Songs for the Struggling Artist


The Change, the Phone Booth and a Sense of Doom

On my 40th birthday, I was struck with a sudden and horrifying sense of fatalism. I figured I’d over-absorbed the cultural preference for young women, that I’d over-attached my sense of self-worth to my youth, even though I thought I knew better. I figured that the reason I felt like I was turning 80 instead of 40 was because I’d skipped the mandated mother stage and just went straight from maiden to crone.

Then, recently, on a podcast, the guest mentioned that “a sense of impending doom” was a very common experience for women going through what used to be euphemistically called The Change.

Now – a lot of us have a sense of impending doom these days, what with the political landscape looking like it’s auditioning for a post-apocalyptic B movie, but my sense of impending doom hit even before the actual impending doom. So I suspect it’s partly the hormones shifting in a changing body.

About two years ago, out of the blue, I began to get headaches. Weird ones. According to the docs – it’s migraines. And they have been debilitating, disabling and pretty much took over the last two years of my life. I saw four different neurologists and headache specialists. Not one of them suggested that this sudden late onset of chronic migraine might be a result of perimenopause. Not one. It took the mother of a friend telling me about her migraines ending after menopause and suggesting mine could be the start of that for me to put the possible pieces together. Do I know for sure that this migraine situation is perimenopause? Nope. That’s not really a thing that’s knowable.

You know why? Because despite the fact that every (cis) woman who lives long enough will go through it, there’s no real medical conversation about it. Despite the fact that there are very real, very serious, very debilitating experiences for many women in the middle of that transformation, no one seems to be addressing it. So many women my age and older have been struggling all on their own with this or that symptom, while there may be a common explanation for our pain or our sense of doom or discomfort.

Perimenopause is the process that leads to menopause – menopause being the definitive end of the menstrual cycle. And of course, this kind of reverse puberty, is a perfectly natural organic process. But just because it’s natural and organic, doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble and that we shouldn’t understand what’s happening. Childbirth is also perfectly natural and organic but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand all of its phases and aspects. Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble.

And I have run into trouble. Many of my friends have also run into trouble. And I find myself pretty furious about how little the medical establishment has to say about it.

In this same time period, my doctor insisted on my getting a mammogram. Just because I am 44 and now’s the time when they give them. There’s quite a bit of controversy about the efficacy of all this breast screening – quite a few people have suggested that it may do more harm than good. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family and there was no reason to suspect anything wrong but my gynecologist said she couldn’t give me the medication that might help with the hormone migraine situation without one.

So, there I was in a women’s imaging center, getting my boobs squished in a machine and then called back the next day to have them squished another way because of “asymmetries” and then be sonogrammed and pushed around with a sonogram wand and after all that stress, it turned out my breasts were fine. As we thought.

So here I am, having a completely unnecessary set of procedures that are uncomfortable, stressful, anxiety producing and time consuming – while the thing that is actually wrong, that is actually causing chaos in my body, goes completely unaddressed.

And sisters, I got really fucking pissed about it. I suddenly felt like – oh, this goddamn medicalized world is like a Hollywood adolescent boy – obsessed with boobs and vaginas (-we’ve been pried open by speculums from an early age-) but not particularly concerned with what is actually going on inside the person. The fact that we have this insane assemblyline for mammography and no understanding or plan for perimenopause is ridiculous. Yes – breast cancer screening is important. I get it. But not every woman gets breast cancer (gratefully!) And almost EVERY SINGLE (cis) woman will go through perimenopause. That’s half the adult population.

And before it (maybe) kicked in for me, I knew next to nothing about it. And I’m a pretty reasonably informed woman.

I knew about hot flashes. That was about the extent of it. Which you know – it’s okay. I’m allowed to not know things – but I get the sense that that’s all a lot of doctors know about menopause as well.

Here’s the thing – aside from compulsory mammogram and pelvic exams – women’s health is dramatically under examined. For the majority of modern medicine’s history, men have been seen as the norm and women as the deviation. In clinical trials of many things, only men were studied and the results were applied to women. And one of the extraordinarily infuriating facts about this is that women were excluded from such things because we have a menstrual cycle. So rather than study the hormones or the varieties of the menstrual cycle – science and medicine have mostly just told women to go ask our mothers. (An actual thing a doctor said to a woman asking about menopause.)

In treating my (possible) perimenopause symptoms, I’ve seen four neurologists, several physical therapists, two opthamologists, two behavioral optometrists, tried antidepressants, anti-convulsants and endless triptans. The first thing in two years to make a real dramatic difference is a low dose of estrogen. I mean…here is modern medicine looking at everything but the source, everything but perimenopause.

No one wants to talk about perimenopause or menopause. It is incredibly taboo. Initially, I suspect the more medically accurate language was supposed to help us make it less so. Like the movement to use anatomically correct language for our genitals, calling menopause menopause was once thought to be a way to liberate us from the stigma. But I don’t think it has.

So, I’m liking “The Change” – even if it sounds a little old fashioned. It is a good descriptor for what I’m experiencing. It makes me feel like a superhero in mid-transformation. I’m Peter Parker in the process of getting bitten by that radioactive spider. It doesn’t necessarily feel good during the transformation itself but once I come through it, I fully expect to be a more powerful superhero on the other side of it.

And since no one can tell me whether or not the change I’m in the middle of is actually perimenopause – since there is no medically precise definition of this moment for me – The Change is actually a more accurate description of what is happening to me. It’s certainly A Change if not The Change. And a lot of my friends are also going through A Change. A transformation. We’re going into a phone booth – like the one Clark Kent changes into Superman into. Maybe since we don’t really use phone booths anymore, we could co-opt the word. Like, when I explain what’s been going on with me these last few years, I could just say, “Well, I’ve been in the phone booth.”

Because, while these headaches suck, a lot, while it has been no fun in this phone booth, I will say that the benefits of this transformation are not bad. Pretty much everything that drove me crazy about myself in my 20s has faded. In my youth, I was constantly beating myself up for being too nice, for putting up with things that I didn’t like, for not saying what I thought. And I have, as I have entered the phone booth, grown much bolder, much less concerned about others, less fearful and much more direct and clear. It’s everything I wished I could be twenty years ago. The phone booth has these terrible health side effects but it has given me the super power of transforming myself into the person I wanted to be and never thought possible.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me make it through my time in the Phone Booth?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 

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TV Folks Feeling Uncomfortable

Reading excerpts of a roundtable of TV showrunners made me unexpectedly angry. I found myself throwing down the magazine. There seemed to be a general consensus that the “Me Too Climate” was inhibiting their work as comedy writers. Showrunners, male and female, bemoaned the PC atmosphere.

And it made me mad. Not because I don’t understand. I understand that a certain amount of freedom and safety definitely helps the creative process. I understand that continually censoring one’s self can put a big obstacle in front of creation. But….a lot of us have been dealing with that our entire creative lives.

I don’t really feel bad for people who suddenly have to hold back from saying their misogynist joke or their racist joke or whatever ugliness they feel they should be able to just let loose with.

I don’t feel bad about these folks who suddenly have to be a little more self-conscious for fear of saying something inappropriate.

Some of us have had to be self-conscious this whole time. Some of us know how to make jokes in an inclusive way. (If you don’t think it’s possible to be funny and also kind, listen to the comics on The Guilty Feminist podcast. It is entirely possible to be funny and sensitive to power dynamics, race, gender and ability. Or listen to Cameron Esposito do crowd work. She brings everyone in with inspiring warmth and hilarity. And, of course, if you haven’t seen Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, get on that.)

But the folks running TV shows have generally been in The Business for a while. They came through the ranks when the ranks required a comfort and ability with working with the status quo. They are the Establishment.

In order to become a part of the Establishment, you have to have had a certain level of comfort, ease and understanding of the status quo. You have to have been okay with the bizarre power dynamics and the bananas world of mostly wealthy white men making the majority of the decisions. Most folks who made their way to the top of a media chain did not get there on the back of nuanced feminist or racial sensitivity. That’s not how you get to the top in TV.

I’m not saying everyone who works in high power positions in TV are complicit in mounting sexist, racist and abelist structures but a lot of them are.

And now as the big players in their industry begin to tumble down, people are looking to them to say something to address things that they are frankly ill equipped to address. There is a shifting of the balance of power happening, for sure. But it’s a looking glass world.

I saw, in this same magazine that I threw down in fury, an advertisement for a conference on change. It was clearly an attempt to help guide people through the shifting sands of power, to address sexual politics and new norms. But of the maybe 12 speakers, there was only one person of color. And one of the lead presenters was a white haired man who appeared to be about 75 and is the “Creative Ambassador” at Barneys. These are the people folks are looking to help them through a changing landscape? I mean…

It just suddenly struck me that rather than reach out to the people who have been historically shut out of those worlds, they’re just asking the people inside the gates to do things a little differently.

Instead of hiring people who have been working for racial equality and gender equality and disability rights and so on, they’re turning to the people who never cared about those things and asking them to figure out how to address them.

And you know, I don’t object to all those folks getting more woke, as it were. That’s great. Let’s wake everyone up! But…I don’t really have the patience or the good will to watch celebrities and TV execs learn about feminism from each other. It’s just not that interesting watching them make mistakes we all made back in college.

I’d rather watch W. Kamau Bell get given four shows to develop and Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher’s shows get picked up by a major network and then get three more. I want to see Hari Kondobulu and Negin Farsad on TV all the time. I want Zach Anner to have a show.

I mean…I just don’t feel bad for those still holding on to their comfortable jobs and finding it a little less comfortable. It should be a little less comfortable. It’s your comfort with how things were that contributed to the ickiness of the media culture. Stay uncomfortable. Stay present. And invite some other people in.

And listen, I don’t really have a dog in this race. I have no ambitions to work in TV.

But I do suspect the same mechanism is already at work in theatre, where I DO have ambitions. I’m sure that, as the big companies are making their reckonings, they are not saying to themselves, “Hey I wonder if we could bring in some people who have been working in feminism or racial justice or disability rights and produce their plays, for a change?”

Nope. I’m pretty sure the first order of business will be to turn to the people already inside and ask them to write (or direct or create) something on the topic they’re hoping to improve their image on. Mark my words, we’re going to see Neil Labute’s Me Too play before too terribly long or David Mamet’s. And I’m sure it will sell a lot of tickets, Lord Help Us. But…I’d rather see a big theatre stage all the feminist writers who have writing without reward in the trenches for years. Or hire any number of feminist directors who have not gotten the work offers they should.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this time theatre won’t follow TV the way a little sister follows the older one. Maybe this time theatre can lead the way and invite in all the folks who have working tirelessly on the fringes. Maybe.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You can help support my lifelong work on the fringes

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



Everything Interesting Happens at the Edges

I remember reading about this concept in a book or a magazine or publication of some kind. I wish I could remember what the book or magazine was or who wrote it – but the memory is just at the edge of my consciousness, the way the beach is at the edge of the sea, the way the spaces between us are the places that intrigue, the way disparate parts meet each other somewhere, the way the edge of a bubble is what is vulnerable to popping. The margins, the edges, the fringes are where we are drawn again and again. That is where the action is.

I was thinking about this idea again while watching the first stages of the inspiring, intrepid Monica Byrne calling out large institutions of American Theatre. I could not help but imagine how the insiders of the American Theatre Bubble would react and respond to her criticism. I thought – “They’ll label her an outsider. They’ll question her credentials. They’ll dismiss her as someone outside the bubble, throwing stones. They’ll say she’s only criticizing because the big institutions haven’t produced her work.” I have no idea if anyone actually said that or thought or whispered it in their boardrooms – but I have seen it happen before in theatre and in many other arts and arenas. And it is why and how I am usually dismissed myself – so I’m pretty familiar with the pattern.

Seeing it outside of my own experience, though, I started to understand that criticism usually HAS to come from the edges, from the margins. Those of us at the edges have much less to lose by telling truths. (And to be clear, I think Monica is as much a theatre artist as any of the major theatres that she has tweeted to, if not more so – but there is a very narrow band of insiders that I mean to point to, the ones with deep pockets and endowments.)

Before I quit being a teaching artist, I had a lot to say about the field and what I saw happening in arts organizations but I did not feel free to share any of those things until I was prepared to give them up. My sense of freedom to say what I felt needed to be said was in direct proportion to how much I wanted and/or needed to keep my jobs. That is, while I was an insider, it was not in my interest to directly confront or address any inequities, injustices or problems in the field. Inside, I was relatively powerless to point out things that needed change.

It is not an accident that I started this blog around about the time that I realized I was not going to be enfolded into the arms of my theatre establishment. I am able to say what I say because I am in the margins.

I can almost guarantee that should, by some crazy miracle, one of my shows be suddenly snapped up by a major regional theatre or a Broadway producer and whisked into rehearsal, that you’d be hearing from me on this medium a whole lot less.

This would not be because I’d suddenly lose my brain, or my interest in changing the system. It would be because a) I’d be busy in rehearsal and b) it would not be in my best interest to compromise the one place in theatre it might be possible to make a real living. (Though you might hear a lot from me once it was all over!)

This is why you I’m blogging now. I’m in the theatre bubble enough to be able to see it but not enough to be risking my livelihood or relationships in talking about it. I’m not a complete outsider. I am a part of theatre community but I’m on the periphery and it is almost always the periphery that can point to real change or possibilities.

If you’re an institution, if you’re on the inside, and you don’t know what to do to fix the status quo, look to the fringe. Look for who is missing, bring them in and ask for their perspective. I’ve seen institutions try and make change from the inside. They ask employees to fill out surveys or do exit interviews. But those folks can never be fully honest. This is not because they lack honesty or awareness. This is because even if they’re done working with a theatre this time, they’re thinking about next time, or the way this gig might lead to the next. I have been honest at such things because I was asked to be and realized too late that honesty was not the savvy move.

A while back, I wrote a post called The Woman in the Room and it was about what it takes to stay on the inside, to tenaciously hold on to the little patch of ground one might have gained. It was for all my friends who were berating themselves for their complacency in the face of sexism in American Theatre. I said then and I will say again, that if you are a woman on the inside of the establishment (and/or anyone whose representation is negligible in the theatre,) you have to do what you have to do to stay there. We need an inside (wo)man. We need you in there. Fight when you can while you’re on the inside. Maybe gain some more ground to bring more women (and people of color, disabled people, transgender people and non-binary people) inside the establishment doors. Support those on the outside who are more able to fight for you and bring them inside when you can. And hang out at the edges. They are the most interesting places after all. They are where change is happening. Where change is possible.

 

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You can help me keep challenging the status quo

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



My Dentist Thinks I’m Cool
May 8, 2018, 10:49 pm
Filed under: age, business, feminism | Tags: , , , ,

The last time I was at my dentist’s office, he passed by while I was in with the hygienist, waved, said hello and then, as he walked away said, “You’re so cool.”
It was very charming and he said it in such a way that made me feel very cool. Like he’d just seen Lou Reed or something. Or Laurie Anderson.

And my dentist is also pretty cool. He has this extraordinary quality of being genuinely excited about teeth while simultaneously being exuberantly curious about the people those teeth belong to.

But that day, the day he said I was so cool, he did something kind of uncool. Instead of giving me the dental exam himself, he sent in his new partner. He declared that I would love the new guy and that the new guy would love me and then my dentist was gone.

You may not be surprised to learn that I did not love the new guy and I’m pretty sure the new guy did not love me. The new guy barely even saw me. He was polite enough. He smiled and asked how my day was going but it was pretty much like talking with a flight attendant on the way out the door.

Now why did my dentist, who thinks I’m cool, who has a sense of me as a human being think this guy was so great? Probably because that guy is great to him. Me, though, the new guy just saw as a lady in her 40s with a set of teeth that were going to help him get paid that day. To him, there was nothing to see. He had no curiosity about who was in the chair in front of him.

I’ve come to recognize that sense of not being seen, particularly by younger men. The socialization of women being valued only by their youth and/or beauty means often that men, like the new guy at my dentist’s office, only manage the bare minimum of social politeness with women like me. The new guy will never think I’m cool. Not ever. Even if I came in arm in arm with Laurie Anderson and Kendrick Lamar. Not even if the entire cast of Hamilton sang me an entrance number and surrounded the dental chair.

And I don’t need my dentist to think I’m cool. It’s nice – but it’s not what I go to the dentist for. However it IS what I pay extra for. Not the coolness part but the being SEEN part. See, I have, periodically, in brief interludes, had dental insurance and I saw other dentists (some adequate, some rough, some appalling) but none of them saw me. And I went to see my dentist, even though he didn’t take my insurance. I could have gone elsewhere for cheaper, but I came to see him because he saw me and that seeing was coupled with a kind and gentle quality of care that was worth a lot to me.

But…I won’t go see the new guy. And I probably won’t see my dentist now either since there’s a good chance he’ll just toss me over to the new guy. I’ll go get my teeth cleaned and x-rayed and examined at a cheaper, less cool office my next go round.

And if I’m very lucky, there’s a chance that the new place will have someone who’ll see me and maybe, if I’m extra extra lucky, just maybe think I’m cool.

Laurie Anderson is SO COOL. SO COOL.

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You can help me keep me be cool

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



Migraine and the F-ing Patriarchy

Warning: There’s a lot of swearing ahead. If swearing bothers you – just skip this one. There are very few sentences below without expletives. If you love swearing, keep going. This post is for you.

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This week, I watched a series of videos as part of the Migraine World Summit. One of the doctors asked a question that made me sit up and take notice. It was “What is the migraine trying to protect me from?”

I wrote it down. I decided I’d think about it, maybe write down some ideas, see what bubbled up in a long contemplative session with my pen. Maybe I’d uncover some deep secret about the migraines that came into my life in 2016. Maybe something about a food allergy or an environmental trigger. Maybe it’s my hormones?

On my way to go do this, as I was walking, I just sort of casually asked myself, “What is the migraine trying to protect me from?” And the thought came through like a shout. It was “THE FUCKING PATRIARCHY!”

I laughed out loud in the middle of the street. Oh. Okay. I guess it’s the fucking patriarchy – no long self-examination needed. I hear you. It’s the fucking patriarchy.

I can’t say I hadn’t thought of this before. My migraine situation kicked in in the summer of 2016 when the election was kicking up extraordinary misogynistic dust and I was sneezing a lot and every time I sneezed, shooting pains ran up the sides of my head.

But maybe it was my eyes? Maybe it’s my age? Maybe it’s the weather?

For almost two years, I’ve been wrestling with a mysterious migraine climate in my head, a world with seemingly no clear triggers, a world that has been disabling in many ways. Because I have been relatively healthy before this late onset patriarchy allergy, I have not been clear about how I want to talk about the experience. Because the American Health Care system is an immoral mess and we’re living in a surveillance capitalist dystopia, it felt like maybe keeping my diagnosis under wraps was the safest move.

But after listening to doctor after doctor on the Migraine World Summit describing the stigma their patients endure, I just can’t be quiet about this anymore. Not now that I know the migraine is trying to protect me from the fucking patriarchy.

“But Emily,” you may be saying, “how does a condition that compels you to stay home in a dark room with ice on your head protect you from the fucking patriarchy?”

Well, if I don’t go out into the fucking patriarchal world, my only exposure to it is what I let in via the internet and what not and even that is a little too much patriarchy for me these days.

“But Emily,” you say, “this is crazy. Migraine is a neurological disorder that people have had for as long as we have recorded history. It can’t be an allergy to the patriarchy, probably even some patriarchs got migraines!”

Well. Maybe those patriarchs were allergic to themselves. But seriously. I’m not saying everyone’s migraines are trying to protect them from the fucking patriarchy – but mine are.

“But Emily,” you say (and when I say you, I mean the part of me that is also resisting this idea) “just because migraine is mysterious in its causes and mechanics doesn’t mean you can just go attributing it to the fucking patriarchy. There are many possible factors, environmental conditions, foods, stress, etc.”

Yeah, see – it’s that stress component that makes me think it really could be the fucking patriarchy. Because you know what really stresses me out? The fucking patriarchy. I mean, sure, it always has – but before 2016, I really thought we were on a positive wave away from misogyny and sexism and the fucking patriarchy. It was very stressful to realize that was not the case. And I’m thinking the migraine was like, you know what? Fuck this. We’re out. Take a break, let’s see if we can skip this fucking patriarchal clusterfuck that’s coming down the pike.

Would I prefer to not have the migraine protecting me? I would. I would rather have strength and will and many pain free days to kick the doors of the fucking patriarchy down. However – the migraine just wants to protect me from the fucking patriarchy; it’s not a logical rational thing that can distinguish when the appropriate time to do this is.

One of the doctors in the summit described the migraine as the “Check Engine” light of the body. He described a car going down the highway and when it begins to overheat, you have to pull over, take it off the road and give your car a rest. In other words, migraine isn’t so much the problem as the response to a problem either within a person or in the environment. The problem can be inside or outside. One doctor described the migraine brain as being a RESPONSIVE brain. It’s not just sensitive, it’s reactive.

That is, if the fucking patriarchy kicks into high gear all of a sudden in 2016, my migraine brain has a fucking response. When the fucking patriarchy is having the best couple of years it’s had in my lifetime, like it’s having a fucking patriarchal parade/rave/party, my brain will not allow me to go on, business as usual. The fact that I do not like the response, that the response is disabling and frustrating and all kinds of upsetting is a bit beside the point. My check engine light is on and I have to do something about it.

The difficulty is that this is not a diagnosis I can bring to my neurologist.
“Do you have a sense of what brought this on?”
“Uh, the fucking patriarchy?”
I don’t think this would go over very well in my doctor’s office. And even if my doctor was like, “Damn! Another patriarchy trigged migraine patient!” I’m not sure there’s much they could do about it. But the fact is, they can’t do much about it now.

Migraine is already woefully under-researched and underfunded. And the fact that 75% of migraineurs are women suggests that the medical field tackling this already have their own battles with the fucking patriarchy. Probably adding “the Fucking Patriarchy” to the list of possible migraine triggers, next to red wine, aged cheese and cleaning products won’t really help our case.

For me, though, hearing directly from my body’s inner voice that it’s the fucking patriarchy really clears a lot of things up. And I start to realize that the stigma and risk around disclosing something like migraine is also a factor of the fucking patriarchy. The fucking patriarchy suggests we should all work ourselves to death, never acknowledge “weakness” of any kind, never have an unproductive minute. The fucking patriarchy is Jeff fucking Beauregard fucking Sessions the fucking Third telling people with chronic pain to just take an aspirin and get back to work and the entire fucking GOP who worked like hell to deprive millions of people of their health insurance. The fucking patriarchy thinks having health insurance is a fucking privilege – it thinks that only fucking wealthy white dudes should get to be healthy – and even then only when they “man up” and do the jobs they think are fucking macho enough.

But I digress. That’s one of the fucking symptoms of my fucking migraines – a lessening of my ability to focus, a brain fog, a blunting of my sharpness and an occasional swiss cheesing of my brain that happens when I try to deal with the fucking patriarchy.

And hey, all my fellow migraineurs (and there are a lot of you, I’m learning – 1 in 7 people) I obviously have no idea if the fucking patriarchy has anything to do with your migraines the way it does mine but I don’t think it would do us any harm to blame it anyway. If for you it’s red wine or dehydration and not, say, the fucking patriarchy, I mean why not just get a kick in for the fucking patriarchy. I don’t have a lot of hope that the fucking patriarchy is going down in my lifetime but I will happily kick it every chance I get.

When I’m lying in the dark with ice strapped to my head, fantasizing about a head removal service, I think I might just be able to muster a “and by the way, fuck you, patriarchy.” This morning, when I woke up with a different style of headache than I’m used to, one which I wasn’t sure was actually a migraine, I still blamed it on the fucking patriarchy. And you know what? I felt a lot better every time the words “fucking patriarchy” came out of my mouth. I blame the fucking patriarchy and I didn’t even care if this most recent headache was not its fault. But it probably was.

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You can help me fight the fucking patriarchy

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

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Keith Richards Wouldn’t Worry About His Bra

Like magic, a sparkly pink electric guitar came into my life a few months ago. It came to me with no amp, no chords, no case – just its sparkly pink self. And even though I’ve played guitar for a couple of decades, I had never played an electric before. It was a whole new world. I learned power chords, y’all. Before I started messing around with this, I did not even know what power chords were. I think I thought they were just regular chords you played real loud. I was stunned to realize that a lot of what all those big hair guitar dudes were doing on TV was not actually that hard. It was a whole lot easier than the finger-picking folk guitar I was used to, at least.

Anyway – the guitar was one thing. But then I got an amp.

I had been playing plugged in to my computer– and you know, it was cool – but when I got an amp, well, the whole world just cracked wide open. And it wasn’t just the amp, y’all – no. See, what happened was, on the morning my amp arrived and I plugged in, my in-house sound guy helped me set it up. He turned some dials. He nodded when I played some power chords. And then he turned up the volume.

The apartment is small. There are neighbors in every direction. But he turned up the volume to LOUD. And when I played, I giggled with so much rebellious glee. I mean – is this okay? What if I upset someone with my neophyte electric stylings? And then suddenly, I really didn’t care if I upset anyone. I felt the power of playing loud, no matter my skill. I didn’t have to be the best player in the world to turn that amp up and play loud. I could be the worst and still play loud. That’s the gift of rock n roll guitar, in fact. And it is a powerful gift.

This is an experience I want every woman to have. I want every woman to have the opportunity to have her sound amplified beyond other people’s comfort level, maybe even beyond her own comfort level.

At a Shakespeare panel discussion years ago, I remember Liev Schrieber talking about how transformative it had been for him to play Hamlet. He said he thought that everyone should get to play Hamlet once. He didn’t think we should have to see them all, because that would be awful – but everyone should get the chance to do it. I think everyone should get a chance to play Hamlet and ALSO everyone should get a chance to play an amplified electric guitar. (Maybe even at the same time. Go crazy!)

Playing like this is so antithetical to my feminine socialization that it is both challenging and exhilarating. It feels like seizing the reins of male power that I had never had access to before.

There are a lot of reasons that guitar playing can feel like a masculine kingdom to which I am not entitled. For example, I cannot think of a single guitar shop I’ve ever been in that was not populated almost entirely by men. Nor can I think of one where I felt completely welcome. I am always an interloper in male territory in a guitar shop.

But – in discovering the thrill of playing loudly and not particularly well, I felt like I understood something about male privilege that translates across media. A dude playing electric guitar loudly and badly is like a clueless mansplaining dude at a meeting; he’s not worried about how he sounds, he’s just enjoying the power of his amplified voice. And now that I’ve played my electric guitar loudly and badly, I too understand how I might enjoy being bold and loud in uncertain circumstances. It will be harder to turn down my volume than it once was and I may be less concerned about saying exactly the right thing. Turn me up, y’all. I’m ready to rock.

Are you wondering what Keith Richards has to do with this?
Well, the same morning I played loud for the first time, my in-house sound guy took a little video of my amp’s first outing. I objected to this video, when I saw it, as I was still in my pajamas, my hair was a mess and I was not wearing a bra. And then my kick-ass, supportive, rock n roll sound guy asked me, “Would Keith Richards worry about his bra?”

And the answer is of course not. Keith Richards does not care what he looks like. Most guitar rockers are similarly disinclined to style or grooming. And almost all guitar rockers are men who, of course, have no bras to worry about. That is rock n roll male privilege, man. But rather than rail about it, I’m going to turn up my amp and channel it. I might worry about my bra sometimes but whenever possible, I want to access the loud, messy, imperfect soul of a male rocker with endless swagger and a reckless audacity. I want us all to feel that sense. May we all have the opportunity to speak Hamlet’s perspicacious text and play Keith Richard’s bra-less rock n roll lifestyle loud.

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



How to Not Be a Creep
March 9, 2018, 11:58 pm
Filed under: advice, feminism | Tags: , , , ,

While grabbing a quick lunch, I sat at a counter by the window. I was in the middle of having a lovely peaceful eating experience when a man sat two stools down the counter from me. This was not a problem. Here in NYC, I have zero difficulty ignoring strangers nearby. However, this guy made my creep detector go berserk. My nervous system started sounding the alarm, “Creep alert! Creep alert! Danger! Danger!” And probably this guy was not a serial killer or rapist. Probably he was just some guy eating his lunch before going back to work but his creepiness rating was through the roof and therefore made my formerly pleasant lunch an exercise in survival. I really didn’t need that shot of adrenaline with my meal.

And assuming this guy wasn’t actually a rapist, it occurred to me that maybe he’d like to know how not to trigger creep alerts in every woman he encounters.

In this guy’s case, it was about how he was sitting. Instead of facing the counter and the wall, his entire body was turned out toward me. It was, in effect, a full body stare. And maybe he wasn’t actually creepily staring at me for ten minutes straight. Maybe he was staring out the window behind me. But generally only a creep has no sense of the lack of propriety about staring at fellow human beings.

A creep stands too close to you. A creep keeps talking to you after you’ve sent an “I don’t want to talk” signal. A creep will miss pretty much every single “I don’t want to talk” signal. He’ll talk to you even while you’re wearing headphones. And those are just the obvious creep behaviors. The ones that set off alarms are often the sort that I experienced at the lunch counter – a placement of the body that suggests a lack of respect for others’ personal space.

If you’re worried you might be a creep – you’re probably not one, as creeps don’t have that much self-awareness generally – but it is possible that some non-creeps might be exhibiting some unconscious creep body language.

So – to prevent creep-i-tude, I’d recommend learning some body awareness and spatial awareness. I don’t know where you get this outside of theatre training. In many of the physical theatre forms that make up my practice, we work on this sort of thing. But surely there are other ways to start to become aware of other bodies, other people in space. Dance classes might be good. Certainly getting a sense of one’s own body would be helpful through something like the Feldenkrais Method or the Alexander Technique. I think this would be the first step to learning how to not be a creep. Just learning how to negotiate your own body in space.

Once you know how to not radiate creepiness with your body, you will likely get better at adjusting creepy language. I’d suggest following KatyKatiKate or Caitlin Moran or Lindy West or Roxanne Gay or any other feminist writers. Paying attention to words they use can help you through tricky language waters. Or you can ask your non-creepy friends! Try the ones with lots of female friends – they’ve probably got a good handle on how to respectfully talk with women. Or listen to this India Arie song from 2002.

If you are actually a creep, well, please don’t pay attention to any of this stuff. It is actually pretty helpful to have signals flying off you that help us know to avoid you. But for anyone who’s just not sure, help is out there. You don’t have to seem like a creep if you’re not one.

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This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs and an album of Love Songs. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




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