Only celebrities are allowed to be pregnant and still work. They can afford nannies, and entire film shoots are scheduled around their pregnancies. Pregnant ladies in Hollywood are like spiders. The Hollywood studios scream when they see a spider and want to get rid of it, but then a good producer reminds them that spiders are vital to the system. They serve a purpose. The ones who serve a purpose are A‑list famous ones. Talented ones. The bit players don’t serve a purpose. They don’t bring money into the studios or sell tickets. A pregnant Anne Heche is a spider. An alien spider but still a spider. A pregnant me is more like a flea. They will crush me between their fingernail and their forefinger and my career will be over.
Without my career I’m nothing. I’m just a stack of bones covered with skin on a big rock hurtling toward my death. So when my agent, Allen, calls with a new audition, I thank god.
It’s for an HBO show called Hung, a comedy about a down-and-out high school baseball coach who, thanks to his special talent of having a large penis, becomes a gigolo. They would like to see me for the character of “Horny Patty.”
Horny Patty sounds like a sexy bombshell type. I, however, am pregnant. My face is covered in brown splotches, and I can’t stop burping and shitting my pants.
But of course I audition. I have to. Everybody keeps telling me how babies are magic. And it was so effortless for me to inhabit this sad horny lady that I walk out of the audition feeling… good. On the drive home from, Allen calls me. “They want to double-check that you’re okay with nudity.”
Absolutely, I tell him. No problem. Nudity is not a big thing for me. I’m an actress.
The next morning, Allen calls again. “Amazing news. Weeds, you got it.”
Quick question: They didn’t mean naked, did they?
“There’s a problem,” I tell Allen. “I have an inverted nipple.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s like an innie belly button. Except cleaner. And don’t pity me. I’ve lived my life as normally as I could.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it.” Allen says.
I can’t stop worrying about it.
I’ve seen dead bodies on TV but never an inverted nipple. Actors have been recast for far less serious infractions. An actress friend of mine was fired after Kelsey Grammer didn’t think she seemed excited to meet him. When they see my nipple, they’re going to recast the part.
On the day of the shoot, the “body makeup specialist” puts a sticker over my pubic area that is held in place by a long stringlike sticker that is attached to it and goes up my butt. Not into my anus but like a string bikini. That’s all I will be wearing for my nude scene.
They escort me to the set like a dead man walking. As I pass, people turn their backs, look down at their shoes, and make the sign of the cross. Everyone is instructed to give me personal space and not ogle, which I appreciate, but as I sit on the edge of the bed waiting for Hung star Thomas Jane, I make an announcement: “Listen, everybody, I have an inverted nipple, please don’t pity me.” I hear one lone “HA!” Now it’s out. I’ve told people.
The smell of a cigar fills the studio. Thomas Jane has arrived. He puts his cigar out in a coffee cup, which is the costume people’s cue to run in and grab my robe. He—TJ—drops his robe. All of my fears about the horror my inverted nipple was going to cause disappear when I see TJ naked. He’s incredibly sexy. He’s so sexy he should be an actor.
He calls me “funny lady,” which is exactly what you want before you’re about to be naked and having sex with someone on camera. “Okay, funny lady, lie down.”
He forgot his sticker. Must have gotten stuck to his robe. Thomas fluffs himself—not in a “sexual fluff” way but more of an “unsticking sweaty balls from sides of thighs” way—and mounts me. He grabs my legs and slams into me so quickly and so rapidly that my sticker gets jammed up my butt.
Hysterically giddy laughter ensues. I’m hanging upside down off the bed and I can’t stop laughing. Between takes I’m laughing. I’m having such a good time that it’s embarrassing for the crew. It’s easy to enjoy it because Thomas doesn’t talk to me at all. He’s in his own world.
The camerawoman comes up to me when we’re done shooting. “I was worried he’s pounding so hard he’ll hurt the baby.” The baby. That’s right. There’s a baby. Oh god. I’m going to have a son. How will I explain this? Actually, I know exactly how I will explain it. I’ll tell him how the part was one of the many thousands of jobs that I did to take care of him, to put food on the table and books in his hands.
I give birth to my son, Leo, a few months later. I’m struggling to breastfeed him when the phone rings. My inverted nipple did come out, right after Leo was born. It doesn’t matter, though. I offer it up; he takes a look at it and turns away: “Oh, that’s okay. Suddenly I’m not hungry.”
“Hey, Weeds, good news. They want you back for more Horny Patty.”
“There’s a little problem. Could you tell the producers that I’m about 30 pounds heavier than when I shot the first season? I can’t be fully naked. I’m not being falsely modest. My inverted nipple is nothing. It’s my freakish breast sizes. There’s the one gigantic breast that Leo likes and the ex–inverted nipple one that he’s neglected to such a degree that it’s atrophied away like a little mini limb.”
Allen says it’s no problem. I go to work.
My lips are Vaselined. My hair frizzed. I’m working. This is the character. Thank god for character actors. Thank god for this part. I’m bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan.
It’s a nude scene again. Of course.
The director has heard I’m concerned about full nudity. She calls me to the set. After a long speech about how giving birth to twins, understanding women’s relationships to their complicated post-birth bodies, and a documentary she made about eating disorders, she pushes her baseball cap back on her head and takes a loud slurp of her coffee. “Okay, let’s see what we’re working with. Open your robe.”
I open up my robe. “Oh god, they look like breastfeeding boobs. COVER ’EM!” She yells this over her shoulder and a pit crew from the Indy 500 runs up and gets to work.
The head of the crew is a very sweet young girl from Michigan named Kate. She’s the youngest girl in a Catholic family of 13 kids. “I can’t even believe you had a baby!” She puts me in a teddy to make sure that my stomach is covered up. “Not that you need it!” The director tells her to make sure the teddy is taped to my boobs so that they don’t fall out. As she tapes me up I stare at the ceiling and take deep breaths. Do men go through this? Do they worry about saggy balls? At least my big saggy boobs are keeping a person alive. Saggy balls don’t.
“Uh‑oh!” Kate says, very cheerful. “Uh‑oh!”
I look down to see what’s “uh‑oh.” Milk is pouring out of me. My boobs are spurting like I’ve cut an artery.
There’s a knock on my door. “Hey, Horny! Feeling sexy?”
Things are starting to feel surreal.
It’s time to shoot the scene. Thomas Jane gives me a quick glance. “I just had a baby.” He walks away to find a coffee cup to put his cigar out in. “It wasn’t yours!” I yell after him.
We get the “Okay, let’s go” cue to take off our robes. Thomas takes his off and this time he’s wearing a little sock on his stuff. Horny Patty is supposed to be on top and “humping the shit out of him.” I can’t. At all. My hips won’t hump. I can’t get any sex beat going. They are completely stiff.
I feel like I weigh five hundred pounds. Thomas looks angry. He’s not used to reality like this. He’s married to Patricia Arquette. He slaps my hips and tries to get me going. “Come on!”
Leaning down, I whisper, “My hips hurt. I just had a baby.”
My hips will not move and I’m slowing down. Getting tired.
I lean down again. “I’m glad all of this is being recorded for all of digital eternity.” I’m being paid to do this. It’s bizarre but not the worst way to pay for diapers. For a moment, I worry that my muscles are going to simply give out, but they don’t. I wind myself up, and, in the sage words of a redneck comedian, I git ’er done.
Finally, the director calls “cut” and they throw a robe over me. Thomas starts to leave but turns around and comes back to say something to me. I’m worried he’s going to yell at me for squishing him.
“On getting through the scene without lactating on you?”
“On your baby. Boy or girl?”
“That’s great. Okay. Well, see you later, funny lady.”
And he did see me later. Horny Patty came back for multiple episodes. For months after the show aired I got emails from fans:
Dear Horny Patty, you sure have big titties. You have one big old cow tittie and one small little cow tittie. Why is that? Keep up the good work.
Babies really are magic.
Excerpted and adapted with permission from Miss Fortune: Fresh Perspectives on Having It All from Someone Who Is Not Okay, out today via Plume.
Lauren Weedman is an award-winning comedic actress, playwright and author. Her television credits include The Daily Show, True Blood, United States of Tara, Reno 911, Curb Your Enthusiasm, New Girl, Arrested Development, Horny Patty on HBO’s HUNG and Doris on HBO’s Looking. Film credits include Imagine That, Date Night and A Five Year Engagement. Weedman’s first book, A Woman Trapped in a Woman’s Body: Tales from a Life of Cringe, was named by Kirkus as a top ten Indie book for 2007. Weedman is the host of the popular Moth Storytelling series in LA.
Illustration by Jim Cooke