Stand-Up Sundays #3

I’m going to keep this short because the impetus that drove me to start this blog has waned, and I’m waiting for it to come back. Doing anything whilst dealing with depression is like dancing in the ocean. When the current is with you, it sweeps you along, adding grace to your movements. When the current is against you, the waves wrap around you, dragging you down into a death-defying kiss. Nevertheless, we persist, don’t we?

I watched Sarah Silverman’s new special on Netflix last week. I was blessed to get to see her live at the Super Secret show, maybe a year ago? Probably more. Anyway, she was amazing and I figured the special would be great, so I watched it even though I try not to do anything stand-up related when I’m not at work.

The special opens with a joke in which Sarah’s sister, drunk and puking in the toilet, thinks she’s being raped, only to find out that she pooped herself. Spoiler alert. (That’s how those work, right?) Sarah then goes on to analyze not only the audience’s reaction to the punchline — that their laughter is based on relief, rather than mirth, and then she ends the bit by observing that the only time a person would be happy to find out they’re shitting themselves is when they at the same time realize that they’re not being raped.

The bit is classic Sara Silverman; dirty, shocking, and surprisingly thoughtful and thought-provoking. The entire special lives up to that, and I like the transition that she has made since her last special. She has dropped the character of Sarah Silverman, the unreliable narrator, the racist, sexist airheaded girl, and has, without any warning, emerged as a smart, funny, empathetic, intelligent woman.

The special is for sure more personal, more dimensional, and therefore more deeply funny than anything else I’ve seen from her, aside from her book, “The Bedwetter”. I read it several years ago, and I think she opens with a silly foreword written by her stage persona, and I remember thinking that that voice was going to get really old, really fast. Then the actual book was written out of character, and I loved it.

When I saw her live, her mother had just died two months previously. She had some jokes she wanted to do about her mom, so to get into the material as quickly as possible, she dropped the dead mom bomb on us, and then paused, and then ever so gently said, “It’s your fault”, immediately breaking the tension. Masterful crowd manipulation.

I half watched her special to see if that stuff was in there, but it wasn’t. I don’t blame her. I couldn’t even talk about my mom for a full two years (at least) after she died without crying. But in the special, she does talk about her family and talks about the humiliation of attending camp as a bedwetter and then makes fun of her dad for thinking that that would be a good idea. She immediately follows that up with exquisite insight into why her dad did send her to camp, even though she was a bedwetter.

I think the most overwhelming and humbling thing about her special is just the core of sweetness that she has been hiding behind that dirty, bigoted character for so long. I’ve always found her likable, even when I couldn’t  necessarily get behind her character, but I loved her after I read her book, and I loved her even more after seeing her live, and I love her even more after watching her latest special.

Maybe that’s the wrong takeaway after watching a comedy special, but there was something so endearingly vulnerable about watching her tell jokes without hiding behind the protection of irony. It made the jokes more immediate, they hit harder, and — I don’t know. It’s the same reason I love watching Jackie Kashian. Everything she says is ferociously and unapologetically real.

Even though a situation is presented in a funny way, the core of pain or humiliation or confusion is right there, intensifying the contrast between the discomfort and the whimsy. I have a lot of favorite comedians and a lot of favorite jokes and I have an appreciation for pretty much every style of comedy. But there’s just something about fearlessly attacking unfettered pain with humor that doesn’t just make me laugh, but reminds me of what it means to be human.

So, I liked it.

Sadness Saturdays #3

I have a cold. I took cold medication that a friend gave me the last time I was sick, and I guess it helped because even though I still had a drippy nose and such all day, it didn’t really catch up to me until a couple of hours ago.

I hate myself, but I don’t really want to talk about it. People don’t get it. They think I’m so nice and that I should love myself as much as they do. But if they were looking at me from the inside, out, they’d see how rotten I actually am.

And I know that’s not true. My genuine self, who I am when no one else is around, is still pretty nice, I mean, like, in my thoughts and stuff. I almost never wish anyone ill, I see the best in most people I meet, and I don’t even really want terrible things to happen to people I despise, even though I joke that I do, sometimes.

When I was 7-8, I had foster sister who was my official babysitter. Every day, after school, I would stand in the middle of her room (I slept there too, but it was Her Room.) and she would walk around me with a belt and make me list reasons she should hit me. I had to list 10 things, otherwise, it was an automatic 20 hits, but she would never let me stop at 10, so the game ended up being both pointless and demoralizing. Like, honestly, her anger and hatred were genuine, I could feel that. But she was also a cheater, and that I didn’t get. What can I say? Classic Libra.

I know that’s a terrible image, and you probably feel sorry for me or whatever, but that’s not why I’m sharing this. I’m sharing it so that you understand why I have such a hard time believing that I’m lovable. Oh, God, that sounds even worse. Stop feeling sorry for me.

I said, stop!

Whatever, feel however you need to. Moving on.

The point is, 80% of my social anxiety comes from the mental list that I’m constantly making when I’m interacting with someone. There are Very Few people that I can be around without making that list, and I have met all of them in the past few years — some of them in college, most of them at Flappers.

So although being accepted and loved is great, it’s new to me, and I still walk around feeling like a creep in super prickly, borrowed skin, most of the time. I have an especially hard time talking to people that I really like but that am afraid they’ll change their minds if they really get to know me. I try to limit my interactions with them. So that’s sad, I guess. Yay, I matched the theme.

Speaking of, I’m already thinking about changing the categories of this blog around. I realized that I have a day for social anxiety and a day for sadness and those are two negative emotions that are pretty closely related — and I remembered that I craft on Thursdays with my friends, and I constantly craft by myself, too, aside from drawing and writing. I knit, crochet, and make jewelry,  pretend candy, unicorn horns headbands, etc. So I think I’ll change one of the depressing blog days into a crafting blog day.  Stay tuned!

Face-Blindness Fridays #2

I have a cold. That has nothing to do with face blindness, I just wanted to mention it so that you know where I am. I also bought lemon bars at Smart & Final for 1/2 price because they’re expired, and am currently feeding my cold with them. There, now you’re completely caught up.

I have a joke where I say that the scary thing about having face blindness is that I could get mugged, or raped, or murdered, and the guy would totally get away with it because there’s no way I’d be able to pick him out of a lineup. I further joke that the absolute scariest part about having face blindness is the idea that love at first sight is real — what if I’ve met him and lost him already?

It’s a funny idea, right? Meeting someone, falling in love, turning away and Memento-ing the whole thing? It’s a silly joke, but I like it. I used to think that love at first sight was real because I really wanted to meet someone and immediately know that the rest of my life was figured out. I convinced myself that I fell in love with first sight with this kid from 5th grade, and he was my main crush until well after high school. I never said more than “hello” to him, even though we lived in the same apartment building for almost 10 years, and then he married someone else and broke my heart. What was his problem?

Now I’m over it, of course. I mean, I do check up on his Facebook once in a while, but he never updates it. I also have an immediate, involuntary inclination to distrust and dislike anyone I find incredibly attractive.

Okay, I don’t know what else to say about that, so I’m going to go.

Drawing Thursdays #2

So, I’m a garbage person, and that is why you should never ask me to draw anything for you, ever.

My friend’s mom wrote a book and wanted me to draw her a cover. She had an old trophy of her mom’s that she won swimming. She also wanted some of her tchotchkes incorporated into the picture, along with a cabin that she owns in Maine. The book is called Diving Home by Catee Ryan. If you click on the link, you’ll see that the cover is not the one I drew below because Catee unreasonably wanted her cover art done, like, sometime last year. So here, it is 2018 and I finally finished it! Yay!

I mean, it came out pretty cool, only 8 months later than Catee needed it. Catee let me take some pictures with my phone of her tchotchkes and of the trophy, and she gave some a photo album with her cabin, so I used all of those as references for the drawing. In real life, the cabin is a reasonable distance from the water, not hovering over it, and of course, the railing doesn’t open in front of the doorway like that.

Anyway, I loved the tchotchkes and had a lot of fun drawing those. I took pictures of a lot more than two, but I chose the gnome because I love gnomes. I especially love that he’s reading a book. He was fairly simple, I basically just traced over the photo I took and resized him for the finished drawing. The otter (seal?) was actually a pain in the ass. The photo I took of him came out blurry and he doesn’t have a ton of detail to begin with, so he started out just looking like a blobby blur. I almost gave up on him but ended up Googling seals and otters (I still don’t know the difference) and ended up with something pretty cute.

The statue was my favorite. The look of determination on her face is awesome, especially considering the mold she was made from was probably done in the 40s when women weren’t taken particularly seriously. I also like that the artist didn’t sexualize her. I Googled 40s swimming statues and couldn’t find the exact one that Catee has, but I found a male version that is nearly identical.  I’m assuming it was the same artist who made a male and a female. I imagine that is why she isn’t posed like a pinup, and I’m okay with that.

Here’s a photo of Catee’s statue: 

She’s beautiful, isn’t she? I took photos from every possible angle, including the back, trying to figure out which angle I should draw from, but I loved her face so much that I ended up going with this one. I mostly traced her. Translating bronze into black and white lineart isn’t the easiest, but fortunately, I’ve been drawing chicks since I was a teenager, so I mostly used the photo for perspective because I could not figure it out by trying to copy the photo with a pen.

I’m not a trained artist, I took Art History in high school and a design class and one Drawing class in college, so I’m not great with perspective and whatnot. One thing I do remember David Attyah (great artist, teacher, human) saying was that you don’t have to have the thing you’re drawing be in the center of the picture, so I put the girl in the top right corner.

The door was super important to Catee, too, because she painted it those colors when they bought the cabin. I don’t know a ton about art, but I made sure that all of the straight lines helped frame the girl, and the splash of color draws attention to the figure. I also like that the lines of the house are a harsh but perfect contrast to the organic elements. That, honestly, is due more to my laziness than anything, but I think it works, and that’s all that matters.

I actually had the top part of the picture done about a month after Catee asked for it but got stuck on the bottom. For a while, I tried to have the house hovering over waterfalls, but I couldn’t get it to look right. Since I knew that Catee had already chosen another artist and another cover, I wasn’t in a hurry, and I let it go, but a few days ago, I opened up the picture again, gave up on the waterfalls, and went with a less grandiose water feature.

It’s not perfect, but I like it. It’s definitely the most complex thing I’ve drawn lately. I don’t generally even deal with backgrounds because I don’t have as much interest in them. I did use Photoshop brushes by redheadstock for the water and plants, which is how I got that part done in an afternoon instead of several more years. Because the composition was black-and-white, I used the pencil option and it took very little experimentation before I had a result I was pleased with.

Writing Wednesdays #2

Whew! Writing, right? Yikes. Someone posted a list of things not to do, yesterday, in the writing group I’m a part of and one of the rules was to never use alliteration. And I was like, what? Why? Anyway, I like alliteration and I will NEVER stop using it.

Rules about writing aren’t real rules, anyway. There are no rules to art. There are guidelines, structures, formats, but there are no rules. If something isn’t working, you can go through the list of “don’ts” and see if one of the “don’ts” is messing with your flow, but if your writing is working, you don’t need to fix it.

I just finished a 6-month editing internship at a publishing company. My entire job was to read full manuscripts and write a summary and notes for each chapter. At the end of the day, it wasn’t “rules” that people broke that made certain passages, pages, or chapters unreadable, it was any time that the author tried rush or be too clever — and yes, during those times, some of the rules were broken.

I read 10 full manuscripts ranging from 80k to over 100k. Every author broke rules but did it without disrupting the overall flow of the story. Every author broke rules and it did interrupt the flow. Every author broke rules and made the story better. Writing is an evolutionary artform. We’re constantly changing it, improving it. Why do we try to adhere to rigid, immediately dated rules that only serve to make us judge our writing, rather than enjoy it?

I don’t get high very often, mostly because coming down off of marijuana really bums me out. It numbs my pleasure center for several days (or, I guess, more accurately, it stops triggering my pleasure center and I go back to my normal levels, which feels like so much less). But on Saturday, I came home, and I just could not face being sober for another second. So I ate part of an edible that my friend gave me. And then I tried to write. I’ve never written high because I’ve always been afraid that it would make me more creative and a better writer and then I would get to the point where I couldn’t write UNLESS I was high.

Fortunately, I had the exact opposite experience. I re-read something I had written the day before and recognized how purple-ish the writing was. I was too high to be embarrassed but I did think it was funny that I hadn’t realized how not “good” the writing was until I was high. And, maybe I would have, eventually. I always like what I write when I write it and then later get to the point where I can see the flaws and try to fix it.

But, after I sobered up, I thought, so what? Maybe the writing is a little purple-y. Maybe it’s bad. Maybe my story is dumb and I shouldn’t bother writing it. But then I remembered all the dumb stories that I’ve ever read that could be torn to shreds for their bad writing but that still managed to transport me to different worlds, allowed me to live in different bodies, and learn something new about what it means to be human. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter what rules we follow, break, or destroy completely. In the end, if the writing serves the story, that’s all that matters.

Also, I like my dumb story, so there, high me.

Testy Tuesdays #2

Take Two:

I deleted my first attempt at this post, and I’m not sorry. I’m sure there were some decent thoughts that I’ll get back to at some point, but I’m not saving what I had written. It was self-indulgent and feel-y and didn’t address why I felt that way, so let’s get into ONE of the several thousand reasons I’m feeling testy on this beautiful Tuesday.

The Aziz Ansari scandal broke a couple of days ago and I haven’t weighed in on social media, aside from liking the posts I agree with and not responding to the posts I don’t agree with. I haven’t expressed an opinion, partly because I’m not sure I have a clear one yet. A lot of people are making some great points and other people are not. Some of the articles about it are good, some are stupid, and most of them barely, if at all, address the real problem.

The real problem is, how do we get women and other marginalized groups to be treated as actual human beings, not sexual fetishes? Here’s my answer: there is a super realistic sex doll coming onto the market. She looks real-ish, and she can even hold a pleasant conversation with her man. I think that people look down on sex dolls, but I am totally behind them. If a man wants a thing to have sex with and say nice things to him, but not really challenge him, which would force him to grow as a person, let him have a sex doll. Get him the most realistic one possible. Build even MORE realistic ones.

I wouldn’t even say that the dolls should be left at home. Let the guys bring their Girlfriendz (TM) to the party, right? (He can even buy two dolls; one to take out and impress his friends, and one at home that actually fits his own aesthetic preferences.) Then we will know who is taken and who is emotionally incapable of having a real relationship. I also think that if a guy has a doll as a girlfriend, he’ll be able to tell the difference between a sex object and an actual human.

For one thing, a sex doll is not self-cleaning, a real woman is. Second, a sex doll’s conversational skills are programmed, whereas real women’s conversations will be organic. So a sex doll will laugh at all of her man’s jokes, and a real woman will only laugh at the ones that are funny. Sex dolls can be programmed with facts, but real women come with ideas, originality, innovation — if you closed your eyes, they almost might pass as men!

And sex dolls aren’t just for men! (Even though, technically, most of them will be.) The coolest thing is that men who aren’t satisfied with the one-sided relationship a sex doll can provide will go out looking for a woman that he can share mutual pleasure with. That’s right, sex will get a lot more consensual and pleasurable for women! I know that we’re first-and-foremost worried about the safety and security of men, but it won’t hurt that the sex dolls will make lives better for women, too, right?

The only real problem that I can see is that the world’s oldest profession of propping up fragile and flaccid egos will be outsourced to these dolls and leave a lot of real women jobless. But this might be a blessing in disguise because these intelligent, funny, resourceful women are actually good for more than just pleasing men. I know! We forget, because society is like a camera, it makes everyone look flat and one-dimensional. So if a woman looks like and is treated as a sex doll, that must be all she is, right?

By objectifying objects instead of people, maybe fewer girls will grow up feeling as though their only purposes and talents are to make sure the men in their lives are okay. Maybe they can look inward and focus on their own pleasure. People often complain that women never invent anything, but with the legendarily insatiable appetites for sex and emotional validation of men taken care of, women will be free to invent more things. Why, with the widespread use of contraceptives over the past few decades, women have already been making such inroads.

I guess it’s time for the disclaimer: of course, I  in no way want to suggest that all or even most men are emotionally incapable of viewing and treating women as actual human beings. I actually think that if most men actually thought that women were only walking pleasure holes, that equality wouldn’t even be a part of the conversation, uncomfortable a conversation as it is. That said, women have been treated as Other for a long time, and it’s difficult to talk about how long overdue equality is without getting a little testy.

I also don’t want to suggest that sex workers are mindless products of the patriarchy. I think they’re mindful products of the patriarchy. They know what the system is and they use it to their advantage. I have a lot of admiration for women who take control of their sexuality and would not ever suggest that a woman who works as a sex worker does not deserve the same respect as a woman who doesn’t. I also believe that most women are often diminished, dismissed, and reduced to their sexuality, in any field they’re in, whether it’s the arts, the sciences, or sex work.

If ever the day comes in which women are treated 100% like people, humanity will flourish further than we could ever have imagined. Look at how far we’ve come in the past 98 years since women got the vote, the first step in equality. Look at how quickly technology has shot forward in the past several decades since more women and people of color have been incorporated into every field. Allowing women into fields other than “mother” or “mistress” has resulted in spectacular advances in science and medicine.

Being treated like something less than human your whole life affects everything, including your perception of your own abilities. Imagine what you’d be capable of if nobody had ever told you that you couldn’t do something based on a physical trait that you have no control over. And yes, adversity encourages development, but we have enough adversity just with the challenges of being human and surviving. We don’t need to create or celebrate bigotry in the name of innovation. We are at our most innovative when we feel encouraged, supported, and heard.

 

Minstrel Monday #2

I woke up one morning with the lyrics, “Death is there to keep us honest / And constantly remind us we are free.” playing on a loop in my head. This was about 15 years ago. I immediately asked my mom what song/album that was from. She promptly answered, “Ghosts from The Innocent Age”.

I didn’t believe her because at that point The Innocent Age was one of my least favorite albums and I didn’t think I’d heard any song on that album enough to have the lyrics from it running through my head, it had probably been a year since I’d listened to any song on it. But she was right, of course, and for a while, that was my favorite song.

The song starts with a ghostly piano, and then Dan comes in his, voice soft and breathy:

Sometimes in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep

Then we get the same instrumental that the song started out with. The repeating melody is haunting, and the lyrics create murky, creepy images that build. Then we go on with:

Lost in love and found in reason
Questions that the mind can find no answers for
Ghostly eyes conspire treason
As they gather just outside the door

Dan’s voice gets stronger and louder as we move with the lyrics through the same haunting melody. After Dan sings, “door”, we get our first non-piano, and it’s a drum, and then continue on with the same melody:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery

Another drum and then:

Death is there
To keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

The drumming plays over the melody until we hit “freeeeeeeeee”, and Dan elongates the word, and adds oomph to his voice and we hit the drums some more and now an electric guitar comes in as back up but we lose the piano. And now it’s only the guitar with a drum keeping the beat for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind
Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

At some point, a soft chorus of ghosts come in with the “oohs” to back Dan up as his voice builds on the second “behind” lead into a guitar solo, still with the drums back it up. After the guitar solo fades out, we abruptly move back to the piano melody that played for the first part of the song. We go back to the original lyrics, too:

Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Then we drum guitar (losing the piano again) into:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery
Death is there to keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

Switch from piano to guitar for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind

Ghostly chorus jumps in again, softly.

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

Another guitar solo and back into the opening melody, ending with a crescendo of piano and drums backed up with more ghostly “aahs”.

I’m the first to say that I’m not a musical person at all, I haven’t studied it, I don’t know the terms or the chords, I just like it. I love this song for the lyrics and imagery and I find the composition evocative and beautiful. I never really analyzed the song before, so I didn’t even notice before that we switch from piano to guitar or that he was backed up with the ghost chorus, even. I just liked the song.

My favorite part was and still is the acknowledgment that our own limited time on this earth sets us free from societal conventions. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, particularly in regard to writing. I have such terrible social anxiety. As I write this, I’m flashing back and internally shuddering at an awkward exchange I had with someone last night that makes me think that he for sure hates me now. It’s stupid to think that, and I’m 98% sure he doesn’t, but that ass ache of constantly fearing losing someone else’s good opinion of me is pretty debilitating.

I like the theme of this song because of that struggle and because more and more lately, I just have to let myself be hatable. Not that I AM hatable, most people seem to really like me for some reason, but I try to let go of that white-knuckled NEED to be liked. I have no control over how anyone else feels about me. I could throw my best personality at everyone I meet and still have them hate me. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve definitely had people see the worst parts of myself and had them love me anyway.

But I constantly remind myself that my life, in this form, at least, is finite, and it really does help me to let go of some of that anxiety. I wouldn’t say that this song created my current rebellion against the idea that I need to be liked by everyone, all the time,  but it definitely has let me know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with the same societal boundaries and limitations.

Stand-Up Sunday #2

I had a lot of good moments to choose from this week, and I think I’m hyper-aware of them because of how hard the depression hit this week. Kyra Soltanovich called me a problem solver. I had to pull Cheri off the floor as she seduced me because a server was behind her with a tray of drinks. Dave had an amazing set on the Friday 7:30 show. I hope I never forget that set. Josh was hilarious, I loved my weekend headliner, I got to know my intern and some of my coworkers better.

But here’s what stands out from this week: Scott Myer is a very new comedian but he’s older — even older than Dave. He’s been divorced twice and he moved to California to take care of his mom who had cancer, and he started doing stand-up. He’s been coming around to auditions for the past few months, as regularly as he can manage.

He’s VERY new. So, he doesn’t have a ton of structure. Okay, he has no structure. He mostly rambles and stumbles upon punchlines completely by accident, most of the time. He’s charming as fuck, is what I’m saying.

At the auditions on Wednesday, he mentioned that he was just offered a job that would make him $100,000 a year and he turned it down because it would mean he’d have to be at work instead of coming to auditions on those days.  Dave and I immediately both started shouting at him to take the job, we’re open other days, for a 100k, we’ll move the auditions to Friday, etc.

It resulted in a very funny moment, for a couple of reasons. 1) Dave and I were responding entirely to the money, not to a dislike of Scott. We both like him a lot. 2) Dave and my reactions were spontaneous, in the moment, and genuine, so it ended up being funny rather than mean. 3) Scott had a point that he was trying to get to, but no rhythm or structure, so we didn’t disrupt a moment he was trying to build. 4) Scott, unlike most comics, innately understands that stand-up is a conversation. He wasn’t offended. He wanted to make his point, but he wasn’t butthurt at being interrupted. He responded to us but didn’t let us derail him.

He came back for the Thursday auditions, but by then, I’d realized that he might be hurt that Dave and I so vehemently insisted that he take the job. So I talked to him for a moment in the bar before the show started. I don’t know if he really was okay or if he was hurt by our reaction and kind of relaxed as soon as I apologized, but he basically said that he has been questioning everything in his life for a while and that performing at Flappers is his only source of true joy and he isn’t ready to give it up. He’d rather be poor and happy.

And him saying that took me back to four years ago, when I wandered into Flappers, looking for a glimpse into another world — a world in which people actively pursue their dreams and express themselves freely. I was there for one night and I was addicted and I had to go back again and again to get my fix. I had saved up money and was taking a year off to write. When that year was up and I ran out of money, I started using my credit card because I could not go back to the shitty world of “should” that I had just come from. I knew that I should have gone out and got a job and stayed out of debt, but I didn’t. It was more important to me to be at the only place that had given me a moment’s rest from my grief since my mom died.

I thought, we all came for the same reason, not just to Flappers, but to comedy. Comedy, aside from all of the terrible aspects of it as a business, at its core, is a place that people mentally and physically go to, knowing that they’re going to be able to speak and be told the truth.

It’s been four years for me, and about a hundred for Dave (He’s old. You get it.), and at a certain point, we forget that we came to comedy in pursuit of truth because there is so much bullshit surrounding the business. It’s very sweet to think you’d rather be poor and happy but years of being overworked and undervalued kills that initial impulse. Because the thing that attracted you to comedy in the first place is such a small part of it. It’s like the light on the anglerfish. Truth draws you in and corruption and exploitation eat you alive.

That sounds negative, and it can, honestly, weigh on me to the point where I lose sight of why I wanted to be in this environment in the first place. Still, I often say that I’m glad that I found Flappers instead of any other comedy club, and I find it difficult to articulate, even to myself, why. I think that we do make a distinct effort to treat people as well and as fairly as we can, although I am also always pointing out that we need to do more.  But I think the thing that really saves us is that we are built on trying to create an environment in which newcomers feel safe and welcome to perform.

Although there are people who would point out that us doing so is not entirely altruistic, and I certainly agree with that, new talent is the lifeblood of any artistic community. New comedians remind me that comedy is exciting and fun. I forget that, I really do. I think that any time you take an artform and turn it into a business, you run the risk of removing its soul, and for me at least, watching new people figure it out, watching people who have been doing it for a while get better, watching people who know what they’re doing and should never be doing anything else — all of that is what reminds me of how much I love comedy and how much it has done for me.

Sadness Saturday #2

It’s odd, this morning, I knew I’d be writing this blog post when I got home and I was certain that I was going to be writing with my neck still under God’s boot. I was talking to someone about this the other day: we always think that the situation we’re in now is going to last forever. Any time I feel sad, I know that I will never be okay again. And when I feel okay, even though I know that the darkness will come back, based on experience, it doesn’t feel true. It feels like maybe I won that last bout and it’s the last one I’ll ever have to fight.

I woke up this morning to a lunch invitation because I forgot to put my phone on Airplane Mode last night. I went back to bed immediately but not before having a panic attack about the idea of sitting across a table from a person that I like and want to get to know better. I ended up texting her back and telling her I was having a rough time. We texted back and forth a bit, and by the time we were done, I felt a little better, but still not anything close to okay.

I have a new intern and he wasn’t supposed to come in today but found himself at loose ends, and we had an amazing conversation, just about what life is supposed to be about and stuff. I felt almost okay after that. The intern I was supposed to train today never showed up (I JUST remembered that he wasn’t supposed to), so this other intern stuck around and ran the shows for me. I would usually go up to the office and do some work if I know the shows would run okay, but the lineups were packed so I stuck around to fail to run the shows on time, myself.

I had a second to talk to two of my coworkers about writing, while the second show was happening. Another came by and I named his rescue plant. At some point, a drunk chick came out of the Main Room show for a cigarette and I walked her down the street a bit so she could smoke. It wasn’t legal to smoke there but I didn’t think she’d made it safely across the street, so I just kept her company.

The shows went well. The room was full, the comics were happy, they all had great sets. My headliner was amazing. I even got to see my best friend — twice! There were a thousand little conversations and interactions that were good. It was a good night. I work at a comedy club, which you know if you a) know me or b) have read any of my other posts in this blog. I found Flappers a little over four years ago. I could write a book about the impact Flappers has had on my life (I am, actually. It’s a story about a girl and her best friend, a unicorn) but right now, I’ll just say that I spent the first 35 years of my life, essentially as a mute. I could say words, of course, but I so rarely expressed myself honestly.

Over the past four years, I’ve found my voice, figured out who I am (to some degree), the impact that I have on the people around me, and found so many reasons to live that it really pisses me off that I’m not allowed to kill myself when I feel suicidal. I used to think that I would get depressed because I hated my life, and that was partly true. But now, I have a really cool job, I love my bosses and coworkers, I love the comedians (like 90% of them), and still, some days, I can’t feel any of the good things.

Unfortunately, my depression is clinical and it seems to be here to stay. But now, I recognize it when it’s happening, and I have ways to deal with it. All week, all I’ve wanted to do is isolate myself, and today, I finally reached out and opened up to people and it helped. I think my last Sadness Saturday was about how hard it is to be honest about being depressed because of the reaction I invariably get. Talking about being sad can be even more upsetting when the very idea of it is rejected or disallowed. But today, nobody shut me down, and I was able to open up, not just about sad things, but about nice things. And I got people to open up to me, too. I got to know two of my coworkers better in one night than in the year-plus I’ve been working with them. Amazing.

Face-Blindness Fridays #1

I figured out that I have face blindness a few years ago. I always knew something was wrong but I just thought I was stupid or self-absorbed when I couldn’t recognize people that I had met multiple times. When I was eight, in foster care, my mom came to visit and I thought she was a kidnapper. Over time, having a kidnapper mother came to be my new normal (that sounds weird but my life hadn’t exactly been going smoothly before that) and I stopped thinking about it.

Eventually, from time to time, I’d remember that odd, short period in my life in which I didn’t think my mom was my mom. Probably about a decade ago, my mom and I were watching 20/20 and there was a story about a young man who was convinced that his parents had been replaced by pod people. He’d been in a bad car accident and the connection between the visual memory of his parents and his affection for them was severed. When he’d talk to them on the phone or picture them in his mind, he knew that he loved them. When he saw them in person, no longer felt that rush of affection and therefore thought that his parents were imposters.

When I saw this story, I remember telling my mom that that was similar to my experience when she visited my brother and I at Mrs. Lewis’. I know what you’re thinking — why didn’t you Google it before that? Here’s why: I was born in 1978. I remember when the internet was basically useless. The “information superhighway” was built fairly quickly but it did take a decade or so for it to be close to what it is today. I did eventually track down that 20/20 story. That kid was diagnosed with Capgras delusion, but a lot of his symptoms didn’t apply to me, so I kept looking and found out about Prosopagnosia.

I shared the definition in a previous post but here it is again: “Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. Prosopagnosia is also known as face blindness or facial agnosia. The term prosopagnosia comes from the Greek words for “face” and “lack of knowledge.”” (Wikipedia)

Prosopagnosia is a disorder that affects people to varying degrees. I’ve taken online tests that suggest that I have mild prosopagnosia but I think that that’s partly because I’ve taken the tests multiple times, but also because I trained myself to look and make mental notes of prominent or interesting facial features. I can actually draw decent portraits of people if I have good reference images and spend a lot of time on them. Here’s a portrait of my mom I drew from one of her favorite photos of herself:

I’d classify my face blindness as moderate because I can learn to recognize people based on their facial features, it just takes way longer than it takes most people. I also easily confuse similar-looking people with each other. If I haven’t seen someone in a long time (2-3 months), they may have to tell me their name before I can recognize them. Ditto if I run into someone I’m not expecting to see, particularly in an environment in which I’m not accustomed to seeing them.

When I didn’t recognize my mom at Mrs. Lewis’ house, I hadn’t seen her in at least a month. Also, in the blurry image I had of her in my mind, she looked basically like the photo above. When she visited at Mrs. Lewis’, she’d gained weight, her skin was gray, and most of the blonde had grown out of her hair. Also, this was the first time she’d ever visited in foster care in which she wasn’t identified by someone who I knew knew her. I remember walking past her in the courthouse when we met for the custody hearing but at the time, I put it down to there being so many people in the hallway that my gaze just bounced off of her too quickly.

People with face blindness tend to identify people by other physical traits; weight, height, voice, gestures, walk, etc. When my mom walked into Mrs. Lewis’, she carried herself differently than I remembered, and even her voice sounded defeated. I really thought she was a new social worker at first, before realizing that she was trying to pass herself off as my mother. And as far as I knew, Mrs. Lewis had never met my mother before, so how was she supposed to know? My brother wasn’t much help because he didn’t reject this woman, but he also didn’t run over and hug her. In fact, he would barely look at her.

Okay, I think that’s enough on face blindness for now. In the future, I’ll get into social anxiety, potential racism and the bland, daily terror of living with face blindness.