One-Woman Show

I have a one-woman show.
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I worked hard on it. I’m proud of it. It’s pretty far from perfect, but it’s a fully formed performance. Original theatrical works often undergo substantial changes between runs, and I can definitely imagine places I’d want to re-work for theoretical future iterations of this performance. But it’s a thing. It’s nearing completion.

I think there are some good, articulate thoughts in it. Not, like, all of them. But enough.

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I had a really good interview Monday, with someone who really got what I was trying to say. It was such an immense relief to hear someone else not only echoing sentiments I had made but building on them, contributing new thoughts (“It’s like this… and what about this… and isn’t it interesting that…”) and the fact that we could generate conversational momentum together on my weird little show was delightful. I walked out of the interview thinking that maybe this is a good, relevant thing I’m putting together.

And I had a friend email me yesterday– she’s pretty much been a cheerleader/critical mind/brilliant supportive person since this show was a fraction of a Masters dissertation two years ago– telling me how excited she was, and the excitement of other people coming to the show with her.

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Marketing this shit is hard.

This isn’t new, and it’s something our theatre wrestles with often. You don’t have title recognition (“Oh, West Side Story – I know that one”), and I’m not particularly famous (“Ooh, Neil Patrick Harris”), and unless you have incredibly timely subject matter (“Ah, a geopolitical thriller about a shift in regimes”), there isn’t always a built in audience.

But on top of all that, my topic matter is just sort of funky and esoteric and hard to describe. And there’s not a clear, linear story to frame discussions around. “It’s about holy stuff. And travel. And… selfies… Wanna know more? Uh… well… come see the show!” I feel like I’m so bad at talking about this piece that it’s almost comical.

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And despite feeling like I have nothing to say, I feel like I’ve done nothing but talk about myself (on Facebook, on the phone, in person, in my head) for weeks, and as someone who is pretty routinely filled with self-doubt/self-loathing, that’s a kind of uncomfortable place to be.

I’m anxious, like, all the time– about screwing something up, about people not coming to see the show, about people not liking the show, about the show not being good, about the show generating bad press, about the booth computer spontaneously combusting, and so on, and so on.

I say anxious, and of course what I really mean is scared. I want this to work, and I’m scared that it won’t.

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This morning, my sister linked me a review of the Sunday in the Park with George revival that recently opened on Broadway. For those of you not familiar with the play, it’s this beautiful, rhapsodic love letter to the joys and pains of the artistic process. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics stick in my head this week.

“Stop worrying if your vision is new / Let others make that decision; they usually do”

At some point, during one of the many revisions of a marketing blurb for my show, someone suggested “solo work” rather than “one-woman show,” but I kind of prefer it as the latter. It’s not a huge distinction to make, but I think it’s worth making.

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I’m trying to focus on being present. I’m trying to focus on the immeasurably supportive team I’ve got, running across the finish line with me.

And I am excited. And proud. And grateful. It’s just hard to focus on that when there’s so much worry, too.

Opening tomorrow night and running for two weekends. More info on the show is here, and tickets are here. Hope some of you can make it out.

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Photography credit to the magical Mr. Dan Maher, level 10 camera wizard

Remember

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, I felt the need to post some thoughts, because you know, I like to hear myself talk or something:

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I remembered, after posting this, some other things I used to think about, as a kid learning about the Holocaust.

This is what I remember:

I remember thinking to myself, what if that had been me? What if I were a Jew in 1942, living in a place where I wasn’t safe? Would I have been one of the lucky few who found a sympathetic gentile guardian who was willing to hide me in the attic/basement/Harry Potter closet under the stairs/wherever? Being a detail-oriented sort of individual, I think I had very extensive scenarios and contingencies laid out. How long would I have survived in this version? In that version? How long could I hide on my own? What would have killed me in the camps?

I’m sorry. I realize this is kind of super morbid.

The point, though, is that while I thought about these horrific things with extreme specificity, it wasn’t with fear; these weren’t my nightmares (my nightmares featured velociraptors, incidentally). It was with the curiosity in which anyone asks “what if…?” This was another time, a foreign place, removed from the real world where I lived. I could speculate on where I would have been during the Holocaust just as blithely as I could speculate on where I might be in the year 2260 (which would have been Babylon 5, incidentally).

There are a lot of horrific, upsetting words and images in circulation right now. Also, apparently I’m an adult or something, which means that cognizance of those words and images is something I can’t escape in the same way that I could when I was eleven.

But now I’ve got this thing in my head, where I can’t help but keep going back to kid me who innocently wondered what it was like to be alive in such a horrible time, who innocently speculated on meeting a nice German kid who was about my age, took pity, and helped me find an abandoned apartment that he knew about and occasionally brought me leftover bread and cheese, where I could squat for a year and listen to the street below, before the SS finally found me and sent me off to Buchenwald, and did I mention that I think I may have been a slightly morbid child? But that’s neither here nor there.

The refugees our president is turning away: they are the people that at age eleven, I wondered about but knew intrinsically that I would never actually have to be (and enacting this ban on fucking Holocaust Remembrance Day was beyond atrocious). Turning them away is turning away the Frank family. Sending them to their home countries is, in too many cases, sending them to the ovens.

But even if it hadn’t been on that day? And even if we hadn’t seen this shit before? It would still be enough. Because this is never, ever okay.

The badass legal warriors at the ACLU have gotten an emergency stay on the president’s executive order, which is incredibly heartening for effective action within the system. But it’s also troubling and uncertain. What happens next? How does the president react when someone tells him “no” (prediction: badly)? What executive order does he put into effect next (prediction: something shitty and un-American)? What about the people who think he was doing the right thing (prediction: lot of yelling)?

I was afraid yesterday. I’m still afraid today. I would rather like to be eleven years old, living in a mindset where this could never happen again. But I can’t. And we can’t. We need to remember, and we need to do better. All of us, together.

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This Petty Pace

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There were two pieces of advice that I heard most often repeated, in the weeks leading up to the big day:

  1. Be sure to eat.
  2. Enjoy your wedding; it’ll be over before you know it.

At the wedding of Friend S, she even went so far as to say that she barely remembered saying vows (although there are copious pictures and she’s got a groovy new ring, so she’s pretty sure the ceremony happened and all). All of our vendors stressed this as well, as experts in the field. The day will go quickly. The time will fly, they said.

Well, here is my inexpert experience, as a one-whole-week-married lady. The time didn’t fly; it progressed at exactly the pace that it normally did.

And somehow, that was even harder.

Having been so heavily warned, I was bizarrely cognizant of this for the entire day. Time passed at a normal pace while we got our hair done and fretted over the weather. Time passed normally as we slowly gathered for the rehearsal. Time passed normally as we went off to get changed into our fancy clothes. Time passed normally as I shuffled along the walkway to our first look. It was all passing at such a normal, mundane sort of speed that I could scream. A minute was just a minute. An hour was just an hour.

And I wanted it to be more. Every second was so dense, full of beautiful things and loving people and spontaneity and serendipity and utter magic, that you couldn’t possibly get through it in a second. Every moment was full to the brim, and all I wanted was for time to stay where it was, because in a moment, the moment would be over, and another one would begin. A minute shouldn’t pass the way a minute always passed, because how could that possibly be right? How could the universe not know that there was this insanely beautiful whirlwind happening and things needed to slow down on this day, just for a little?

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I remember having a few giddy minutes to myself during prep, staring out the window and not being entirely sure that this was all happening, and wanting to feel… that we were on schedule. Or ahead of schedule. Or running late, even. Anything to temporally self-identify.

I remember standing up in front of our friends and family, listening to our wonderful officiants, our hearts bursting with silly, giggly in-love-ness, and I could practically feel the second hand ticking in my chest as every second passed in metronymic precision, hanging before me in suspension, brief and beautiful and utterly perfect, and then gone again forever.

I remember the end of the day, sitting with our nearest and dearest, my head so full of memory and fellowship that I didn’t even really know how to talk about it.

It’s a week later, and I feel like I still haven’t completely processed how wonderful the day was– occasionally flawed or bumpy, but utterly wonderful. Eight days have passed, somehow. The last week (back at work – honeymoon won’t be for a while yet) has flown more than the wedding day did.

Loving husband and I have been friends for twelve years, have been together as a couple for close to ten; we were engaged for ten months, and for about 24 hours, we were getting married. And now “the rest of this” has begun, all the tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows. Some of them will fly, and others will not.

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On Creation, Destruction, and Scribbles

I’ve been looking forward to my bachelorette weekend for months now, and it didn’t disappoint – a chill, funny, quirky weekend with some of my favorite ladies (minus two sisters overseas and understandably unable to attend), some good food and drink, a lot of laughs, a dog, a toddler, a bunch of lemons, and it was wonderful. I felt safe, loved, taken care of, entertained, and happy.

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’nuff said.

And now, I’m feeling… weirdly empty. It’s over.

Early on in the planning game, everything about this wedding was wide open and bookmarkable and Google-Doc-able and Pinterest-able. Collecting possible good ideas from Offbeat Bride was extremely straightforward, as was charting out Excel spreadsheets weighing the pros and cons of this flower vendor versus that one. Some decisions seemed to fall into place all by themselves. Little specks, details of the picture, leapt up and demanded to be claimed, affixed to the canvas.

Most of the details are set, now. Some of them aren’t finalized, because they don’t need to be. The picture is no longer just the little specks, now. We can see the general picture – sometimes outlines, sometimes shaded and textured, always a clear whole. Still, bringing the last pieces of that picture into completion is a lot of mad scribbling with a crayon that’s maybe been worn down a bit too far for detail work, trying to coax the last bits into reality.

I’m not very worried about things getting done on time. Of course, like any good, detail-oriented paranoiac, I’m sure there will be things we’re wrapping up later than I want, and there’s still stuff to do, but nothing seems to horribly off timeline as of now, and I’m trusting that even if there’s angst and flapping leading up to it, even if there are compromises and things left behind, even if there’s a tropical storm or something, the day of the wedding will still be very, very good.

But what does cause me an odd kind of anxiety is the fact that for every decision we make – every stupid, little, unimportant decision about the flowers or the food or my lipstick color or whatever – for every choice of yes, it means that every other possibility for that detail, that speck of the picture, is going to be gone forever. Yes, we go with this for our first dance; no, we won’t do any of those other cool ideas that had been on the drawing board. Yes, this quote on the wedding program; no, not any of those other ones. Yes, the vegetarian option for my dinner; no, not the other two equally delicious entree options. Every choice creates a piece of the picture – and destroys all the other pieces that might have filled that place.

And then in a month – in less than a month – all of it will be over, and we’ll be looking at people’s photos on Facebook and trying to understand how this day even happened when neither of us can really remember it clearly.

It even impacts this writing project – I had two blog entries started and abandoned, and a handful more started in my head (unfinished entries included topics such as other people’s weddings, money, hair, maintenance shaming, weight loss, and false eyelashes – hard-hitting journalism, that one), but I couldn’t bring myself to really get momentum going on any of them – what if it’s not really what I want to be writing about right now? What if I haven’t honed my point enough yet?

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And most importantly, WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT?!

Being a perfectionist is a really dreadful thing. My brain knows that ultimately, these little details – these little acts of choice and destruction – are going to be lost in the tapestry of the day, as they should be. I’m definitely not going to look back in ten years and think, “Damn, if we’d only picked the other shade for the linens, the day would have been so much better.” I know that some degree of faith and trust that we’ve chosen the right team to help us make this day happen is going to be required, even if that’s hard for my detail-oriented, hands-on stage managing to accept.

I know it’s going to take my gut a while to catch up with my brain, but I take enormous comfort in the fact that I’ll get there eventually.

I’m still going to keep grasping at details as they drive past, desperately trying to hold onto them for a few seconds longer before they disappear into the distance and fade into rueful memory.

And the really important part – the rest of our life together – will be there waiting to begin.

Twenty-six days left to finish coloring things in. I can’t wait to see the picture when it’s finished.

Origin Stories of a Princess in Progress

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#twinmask #thisisme

Ten years ago (ten years ago? Crikey…), I was signing up for a gaming forum and needed a login name/alias. For those of you who have ever had to create a gaming alias, you probably know what a defining moment in the origin story this can be. I chose “Mordrellyn,” for one of my favorite D&D characters, and “Princess,” because aforesaid character was the daughter of a noble house.

Princess Mordrellyn. That’s my name.  I’ve ended up recycling that as an online alias a lot, this past decade (decade? Crikey…).

This is what people would call me in-game, although frequently, it would get reduced to just “Princess,” which I was fine with. Really, how could I not be okay with being directly addressed as “Princess”?

It didn’t give me pause until several years later, and the acknowledgement that I think “Princess” means something different to most other people. Normal people– and I don’t generally try to guess what normal people thing– but normal people, I’m pretty sure, think “princess” and go to Princess Peach frilly pink dresses. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search for “princess,” and was greeted with a wall of wide-eyed Disney girls.

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#justdisneythings #dontlooktoocloselyatthatlittlemermaidone

Nothing against the Disney girls. But “princess” means something different for me.

Princesses help to topple evil Empires and sass Darth Vader to his face. Princesses double as badass ninja warriors when they’re not governing Hyrule. Princesses mother dragons and prepare to conquer Westeros. Princesses run with wolf mothers and battle nightwalker demons in the forest. Princesses fling their chakram into battle whilst loosing ridiculous war cries.

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#fierce #feminism

And how about The Paper Bag Princess, which was pretty much the best feminist picture book in the history of ever? Seriously – if you have any picture-book-age kids in your life right now, get them this book. (Synopsis: Princess loves Prince. Prince gets captured by a dragon. Princess dresses up in a paper bag (all her pretty dresses were burned in the dragon attack), outsmarts the dragon and rescues the bejesus out of Prince. Prince tells Princess that she is dressed poorly and to come back when she is dressed like a princess again. Princess tells Prince that he’s a bum, and she goes dancing off into the sunset. The end!)

The language of princessification is a huge part of the wedding industry. Every wedding website/gown designer/venue/beautician/anything ever talks about how the girl will be a princess for a day. And of course there are shades of interpretation to any word or classification, and of course people are entitled to whatever “princess wedding” means to them, but everyone is going princess this and princess that, and I’m like, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG (or to borrow a phrase, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)

Yeah, sometimes princesses smile demurely and give a pretty wave and a little pout.

And sometimes princesses rain down fire and wreck shit.

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#fireandblood

My lovely hair-and-makeup lady asked about my desired hairdo aesthetic for the big day. I wrote back: “Rebel princess” seems to best capture what I’m going for. Certainly, plenty of ladies aim for a princess wedding – I just think my version of the princess probably does some dragon-slaying and archery tournaments on weekends.

I dunno. We all have words we like and don’t like. “Princess” is just one of those words that clicks for me – the warrior princess, the rebel princess, the politician princess, the princess who puts up a fight. Maybe I just like the idea of wearing pretty dresses and a tiara and a sword at my hip. It’s the best of all possible worlds.

Wedding is in a little less than two months. I’m going to be wearing a pretty princess dress and a tiara. Can’t guarantee a sword on my hip, but our best man and best lady have given us to believe that a couple sweet bow and arrow sets will be coming our way, which delights loving fiancé and myself to no end. And I’ll be a princess for a day – on my terms. Maybe it’s shallow and escapist on some level, but for me, it’s about pairing beauty with strength, grace with ferocity, gentleness with authority.

That’s the kind of princess I want– and will always strive– to be.

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#meandmyguy #warriorprincess

Ah, But the Shoes

To begin, a reading from the book of Dragon Age:Wicked_Eyes_and_Wicked_Hearts

LELIANA: Look at Lady Cambienne’s slippers: trimmed with pearls and emeralds? And those buckles! Toss her into the lake, and she’ll sink right to the bottom; what a disaster.

INQUISITOR: There’s a Tevinter assassin on the loose, and you’re concerned about buckles? On shoes?

LELIANA: Everyone needs a hobby. Besides, you can learn a great deal about a person from their clothing. Gold and jewels on a dancing slipper: a slipper is easily lost and finds itself in the dust and dirt. She is unconcerned with the possibility of losing the shoe, or soiling it – a vulgar display of wealth. But Lady Cambienne’s family has recently lost most of its holdings. They have their title but little else. So: how did Cambienne acquire such a grand shoe, mm? What has she done? Who has she bedded? These are all useful questions, no?

— Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014); full conversation here

January – I said yes to the dress and knew that in order to get alterations done, I would need to have shoes selected by the time the dress came in, likely in early summer. So I did the sensible thing and found/ordered shoes immediately on Etsy that were reasonably priced (because I’m not that into shoes), flat (because life is too short to walk around in shoes that hurt), and blue (because reasons). This felt good to get out of the way, because I generally have no strong opinions about shoes.

February – Friend S, who is also getting married this year, messaged me in despair that she’d found the dress of her dreams and it was just too expensive. Why not gut some other budget line? I suggested. Shoes, say. No, that wouldn’t work – her dream shoes were $___, at which point my reaction was HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, ARE THEY SHOES OR A NEW COMPUTER? Or are they possibly some new combination of shoe and computer? Because, I mean, that would be pretty cool.

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Didn’t even have to look hard for this image. Thanks, Google!

March – We went shopping for bridesmaid dresses. The question of their shoes came up. I DON’T KNOW SOMETHING PRETTY PROBABLY I GUESS was my reply, I think (or something similarly coherent). Silver or silver-ish, we eventually came to. But seriously, I can’t remember any wedding I’ve attended ever where I remember anything about the bride or bridesmaid’s shoes.

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Except for John and Jess’ wedding, where we all swapped into Chucks for dancing time

April – Best engagement photos ever (courtesy the magnificent Kate and Keith seriously look them up, because they are without question the best ever). My footwear was a pair of chunky low heels in grey, ones which are unusually cute for me; and a pair of beat-up fake-leather boots in black, which are much more my thing. Loving fiancée also wore black costume boots, borrowed, and thigh high. Mm. It’s a good look for him, is all I’m saying.

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Happy feet. And happy rest of us.

May – My theatre company had its annual gala event. It’s a long day of rehearsal, fixing stuff, performance, party, and strike. I wore black flats, because life is too short to walk around in shoes that hurt after being on your feet for a 14-hour work day.

June – Crippling doubt strikes. What if my shoes are a mistake? I mean, I’m only going to have one pair of wedding shoes (hopefully). Have I been too careless in my decision, in an effort to be time-efficient? What if “the ones” are out there waiting for me on a warehouse shelf somewhere, weeping patent leather tears?

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Seriously, what kind of a monster would that make me?

July – I had my first fitting for my gown. Holy crap, I’m getting married. I wore my blue Etsy flats. I really didn’t find that I had a strong opinion about them one way or the other – which is my natural state and thus probably a good sign.

August – At time of writing, it’s stupid hot. I walk around in bare feet whenever possible, because life is too short to walk around in shoes when you don’t have to walk around in shoes. My feet are callused and gross, and I’ll probably want to do something about that eventually (Wedding of Friend S is coming up, after all) (I don’t know if she sprang for her supercomputer shoes).

September – No shoe-related activities are planned, but I mean, anything’s possible.

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Basically any excuse to use this meme

October – We’re getting married. My shoes will be cute but mostly invisible, which is fine by me. I may actually miss a slight heel at times on the dance floor (because when you’ve done musical theatre, you never really get used to dancing in anything less than character shoes), but it’s going to be a long day, and I’m not going to want to worry about switching footwear.

Some point after – We’re going on a substantially-after-the-wedding honeymoon to Hawaii and shoes will either be hiking boots, minimal, or absent.

(Talk Less) Smile More

I try to steer away from clickbait. I really do.

But man, when I see a BuzzFeed article entitled “Men On Twitter Kept Telling Hillary Clinton To Smile As She Delivered Her Speech,” I knew I was in trouble, because this is another one of those pet peeves I have in regards to expectations of “traditional femininity” (see previous posts on makeup and cuteness) , and I do not mind fussing about it.

I thought it was a pretty good speech. There were definitely points where it got trope-laden and cheap shots-y, but that’s par for the course in Presidential season, and the message of achievement through unity was one that really resonated for me. Also, she referenced Hamilton, which of course wins her some points.

At no point was I worried about what her mouth was doing besides speaking about what she was speaking about, but apparently some people had other ideas.

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#historyhasitseyesonyou

Because Jesus Christ, regardless of your political leanings, are we seriously pulling this bullshit with the first female nominee to lead a major party, let’s listen to what she has to say about policy and see if it sticks and blah dee blah nope don’t care, why doesn’t she look friendlier and use her mouth for something besides talking?

I vividly remember a morning that I had an argument with then-loving-boyfriend, now-loving-fiancée. I don’t recall what we were arguing about, but I’m sure it was something silly and trivial that neither of us found particularly funny at the time, and we left it unresolved when I had to go to work.

I was standing, waiting for my order at Wawa, and one of the friendly neighborhood sandwich makers told me to Cheer up. Smile.

I just about lost it and flipped my delicious breakfast burrito onto the counter.

But I didn’t. And I didn’t smile.

I know some people don’t care about this or don’t get what the big deal is, and if it doesn’t bother you, that is a-okay, but I feel like more women are speaking out about what many feel is a subtle form of harassment, and I want to add my voice to that quiet but growing chorus. And I’m not going to be as articulate and rational as I want to be, but I hate random man giving me the subversively creepy urging to Smile, usually followed up with You’re prettier when you smile. 

Guys, it is not our job to be pretty for you, and it is not my job to be pretty for you.

And even if we were in some weird, alternate universe where it were, you don’t know me. You don’t know what kind of day I’m having. You don’t know if a loved one has died recently, or I’m going through a messy divorce, or I’m experiencing a severe anxiety attack, or whatever – you don’t have the right to tell me what I should be doing with my appearance. If I am worried or sad or god forbid thinking, you need to be okay with that and not focus on whether the status of my facial musculature is at its optimally pleasing configuration.

 

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“Smile…” [Jessica Jones, S1E1; Netflix, 2016]

I recently started re-watching Netflix/Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and I’d (somehow) forgotten about mind-control-creep-villain Killgrave’s repeated command for Jessica to Smile. The show contains a lot of beautiful, intelligent, seriously-minded work with tough material about consent, abuse, and sexual power dynamics (and also it’s just a great show, and if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind a certain degree of sex, profanity, gore, and creepiness, you should marathon it right now), but man, that line– Smile— it makes my skin crawl. It feels completely like an act of rape.

Here is a complete list of people who I am giving permission to tell me when to smile.

 

No, you didn’t miss it. The list doesn’t exist.

Now, to clarify – I don’t mind when loving fiancée asks me to smile. Or when my friends or family do something to try to make me smile. You know why? Because they’re not trying to make me smile. They’re trying to make me happy. And there’s a difference.

(addendum – I should also probably add that as a theatre artist and performer, I’m okay with my director telling me to smile as applicable. Because, you know, that’s his or her job.)

Random guy telling me to smile, you know what I hear you saying? I hear you saying that the façade of my contentment with the world is more important than any genuine thought or inner turmoil I might be going through. I hear you wanting to think you’ve affected my day without doing the actual work of affecting my day. And I hear the catch-22 where if I’m not smiling, I’m a bitch who doesn’t appreciate you, and if I am smiling, I’m sweet but a ditz. These are the two extremes we generally get to see when a woman changes the tension in her lips and cheeks; there is very little in between.

Random guy telling me to smile, maybe if you really, actually want me to smile– if that’s actually your genuine, compassionate desire, as I think it is for some of you– you should do something that makes me smile. Tell a joke. Wish me a nice day. Come up with a creative compliment. Tell me to hang in there. Chat me up about my favorite Star Wars character (Mara Jade, incidentally). You could give me a free sandwich, even. But if you can’t muster the effort to attempt something like that, you should not take the lazy way out and just tell me to smile, because that’s not how this shit works, and you might end up with breakfast burrito all over your nice clean counter.