Peaking at 10

My Girl star Anna Chlumsky achieved all she’d ever wanted before graduating from grade school. Here’s how she handled the inevitable letdown of teendom and beyond, in an excerpt from Before the Mortgage: Real Stories of Brazen Loves, Broken Leases, and the Perplexing Pursuit of Adulthood.

I am applauded every day. Not in the traditional sense—no thunderous claps, bravas, or standing ovations to seven curtain calls after a luminous rendition of Ibsen or Brecht. (Not yet, anyway.) No, I am praised on the subway, at the corner deli, at my regular bistro from the table next to me, at Starbucks as my barista hands me my tall vanilla latte. And the kudos sound like this: “I know you from somewhere . . . ” “Aren’t you that girl?” “Wait, you’re ‘My Girl,’ aren’t you?” “You have no idea how much that movie meant to me.” “You made me cry.”

When I was little—heck, even up to a year ago—this type of attention was a downright daily struggle. I knew they meant well, but these folks embarrassed me in front of my junior high companions and my college friends. They singled me out when all I wanted was to forget that I used to be “special.” It wasn’t a pleasant sort of admiration either; they reminded me of the rejections of my adolescence. I dreaded explaining my waning appearances on screen. Why hadn’t they seen me work in so long? I wanted it all to go away with the snap of a finger.

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