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Academy Award-winning actress and once-nationally ranked archer Geena Davis is the founder and chairman of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Her memoir, Dying of Politeness, is available online and in bookstores now. She spoke to AARP’s Natasha Stoynoff.
The downside of manners
I grew up a cripplingly polite New Englander. But to be extremely polite, the things you feel and do and say must fit in a very narrow window … and the things you are not allowed to do and say are “bad.” Therefore, you’re a bad person for having those feelings. I nearly died of politeness.
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Dreams of a different body
I was a shy, quiet kid, except when I was feeling exuberant. But then I would be told to bring it down. My aunt told me boys weren’t going to like my loud laugh, so I’d better learn to laugh less loudly. I was also taller than everyone else and was told I was too big. I always dreamed of being shorter, of not standing out.
The joy of being bilingual
I went to Sweden as an exchange student, and I’m still fluent, more or less. A couple of times a year, I’ll run into somebody who’s Swedish and surprise them by speaking their language.
The importance of work-life balance
When I was doing Commander in Chief, I was in nearly every scene. My twin boys were 1½, and my daughter was 3½. I was lucky because, as the lead actor, I was allowed to bring my kids to work. Most people on a film or TV set can’t do that. But even so, I found that true balance is impossible. I don’t know how to balance anything. I just do what needs to be done.