Stand-Up Sundays #5

I had someone message me on Facebook and tell me he wasn’t on the lineup for the Yoo Hoo room tonight. I told him he was in the Main Room. Either, way, judging by the timestamp on his messages, he was 15 minutes late for either show. Amazing. Because that’s what I want to be thinking about on my day off.

It was a rough week. I’m so behind on booking, it’s not even funny. It stresses me out and then I can’t be charming or whatever it is Barb and Dave think it is that I offer to the comedians.

Half of my job is sitting at my desk, second, third, fourth, and fifth-guessing my choices. I haven’t booked this person who has been on my booking list, but if I book him, is the show going to be cancelled? Are there too many white guys on the lineup already? How funny is he in comparison to all of the other white guys who keep asking me to book them?

I’m deeply aware that I’m holding hope and dreams in my sweaty, clumsy hands. People are so quick to thank me or defend me because I seem to be on their side, not realizing that it doesn’t matter if I’m on their side or not (I am, usually.) But I am booking one room in one club in one city in one state in one country. I am such a small part of their comedy journey, and there is so little that I can actually do for them. But they act like it’s everything.

I want to quit every day. Every day, I get to work and I think, “I can do this, at least for one more day. I just have to do this today. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe I’ll get hit by a bus and someone else can decide who gets five minutes and who gets seven.”

The auditions were particularly bleak this week. I lost count of how many comedians did “jokes” in which fatness was the “punchline”. I weigh 300+ pounds. I’m very visible. I’m the person who checked you in, introduced myself as a booker, and am currently sitting in the back of the room, trying to figure out how to book you. Know your audience.

They don’t even realize to adjust, though. It’s not a thought. The attitude about fatness being synonymous laziness, grossness, worthlessness is so ingrained in our society. Nobody thinking about what jokes to do and what not to do, see me in a position of power, and rethink anything that they’re going to say about being fat or fat people in general. And they’re super lazy jokes, too.

Then again, last week, I had two comedians get on stage and say that dinner with them is basically a sex contract. Like, super 90s, hackety-hack-hack jokes. Dave’s note for one of them was “real comic”. Dave wasn’t wrong, the guy was really good, aside from his closer. The other guy actually mentioned Aziz Ansari, and was clearly working on a brand-new bit. (Which is such a GREAT idea at auditions, by the way. We don’t mention to not do that at EVERY SINGLE AUDITION or anything…)

But it’s amazing that with all of the Me Too and Times Up and women’s marches going on, that these jokes are still a viable part of a male comedian’s repertoire. I can’t wait for next week in which six or seven female comedians lament that they’ve never been sexually harassed or raped. Aren’t they pretty enough?

Okay, that got a little salty. I should end this on an upbeat note. But I’m not going to. Have a nice day.

 

 

Sadness Saturdays #5

I just finished watching the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I started crying when Dr. Hakopian finally got Rebecca to admit that she couldn’t be in a real relationship with Nathaniel because she wasn’t emotionally equipped. Actually, that’s not the part that made me cry. It was the part where Dr. Hakopian said that Rebecca deserved to be loved.

I’ve been struggling with that my entire life. I can blame most of it on my mean foster sister but both of my parents were messed up and both of their families are messed up so I didn’t really have a chance. Sometimes, I talk to people who say that they had happy childhoods, that they never experienced real stress until adulthood. They miss that feeling of being taken care of, that everything is okay. I never experienced that as a kid. I’ve barely experienced that as an adult.

Recently, I started posting anonymously on a message board, just throwing some dark shit out there, not really wanting a response, just needing to be able to express myself without worrying about how someone who knows me would react. I have gotten some responses that are nice, and some that have reinforced the idea that putting myself out there is a mistake.

I think one woman thought I was Harvey Weinstein. She called me a rapist and told me that she’d kidnapped a member of my family (Not MY family, his I guess?). I deleted all of her messages, and reported all of them and haven’t heard from her again.

I had one girl send 11 messages in 48 hours, insisting that I was her Latina lover, Tanya, and telling me I was cruel for ignoring her. I finally answered her back, to set her straight, and she emailed back, thanking me. Then, today, she emailed again and said that I was a liar and a monster and to not bother answering her because she was blocking me.

Sometimes I think I want to be a published author and sell millions of copies of my books and go on press tours and share my wisdom on life and writing and all of that stuff. But, I mean, maybe five people read the post that this girl responded to, and that was the response I got. I can’t imagine what kind of bullshit I’d be inundated with if a million people read my stuff and were moved to unleash all of their issues on me.

I already have a hard time letting anyone I LIKE or LOVE get to know me. Even though I know better, I’m still afraid that they’ll turn on me, change their minds, stop liking and loving me. How much worse would it be if a bunch of strangers and their various personality disorders got a hold of me?

I’m not shitting on people with those disorders, by the way, I have a fair share of my own, and my mom, who I miss like crazy, had a ton of them. But people get to take in what you put out there, read and interpret it any way they want to, and then attack you. Why would I sign up for that? Why HAVE I signed up for that?

People act like it’s so odd that authors become recluses, and I completely get it. Once you put a piece of yourself out there, people think that they own the whole thing. Every day that goes by, I wonder WHY I thought that being agoraphobic was unhealthy. More and more, it seems like the sanest thing I’ve ever done.

Face-Blindness Fridays #4

I did kindergarten twice, and have never been given a satisfactory answer as to why. However, since the first year of kindergarten was spent in two different elementary schools, and the second year was at a third, I didn’t really notice. I also don’t think I had any friends until my second year of kindergarten, or that may have given away.

I was a solitary child. I shared a room with my two brothers, and I HATED that. I wanted a room to myself SO BAD that on weekends, I would encourage them to go out and play with their friends, and while they were gone, I would pretend like the room was just mine. The extra beds were just in case a friend wanted to sleep over — I didn’t particularly LIKE that idea, but it was nice to have the option.

I don’t even remember what I used to do with all of that free time. I vaguely remember coloring a little bit. Once I asked my mom if I could play dress-up in her closet, because the twins who lived around the corner said they did that. My mom said “no” but that I could play dress-up with my own clothes. I thought that was a terrible idea, but it worked out.

My best friend in kindergarten’s name was Simple Tan. I don’t think I was her best friend, looking back, but she was the only person who went out of her way to be kind to me, so I liked her. We run into each other once in a while and I’m always happy to see her. She and her family are still the nicest people I’ve ever met.

The first day of kindergarten, I was excited because I’d been going to school for a while and I still didn’t know how to read (boom, there’s your answer as to why I was held back). I really wanted to learn to read because I loved being read to and my mom didn’t do it nearly often enough. She had read a book to me (and probably my brothers too) called Morris the Moose Goes to School in which he learns to count, write, and draw in perspective, all in one day.

So my first day of my second year of kindergarten, I walked to school (probably with my older brother), determined to finally learn how to read. The first day was mostly coloring, and I guess I didn’t know how recess worked because I remember sitting at my table as the other kids all scrambled out of the room.

The teacher came over to me and kind of gently urged me out of the classroom. I stepped over the threshold reluctantly. I didn’t know anyone, and the kids at my past two schools hadn’t been particularly friendly. For a moment, I was hopeful. None of these other kids knew each other, either, right?

My heart sank as I stepped out onto the playground and saw clumps of kids running around, chasing each other. How did they all know each other already? There was a large tree very close to the classroom door, and I decided to spend my time there until the teacher let us in again.

I was walking around on the roots that were growing up out of their concrete prison. A girl came over. She had black pigtails and dark, almond-shaped eyes. She had tan skin, unlike the other kids. “My name is Simple,” she said. I thought that that was a mean name for her parents to give her. Her eyes sparkled brightly. She didn’t seem very simple to me.

“Crystal,” I mumbled.

“Those are my friends,” she said, pointing to twin girls with identical brown pigtail braids and a blonde girl I’d never seen before. “Do you want to come over and play with us?”

“Oh, no, that’s okay,” I said, torn between desperately wanting to have friends like everyone else, and having no idea what to say to any of them.

Simple just looked at me for a moment, and then smiled and took my hand. She led me over to her friends and introduced me. I stood there, listening to them talk, glad to at least seem like I was a part of the group.

Back in the classroom after recess, the little blonde girl sat down across the table from me.

“Were you sitting there before recess?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, frowning. “You borrowed my blue crayon.”

I wanted to laugh about my mistake, but she seemed upset by my question.

Drawing Thursdays #4

I spend part of my weekend creating art galleries for my website. Eventually, I want this website to be a portfolio of my drawing and writing, and maybe even my crafting. I’ve created a LOT of stuff. I have definitely drawn more than I’ve written, but I have some good stuff that I can share. I’m nervous about putting this stuff out there, but it’s not like I can’t create more, right?

I think that this is a good analogy for how I walk through the world. After my mom died, I realized that I had spent so much of my life closed up, keeping all of the good stuff in, worried that that tiny spark of innocence and goodness in me would be tainted or even snuffed out if I shared it with the wrong person.

I also realized that in keeping it protected, trying to seem tougher than I was, trying to act like there was nothing good in me — first of all, didn’t fool anyone. But more importantly, if I didn’t show my kindness and empathy to the people I knew, what set me apart from actually unkind and unempathetic people?

Yes, intention is important. I often think that it’s the only thing in this world that we actually own. But action is important, too. And if I acted like an uncaring asshole, then I was one, at least to the people I acted like that toward. So, I decided to open up, to let people see my goodness. It’s still a struggle, but I’d say that I’ve gotten better at being more open and genuine with people over the past seven years.

I think that, too, I had to realize that acting like a good person wasn’t actually an act. I never wanted to trick anyone into thinking that I am better than I am. I am not anywhere close to a perfect person, and in terms of bad and good, I think I’m about 10% awful, 10% amazing, and 80% something in between. Just like everyone else in the world. (Except for Joel. He’s just a straight-up piece of shit.)

Writing Wednesdays #4

Full disclosure: I’m writing this on Saturday. Yeah, been having a rough week. I’ve been writing down old, terrible memories all week, and that was kind of a draining process. I am trying to write without the expectation that anyone will ever read them, but of course, that’s nearly impossible. Still, I’ve managed to write more rawly about this stuff than I have previously.

I think that writing about stuff is supposed to be cathartic but I’m not honestly sure if it is. Going back to those moments may be a mistake. Right now, I’m trying to write about when I was accidentally mean to a cat for five years and it’s such a humiliating story and definitely doesn’t put me in a light that I generally like people to see me in.

Also, you know that feeling like a million tiny mice running around the inside of your skin with their pokey little claws? That’s how I’m feeling a lot. I wonder if this is how Oscar Wilde felt writing The Picture of Dorian Gray. That story is very honest, and I think, at least a little bit autobiographical. How much damage do we do to each other and the world at large, that is unintentional?

Anyway, I was barrelling along with the story about the prophecy girl and her best friend, the unicorn, and that stopped a couple of weeks ago. I was also writing about a mute detective and haven’t been able to bring myself back to that. I hung out with my friend Robin and we did writing exercises but that felt forced and I wasn’t really into it.

Being creative is basically opening yourself up to the universe and letting whatever wants to, flow through you. It’s the ultimate in vulnerability, and I am currently struggling with that. I think, when it gets dark, my instinct is to curl up, like a porcupine, and wait until the cloud over my head has stopped hailing down icy shards of bad memories and self-hatred. That’s an instinct that makes sense, right?

I know that sometimes the answer to that is to open up, let whatever happens, happen. But I also know that that has backfired. Maybe during these times, it’s okay to emotionally hibernate until I feel functional again. The problem is that during these times I think that I’ll never be an author because I’ll never get my shit together enough to have any kind of consistency. I can go for years without writing anything creative.

That behavior isn’t going to give me the career that I want, and I desperately want to leave my job, which only adds more pressure for me to be writing the thing that’s going to rescue me from a life of accidentally crushing the hopes and dreams of people who don’t know better than to hope and dream in a world like this.

Alright, that’s another dark one. Here’s a gif of three kitty amigos:

I don’t have all of the answers, okay? Sometimes I think I do, and then I wait 30 seconds until the crippling doubt seizes up all of my muscles again…(By the way, Dan Fogelberg explains this human condition perfectly in his song, Part of the Plan.)

Testy Tuesdays #4

I’ve spent all week feeling like everyone is mad at me, and like I don’t belong anywhere, so that’s been fun. I remember in third grade–nope, I have to go back.

When I was in foster care, my foster sister used to make me wear the same clothes to school every day, so I got picked on a lot. I didn’t know why at the time (dirty and smelly, hindsight, right?), I think mostly because it didn’t occur to me to make fun of anyone else.

I remember once, this girl in my class had me put my hands out palms down, and when I did, she slapped the backs of my hands. Then she asked me to put my hands out again, and when I resisted, she promised she wouldn’t slap them again. So I did, and she slapped them again. I’d like to say that that was the end of the “game”, but she promised again and I put them out again, and again, and again.

I think that’s how I walked through the world back then, and I was Charlie Brown and everyone else in the world was Lucy with the football. So, that was first and second grade, kind of blurred together because I was in foster care and seven-eight and didn’t actually understand how grades worked.

So, when I got to live with my mom again, and start third grade at a new-old school (I’d gone there for kindergarten), I decided to look around and figure out why some kids would get picked on and some wouldn’t. I quickly noticed a small flock of popular girls. They were like a super tame version of The Plastics from Mean Girls, only slightly more poised and better dressed than the rest of us schlubs.

I decided that if I was friends with these girls, that would protect me from being made fun of. So, all year, I tried to befriend them. I was a “wannabe” and didn’t know it because I didn’t have any friends to tell me to knock it off. Funnily enough, that year, since I wasn’t wearing the same clothes every day, I probably could have just operated under their radar or become friends with them naturally, but I actually got picked on MORE because I tried to be friends with them than if I’d let them alone. Nobody likes being used, and these girls weren’t dumb.

After reflecting on that for a full summer, I decided that when I went back to school, I wouldn’t try to have friends. I’d just keep my head down and if anyone bothered me, I’d deal with it as best I could, on my own. Fortunately, that was the year I skipped a grade, and I got to start over with all new people, even though it was the same school. (Don’t be impressed. I repeated kindergarten, so I was just in the correct grade from then on, not a year behind.)

What was the point of this? Ah, yes. So, sometimes at work, I am overwhelmed with real affection for my coworkers, and I feel like they like me too, and that’s awesome. But this week, I felt like I did in third grade, forcing friendliness that I didn’t feel because I was depressed. Oprah likes to say to “fake it until you make it” and it’s not terrible advice, except that I work with ALL ARTISTS and artists are more finely attuned to falsity than regular people, so I just felt like an imposter/intruder all week.

Anyway, the only way to combat this is to let go and let people have their reactions to me, which is super difficult when I know the worst reactions that people can have. I legit had someone ask me to kill myself, and mean it, when I was eight years old. This was someone who used to beat me up every day. To go from having some value, even if it was as a punching bag, to having zero value — to see that unfettered hatred in her eyes — that stayed with me, for some reason.

Wow, that got dark. To lighten things up, here’s a gif of one kitten saving another kitten’s life:

Minstrel Mondays #4

Haha, this is awesome. Pandora is playing Promises Made by Dan Fogelberg right now, as I’m getting ready to write this blog post. Confession: my job pays for a Pandora account for walk-on/off music during shows, and I can’t afford a paid account, so I have my own station. I call it 70s Hybrid because people kept deleting it when it was just called Dan Fogelberg. 70s Hybrid is more accurate, anyway. I do listen to music other than Dan Fogelberg, but we’re not going to get into that right now.

The point of the confession is to let you know that when I’m at work and shows are happening, I still need to listen to music, so I just go on YouTube and find a Dan Fogelberg playlists. It’s basically just background music, and I realize how long it’s been since I’ve listened to a particular song when I’ve forgotten most of the lyrics. There’s one song, though, that has such a great opening verse and it keeps catching my ear:

Dawn, like an angel.
Alights on the step.
Muting the morning she heralds.
Dew on the grass,
Like the tears the night wept,
Gone long before,
The day wears old.

The music is pretty simple, mostly guitar, I think plus a violin or two. The instruments are played so subtly that any time Dan pauses in his singing, for a moment, it seems as though the music has stopped too, although it hasn’t, it smoothly carries on without him. It’s sort of like the euphony of a peaceful mind resting in between thoughts.

This has never been one of my favorite songs, I always found it boring when I was a kid. Also, there’s a lot of nostalgia in this song, which is not an emotion that I’ve ever been super connected to because my childhood was nonexistent. Still, the imagery in the song, especially in the first verse is pretty great. I love the personification of dawn and the night, and the music is pretty if intentionally understated.

I want to post a link to the video but I have my YouTube on autoplay and The Reach came on after I re-listened to The Sand and the Foam so that I could write about it, so now I have to finish listening to The Reach. I think I already wrote about it. It’s my current favorite of his songs. If I haven’t, I will. Okay, it’s over. Here you go:

Stand-Up Sundays #4

I want to take a moment to talk about how to be at a comedy show. If you’re at a show, whether it’s a mic or a bar show or an audition or a club show, get there 30 minutes early, and plan to be there for 30 minutes after. Stay the whole time. Whenever possible, be in the room, supporting the other comics. Stay off of your phone. Laugh when you think something is funny. I could probably write for 10k words on WHY to do this, but I’m going to try to keep it brief.

First, your physical presence indicates your emotional one, as well. So if you’re late, it tells me that you’re already disconnected from the show. If you’re hanging out in the hallway or the green room, it tells me that you are not 100% invested in what is happening in that room. A show is more than you. A show is a collaboration between the booker, the venue, the promoters, the staff, the audience, and the other comedians on the show. We all affect each other. Comedians who are excited about the show create an amazing energy before the show has even started. This is one of the reasons I like to work with new comedians. That excitement is spontaneous, genuine and infectious.

Second, the longer it takes for you to check in, the less sure the staff is that you’re going to show up. Yes, we know that some people just show up, expecting to do a set and then leave, but that behavior is self-indulgent. Imagine if the entire lineup does that? I have been to shows in which that is the case, and they are chaotic. I have had to look around and see an emcee and two comedians and be like, “We have 30 minutes of show right now. Let’s get started and if we need to vamp, we can.” I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to add a comedian to a lineup in order to hold for someone we’re waiting for. That said, if the booker/producer can’t find you before the show, low-key alarm bells start going off in our heads,  and we’re trying to figure out if we need to replace you. Is that the impression you want to be making before you’re even on stage?

Third, our friends are producing their own shows and mics, even getting their own sitcoms. They are looking to get us into their shows and shit. I have had people offer to try to figure out how to get me into shit, and I have no interest in being on TV and I don’t really do stand-up anymore, but it’s nice to be thought of. The point is, nobody wants to work with a flake, and with there being SO MANY funny and talented comedians, sometimes the thing that gives you that edge is being reliable. Personally, I would rather work with reliable and consistently funny over brilliant and flaky any time. There are headliners that I’ve stopped booking because they’ve flaked out on me so many times, and I’d rather give those opportunities to people who will appreciate them and take them seriously.

Do I blame these people for flaking on headlining a free show, over and over and over? Yes, to be honest. Do I see their point? Oh, absolutely. They are being completely undervalued and should never have agreed to do it in the first place. That said, they did say they’d do it, even often expressed some sort of excitement about it. And then I have to replace them last minute. If you’re ever too good for a gig, turn it town. Let yourself and the booker off of the hook. Let the booker find someone who is appropriate for an unpaid 20-minute set on a Thursday night in front of 20 people. The booker is not hurt, and in fact is surprised by the number of quality, experienced comedians who will say yes to that gig and who even seem grateful for it.

Fourth, In terms of being in the room during the show, there are several reasons for that, too. First, sometimes comedians have very similar jokes. But if you weren’t watching, you don’t know if your joke has already been told and then you wonder why you didn’t get the usual response to yours. Second, sometimes something weird happens, and you get to comment on it if you witness it. Also if something weird happens and you didn’t see it, you may have a joke that touches on the weird thing that happened, and again, don’t understand why you get an off response from the audience.

Finally, rushing off after your set doesn’t do you any good. You don’t get to thank the audience or the staff, two groups of people without whom you get no stage time. I often have people do their set at auditions or shows and then come and shake my hand, directly ensuring that I know that they’re leaving early. This always irritates me, but I am only the person who booked them.

I don’t pay for the electricity to their mics, I don’t pay for the food, I don’t hire the cooks or bartenders to prepare the food and drink, or the servers who deliver that food and drink. I don’t check in the audience or seat them (okay, sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t), I don’t make sure that the carpets are cleaned, replace broken or damaged equipment, buy the cameras, chairs or tables, and I catch as many shows as I can, but even with I do watch a show, I am not 10-200 people watching you.

Thank the audience as they leave. Let them know where to find you on social media. Exchange social media information with the other comedians so that if you want to hire them for a future project, or vice versa, you can find each other quickly and easily. It’s amazing to me the number of comedians who complain about not having a fan base, who also leave directly after their set.

The most important reason to be emotionally present for every show is that doing stand-up is all about being in the moment. If you’re checked out at any point during the show, it affects your performance. I know, why should you care if it’s just a mic or just a bar show or just 7 minutes or that you’re not getting paid or that you’re not getting paid enough? Here’s why: there is not a good enough gig to drag you out of that mentality. There is always a better show in your mind, the one that you’ll really give your all at.

Michael Rayner is Dave Reinitz’s favorite comedian, partly because Michael Rayner is BRILLIANT but also because he is a headliner who puts as much of himself into performing for an audience of one as he does for an audience of a thousand — and he has performed for both of those extremes. Why should it matter who Dave Reinitz’s favorite comedian is? Because when he opened up his own comedy club, he built the stage specifically so that Michael Rayner could perform on it. Be the comedian that people build comedy stages around.

On a personal note, I know that sometimes there is a small audience. We’re all figuring out how to market and promote shows in LA, and a small audience can feel like a betrayal of your expectations. Maybe it doesn’t feel worth it to stick around on shows like that. What’s in it for you? I get it. But, as someone who has sat through an entire show, and at the end of it the only people in the room were me, one other person in the audience, the emcee and the showrunner with the headliner on stage — please stay anyway.  Comedians left with the one or two people who came to see them. Other comedians who had no one to see them left before that. There could have been sixteen people in the room, supporting each comedian so that everyone had their best possible set for that situation. I’ve seen that happen, too.  But I still remember that show, like at least once a week. I remember that headliner too, who got up on stage for two people and rocked it out like a pro. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever open my own comedy club, but if I can EVER help that guy out in any way, I will.

Sadness Saturdays #4

I’m not actually sad right now. Give it an hour though, lol. Sigh.

Let’s see, since I’m not sad, let me talk about some things I do when I’m sad to help myself feel better and some things I do to allow myself to feel bad and some things I do to help myself feel worse.

To Feel Better

  • Do anything creative. Write, draw, crochet, make jewelry, etc.
  • YouTube, Netflix, Hulu. I mean, this is daily life, but when I’m sad I specifically look for documentary-style things like Abstract or House of Z or Amazing Hotels. Things that showcase people doing impractical but amazing things. It shows the triumph of the human spirit better than any “feel good” movie where half of the cast dies.
  • Text Cheri. I don’t do this one a lot because when I’m sad I don’t want to talk to anyone, but I know that when I’m sad, if anyone can make me laugh, it’s her. I don’t even always say that I’m sad. I just check in and she takes it from there.

 

To Allow Sadness

  • Be honest when people ask me how I’m doing.
  • Hybernate. Turn off phone, ignore FB.
  • Let it be quiet. No music, no YouTube, just thinking while I’m writing or drawing or something.

 

To Feel Worse

  • Ignore texts and FB messages AND feel guilty about it.
  • Replay all of the stupid, embarrassing, mean things I’ve said or done in the past week, month, year, decade and mentally flagellate myself for them.
  • Watch murder-y things on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu.

I also sleep a lot, but that can actually be applied to any of these categories depending on what my purpose is. If I need the rest, it’s a good thing. If I’m just avoiding being awake or procrastinating, it makes me feel like even more of a waste.

I had a weird dream before I woke up. It was a jumble of frustration, humiliation, and defiance. But I feel better now. I only got a full body massage once, and I’ll probably never do it again. The guy actually stood on me. I think it’s odd to ask someone why they’re tense when you’re intentionally hurting them. Anyway, I was super relaxed afterward, but he also, like, hurt me. I was sore for days. But like, relaxed. So the dream was kind of like that — tensing up all of my emotional muscles so that when I woke up, I felt fine.

Anyway, I don’t think that any of these are bad methods for dealing with sadness. I mean, the last one sounds the most negative, but it does have that deep tissue effect where when I’m really mean to myself, eventually I get tired of beating up on myself and then stop. And then I start to feel better. I would LIKE to go my entire life without hating myself but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, so it’s not my favorite coping mechanism, but sometimes it’s all I have left. If the bad thoughts won’t go away, feed them until they get the itis and fall asleep.

Face-Blindness Fridays #3

I have to leave for work in a little bit, and am SUPER GLAD that the shows this weekend are actually a film festival. That means a) I can get some work done and b) I won’t be hugging strangers and then checking lineups to figure out who that person I just hugged was. Yaaaaay…!

The thing about having face blindness is that I make friends slowly. I have to first, be able to name you when I see you, which takes about 6-7 times of you introducing yourself. Then I have to know something unique about you to go along with the name and face. Then, we have to have some sort of uncomfortable moment. You can’t be real friends with someone until after your first fight. But, once I love you, I love you forever — or until you cross me, haha…

Generally, for me at least, having face blindness is a relatively minor inconvenience. It’s sort of like walking down the street about 20 steps behind the people you’re with (I’m also a slow walker). I will say, though, that one benefit is that I don’t generally judge people based on what they look like. I mean, I’m as superficial as anyone else. I would prefer to look at a pretty face than an ugly one.

But when you’re not around, and I can’t picture you, what I have to grasp on to, memory-wise, is what it felt like being around you. Was I comfortable? Did I feel safe? Did you make me laugh? Were you nice? Were you interesting? People with visual memories don’t have that advantage. I get to separate, in my mind, who people are from what they look like, whereas for most people, those two things are intrinsically linked.

That’s why, when I don’t recognize someone, even though we’ve met several times, it hurts their feelings. They feel like they’ve been erased completely. It’s really hard to explain to someone that they are a complete, multidimensional person to me — it’s just that the memory of them is triggered when I hear their name, not when I see their face.

Then again, maybe I had a super great conversation with someone and didn’t catch their name. So now, I had a great moment that I will carry around with me for the rest of my life, with someone I will never see again. Unless that person actually brings up that conversation again, I will have no idea that that moment was with that person.

It gets a little abstract, trying to describe it, because there aren’t any visual ways to describe someone’s soul. I mean, you can use colors and stuff, but for me, it’s a sense. Right after my mom died, I missed her. I tried to recall the feeling that she brought into the room with her, but I couldn’t. I wouldn’t only get to experience her presence again when I’d dream about her. I don’t know why my waking mind only allows me to partially remember what it was like to be around her, when I dream about her, I get to feel it fully.

And in my dreams, my mom doesn’t look any particular way. She’s a vague, mom-shaped blob, but the way that I feel about her is how I know it’s her. I’ve had dreams in which someone I knew looked like someone else. Like I’d be looking at Vin Diesel, but it would really be my best friend, Madlen. Then I’d wake up, and I’d be like, that was weird. I was dreaming about Madlen, but she looked like Vin Diesel. Alternately, this hasn’t happened, probably because it happens so much in real life, but I’ve never, in a dream, had someone say they were someone I knew, and they looked like that person, but I knew they weren’t.

My dreams are the only time I never have any trouble recognizing anyone. In real life, not only do I completely forget what people look like, but I’ll mis-remember their hair color or basic body shape. Half of the time when a comedian is on stage, I’m correcting my memory of what they looked like by observing what they actually looked like. How people can tell when I’ve lost two pounds, I don’t know. They never mention it when I gain those two pounds back, though, which is nice.

Or I’ll get two people confused. Like, there is a comedian named Brian D’Augustine, and his name does not match his face because when he filled out the independent producer form, I was like, “Oh, I know who that is,” and pictured Andrew Duvall. So when I run into Brian, I always picture Andrew Duvall, but I can never remember Andrew Duvall’s name when I’m talking to Brian because he has the name that I think that Andrew Duvall should have. And they don’t look at all alike.

Brains are weird. It’s amazing that I’m functional at all, really.