not young people, like this is the time, what’s the worst—like when we’re on our deathbed, it’s just us, like.
Paul: But in my mind the worst that happens is then that person goes and tells everybody else, “Did you hear what this selfish prick did?”
Kathryn: Oh God, I know.
Paul: What this selfish prick wants.
Kathryn: Isn’t it crazy?
Paul: Did your parents ever call you selfish?
Paul: Was there …
Kathryn: I mean, definitely in high school, when that like pull away as happens to every, like that’s a human being’s path, like they have to, but it was so hard.
Paul: Was your mom resisting you pulling away?
Kathryn: Yeah, yeah,
Paul: Do you remember how she would resist it?
Kathryn: Well she would get like sad, or she kept calling, like, it’s always “my little girl.” Like I’ve never—like she—I literally had a newborn in my arms and she was like, “Look at your little baby hands,” about me. Like I will always be her baby girl, you know. Even though I feel like so much of the time now I feel like I’m taking care of her. I know. It’s cra—it’s intense.
Paul: It’s crazy and the thing that bothers me about—because I just recognized that my mom’s been doing that my whole life, is she refers—she infantilizes me.
Paul: And she refers to me like an object. “Mom’s cutest, mom’s sweetest, mom’s little peachy rose.”
Kathryn: Oh god.
Paul: And as I read—and I believe that my mom’s a borderline, and as I read about it—
Kathryn: Does she know that?
Paul: No, she has no, she has no idea. There’s a sense of comfort that she gets from me remaining an object because then I’m like a vessel for her to get emotions that keep her afloat.
Kathryn: Right, right.
Paul: Do you feel like that?
Kathryn: Yes. And I feel like if I don’t grow up then she doesn’t grow up. You know what I mean? Like she’s—if she can keep—because I think that has gotta be scary, like, I don’t think you ever—because I, you know, at 39 I’m like, I still feel very much connected to like the 14- or 15-year-old girl. Like I still—it’s very hard for me to think that I am—like I think that every person thinks that they are—that they’re singular in that feeling. Like I think every adult walks around thinking like, oh, I have such a young spirit.
Kathryn: Like I really feel like—like i just think that’s just like I’m sure that when I’m like—I mean I have flashes now where it’s like, oh, that’s a different—like I, you know, all of the sudden it happens so fast, like, I don’t quite know where I’m going with this train of thought, but I remember like thinking that eighth graders were like—I would never be that big, like I would just never, and then of the sudden it’s like, time just goes faster and faster and faster. Like I remember my mom turning 35 and being like, she is wow, she’s so old. And I remember she cried on her 35th birthday, like a very specific memory. Because we took a Polaroid picture of us all holding a sign saying, “You’re 35. Happy birthday!” and she was really offended.
Kathryn: She thought my dad had done it as a way of—a jab at her being 35.
Paul: Were they divorced?
Kathryn: They were obviously not in like the greatest of marital states.
Paul: How old were you when they got divorced?
Kathryn: Old, I was like 29. And it was a long time coming. Like our lore, like the mythology of our family was that my parents met and got married three months later. And my mom always says it’s because it was the first man that she had ever dated that had a college degree. Cuz he went to Notre Dame. And her part—like I remember growing up with the story of like, you know, “I remember putting my flowers down at the altar thinking this is a terrible mistake.” That was like what we had heard.
Paul: Would she say that in the presence of your dad?
Kathryn: All the time! They were like the Bickersons but hilarious, like they were a great comedy team. Like they were, I mean, cause she’s a great biting, like, I mean she’s hilarious. Her one line—she’s hilarious. And, but they always, um so socially they were amazing. Like people loved having them over, they were—but they never should’ve been together.
Paul: Was there ever—I’m just gonna move your mic a tiny bit closer.
Paul: Was there ever a sense of affection between them?
Paul: And intimacy?
Kathryn: Yeah, absolutely. And they came together like a lot of—you know, when they, um, I mean, to be totally frank, I don’t know what—I think they just kind of cohabitated after a while. You know like when you feel like you’re just trapped?
Kathryn: (laughs, snorts) Like my thoughts—I can’t like—I literally can’t sleep, like I just feel like I’m having a hard time like, sometimes I go through these periods of having a hard time relating to people because it’s so trapped in my own …
Paul: And it feels almost false.
Paul: To be talking about anything but that.
Kathryn: Yes. Or get fixated on something like—my sweet husband, he has the patience of a saint, like he’ll—you know, I’ll get—even decisions are so hard for me because I’m afraid that I’m gonna let the other person down. Whatever, you know, it is what it is. But it’s interesting, like I definitely I think about it sometimes like, huh. And I haven’t been to—we used to—I used to go to therapy all the time and just, um, my husband and I love couples therapy, even though the first twenty minutes is usually us, like, figuring out the schedule for the week with the guy just kind of staring at us, counting his money. And then we kinda get into it. And then it’s time to go. (laughs) But, uh, I’ve been to hypnotherapist before, which is fascinating. But, yeah, that would be great, I should definitely get in.
Paul: What was the hypnotherapist like?
Kathryn: You know it was so funny Paul, I did not know it was gonna be a hypnotherapist, like, I—she was recommended when I was pregnant with my second—with my daughter, I had like a rough birth the first time around and so I was like, I’m gonna really, I’m gonna do it, this is gonna be on my terms, again like everything we’ve been talking about. I’m gonna have my birth, I’m not gonna have a doctor tell me—whatever, all that stuff that you think you’re in control of when in fact that is like the first lesson of parenting, like, oh, literally completely out of my control, um, how this person is gonna announce her arrival. But I went to someone who recommend—this doula recommended this therapist who ended up being a hypnotherapist and she was INCREDIBLE. The first time was not successful, it was—I really tried hard, like I faked it basically. I basically was like—
Paul: Oh my God, you are such a people pleaser.
Kathryn: I know, faked my own, like, hypnotherapy. I like made up—I like told her what I thought she’d want me to see on the big dark staircase going down.
Paul: Cause that’s less scary than having to confront that she might be ineffective and then she might feel bad about herself.
Kathryn: Like, totally. Totally.
Paul: Gotta keep everybody from feeling bad about themselves.
Kathryn: Yes! Yes, oh God, this is such a call to arms, this little, this podcast today. Cause it’s true, it’s like it’s going way too fast, it’s nonsense. What did my son say the other day that I was like, ugh, uh oh. Oh, his dear—his closest friend bit him on the nose and he was so betrayed, my son, my son was understandably betrayed by that. He was horrified, he couldn’t believe that he would hurt him that way. It was more of a surprise, it was out of—the kid did it out of anger, he was so, so hurt and he cried very hard and then Ethan, my husband, said that he had all of the sudden turned it and he didn’t want Will to not be his friend anymore. Like he was afraid of pushing Will away by having such a strong reaction about being bit on the nose. He’s not even fucking six. We’ve gotta, we’ve gotta—now’s the time. I do not want that. Like I don’t know how that’s learned but because he probably sees me apologizing to everybody, you know.
Paul: I believe it can be, it can be learned. But, you know when you talk about still feeling like you’re 13 or 14, that is, I think, what happens in the absence of learning the tools that some other adults were either shown or got.
Kathryn: Yeah, right.
Paul: I relate to that so much, I mean, feeling like when somebody will call you “sir,” I imagine when somebody will call you “ma’am,” sometimes you just want to go, “You don’t understand what a fucking child I am.”
Kathryn: Yeah. Oh my God! Exactly!
Paul: I’ve been playing videogames for 14 hours, I haven’t showered. I am not a “sir.”
Kathryn: Exactly! Exactly. No, it’s crazy. Like I was IM’ing with this girlfriend because you know, some of those fashion magazines that have like, “What looks good on…” and then it says like 20-year-old, 30-year-old, 40-year-old, 50-year-old, 60-year-old. Like I’m still looking at the 20 like, I’m still looking at the 20’s. I have no business to be seen in any of those clothes. But I immediately flip to the—it’s crazy. Like the 30 already looks like a little like dowdy and matronly, and it’s like, oh my God, I’m gonna be 40—it’s so weird. It’s so weird.
Paul: What are some common negative thoughts that you have towards yourself?
Kathryn: Um, ugh, I sound like—I’m such bad news on this. All right, here are some negative thoughts. Um, You know, the basic, like, not pretty enough, not, you know, shoulda got that nose job when I had the chance, it’s way too late now. Although it would be amazing if all of the sudden I was like, just, hey. Um, god, not in—I still don’t feel like I’m—rare is the time that I feel like I’ve nailed it. You know, I wish.
Paul: A job, or a performance?
Kathryn: Yeah. Or like a gig, like something I still feel like I wish I was a better actor.
Paul: Forget about the fact that your IMDB list is gigantic. You’ve got three projects. I just looked at it last night – you’ve got three projects that are in post-production right now. That’s as busy as people get.
Kathryn: I know, but you just never—I mean like, there’s—all of it. Of course I feel like I’m not funny enough, like, you know, or that I’m not invested enough as a mother. What are some negative thoughts? Oh my God, honey, I could go on and on and on. Sometimes I feel like I’m—I wish I was more sincere. Like it all goes back to the thing we said at the beginning. Like I wish I said what I meant and felt ok with it. You know.
Paul: Can you think of any times that you were insincere and what you would’ve liked to have sincerely said in your life?
Kathryn: Oh, yeah, I mean there’s so many times, yeah.
Paul: Can you give me an example?
Kathryn: There’s like a professional, like a business one, like I wish that I had been able to tell a very important TV network exec exactly what I thought of the pilot, um, instead of just feeling like I had to just smother fake, like, “Yeah, it’s great!” and then because then maybe I could have not done it or maybe it would have been better. Do you know what I mean? If I had trusted my voice, if I had trusted like what I had thought.
Paul: Like what would you have said if you …
Kathryn: Why does everything need to be underscored? Why does everything need to sound like there’s a four-piece band behind everything that we do? Why can’t you just trust the joke? Like why do you have to have the dumb sound effects, like I hate when music is put behind scenes, because it’s like you don’t trust it.
Paul: It’s so condescending.
Kathryn: So condescending. I wish, um, you know, there’s been plenty of times I wish I’d had the balls to ask for one more take at the risk of offending the crew, you know. For just the betterment of the thing as a whole. I wish, you know, I’ve been in situ—in the position of being the second or third, fourth, fifth, sixth banana to like the lead and so much of my energy is making that person feel beautiful, hilarious, funny, perfect, and I so sometimes wish, because I feel like sometimes they, you know, I sometimes wish I had been able to, you know, who am I not to tell them what I think of what they’re doing, that’s not my business, but just I don’t know, I guess like not try so hard, like who cares? Cause it’s not like we are talking now. Do you know what I mean, it’s not like we foraged this friendship that lasted like, I don’t know, like wasted energy. Like I feel like there’s a lot of wasted energy. I mean I wish in my life I was able to do that with friends, like I wish I had the guts to just to just say goodbye to friendships that are not healthy, instead of this weird dragging along that is not fair to anybody. It’s not fair to them because they’re like, you know, I wish I could say what I meant to somebody and then not feel like I had to take care of the person’s feelings after it. I’m bad at confrontation, like I wait—like the codependent like sitting, you wait until too much builds up and then you let it out and then it’s like the wrong time.
Paul: And the words are poorly chosen.
Paul: And the intensity is way off the charts.
Kathryn: It’s so stupid. I know. Thank God I have the most patient husband in the world. I sound like a real catch in this particular podcast. (both laugh) I really do, I really do. Who wants to sign up? Oh, god. They’re gonna be lining up.
Paul: You are like so many people, Kathryn, it’s—I think your honesty is so awesome and I think that’s the most attractive thing in other people, is the ability to laugh at the things about ourselves that we wish were different.
Paul: Instead of trying to hide them.
Kathryn: Yeah. Ay-yay-yay.
Paul: Going back to the thing about talking to, you know, the star, making them feel funny and beautiful and all that other stuff, I was picturing that in my head and picturing what it would be like if you didn’t say those things to those people and is it that that silence would kill you, to just be there silently waiting for the camera to roll?
Kathryn: Yes, yes! Because it’s not my business—I’m not gonna say I know how to do it better, or it’s not like I know I should be the one director, like none of that, although sometimes I feel that way, I’m sure you do too, like, you know there’s plenty of things where you’re like, oh. But I don’t know why I need to fill that with—because then I think like so much of it—you lose your power, you lose your own power if you diffuse it. You know, if you give it away, if you give something away that’s not true, then you just feel like—there’s been so many like—I remember doing projects where like the vibe on the set was not great or whatever. So I felt like I was tap dancing for ever—for the crew, for everybody, to make everybody happy, because I don’t like—there’s a lot of people who like working in tension, like I just can’t, like I don’t know how you get good work that way, like I don’t know how—I don’t know how, I just don’t know how, how, whatever, the product is gonna be better if people are scared. Like, I just feel like if the loose around it—it’s not like to fuck around, while the camera’s not rolling, but I do feel like some of that is really valuable cuz it helps everybody to open up and feel safe and just kind of jump off, you know, I love that feeling, when everybody’s like—everybody, crew, everybody is—you know, there’s nothing, there’s—the worst feeling is when you feel like you’re separated from the camera, from the crew, cause they’re all again, it’s like that feeling like we’re all in it together, you know, then you just feel like you’re doing something so dead, like just so heavy, I hate that feeling, so yeah, I guess, um, I guess so much of the, I did one thing I remember where it was like the worst vibe, and I spent so much time taking care of everybody’s feelings, but then when it was time for me, you know, to be on camera, I had no idea what I was doing.
Paul: Not present.
Kathryn: Cuz I just like had not spent any energy on the work that I was supposed to be doing, it was some dumb rookie move, like, I just like was—I just did not spend time on my business, what I was supposed to be doing.
Paul: I’ve mentioned this analogy before, but I love it so much, I can’t remember who it was that told me about it, but they use they analogy of when you’re flying, if there’s an emergency in an airplane and you’re with a child, what they tell you to do is put your mask on first cuz otherwise you’re of no use to those around you if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Kathryn: Isn’t that an awesome, I know. Yeah, I know. It’s so, yeah, exactly. And like I know, I know like I’m a good person, I know I’m a kind per—like I know I’m a decent human being. Um, the thing I’m most proud of is that my kids are decent people. Like I think they both have good—I just want them, I just, it’s so tricky, I just want them to be empathetic but not to lose themselves. You know what I mean. It’s like a hard thing because I’m—where am I going with this? But I—it’s a weird, um, I don’t know where I was going with that, Paul, to be honest.
Paul: Do you trust that they’ll get there on their own? Not that you need to be absent but that you don’t need to micromanage.
Kathryn: Yeah, yeah, we’re not like—it’s so interesting, like I thought I was gonna be much more but I’m not, like I-I, um …
Paul: I just realized what a stupid question that is. Like you would say, “Yes, Paul, I’m going to need to micromanage their lives.”
Kathryn: I actually did an interview with someone like, “Are you like a hands-on mother?” I was like, “What if I said I was a hands-off mother?” Like how good would that be, “No I would call myself hands–off.”
Paul: I find them to be a little tiring. I’m the one that needs the nap.
Kathryn: I haven’t seen them in years. I farmed them out. But they are, uh—yeah it’s weird. Like I thought I was gonna be much more—because maybe it’s because how—I don’t know. Like, you know, for all of like our codependence like growing up, like we really like, you know—I’m sure you do this too—like I got home from school, my parents didn’t see me until dinner and then they—I—we just had so much freedom, like we didn’t have classes, like we didn’t have crap after school, we didn’t have like—we just, you know, childhood needs to—like someone said to me, they were like, “Childhood needs to breathe.” And I was like, “It does.” Like, you just—in that—when you find—like, do you remember going so deep into pretend, like pretend?
Paul: Oh yeah.
Kathryn: I can see it now happening with them and like you don’t want to interrupt it because it’s like, ah, the most beautiful thing, like that …
Paul: It’s—so many kids, their lives are so highly structured because their parents are afraid their kids aren’t going to be successful.
Paul: If they don’t achieve and, you know, hop enough hurdles and yet they need to be kids. They need to—they need that free time to be creative and to experiment. And to—and I think to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes, not be protected from making mistakes.
Kathryn: No, I know that’s the hard thing. But you’re right, he has to get hurt, they both have to fall down. They have to fall in love and get their hearts broken.
Paul: I could help.
Kathryn: You could?
Paul: I can sit them down and I can go through their flaws once a week like an AA meeting.
Kathryn: You could do one of these podcasts with my six-year-old. I think you would be—it would be fascinating. Or you could really quickly just rip a Band-Aid off of his knee and slap him. That’s fine.
Paul: So you’re not, you’re not currently in any kind of therapy?
Kathryn: No, uh, but I have to be. I mean I feel like it would be—I don’t—it’s been a—I should be. I really should. I know. I don’t know what’s wrong. I feel like maybe it’s because I’ve been—I just haven’t been around, so like any free time I have, I feel like I wanna be here, you know.
I feel like there are a lot of codependent human beings.
Paul: I agree.
Kathryn: Especially maybe in this line of work. Because we’re so dependent on other people’s feelings.
Paul: And we grew up being performers.
Paul: Not what do I need, what does this situation need?
Kathryn: Right, right.
Paul: Which is what a scene is, is what does this situation need?
Kathryn: What do I want? What am I gonna do to get what I want? Yeah.
Paul: And it’s much easier to play a selfish character than to venture into asking for your own needs. I think that’s why dislikable characters are so much fun to play.
Kathryn: I love it. I know, me too. I agree. I love it because it’s—I love—yeah, I love being in a person that’s—I say it all the time. And I feel like I can do it, like I feel—I love the feeling of it, I love, I love being in like an uninhibited space.
Paul: Describe for me like a dream moment, if there weren’t repercussions, and people’s feelings wouldn’t get hurt, give me, give me some moments of how you’d like to carry yourself.
Kathryn: Like, um, I would love to be able to like look to—look people in the eye, um, stand up straight, I really haven’t even perfected the art of just standing up straight. Like owning my space, like taking space and being ok.
Paul: Instead of having an apologetic posture.
Kathryn: Yeah, my last director called it the Hamburglar. Like I was around like, hey, hey. She was like, “Here comes Hahn the Hamburglar.” Cuz I was like—couldn’t even like just stand up.
Paul: She’s got it crouching over her right now.
Kathryn: Just like owning being a woman, a mother, just being ok with being—because I am ok with being my age. I actually feel like I’ve earned it, like I feel actually, I feel better than I have—like I feel closer to who I am now than I did actually. But I think I’d love to be able to just take my space. And have confidence. Like I would love to be able to have more confidence. And it’s tricky because a part of me like, you know, we’re a student of people to know that having that lack of confidence is helpful. Right? I think it’s helpful. I have to believe that when you feel satisfied it takes away something hunger-wise or drive-wise.
Paul: I would describe it—
Kathryn: Please tell me!
Paul: Well, the reas—I think your love of the craft is not gonna disappear if you get confidence. In fact, if anything, it’ll give you more, this sounds so pretentious the way I’m saying it, more colors in your palette to paint as an actor because you will have lived that experience and you will know—or maybe you can picture it and you can play that.
Paul: I don’t know, but, it—when I’ve worked on myself, it has never made me not want to be creative, it’s just made what I want to create different.
Paul: So I-I-I think a lot of people use that as an excuse because they’re afraid to go deep down into the icky and to have to deal with that and it’s easier to say, “well, this kind of drives me, this insecurity. It drives me.” But the side effects, it’s like one of those pills that they advertise where you know, the last ten minutes of the ad are all these side effects. So yeah maybe you get a hard on from it, but, you know.
Kathryn: Yeah but literally you’re just like nothing but diarrhea for a year.
Paul: Right. I mean that’s my, that’s my take. I’m certainly no expert.
Kathryn: I hear you Paul, but then it’s like it’s so interesting. Like I heard somebody talk about something they did so confidently, and again, all I heard was that it was being cocky, no humility. And then I was like this is such a weird thing, this business, because it does take a specific bird to be able to sell what they’ve made, pitch whatever the verb, yeah such a grandma, in front of a group of people, trust it, and then like what do you do then if it is not received in the way that you …? That’s just life.
But, like, so my go to forever is if I underplay then I don’t have much to lose if and when they don’t dig it. Which is an awful way to think, right?
Kathryn: I mean it’s like an awful way to like short-change yourself if you’re like, you know, “Ah, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right.”
Paul: If I don’t risk by putting energy out then I won’t be hurt as badly.
Paul: I think that’s, I think that’s pretty normal, to feel that way. I certainly relate totally to that but getting back to the point about the confidence thing, I think the myth there is the confidence and humility exclude each other. But I don’t, I don’t think at all.
Kathryn: No, I don’t think they need to either. I know.
Paul: But in our heads, in our insecure heads, we’re so afraid of even coming close to the line of where confidence goes into cocky.
Kathryn: I know, yeah.
Paul: That we stay 100 yards back going, “No, no, you first, you first, you first, you first, you first.”
Kathryn: Like I’d rather do that than take my place in line. I know.
Paul: But then we miss, I think we miss out on things.
Paul: And a lot of times when we’re trying to fill that silence, we’re afraid of something, maybe that person’s gonna say something that in our tap dancing, we’re tap dancing over them. That person maybe there’s something we need to hear.
Paul: If you listen to the, probably the first 15 episodes of this podcast, it’s hard to listen to because I steamroll people.
Kathryn: Oh, really?
Paul: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, and I’ll get emails from people that are like furious at me, but now they’re saying “Oh, it’s nice you’re not doing it as much, but I didn’t even realize I was doing that until I started editing it, I started getting those emails. I’m sure I did it a couple of times in our interview here today, but the point is—
Kathryn: I didn’t feel that.
Paul: When I first started in the interview, letting there be more silence, it felt so incredibly awkward. It felt so weird. And now I’m getting more comfortable with it. And in that space I’m getting things from listeners, or from guests, that I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d been tap dancing in that in that silence.
Paul: But it does feel weird at first. And I think the point I want to make is just because it feels weird at first doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s just our old coping skill freaking out on us.
Kathryn: It’s freaking out. It’s so true because even if you were—you start thinking about it and you kind of improvise a scene, if you let it sit for a second, that’s where the surprise—that’s where it deepens and that’s’ where the surprise comes.
Paul: And it’s like its own natural rhythm just appears. Instead of trying to force a rhythm on it because you’re afraid it’s gonna fail.
Kathryn: And Paul, that confidence and humility thing, I’m gonna be thinking about a lot. Because I know we both—I mean, I don’t know if you do—I know, I’m assuming that, you know, we must have a certain amount of confidence in us, right we’re confident.
Paul: To be performers?
Paul: To be in front of a room full of people and say, “Here’s the choice I made about this script, and I think it’s worthy of you watching.”
Paul: That takes, certainly, confidence.
Paul: And you will always be able, I think, to access those things should you want them, that, that feeling of, “Oh, I gotta get this done, I gotta get that done.” You’ll always be—that will always be there.
Paul: But getting some confidence will another choice to be there should you want that choice. And I cooked a lot of chicken and showed a lot of movies, so I …. See how I gotta put myself down there because I’m afraid?
Kathryn: (claps) Yeah, you did. That was like total reframe!
Paul: Afraid I’m gonna sound like a know-it-all.
Kathryn: Deflect, deflect, deflect.
Paul: I gotta kick me before the listener gets a chance to.
Kathryn: Totally, totally. That is a fake fart. Negates everything that was said in this conversation.
Paul: Do you—normally I go out on the show with, uh—we trade loves, things that we love.
Paul: Would you like to improvise some of those?
Kathryn: Yes. We trade back and forth?
Paul: Yes, we trade back and forth.
Kathryn: I’m so excited – do you have a list?
Paul: I’m gonna be reading some listeners’—I’m actually gonna improvise some of my own until I feel like I’ve run out and then I’ll cheat. It can be anything. But you know, I think the less run-of-the-mill, the better, you like I love my children, everybody knows that. Everybody knows you don’t love your children.
Kathryn: Right. That would be a lie.
Paul: You let them draw on the fucking couch.
Kathryn: They’re sitting in the car right now with the windows up. I need some privacy.
Kathryn: I love—I love a grilled peach in June, outside, after just having hot dogs and some rose, I like grilling a peach with some vanilla ice cream and eating it outside.
Paul: Oh that does sound good.
Paul: I love walking into my favorite coffee place and having some of the regular customers say “hi” and having some of the staff say “hi” and feeling like there’s place in the world that I belong.
Kathryn: I love picking up my daughter from preschool and seeing her—being able to see her in her little circle with the other kids for a second before she’s noticed me, um, and seeing—and always surprised by what a beautiful and autonomous person she is. And then when she sees me and her face—the look on her face, um, I feel like my heart’s gonna jump out of my chest. I feel like I’m gonna—I just feel like I’m gonna turn into a puddle. Just vapor, float into the sky.
Paul: That’s beautiful. I love when I get a hot fudge sundae and they also have marshmallow sauce and I get both put on, and there is enough of both, because I would say 95% of the time they don’t give me enough and I got one on Catalina Island a couple of weeks ago and there was enough of both. It was the perfect amount of marshmallow sauce and hot fudge sauce, and I was like this is the fucking greatest.
Kathryn: Sounds unbelievable. I love Ohio in the fall. I love the smell of burning leaves, um, I love when the sky gets darker earlier at night, um, I love all things Halloween, um, I love putting on sweaters.
Paul: I love snorkeling and that moment when the waves kind of start to move you a little bit too close to the rocks and it gets a little scary and you paddle away and I just love that experience of feeling like you’re improvising with the ocean, like the ocean has its—this power and you’re kind of almost flirting with its power but you’re respecting it.
Kathryn: Jesus. I love, um, I love a road trip. I love when it’s the four of us in one car with a suitcase, where I feel like everything I need in the whole world is the smallest little, you know, metal machine. I love putting my feet up on the dashboard and just listening to dumb music really loud with them.
Paul: I totally relate to that because I think what I love about when you take a road trip and all your stuff is in one suitcase, you feel like you’ve simplified your life and all the chaos and all the loose ends, and all that stuff, you’re giving yourself permission for 48 hours or whatever to just boil it down to this and you’re just gonna not question that, “Oh, I should be in the living room doing this, I should be…”
Kathryn: I love it. Totally, when you’re like a toiletry bag, like there’s nothing more satisfying. This might feel like my OCD, but I love like a clean drawer. I love opening a drawer and being like, ah, everything has its place. She’s a Montessori kid so maybe that’s why.
Paul: I love that we’ve talked for over an hour and we didn’t even touch on your OCD.
Kathryn: I know, we didn’t even (laughs) Until next time.
Paul: So I’m gonna have to have you back.
Paul: Kathryn, thank you.
Kathryn: This was heaven, I feel like I should now write a check to you though. For your therapy services.
Paul: Well I feel the same way.
Both: So we’ll call it a draw.
Kathryn: As it were. Thank you SO much. This was worth the wait.
Paul: Was there anything that you wanted to plug?
Kathryn: No, except my mouth hole. Except my butt hole. I can’t stop farting. No, but thank you.
Paul: Many thanks to Kathryn Hahn for a great episode. I really, really enjoyed, uh, interviewing her.
Um, before I take it out with a couple of, well not a couple of, one survey and one email from a listener, I want to remind you guys, the website for my friend’s towel, the bamboo towel, is getzhu.com. G-E-T-Z-H-U.com. And I want to remind you guys there’s a couple of different ways to support the podcast if you feel so inclined, you can support it financially by going to the website mentalpod.com and making a PayPal donation. You can either do a one-time donation or my favorite, you can become a monthly donator, all you have to do is fill it out once and it just re-, you know, it feeds me every month, it truly does. It—you can do a monthly subscription or whatever you want to call it, donation, for as little as $5, and that may not seem like much money to you guys, but it really adds up and it gets me closer to my dream of being able to support myself from doing this show. So if you’re so inclined, I would love it if you would go do that.
You can also support the show by buying a t-shirt and there’s a little Amazon search box on our website home page and the next time you buy something at Amazon, enter Amazon through our search box and that way I get a couple of nickels from Amazon and it doesn’t cost you anything. And you can support our show non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating. That boosts our ranking and brings more people to the show. And you can also support it by spreading the word on social media. That’s always greatly appreciated.
All right, enough of my yakking. I’m going to read a survey that was filled out, this is from the Shame and Secrets survey, this was filled out by a woman who calls herself Freda, she’s straight, but qualifies it, she says, “But I have a big crush on a lesbian friend.” Freda’s in her 40’s, was raised in an environment that was pretty dysfunctional. “Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?” She writes, “Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse. I’ve blocked out many childhood memories but a neighborhood man would fondle his daughter, my friend, in front of me, and showed himself.” Yeah, I’d say that’s sexual abuse. “Also it seems like I was constantly attracting crazy older men. While walking down the street with a friend, a man pulled over his car, opened the door, leaned out and started jacking off. Same thing in the library, in the hardware store. These times I was with my parents and they didn’t do anything.” I don’t know what’s more alarming, these guys hanging out of the car whacking it or in the library or in the hardware store or your parents not doing anything. How could that not fuck up your opinion of men? You know, one of those things happening, I would think, would make men scary.
“Deepest, darkest thoughts?” She writes, “That after 12 years of misery dragging my mom down, my sick father would finally die so that she could have a little life before her Alzheimer’s totally consumes her.”
“What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you?” She writes, “I don’t have any. I struggle for them actually because I’d like to like sex. But sex makes me embarrassed. It makes me feel stupid. All that emoting and physical pleasure. But sometimes I play the role, the perfect sex partner and hate every moment of it. It’s like living outside my body.” That makes me so sad and yet that is such a common thing that I read in the Shame and Secrets survey. There are so many people—there are some men that feel that way too, but it mostly seems to be women who were sexually abused and they feel like it’s a shortcoming of theirs that they’re this way and they blame themselves. Continue on with what she wrote, “What are your deepest, darkest secrets?” “When I was ten, my father got up in the middle of the night with his rifle,” I’m sorry this is so dark, but this is, you know, this is the show. And I sometimes will save the darker stuff for the end, so that if it’s too dark for you, you can just turn it off and you won’t miss the rest of the show. “My father got up in the middle of the night with his rifle and went to the garage to kill himself. My mom stopped him, got the gun, and put it under the covers in bed with me to keep it from him. When I told my mom about this memory, I was an adult, before her Alzheimer’s, she said, ‘Well, it wasn’t loaded.’ My sister said the same thing when I told her, ‘It wasn’t loaded.’ As a young adult, my brother hit on me when we were really drunk in the hot tub and I fell for it. This secret I will die with. Won’t even tell a therapist. I watched my dad beat my older sister many times and no one helped her. He beat me too but not as bad because I tried really hard to be the good girl. I learned from my sister not to fuck up. I married young – 22, to a wonderful man who rescued me from my crazy home. He loved me deeply, I screwed around on him many, many times. I was horrible. And he just kept on loving me until one day he couldn’t any more, after 17 years he finally had an affair himself and I never took full responsibility for the failure of our marriage. I hate my father. I want to love him and be compassionate. He’s horribly sick but I am repulsed by him. He acts like he was a great father but he hated us. We were never good enough or smart enough. He went back to college to get his law degree with four young children at home but he never supported us going to college. He never told me he loved me until I spent a month in the hospital with him this year. Now we, me and my siblings, show up to take care of him like he’s some great patriarch. We still pretend. I want to tell him how fucked he was as a dad but I’m afraid it would kill him.”
“Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?” She writes, “I feel guilty, like I need to ‘just get over’ my childhood.” Oh my god, that is why I wanted to read this survey. Freda, any person that is hearing me reading your survey is thinking to themselves, “You cannot just get over that kind of stuff happening to you. No human being could just get over that.” She continues, “I feel burdened like I will always be fucked up. I beat myself up for not being able to forgive my dad. I’m pissed because everyone around me acts like he’s some great guy and is amazed by his will to live. I feel crazy because I want to scream that his will to live is just another play to control us all.” Just want to give you a big hug, Freda. I just want to give you a big hug. And encourage you to tell your therapist everything. I tell my therapist everything and it opens the doors for them to help you. It opens way more doors for them to help you. They are not there to judge you. They are not there to judge you.
And I want to wrap this up with an email I got from a woman who just wants me to refer to her by her first initial, so I’ll call her H. And she writes, “There have been a few times where I’ve started to take a survey but never completed it. I’ve been compelled to email you about certain episodes particularly to compliment you on a certain show, especially the one dedicated to the listeners. I’m plugged into my iPod listening to Cara Santa Maria and I found my topic where I can chime in. Mothers who deal with depression. Here’s a quick picture: mother of four kids, 13-year-old boy, 10-, 8- and 6-year old girls. All great kids, really they are. I fight depression and anxiety daily and I take Effexor. From the perspectives of others in my community, I’ve got it all together, but I don’t. I fight this every day. To make this more interesting, my husband of 15 years is in Afghanistan and has been deployed for about six months now so it’s me, four kids, our pets, our house, their homework, their schedules, bill, responsibilities, laundry, dishes, trash goes out, oil changes, lawn mowing, etc. It’s totally overwhelming some days. Even today during the show, you and Cara were talking about not wanting to get out of bed or wearing the same clothes for three days, not wanting to do the dishes in the sink. I claim it’s because I simply don’t have enough hours in the day but the truth is I don’t really care, it’ll be there. Who cares? So every day I try. I don’t think my kids would know I fight this. I really try to pull it off and keep it together in front of them. I wonder if my son would agree. I wonder if he sees right through it. (tears now) What kills me is that through all of this, is that people don’t understand and I want them to. Example: parents of two kids, both parents home every night and then I hear them complain about how much they have to do. Really? Don’t come to me and bitch. It’s just me. It’s just me. I have no backup plan, no go to person, no one to comfort me at night and hug away my fears. On top of all that, I worry that the love of my life won’t return from his deployment. There’s so much on my plate that I can’t even get past it. Well my point was just to acknowledge that you are correct. Being a parent dealing with depression and anxiety is a tough thing. When I listen to your show, it makes me feel that I’m not alone. Thank you for producing this show and exposing people to the realities that many of us face.” Thank you. And I’ll read you what I wrote back to her.
“H – I’m so glad you wrote me, your email really touched me. I started to write you a different email. I started to suggest talking to your doctor and seeing about tweaking your meds, I started to suggest a support group for spouses of soldiers, I started to suggest going to the forum and posting to a thread I started for moms. And then I thought what you might need is just a big fucking hug across the Internet. So imagine all the people out there who are just like you and me – who cry by themselves and try to put on a brave face. Whose brains are flooded with dark thoughts that we quickly brush aside but don’t really get relief from because they just make us feel broken or weird or weak. Think about all the people who wake up and immediately think, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t do this again. I’m too tired. Why me? I wish I had died in my sleep.’ Think about all of us holding your hand, hugging you, crying with you, and laughing with you about how much we cry and what ridiculous places we start to cry and over the strangest things – not being able to find a parking place, getting disconnected while on hold, spilling food, not being able to find a pen. Just focus on today. This hour. This minute. Do what is right in front of you. Let go of the results. It’s ok if we make mistakes. Fuck perfect. Perfect is an illusion that degrades our chance for serenity. Trying is enough. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Because we can’t live tomorrow today. And who knows what it will bring? Most of all, keep reaching out. Keep talking about what you’re feeling so it doesn’t build up. Find people who understand and are safe to talk to. And let them help you. Let them be amazing friends or therapists or support group members. Most people want the chance to be amazing and supportive and helpful, but when you isolate, you deny them that opportunity and you let your feelings overwhelm you. There are millions of us who feel overwhelmed. You are one of many. The longer I’m alive the more people I meet, the more I think we are what normal is. You are not alone. You are not even close.” Thank you so much for listening.