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  1. One Size Does Not Fit All

    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    One day when I was on the fence fighting off the depression alligators (a not-terrible day when I can put up a good fight), I decided to go to a comedy open mic I'd never been to before.  I was hopeful about steering the rest of the day in a different direction.  The cost was $5 and a drink.  

    I showed the host my $20-bill and asked if I should buy my drink first.  He said yes.  After breaking the twenty, I handed him a $10-bill.

    "Is that better?" I asked.

    "It's smaller," he said.

    "Well, sometimes smaller is better," I blurted, unable to resist.  We both laughed. 

    "I never heard that from a woman before."

    "That's because you don't hear us."

    The open mic show was as much like an actual show as I've ever seen (though I've seen actual shows that were like an open mic).  No notes were allowed during one's set.  Both hosts practiced saying my last name before the mic began.  It was the second time I've ever seen a comedy open mic be attended equally by women and men.  From beginning to end, it was actually the first time.  That may or may not have been normal for this mic.

    My set was very well received which felt really wonderful and made me feel so glad I decided to do this.  Feeling welcomed like I was helps me do my best.  I've done okay in less friendly environments, but it's just less joyous an experience for me.

     A female comic got up there talking about how she and her friends share how big their boyfriends' dicks are.  Then she admitted that she prefers them medium-sized.  Reflexively, my head spun around and the host that I had that earlier conversation with was diagonally across the room.  He looked at me too, we both pointed to each other, and had to laugh.

    In one night, two women may have changed his world.  Yes, worlds change when women are heard. 

  2. The summer so far has had some good stuff, some new things, and some odd happenings. 

    I was in two short plays written by teenage playwrights.  In one, I was the main character and had to play a Dominican woman in her late thirties.  It was a new challenge to play a different ethnicity and flattering to pass for late thirties.  I enjoyed the people I worked with.  A friend and co-worker at my regular job helped me with the two Spanish sentences that were in the script.  My character had an anger problem and kept getting fired from jobs and blamed it on being Hispanic (even when her boss was Hispanic).  The best part was the director loved all the faces I tend to make and didn't want anyone in the audience to not be able to see my expressions.  What I find remarkable is those are the same faces that typically have gotten me in trouble at jobs and in almost-fights with people since junior high school.  The acting world loves my expressions and doesn't want me to
    hold back.  In so many ways, it is truly where I belong (though not the only place).  The writer of the play, Kari Luna, came to both performances, and she loved it both times.  She was super happy with the results, and her joy seemed to compound my joy.  She is sixteen and already writing so well.  I have to say her play was very well cast and directed.  Yet another great part was a friend and co-worker who is also a playwright came to see the plays.  I didn't know he was in the audience until afterwards when he came over to me.  I was so thrilled and surprised to see him, I threw myself into a big strong hug.  Delish.  The cherry on the cake (or the hash sprinkled on the weed) was that each person who runs the theatre company came over to let me know what a great job I did as "Carmen." 

    I really want to be able to dedicate more of my time to that path, but in a few weeks, the jobs get demanding again and I will also be glad to receive the second job money again as I have some catching up to do with bills that I fell behind on as I do most summers. 

    I also have connected with a group of playwrights that meets weekly.  I attend as an actress and, along with others, do cold readings of their writing.  Some of the playwrights are quite professional and have had plays produced.  I felt very welcomed.  And that's another thing I will only be able to do when on breaks from the evening job.  Grrrrr. 

    A man I met and I were having a conversation that he interrupted to tell me I must've once been a real looker.  I said that I notice his emphasis on the past tense.  Then he said, "Even now you are a handsome woman."  I felt like twirling my mustache hairs, but I just adjusted my balls. 

    The poetry workshop I attend when I can keeps me writing poetry.  In recent times, my poems have gotten more laughs than my comedy.  It's a different scene.  Those listening do not expect funny.  So when it is funny, they are really laughing hard.  I have featured in a couple of poetry readings.  I have to say that doing stand-up makes everything else I do seem easier than how I used to experience it. 

    I managed to get to several open mics to work on my comedy, met some more comics I enjoyed hearing working on their stuff, and I was pleased with my performance in a show. 

    I have another photo shoot coming up (free!), and I'm hoping to make this one different than the previous ones.  More daring.

    I figured out a sexual orientation status for me for now:  I think I'm a celibate, virgin lesbian with an occasional taste for men.  I get flirted with by everyone, have sex with no one, and piss everyone off.  All in a day's work. 

    At the time, my then-husband and I had agreed to separate.  There were many challenges going on in my home that included our son (at least as a witness, and my then-husband was involving him instead of protecting him), so I was having in general a very hard time of things.  Between all that and this weird situation with comedy guy, there was no shortage of challenges coming my way.  One evening my best friend, who knew everything that was going on, said, "You've been taking the high road so much, it's amazing you don't have nose bleeds."

    I honestly did not know how long I could last.  It's not like comedy guy sincerely apologized and publicly admitted to having treated me wrong or anything.  That would -- well, that would be a different person.  He couldn't do that apparently. 

    Then one day on the web site, he announced that there had been orange juice on his car engine making a bad smell.  He said he didn't know how that got there.  Oh my God.  This was his twisted admission that he was wrong, but he couldn't address his behavior.  I exclaimed to my friend, "His nose doesn't know the difference between orange juice on hot metal and pussy?" 

        +     =

    Apparently, he was giving the whole thing some thought.  It was likely because his guy pals didn't think he was cool.  They were, to varying degrees, older than twelve.  But he couldn't address me.  He had my email.  This never had to be a schoolyard fight (which is now the world wide web). 

    Weeks went by.  The website was feeling generally unfriendly to me though I had some on-line buddies there.  The older woman who many fought with (who did her share of instigating as well) was blocked from the site.  I was more amazed at who and what was tolerated.  However, it was a site for comics and fans, so I guess they could make a case that her stuff was never really comedy related.  She was probably experienced as there to harass.  And sometimes, it did seem that way.  However, the reactions to her were more horrifying to me as she could have been ignored when behaving negatively.  Some had done that.  But many hadn't.  At some point, I was accused of having "called them out" when they had been having trouble with her and how I encouraged her.  It gave me a chance to tell them what my side of it was.  I did not encourage her to mess with them.  I privately advised her not to.  Publicly, I ignored her when she did that.  I did not egg her on.  I am not of the gang mentality.  If something is wrong, it's wrong.  They had referred to her as my friend.  I explained that not being abusive to someone doesn't make them my friend.  I told them their fighting with her was more encouraging to her to continue than anything I did.  I told them I couldn't believe some of the mean things that were said to an older woman and how uncalled for it was.  And yes, at some point I had to say something about it.  (That's what they referred to as being "called out".)  With some, the air was cleared.  With others, they weren't being honest with themselves as to what their problem was.  And the less mature guys still were loyal to comedy guy.  But even if comedy guy and I never had problems, the website wasn't for me.  The more mature people disappeared.  Those whose sensibilities were more like mine left or just blogged but didn't really interact with others. 

    It was near the end-of year holidays if I remember that right, and I saw that comedy guy had changed his photo.  In the new one, he was interacting happily with his child.  That was my chance.  It wasn't going to get better than that.  I wrote a blog of what I appreciated about the site as a happy new year type thing.  Mixed into the list I mentioned comedy guy by name when I said I liked his new photo because he looked happy in it.

    For a while, there was quiet like during a snowfall. 

    I visited the site less and less as time went on.  So it was really by chance that I happened to see a blog by comedy guy one night.  In it, he mentioned me by name and wrote that I was one of the rare ones who shared opportunities.  In one hour, he took the blog down and reposted it without that line.  The one with the line went into his archives.  Most folks in that community read the current blogs on the front page and wouldn't be likely to go into the archives.  The chances were so slim that I'd see that, that it felt like something greater made sure I saw it.  I believed it was genuine.  He missed the opportunities.  Maybe he even saw for a minute that he ruined it.  But he never expressed being sorry for hurting a friend.  His sorrow was for his loss, not for my feelings.

    Fast forward about 7 or 8 years to a couple of months ago.  I'm at an open mic in the Bronx with my buddy.  In walks Ken Burger* and he sets up his recording device behind me for when he does his thing at the mic.  He says hello to my friend and then goes to sit at the table in front of ours.  He turned around to look at me.  I felt myself in defense mode.  He did some creepy face, a grin and a nod type thing.  I know my face looked like, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"  I sat on the urge to blurt, "What? Say what ya gotta say like a grown man.  Don't be making faces at me."
    Breathe, Mindy.  Start on the exhale.  Think of your material for the mic.  But my mind wandered to my ex-husband who didn't understand how comedy guy's ex-wife's family hadn't hurt him.  Mindy, that is part of comedy guy's sickness.  He gets people to want to do physical damage to him.  Don't feed into it. 

    He and I were the only ones at the open mic there to do comedy.  The others were mainly musicians.  He went up earlier than I.  Later, when I was called up, he was still there.  Typically he leaves after he's done.  I didn't look at him.  I did my thing, and for an open mic, I did okay. 

    "What amazes me about him is he has no shame," I told my buddy on our ride home.  "He says hello to you like he never did anything wrong.  He sets up his recorder behind me like he sees no problem being near me.  Then he goes behind you and turns around and gives me a weird face and nods.  I'd be so embarrassed if I were him to even look at me."

    "Shit, me too."

    THE END!

    *Ken Burger is a fictional name.

    My then-husband and I negotiated and agreed he would just call comedy guy.  I told him that if comedy guy gets his phone number, that could be problems down the road as I no longer could assume decency.  He said he would call from a pay phone.  I felt much better about that more thought-out response than what might be more viscerally satisfying.  The behavior amongst some on the website sometimes seemed to show me how the killing in the Middle East could go on endlessly.  If no one makes a decision to search for another way, nothing changes.  No matter how awful the damage.  People dig up their own ugliness and dump it on the other (whoever the 'other' happens to be). 
    One of the things that bothered me on the website was how he portrayed himself so differently than the he that was shown to me.  I'm sure his wife got it to a much worse degree.  I could tell by his tone when he spoke of her.  Her punishment for having once loved him.  The judgment of his male peers meant a lot to him.  He was okay with women who had an acceptable place in society, a stereotypical slot.  "Mother to all" "sweet girl" -- that type of thing that tells me the more complete person inside is going unrecognized, dismissed in a way.  When we get categorized that way, guess what category that leaves.  Well, if having a sex life involving others makes one a whore, I was too penis-free to fit that category.  So he didn't know what to make of a person who is female, not obedient or dumb, not ugly, wanting her divorce, challenging the status quo by simply thinking and breathing, getting the reins back on her life.  I probably seemed a lot like his wife. 
    My then-husband called him and firmly said he wanted whatever was going on to stop.  When comedy guy tried to speak, then-husband cut him off and told him he didn't want to hear explanations and just wanted it to stop.  Comedy guy said, "I'll stop," as if I were the problem.  He never said he was sorry for sinking so low or anything like that.
    When I went on the website, he was gathering his fellas and referring to me as a wimp for getting my husband to call him.  The asshole had no clue that this was after bargaining then-husband down to a phonecall from an ass-kicking.  Now I wanted to slap his face myself.  I was fuming.  After all this effort to not take this path, I wanted to leave my handprint on his face.  He called me a wimp because my husband still gave a shit to some degree, but he's okay with himself wanting to fight with an older woman.  I think that's more 'wimpy' if we are going to use male-centered language and measurement of courage.
    The universe redirected me.  I didn't see him for quite a while.  This story could have had a very different outcome.
    On the website, I could still feel the hostility.  On a couple of occasions when I shared with a few people that I was thinking about leaving the site, one man gave me the impression that they were acting that way to eliminate their competition and I should be strong and stay.  Another told me it would be awful for a community to lose me and keep those guys (he was referring to a couple of the assholes).  Plus for whatever reasons, I thought this was the comedy community.  I didn't see clearly yet how much of the comedy community did not bother with that site.  Many registered but didn't participate.
    One of the guys I liked on the site was running an open mic.  I wrote him asking if comedy guy attends.  He wrote back telling me it would be so much better if we could make peace and just sit on opposite sides of the room.  We were so past that option at this point, but this guy didn't know.  So I decided to let him know how much I tried for peace and what comedy guy was doing instead.  This was a more mature acting man than the others though they were comedy friends.  This guy was happily married and generally respectful.  He'd never imagine the sides of men that only women get to see.  So I shared the comment and asked him if his wife was spoken to that way, would he think she should make peace when he didn't even apologize.  I told him that comedy guy thinks I got my husband on him when it was the exact opposite; I basically kept my husband off of him.  This man read the comment (which was letter-size) and wrote back saying that after certain lines are crossed, there may be no going back.  I appreciated his earnestness.  I even told him that after the wimp remarks, I wondered if I should've let my husband do whatever he wanted.  This man said that as long as there was no imminent danger, he would advise against violence.  I told him that was my goal, but no guarantees.
    It was obvious to me that he confronted comedy guy about the depths he sunk to.  Comedy guy's remarks on the website were now references to technology and how someone is always watching and there's always evidence.  So he was only sorry he couldn't deny it to his fellas.  He wasn't sorry to me for being so horrible.  One of his asshole friends who he adored read the comment and told me he didn't want to judge because he didn't know what happened before like maybe I pushed his child down a flight of stairs.  Okaaaay, this is when their dick-bond was causing serious blindness.  After all, pushing toddlers down steps is my favorite pastime -- Lord help us.  And of course when an adult pushes your child down a flight of stairs, don't call the police or anything -- just wait a few days and write her about her hygiene on social media.  These are college graduates, by the way.  So I, who didn't find an adolescent boy's picture something to laugh at, prefer to get my kicks by pushing two-year-olds down steps. 
    So at this point, my husband spoke to him intimidatingly, I revealed what he thought no one would see and he was shamed among his dudes, but he was still indirectly expressing things to me, so I knew it was still simmering (whatever the 'it' was that was making him so hostile toward me). 
    On the website, he actually credited some man for never booking him.  He wrote, "At least you knew I was an asshole."  That is how guilty he felt for screwing things up with me and how unable he was to apologize in any real way that he credited someone for never booking him, indirectly blaming me for the crime of being a comedy friend.  That was the moment I told myself, "Mindy, that's what happens when you treat someone well who doesn't like himself.  You have got to learn this, girlfriend, or it will keep happening.  Look at how it looks, feel how it feels, and don't forget.  There's no shortage of people like this."
    My best friend was amazed at what comedy guy wrote about himself and admitted he felt sorry for comedy guy.  I said I did too, but I had to figure out what my plan would be because I knew it wasn't over.  It was suppressed.  He knew there were no secret rooms for his insanity.  I was hanging it out for others to see.  I was not taking on the shame.  This definitely wasn't going the way abusive people need it to.
    Having been a parent and done some reading for different ideas on handling problems, one of the things I learned that can be helpful with a misbehaving child is to catch them being good and give him/her attention for it.  The point being everyone needs and seeks out attention.  If one doesn't get it for good things, they will do bad to get it.  This makes sense to me.  I know that everything alive (including plants) screams for attention in their own ways.  Still trying to think of how I might approach it if I were a dean in a JHS, I decided I would wait until I could say something positive about him that would be genuine.  I knew this could take a while.  If it wasn't going to be genuine, there'd be no point. 
    Given his typical behavior, I didn't know if there would be such a moment.  I also didn't know if I'd be able to stay on the track toward a peaceful resolution.  My then-husband asked me about the situation and when he heard about the wimp remarks, he was all set to go find him.  I shared the conversation my best friend and I had (see part four).  I made him promise me that he'd hold on until I can do what I hoped to be able to do first, and then if that made no impact, well then I'd let him handle it man-style.  It is less time-consuming and can be efficient for the short-term.  I was concerned more about the long-term and about what felt right to me.  Peace is truly a road less traveled, so I had to figure shit out along the way.  My then-husband had no patience for the high road, but somewhere in him he valued my approach.  He raised his eyebrows, sighed, and said, "You will have really good karma."
 be continued...