A couple weeks ago I realized something, and it has since made me a very Grumpy Sally indeed. This is what’s happening: my work life involves running around town to spend a couple hours doing some form of work to receive wages per job that could get me less than one oil change or approximately one old chihuahua from the local shelter.
I have decided that I am not into this, anymore.
If you’ll remember, I liked this arrangement very, very much when I gave a big EFF YOU to the man and went self-employed/freelance over two years ago. But now the excitement of NOT BEING A WAITRESS has worn off and been replaced with an excitement not only to pour much, much more energy into music projects I’m getting more and more excited about, but also to NOT BE DRIVING AROUND TOWN ALL THE DAMNED TIME TO COLLECT MY MEASLY PITTANCE.
Nothing is worse than having to cut your work on your latest video short because you agreed to walk some rich lady’s dogs halfway across town and collect money that could buy you but two to three lattes, which you won’t, because you can’t afford them.
I’m also struggling more and more with this idea that the same shit just breeds more of the same shit. I recently mentioned offhand to someone that I babysit, and, lo! Now I have another babysitting lead. Does anyone want this job? I will totally put you in touch with that person, because I am so not interested in ever getting a new babysitting client.
Note to self: when you talk to people out in the world, even—no, especially—in casual conversations, you are a musician. You are not a babysitter. You make music, you work with Pyragraph (yay!), you teach music, you make videos and put them on the internet. But you do not babysit, at least as far as the outside world is concerned.
I look at other people, and compare my life to what their lives might look like. There’s Laci Green, feminist sex/gender education video blogger. She seems so busy and so, so, so ass-kickingly hardworking. What does she do all day? I have no idea, but I don’t think there’s any room in it at all for babysitting. I think she’s probably constantly researching/preparing/making her next video, booking her next college tour, speaking at colleges, plastering great stuff all over social media, and generally being a badass activist.
And there’s Tonya Kay, actress, burlesque performer, danger artist. She’s just fucking fearless. No side jobs for her. I feel like, to be a true Tonya Kay-like person I’d need to move from Albuquerque to a much bigger city. Just read her bio. Look at how much shit she’s done! And dude, I’m pretty sure she’s a few years younger than me. Let the spiral of self-loathing begin!
And there’s also Moira Smiley, who I took a vocal workshop from a couple years ago. She actually suggested that I move to a bigger place when I asked. Here’s the thing: she never once in her life worked any sort of job that wasn’t related to music. From the time she was eighteen, she was singing songs and booking shows. That’s just so very, very cool to me. She’s been completely immersed for her entire adult life not only in the music, but also the business stuff that goes along with that.
That’s so fascinating to me. A big part of me wants that to be my story, too, but I went ahead to college and stuff after listening to my parents, etc. as described in this rather unsympathetic Frank Zappa quote: “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”
There’s just anxiety. Sure, I have anxiety about money, but there’s also anxiety about time. I just hate hate hate spending time away from the things I want to do, in favor of shit I feel pretty much lukewarm about, and that’s what it really comes down to. My life—even just a couple hours of it—is just worth SO MUCH MORE than the money I recently spent on an oil change.
Not too long ago I met the lovely Tonya Kay in person, when she last performed in my town with the burlesque group, The Lalas.
Guys, I’m totally starstruck. I’m telling you, Tonya Kay is the fucking bomb: She’s funny, engaging, super-talented, motivated, on the ball, open, energetic, really friendly. (Not to mention, she blogs for Pyragraph from time to time.)
That night, she mentioned something about tactics public figures can use to protect themselves from the crazies/creepers/stalkers (I’m paraphrasing, here), and having a bit of experience with crazies/creepers/stalkers myself, I wanted to ask her some questions about it.
We had a great talk about gender, self-protection, personal boundaries and how to manage them.
Sage Harrington: You’ve been a performer for many years. I can imagine that you’ve been dealing with this nonsense for a long time! When did it start?
Tonya Kay: I’ve been performing since I was four and doing it professionally for 23 years. As soon as you are performing for the public, you naturally have fans. All fans have different personalities — they are just people like us, of course! Some fans are legitimate fans of your work and will follow you on social media, come to your live shows, watch you on television or rent your movie on iTunes. Some fans want to interact more and will request autographs in the mail, request photos after the show, start and continue conversations with you. Some fans want to give gifts.
Some get confused and think they know you personally or are sure you should know them personally — and that’s where it’s unacceptable.
All performers have fans. Performers young in the business or young in the exposure part of the business innocently don’t realize they have fans — or innocently don’t realize all fans have different personalities. It wasn’t until I was on tour in STOMP that my fan base was large enough that I realized how many different types of fans there are out there.
That’s when I realized I must start giving fans a place to interact with my permission.
At that time, social media wasn’t a thing. So I started a forum called the Lonely Garden and what a beautiful place it was — I became actual friends with many of the members of the Lonely Garden from back then and still follow their careers today! I hired someone to build a website that listed all my tour dates so fans could come see me. Nowadays you can build social networks and keep your interactions all online if you like.
Building places like forums, fan pages, etc. — this is not just a place you are offering fans to interact with you where you feel safe and public, but also a place where you can host your fans! Let’s face it, performers enjoy the fan relationship as much as the fans themselves. We want fans and authentic human interactions as much as they do! But all of us want to feel safe, comfortable and free to express ourselves appropriate to that relationship.
Tonya, that is so rad! Way to use the resources available to you. Especially since I’ve read in some of your Pyraposts that you once considered yourself a technophobe. So, how can a “newbie” — someone who’s never had a gross or scary interaction with a fan — know who/how to screen out the bad ones? Some guidelines?
A fellow performer that I admire and respect very much had the worst-case scenario with a dangerous fan/stalker. It changed his life entirely in ways no one wants to change. He said the most enlightening words to me and I will share them with all my performer — heck, human — friends: “You cannot rationalize the irrational.”
Say it to yourself and listen to it.
YOU CANNOT RATIONALIZE THE IRRATIONAL.
Dangerous, abusive, negative fans are irrational. You cannot think them through, you can not screen them out, you cannot predict their behavior. It is irrational!
So we as public figures must set up a SAFE, COMFORTABLE, PUBLIC place where all fans are invited to interact with us. This safe, comfortable and public place has no private information available to either party. Your website does not host a phone number, address or even email address.
If contacted via those means, the contact is not visibly PUBLIC so it is not where fans get to interact. A phone call is not public. An email is not public. A visit to your work address is not public. In anyone’s life, private contact is reserved for family and friends. Fans are not family and they are not friends. Remember that. They may become both if invited! But they are not, as fans, invited to your privacy.
So social media: Google+, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, etc. These places are public. Any interaction is viewable by the public and the public is the strongest community functioning on taboo you have as a public figure. My fans OFTEN put a negative fan or harassing fan in their place for me. I’ve had two fans become abusive in the comments on various blogs I’ve written — they stop when they realize their comments are public or they are shamed by the public for behavior we all know is wrong towards any human being, including performers. You can block someone on social networks. And so on.
There are services like Google Voice that offer a virtual phone number so even your “trusted” work confidants do not have your private number. Contact forms on websites should always be what they call blind submit forms so that your email address is nowhere in the source code of the website and no fan can lift it, nor can any spammers. You can rent a P.O. box to use for your address on ALL THINGS, or, I often just use my agent’s address, making even the simple sending of a gift to me a visibly public action.
I have had to learn oodles of personal info lock-down tactics by error, and have had to train my family and friends on locking down their private info, as well as keeping mine locked down with me. The fact is, humans love humans! We live in cities, we communicate and create art to connect, we WANT to have fans and friends and family surrounding us abundantly! But there’s no reason we shouldn’t do that in a SAFE, COMFORTABLE and PUBLIC setting.
I share a lot of my personal life as a career, but there’s a lot I don’t share, too.
A lot of musicians I know share their email addresses on their websites. I didn’t at first but then added it at the suggestion of a fellow musician who said that it’s nice for it to be there should you get the “big call” (from a record label or some such organization). You’re suggesting a blind submit form instead? Or could you just screen the emails that seem to be sent from fans vs. the ones that seem to be sent from professionals?
Absolutely NO PRIVATE EMAIL on websites. NO PRIVATE INFORMATION at all. Blind submit forms allow you to receive a communication without the other party having your private information. Email is private because the public can’t read what was written to you.
But really, at this point, there is no reason for a fan to even email me. I have social networks and am available to interact on them. And for the professionals, I have agents aplenty who can take calls, inquiries and pass along prospective clients to me. I say, use blind submit forms if you must. Then create an email address that is used JUST to receive anything from the blind submit form so you can terminate it easily and without repercussion at any time if needed.
As much as I hate to admit it, my creepy “fan” interactions are really draining emotionally. I don’t feel like doing anything in public/online. I just want to kind of hide away, feel grumpy and violated, and heal. At least for a while. How do you avoid letting this stuff get to you?
Stuff DOES get to me. My lover notices that I am irritated for no reason or just in a bad mood sometimes — and I have to tell him (he doesn’t use social media) what happened online. Or if I am actually concerned for my safety, he is there for me — he bought me a fucking taser — and he takes my safety requests seriously. Like if I text him at 3am after a gig to walk me home, he’s there.
Emotionally, I crack down harder on my privacy every time a dangerous or even creepy stalker surfaces. And I draw lines quickly and clearly nowadays. I do what I need to do to feel safe.
Emotions always change, so I let the negative ones move on by interacting positively with some of my awesome fans online.
There are so many awesome people out there doing cool stuff — I tell myself, “Why focus on the douchebag when I could focus on the hundreds of other inspiring people that follow me instead?”
Someone like me, who totally feels like I’m not on anyone’s radar, would think that this couldn’t happen to me. But it can happen to anyone!
Everyone in the public eye has fans. This includes all professional and semi-professional artists. Do not think just because you are “small time” or “a male” or “a chef, not an actor” that you are exempt. If you start talking to your fellow artist friends of whatever gender, discipline, level of exposure, you will get their “stalker” or “creepy fan” or “abusive co-worker” story. There is no reason to live in fear, but simply make sure you provide that SAFE, COMFORTABLE and PUBLIC place to interact early and you can get to know people and let them get to know your work!
People keep telling me I’m brave for having shaved my head.
Thank you, really, but—what?
Brave—that’s the same word we use to describe people who run into burning buildings to save baskets of kittens or a perhaps a half-eaten sleeve of Oreos.
Me? I’m just a girl who had her boyfriend take a dog grooming kit to her head, for totally selfish reasons (no charity-drive head-shave motivations here, unfortunately)—I had previously given myself a shitty haircut.
I’ve gotten a variety of reactions—there are the folks who seem to think I might have cancer (“You look like you have cancer!”) or that someone close to me might have cancer. Then there are the (admittedly drunken, filterless) people who are totally, viscerally, loudly perplexed. (“Why did you do that?!?”) And there have been a lot of people who just took a long while to recognize me. There are also people who seem totally unfazed, and even those who have complimented me on the way it looks, without preamble. (“I love your shaved head. You look great.”) I like this type of reaction best, for obvious reasons.
But I’ve also I’ve gotten a lot of: “You’re so brave!”
I want to talk about this because I’ve heard this fairly often, since I first cut my hair cut short as a teenager.
Why? Why is it considered brave for a woman to have short hair? WHY? This is so utterly perplexing to me. Hair is this strange evolutionary phenomenon—many thousands of tiny strands of body parts that are dead, but still attached to you—to which we have apparently assigned a great deal of importance.
It clearly has something to do with gender. Do we call men with shaved heads “brave”? Do we automatically assume men with shaved heads are battling cancer? Do people notice a man’s shaved head the way they’d notice a woman’s? (Related question: how do people notice women’s clothing versus men’s clothing?)
Why does it mean that a woman with short hair might be a lesbian, or a feminist (hey, that’s me!), or ill, or perhaps, if you were photographed on the streets of NYC, exceedingly fashionable?
Why must we acknowledge a short-haired woman in the way that we do? Why must we acknowledge short hair at all? Why can’t it just mean that she (me) had cut her hair, didn’t like the way it looked, and wanted to start over?
Why does it mean I was brave?
Bullshit. I may be brave for some things (riding a bicycle? growing kale? driving at any time on any street, given the rate at which people die doing such things?), but cutting my goddamn hair is not an act of bravery. It is an act of vanity and to call it bravery cheapens the word.
Or does it?
Being brave enough to cut your hair short reveals something telling about the culture we live in. It is, apparently, a world in which a woman with short hair has committed an almost revolutionary act. Gasp!—this one is different than what we’d expected! This one doesn’t follow the template! Might she have some kind of social or political agenda? Maybe she is strange, maybe wonderful, badass, free, empowered. Maybe she is fresh, sexy, full of energy and vitality, totally fucking rad.
Dude—gender. Why are these things so contorted and strange? Why must we humans make things so hard on ourselves?
“Jared Putnam,” I said above the comforting sound of an ancient whirring motor, “look at how technology is improving our lives!”
No longer would I spend hours sweating over a cold hand-crank ice cream maker. No, no longer! Life is a breeze now thanks to our brand-new Procter-Silex ice cream maker from the 1960s that we got at a thrift store for six dollars—we paid approximately one dollar per decade that it’s been around.
It also came with sexist racist heteronormative manual, I mean, recipe booklet.
Ice cream holds a special place in world history. This fly white lady is credited with making ice cream fashionable in the 1880s!
Now, my friends, I feel pride in what I have done here today. I have experimented with creating a recipe for coffee ice cream, and, BY JOVE, I like the results! The recipe below is a mashup of this gelato recipe from Epicurious and a recipe I found in La Cucina in which a recipe for coffee ice cream advises you to use 8 CUPS OF HEAVY CREAM and 2/3 cup coffee grounds. This seemed like someting I would want to avoid not necessarily because of the caloric value of 8 cups of heavy cream (I SPURN HEALTH FOODS!) but aghh the dread mouthfeel of 8 cups of frozen heavy cream! I also found a bunch of recipes that I did not want to follow as they called for as much as 1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans, which just seems so wasteful to me. You’re ignoring the entire middle of the bean! Dude, just grind that shit up and let the coffee joy happen!
So here it is, an extremely simple recipe for coffee ice cream. It’s a custardy-type of thing, and the best kind of ice cream I’ve ever made in my whole grown-up life!
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
40 grams coffee, ground
8 large egg yolks
1 1/3 cups sugar
Boil milk and cream together, stirring every once in a while in a vain attempt to keep a skin from forming on the top. A skin will form on the top. Stir it in, whatever. You’ll strain it later. Once the milk boils (at around 205 degrees, the perfect temperature for brewing coffee!) add the coffee. Stir it all in. Let it steep for a while—I let mine sit around for about 15 minutes.
Have a bowl, a fine mesh strainer, and some cheesecloth ready to pour your coffeemilk into. It will take a long ass freaking time for your coffeemilk to strain through the cheesecloth if you have a small strainer like I do, and it will seem like your coffee-steeping time will increase to, like, 25 minutes. Whatevs. It’s all cool. Press as much coffeemilk out of your cheesecloth as possible and toss your coffee grounds into the compost, because that shit is gold. Also, it’s worth noting that at this time you’ll probably be frustrated to realize that fresh skins are forming atop your now grounds-free coffeemilk. Balls! But fret not, because we’ll just strain it again anyway.
Now you’ll bring your coffeemilk, on med-low heat, up to the correct custard-making temperature, 175 degrees. Stir often. Curse the skins! At the same time (if you’re alright at multi-tasking) separate your egg yolks out and whisk them in a nice big bowl. Add the sugar and beat. Beat it hard. It should be really pretty, a light yellow. When your coffeemilk is at 175 degrees, remove it from heat and, whisking constantly, whisk a bit of the coffeemilk into the sugaryolks at a time, tempering the eggs.
Have a clean bowl and fine mesh strainer ready.
When your coffeemilk and sugaryolks are mixed together, return it to the pan and, stirring constantly over med-low heat, bring it all up to 185 degrees. Remove from heat! Immediately! Don’t wait, or disaster will strike upon your poor yolks, curdling them! Strain it into that bowl! Goodbye milkskins! We shan’t meet again!
You can now do the appropriate anti-custardskin measures, like pressing plastic wrap (or a humiliated freezer bag, in my case) against the custard. You can also make it cool all quick-like if’n you wanna by putting the custard bowl into a larger vessel and filling that larger vessel with ice and cold water and such. You know the tricks.
Now freeze into ice cream using your preferred method of freezing into ice cream! I used the approved 1960s Proctor Silex method of electrical ice cream maker freezing, which looks something like this.
I’m not sure if the internet needs my American Idol audition story. (This American Idol audition story already lives online, after all.) I don’t know if you need me to recount a day I spent mostly standing in a line that was not as long as it would have been in, say, 2004. I mean, they brought the American Idol bus to Albuquerque? As one of my friends said, “Their ratings really must have fallen if they’re coming here.”
My mom was the one who told me about the American Idol audition. Of course my mom thinks I should go to the American Idol audition.
Tons of people think that American Idol is one of the only surefire ways to a career in music. Ain’t necessarily so, and I’m assuming you also think there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Er, earn a living making songs.
But I kept thinking about it. I thought about how Amanda Palmer promoted a contestant of The Voice in her blog. And I thought, hey, if Amanda Palmer is endorsing a certain lady competing in a teevee show and if other independent artists are using it as a platform to increase their visibility, it might be worth looking into.
So I read the gross waiver they make you sign. They say things like this, but in legalspeak:
We are allowed to say defamatory things about you!
We may require you to sign other creepy documents!
We own any video taken of you and will pay no royalties on any original material you perform!
So this is where the hey-I’m-an-indie-I’m-in-control-of-everything-including-my-extremely-small-mailing-list thing butts up against corporate-town. Who’s in charge, if they let you in? Not you.
Oh, and they also encourage you to bring the waiver yourself, because they have “limited supplies” of it at the audition site. Bullshit. They want to cut down on their paper costs. I can’t blame them for this. I want them to cut down on their paper costs, too, but not for the benefit of their coffers, but for the benefit of, you know, the earth.
I decided to go in spite of this.
I got up early and stood in a line in the rain, feeling waves and waves of nervousness crash down upon me. This happened because I am no expert at taking auditions. I hardly ever feel nervous performing in my little town of Albuquerque anymore—our community is so small, and the venues I play at so familiar, that I can hardly ever get my adrenal glandsworked up, ironically enough. So it was nice to practice managing that type of anxiety. I don’t know that I did that great of a job.
At the end of the day four of us were there at the head of the line and we were—gasp!—sent before one of the two ominous tents where the—what to call them?—magical glowing beings sat, who bestow upon you the blessing of Talented! or Not Talented!
You are a singer. You stand on painted tape. You step forward and hand your creepy paperwork to the magical auditioner being, who is really just a person. The other three step back onto their strips of tape. You stay, plink your ukulele, sing this song, and you quickly realize that you don’t know jack shit about auditioning.
I chose exactly the wrong song, I think, to sing in front of exactly the wrong judge, (need I say this next part?) in exactly the wrong competition.
Of course I spent the next day or two mulling over the auditioner man’s comments. “You have a soft, pretty voice, but we are looking for more developed voices…” What does this even mean? What am I supposed to do with this information? I tried to take it as constructive criticism, but I really don’t know if I even should, when it’s certainly a canned phrase he uses endlessly in his line of work.
Here’s the moral of my story: I realized that if I actually want to audition for something again, I gotta get my shit together. I gotta practice and talk to people who know what the fuck they’re doing. I gotta go to auditions, and take them, and get rejected, and then do more. This iswhat actors doall the time.
So, I’m not sure if I’ll want to, or feel the need to, do a cattle call audition like this again. Honestly, makingDIY videosin my home is probably a better use of my time. But if I do, at least I’ll know a little bit better what I so didn’t know this time around.
Here at the Happy Gland Ranch, things are getting interesting in the compost pile. We’ve been feeding chickens obscenely disgusting (or exceedingly delicious, depending upon whose perspective we’re dealing with) maggots from the compost pile. We draw them out with halves of (sadly) rotten melons (yes, we’ve had more than one of those, recently, sigh), which we think are obscenely disgusting, but the maggots think are exceedingly delicious. Then it’s a simple process of scooping the intensely wriggling, obscenely disgusting, exceedingly delicious maggot-melon-pile out of the metal cage in which the compost lives, at which time the chickens attack each maggot with extreme precision.
I like to sit and imagine their chicken bellies filled with almost-wriggling maggots, don’t you?
Here’s something really cool. If you stick your face next to the compost pile in the dark, quiet evening time, you can hear the delightful wettish wrigglings of about a bajillion quadrillion grubby creatures sliming through dead leaves, our rotten food and their own shit. What a life, what a life.
In other news, I spent the better part of the day, a few days ago, slaving over a hot music box. Something that occurred to me only after said music box arrived in the mail was that I had signed myself up for an extremely tedious task. You gotta take this really long strip of cardstock and punch about a gajillion holes in it, paying attention to the grid printed on the card, knowing about notes (which are, of course, written on the card as being a fifth above the note you actually hear—because of infallible reasons, I am sure), being aware of the meter, and just generally being on top of things, which is sometimes a problem for me.
I used approximately a mile of tape to cover holes that I wish I hadn’t punched. This is interesting because once you apply a certain amount of shiny tape to this cardstock, it won’t feed though the box nicely. It can’t get enough traction. There are also the teensiest tiniest circles of cardstock all over the floor and the piano, and tiny scotch tape circles stuck to my hands. What a life, what a life.
A word to the wise: start off with a song that maybe isn’t in a blues shuffle. Or, know what measures and notes are and how they might appear on the cardstock before you begin. Oh, and definitely do this rather than washing the dishes or investigating that suspicious odor emanating from the fridge.
Thankfully, I found that there is, in fact, an app to cure almost all of my box-related woes. Hurrah! Though I can’t say for certain that this eliminates the need for scotch tape, I wlil say that it makes the experimentation phase much less messy.
In other, other news, we have recently invited yet another creature to reside with us here at the Happy Gland Ranch. This is an exceptionally snuggly four year old cat who has spent some of his time here digging with unabashed exuberance in the kitty litter (provided for his use in a thrift-store baking pan with slighty-too-low sides, sigh). Last evening he went for to explore our vast (aka, teensy) front yard through the window Jared had opened in order to listen in on an exciting argument a couple of our charming neighbors were engaged in. But, really, the cat has spent the majority of his first week here sleeping inside our futon. I believe it is very secluded and cozy in there.
And, in closing, let me share with you something completely different: a way to make phunky musak online, my friends. Yes, it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. An online keyboard you can play with your keyboard. It’s very intuitive to people who actually play the piano. Wait. It’s actually really not intuitive to people who play the piano. I spent an inordinate amount of time the other night composing a story, and by extension, a pretty badass (bad? assinine?) atonal creation.
So after writing a ranty rant on how music is undervalued I really wanted to write something else to kind of bring everything around to a more positive space. I want to talk about good things, about feelings of renewal and optimism—but really, I’m not in the mood yet.
I’m still in a funk.
This. This, y’alls:
This is a Twitter feed that one of my (need I spell it out? full-time working, touring, song-writing) musician friends created as an outlet for all the weird, gross, misdirected things people say at shows.
People say shit like this. And they mean it. And they just don’t get it. People can be really ignorant about art and music and not realize what they’re doing hurtful or sexist or racist or just plain asinine.
Exhibit B: A a friend of mine (need I spell it out? an incredibly beautiful, lovely, surreally talented person), mentioned doubting that doing music is worth it. That doing music is the right choice. The right life choice.
At first I was confused. Like, are you for reals? Of course it is! How could you let anyone tell you otherwise?
Then I remembered what the world is constantly telling us: you can’t make a living doing music.
Can you play for our thing? We can’t really pay you.
This gig doesn’t pay, but you can get exposure and can sell CDs and stuff.
The 3-hour-long sets your band is supposed to play for $125 where you’re basically background noise and no one gives a shit. Focus: Music? No. Beer sales? Yes.
I remembered that, and I understood what she was saying.
It’s also weird because the world is simultaneously telling us the opposite: that it’s really, really important to be a famous, supertalented pop star, and that you’re gotta work really hard to get to the point where millions of people adore you and you can sell out stadiums. People don’t seem to get it—you can be a successful musician without being famous. You can also be a “successful” musician without even making enough for rent. The cultural narrative is really fucking schizo in that way, and it’s totes annoying.
Yeah, we musicians are all a little bit counterculture. We don’t wanna do the prescribed thing, probably because that would be boring. And stifling. We wanna be out on our own. We want to do things the wrong way, the not-standard way.
But there’s a time when you just gotta call it bullshit.
It’s been a weird year, in some ways. About while ago this happened and a Happy Gland Band video went sort of fungal. No, bacterial. No, virulent. No, viral. And I spent a bunch of energy trying to ride that wave as hard as I could, which led pretty swiftly to the fresh, warm spring wave of Gotta Get Outside And Plant Some Plants, rather than the rip tide of Oh Shit Look At All The Various Ways I Could Spend Hours In Front Of My Laptop I was getting sucked into.
Sometimes a girl just can’t deal with the idea of tweeting every goddamned thing that enters her brain. Okay, if we’re talking about me, it’s all the time. Awllll the timmme.
Things happen in waves (to further bludgeon you with this metaphor), and a bunch of stuff has happened lately that’s pushed me into this really private-feeling space. I don’t want to always be thinking about presenting myself to the world. I don’t want to be visible, all the time.
Social media is all about constructing this version of yourself that’s supposed to be attractive to people, and that pressure can just be exhausting. (By the way, maybe I should compartmentalize social media stuff more, the way Danielle Vincent does. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel the horrible weight of guilty avoidance weighing down on me at all times.)
Then, more things happened.
This ohsohilarious April Fool’s joke, for instance. Yes, you’re hearing the bitterness of one upon whom the joke was played and she was got and she talked about it publicly on social media and spent a really really long time drafting up a blog post about it before she realized that, hey, it’s April first and…shit. I mostly felt angry that I had spent over an hour wasting precious time in front of the computer screen, after I had so recently renewed this sense of Learning To Prioritize and Using Computer Time Wisely So That I Don’t Become a Cranky Musician Who Never Practices Or Enjoys Life!
But seriously, I wanna talk about why this April Fool’s joke is so funny. Because isn’t it hilarious to think that working musicians would be paid a wage comparable to that of people who have real jobs? Isn’t is just dandy that we’re basically expected to scrape by? Isn’t it awesome that what we do is so undervalued?
I met some amazing musicians recently who played their songs and performed beautifully and broke my heart and brought me to tears when I listened to their music and thought about what they had told about ageism, about needing to keep side jobs, about trying and trying and trying to make this career work.
These amazingly talented, lovely players, these two people who have spent so much to become such beautiful artists, these people who are reservoirs of beauty who, by doing their art, can open us up to the truths of life—we don’t even have the dignity as a society to make sure that they are modestly taken care of.
TRANSCENDENT BEAUTY—THAT’S NOT ENOUGH FOR US. We’ve gotta make sure that on top of doing their heartbreakingly beautiful things, they’re also serving the masses their faux-Italian-sized lattes, answering tech support calls, stocking groceries on the shelf. THESE are the things that are really valuable to us. Not education, not music, not art. Not people’s emotional well-being. It just feels so arbitrary and sad.
Clearly, it’s more than just the fact music is undervalued. This is a systemic problem that affects a whole hell of people harder than educated middle-class white chicks who play the ukulele (hey, that’s me). We could talk about the need for universal single-payer healthcare, about grave income inequality, about racism, about sexism. Inga, wanna chat sometime?
Ah, you guys, I feel so ranty and whiny and complainy, and I’m sorry for being such a bummer, but I just really needed to talk about this.
Due to the crappy way I’ve been feeling lately (as discussedpreviously) I needed, just needed, to do something real. Something, er, analog. Something that did not involve pixels. Something that did not involve booking underpaying shows that I would struggle to get through.
I wanted to do real things with my real muscles, so I signed up for a circus intensive. Besides, I didn’t have any shows booked (I was tired of the pixels, remember?) so what else was I gonna do with myself? It was perfect timing.
What can I say about it? It was so much fun. It was beyond liberating to do something so new, so exciting, so beyond my brain’s normal functioning patterns. It was a six-week intensive with classes in all sorts of disciplines: aerials (fabrics and trapeze), clowning, physical theater, stilts, acrobalance.
There’s this thing that happens when you’re taking a fabrics class, for example, and you’re a beginner. The teacher shows you how to do something (and usually they show you about three different things you can do once you’re all twisted up in there), and you go, “Oh, cool, okay, I could totally swing that, that looks super do-able,” then you get up there, you reach for the apparatus, and you’re like, “…uhh…”
You have no idea what to do, and feel totally lost.
This is really refreshing. I’m loving being a beginner. Not to say that I don’t feel like a beginner at music in a lot of ways—I totally do!–but it’s so exciting being at the very start (like, three months and counting!) of this aerial thing. What’s exciting about being at the very beginning is seeing your own progress. Because during one class you’re hanging upside-down, inexplicably not knowing which way is up (note to self: the ceiling is up), and the next you’ve totally got it: What seemed like an interminably long sequence of impossibly complicated tasks has somehow solidified. Understanding has come to the fore from a dark, foggy netherworld of confusion.
And when that happens, it is beautiful. It looks like this, but in your mind.
I’ve got circus muscles now. I have upper body strength, which is something that I’ve never had any reason to develop before. Flashback to Sage’s early teens: At a summer dance intensive I attended, a yoga instructor referred to all us ballerinas as having “weak little dancer arms.” So, that’s been the image of my upper body strength I’ve carried for all these years. Until now.
Surrounded by wonderful women at this wonderful studio (by the way, I am totally going to keep taking classes up there—the atmosphere is just so dang warm and supportive), I’ve become stronger, more confident, and totally jazzed to keep learning the aerial arts.
The workshop concluded with a series of performances. I performed in a clown act (hence, the nose you see in the above photo) and a trapeze act. And, ironically enough, we choreographed our trapeze act to this steampunk song about the evils of the man who invented digital clocks. (It’s ironic because I didn’t choose the song—my trapeze partner did. Remember how I said I was tired of the pixels?)
And now I feel like a strong, tricked-out trapeze badass.
I took a fabrics class the other night and climbed all the way to the fuckin’ top—although I think it was maybe a little shorter than the ones I’ve become accustomed to climbing—I MEAN, it was the longest fabric ever and I just feel so confident, strong, and totally refreshed.
Oh Inga, how I love you. You give voice to the parts of me that our racist, imperialist society has tamped down over the years. There were so many moments in the book where I felt this keen recognition—this feeling of ah, that’s me. That’s a more badass, eloquent, educated me. Those are the thoughts I would be writing about if I were braver. Those are the kinds of critical skills I so wish I’d already been developing, but I hadn’t because I’ve allowed our, you know, racist, imperialist society to hack away at some of the more just wishes of my heart and soul. I’m talking about wishes of equality, wishes that I’d had the bravery to call BULLSHIT, for example, when my mom told me that yes, I had to go to college because there were just some hoops that you needed to jump through, or when the gross ex-boyfriend (soon to have a restraining order set against him, so I guess my family and I did have the bravery to call BULLSHIT) dragged me across his dorm room by the ankles.
But, Inga, you exposed those ideas in your lovely book, which uncovered the germs of similar ideas in me, and there they are! Now, to just read the entire bibliography of Cunt, Blue-Eyed Devil, whichever book of yours I read next, and l shall watch those ideas fully germinate, growing into a veritable forest of pinko commie convictions within my heart! Mom will be so proud. (Maybe not.)
After I finished Inga’s book I got the summer flu. I suspect I got the summer flu due to some antibiotics I was on for bacterial vaginosis. Kill all the good bugs in my gut in the process of killing all the “bad” bugs in my cunt, and destroy my immune system. Western medicine at its best.
While convalescing, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder in three feverish hazed days. (Such a race through a book is unusual for me. Busy life and no time to hang out sniffling on the couch enjoying yourself, see.) Incidentally, especially after reading Inga, Barbara Kingsolver’s eco-friendly-motivated garden growing, left-wing leaning political essays seem positively tame.
So this is the fevered brain-space I was swimming in for days and days. White imperialist racism, bad! And it’s everywhere! It’s means government-endorsed autogenocide, ecocide, climate change. These things are caused by ignorance and greed! Shit is hitting the fan! And what can we do? What can I do?
Here’s what I did. I went about my business.
I went to the eye doctor, because I’m turning 26 in a week, at which time my parent’s insurance plan will no longer cover me. But, yay, Obamacare! for extending that timeline from age—what was it, 24?—to 26. You gotta use that shit while you still can. I had the exam. Then funneled me in from room to room and performed their tasks and deemed my eyes in almost the exact same condition they had been last year (and the previous year).
Then for some reason I put a pair of those fancy trial frames on anyway, and sat down with the salesperson. And then bought the glasses that I DO NOT NEED, because the glasses that I currently wear are of almost exactly the same prescription.
This is the state that I am in. Because I am a white, privileged, middle class person, I am in a state where I am able to agonize over how much waste will go into to the production of the glasses I will purchase even though I DO NOT NEED them. I can agonize over what the longer-term costs may be for the environment based on said unknown waste. I can agonize about what the workers conditions are like where the glasses are made, I can agonize about what toxins may or may not be leached into my face from the plastic of the frames or the anti-reflective coating of the lenses. I am able to agonize over whether or not they should put the slightly creepy dilation drops in my eyes (which temporarily paralyze the muscles surrounding your pupils so that the pupils remain open, with I-don’t-know-what-other-known-or-unknown-long-term-side-affects). I am in a state where I can agonize about what it will do to my bank account in the long term to spend $160 on a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED that would have cost over three times that much without the coverage of the happy insurance of my parents.
I should probably mention that it has taken me up to this point in my early adult life to not feel a deep, cringing sense of remorse and fear for my future each time even the smallest amount of money is emptied from my wallet.
I can agonize about all the waste that goes on within the office itself—all the paper used, all the tiny little disinfectant wipes wiped on all the elaborate optometry equipment, I can agonize about gender equality in the offices—on why my doctor is male, but everyone else who works there is female. I can agonize about their respective salaries. I can agonize about race, too—on why, for the three years I’ve been going to this office, I have only seen one black woman working there, just this last time. I can agonize over how much energy is used to keep that place at frigid temperatures during the warmest summer months.
I can agonize about a hell of a lot of things in a very short period of time, realize I am a ignorant of the answers to basically all of my questions, and then go ahead anyway and buy the glasses I DO NOT NEED.
I am incredibly fortunate to have the luxury to worry about these things instead of the many other perils plaguing people around the world, often at the hand of our gross government (see Inga for more details).
My glasses saleslady could sense my agonizings, I suspect, and told me that I was merely spending 43 cents a day on them for the next year. But you don’t understand… I moaned internally, there’s so much more to it than that. The earth, you know. The waste. The labor. The money. Plus, if I’m gonna make an investment in something for 43 cents a day for the next year, it might as well be something that has a better chance of improving life for me and everyone else than a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED. Like some fund for pandas. Or zooplankton. Or a fund that would make sewing machine repair free to this badass self-employed cool-things-making woman.
Instead, I was handed my receipt, told the dilation drops had only worked for around twenty minutes, rather than the four to eight hours they should have, and had this extremely pointless conversation about those “disposable,” “one-use” sunglasses things you’re supposed to slip in behind your eyeglass lenses after you get your dilation drops. See, I DID NOT NEED to waste the resources involved in taking this little sheet of tinted plastic shaped charmingly like some fifties style glasses, because I had a pair of prescription sunglasses in my purse, and, as you might remember, the damned dilation drops had stopped working anyway. (My eyes, just like my heart, shall be paralyzed by ignorance no longer!)
We were almost at the end of our pointless negotiation, the glasses saleslady and me (I didn’t want to take the one-use sunglasses because it’s a waste of resources, and she had already taken them out of their little plastic sleeve and wanted to hand them off to me and be done with it), when she finally said, “You can just take them and if you don’t need them, you can throw them in the trash.”