I realize I have a tendency to share more on social media (and here) when things are not going well. Writing is a way of processing for me. Not surprisingly, I feel less compelled to process when things are going well. But maybe that's the wrong approach. Maybe I should be processing when things are going well so I can try to figure out how to keep that shit going.
I've talked a bit about the pressure I feel to make myself look more shiny on social media. We all know that most people use social media to portray a better version of their lives. I know an actor who posts so many professional photos of herself it looks like she has a photo shoot every week. I asked her about it and she said she just strategically posts photos that she has stored up. It's smart. But, honestly, I don't have the interest in being that strategical.
Complete off-topic sidebar: I went to a group thing on Monday where we had to break up into pairs and interview each other, and then introduce each other to the group. My partner asked me what I do and I said I was an actor and when she introduced me to the group she called me an "actress." What is that? Why?
ANYWAY, the point is, things have been going really well for me for the past year or so, and honestly, I feel like it's my fucking turn. It's been a rough haul for a long, long time. My mother's death, coupled with a few other traumatic things I went through around that time, really knocked me on my ass. It took me a long time to recover.
I've felt a lot of shame about my depression. I share about it openly now, but it took me forever to own it, and not feel ashamed that my healing process took longer than others. There's another actor around my age whose mother died when she was around 16 or so. This woman, as far as I'm concerned, has the career that I could have had if I had a) been able to recover faster from my childhood trauma and b) stayed in NYC instead of fleeing to Los Angeles for more than a decade. I look at her and it's like seeing what my life could have been. She has become a symbol of what could have been. I have shamed myself because she seemingly bounced back from the loss of her mother much faster than I did. Granted, I don't know her intimately, but it certainly seems like the dark shadow of chronic depression passed her by. And I find myself feeling resentful of her, even though her success is well-deserved.
It wasn't until recently that my therapist pointed out that my mother's death was not my only trauma, and that a lot of shit swept my way in a very short time. I'm almost 40 and just coming to terms with the fact that it wasn't just that my mom died. She was diagnosed less than three months after I won the Tony, and died less than two years later. In kid-time, those gaps are eons. In reality they are blinks of an eye. My greatest success was almost immediately dwarfed by my greatest tragedy. Added to that tragedy was a family that had been drowning in alcoholism for the first decade of my life (and well before that), a family member experiencing life-threatening domestic violence that I could do nothing about (despite having called the man's mother and telling her I would cut his balls off if he ever hurt my loved one again. I was 10), parents who were largely emotionally absent or lacking, and a couple of sexual assaults/rapes that I brushed off as "my fault" or "just city life."
Added to all of this is the extremely complicated and twisted thing that happens to a person when they achieve success at an early age. There's all kinds of weird developmental stuff that gets interrupted or thwarted. There's an expectation from the outside world to be the person they knew you to be (which is a whole nother level of fucked up. Ask yourself why people expect child stars to never grow up while the rest of the world does. Whatever happened to Baby Jane?) And a pressure to perform at your peak all the time, which is impossible. I could write a book about what child stardom does to the human brain. (Note to self: Email literary agent.)
Yesterday I organized my file cabinet (it's a glamorous life I lead, folks), and I came across my grades and evaluations for middle school, high school, and the first college I went to. I don't know why I still hang on to these things. I shot five episodes of a hot new TV show and apparently didn't save a single script, but I'm still carting around shitty report cards from 20+ years ago. I'm not going to dig them back out to quote them here. In fact, I will probably throw them away tonight. Suffice it to say, one teacher said I almost succeeded in driving him crazy, another said I had an over-developed talent for shushing my classmates, most of them said I had trouble focusing, and one said that I handed in essays that were disorganized, fraught, and sloppy. A college writing teacher said, "Writing doesn't come easy to Daisy." Bitch, who the fuck does writing come easy to? This shit is hard. What the fuck kind of dumbass statement is that? "Writing doesn't come easy to Hunter S. Thompson. If he's not careful, he might blow his brains out one day while his wife is making pancakes." I mean, what the fuck?
Almost every single teacher said that I was smart and had incredible potential if I would only apply myself.
Fuckin' story of my life, kids. Story of my life.
Let's look back, briefly on the summer of... '95 (I think); the summer between 10th and 11th grades. I was doing drugs that made me miserable, desperately trying to keep up with a group of friends who were actively trying to shake me off. I was wildly miserable. I went to the Roxy one night with said friends (the 90s in NYC, guys. It was a different time), and got lured into a dark corner and sexually assaulted. I told no one. Though I did see the guy a few days later at The Cube in Astor Plaza and confronted him. He had no idea who I was. Or pretended he didn't, anyway. My father was intensely self-focused. My sister had moved across the country. I felt very alone. So, yeah, I had trouble focusing in school, didn't do my work, and was generally a fucking nightmare.
And then I went off to college when I wasn't even 17. That was a great idea... Basically I was running away from my life. I was endlessly spinning. Trying to find anything to grab on to. And writing wasn't coming easy to me.
Finally in '97 I lost my footing for real and ended up in the hospital. It was pretty grim, but it saved my life.
Chronic depression and anxiety carve new pathways in your brain. Eventually those pathways are so neatly carved out that of course those are the pathways your mind will take when trying to navigate through the world. The new pathways are lined with billboards that remind you of how worthless you are. It's like the old billboards for Burma-Shave.
This is the path
You've tread before
That man assaulted you
'Cause you're a whore
There's nothing left
But woe and dread
You'll feel bereft
Until you're dead.
Thank you. You can find my published collection of depression billboard poetry in your local Walmart.
Anyway, that's the kind of message your brain tells you day in and day out. And it's become so much a part of your thinking that it is now reality. It takes years of therapy (and evil. evil pharmaceuticals) to begin to understand that the billboards are lying to you, and that you don't have to take that path anymore. The work is about carving out a new path, with new billboards, which is a fucking slog.
The past is done
It can not change
This work's not fun
It's new and strange
But bust your ass
Take your meds and see
That from your past
You will break free.
Jesus, I am so good at this.
Then eventually you'll (hopefully) end up on a path lined with billboards that say shit like, "Werk!" "Slay!" "Get it!" and "Yas, Queen, yas!"
Right now I'm on the service road in between those two paths. But the entrance ramp to that last freeway is coming up on my left.
I'm gonna take it.
Here's to a new year. Here are the things I would like to check off my list this year:
What are some of your goals for 2019?
Whenever you read a memoir from someone who either suffers from depression or had massive struggle before they got successful, they’re generally lauded for their honesty. They’re like, Wow, this author really cracked open their chest and let you see the blood and viscera, and showed us how they sewed their chest back up and are now running marathons, and a successful company, and have a great family. “Look how successful I am, but it wasn’t always like this; I struggled, too.” But, as someone who suffers from depression, those stories can sometimes start to feel like a reminder of how you haven’t become successful yet. Plus, also, you haven’t quite sewn your chest back up, yet. So, your story still just feels like the struggle part. And you’re rounding the corner on 40.
If there’s a memoir out there in which the author hasn’t sewn their chest back up by the end of the book, so they’re like, “I don’t know, guys. My chest is still a gaping wound. I might just die. The end,” please tell me what it is.
And I FULLY recognize how insane it might sound for someone in my position to say they haven’t become successful yet. Obviously, I have had massive success and continue to enjoy a pretty lucrative and steady career. Or, rather, I am, once again, after a long hiatus, enjoying a pretty lucrative and steady career. But there is always the next goal. And maybe that’s a tiny lesson I can impart amidst this rambling: No matter how high up the mountain you climb, there is always another summit to conquer.
Also, yes, I just came off a national tour of a Tony-winning play, and I did a terrific stint as a recurring on a new TV show (still can’t announce it publicly…), but I still have to collect unemployment to make ends meet (i.e. to afford to live at all), which means I have to prove that I’m looking for work, which means occasionally I have to go to job interviews for awful jobs that I don’t want, and then not get those jobs and be insulted (“I didn’t want your stupid job anyway!”). And I still have to wonder what would happen if I never booked another gig (which apparently is a fear that all actors live with forever no matter how high up the mountain they get, but still…). And I still feel the need to panic when a gig is ending. And I still actively think about what my backup career should be. And, yes, I recognize my privilege.
So, no, I don’t feel like I’m at the point where I can say, “I may be successful now, but it wasn’t always this way. Let me tell you all about it in this best-selling memoir!”
Anyway, the point is, I’m in the thick of it, and it feels scary and vulnerable to share what that looks like and how it feels. And there are a few voices of trolls past who said I’m a downer and that I complain too much. But I’m starting to be comfortable in my complaining. There is a lot to complain about. The world is on fire and life is hard. And I will leave it to others to write inspirational pieces about finding the light within, and walking with god, and how eating chia seeds will help align your chakras, or whatever. That ain’t my brand. My brand is: We are all pushing our rocks up the hill. Let’s talk about it. And I’m becoming increasingly okay with that.
Monty and I just had an epically shitty walk to school. As we were leaving the apartment, I saw Rabbit laying on the floor near the couch and almost asked Monty if he wanted to bring her, but we’re trying to break him of that habit, so I let it be. By the time we got down the two flights to the first floor, he realized he had left her and wanted to go back up. I made the monumentally poor decision of saying it was too late and assured him I would bring her with me to pick him up this afternoon. By the time we were halfway down the next block, he was in full tears, reaching his arms out toward our apartment like Jennifer Holiday at the end of “And I am Telling You,” sobbing, “RABBIT!!!” He then threw his backpack and himself respectively on the ground and wept.
I stood there, while neighbors watched, trying to decide if I needed to pick my battles and relent, or stand my ground and not reward the behavior. I told him that if we went back home, he would be staying in his room the whole day by himself. “I want to snuggle you!” he cried. I told him snuggling wouldn’t be possible.
Have you ever had to say no to a five-year-old who just wants to snuggle? It’s fucking awful.
When I was maybe seven or eight, I would occasionally forget my bus pass. The bus stop was about two blocks from the house, and one morning, when I had forgotten my bus pass, my father decided that rather than pay the $1 fare (maybe he hadn’t brought his wallet?), he was taking my back home where I was to spend the rest of the day in my room, with the door closed. I don’t know where he went, he didn’t have a job. My mother was a freelance journalist who worked from home in her study. The rule was, if she was in her study with the door closed, she was, essentially, not home. She was not to be disturbed. As a mother who tries to get writing done at home, I get it. Midway through the day I remembered a nightmare I’d had the night before. I was so frightened by it, it took me a few minutes to steel myself just to cross my own bedroom to get to the door. I went downstairs and knocked on my mother’s study door. I don’t remember what the dream was, but whatever it was, it was scary enough that I was willing to brave the consequences of disturbing my mother to possibly get some comfort. She was warm enough to let me sit on her lap and tell her the dream as I cried, but as soon as I was done recounting, she said she was sorry, but I had to go back to my room and stay there.
I spent a lot of time in my childhood alone.
But what the fuck? When I get down two flights and realize I’ve left my water bottle, or my hat, or my Metrocard, do I have to spend the rest of the day locked in my room? What is the lesson I’m trying to impart? Though, to be honest, most of the time, when I look back up the stairs, like Harold and Kumar, I decide I’ve come too far already, and it isn’t worth it to trudge all the way back up. But you know what happens the next day? I fucking remember to take my hat (and inevitably forget something else).
I heard my father this morning when I told Monty that if we went home, he would be staying in his room. I heard my mother when I told him I wouldn’t be snuggling him. It didn’t sound good.
I told Kurt that I had threatened the same punishment my father had. Kurt reminded me to ask myself who I want to be in those moments. In that moment I wanted to be someone who was punching Kurt in the face.
Abbi Jacobson apparently said that if people don’t want you to write shitty things about them, they shouldn’t do shitty things.
In 34 years, do I want Monty writing about being sent to his room for the whole day because when he was five one morning he forgot his comfort object? Or, do I want him to say, “Gee, my mom was swell. She always made sure I had my rabbit in the morning before we left for school”? Of course, he’ll also be writing, “On the other hand, I’m 39 and I still have to carry this fucking rabbit around with me because my fucking mother never helped me separate from it. Also, I left the house this morning without my water bottle, hat, and Metrocard.”
Notes from the Road
Part Twelve: Los Angeles
There’s no ice in the freezer, so rather than drink my cold crew without ice, or walk a couple blocks to the nearest coffee shop, I’ve decided to hide in my room instead. Complaining that there’s no ice for my cold brew is the grossest thing I’ve done in a while, I think.
I’m stuck in L.A. until Saturday. I bought my flights here and back too quickly and should have waited until I had a better idea of my shooting schedule. As it turns out, I’m not in the episode after the one I shot last week. So, I’m just sitting here in L.A., waiting to go home.
Someone once told me that Los Angeles is an awful place to be if you’re not working. It’s true.
Yesterday morning was hot enough that I decided to take myself to the beach. I lived in L.A. for nearly 13 years and went to the beach maybe a dozen times. It took about an hour to get to Santa Monica. I passed by the three-hour meters on Ocean Ave. thinking I’d want to give myself more time. I went down to the beach parking lot. $14 flat rate. I went back up to Ocean Ave., parked at a meter, and set an alarm to remind myself to feed it at 5pm. By the time I put my towel down on the sand it was 2:30 and overcast and windy. A straight couple was doing gross pda in front of me, a gaggle of girls was shrieking behind me, and I was too obstinate to move. I ate some of the food I brought, and even though nothing had touched the sand, I still ended up biting down on sand. I read my book. Zipped up my hoodie. Tried to nap. Put my socks back on. Finally, at 3:45, I gave up. It took me an hour and a half to get back.
And then I remembered why I never went to the beach when I lived here.
I have friends out here whom I dearly love. There are a handful of restaurants I really like. But I do not understand the appeal. If I hear one more person in line behind me talk about their diet, I’m going to implode. I heard a woman casually (and loudly) give plastic surgery advice to her (very young) waiter. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Everything here takes an entire day to do. The incessant driving. Always the driving. I don’t know how I normalized this lifestyle. The only upside to living here (besides the weather) is the convenience of keeping all your crap in your car. You can change your shoes, grab your tiny bag, take a sip of water, and flounce away from your car to your ONE THING you have to do that day, light as a feather. In New York, you have 18 things to do in one day and you have all your crap in a backpack, a tote bag, a purse, and a grocery bag. We are experts at weight distribution. We’re like urban Sherpas. Oftentimes, we’re also juggling a child, or children.
New York has become a luxury mall that smells like piss in the summer, and I still prefer it to Los Angeles.
Notes from the Road
Part Twelve: Los Angeles
I’ve been thinking a lot, A LOT, about gender. Gender identity. Gender presentation. Gender conformity and nonconformity. And this is going to be a little unwieldy because I’m kind of working it out as I go.
When Ryan and I first met, they were considering taking T and having top surgery. They had their period on our second date and felt embarrassed and ashamed. They’ve talked about preferring their body when it’s less curvy. My ex also hated her hips and wished that shorts fit her they way they fit some men. This is so foreign to me. Ever since I could remember, I wanted “womanly” hips. Personally, I find curves to be delicious. There are few things more satisfying to me than resting my hand on the curve of a hip. But far be it from me to tell other people how they should want to look or feel. Ryan could take buckets of T and have top surgery and be a beanpole and I’d still love them. I’d probably still be wildly attracted to them. There would be things that I missed, but those would all be physical. Ryan would still be Ryan and that’s enough for me.
Neither Ryan nor my ex are males. My ex is a woman and Ryan is nonbinary (they use the term “enby”, which not all nonbinary people do). But they both feel uncomfortable with certain “feminine” aspects of their bodies.
I am fascinated by how trans people “know” they were assigned the wrong gender at birth. I have no idea what it means to “feel like a woman.” I never felt “like a girl” when I was growing up. I was a tomboy. I’m now a grown-up version of a tomboy. Tomman? But I didn’t feel “like a boy” either. Maybe the point is that it never occurred to me that anything was out of place and I was lucky enough to have parents who weren’t interested in hypergenderizing me. But it seems to me that when people say they don’t feel like the gender they were assigned at birth, what they’re actually saying is that they don’t necessarily feel like being categorically treated the way our culture has decided their assigned gender is supposed to be treated.
And maybe there is something deeper than that. Ryan says that they feel like there’s something deep, deep inside them that told them their gender assignment was wrong. Maybe that’s the thing that would determine what “gender” we were if we were all raised equally. Personally, I don’t have a strong feeling in any direction. I use she/her pronouns because it’s what was assigned to me, but I don’t feel any allegiance to my womanness. I don’t feel fundamentally female or like a woman. I don’t have anything in me telling me I’m a man, either. Maybe that’s my privilege as a cis gender person. But if you asked me what it is to be a woman, I would be at a loss.
Side bar: Someone I know recently announced via intsagram that he and his wife are having a baby, with a picture of pink balloons, pink baby shoes, and a pink sign that read “It’s a girl!” Really? Really?
Ultimately, I think it’s impossible for anyone to know what it feels like to be a man or woman. All of our gender “norms” are cultural. Being brave or meek or tough or sensitive; Liking trucks or dolls; Liking to bake or liking to grill. Those aren’t genetic traits. Those are culturally prescribed behaviors. A person who has female reproductive parts and who grows up liking trucks, and being scrappy, and wanting to play football, and, I don’t know burping, farting, and jerking off with abandon, who gets to say that that person is male or female?
We have a strong desire to classify things. And I understand the purpose of classifying humans based on their body parts. It is, in truth, the only thing that makes us different from each other (along with the accompanying chromosomes and hormones, but even those things are being found to be less clear cut and have less determining force than we thought). So, we came up with a classification system. The fact that different cultures, over human history, have managed to come up with more than two genders should be proof that gender is subjective. And yes, yes, I know humans have gotten plenty of shit wrong scientifically. Like, we used to think that our veins were filled with air and that diseases were caused by spirits or some dumb ass shit like that. But gender isn’t science. Sex is. Gender is not. Gender is a completely made up social construct to help us classify people. Gender, like race, is a MAN-made construct. No one can tell you what it feels like to be White because “white” isn’t a thing. (Which is not to say that “Trans-racial” is a thing. It’s not. I can’t explain it. But, it’s not. Rachel Dolezal, sit down.) I can tell you what it feels like to have my period because that’s a sciencey thing that actually takes place in my body. But I can’t tell you what it feels like to be a woman. I can tell you what it’s like to be treated like a woman. I can tell you what it’s like to go through this world being treated like a woman (it’s not great, guys, it’s not great). I can tell you how I feel being treated like what my culture has decided a woman is. But if I were somehow teleported to The Isle of Lesbos and I was like, “Ladies, don’t you hate feeling terrified of walking home alone at night,” they’d all be like, “A. What’s a lady, and B. What?”
This is not to say that all cultural constructs are useless and should be disregarded. Some constructs are truly useful. Having shame around pooping and peeing serves to prevent us from pissing and shitting directly into our drinking and bathing water. Not raping and not murdering are cultural constructs that serve an actual purpose (and people disregard those constructs constantly…).
It is next to impossible to extricate ourselves from our culture conditioning. There is no need, for example, for makeup. But I like the way I look with makeup on. And I know that’s because I have been conditioned to accept certain standards of beauty. I understand that rationally. But I still like it. I prefer to have my legs and armpits shaved and I KNOW that serves absolutely no evolutionary purpose. I KNOW that it’s just my culture telling me that’s how women should look. But I like it. Ryan doesn’t feel like a woman, so they present in a way that is culturally less feminine. In their nonconformity they are, ironically, consciously or unconsciously conforming to cultural ideas of gender, albeit, that gender being “not” male or female. Because they like how those things make them look. It is unspeakably difficult to separate ourselves from our cultural norms.
Side bar: I was watching Fear the Walking Dead last night and Kim Dicken’s character (who, btw, is (or was? I’m not caught up) the most badass woman character on television) does a bunch of badass shit to protect her children and this dude calls her more of man than some other men, and she says nothing in response. Really? Really?
Ryan and I have talked a lot about these things. I have told them that I will support whatever they decide to do, but I have also asked them to think about who or what is telling them how their body should look or what it should do. And since then, Ryan has looked more deeply at their gender presentation and what it means. I think, when they realized they were non-binary, about a year ago (because they finally had a term that sort of fit how they had felt their whole life), they felt pressure to conform to whatever they thought a non-binary person “should” look like. And more recently they have started looking deeply at what it means and who they are, as opposed to who they thought they were and who they were supposed to be.
There should be no shame in who you are. If you like the way you look in a shirt with a binder on and also love having breasts when you’re naked! Awesome! Live your best (breast) life. I like my silhouette in clothes with breasts. But I have no emotional attachment to them. They don’t signify anything for me. I wouldn’t be devastated if I had to lose them. But I do like they way I look with a bra on under a shirt. For me, getting my period is a pain in the uterus, but it doesn’t make me a woman. When I stop getting my period, I will still be a woman. I think. Who knows what I’ll be by then? If you want to grow a beard, take T! But a beard doesn’t make you a man. And neither, incidentally, does testosterone.
If gender is not science, then no one should be able to tell anyone else what gender they are or how they should present or behave. If, tomorrow, I realized that I was, in fact, a man, I shouldn’t have to change a single thing about myself. It’s no one’s business if I don’t have surgery or don’t take T or don’t even change my name. I get to be whatever I want to be. Someone else’s discomfort at that because it challenges their ideas of gender is not my business. If the day after tomorrow I realize that I’m not a man, that’s okay, too.
Be who you are. Look however you want to look. But do it for you. Life is hard. Getting from point a to point b is a fucking slog. You don’t have to make everyone else comfortable while you’re doing it.
Thank you for your time. I will now spend the rest of the evening burping, farting, and jerking off.
P.S. If you've gotten this far and enjoyed what you've read, please consider sharing this with your social media pals. Thanks!
Notes from the Road
Part Twelve: Los Angeles
First some light housekeeping.
1) I should rename this blog “101 Excuses for not Writing.”
2) I’m going to skip the part where I give my excuses for not writing.
3) We have a lot of catching up to do.
I’m in L.A. for a recurring role on a new TV show, which is amazing and awesome and what I’ve been vision-boarding in my head for years, but it means juggling a lot of logistics including flights, places to stay, transportation, child care. As the great philosopher, Bret Michaels once said: “Every rose has it’s thorn.” He also said, “Unskinny bop, bop, bop, bop/Unskinny bop, nothin’ more to say.” And I think we should all remember that.
I don’t celebrate my wins like I should. When I tell people about this gig I find myself downplaying it. “It’s just a recurring guest star. We’ll see.” I hear myself saying it, and I know I should be proud. I got this job myself (with the help of a couple friends). I heard about the role from a friend, called Jordan who happens to be close with one of the producers and got her to talk me up, casting reached out, I made them a tape and booked the gig. I did that. On Monday I was sitting in therapy saying something had to change. That I couldn’t keep banging my head against the wall. That I had a hard time being present with Monty because I’m always worried about my next job. I resolved to keep reminding myself that I am doing what I need to do in my career to book work; To stop constantly stressing; To do what I can to book work and then turn away from it and focus on the rest of my life. Less than 48 hours later I was on a plane to Los Angeles.
Life is weird.
Monty spent his summer at the YMCA day camp, which is not so much “camp” as it is a holding pen for kids during the summer. It was fine. I’m not sure he learned anything useful, except that most kids’ parent pack them literal junk food for “snack,” which makes his baby carrots and grapes look like prison food, and that when he punches a kid in the head for “being too close” to him, he doesn’t get popsicles for a week, and all TV privileges are revoked. Yes, I grounded a five-year-old.
When the counselor called to tell me about the punching incident, I imagined Monty rearing his fist back and punching this kid in the temple. Blood and teeth flying in slow motion. I instantly pictured him with a buzzed haircut and fucking rattail because that’s what the bullies I grew up with looked like. By the time I got back to camp to pick him up I was convinced he was going to end up in prison and that he was likely a sociopath. I spent the day having conversations with him about what kind of people we want to be in the world, and to use our words, and hands are for holding, and blah blah blah. In reality, it was probably less of a punch and more of a bop (unskinny bop), because face it, Monty is not Rocky Balboa, and he is definitely not a sociopath, and he will NEVER HAVE A RATTAIL. But the lesson remains the same. No punching, no bopping, unskinny or otherwise.
Ryan came out to L.A. to visit. We hadn’t seen each other since July when they came out to Brooklyn for a week and I was complete mess. Monty and I had JUST moved back into my apartment I’d been away from for eight months. I was a full-time single parent and didn’t know when I was going to work again. The timing was bad, but also so was my attitude. I was not very nice. Finally, on the last night of their visit, Ryan was like, “Pull yourself together, Eagan. Stop being a fucking idiot.” But way more loving than that. More like, “I am trying to love you and you won’t let me.” So, I pulled myself together, stopped being an idiot, and let them love me. And this visit was really, really good. They came to set when I filmed, we went to Malibu and drank froofroo drinks and ate seafood and watched the sunset, they cooked for me.
I am going to take this opportunity to celebrate my wins. I’m doing good. I have a job (sometimes), my kid is happy, healthy, and mostly nonviolent, Kurt is living with us again which is great for all three of us, my relationship with Ryan is loving and stable, I am getting closer and closer to figuring out who I am (more on that later), I have a tad of cash in the bank. I’m doing good. Things are okay. We are okay. I am okay.
“Ah, come on, honey, I wasn’t that bad!
Ha ha ha
- Bret Michaels
Indeed, sir. Indeed.
I’m still smarting from that audition yesterday. I’m trying not to globalize, but when things like this happen, I start thinking I need to quit acting and move to a cabin in the mountains and catch my own food. I know we are all entitled to a bad audition once in a while. The problem is when they’re as few and far between as mine seem to be these days, each audition becomes more important. And auditioning is a skill that requires maintenance. Eight months off is a lot. I’m really disappointed in myself.
Monty’s camp counselor informed me the other day that Monty spit at a classmate and tends to be “jittery,” and is having trouble listening to his counselors and doing what they ask of him. And, of course, my brain goes right to “Oh, my god, is my son a sociopath?” The sane part of me knows that he’s been going through a lot of changes recently, and that living with me isn’t always a picnic, and that it’s normal for kids to act out sometimes. And I know he isn’t being challenged, like, AT ALL at camp and is bored out of his mind, so yeah, he doesn’t want to listen when the teacher tells him to sit down so he can wait for them to figure out that ONCE AGAIN the school bus isn’t coming to take them on a field trip, so they have to cancel ONCE AGAIN. But, yes, I know he has to respect his elders. And yes, he has to learn how to be compliant because that’s what our education system is built on (this is a critique of the system not of teachers, so don’t @ me). And he has to learn not to get up and dance when there’s music playing because… kids should only dance when they’re instructed to?
I have often said, I believe firmly, that my main job as a parent is unteaching Monty all the garbage he learns out in the world. I send him to camp with food I know he loves and unpack a full lunchbox at the end of the, everything in it untouched, except maybe the pretzels, if I’m lucky. One afternoon at home he ate half a dozen hardboiled eggs. One kid who probably still doesn’t even know how to put their socks on by themselves says “eeeiiiww!” when he takes out a hardboiled egg at camp and that’s the end of that. And the list is growing. Snow peas? Forget it. Pickles? Fuck off. A sandwich on bread that contains some nutrients? Shove it right up your ass. A snack that doesn’t have gummy bears or cookies or JUICE?! Call DPS. The other day I asked him who was smarter, the kid who said pickles are gross or me. Monty said the pickle-hater was smarter.
Oh, and dolls, dollhouses, and anything pink? Not a chance.
What am I supposed to do? Buy him a pink scooter just to prove a point? I might as well flush 60 bucks down the toilet. Should I keep packing him healthy food that he’s not going to eat? His counselors think he’s not paying attention now? Just wait ‘til he has to go half the day having only eaten five Teddy Grahams at lunch because that’s all the sweets I’ll agree to give him anymore until he shows me he’s eating the rest of his food. When I make him promise that he’ll eat his real food before his sweets, is he going to actually eat it, or is he going to learn how to sneak around my rules? Am I helping him to be healthy and set up healthy habits or am I teaching him to resent me?
I remember struggling all through grade school with whether I wanted school lunch or packed lunch. First there was the issue of my lunch box. Honestly, I don’t even remember what was on it, but I remember knowing it was supremely uncool and I was embarrassed to use it. Then there was the fact that my mom insisted on packing me whole, nutritious foods. The closest I ever got to a treat in my lunch box was a Kudos bar. I was already the laughing stock of my class. The nerd food didn’t help my image. So, I would beg my mom to let me get school lunch. The cool kids got the school lunch. But you want to know something about the Department of Education’s “food”? It’s fucking disgusting. Even at eight years old I knew this to be fact. So, I would soldier my way through that food as long as I could before folding and going back to the actual food food my mother would pack for me and the cycle would start again.
I joined Monty for lunch at camp one day early on. This was before I started packing his lunches. I guess I figured the DOJ had gotten its act together and was serving actual food. Lunch was a baloney sandwich (I’m not kidding), on squishy white bread, a Dole pineapple cup (in syrup), and baby carrots (!!!) with powdered ranch seasoning. Like, why? Why not just the fucking carrots? Baby carrots are a kid favorite. It’s a scientific fucking fact. Kids like tiny versions of food. And carrots are sweet. For fuck’s sake. Oh, oh! And to DRINK? CHOCOLATE FUCKING MILK. Chocolate milk. They take a perfectly acceptable drink and add high fructose corn syrup and chocolate FLAVOR to it AND GIVE IT TO SMALL HUMANS. And then they’re expected to sit down and listen?! Come the fuck on.
I asked Monty if he would prefer if I packed his lunch for him from then on and he quickly said yes. Each day since there’s a new thing he loves that he now thinks is “disgusting.” And the cycle that I put myself through in school will continue with my progeny. I am bracing myself for the next however many years he has left of public school (which is, literally all of them, since he only starts kindergarten this fall) during which Monty will vacillate between desperately wanting to be cool, suffering through the “food” they serve at school, and enduring being called a nerd when he folds and brings A DELICOUS HOME-PREPARED lunch.
“My mother sent me to school with cheese sticks, and seaweed snacks, and FRUIT! All the other kids got chips and gummy bears. That’s why I have to live in a cabin in the mountains and catch my own food."
I’ve been back in NYC for a little over a month. I got home and immediately felt overwhelmed by the task of unpacked my room which I had literally just finished unpacking when I left for eight months to go on tour. It is a right mess in here and every time I tell Monty to put away his toys, I FULLY recognize that I’m being a hypocrite.
The walls in this apartment seem to be made of particle board and hope. So, hanging anything is a Sisyphean feat. Also, I’m unemployed and yet I seem to have no time to get shit done.
I woke up last night some time between 4 and 5am (I think?) and could not get back to sleep. Monty was up and ready to go at 6:30. I got him off to camp and even managed to have breakfast. I wore a dress (period piece), which I haven't done in eight months, so I felt a bit like a gorilla in a tutu. Then I made the grievous mistake of getting to an audition an hour and a half early… By the time they brought me in, I was hungry and exhausted and wearing a dress, and I am 100% sure I made a complete and total ass of myself. This was for a casting director I’ve known for two decades, a director I would love to work with, and an artistic director I’ve been forging a friendship with. Guys. It was a stinker. And there were no windows in the room, so they won’t even be able to air it out. Words were coming out of my face and I was like, “Why are you talking like that? What happened to the fucking choices we just spent the hour and half going over?” I am MORTIFIED. If you catch me on the subway today randomly yelling “fuck!”, you’ll know why. I hate this feeling.
And so, it’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I’m lying in bed, writing this, and having a beer before I take a nap. Yes, my room is still a disaster area. There are bins and boxes that need to be gone through and their contents put…somewhere? But I want to crawl UNDER my bed (which I can’t do because I haven’t put the frame on risers yet because time, so there’s no way to get ANYTHING under it (except dust…)).
That’s it. That’s all I have. I’m swear I’m going to post more frequently. Because I have a lot to share about gender identity, single-parenting, NYC, etc.
And because it’s a great excuse to not unpack.
Notes from the Road
Part Eleven: San Francisco
Six shows left.
I have been trying and trying and trying to write something, but nothing is coming out. Which is to say, lots is coming out, but none of it is post-worthy.
I didn’t fall asleep until after 5am last night (this morning). When I was younger, my insomniac thoughts inevitably let to spiral of suicidal ideation. I’m happy to say that doesn’t happen anymore, but I still just lie there for hours on end, worrying over shit I need to do. Or things I want to do but “can’t.” Or things I should have done but didn’t. Or things I shouldn’t have done but did. And before I know it, it’s 4am and I don’t want to take melatonin because it’s too late, even though I don’t officially have anything to do the next day until 7pm and could easily sleep all day if I had to. And I know I’m supposed to get up and do something to make myself sleepy, but that always seems counterintuitive. So instead I just lie there.
I live in a constant state of panic that I won’t get enough sleep. When Saint WhoeverItIs meets me at the pearly gates, he’s going to show me a tally of how much of my life was wasted in sleeping or trying to sleep.
I have to keep reminding myself that I am working right now, and I’m preparing to be a full time single parent again, and I’m in the middle of the end-of-the-run panic; That panic that comes with the end of any job, but is compounded by having to pack up eight months-worth of crap (What do I do with loose packets of Throat Coat tea? And what does this random cord go with? And why are there so many pennies at the bottom of my tour trunk??). So, it’s not like I have endless actual or mental time and space for creativity. It makes sense that my brain isn’t creating during my “free time.” It would just be nice if it would shut down at night. Maybe that’s when I should be trying to write.
False Start Number 1:
I left my…back massager in Charlotte. I don’t know how I could have managed that. It’s a massive piece of technology that plugs into the wall. But somehow, I left it on the floor by the bed and got all the way to the airport before I realized what I had done.
One would think, after more than 20 flights in a year, I would know how to pack a suitcase. Inevitably, however, I’m standing with a TSA agent as they go through my carry-on, saying, “I don’t need that. Just throw it away!” I swear to god, if there were a zombie apocalypse, I’d be the one bringing up the rear with a Smarte Carte™, going, “Don’t worry about me guys, I’ll catch up!” That’s assuming I woke up in time to escape the zombies in the first place.
So, as the TSA agent is fingering my belongings in the Charlotte airport I’m suddenly aware there’s no “back massager” in my bag for me to be embarrassed about. I mean, we’re all adults here, and we all know that we massage our own backs from time to time, but still. And afterward, as I’m racing to the bathroom to relieve myself of the 16 ounces of water I downed in the security checkpoint line so I wouldn’t have to throw away another official The Humans Water Bottle™, I’m frantically looking up the phone number for the Air B&B host to ask him if he found my back massager. He didn’t.
He didn’t find a foot long VIBRATOR left behind in an otherwise empty apartment.
Hopefully whoever *didn’t* find it, cleaned it before they *didn’t* massage their own back with it. I mean, I have a very clean…back. But still.
Anyway, the point is, I had to buy a new vibrator. I did a bunch of research and settled on one I think I’ll be happy with. So, I find it online, enter all my info, spend five minutes deciding where to have it shipped (Tempe? San Francisco? Seattle? New York? Where the hell am I going to be when and do I need to add another thing to my suitcases?), and hit “Submit” and suddenly find myself wondering when I’m going to have time for that particular form of self-care. I will be spending at least the entire summer sharing a bed with my five-year-old. And yes, I know I have a shower, but the issue is more complicated than that.
At 38 I am just figuring myself out. I have a child to raise. I’m going to be living with his father. What am I going to do? Bring a parade of gender queer folk into our house and have super quiet queer sex and then get up and take my son to school and go about my day?
It’s been a super fun, interesting ride, guys. I started out kind of Bi and ended up full on poly queer. Polyqueer? Is that a facebook orientation choice yet? But I think the ride is over. I think I have to get off the carousel and watch from the sidelines. I don’t have $5 to ride again. I didn’t get enough in while it lasted.
False Start Number 2:
Something very strange is happening. Or maybe it isn’t happening. Or maybe it is happening but it’s not that strange. Or maybe it’s not strange that it is happening.
Or maybe I’m strange?
I tried on a button down the other day and Ryan told me to button it up to the top (universal non-femme Lesbian calling card). I turned to look at myself and got hit with a wave of feelings that were hard to grab ahold of. Looking at myself in this shirt buttoned all the way up I felt giddy, confused, unattractive, attractive, handsome, pretty, ugly. And turned on. And sad.
I saw a pair of knee-length, baggy shorts and thought they might look good on me and felt flooded with sadness.
I see sequined dresses and think how pretty they are but can’t imagine myself ever wearing one again.
Why is it making my sad?
I tried on one of Ryan’s binders and hated my silhouette.
When I was young I wanted breasts so badly. I thought breasts would be the signal to the world that was no longer a little girl. I was a woman. The ones I got are small, but they get the job done. And after nursing my son, I’ll admit, they don’t stand at attention quite like they used to. But they make a nice shape and I like them. I don’t want to bind them.
The concept of “gender nonconforming” is complicated. To say that you don’t conform to a prescribed gender is to implicitly admit that there is something normative to conform to. And I know we live within a system that relies on language to convey ideas, and in this system, we have generally operated under the assumption that women are one way and men are another. I think a more accurate term would be “nonconforming to made up gender ideals,” but economy of language is important, so we’ll stick with “gender nonconforming” until we can all agree that there is no such thing as a gender norm to conform to.
And in the meantime, I'll try to figure out what damn clothes I want to wear.
Maybe if I chose to write about a TV show, or food, or puppies I’d be having an easier time. But, no, I’ve decided that I need to have an identity crisis in public.
I need a nap.