(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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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.

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.

John Doe has the upper hand

It’s been a rough week for men. We’ve laid a lot of knowledge on you and it’s been … a lot. I, literally, can’t imagine. The floodgates are open. What women have known their whole lives is being suddenly laid bare and it’s coming as a shock. I’ve been conditioned through a series of ongoing experiences, and people are responding in various ways to my verbalizing this conditioning. Instead of asking me to change or defend my conditioning, some men have acknowledged the situation and are taking on the challenge of changing the condition. They’re amazing, but they certainly have their work cut out for them. 

What got me here? A partial list. Warning; you will not, think of me the same way after reading this. So go carefully. Most of the time, I care about taking your feelings into account when voicing my opinions. This is not one of those times. This is a partial list of times when not only were my feelings not considered, but I was viewed as what many men see when they look at me; a receptacle. 

On the other hand, if you want to know why I joke about even the most awful, inappropriate things… look no further! Because, with shit like this, one must laugh.

Between the ages of 5 and 7, I was molested repeatedly. When my mother, rest her soul, finally found out, she blamed me. I should thank her, because multiple therapists (the rapists! I crack me up.) have said that my immediate rebellion against her blame led to my identifying as a survivor, not a victim, and my questioning of authority, which is part of my charm (I made up that last part).

When I was 8, my parents went on a rare vacation. They were gone for a week. The couple taking care of us assigned the household chores to me and my sister, as my brother clearly would not be assigned any chores.

(When I was 12, I began working out 3.5 hours a day. When I was 15, I was able to bench-press my own weight and have never been able to bench-press less.)

When I was 18, my boyfriend anally raped me during sex while I quietly whimpered and said “no”. If you wonder why I didn’t fight back more fiercely, you’ve never had an unlubed dick in your ass that you didn’t want there. Years later, he emailed me to “talk about it”. I ignored that. Last year, mutual friends invited him to an event where I was singing and, though they knew there was “history”, they didn’t know anything specific, and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want everyone to be uncomfortable. 

When I was 19, I left a bar on the arm of a new beau. A jealous woman (not someone with whom he was involved) emailed him later, referring to me as a “sweetmeat”. My IQ is 156.

When I was 19, I was in London with a boyfriend. I wore a miniskirt. We walked by a bar and an African man got his hand up my skirt and grabbed … everything. I turned, screamed, called him the n-word and spat on him. He laughed, and I was humiliated because I’d never called anyone that, ever, before or since. I am still ashamed.

When I was 20, I waited for the 71 (or 7, or 6) on Market after a goth night at DV8. A yuppie in a BMW pulled to the bus stop, pulled out his penis and began masturbating while looking at me. I had a knife in my hand the whole time. I still hate the 3-series. At least the men who thought I was a hooker when I waited bus stops were honest, propositioning and then apologizing and driving away when they realized I wasn’t for sale.

When I was 21, I got my motorcycle license. Please don’t get me started on the ridiculous shit people say (“Do you ride a motorcycle?” WHEN I’VE JUST PULLED UP ON IT) to a woman on my motorcycle. Just know that the chapter starts here.

When I was 21, and Bondage a Go-Go had just been on TV for the first time (after I had been attending for 2 years), my ass was pinched. It had been a safe place. I have been back once since then, wearing long pants.

Between the ages of 24-26, I was in polyamorous relationships and learned how men respond when your answer isn’t “I have a boyfriend” but simply “I’m not interested”. Hint = it’s not good.

When I was 24, I bought my cadillac (now an art car) from the priest who baptized me. He grabbed my ass three times during the transaction, saying “that’s good stuff”. It’s hilarious now because it has to be.

When I was 25, friends watched while my boyfriend screamed at me for minutes upon minutes upon minutes in the parking lot after a thunderdome fundraiser. My response to being screamed at is to shut down; I don’t find responding to emotion with emotion to be productive. He shoved me, though was careful to do it in a way that no one saw it. The only people to do anything were two friends who called me the next day to check on me; one, a male friend with whom I’m still close, was angrily telling me I deserved better. No one ever spoke to him about it, though many people knew him. A female (no longer a) friend maintained her friendship with him and accused me of lying.

When I was 27, I wore a catsuit for Halloween. A drunk male friend grabbed my ass repeatedly. I told him to stop. He said “we grab your ass! That’s what we do.” He didn’t listen to me. He got a talking to by two of my angel male friends who had to be convinced to not physically hurt him. Final resolution came from a personal apology visit with a mediator. 

When I was 28, I had a gig at the St. Francis. In a rare turn of events, I was allowed to keep the suite overnight and invited a friend. We pushed the bed up against the window so we could watch the sun rise over the city with nothing between us and the window, like flying over the city. I felt magical, wonderful, overjoyed to celebrate the city. I went out to buy overnight supplies for us – ice cream, wine, contact lens solution. On the way back from the store, a guy walking by grabbed my ass. I dropped the groceries, breaking some items, and cried. The guy kept walking. My friend asked why I hadn’t done anything, hadn’t even hit the guy. I didn’t have a good answer.

When I was 29, Luke left me alone in the car at night to go to the ATM. While Luke was 15 feet away, a man approached the car to talk to me. When I looked away from him, he approached Luke to distract him while another man approached the car. I rolled down the window to call to Luke and only then did he, sweet man, realize what was going on. I was furious with him for not being more aware.

When I was 32, I bought my beautiful home with my then-boyfriend, now husband. It came with a hot tub. My neighbor made sure to tell me how much he likes when my lady friends come over and hang out in the hot tub. We are right now in the process of building a solid wall on that side of deck.

When I was 34, I went to Italy for the first time and realized why Italian men think American women are easy; we are so unaccustomed to positive expression of romantic interest that I’m sure any American woman in her twenties would fall over with shock of flattery, convinced her suitor was in love.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called a bitch or a cunt for not responding when someone approaches me with something like “hey, are you spoken for?” or “you wanna get with me?”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been followed (ladies, if this happens in public, I spit. I want to make myself as disgusting as possible. If it happens in an isolated location, I sing opera loudly. I also walk down the middle of the street, singing and carrying a knife. I would rather look foolish than (see above)).
I can’t count the number of times I have been told to “smile” and then been called a bitch for not smiling.
I can, on two fingers, count the number of times a man I didn’t know bought me a drink and told me I was beautiful. Both didn’t even try to engage me in conversation. It was so flattering, I’m still in shock.

But I’m sure these are isolated incidents. I’m sure most men are great. I’m sure I don’t need to be on my guard, and I should probably fear this equally from women. No need to worry about your daughters.

They’ll just end up on the pole (see how I joke?).

It’s all in your Head

This may come across as ranty. That’s because it is. A few weeks ago, as many of you know, I had a brief trip to the hospital. As many others of you know, I was diagnosed with severe panic disorder in 2000.

Based on the responses I often hear about panic attacks, it means, it must mean, that people are misinformed. Or, they’re assholes. As Hanlon said, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” So I’ve opted to write this in the form of a PSA, and swap out “stupidity” for “ignorance”.

It’s a Tuesday night. I’ve gotten home from work at a reasonable hour, and am sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, a couple of sips in. I’m relaxed, and my husband has just gotten home and is starting dinner. Life is good. I got enough sleep the night before, ate two regular meals that day. Suddenly, the corners of my vision start to go black, and it feels like my brain is pulling away from the inside of my skull; not pain, just dizzying disconnection. I go to move, but my arms feel insanely, insanely heavy, like I can’t move them at all. I decide to go to the bathroom and have a glass of water. Because I am pretty sure I can’t stand up without fainting, I crawl to the bathroom, and ask my husband to talk to me the entire time through the door, to ensure that I haven’t passed out. My limbs feel like dead branches. When it doesn’t get better after a few minutes, I call an advice nurse while my husband drives me to the hospital. I pick up the cat and cuddle him and say goodbye before I leave. I am not convinced I’m going to see him again. The advice nurse tells me to get to an emergency room and, when my husband drops me off so that he can go park, they take one look at me and let me immediately in without going through the metal detector. When I check in and tell the receptionist my symptoms, I’m triaged first.

(It’s all in your head.)

The medical tech immediately calls an ER doc and, within minutes, my husband is there, trying to remain calm, and I’m being hooked up to an EKG. My blood pressure is 146/110. I’m normally 100/70. Check out this informative link.

My bloodwork is good. Great. I think I’m the only person who ever came into an ER who said they had a half glass of wine who… actually had a half glass of wine. I’m in very good physical shape; I work out constantly. I had to explain the rope burns on my legs to a confused-looking ER team.

So, what does it mean?

(it’s all in your head.)

As with so many things, I think the first issue can be attributed to a language problem. The word “panic” invokes visions of hysterics, waterworks, deeply emotional responses. I’ve come to refer to this as an anxiety attack. Those are easy…simple. There’s usually an obvious trigger; a stressful day at work, not enough sleep, being hungry, anticipation of a stressful event, any number of things. These can often also be mitigated with a few easy… Well, a few simple, tricks. Get enough sleep. Eat. Don’t eat a lot of preservatives and crap. Eliminate drama in your life. When you see something stressful, take a step back, and take a deep breath. Easy. Well, simple. This is not meant to minimize the seriousness of anxiety attacks – just an effort to highlight the differences. Knowing that you’re having an anxiety attack can make it better. Being unsure whether it’s a panic attack or heart attack makes a panic attack worse, without the victim knowing why.

When I mentioned that there is a good chance what I experienced may have been a panic attack (we’re still checking it out), the first question I get is “what triggered it?” My snarky response is often “having panic disorder.” This blog is basically a long and (slightly) less snarky version of that same sentiment. For panic attacks, there is rarely one trigger. If there were an obvious trigger, I could point it out, freak out, call it anxiety, take a Xanax and be done with it. No, a panic attack is something much more sinister. For reference, please check out the link above.

(It’s all in your head.)

But numbers don’t lie. So, you’re sitting on the couch. You’re relaxing. You feel the need to respond to every email you get from every acquaintance that you have, asking for a small favor or response, you feel obliged to do it or risk people not liking you, or calling you a flake. There is nothing in this world worse than being called a flake. Every week, 15 to 20 requests flow in that have nothing to do with your day job, or singing, or even with your work for Thunderdome. And why do these requests keep flowing? Because I have always, always said yes. I have always responded, regardless of the nature of the request, without a lot of thought about the minutes/hours it might take to respond properly and thoughtfully. I never just say no. I have always figured, it doesn’t cost me anything to help people out. I could not have been more wrong.

(It’s all in your head.)

I have a career about which I care a great deal. A flourishing and rewarding singing career. A madcap working vacation in the desert and an endless stream of requests from people who apparently can’t read meeting notes. (I love you guys.) These things are a constant, pervasive pressure. I am well equipped to handle these things, and they fulfill me. But the nagging trickle of everything else? The inability to say no, or even just to delete? Impossible. My inbox, on Tuesday, March 4, was full of “this will just take a second” requests. In reality, full of requests whose responses will take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, most of them from acquaintances. Nothing against acquaintances but, when you have a lot of them, there will naturally be more requests. And so it was, but on the evening of Tuesday, March 4, my head decided it was time to rebel against me. Being Marisa was a trigger.

(It’s all in your head.)

The second response I get is “I’m glad it wasn’t more serious”.
They haven’t done the research, they haven’t looked at the numbers, they haven’t seen what an incredible killer this is. The symptoms have a lot in common with those of a woman’s heart attack. That’s why they send you to the hospital.

There there’s the “It’s all in your head.” You know what else is on your head? Schizophrenia. Every thing you have ever learned. Every feeling you have ever felt. Migraines. Love. Pain. So, the next time you get the urge to tell someone that panic is in their head, go ahead and take a mallet and slam it into your foot as hard as you possibly can. I work out a lot, so I can do it if you’re worried you’re not strong enough. Then, as your nerves are sending screaming messages back to your brain, begging you to stop, remind yourself.

(It’s all in your head.)
Better yet, tell a woman in labor that the pain is all in her head. See how that goes for you. Or, if you’re diagnosed with really, crazy, life-threateningly-high blood pressure, just know that it’s all in your head – you can just think your way out of that stuff.

My solution? It seems to be working well. I’m telling people that it’s like I’ve been in a car accident. My body’s in shock, and recovery is slow, and foggy. And that’s after Wednesday the 5th’s weepy ativan hangover wore off. First of all, this whole seven hours of sleep thing is pretty amazing. My body responded to this experience by practically insisting on seven hours of sleep a night at a minimum, and it is fantastic. Of course, I think this detracts from my catlike state of readiness, but I can do this for now. I’m not making plans, I’m not saying yes, and I’m not allowing myself to feel even the smallest bit of pressure based on other people’s expectations. This is the biggest one. When you spend decades saying yes, accommodating every tiny request that comes your way, you set certain expectations of your behavior. That ship has sailed, my friends. And my acquaintances, especially. If someone thinks it’s personal, well… that’s all in THEIR head.

Not allowing myself to feel pressured by other people’s expectations has yielded amazing things. It’s given me vast insight into my amazing friends; the people who are jealously guarding my time and my health. The people who have not seen this as an antisocial act, but a changing of the guard, openness for more spontaneity. I’m not deciding in advance when I don’t have to. And so I find myself doing amazing things on the weekend, or when I don’t have rehearsal. Free, uplifting, amazing interactions that could never have happened in an overly scheduled life. I am free to let go of interactions that were largely one-sided. The Friends I’m gaining through this process, the friendships I get to nurture, are so incredible and fulfilling, that I fear what would have happened had I not ended up in the hospital, had I just kept going on this path, filling every moment with the lowest common denominator responses for the lowest common denominator interactions, never making room for the amazing ones with which I am now rewarded.

I’m a silver lining person. I have found the good in the worst of situations; it’s my combination of snark and optimism that has kept me good-natured through nasty terrain. Maintaining this new world order (now with slightly less order(tm)) will take vigilance and attention; no more setting and forgetting. It will take some re-setting of expectations. I will be ok. I will. It will just take time, it will look different. I will be different. I’ve spent a lot of time taking care of my body; in addition, I’m going to be taking care of my head.

EKGBoobs