Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I don't want to quit stand up

I think I want to quit stand up, but I am probably wrong.

Since starting stand up I have had men scream at me that I deserve to get raped, I have had men call me a bitch, cunt, and slut and I have had men clumsily kiss me against my will and then I threw up on them. Since starting stand up I am in a constant state of guilt and anxiety about being around human people socially and in big groups. Since starting stand up, I have been emotionally, physically, and psychologically exhausted. And in that constant state of unhealthy mental attitude, my self esteem is hovering around negative a bzillion. The stress of constantly failing at something I love so much has made my bulimia worse.

The problem isn't that I don't like stand up. It's that if anything I love it TOO much. Stand up saved/saves my life over and over again. I think it is the most beautiful and pure art form. I have never felt like I fit in before I started doing it. Ever since the first time I did stand up I felt like I was at home. And my heart is broken because I don't think I'm good enough to deserve it.

Every time I get heckled, lose a competition, fail an audition, it's just another message that I'm not built for this. I can write and work all day long, but at the end of the day I'm not naturally funny. My greatest fear is that comedy is an ingrained gift, an inherrent ability, not a just an aquired skillset, and that I just simply don't have it. I feel like I'm offending an art form whenever I go on stage. I feel like it's inexcusable for me to respect the beauty of stand up so much and then constantly go on stage and blasphemize the art.

I feel like being a comedian is like being a unicorn, something magical you're born. And I'm just a dumb horse with a cone taped to my head.

It's so heart breaking to even consider quitting. And I know that I can't be the kind of comic that fades out gradually because I would feel too guilty if I took a break or took time off and then went up and dissappointed an audience by being rusty. I try to think of the one audience member in the crowd who is having a horrible day, maybe got her heart broken, maybe needs to laugh. I can't let her down.

I don't think I can be a comedy club comic. I can't inspire confidence and boom with authority, bravado and charisma. I get heckled a lot. I worry that I'm just intrinsically unlikeable. Like it's not my jokes, it's me the audience detests. I don't think I can act. I'm already 26, not a size 0, short, and not pretty or loveable. I don't know if I'm smart enough to be a writer. So where do I belong? Where do I fit in as an artist?

But I don't think I can give up.

Recently I got an email from someone telling me how much my comedy meant to them. I keep trying to remind myself that if I bomb or get heckled or slut shamed or cyber bullied or if I get rejected for one show or job, even if 40 people in the crowd hate me and want me to kill myself, maybe one person loves me. And I love that one person back. And I should keep doing stand up for her, right?

I probably can't live without stand up. I think I need to do it.

But, lately I've been going up in characters, still doing my own material talking about anxieties and feeling like an outsider and depression and feminism... but from the perspective of a character because I hate being Barbara so much. I think I'm so unlikeable, unloveable, so offensively cruel that I ruin people's nights with my personality.

A long time ago I read an article by Charlyne Yi where she said, "If you never perform again no one cares but you." (SIC, I can't find the original essay.)

I know that if I quit, no one will care but me. Well, that's not true, a lot of people will be happier if I quit. (All the misogynists) But overall, me doing or not doing stand up will not affect the landscape of the art form whatsoever. However, it'll kill me not to do it. I'll diminish in power like Galadriel. And if I can never quit, then I can't take breaks, can I? That's not fair to the audience.

Why do I love stand up? Because it's fun for me to do? No. It is fun for me to kill, but I hate bombing. I love the writing aspect. I love laughing. I love performing. I love the feeling I get when I can make someone laugh really hard, like they can't control it. I love working and growing and developing my comedy voice like it's a magic power I'm strengthening. I love being able to take something horrible and sad and take the power away from it by writing a funny weird whimsical punchline. I love the jokes I've written. I love the voice I'm growing into. I love stand up.

I keep waiting for someone to tell me I belong in this art form. But that'll never happen. No one will ever tell me that. I have to want to belong in it. AND I DO WANT TO BELONG IN IT. But I don't know if I deserve to.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I used to do

"Do you want a coffee?" I asked softly, looking up at his face, watching his sparkling blue yes glow with energy.
"Yeah, I'll go get one."
"I'll get it for you," I offered, half standing up.

He used to let me buy his coffee for him. He didn't this time. He stood up and walked to the counter, taking his messenger bag with him. I'm not sure why he took it with him. I would have watched it. Maybe he thought I would look through it. I wouldn't have. I guess it wasn't important. While he was at the counter I practiced counting, forgot to breathe, became conscious of the fact that I wasn't breathing, started to freak out, and then he returned. I don't know if I started breathing then or forgot about it.

"D-d-did you just get a drip coffee?" I asked.
"Yeah." He sat down.
"I thought you used to drink lattes."
"I used to."

We used to do alot of things. I used to do a lot of things. I tried to remember them. When I was little I used to pick up rocks, take a picture of them, and collect those pictures, because I didn't want to collect the rocks. I liked rocks. I liked parts of the earth that never seemed to die. One time I did a huge easter egg hunt and I picked up eggs. There were hundreds of other children. It was for some big community party. It was supposed to be a competition, who could collect the most eggs. I had cried when I lost. My parents don't remember this.

"So, what is new?" I asked.
"Nothing. Just, you know, trying to not kill myself," he said. He pushed his glasses up his impossibly handsome nose. He wouldn't make eye contact. I thirsted for his smile.
"No, don't say that...." I spoke so softly I barely made noise. I cleared my throat but no more noise came out.
"Fine. I won't talk."
"No, that's not what I'm saying! Please talk to me! I-I'm so lonely and I need someone to talk to me."
"Well what do you want me to say?"

I remember the easter egg hunt had been at a golf course. My parents dressed me up in a pretty pink fluffy dress for Easter. When I was running through the trees I pretended I was a fairy or an elf or a nymph picking up magickal stones for a spell I needed. Maybe they were crystals. I still like those things but I have to pretend like it's ironic or quirky and not like at 26 I still genuinely really want to be a wood nymph.

"So, how is um... Allysa?" I asked.
"We're not talking about my girlfriend," he said. "Leave her alone."
"I wasn't... I didn't..."

I had been six. I had picked up a small stone that was a pale peach color. I thought it was an egg. I put it in my baskett. I wasn't smart enough to notice the weight difference. I thought it was from a chicken, or a duck, or anything. Rock didn't cross my mind. Yay, another egg! I ran towards the finish line.

"I don't have to deal with this," he said.
"I'm sorry! No! Please stay and talk to me!"
"I have nothing to say to you." He picked up his messenger bag, left his coffee, still full but cold now, and got up.

When I got to the finish line the adult man in a suit with bunny ears was counting the eggs. He took them one by one out of the basketts and wrote the numbers down on a piece of paper. When he got to me he picked up the rock.

"Young lady, this is a rock," he said.
I said nothing back.
"You were trying to cheat."
I shook my head no. I started crying.
"You're officially disqualified."

He walked out the door without a word, faster than he normal walked, faster than he normally used to walk anyway. I don't know if anyone else in the coffee shop was watching or cared.

The adult man in a suit and bunny ears dropped my baskett of eggs to the earth at my six year old feet. I picked up my peachy pink rock. I thought about throwing it into his head. I imagined hurling it with all of my might. I envisioned it going deep into his skull and blood and brains oozing out onto his crisp white shirt, splattering his salt and pepper hair and pink bunny ears with deep maroon. I imagined a gush of squirting red blood everywhere. I let the rock fall to the ground. I smoothed my pink easter dress and ran off into the woods.

I watched him go out the door into the sunlight, take his phone out of his pocket and start texting. He didn't look back at me. I cried silently in the brightly lit room.

I used to do a lot of things.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bike ride

The grey light flooded the busy street as cars raced by Jenny. The sun was setting and she knew legally soon she would have to turn her lights on. She kept her focus in front of her, trying to maintain alertness, but wobbling nervously. It had been years since she had ridden a bike. People kept telling her, "Don't worry, you'll remember, it's just like riding a bi-" and she interrupted "because no one ever taught me and I'm scared of it? Nope that's love. Love is like riding a bike. And riding a bike is like riding a bike. That's the problem."

When her friend Sarah had given her her old bike, Jenny took it mostly because she was so happy that she had a friend at all, someone who felt close enough with her to do that. The bike was a symbol, and she was gonna ride the fuck outta that metaphor. Jenny loved having girlfriends and she seemed to have a hard time keeping them, because most of them were musicians or artists and after a few years of friendship they moved to New York or LA and she only saw them a few times a year. Jenny wondered if something was wrong with her that her friendships seemed short lived. She felt guilty that she worried she was hurting the people she loved so dearly, pushing them away. She never wanted to do that to Sarah. But the truth was was that she just happened to be friends with very driven ambitious artists. And maybe one day she too could fall into that category, but not anytime in the near future, not with her fears, not with the anxiety that haunted her life, not with her sickness.

A car honked at her, for seemingly no reason, her green sundress flew up over her jeans as she pedaled her pink bike. the street was really busy today with some quirky nudist parade, and she motioned to turn down a less crowded street. She had had to look up the turn signals for the bike. It turned out they were pretty self explanatory, left hand, right hand, crying and shaking, etcetera.

As Jenny turned, her bike got caught in the track grooves where the light rail was supposed to travel. The bike, which was probably going thirty miles per hour tipped over, and Jenny fell on her right side, twisting her foot underneath her, against the angle foots are supposed to go. She fell hard onto the street, amongst the busy cars, which just drove around her, honking.

Embarrassed, Jenny quicky jumped up, grabbed her bike, and wheeled it to the side of the street. She snapped her ankle back into place, and climbed back on her bike, tightened her helmet, and continued riding. That hadn't been that scary. She had been so afraid of falling down and as it turned out, it wasn't that bad at all. She could survive it. She was okay.

But why was she okay?

She pulled her bike over and felt her ankle. She had just snapped it back into place instinctually. It wasn't hurt or swelling or broken. She ran her hands over her muscles. Nothing felt like it would be bruised later... She was fine, too fine. She had healed immediately. Her body felt strong, athletic, capable, and almost hungry.

Jenny looked up at the sky and squinted through the dark rain clouds. The sun was setting now. She looked at her phone and scrolled through the calender. She stopped short when she realized her mistake. She had forgotten to factor in the extra day in February this year. Tonight was the night, not tomorrow. She hopped back on her little pink bike with it's wobbly basket and turned backwards. There was no time to call or text her friends and tell them the miscalculation. And if there had been, she couldn't have devised a ruse or cover fast enough.

She biked back towards her house as fast as she could, which in her current state, was faster than cars. Her pony tail flapped against her back shoulders, feeling longer, more luscious than it had been this morning, a mane of dark thick health, blowing behind her. Her muscles rippled with a violent animistic strength. That was good. If only she could get back home in time to where the chains and handcuffs were. The last thing she wanted was to hurt anyone, to claw their soft skin, to expose their juicy, spicy hot blood- no, she pushed these thoughts from her head.

Jenny wasn't far from home now. She had almost made it before the darkness took her over.

Just then the cop lights and siren flooded her awareness. It couldn't be happening. She was being pulled over. Jenny slowed down, stopped, and put her shoulda been broken ankled foot down. The cop came up to her. He was young, kind looking. He had a beard. He had a wedding ring. No.

"Sorry, miss, to have to do this, but do you have bike lights?"
"Maybe in your bag? You forgot to..."
"Run," Jenny choked out.
"'Scuse me?"

If Jenny had been her normal self she would have sobbed with guilt, but instead the frustrated feeling of shame only burned inside her like a fire. Her nails were growing. Her teeth felt strong. Her eyesight sharpened. She looked up and squinted through the clouds.

The moon rose over the mountains, thick, full, laughing at her, cackling at her pain, her violent anger and painful crippling guilt that she would have to live with, her inability to ever have a life, friends, family, love, or hope. This would be her burden, her curse, for the rest of her life, to be so isolated by her own darkness, so completely alone in her miserable monstrous fate. She loved so deeply, and that was the worst part of her existence.

I'm sorry, she wanted to say. But she couldn't. The change had began.