I seem to remember a time, oh so many years ago, when my parents rented “Top Gun”. (On VHS, from a video rental place, so back in the Stone ages.) I remember sitting in the living room, all of us together as a big, happy family, when Tom Cruise showed up sweaty and late for dinner for whoever that woman was. It didn’t matter what her name was because in my mind I was her. (What can I say, I was 11, it was early Tom Cruise, before we all knew how fruit loops and short that man really is.) And as they finished their dinner and things started getting sexy, my Dad jumped up from the couch and hit fast forward. At that moment I swore to myself that I would never shield my kids my things I didn’t feel I needed to be shielded from, like sex. I knew about sex, I’d been forced to read a book about my body and boy’s bodies, I knew, or at least thought I knew the score. Fast forward 25 years later and I laugh at my younger, silly self and not just because I thought Tom Cruise was hunky. Since the day I had my first child, I have rarely watched a channel other than Nickelodeon, Disney, or PBS. Even when Cecilia was a newborn I worried about the subconscious messages her newborn brain was receiving from any of the shows or movies we watched. Friends was too sexual, Seinfeld too jaded, not even The Daily Show was appropriate for my children’s ears, not because of the show’s content, although sometimes racy, but because of the commercials. Comedy Central at 11 pm is a whole lot of strip club and condom commercials. I can’t let them watch that, then I have to explain what those commercials are for! Horror movies were absolutely out of the question and my husband gave up on trying to watch The Walking Dead because there was never a time he was awake and home that the kids weren’t around and if he did attempt to watch it I was right there tsking my disapproval till he turned it. Hey, I am the one that was going to have to deal with the nightmares and field questions about a future zombie apocalypse, not him. But now, after years after watching children’s television, I have discovered that it has changed me irrevocably. It has made an unrelenting optimist who constantly reminds herself “Kate, you can be anything that you wanna be.” It has turned me into a woman who starts every cleaning session by inspiring the kids by singing “What’s gonna work? Teamwork! What’s gonna work? Teamwork!” I’ve been known to sing Barney’s “I love you.” song when the kids are feeling low or happily get the mail with a serenade from Blues Clues because “Here’s the mail, it never fails!” I mourned when “Drake and Josh” was over and still happily watch the reruns.I find myself waiting for the new episode of “I Didn’t Do It”, wondering of Jasmine and Logan are going to get together. I want to find out how K.C.’s family is going to get away from Zane on “K.C. Undercover”. It’s to the point where, even when the kids are st school, I watch Disney. When they’re in bed, I’ll still be watching Disney. In fact, I know that when ” The Suite Life of Zach and Cody” comes on, its time for me togo to bed. I don’t know if it’s a matter of this is what I’m used to watching? Is it simply because it’s soothing to have the sounds of children, even when they’re not around? Or is it a matter of simply being too lazy to find something else to watch? Particularly when I have to find the remote and usually batteries. I’m not sure but its something to think about while I watch the last episode of the three part “K.C. Undercover” special; I recorded it so I could watch without interruption.
I guess it’s really my fault. I had a headache and I wasn’t in the mood to care yesterday. You know how it is, some days I’m on my game, telling kids “NO!” left and right, making them pick up their things, do their homework, and if I’m really good, even cry. That’s how I know I’m doing my job properly. Yesterday, however, was not one of those days. I was in an “I don’t care.” frame of mind, hoping to be left alone to wallow in misery of the gong solo going on behind my sinuses. So when Ellie asked me if she could give Manny (the 3-year-old mutt, pain in my ass) a bath, I didn’t think about it too long. Manny doesn’t fight you to take a bath, even though it’s not something he enjoys. Once you get him in the tub, he flops onto his back and lays there like a stinky, furry lump. So I’m thinking, worst case scenario, the bathroom is soaking wet when she’s done. So I told her “I don’t care.” I should’ve cared. From my room, I could hear Ellie tell Simon to help her with Manny. I should’ve known then that a 10 year old and a 6 year old bathing a dog could never end well. But the gongs in my sinuses were distracting. So I didn’t stop them. I just listened to the sounds of Ellie and Simon luring Manny into the bathroom with a treat, the bathroom door slamming shut, the water turning on. Ellie and Simon were laughing and having a good ol’ time and I think that is when I fell asleep. I awoke to Manny racing into my bedroom, leaping onto the bed, where his soaking wet self shook all over me, then he darted off downstairs. A laughing Ellie followed him down he steps, towel and hand. Then a wet, naked Simon shot past the door. Apparently, Simon had decided he wanted to take a bath with Manny, hence his wet, naked self. I didn’t think much of it, all seemed normal really. Wet, naked Simon’s running around are pretty normal, the boy loves his baths. I mean, sure, taking a bath with the dog is kinda gross but the boy takes at least three baths a day, so i knew it was just a matter of time before he got back in the tub to wash off any left over dirty dog water. When I got up and went into the bathroom, I was impressed that the floor wasn’t an inch deep in water, and really all seemed to have gone well with the bathing of Manny. Great! Then I spot it. The jar of Blue Magic Coconut Oil. Now, if you’re not familiar with Coconut Oil, this stuff is basically coconut scented Vaseline. It is made for use in the hair of black people, you know to help control the fro’. I’ve used it myself to tame my own fro but a small dab on my fingertip is all I need for my entire head; this stuff goes a long way. Now, the entire reason I have this is because of lice. Don’t act like you or your children haven’t had it. I remember sitting in the office, when I was in kindergarten, and being so excited that I got to go home from school because I had lice. I remember seeing my Mom walk down the hallway and jumping out of my chair and exclaiming loudly for all to hear “I get to go home because I have lice!” Last year, when one of children got lice, a friend told me that she used the Blue Magic Coconut Oil in her own daughter’s hair and it worked better than any other lice treatment. So I decided to try it. Once. One time, I slathered that gooey stuff all over my child’s head and combed through it. Sure, it got all the lice out but afterwards, there was no amount of washing that would remove that stuff from the kid’s hair! I washed and washed that child’s hair with hot water and Dawn but for 3 days afterwards, the child looked like a poor, homeless waif, unable to even wash the grease from their hair. I swore then and there that I would never use that stuff again for lice. But I didn’t throw the jar away, that would just be a waste. Certainly, there were other uses for the stuff right? Well, Ellie certainly thought so. See, she determined that if coconut oil was good for treating lice, then certainly it would be good to use on Manny for fleas and ticks right? So she scooped herself up a big handful and coated Manny in Blue Magic. From the top of his head to the tip of his tail, she covered Manny with coconut oil, rinsed him off, toweled him down then released him back into the world. So when he shot straight to my room and jumped on my bed, he left a Manny print of oil. When he ran down the stairs, he wiped himself along the way on every step. He hopped up into Dylan’s lap, then into a basket of clean folded laundry. Dogs are quite generous like that; if they’re wet, they want to make sure that you and everything else, get wet as well. Every dog I’ve ever had has made damn sure that as soon as they escape the bathroom, they will shake in every room, next to every person, and lay on every couch and chair. But this time, it wasn’t just water and wet dog smell to worry about. No, every place that he goes, every chair he sits on, every blanket he lies on, every leg he rubs against, every hand that reaches to pet him, are left greasy and smelling of coconuts. Manny himself, still looks like he’s soaking wet, even 16 hours after his bath and who knows how long it will be before all this oil is out of his fur. Yep, I should’ve cared. Next time, I’ll think twice before saying “I don’t care.”
I remember distinctly the day my parents brought home my little sister Kelly from the hospital. I have a clear image of tiptoeing softly into the room with the white and blue speckled carpet, making a steady line for the crib, opposite the door. I remember a beam of sunlight shining down upon the crib, like a spotlight, or a beacon, calling to me to come look upon the face of this new human being. I stopped in front of the crib, peered down at the soft little ball of hair and chub, leaned in and whispered “I hate you.” That is my first memory of my sister.
I know its not particularly nice and doesn’t reflect particularly well on me, but I wasn’t known to be a nice child. I was stubborn, grumpy, and quite vocal about things I didn’t like or agree with. (It seems I was born with the feeling that everyone should not only listen but care about what I have to say.) If you look at pictures of me as a child, I will 9 times out of 10 have my arms crossed in front of me and a deep frown set on my face. Whenever relatives gave me a character it was always the grumpy one, Grumpy Smurf, Grumpy Bear, whichever one was the whining, complaining one, that’s the one they picked out for me. I had also, to that point, been the baby of the family it was me and Sarah. Sarah was the oldest and my other boss and I was the baby. That seemed good enough for me and I wasn’t too fond of being replaced as the baby. Sarah still got to be the oldest but now I was nothing.
These facts don’t excuse my behavior when I was 5, and met Kelly for the first time but they do provide a little insight into the kind of child I was. Now, fast forward a few years, I’m 10, Kelly is 5 and we are forced to share a room. I, at the ripe age of 10, am being forced to share my personal space with a baby, she’s only 5 for corn sake! Worse yet, the girl snores! At the tender age of 5, the girl snored like a hibernating bear. Sharing a room with her was like trying to sleep next to a lawn mower. One sleepless night that followed weeks of other sleepless night, I had finally had it! I had to do something! I stomped over to her bed grabbed her nose and pinched it shut, none too nicely. She snorted and shook her head, but after a second, continued on sawing logs in her nasal passages. Now I was feeling desperate, there is no waking this Bear, no getting her to stop. In my frustration, I picked up a pillow and slammed it on top of her head. Now, in my defense I had no intention of actually smothering her, but she didn’t see it that way when she suddenly awoke with her pillow over her head. She of course told my parents I tried to kill her. She was always a tattle tale like that. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was not to try to kill my sister, no matter how loud she snored.
Now, fast forward to this year. All my parents children are living in town. We often get together for birthdays, holidays, or just to hang out together. All of our old fights and grudges have been if not forgotten, at least not mentioned anymore. I’d say were all pretty close, as far as siblings go. Andy and I have six kids, of course, but none of our siblings have any kids. Andy and I often talk of how great it would be for someone else to have a baby. We love babies. They’re so sweet and easy. They don’t go anywhere, the don’t break things, and if they cry you change them, feed them, rock them. And if this child belongs to someone else, we have the ultimate luxury of sending them back to their parents. But, alas, after witnessing Andy and I raising our gaggle of goofballs, none of our siblings seemed interested in having some goofballs of their own. So I resigned myself to the possibility that I may never get to be Aunt Katie. Then my sister Kelly shows up with a white stick in her hand. I didn’t even have to look. I’m familiar with the white and stick and quickly realized that she wouldn’t be bringing me a pregnancy test if it wasn’t positive. I hugged her and laughed, half out of happiness for her, half out of happiness it wasn’t me for once.
Then the unthinkable; she moves to Florida. Sure, I knew that was the plan for her and her man, but that’d been the plan for a year and it hadn’t happened. Surely, now that she was pregnant she would stay in the bosom of her family. But no! She packed up and went to Florida! Just when she gets pregnant! For years and years, I wished, hoped, prayed, she would move to Florida, or anywhere that wasn’t in a room with me. All those long nights listening to the girl snore like she had a party horn shoved up her nose, wishing she had never been born, had never been moved into my room but no, she stayed. Then, as soon as she gets herself knocked up with my first nephew she moves a thousand miles away! Sure, we talk, she sends pics but it’s not the same. He was born 3 weeks ago and I haven’t had one whiff of that new baby smell. I haven’t had a chance to rock him and sing “Rock a bye JD” or give him a good night song. For the first time in my life, I am anxiously awaiting to see Kelly. It may have taken 30 years but I’ve finally progressed from “I hate you.”, “I want to kill you.”, “I tolerate you.”, “I like you.” To “I can’t wait to see you.” I think that’s pretty good progress.
I haven’t showered in two days. Not because I don’t need a shower, because I do, and not because I don’t have the means of taking a shower – we have a shower, it has water, I have the capabilities. The problem lies much deeper. Right now, at this point in my life, showering is an ordeal, and for the past two days the stars have not aligned to allow the time and opportunity to shower. Here is how it’s gone down: I think to myself: Kate, no one is in the bathroom, now is your big chance! Jump in there! But wait, impulsive Kate! I can’t just go into the bathroom and take a shower, I need things, like a towel and clothes. See, around here, you can’t ever count on a clean towel in the bathroom. It doesn’t matter whether I just washed every towel in the house, folded them, and put them into the bathroom, the next day, a clean, dry, towel is nowhere to be found. Now, I say “clean and dry” because there is always that chance that someone finished using their own towel and said to themselves: Hey, you know what? If I take this wet towel I just used and put it back in with the clean towels, it’s like I never used it right? So if I want to make sure that I have a towel, I have to make sure I carry a towel in with me. Also, I need clothes. This house is the neighborhood hub for children in the three block area. I can absolutely never risk walking out of the bathroom in only a year old, partially shredded towel that covers just two-thirds of my bits and pieces. And naked is not possible. Even if I had personally driven all the kids across town, locked all the doors, closed all the curtains, and turned out all the lights, I would not walk out of the bathroom naked. Some child would take an unlocked attic window as a “Come on in!” sign to see if we’re home. I can’t risk it. So towels and clothes must be gathered to take into the bathroom with me. But those things are never where they should be. Like a dresser, they’re always scattered about. Underwear in the dryer, bra in the washer, shorts in the waiting to be folded basket in the basement, and a shirt upstairs in a waiting to be put away basket. Towel? Screw it! I’ll use Andy’s that he hung up in our room after he took a shower this morning. I’m tired of looking by this point. Unfortunately, I have been spotted. Kids start popping out of the woodwork:
“I want a drink!”
“Make me a peanut butter and jelly!”
“Paul won’t let me play on the PlayStation!”
“Mom! Tell Simon to leave my stuff alone!”
“Uh, Ellie’s Mom? Have you seen my brother? He needs to go check-in.”
“Are you taking a shower? Where are you going?”
“Mom’s taking a shower? Wait! I have to go!”
“Where are you going Mom? Will you buy me some gum?”
On and on it goes, until I simply stop taking requests and answering inquiries. At this time, I make my grand announcement: “I’m going to take a shower! If anyone has to go to the bathroom, this is your big chance!”
Everyone ignores me and goes on about their business. Since I have closed the “Katie’s Customer Service Desk,” no one is interested in what I’m doing anymore. Let’s assume, for this scenario, that the bathroom is empty. It happens, sometimes. Once I’ve made it into the bathroom, I lock the door, take a deep breath, release it into a groan, and look at myself in the mirror to admire how old I look these days. Faint lines ever deepening into wrinkles, skin that’s simultaneously dry and greasy, speckled with more blackheads than I ever had as a teenager. I fruitlessly pluck at the gray popping out, like wiry antennae, and start the shower. Two minutes in, Simon barges in. I wonder: Why did I even bother locking the door?
I know it’s not going to hold him back, but still, I lock it in desperate hope that this time, this time, he will not be able to come in. But Simon always comes in while I’m showering. He sits on the other side of the sink, unable to see me, but knowing that I will not be able to escape the house without him being aware. Because he knows, he always knows, that if I’m taking a shower it means I’m going somewhere, and if I’m going somewhere, he wants to go, too. But if he’s not in the bathroom, there is a chance, a slim chance, but still a glimmer of hope, that I could escape the house without him. Simon’s not taking that chance. So he sits, and waits. By this time, someone else has been overcome by the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. I can only hope that it’s only number 1. They burst into the bathroom “Sorry Mom, I gotta go!” Why didn’t they have to go 10 minutes ago when I announced my intention of taking a shower?
The world may never know. They spot Simon and immediately begin fighting with him to get out of the bathroom. “Get out! I have to go!”
“I was here first! Go downstairs!”
I, of course, tell them both to get out, but I must have slipped into French without realizing it because no one seems to comprehend: “Both of you get out!”
Of course, it’s not until I announce, “I’m getting out of the shower!” that anyone makes a move to actually get out. That is one blessing, my kids never want to see me naked. Maybe that’s how I can get them to go to bed. I’ll just make 9 pm Mom’s naked time and they will never come downstairs after 9 pm again. I take my time getting dressed. I brush my teeth for the full 2 minutes, apply hair product and lotion to all my bits before I bother with getting dressed. Finally, I open the door to the bathroom, clean but decidedly not refreshed, and there sits Simon. “Ready to go Mom?”
Yeah, I’m ready; to install a super-secret Mom shower.
Last week, I sang a song to the kids, loosely based on “Goodnight Ladies” from “The Music Man” and it goes like this “Goodnight, Bear. Goodnight, Bear. Goodnight Bear. It’s time to go to bed. I love you Bear. I love you Bear. I love you Bear, but it’s time to go to bed.” Naturally, each kid wanted their turn being sung too and it was great fun giving them bear hugs and singing, especially to the kids (i.e. Dylan) that don’t like to be sung to. However, I warn parents to think twice before starting these cutesy things, like singing each kid a song before bed because now, I will be singing this song for all time. It’s gotten to the point, in one short week, that Simon will not even go upstairs till he’s been hugged and sung to. I know, you probably think it sounds sweet, but the reality I’m facing is that now I will be singing this songs, six times a night, till, I don’t know, Simon goes to college. Alright, so maybe not college, but even if I continue singing it every night for a year, that’s 2,190 times singing this little spur of the moment ditty. So just know, whatever you do once, I hope you are prepared to do 2,190 times.
Let’s take a little trip back in time shall we? The year is 2004, it’s April in Ohio, the ground has thawed, the birds returned from their winter getaways, I was just weeks away from graduating from Wittenberg University and I was being a royal bitch around the theatre department. I’d made it clear to all and sundry that I was done, d-o-n-e, done with theater and all its drama and once I walked out of there with my diploma, I was never walking into another theatre again.
“You’ll be back.” One of my professors said to me one day when I was on my way out. “I don’t think so Jimmy.” I replied with a chuckle, trying to keep it light.
He wasn’t having any of it though,
“You’ll be back. I know you will. You would’ve never made it this far if you didn’t love it and you can’t give it up. It’s in your blood. You may say you’re tired and to hell with this, I know I have. I tried so many times to quit, but I came back. And you will too.”
It was the greatest compliment I’d ever received from Jimmy, and probably the most serious discussion we ever had but it’s seared onto my heart. But there was a lot more going on than just what was on the surface. I growled that I was burnt out, tired, and just ready to be done but deeper than that I was also angry because while all my fellow seniors were taking their degrees and moving on to bigger and better things, I was pregnant with number 4, the only thing I was moving onto was more diapers and less sleep. But even deeper than the pure jealously of the other seniors planning their internships, fellowships and whatever other “ships” they were planning, there was an underlying anger that was directed at me. Because I knew what everyone else didn’t, that the only thing stopping me from pursuing my own career in theatre, was me. My own mind had betrayed me.
I know I’ve talked about my panic attacks before but only up until I got diagnosed but the battle with panic attacks goes further than just a diagnoses and medication because even though the attacks themselves had faded, the effects of having my brain sending a false message of danger had already taken it’s toll on my psyche. First of all, when you have panic attacks, there is always a worry that you will have a panic attack which, ta-da, creates panic attacks. So whenever I was out and about, I’d have this nagging thought of “Am I going to panic? Is it going to hit me right now?”
Also, anytime I would start to feel uncomfortable, I would start to feel the panic coming on. It’s like a gauze curtain hung between me and the rest of the world. I could see and hear, but I wasn’t really a part of what was going on. I would start to feel light headed and unbalanced. I would start to wonder if people noticed that there was something wrong with me. Then I would worry that there was something wrong with me, maybe I was dying, maybe I had some kind of undiagnosed condition, or maybe I was just going crazy.
So I started avoiding any situation that made me uncomfortable. Even my own family holiday filled with boisterous Italians was too much for me to take and I started coming late, and leaving early to any and all family functions, which didn’t endear me to anyone.
My comfort zone got smaller and smaller till by the time I was graduating from Wittenberg, I had only 3 places I felt totally comfortable, home, Kroger’s E. Main, and Wittenberg, and I knew I was about to lose one, which would make my world even smaller. And all this is happening at a time when my world should have been opening up into limitless opportunity.
So I growled and acted like a 10 year old sad because it was the last day of camp, so instead tries to ruin it. I convinced myself that I would be perfectly content being at home, raising my family, creating my perfect nest and just enjoying all the things I hadn’t had time for the last few years.
But the thing about that plan was as it turns out I’m total crap at all those happy homemaker things. I have absolutely no eye for color and decorating, cleaning is a futile effort that has about a five minute satisfaction time on it, and dealing with money is just always depressing since we never have enough to go around. It also turns out that while I love and adore my kids, they ask way more questions than any person can happily answer. I start off the day well, but by the end, I just feel like a failure as a mother when I’m hiding in the basement, hoping no one comes looking for me to ask me anything.
So overall I felt like a failure at home, at all the things I should be able to do, I am a college graduate for goodness sake but yet, so inhibited by my own anxiety, that I felt like I couldn’t do anything else.
I also felt alone. I didn’t have classmates anymore, all my friends were still swinging singles, and everyone who had kids my age where older and already established with their own friends.
So I continued on with the day to day life, but inside I was miserable, depressed, and anxious. That went on for about 4 years. For 4 years, I had nothing to do, no one to do it with, not that I would’ve done it anyway.
But then, in 2008, things started to change. Andy really started it, by forcing me to go out with him. He would line up a sitter and make the plans, do everything but push me out the door because he knew that I needed to get out. But, Andy was deciding what we did and where we went and it always seemed to be the same thing, go see a jam band that he wanted to see. Now, I got nothing against jam bands, but that’s Andy’s thing, not mine. So one day, after we had gone to see Government Mule and Dark Star Orchestra,
“I want to pick out the next thing we do.”
I think Andy was just pleased as punch that I would suggest we go do anything, so he happily agreed and asked “Who do you want to go see?”
“Oh, what’s that one guy you made me listen to and then we downloaded his album? You know the guy with the funny name that sounds like a black blues singer.”
“Langhorne Slim?” Andy asked, and before I could even agree he was looking up his tour schedule. And lo and behold, it was my lucky day because Langhorne Slim was playing just an hour away from us that Saturday night.
I felt like the god’s were on my side when I managed to talk my mother in law and my parents into babysitting for us. I called my sister and a couple friends and invited them along, and everyone was so surprised that I would call and suggest we go out, that they all agreed and didn’t much care what they were agreeing to.
You ever have one of those nights when you just feel like something big is going to happen, well, that’s how I felt that night driving to Columbus with my sister, brother in law, and Andy. I didn’t even talk much; I just wanted to get there. When we did finally arrive and meet up with Chris and Lauren, who lived in Columbus, I was a jittery nervous, but not panicked, just feeling good. And as soon as we got into that little nothing bar, that could hold maybe 200 people, because it didn’t have any tables or chairs, I saw it, the hat. Now, I’d only seen some grainy footage of Langhorne Slim and there wasn’t much I could discern except that he wore the same beat up hat all the time it seemed and I didn’t recognize the guy under the hat, but I knew that hat, and I knew that Langhorne was just milling around before the show started. But it wasn’t until a little while later, that I got my chance to talk to him. He was just standing outside the bar, all by his lonesome, so me being me, decided to take my opportunity
“Hey, I’m sorry to bug you, but can I get a picture?” I asked.
“Sure, if I can have a cigarette.”
That was the first time I talked to Langhorne Slim. He came over to our group, introduced himself as Sean and I gave him a cigarette. We started talking as though we’d known each other for years and for probably 20 minutes like he had nothing better to do. Other people would come up and talk, one guy even came up and asked us if we knew whether this Langhorne Slim guy was any good, and we all tried to keep a straight face when Sean replied “Well, I think so.” People would come and get a picture, but he still kept up the conversation with us and by the time he left to go up onstage, all I could think was “God, I hope this guy is as good as I think he is. I would have to think that someone so nice sucked.” But as it turned out, there were no worries From beginning to end it was amazing to watch and by the time we left I was in speechless wonder that someone so incredibly talented was playing in some shitty bar in Columbus Ohio.
All the way home I was consumed by thoughts why, why is so much talent going unrecognized. That night when we got home and the next day, I started researching, and strategizing. It was like a switched had just been flipped in my brain. The curtain had been lifted and I was part of the world again. I was using my knowledge, my experiences, and my own brain again for something that didn’t’ involve kids.
I put together some solid ideas of promoting Langhorne Slim and sent them off in an email to an address listed on a MySpace page, and a couple days later I hear from his agent. He likes my ideas; he wants to give me a call to talk, would that be alright? Alright? Are you kidding me? It was awesome! Here I had someone reaching out to me because they liked my ideas and thought I had something valuable to offer. I couldn’t believe it and the most amazing thing was I was excited again.
I hadn’t even realized that I had been missing that in my life. I hadn’t even noticed how isolated and repressed I had come. I had simply been responding to the events in my life instead of playing and active role in shaping them and I felt reawakened to life.
For about a year, I had the opportunity to work with Langhorne Slim, and I use that as a general term for the band as a whole. We would talk; I would get inside info and opportunities to go to any show I wanted. I got meet fans from all over and once again I was part of something and it felt amazing. My thoughts and ideas were valuable and respected. I got to watch my plans come to fruition and to share in the joy of the fans when things I already knew about, sometimes things I had created were unveiled. I felt in touch with the world again. Was it a devastating success? No, not really, not in any measurable terms in the world of business, but it was a success for me. It brought me back into the world, reminded me to stop looking at my world with such narrow eyes and to realize the value of myself.
Now, in June of 2010, Sean signed with Dolph Ramseur, another agent, and as soon as I heard the news, I knew I was out. Ramseur is a solid agent with his own team of people, and they wouldn’t need me. I wasn’t happy, I wished they would’ve wanted me too, but I wasn’t upset and deep down, I knew that it was time for me to stop riding Sean’s coattails and make my own way.
It took another year for me to finally get up the courage to try, but stand up comedy was something that always been in the back of my head as something for me to try before I die. And when my work with Langhorne was over, the idea planted itself in my brain and wouldn’t let up. I had to try. I had to see if I’d finally conquered my panic attacks, if I was finally ready to make that last leap into recovering myself again.
I challenged myself by going to Slim shows by myself and by flying to Austin with Andy, if I could go onstage and not panic, well, then I would finally feel whole again, ready to embrace new challenges.
I was scared shitless when I went into the Wiley’s Fireworks Comedy Contest, and looking back on it now, I’m glad I didn’t realize what I was in for. I really had no business stepping up onto that stage for the first time in the middle of the contest full of seasoned amateur comics, because if I had known, I wouldn’t have done. And that would’ve been shame because that was truly the one of the most satisfying experience of my life. I honestly walked off that stage not caring if I was dead last, I had done my five minutes, I didn’t choke, I didn’t panic and people laughed.
After the show was over, other comics started coming up and giving me their cards and asking my questions about where else I’d performed. It was just like that first night talking to Langhorne and the people I’d met going to shows, that feeling of camaraderie and understanding. It’s just as great as actually being onstage, that feeling of once again being a part of a group, feeling like I fit in and yes, feeling like I’m really good at something.
Now, as I’m just days away from my first time producing, promoting and performing my own show, I can’t help but look back at how far I’ve come. From once feeling like I had no options, to now feeling like there just isn’t enough time for all the things I want to accomplish. And that’s why I will always love Langhorne.
Can men and women be friends without sex being an issue? I’ve had this debate with many people and interestingly enough, it’s almost always the men who say no and the women who say yes. So really, who am I to disagree with what so many men have told me, that men will not be friends with women they aren’t interested in sleeping with? But I think there are a few different things going on to simply say “yes” or “no” women can’t be friends. First of all, we need to define “friends”. I’m going to define the “friends” in this blog, as someone who could spend a couple hours with and not feel awkward. If you can go out to dinner together, to the movies, or just hang out for an evening and not feel strained, then I’d say you’re friends. Now clearly, men and women can hang out together, but will a man bother if it’s not someone he wants to sleep with? I guess that’s really what we’re asking ourselves. Of course, I’m a woman, so I say yes but there are a couple of fundamental issues that make pure platonic friendships difficult, though not impossible.
First of all, I think one main issue is that men don’t generally see unattractive women. No man is going to go out of his way to make friends with an ugly girl. They’re just not and not so much because they’re jerks, but I think because they simply don’t pay any attention to ugly girls. So if you are going to be friends with a guy, chances are you are either an attractive women that they are interested in from the get go, or through common friends or interests, you are forced into contact enough that you become friends. And I think particularly for us over 30 folks, it’s almost always the latter. And for most people I think, if you’re attracted to someone and are unavailable, you’ll probably not go out of your way to be friends with them, knowing that would be risk to your relationship. But I also think that attraction is something that either exists or doesn’t and I don’t believe that being friends with someone long enough is going to make that attraction suddenly appear. I don’t think you are friends with someone then one day realize, “Wow, I find them suddenly very attractive.” No, you knew you were attracted to them from the beginning and if you choose to pursue a friendship with them anyway, well, you were playing with fire and if things progress past friendship, I don’t think it was really an accident or the natural result of male/female friendships. So, if that attraction simply doesn’t exist from the beginning, why not be friends. Unless men believe that women have nothing to offer them except a shot at having sex? Is that what you’re saying gentlemen?
The second issue that I think makes it very difficult for men and women to be friends in general, with or without attraction, is simply that men and women are friends in completely different ways. Women are emotions, feelings, dreams, and men are facts. When I talk to one of my female friends and they tell me they are seeing someone new, I immediately want to know name, date of birth, where he was born, who his parents/siblings are, where he graduated from high school, the status of his relationships from the last 2 years and whether or not he’s ever been arrested. Then after I gather as much info as possible, I’m going to call up another friend and find out what she knows about this new guy.
“Hey Tracy, do you know a Mark So-and-So, he graduated a year ahead of you?…What? Come on, you’re kidding right? They called him what? Alright, I gotta call Mandy back.”
“Uh Mandy, so I talked to a friend and she said that she knew Mark in grade school and that apparently he had a nose picking problem. Yeah, they used to call him Mark the Muncher.”
That’s how women do it. We investigate under the authority of our friends best interests. But that will never happen in a male/female relationship. First of all, the chances that a male friend will tell you about someone he’s dating are slim. In fact, getting a man to talk about anything involving feelings is pretty much an impossibility. And it’s not that men can’t identify and express their emotions, it’s that they will never admit it unless they’ve been weakened by sex and if you don’t have that tool in your arsenal then you will never be able to penetrate the fortress of male emotion. As women, we like to dissect our emotions (that’s why we fume all day, so we can figure out exactly why we’re pissed; is it because of the disappointment, because I’m having a bad day or because you’re a moron?) but men will barely acknowledge any emotion. So as a woman, if you can handle having that kind of relationship that lacks any emotional depth, than yes, you can friends with a man.
The third thing that I think makes friendships between men and women difficult is simply dealing with the suspicious minds of others. If you are friends with a man and he gets a new girlfriend, I can almost guarantee there is going to be questions are suspicion. If you are already in a relationship and try to bring in a new friend of the opposite sex, well, that’s almost a sure fire way to get yourself into big trouble. I think old friendships can be maintained but new friendships are impossible if you’re already in a relationship. But even with old friends of the opposite sex, as soon as someone mentions the possibility of something more between you, it makes it difficult to go on like normal. Even if you’re not attracted to the other person, just knowing that people are watching you, wondering if the two of you are having an affair, makes it almost impossible to not make both parties uncomfortable and once that suspicion is out there you become very aware of every word or look passed between you. I’ve seen it in not only my friendships with men but also in my husband’s friendships with women. Even though we trust each other implicitly, the reaction and questions of outsiders, makes me leery and it’s easier just to avoid the situation all together.
Finally, I know that men and women can be friends without sex being an issue simply because I know that there isn’t a man out there looking at me and wishing Andy were out of the way, so he could have a shot at this. Therefore, male/female relationships do exist. Case closed.