I'm aware that I've already missed my goal of posting one blog per week. Whatever. To make up for it, here's a picture of a shirt I bought myself recently.
This nonsense over the white kid and the Native American man in D.C. this past Saturday is shameful. I can’t believe I’m about to “weigh in” on this, but here we are. And before we begin, I’m not giving my take on who was right or wrong in the confrontation. I don’t know because (weird fact) I wasn’t there. And neither were 99% of the folks yelling and screaming about it across all forms of media. We are like chimps throwing shit at each other for no reason.
Remember in 2016 when they killed that gorilla in a zoo because a kid fell into its habitat? Remember how everyone in the universe was suddenly an expert on gorilla behavior, and parenting techniques and failures, and animal rights, and human rights, and the onus on zoos, and parents, and fucking Jane Goodall chimed in? Remember that? I didn’t comment on that fucking fiasco either, even though I had plenty of opinions, because (weird fact) I wasn’t there. And also? Opinions are like assholes, guys. Facts, on the other hand, are like vaginas, beautiful and magical and filled with wonder.
After I watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” (which how that didn’t get nominated for an Oscar I will NEVER understand), I took a major step back from my consumption of news and social media. You know that thing they use in a lot of documentaries where there’s a cacophony of noise (like, overlapping news clips, or whatever) that builds and builds and then suddenly goes quiet? That’s how it felt in my mind after I watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” I felt like I had been standing INSIDE a speaker and the world was just yelling in my direction. Not about me (thank goddess), but just AT me. Everyone’s an expert and everyone has to be heard. Something Fred’s widow said about how she thought he might have felt about the world today broke my will to keep listening to the din. I don’t remember it exactly but she was basically like, “This shit is fucked, you guys. He kept trying and trying to make a difference, but, like, did he?” Something like that. Like, he had already been doubting his impact and then he died and the world is 8 million times more garbagey than it was when he died.
Did you know that in 2007 Fox News, that beacon of reason and critical thinking accused Mr. Rogers of ruining an entire generation by telling them he was special? Guys. I can’t. I didn’t even like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood when I was growing up, and I’m pretty fucking special, you guys. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Mr. Roger’s telling me I was special that made me know I was special.
You can watch the clip here, if you feel the need to punish yourself today. I recommend you don’t if you want your brains to stay on the inside of your skull. But, I thought you should be aware that this is the kind of thing we have become. If you’re not already aware of it. And if you’re not…honestly, read a book. Just like, one book. Start with this one.
Anyway, the way I ingested and internalized the message of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” was, “I have to stop paying attention to the constant negativity.” Even the comedians I follow on Twitter use their platform to comment on politics, so it wasn’t even like I was getting a reprieve from them (not that I had been looking to politically aware comedians to bring me a reprieve). And there are only so many cute puppy videos one can watch before one remembers that the world is on fire and you’re sitting in your bed with your thumb up your ass watching ANOTHER cute puppy video and then you have to take a nap because the guilt is overwhelming (and let’s not address the worse guilt you’ll feel when you wake up from the nap and realize the world is still on fire and you are napping from guilt…).
So, I took a major step back. I have tried mightily to keep my asshole to myself, if you know what I mean. No one needs to deal with my asshole except for me and my proctologist (therapist). And even though it is now an established scientific FACT that Donald Trump is the dumbest, most hateful, disgusting, racist, sexist, homophobe, transphobe, micro-dicked (not that there’s anything wrong with that), fucking hideous worm of a subhuman, I don’t need to weigh in on every dumbass, hateful, racist, sexist, etc, etc, thing he says or does because there are PLENTY of people already doing that. My feelings about him have already been stated for the record and only change insofar as they intensify over time and therefore don’t need to be repeated. And I don’t need to listen to him, or pay too much attention to whatever monstrous thing he’s saying or doing today because I’m already doing what I can on a daily basis to make the world a better place (I could probably do more, but right now, raising a boy to not be a garbage monster, occasionally speaking out about women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, while also putting food on the table, and a roof over our heads, and trying to take the reigns of my career back from whoever I gave them to a while ago (I forgot who, so it’s hard to know where to look), feels like about all I can manage at the moment). Anyway, the point is, I don’t feel the need to voice or seek out opinions about every god damn thing that happens. And honestly, I think we would all be better off if we did the same. I am the paragon of mental health, after all…
I wonder what Mr. Rogers would have thought about this past weekend’s events and the following shitstorm of indignation from every corner of the universe. I have a feeling he would have been like, “Guys, guys! What the fuck have I been saying for literally DECADES? Literally everyone shut the fuck up and talk one at a time and LISTEN to each other! What the fuck?” Only, way more delicately and with fewer ‘fucks.’ Though, honestly, at this point, who knows? Who fucking knows.
Okay, so. I was introduced to the MAGA kid (Sandmann)/Native American Man (Phillips) Debacle of 2019 on Instagram when I saw a picture of said MAGA kid next to a picture of a scrunch-faced Brett Kavanaugh in a “20 year challenge” meme. Then I saw a thing about republicans thinking kneeling during the National Anthem is offensive toward vets but the Sandmann/Phillips incident wasn’t even though the Phillips is a vet. I am ASHAMED to say I Googled the situation, read something about it (I don’t remember where) and added the meme to my Inststories. Thank the fake lord above that Instastories are ephemeral and it isn’t up anymore. And please consider this my official apology.
The FIRST video I watched was just Phillips and Sandmann in their face off. And I will admit I was confused about what the uproar was about. What I saw was a white kid (who I assumed was a frat boy because that is, honestly, what they all look like in my head) in a MAGA hat smirking or smiling while a Native American Elder drummed and chanted very close to his face. That’s all I saw. I didn’t see any mocking or disrespect from either camp.
So, I sought out more videos to get a fuller picture because I thought, there is no way people are this upset about this minute and a half video of a these two people standing there (It turns out that IS initially what people were so upset about). This is OBJECTIVELY what I saw from the three versions of this thing I’ve now watched:
A group of white boys in MAGA hats were standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A group of black men (identified by various sources as Black Hebrew Israelites) approached them and exchanged what sounded like heated words ( I couldn’t hear what was being said). The MAGA kids started yelling. One of them (inexplicably) strips down to his boxers and starts jumping up and down and grunting (?). Phillips approaches the groups, while the MAGA kids appear to be mocking Native American culture with chopping gestures and chanting sounds. The MAGA kids begin to back up as Phillips and his group approach. Phillips and Sandmann find themselves face-to-face, while Phillips drums and chants. Sandmann says nothing. He appears to be either smirking or smiling. They remain like this for a good minute or more. At one point there is some yelling going on behind Sandmann’s shoulder which I haven’t seen an angle of. Sandmann looks at whoever is yelling, and appears to make a “cut it out” or “don’t engage” gesture to whoever he’s looking at.
That’s it, guys. That’s it. Why the fuck are we all whipping our dicks out and comparing this kid to Brett fucking Kavanaugh? The former is a child who appears to be doing and saying a lot of nothing, the latter is a fucking garbage human who was accused of sexual assault. Come on.
Have you ever had a run in with the Black Hebrew Israelites? They are not fucking pleasant. Not. Pleasant. They used to proselytize near Times Square when I was in high school. I got into a screaming match with them once when they implied that my dead mother was burning in hell. It was terrifying. You know when you’re terrified and the adrenaline starts pumping and your brain gets fuzzy? That’s how I felt. Phillips, in his own account, said that the stand off between the MAGA kids and the Black Hebrew Israelites was going on for an hour. Can you imagine the amount of adrenaline (not to mention Cortisol and Testosterone) that was pumping through everyone’s veins? And those were children. Their brains aren’t anywhere near done growing. And, sorry to say it, but judging from what I know of catholic school education, they are probably not the best educated kids anyone has ever encountered. By a long shot. They think the earth was created 6000 years ago, for fake god’s sake. It’s not like they’re models of critical thinking.
So Phillips says he approached the groups in an attempt to defuse the situation. He claims that Sandmann wouldn’t get out of his way, however, from several angles, it is clear that there is room for Phillips to go around Sandmann, and it doesn’t look like Sandmann is aggressively trying to block Phillips. He doesn’t appear to say anything. He just doesn’t move. He remains where he’s standing, which is literally his right and completely not against the law or even disrespectful, and he smirks. Or smiles.
The kids around Sandmann are acting like fucking dicks. There is little debate. I mean, you could argue that they weren’t doing racist chopping motions (??), and that the chants they were doing were school chants, but that seems…implausible. But Phillips himself says he never heard anyone chant “build the wall” or “wall.” And as far as anyone can see (or at least me with my own eyes and brain), the worst thing Sandmann did to Phillips was smirk. And he didn’t even do that TO Phillips. One can’t smirk to someone. One can smirk at someone. Also? Was Phillips wearing anything that identified his as a vet? If someone smirks at someone they don’t know is a vet, are they disrespecting a vet? Maybe he was? And even then, a smirk is basically most 16-year-old boys resting expression.
Look, I’m not arguing that Sandmann is a great guy. I’m also not arguing that he’s the enemy. True, he’s wearing an offensive hat that suggests his politics are shitty, to say the least. True, he was at a “right to life” (whatever the fuck he thinks that means) march. I am arguing that he is a child who was in a stressful situation, whose brain was probably not firing on all cylinders and that, given those factors, I think he did okay. We have no idea what was going through his mind in those minutes where he squared off with Phillips. NO IDEA. For all we know he was thinking, “Holy shit, what is happening? I’m feeling the spirit! I’m having an awakening! I see the light! EVERYONE IS EQUAL! WE SHOULD BUILD BRIDGES, NOT WALLS! Also, it’s literally none of my business what a woman does with her body.” And I know he has issued a statement and been interviewed on whatever shows, so in retrospect we might know what was going through his mind, or what he claims was going through his mind. But all anyone knew when they were screaming about punching him in the face and comparing him to Brett fucking Kavanaugh was that he was “smirking” at an older man who was playing the drum very close to him and staring at him.
Personally, if anyone should get punched in the face over this, it’s whoever was “chaperoning” these children. That guy sucks. Also, the Black Hebrew Israelites deserve a swift kick in the pants. And Fox news. And Trevor Noah. And me for hitting “share” on that meme.
So, if anyone is interested in my asshole, I think we would all benefit from slowing the fuck down, USING OUR BRAINS, and not flattening everyone out in caricatures of human beings. Unless it’s Donald Trump or Mitch McConnel who are literally caricatures of human beings.
Go watch “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
Never forget how special you are.
Let’s all be less like assholes and more like vaginas is what I’m saying, ultimately.
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.
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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."