(I’ve got a) Golden Ticket

Children’s movie’s are among the most destructive forces influencing the emotional growth of small humans.

So there I was, working from home with standard fare on the television at an exceptionally low volume. Criteria for work from home mindless television are… it needs to be something I’m familiar with so I’m not distracted, and yet enjoyable for moments when I look up. Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Gene Wilder in his brilliance. A cast of children who mostly never worked again. Glorious. I always tune in for the scene in which Gene, brilliant, leaves the factory, limping, with the cane…and then does the somersault. Luke tells me he heard an interview with Gene explaining this; he knew if he did that switch, that physical mendacity, during the introduction, the audience would never be able to trust him. That was his goal.

So, I’m working away. Augustus, Veruca, and Violet have found their tickets. And then, this exchange snaps my head up to stare, riveted, at the screen.

CHARLIE: Well in case you’re wondering if it’ll be me, it
won’t be. Just in case you’re wondering, you can count me
out.

MRS. BUCKET: Charlie . . . there are a hundred billion
people in this world, and only five of them will find Golden
Tickets. Even if you had a sackful of money you probably
wouldn’t find one. And after this contest is over, you’ll
be no different from the billions of others who didn’t find
one.

CHARLIE: But I am different. I want it more than any of them.

MRS. BUCKET: Charlie, you’ll get your chance. One day things will change.

CHARLIE: When? When will they change?

MRS. BUCKET: Probably when you least expect it. 

What was that? Once more for the cheap seats!

But I am different.  I want it more than any of them.

Oh sweet lord, I never saw it before. Maybe because Charlie’s mom sings a terrible, forgettable song immediately after her last line here. But there it is. Wrapping words around the deepest of entitlements; wanting it is the reason you deserve it.

I can’t help think about all of the ways in which this manifests – the attention of someone to whom you’re attracted. Winning the lottery. For people you love not to die. Not wanting to die yourself. And then I think about the ways in which it sounds ridiculous – flying a plane, getting a PhD, being a virtuoso piano player. What is the difference?

I deserve for that person to find me attractive because I find them attractive.
I deserve to win the lottery because I need the money.
I deserve for my loved one not to die of cancer because it will hurt me so much I may never recover.
I deserve not to die because I have so much to live for.

vs.

I deserve to fly a plane because I’ve studied for years and had hours of flight time.
I deserve a PhD because I have written and defended and theorized and iterated and worked with peers and advisors and my theories are sound.
I deserve to be a virtuoso piano player because I have practiced alone for hours a day for years, with no accolades, just trying to be happy with slowly improving.

There is nothing interesting and overnight-success-story about earning it. Getting good enough at something to deserve the benefits that come with it (a job. adoring fans. an honorific.) is lonely and boring. After decades, I’m a pretty good opera singer, a pretty good performer, and I’m pretty good because I love the rehearsal process. The slow getting better. Competing with myself. Challenging myself. Memorization is boring and tedious, but it’s worth it to know an opera, even if I only ever sing it to myself. The performance is the iceberg, literally far less than 10%, of the work that goes into working on a role. Yet, because it’s often the first time this appears to people, if we’re pretty good, it looks flawless, it looks seamless, it looks like an overnight success. Sometimes, after singing, people will come up to me and ask if I had to study to do that. It always takes me by surprise. It’s difficult to not be snarky.

“No, I just started singing like this one day. I magically knew all these languages, too, and I was born knowing how to read music.”

 

The real answer is so, so incredibly boring (and, yes, involves an obscene amount of privilege, which is not the topic of this post but needs to be acknowledged)… and, frankly, unbelievable to anyone who has never tried to master a craft. Why would you do that? Asks the person who does not thrive in creating, in learning. What could possibly be worth all that work? Questions the person who only works as hard as they need to. Does it pay well? Is the question of the person whose only motivators are material. To say nothing of the questions from people who, when they find out what I do for work, respond with, “How’d you get that job?” I find that saying “I’m really, really excellent in bed,” creates discomfort in people who were thinking this anyway. People who think “If she can do it, I certainly can,” and, while that may be true, they don’t get that the differentiator is not can, but am willing to do the work to achieve the same or similar goals. The irony here being that these questions, very often, come from the most privileged set – straight white men who already have so many natural advantages, who already come from a place of extreme privilege. So naturally, the real question is, “What did you do to get this?”, with a subtext of “because I deserve it.”

So, for these questioners, we create tropes. Marrying the prince. Finding the golden ticket. An older wealthy childless man seeing a “spark” in us and letting us inherit his life’s work (that’s just pretty creepy all around). Tropes that would give us all of the perceived benefits of work without any qualifiers but wanting, and perhaps being in the right place at the right time, or even – even! – just our sparkling, witty personality. The same people who believe this is possible believe that they can experience the success of Bill Gates because they are both college dropouts. That’s what we call a false equivalency, and being a college dropout doesn’t up your chances of becoming a billionaire tech genius philanthropist any more than being a drug addicted alcoholic will give you the writing chops of Hunter S.

Charlie’s mom had a chance here. She started well, acknowledging he likely wouldn’t get the ticket and that, in the end, he’d be just like everyone else who hadn’t found a ticket. But no. Then she said “things will change when you least expect it.” It could have been realistic. “If you work for years, and make sure that you are the best at the thing you want to do when opportunity comes around, then things may change when you least expect it,” but no. She crapped out.

We, and by we I mean “I”, often think that this mentality came into full swing during the reality television, get-famous-for-nothing, youtube-star era. But no. No, this cripplingly lazy, entitled mentality has been poisoning us for generations. It’s even worse than the libertarian bootstrapping “as long as you’re a white man and work hard, you can do anything” mentality. It inspires nothing but a false sense of entitlement coupled with the lesson that our feelings are enough to warrant an outcome. Taken to the extreme, this is an incredibly dangerous premise that we’re seeing playing out in a lot of ways; sexual assault and cultural appropriation, to name just two, but I know there are more.

But I also see it in daily, art-killing ways. A lack of creativity of thought. Industries built on the creative backs of just a few people willing to do the work and a lot more people willing to do sales and marketing. An unwillingness to pay for art coupled with a willingness to buy mass-produced, money-signaling items.

So tell me – what are you perfecting? What are you crafting, learning? What is something you have worked on for more than a year, that haunts your dreams, that still isn’t ready, that may never be ready? What are you absorbing, working on, that may never yield money, or accolades, but that drives you to simply Be Pretty Good for the sake of Being Pretty Good? This is the golden ticket to earning anything at all.

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“That’s a mighty nice dream you have there little girl. It’d be a shame if something patriarchal happened to it.” – Curtis Stuehrenberg

I’m angry about the Microsoft ad. You know, the one that tells us that little girls don’t have a chance and should stay in STEM fields and keep fighting the good fight but forgets to tell little boys to change their behavior to not be little assholes who then become big assholes. Just click the link if you want details, because this is a different story.

It’s a related story, a tale as old as time…and, as far as I know, has never been written.

The San Francisco Girls Chorus was founded in the late 1970’s by the incredible Elizabeth Appling as a training ground for young singers, a way to provide the San Francisco Opera with highly trained girls to sing onstage. This was a gap that needed to be filled, and Elizabeth was the woman to do it. By the time I joined the chorus in 1983, they were performing all over the place, and the opera was not the bulk of their performance schedule. When I reached the professional (top of five) level in 1988, I was too tall to participate onstage as a child in the opera, but I could sing in the backstage chorus. I only ever got to do Parsifal, which put me off Wagner for over 20 years.

This arrangement went on for years, and my [shorter] friends got to be onstage with Pavarotti, who apparently wasn’t great with kids and, during Boheme rehearsals, if they were in his way would yell “Move your ass! Move your ass!” Occasionally, my friends would get to do amazing, amazing work. Like singing the challenging roles of the Three Spirits from the Magic Flute. These parts were often shared with boys from the San Francisco Boys Chorus, and splitting performances made things easier from a child labor perspective. It was a rare opportunity for this amazing group of award-winning girls to show their stuff. Until 1991. You see, boys at this age “have trouble concentrating” and “don’t learn as quickly” as girls. So it was suggested to Elizabeth that the girls do the first three performances, so the boys could watch, and learn from them, and then do the final three performances. I’m not certain whether it was the boys chorus or the opera or someone else who suggested this.



Do you know Elizabeth? No? Go back and read that Living Eulogy. I can wait. Got it? Ok.

It was my final year in the chorus and I wanted nothing more to do with singing. And there was no way I was going to be onstage anyway – I was already 5’7″, and the cutoff was either 5′ or 5’2″.

My friends had been working for weeks or months on these roles. We also had conflicts on two of the first three performances, so the boys were supposed to take the first three. Also, there was no way they Elizabeth would allow her girls to be used as a training ground for boys who couldn’t learn their music or blocking. We were busy, we were in demand, and if those boys wanted the credit they could take all of the performances.

And so they did.

I am not certain how messily this went down, nor how the relationship with SFO went from there. I know it has been reestablished and everything seems fine and the girls sound, from when I last saw them at their Highlands Holiday concert in December, better than they ever have.

I learned a lot from my eight years in the Girls Chorus. I learned that talent is irrelevant without hard work, and that hard work and talent are irrelevant without teamwork and good showmanship. I learned that the show must, will, always, go on, even if you faint and the girls around you close ranks to hide you. I learned advanced music theory, and that friendships formed between girls without boys around are strong, and unsullied, and that we can have a healthy competition and still, whoever wins, say “your solo was amazing” at the end, and mean it.

But the other lessons come more strongly now, maybe because of my industry, maybe because of this increased conversation around these things, these micro-aggressions, maybe because I am weary about commercials like those made by giants of the industry in which I work. Lessons like, if we do not accept being taken advantage of, we will make room for better things, but it will be scary at first as we turn down what we know. That the status quo is some seriously unacceptable bullshit and that women will be called bitches for calling it out. That calling out unfairness will come as a shock to those who have relied on this unfairness for their own success. That I have never lost a colleague or a friendship that I missed by calling this out.

I obviously admire Elizabeth for many, many reasons. But I have not credited her enough with making me the Nasty Woman I am today. Her powerhouse feminism and work ethic informed a generation of young women of which I am lucky to consider myself a part. She and my father are big parts of why, at ten years old, when my G.A.T.E. teacher asked us to write which roles we wanted in Macbeth, I wrote “Macbeth”, not considering that that was strange (I ended up getting Lady Macbeth, and in retrospect she is a far superior character). She’s part of why it didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t do the things I’m doing… and she’s part of why I find myself confused at the battles to which I’m subjected simply by setting foot in my industry, having a strong opinion, or being on the internet.

This is an exhausting place. We have these utterly blind advertisements by organizations with so much power making things so much worse. We have white dudes thinking that being aware of these issues is enough, so comfortable in their own behavior that it doesn’t occur to them that they are the problem, white dudes thinking they can make advertisements and health care decisions for women. And so we, simply by standing our ground, are “feminazis”, inconveniencing white dudes with conversations they find exhausting, calling them out on their shit, until they tell us that we should be nicer because we’d be better off with them on our side and that we’re alienating them.

Dudes. Have you seen our side? It is glorious and hot and big and small and kind and angry and amenable and pitchfork-carrying and smart and giggly. It pole dances, and it wears baggy men’s clothing with short haircuts. It has thigh gap and no gap. It has conversations with you to try to get you to understand, and it tells you to fuck off if it’s just lost patience with you. It has been raped, and it has healed, and it is catcalled, and called an ugly bitch, and it is stronger than anything you have experienced on your side because our side has had to work, to really think about it, to band together despite our minute differences in ideologies and appearances. We band together for the right to be a pole dancer and not be called a whore, the right to wear men’s clothing and not be called a dyke, the right to control over our own bodies, whether we want to sell them to the highest bidders or use them to nurture tiny little vacation-fund-sapping parasites. We don’t need you on our side if you want us to compromise. That’s your side. We’ve seen it, and it sucks. We gave birth to you, we raised you, and we know you can do better. You’re welcome to our side, but it’s on our terms, not yours. That’s what that means. So stop playing “devil’s advocate” with us on the internet, stop trying to explain why you’re a feminist when someone has called you out on not being one. Stop making shitty advertisements that focus on the wrong behavior. Look in the mirror, look at your sons, and know that it’s up to you whether they turn into rapists or help solve climate change, and that the former is much more likely so you have a lot of work to do. You are qualified to make an accurate commercial with Brock Turner in a P.S.A. about how to not be a rapist. If you can’t be on our side but still want to call yourself a feminist then just sit this one out. It’s easy. Just don’t do anything; we got this. The women I know could make a better advertisement than this while drunk and shooting pellet guns at beer bottles on a post.

Beliefs

We have been thrust into a position where we are arguing facts versus beliefs, and people are disregarding facts in favor of their unsubstantiated beliefs. While that’s what’s happening, I will throw my beliefs out here.

I believe in the separation of church and state. Meaning, I believe that religious beliefs should never, ever come into play when it comes to matters of state.

I believe that if religion, rather than the desire to be a decent human being, is the thing governing your behavior, you’re an asshole.

I believe that men should not have the opportunity to vote on women’s rights. Ever.

I believe straight white men would lose their shit if they were, for a day, an hour, treated the way LGBTQA people/PoC/women are treated. I believe the closer they get to equality, the more terrified they are. This is correct; because they did not lift us up, because they refuse to lift us up, they are going to come down. It’s a shame; it didn’t have to be this way.

I believe the only person who gets to decide if a man is a feminist is a woman. And that definition doesn’t apply across the board; if another woman decides you’re not a feminist, to her, you’re not. It’s not a merit badge – it’s a lifestyle. And you don’t get hero rewards. If that’s what you’re looking for, keep looking. This is what it means to support us.

I believe that the only person who gets to decide if a white person isn’t racist is a person of color. Sometimes, I’m racist. Sometimes, I’m not. I’m working on getting better, every day, but it’s literally not for me to say. That said…

I believe if you have ever, once, referred to PoC kids as “thugs”, you are racist.

I believe that religion should be taught in school. All religions, with all of the other myths. Tropes are consistent across cultures, and they’re important.

I believe that most terrorists are straight white men.

I believe people would rather criticize than create.

I believe that kindness is the coin of the realm. My realm. I do not see the point in cruelty. If I want to get a reaction, I will say something kind, or create something to which people can react.

I believe that cruelty is lazy, and that sniping is for people who need a hobby. Well, no. It’s for unhappy people.

I believe everything that people do is about them and that, when people hurt us deliberately, we have to look no further than their insecurities and unhappiness. I believe I’d have been happier if I’d learned this younger; the head pat is less taxing than engaging. Sometimes I still engage, and I always regret it. It’s just them trying to sharpen their claws on me.

I believe I can learn everything I need to know about a person’s ability for compassion by seeing how they treat animals.

I believe the care of our environment is the biggest single issue facing humanity. I believe we are losing.

I believe that, the more you claim something about yourself, the less likely it is to be true. “I’m open-minded!” “I’m not racist.” “I did not have sexua relations with that woman.”

I believe we want to believe things are black and white, and our gray, gray world is exhausting. I do not trust anyone who tries to tell me that a human is all good or all evil; it is impossible.

I believe you don’t get to use your upbringing as an excuse for shitty behavior. I don’t care why you’re the way you are. It’s not that I don’t understand, that i need it explained. It’s that I don’t want to be around any resultant rudeness and lack of empathy.

I believe white people should be thinking, constantly, about the land we’ve taken from natives and the people we brought into this country against their will, how we can accept responsibility, and ensure these things never happen again. These things are still happening RIGHT NOW, and don’t give me that “I’m a quarter native” or “my family never owned slaves” shit. Even if it’s true (and it is for me, and I’m sure for lots of us), we’re part of a system that benefits us in part because it takes advantage of people from whom we continue to steal land and whom we continue to enslave (DAPL, privatized prison system). Speaking of which…

I believe prisons should be de-privatized.

I believe non-violent criminals should not be imprisoned. Time should be paid by earning minimum wage working at a small non-profit local to where they live, directly benefiting their community.

I believe the giant, giant chunk of my money that’s taken for taxes should go for the arts, for health care, and for education. I believe I should be able to choose where my money goes. I believe the military has enough fucking money.

I believe everyone should work in food service, ride a motorcycle, be in a choir that rehearses regularly and perform as part of it without having a solo, and play an instrument. At least once.

I believe that a cure for bigotry and racism is travel, and that racist bigots hardly ever leave the country.

I believe prostitution should be decriminalized and that we should stop treating women like they don’t have agency over their own bodies.

I believe drugs should be decriminalized.

I believe we should stop treating the mentally ill like criminal.

I believe we are still going to have a huge problem with violent criminals until men stop posturing and feminizing perceived weakness.

I believe we’ll still have a problem with violent criminals, and fuck those people.

I believe children are our future only if their parents aren’t assholes. I believe more children will end up violent criminals than solving climate change (crap, that’s a statistics-supported fact… one got in there).

I believe there’s no more messed-up human than the one who has decided they’re done learning.

I believe the smartest people ask questions and listen.

I believe I will not get to see all of the world that I want to see in this lifetime, but I will try.

I believe we have more in common than not, but that our beliefs will drive us apart.

I believe that loving another human being is the work of a lifetime, one that we can never perfect, but we can spend a joyful lifetime trying.

Changing Me

You don’t like me.

You don’t like something about my behavior.

I rub you the wrong way.

The answer is simple; change yourself.

The fastest way for me to achieve what you perceive to be correct behavior on my part is by modifying how you interact with me.

I’m too loud? Send me an email instead.

I’m not receptive to your ideas? Have an even slight concept of audience and timing.

I’m too opinionated? Stop having an opinion of your own to battle mine.

You know what’s not going to work? Telling me you have a problem with how I am, and then suggesting I change. I am a grown woman. How I am is one of my favorite things about me. Your opinion of how I am isn’t – how shall I put this so as not to offend your delicate sensibilities – relevant to me.

People say cruel things and then expect me to treat them well.

People grab me at an unscheduled time to discuss something they’ve been thinking about for months but for which they are too lazy/disorganized to schedule a discussion and wonder why I am not focused on their long, drawn-out concept.

People create issues for themselves and then dump them in my lap for me to solve and wonder why I give them the emotional clearance I would a child.

Stop placing a value of zero on my time.

Have a remote sense of personal responsibility.

Develop your emotional maturity.

Change yourself. It’s the quickest way to change me.

Notice of Owner Move-In Eviction

Dear men,

we’ve been reviewing your file and, unfortunately, your record does not entitle you to additional lease renewals. In fact, we’ll be moving in right away.

We note the following violations:

wars (majority men)
bombings (majority men)
terrorist attacks (majority men)
rape (majority men)
institutionalization of slavery (majority men)
physical violence (majority men)
violence against women (majority men)
violence against children (majority men)

You’ve had since the dawn of recorded history to get it right and, well…you’ve failed. You can’t tell me you didn’t see this coming. You had, literally, all of the time in the world. You fucked it up. You don’t deserve it anymore.

So, we’ll be moving in. I mean, we’re already here, but we’re going to be taking your leadership positions; your presidencies, company CEOships, any place where you’ve been committing atrocities in our name… we’re going to need those. You understand, of course.

Don’t worry; it won’t be so bad. If you didn’t specifically perpetrate any of these crimes, there will still be a place for you. If you did, you’ll obviously go to the island. You can’t get to other land from there, but we’ll airdrop food to you once a month and let you fight it out. Don’t worry; we’ll castrate the rapists before we drop them there.

But if you didn’t participate (knowingly; we’ve all participated in some of these unknowingly.), there’s still a place for you. I think we can get rid of this bullshittery in one generation. Hear me out.

See, having a functional uterus is a very, very powerful thing. And we don’t need nearly as many of you as we need of us. One of you can inseminate a fleet, an army (see what I did there?) of us. But instead of a Genghis Khan, a Montezuma, we’ll have some new standards.

Men who do basic household chores without being asked or expecting constant thanks will take priority. So will men who take care of their children while their mothers go out without referring to it as babysitting. Men raised by single mothers. Stay-at-home dads and men who have called out their male friends for shitty behavior. Men who earn secondary incomes and support their partners without subtly undermining and men who earn primary incomes but still come home and cook because, holy crap, taking care of children is exhausting. Men who have never, not once, referred to themselves as a “nice guy”, or as having been “friendzoned”. Men who fight tooth and nail to remain in their children’s lives, at appointed times and without guilt or manipulation, after the romantic relationship with their mother is over. Men who are not just “not evil”; that is no longer enough; these must be men who are proactively good.

Straight ladies, you have a role in this, too. It seems simple, but please pay close attention; Stop. Sleeping. With. Assholes. Assholes beget assholes. Assholes raise asshole children who grow up to be asshole men and women. So, if you just STOP sleeping with these guys, then they won’t have any babies. And the only men raising children will be NON-ASSHOLEs. It’ll be magic. 50, 75 years, and it’ll be gone. No one to call “war”. No one to organize terror attacks. No shitty young men going in and shooting up schools and everyone making excuses. Mentally ill people don’t kill people. Assholes kill people. Ladies, you have the power. Just… don’t wait by the phone for the guy who’s playing hard to get. Don’t go anywhere near the guy who only makes the slightly racist comments when he’s drunk, who never seems to be kind to animals, for whom you aren’t good enough to meet his parents. Don’t settle for any drop of less than you want, and don’t be afraid to communicate exactly every bit of it; that’s your responsibility. You can do better. Do it for all of humanity.

In this way we leave the world a better place. In this way we cease wars, terrorism, slavery, violence. In this way we leave the world better than we found it, and begin to clean up this disastrous mess we’ve allowed to go on for far too long.

 
Yours,
Marisa
 

I’ll make it to the next one

(Originally posted in Phreddiva January 7, 2013)

Or, “Don’t Call it a Hobby”.

This post is long overdue.
No, it’s not directed at you. It’s a general, long-brewing feeling. It has been exacerbated recently by people being very. very. very. excited about my upcoming wedding. This is awesome. I’m excited, too. When people are more excited about that than they are about a performance, it’s confusing and, well…hurtful. Sit back, have a drink. It’s gonna be a long one.

First of all, the people who attend my shows humble me. Their effort acknowledges the culmination of 30 years of work, and they make me cry with their support. It means… the world. My world. It means everything. This is not about them.

It happens Every. Fucking. Time.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your show. I’ll try to make it to the next one.” What follows are a litany of excuses that are the reason I’m not a manager for money. I don’t care. I don’t care why you didn’t go, and your need to awkwardly defend your choice of time and money is degrading to both of us. It is not a priority for you, and I understand that. And that is fine, for fuck’s sake, it’s beyond fine. We have lives, we have priorities, and we cannot all be best friends. Who has the time? So this isn’t about not going to shows. It’s only partially about the gross excuses with which we all feel the need to placate each other. It is a lot about a few other things.

If you know me, you’ve heard this first part of this before, and it bears repeating – I have been doing this, as of September 2013, for 30 years. 30 years I have been performing. Rehearsing. Dedicating time and effort at a rate of, oh, let’s say 100 hours of rehearsal/practice per 1 hour of performance time, for … well, longer than most people have been doing most things. Longer than most people my age have been masturbating. Think about it. At that age, to go to school, then go to rehearsal while other kids were doing homework, then come home and do my homework while other kids were watching TV. And to practice at home on non-rehearsal days after school. Every day. And weekends of music theory and rehearsal and performances. Since I was *7*. Yes, it’s dedication. Yes, it’s an insane amount of time and, yes, it’s a practice the culmination of which can be observed. For, theoretically, entertainment. You hate opera? Fine. I’m not the biggest fan of kids (except my nephew. he doesn’t count. he’s cuter than all other kids. and smarter.). Hear me out, I’m going somewhere with this.

If we are lucky, we have dear people in our lives. We enjoy them, what they have to say, their insights, conversations with them. We become friends. We support each other’s endeavors – we go to their birthday parties. We go to their weddings. Their baby showers. Their bridal showers. Their Landmark Shit. Hopefully, they celebrate ours. If we are fortunate enough to have artistic and creative friends, we support them. We buy their wares. We purchase their services. We promote them. We attend their events. This is what friends do.

Now. Sometimes. Occasionally. Ok, often, there are people who fall into the category of traditionally accepted milestone celebrations (birthday/wedding/baby/showers/yaddayadda) who do not participate in the latter, creative milestones (making art. opening a store. starting a clothing line. whatever.). We are provided opportunities to support their life choices. This is fine. This is great. Good for them. Where this falls off is when we celebrate them, and their choices, and then… well, and then they don’t support ours.

Here’s where the outcry of time and money comes out. And where I say… bitch, please. We all have 24 hours in a day. Most of us work 8 of them and, in the Bay Area, commute for two more. This leaves 14 hours for most people, minus the 6-8 we sleep, to prioritize. Weekends? Weekends, parents Parent, creators Create, homeowners Homo… wait. You get my point. We have the same amount of time in the world, and how we fill it shows the world, and those closest to us, our priorities. So, if I attend your performance/talk with you on the phone/send you a card/go to your kids’ birthday/go to your birthday/attend your talk/send you a text/[even]post a funnny to your facebook wall because it made me think of you/help you to promote what *you* create, these are my ways of prioritizing you. They take time. Additionally, if I need to purchase a gift or service I’ll try to purchase it from one of my creator and/or business owner friends. Because I want to support them more than I want to support some stranger. Because I want to see us all be successful.

2013. In addition to the shedding of unhealthy habits and relationships, one of the themes is reciprocity. In work, in love, in relationships, in friendships… in everything.

Some unpleasant truths come up when we look for reciprocity. When we are not mercenary, necessarily, but we look at what we give, in time and in energy, and what is returned. And, folks, the numbers, they aren’t adding up.

All you had to do to get to be a year older was not die. And, you know, given the odds of 2012… thanks for that.

For your kid to get to be another year older, all you had to do was not kill your kid. Good on you.

For me to get on the stage with a leading role in an opera takes… well, more work and more years and more dedication and tenacity than most people who haven’t done it can conceive. In addition to those years of work, years, dedication and tenacity, it takes approval from other people over whose judgment we have no control, and constant, inexplicable rejection by them. And, after each rejection, we do the impossible – we get up and ask for more. And they wonder why artists are nutty and hyper-sensitive. Point being – I had a show running for 4 weeks last year. The previous one of this magnitude was in 2005. I have no guarantees of another, and any noises people make about their certainty of my having another major role (closer to their home, for their convenience) show an utter ignorance of this field. “I’ll come to the next one” is hollow and downright infuriating. I perform all the time. One a year, one every 18 months, the Big Ones? Not asking too much from people who call themselves friends.

Additionally, a performance is entertaining. Music is FUCKING AMAZING, and opera, holy shitballs, this shit is difficult and incredible. What it takes emotionally and physically is like a trapeze workout, jogging, and an all-night fight with your lover that ends in incredible sex, all at once – trust me, I know; I’ve done the legwork. And the armwork. And the… yeah.

What we do for FREE when there are more people onstage than in the audience is the last trembling leaf of fall – bittersweet and brilliant.

Is it worth the cost of two drinks? 1 fancy drink + tip in San Francisco? 3 packs of cigarettes (I’ve no idea; I haven’t bought cigarettes for a boyfriend since I can remember.)?

The outliers are people like my friend Suzanne, who has a toddler, an infant, is pursuing her own operatic, teaching and directing career, and makes it to a significant number of my performances. Oh, did I mention she drives up from Gilroy? In return, I come to as many of hers as possible. We make it a priority.

For someone to live in the same area and not have *specific plans* or illness the evening of a major performance, then call themselves my friend and miss said performance in the same breath…well. You and I have different definitions of friendship…friend.

I would much, much rather a person celebrate with me my specific, directed, hard-won life choices than celebrate a milestone that simply means I’m above ground. If it’s not a priority, that’s fine, but please, don’t invite me to your birthday party. Thanks for not dying. I’ll try to make it to the next one.

No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer

I am the Program Manager for a lab/think tank of mad, wonderful, creative, fantastic, hilarious, witty and kind scientists, innovators and engineers within a large software company. Mostly, I work to get our scientists’ crazy creations (usually in the form of algorithms) into our software, and I help innovators to build stand-alone apps out of these explorations. I’m not in tech support, HR, design, marketing, branding… any of that stuff. To say I adore the work I do is a gross understatement.

In the past week, I have been tagged in two negative FB posts about my employer (like I’m going to approve that; you’re why Zuck made timeline review), contacted at night via text to bitch about my employer, and emailed several times with tech support requests. This is in one week, folks. This says nothing of near-strangers who mispronounce my name while asking me for free software, or wildly unqualified people I barely know asking me to get them a job.

Now, I love some of you. I like some of you. Others of you I tolerate. Still others of you I keep around because watching your facebook antics is better than going to the movies (and I really just don’t like leaving the house). This isn’t about just one of you. This is about the entitled feeling that some of you apparently harbor that I can be some sort of punching bag / answer portal / rant receptacle / Santa Claus for a giant organization.

Feeling the need to respond to these things is the kind of thing that got me where I was in March. Because apparently that sign that says “don’t come near me, I’m kinda unstable” on many people’s foreheads says “no seriously, I can handle it” on mine. NOT responding feels *amazing*; I’m doing that almost exclusively now (except when someone contacts me via work email to report a bug. YES. Go for it; I’ll get it to the right place, and I am literally vested in making our products better; you know who you are. Same goes for close friends; the ones who were invited to our wedding but are too shy to ask for software. Seriously. YOU’RE the ones to whom I want to give my 5 discounts a year.). But with everything else, I’ve crossed over to where I should have been with this before; annoyance. Seriously? If your first response when you’re annoyed at my employer is to contact me via private channels and/or during off-work hours…please just go ahead and fuck right off. If we’re not super-close, I’m not giving you my very limited software allotment for the year. And don’t get me started on the awkward dance of telling an acquaintance why they’re not qualified to work at my company. I don’t come to the place where you make sandwiches and bitch about your corporate advertising campaign. Have some respect for boundaries or, if my employer is the only reason you have contact with me, go ahead and click “unfriend” and delete my contact information.

And will someone please get me this? It’s juniors so it’d have to be XXL.

It’s still better than when I worked for Kaiser.