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  1. At some point after my comedy debut, I was co-hosting an event (poetry mainly, but open to comedy) and was given the honor of booking one of the performers.  I offered him the spot.  He wasn't the only one I knew, but I did it as a comedy friend and I knew he could be funny.  On our way there, it was a little stressful since I had run late.  He was driving.  I forgot to bring the exact address though I pretty much knew where it was.  I could feel his general anger.  He didn't talk about being nervous or any of that.  I even asked him if he was nervous, but he claimed he wasn't.  So I figured he was well prepared.  Thankfully, we found parking.

    As we walked on a Manhattan block, he belched loudly with his mouth wide open and didn't make any effort to cover his mouth at all though it went
    right in the direction of an older man's face.  He didn't then cover his mouth afterwards either, and he didn't say excuse me to the man.  That was what amazed me.  He's not an adolescent.  He's a grown man and a parent.  He didn't even say "Excuse me, I'm sorry."  Instead, he turned to me angrily and said, "Not cool, right?"  I realize how much I've grown since then.  I didn't yet know then how to say, "Don't make this about me."  Sometimes I feel I am just getting things that some have at 17 years old.  I was so startled by his behavior.  I sensed his rage and saw he was leaning toward putting it out in my direction.  I did nothing to deserve his shit.  I couldn't quite believe we were on our way to a show where I booked him.  I hadn't yet learned deeply enough what happens when you like people who don't like themselves.  My marriage was a big kick in the head of this lesson, and this guy was one of the layers of sealant that followed.  He angrily repeated, "Not very cool, right?"  I said, "I don't think in terms of cool."  He searched and said, "Not classy, right?"  "I wouldn't call that classy," I admitted.  While belching loud in someone's face is not a desirable happening, not saying excuse me is what I found more offensive.  And his need for and seeking out my disapproval made me uncomfortable and concerned.  

    My then-husband was also a man who didn't own himself or understand when his shit was going on me.

    When the guy took the stage, his energy was low, and he didn't look at the audience for a while.  He looked down and sounded depressed and unprepared, and I thought I'll never do that again.  I thought that he fucked this up for himself and possibly for me too.  I was trusted to book someone, and he turned this whole thing into a negative experience.  That day was the turning point in our pal-ship.  I don't think he was conscious of all that, but I was.  He behaved better with people who were less nice than I.  I was getting tired of this pattern in my life.

    I didn't see him much after that, but we read each other on line in a community of stand-ups.  One day I blogged about comics from an audience view.  I'd been an audience member much longer than a stand-up.  I felt a huge gap between members of the aspiring stand-up community and the audience, especially the female customers.  I thought the blog could bridge some of the gap.  As a teacher, I get to read comments from the students on how they felt about the class.  I love getting to read the feedback.  Companies hire focus groups to hear what potential customers think of their products.  So it didn't even occur to me then that any aspiring comic would not want to hear how the audience might hear them.  (I've since learned.)  I received mostly very positive comments on that blog from the aspiring comics.  He wrote me a nasty comment.  Much of it didn't make sense, but I guess it did give a window into what may have been bothering him.  One of the things he accused me of was that I speak in my comedy of liking oral sex.  (No, he's not 12.)
    I was so puzzled and taken aback.  I thought, he is younger than me, and he thinks women shouldn't enjoy sex?  That it should be a thing tolerated by a dutiful wife?  He didn't say all that, but he implied it.  Did he miss the Sixties?  I didn't get what was the problem with liking something.  What was he saying about men's abilities -- that they only expect and want to be tolerated and not enjoyed?  Then I thought that maybe he thinks I don't approve of talking about sex?  But then I went and did it, so that would be hypocritical?  How can he think that I don't approve of talking about any part of our human existence?  Being open is one of my main assets.  Then I realized that many juvenile types don't seem to get the difference between talking about sex and calling someone you experienced sexual pleasure with degrading names for having had sex with you.  I couldn't believe he was so angry with me and was surprised by how juvenile he was.  I wasn't calling anyone names -- not even calling assholes "assholes."  He seemed angry that I spoke on the degree of misogyny I felt thrust into when I entered the stand-up arena.  Whose purpose does it serve not to speak on it?  I came from social work and teaching, and suddenly I was poultry. 

    Beneath his undesirable behavior, I guess I saw a hurt boy.  His childhood was not loving and protective enough.  My childhood had pretty big challenges as well.  Neither of us escaped damage.  The difference at this point was, I wasn't making him pay for mine.  He already seemed to have a slot for me in his mind even though it wasn't who I was. 

    I figured my blog and my comedy and who I actually am bothered him.  It hurt because I had been so tolerant of many shitty things about him.  I took the weight for his weed.  I never tried to make him feel bad about being too childish to claim his own fucking weed.  This story is the first time I am publicly mentioning it but not with anyone's identity.  The more he spoke of his wife, the more I saw what he was all about.  He'd say shit like, "I never called her a liar."  I'd think, she probably isn't one.  So his defense to lying to his wife was that he didn't call her a liar.  I frankly didn't know how she was able to tolerate him for as long as she did.  It seemed she spoke to him directly about what she felt some of the problems were.  He didn't seem capable of addressing things in that fashion.  He made fun, usually with his tone of voice, of whatever she said.  He would tell me, expecting me to agree with him about how awful she was.  But I didn't see her as awful at all.  I was happy for her that she was saving her own life.  She had a little girl, she worked full time, and her mother helped her.  (When I needed help to get out of my situation, I felt I had to wait a long time because I didn't have family who could help me and I couldn't count on my husband to share parenthood.  He hadn't shared parenting with his first wife.  I was stuck.)  After a while, though this guy's wife doesn't know it, I felt more like her friend.  She may have been more traditional than I, but she was honest about who she was.  I think he didn't even know who he was.  But I let him be whoever he was.  He did not let me be me without receiving his hostility.  That was what felt bad.  I had accepted him with all his shit.  I can share a planet, a borough, an open mic with many.  As long as the person is not my problem, I can be accepting of a wide range of humankind.  He had trouble accepting my perception, experience, and views, basically me.

    So I wrote a comment back to his comment.  I wrote that I hadn't meant to upset anyone but must've hit some nerves.  I questioned some of his motives.  I really didn't get why he'd want the world to remain so hostile to women when he had a daughter.  After writing and posting it, I saw he had taken his comment down.  But in my comment, I addressed him by name, so it was clear I was responding to his shit.  Since the website was a community of mainly men working on their comedy, he cared about how he looked in front of them.  And since at that point, they left mainly supportive comments, he probably didn't want to appear as a threatened, backwards, oppressive, little man in front of them.  His comment was one written to attack me like I had done something to this man. 

    I don't know what was the turning point for him in terms of his feelings toward me.  He had never, up to that point, talked to me directly about any problem between us that merited the kind of hostility he expressed.  My suspicion is that during the time I just went to open mic's with him, was depressed and didn't speak a whole lot and mainly listened to his marital woes and comedy advice, he must've decided who I was but not based on who I really am.  It was probably based on what he needed me to be.  Then when


    I hit the stage, he saw who I am.  It must've blown him away.  I do not join the patriarchy as much as shine light on it and share the tragic funny.  So those who can't see how damaging the patriarchy is to women's lives and who thought everything was fine, except for these "bitches" and "hoes" out here, probably get a little uncomfortable at my bringing it to light.  He got more than a little uncomfortable apparently, but since at my debut I "killed" according to him, he wouldn't say I wasn't good.  He didn't want the image of being a sexist, but people need to embrace who they really are before they can grow.  So while attempting to keep up a front of a modern man, his true self was coming out in ugliness all over the place.  He had that in common with my then-husband.  It's easier to deal with someone who can say, "I must have some shit inside to look at because I do feel bothered by your material and much of what you say though I don't disagree intellectually."  I can respect the conflicts people go through inside, especially if they are aware and not taking their shit out on others.  But he is very unlikely to reach that level of authentic living.  Just writing that sentence is evidence of my growth.  I often held out too much hope for a person's best self to come forward.  I think I'd project my best self onto them.  I have to be more judgmental, especially if they are grown.  Many people's accessible best self is not that impressive by the time they are grown anyway.

    I saw him here and there just because we both were going to open mics.  We were also both in a show at a club in Manhattan.  People we both were acquainted with were in it too.  That may have influenced his behavior.  I performed very well at that show as I was very comfortable with the audience, and his natural reaction seemed to be to hug me.  It was strange to me as I thought he didn't approve of my views, etc.  Like my then-husband, he had a public image to try to keep up.  He wouldn't want the others to think he had the hang-ups he had.  Yet the hug felt genuine like he wanted to be connected again.  At the end of the show, the comics went out to eat; I went straight home to my son.  I still at that point wanted to know what was this guy's problem with me.  I still felt hurt at his betrayal of what I thought was some degree of friendship. 

    One night when we spoke a bit at an open mic, I did ask him what was the problem.  He didn't seem able to answer.  I brought up the angry comment he wrote.  He didn't apologize for the hurtful things he wrote.  It didn't seem to bother him that his comment was hurtful.  That felt so bad to me.  My heart is too tender for people like that.  He said he took it down because he realized there was nothing wrong with that post.  His emphasis on that and his tone in general was as if he were my boss and had the right to disapprove of me.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  He could barely run his own life.  Why take on the responsibility for someone else's life when one is plenty to manage.  I wondered how this happened -- this shift from equal people to this crap. 

    I thought he must be missing his wife.  They were already separated by this point.  It saddened me because I had thought we were going to help each other navigate the stand-up world, share opportunities and stories, be comedy pals.  But if he was putting his energy into looking for a moment to pounce on me with rage and feel justified, this was not a relationship where I could grow or even relax.  I tolerated a lot of that bossy-toned shit from my husband because I needed to know my son and I would not end up homeless.  But my son was not little now, and things were moving along.  My freedom was in sight.  I didn't want some other troubled person telling me how to behave who didn't even pay my bills.  I don't require outside supervision; so far, I haven't belched in people's faces. 

    And really, would he tell Angelina Jolie's mother what to do?
 be continued...  (don't miss the next installment when, after provocation, my then-husband wants to get involved)

  2. 5 comments:

    1. Melinda said...

      SHEESH! SO MUCH WASTED BRAIN POWER. I'm exhausted and wasn't even there. WHY? do you even bother trying to figure out what knuckleheads think. Step up and leave the cavemen behind.

    2. This was 6 to 7 years ago.

    3. Anonymous said...

      I agree with Melinda. I do not associate with people like this. Unfortunately they need therapy and I am not a therapist.

    4. RHC said...

      Thank you for sharing how you have grown in dealing with negative people who feel the need to misdirect their hostility at you.

    5. It's good for me to read your reactions. Thanks for leaving comments. For anyone not clear on this, this all took place about 7 or 8 years ago, echoing the bigger break-up I was going through. I am looking at it in hindsight as I share the story. I am trying to capture what I thought at the time. I am not proud of all this, but it is part of my experiences, and in order to grow, I had to look at it all. Having seen this person by chance at a mic in recent weeks brought it up. Writing this out helps me see. Maybe this installment was too long. The depths of my tolerance was created in a very challenging childhood. Sometimes, it doesn't serve me well.

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