Proverb for the Day Archive – December 2017

You only live once.  Unless you are a zombie.

Random thoughts can grow into great works.

Vegetables are never really like noodles.

You survive or you surrender.

You can’t stand up for yourself without a backbone.

I did not unfriend you because you had a different opinion than I did.  I unfriended you because you were demeaning to me, and you cannot write in complete sentences.
The lack of doing something can be more of a failure than the inability to succeed at something.

Children are like dogs.  If you can’t control them, you shouldn’t have them.

Before you speak, ask your self if what you are going to say is actually worth saying.

We all make mistakes.  It is what you do with them that makes a difference.

Sorry I misunderstood you, but in my defense, I wasn’t listening.

You never know how your words can impact someone else.

I am not a big fan of moral suasion when I can use immoral suasion instead.

Be successful by becoming the best person you can.

Leave them wanting more.

Life is short: Be happy.

I am calm and you can go fuck yourself.

Saying you’re happy is not the same thing as being happy.

Pain is totally manageable until it reaches the threshold where it is absolutely not.

Solve local issues to get local support.

When I am tired of shopping I sit down and try on shoes.

Live a fulfilling life, not a perfect one.

Sometimes it is best just not to engage in the conversation.

When you build a bench sometimes you have to pull out a few nails before you get it right.

Sometimes when you want everything it is because what you really want seems unattainable.

Some people are way more concerned with exerting their arrogance than living in a peaceful, effective, and cooperative environment.

You might as well stop thinking. It isn’t working out for you.

The biggest ingredient to success is cooperation.

No one can do you like you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

2017…   And the zombie apocalypse begins…

So, it has been about 4 days since the horror of it all started. Four days since the zombie pandemic started and panic began sweeping the city – and apparently beyond – although, obviously, I cannot attest to that first hand. Four days since we started this now never-ending dress rehearsal for our big Holiday Burlesque Show. At least we were the only ones in the theater that night. I say that because we thought that three pounds of pretzels, huge chunks of cheese, boxes of crackers, and cartons of saki and champagne bottles would last quite a while. But when that is all of the food you have for a group of 11 hungry dancers and a tech, it really doesn’t last very long. Of course, not all 12 of us need to eat food anymore. Five dancers have succumbed so far to the zombie affliction and two more are now coughing and hacking. It could be just a cold – goodness knows conditions are poor. But I am watching them closely and making sure I am sleeping in a shut room well away from the two of them. We have the five that have transformed tied up with tree tinsel and ensconced in the men’s bathroom. I am sure they could easily break the bonds, but they don’t appear to really be smart enough to do so. I removed the toilet paper before we put the zombies in there – can’t waste valuable resources or risk getting bitten any more than absolutely necessary. 

Periodically, one of us peers out the glass door in front of the theater. I shut the iron gate in front of the door and locked it when we realized this zombie outbreak was really happening. Every once in a while we see a small pack of zombies traveling by. Even more infrequently we get a still-human runner. No one has stopped at the door, which is good, because I don’t want to make the decision of whether we let anyone else inside. Amazingly, we are still getting fresh water through the tap and electricity. The phone works occasionally, but text messages seem to be the best communication with loved ones outside. Unfortunately, not all of our performers have achieved contact with their families. No internet, but we have radio. Spotty, but periodic. We listen occasionally for emergency messages. One station is playing continuous music. The ladies wanted to keep it on, but I said no, we have to conserve batteries. There may be more in the store room, but I don’t have keys to that and I am not sure we have the strength to break down the door.  

 

Part of me hopes that we will still be rescued. As I said, the zombies are not smart and can be easily picked off with weapons. However, it depends on the progression of the disease and who is left to rescue the populace. We may have to leave soon as we will have no choice when food supplies get desperate. But where to go and the best way to get there and not get attacked is uncertain.  

 

Mr. Velvet and I text at least a few times a day. He has volunteered to come rescue me. However, I think it is a better decision for him to remain at the house in a place of safety than for both of us to be running around the streets at risk. He has not had any problems with zombies trying to get into the house. I guess they are not fond of or don’t understand stairs. Even the backyard seems safe with the fences surrounding it. He can see and hear Mission street from the roof. While it was crazy the first couple of days, it has apparently calmed down. He is taking care of the dogs and the guinea pigs. Luckily, I have a tendency to stockpile, so he has plenty of food – canned, boxed, frozen. He will run out of perishables, but he won’t starve. The piggies are not happy without their fresh greens, but he has plenty of hay for them. And cheerios.  

 

So, I have decided to reflect on the last year as we either await rescue or make other decisions that impact whether we live or die. It has been a very rough year and is somehow fitting that we should be dealing with a zombie apocalypse at the end of it. Not that I have not had some really wonderful personal accomplishments, but the country has been hit hard by storm, fire, and now this. While I am not religious, I wonder if we are re-living the modern version of the seven plagues.  

 

In addition to producing my own show, teaching dance and burlesque classes, and performing in San Francisco and the Bay Area, including Sacramento on occasion, I did perform in several festivals this year. I got to go back to Boston for the Great Burlesque Exposition, as well as the London Burlesque Festival (my first trip to London), The Mile High Burlesque Festival in Denver, the Hollywood Burlesque Festival (one of my favorites), the Ohio Burlesque Festival, and The Wiggle Room in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They were all a lot of fun. And while I thought that I would never visit London, UK and Winston-Salem, NC in the same quarter, they were both unique and delightful trips. My favorite tourist sites in London were the Tower of London – super interesting historically – and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is the Victorian era and so just fabulous architecturally since I love that period. The stuff inside was pretty cool, too, but I was just happy to explore the building itself. Winston-Salem, NC was an interesting little town with a vibrant arts community and lots of fascinating little shops. I think I did more shopping there than I did in London. (The prices were MUCH cheaper in NC.) Work took me to Hawaii for about 5 weeks of the year and Mr. Velvet and I actually went to Hawaii on vacation for a week. We went to Oahu and the Big Island (neither one of us had ever been there.) It was nice having some time together. He usually doesn’t like to or is not able to travel with me on work trips. And festival trips are often so quick it is not worth the wear and tear on him to go…  

 

Mr.  Velvet and I were thinking about both going to London together in the next couple of years. But that may not happen unless we can get all the zombies eradicated. Hopefully the disease has at least eradicated some terrorists. I wonder if Trump has survived? Or was he already a zombie? Although maybe a little too smart… for a zombie…

 

Mr. Velvet succeeded in relinquishing his position as academic senate president. He had served two terms (four years). It was time. Now he is back to being a regular college professor. Grading more papers. At the beginning of this zombie thing Mr. Velvet joked about the respite from paper grading, but I think he would rather be mucking about grading papers than dealing with zombies. Of course, maybe there is not much difference…

 

What else? While all the natural disasters around the country and internationally were devastating, the North Bay fires definitely impacted lives in San Francisco. A lot of people I know personally and from work were impacted – losing homes, businesses, everything they owned. And, while minor in comparison, the smoke in San Francisco from the fires was stifling, reaching dangerous health levels. Building air conditioning and filtration systems (those that had them) could not keep up with the smoke and I had a migraine as a result for days. Of course, the awful precursor to that was the crazy heat we had in San Francisco. 106!! It was a record high. While other parts of the country lamented about the San Francisco “snowflakes” being so sensitive to heat, 80’s is high for the Bay Area and so many people have no air conditioning – at work or at home. Two of my guinea pigs died because of the heat – one had a heat stroke and the other’s tummy shut down and stopped processing her food. The sky looked like the apocalypse. It was a reddish-orange haze that only happens in post-apocalyptic-type movies. As a result, we bought two “portable” air conditioners. I figured we would get more hot days. And they helped keep the smoke out of the house during the fires. And, frankly, I don’t want any more pets to die from the heat… I mean, the pet I like least seems the most resilient. Hmmmmm…. I wonder if the zombies like to eat neurotic dogs? Probably not… Oh, well.

 

So, who knows what next year will bring or, hell, even tomorrow. I hope you have a great Holiday season and that you are safe with plenty of food and water and not at risk of zombie attack or whatever other major disaster – avalanche, typhoon, hurricane, flood, earthquake, president, tsunami, or any combination thereof – could possibly afflict you.  

 

I hear pounding at the front gate. I do hope it is someone providing help or telling us that the zombie outbreak is over! Of course, the way the year has been going it is probably the big toenail of Godzilla brushing against the building. I mean, what else could go wrong? This has GOT to be the worst dress rehearsal EVER!!!  

 

 

 

Proverb for the Day Archive – November 2017

Nothing ruins your Friday more than realizing it is Wednesday.

 

Prioritization:  when you stop doing the dishes to stop the fire that just broke out on the stove.

 

Don’t tie your happiness solely to other people.

 

I am not anti-social. I am selectively social.

 

If it doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t true.

 

Just because you THINK you are right does not mean you ARE right…..

 

I will help you push your stone up the hill, but I am not going to stand there and hold it for weeks while you go on vacation.

 

Don’t waste my time … or yours.

 

Success breeds confidence and confidence breeds success.

 

Take every opportunity you can to fail.

 

You only need sleep if you plan on being mentally and physically healthy.

 

Don’t stand still when you can take action to move yourself forward.

 

Kindness costs nothing.

 

The older I get the more everyone can kiss my ass.

 

I don’t always have the perfect comeback, but when I do, it is usually the next day In the shower.

 

Act as if what you does makes a difference because it does.

 

I am not sure whether to laugh or to be extremely insulted.

 

I can’t be normal. I have a reputation to uphold.

 

Without trust, there can be no relationship.

 

Don’t make it any harder for yourself than I am already making it for you.

 

When you cut an avocado in half you decrease the calories by 50 percent.

 

Let your courage rise with every attempt to intimidate you.

 

You didn’t have to eat all of it.

 

If it was always easy, you would never be challenging yourself.

 

Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it.

 

You could create something great or you could just keep doing what you always do.

 

I am here for you.   I wish the reverse was true as well.

 

 

I Don’t Want a Lot…

No, I don’t want a lot for Christmas. Well, I do actually – just not material things. What I want is to live in a better world. While I think having Trump as President exacerbates things in the OPPOSITE direction, I cannot blame him entirely for all of the fuck-up-ed-ness that goes on in the world or even in the U.S. But, he is obviously not helping. (You want to argue, take it somewhere else – my brain, my opinion.)
I wanted to write about misogyny today. I know! Such a happy holiday topic! (sarcasm). But this issue came up quite a bit when I was discussing the upcoming show Just Another Zombie Holiday Show with various people I know who are not in the burlesque community. I am nervous about the show, but excited by it, too! It should be a fun show, a silly show, a show with a little bit of a plot line, some sexiness, some stripping, singing, dancing, cavorting, a few chase scenes and a tad of flesh eating. (Don’t really, we don’t really eat each other’s flesh.) But it is fascinating the conversations I have had with different people who are not in the performing world. Let me describe them for you:
Typical conversation with women: “Really? That sounds fun? Who is in it? Do I know anyone other than you? Is there going to be a lot of gore or just a little bit of flesh eating?” 
Typical conversation with not white, not misogynist men: “Zombies! I love zombies! What kind of zombies? Are they slow zombies or like the fast-moving zombies in World War Z?”
Typical conversation with white men who don’t know they are misogynist: “Is it sexy? Does everyone look hot? Because I don’t want to see them if they don’t look hot. Do you have any guys in in? Who would want to see that? How could you possibly be a zombie and look sexy? I don’t want to see that. Who would?”
Now, of course, these are not exact conversations. They are an amalgamation of the conversations I have had. But my point is, that I have had quite a lot of the last version of the conversation. Enough so that it really, really bothered me. No one else told me what people want to see or don’t want to see. No one else placed their opinion and assessment of sexuality and what is sexy onto every other person in the universe. And yet, these men, if I have a conversation with them about women, will tout to me how they support women in the workplace. How they create equal opportunities for them. How they are not sexist. And I agree – on a daily basis in the workplace I DO NOT consider them to be sexist. They treat me equally and give women equal opportunities. I am sure they try very hard not to be sexist. And they think they are succeeding. And most people around them probably do, too… But they can see the world from only one viewpoint – their own. They can’t (or don’t) want to consider any other perspective. I have had a conversation with one man who has said “Who wants to see a male burlesque performer?” Well, let’s see: Women who like men, men who like men, women and men who don’t particularly like men but like to see art and movement and have an open mind. I mean, those groupings just spring to my mind immediately. But who would want to see that? It astounds me that there are people who perceive that the world wants only what they want. Are they that confident? Do they lack empathy or imagination? Do they fear looking at life, or fear looking back at themselves and what they might see through a lens other than their own? Do they live in an emerald-colored city only because they never take off their emerald-colored lenses? I am not saying I am perfect by any means, and I am often in a situation where another viewpoint or perspective has to be explained to me. But I at least try to understand when my brain is doing something fucked up and make changes accordingly. 
Ultimately, I think the inability to understand different lenses is what gets society stuck. People are afraid to put on a new pair of glasses with a new lens. “I see just fine!” They think. Well, sometimes you don’t know what you can’t see. I literally thought I saw just fine before I got my first pair of glasses. Then I found out that with my glasses I could see individual leaves on the tree. I couldn’t before. I found out I could see cows in a field instead of lumps of color with legs. I didn’t know that before I tried something new on. Whether sexism, racism, other forms of discrimination; many people think they are treating others as “equal.” I so often hear people say the words “I am color-blind.” And I so often hear people of color complain about that… (as they should). The issue isn’t just that you treat these people in ways you “think” are equal, but that you can at least know that they have had a different lens, a different life, different experiences, and so a different perspective. You can’t ever really put their lens on, but you can know it is there and try to listen and adjust to that perspective. You can stop telling people that they are wrong for feeling a certain way or liking or hating a certain thing because it is different than what you think. The same with sexism. I often hear “It is unacceptable to cry at work.” Yet, who is more likely to cry at work? Women. Is it because we are weak? No. It is because we have been socialized that way. We get angry, we get frustrated, we are hurt, we are sad – all those things make us cry. Men get angry. They get angry, frustrated, hurt, or sad and they typically get angry. Why is it more socially acceptable in the workplace to get angry than it is to cry? Because men say it is. Why is it acceptable to get angry at everything? It isn’t – it is just that we socialize little boys that the only acceptable behavior for men is anger. 
Again, I am not saying I am perfect. I am not saying I don’t say the wrong thing to people. But, I want to be called out when I fuck up because I need to learn to do it better. To think better. None of us are perfect, but we need to see what other perspectives look like and try to put ourselves in their shoes and see if we would still say or do the same things. 
So – how do we create a truly equal space? I don’t know that we ever really can. But we can get closer. We can stop telling people how they should be reacting and what they should be feeling, thinking, doing. We can talk to them. We can learn a little more about their lens and we can try to see some different perspective in our life. Who knows? We might even gain some new insights that improve our own lives. Here is hoping for more understanding, caring, and empathy this holiday season and into 2018.  
 

Creating a New Show: Just Another Zombie Holiday Show

I am in the middle of working on our next theatrical/cabaret/burlesque production: Just Another Zombie Holiday Show. That said, for any of you who have been to the other “big” shows we have produced, this one is going to be the “light” version. We have had less actual rehearsal time, a less complicated script, and fewer show nights. Plus, we will be limiting the stage set since the show is switching theaters half-way through the production. The plot is certainly less complex than Hotel and White Rabbit (if you saw those) but should be a fun and festive show.

Putting together any show is hard work and part of that is finding a dedicated team to put it together. Luckily, I have the EXIT Theatre who supports these crazy productions and helps us with space, tech support, funding, promotion, and a whole lot of other behind the scenes stuff that I am supremely thankful not to have on my plate.

I have not been earnestly working on this show as long as the other shows, but in some ways, the thought process for developing this show started after Christmas last year when I decided that I must choreograph a cancan number to the instrumental version of Sleigh Ride. When the EXIT Theater told me this summer that they had some theater nights available in December, I told them I was willing to put together a holiday show. So, I emailed a bunch of great performers I know and asked them if they wanted to be part of this project. What started out in the mind of the theater director as a nice burlesque holiday show quickly morphed in my brain to “Just Another Zombie Holiday Show.” Holidays are great. I even have a few numbers that could be discernable as vaguely associated with Christmas… but I didn’t want to do just another holiday show. I wanted to do something different. Something with a hint of a twist. Something fun. And something altogether deadly…. So, the idea of Just Another Zombie Holiday Show came erupting out of my brain and into the world.

The premise is pretty simple. We are performers doing our final dress rehearsal before our BIG HOLIDAY SHOW. But most of the cast are late, and when they start showing up they talk about the craziness in the streets and one of them was even bitten by a random passerby. So, what do you do when you figure out that you are in a theater in the middle of San Francisco during a a zombie apocalypse?   Well, the show must go on and so must rehearsal!

So, the first part of the process was confirming my performers and their act ideas and figuring out how to meld them into the basic idea of the show and then into the simple and broad story arc. (Yes there is a story arc.) Then to get them into some cohesive format, I enlisted my personal zombie expert – Mr. Velvet (college English professor, writer, zombie aficionado) to help me formulate, write, and edit the script. Next, rehearsals! The Velvettes have already started group rehearsals for their act contributions to the shows as individuals are working on their solo numbers. Soon, we will start bring the solo numbers into rehearsals, setting scenes in the theater, and working the words on the page into a (semi-) realistic on-stage drama…. I mean horror.   Ummm, comedy. Er, sexy stripping show. Yes. All those things.

Rehearsals will be fun, exhausting, envigorating. Sometimes the cast will love each other. Sometimes they will hate each other. They will love me occasionally and hate my naggy bitchy self probably more often than they will care to admit. We will set the stage for some theatrical biting, tormenting, stage fighting. Who knows what else? (I do – but I am keeping the ending secret for now.) Rehearsals will be about getting it right and making it better – refining acts, scenes, and content as far into the process as we possibly can. By opening night – we will be perfect. And if not, hell, it is dress rehearsal during a damned zombie apocalypse. Give us a break already….

What will happen? Will good prevail over bad? Death over life? Rubbing alcohol over a previously unidentified disease? Will we still have access to the internet? Will we all turn into zombies? Will some of us survive the onslaught and escape for the opening night performance?   You have to come see the show to find out…. (background: maniacal laughter petering into silly giggles and random coughing)

Proverb for the Day Archives – October 2017

When we cease to make mistakes we cease to exist. 
Of course I could wait for you forever, but we both know that is not very practical….  
You don’t always have to procrastinate, but when you do, do it well.
It is easy to be a good person in good times.  
Even people with the best intentions will fuck up on occasion. 
People are truly remorseful about getting caught.  
People often lie just because they think it sounds better than the truth.  
I would not have to be a mean bitch if you weren’t an incompetent cretin.  
Just because you say it is satire does not mean it is satire. 
I am not more creative than you are, I just work harder at it than you do. 
Try to do at least one small thing every day to make the day better for someone other than yourself.
Life wouldn’t be the same if I thought just like everyone else.  
You are old, but you are anything but wise. 
I can’t miss you if you never leave. 
I know you are not 10. A ten-year old would have a much better grasp on this conversation than you do.  
Even slow steps forward will eventually get you to your destination.. 
Coercion is not consent.  
We all have demons. Some appear occasionally, like a delightfully entertaining dinner guest, some inhabit your space like a comfortable couch, and some annoyingly will never leave like the pungent smell of cat pee in your spare bedroom….  
I need a better filing system for my brain. 
It is not enough to make a decision. You then have to act upon your decision. 
When the years have passed, you never remember the lies the way you remember the truth. 
Sometimes taking the high road just leaves you with altitude sickness.  
I am not worried about it at all, until I am.  
The biggest problem with communication is the illusion of understanding.  
You may not be able to stop evil but at least get in its way and slow it down.  
Not being bad does not make you good. 
Don’t make me use my teacher voice. 

Why I thought it was okay…

Why I thought it was okay…                 Even though it never ever was.

 

Note: MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING – graphic rape discussion

 

It was New Year’s Eve and I was 15 years old. I remember because I did not have my driver’s license yet. My best friend, 17 years old, was over at my house and my parents and older brother were getting ready to leave the house for other New Year party plans.

My best friend and I were going to stay at my house and her 21-year old boyfriend and his 22-year old friend were going to join us. They were bringing some kind of alcohol. She thought her boyfriend was the best. He was in a band and the bandmates all lived in a house together. I don’t even remember their names.

I do remember my best friend getting drunk very early, well before midnight. She passed out in my twin bed in my pink bedroom with white ruffle curtains and a white ruffled bedspread. We tucked her in. The guys were bored and suggested that we leave her in my bed and that the three of us head to their house. I argued because I did not want to leave my best friend behind. I know I argued. Maybe I didn’t say no but I sure didn’t say yes. Nevertheless I found myself at their house. I know we went in a car. One of them drove. I have no idea how long it took, what kind of car it was, or what happened along the way.

When we arrived at their house, they had one room set up with only band instruments. The living room was normal, but the other rooms were all painted either black or red. We sat and drank some more. I was very drunk. The next thing I remember was waking up with one of them lying on top of me with his dick inside me. I didn’t know what to do and was so drunk I could barely move. At some point in the process I passed out again. Later I woke again as a blonde girl was beating me in the head with her fists as she screamed semi-coherent statements. She came home and found me in her bed with her boyfriend. She was screaming at me. All I could do was curl in a ball and try to protect myself from the hits. He held her and fucked her in a bed right next to me while I cried. When she fell asleep, he got inside me again.   I passed out again crying.

The next morning I wake up to knocking on the door. Someone answers it and there is my mother’s cheery voice stating, “I am looking for my daughter. Is she here?” One of the guys comes and gets me. I get up and pulled my skirt down. I see my underwear and shoes on the floor and put them on. They hadn’t bothered to remove anything else. I walk to the door. I want to cry and I want to throw up and my head hurts and I am thirsty and I feel really disgusting. I was on my period and my tampon is missing and I don’t have another one because I had nothing with me when we left except the clothes I was wearing. Not even house keys.

I walk out the front door and there are my mother and my best friend. My best friend is clearly hung over but smiling. My mom chirps a “Thank you” to the closing door and then proceeds, smiling, to ask me if I had a good time. Without waiting for an answer, she proceeds to tell me how they got home late, but saw everyone was gone. They peeped into my room and thought I was asleep in bed. “My how your dad and I were surprised this morning when the bedroom door opened”… and my best friend comes out instead of me. My best friend was hung over and confused, but told my parents she thought that we might have gone to her boyfriend’s house. She didn’t know his phone number (pre-cell phone days) and so they drove over to the house to look for me. As the chatting occurs, the three of us get in my mother’s green Datsun B-210 and my mother chats cheerily away for the 20-minute drive back to my house while my friend and I were silent.

When we got back to my house I took a shower and changed clothes.   I felt around in my pussy looking for my tampon – hoping that they had noticed it and taken it out before fucking me. Thinking that they must have because I could not find it. I was mortified when it worked its way out of me three days later. I don’t know exactly where it had gotten jammed into, but I can guess.

Turned out my best friend was mad at me because I left with the guys. And she thought her boyfriend liked me better than he liked her.   My mother was cheery and chipper. I thought that I must be over-reacting. Apparently it was perfectly okay and perfectly normal that this had happened. I didn’t tell anyone anything. Because who would care and what would it matter. This was the way the world worked. At least that was what was apparent to my 15-year old self.

I was raped again when I was 17 when my car broke down and a coworker offered me a ride home. But that was the only one that I classified to myself as rape. I never thought of the incident that happened when I was 15 as rape. I tried not to think about it all. It wasn’t until over a decade later when I was discussing the situation in therapy that it came out. That I realized how horrible it was. That I was disgusted that two men over 21 years old got a 15 year old drunk in her home, took her from her home, and then had sex with her when she was passed out.

I got angry at that point. Not at the perpetrators. At my mother and at my friend. I was angry because they normalized the rape behavior. I don’t have children, but I thought to myself, what parent missing their 15-year old daughter politely asks two adult males if she is at their house. Says “thank you” smiling when the daughter appears. If I had been my mother, I would have screamed at them, “What the fuck are you doing with my 15-year old daughter? What the hell were you doing taking her to your home from mine? What did you do to her?” I would have called the police. Statutory rape at a minimum – not to mention the lack of consent. Hell, there was never a secret to anyone about my age or about their ages. Why didn’t anyone say in the beginning that maybe it is not a good idea that I be allowed to hang out with two men over the age of 21? Why was this okay? My mother confided to me later that when she was in high school she had a 21-year old boyfriend. Is this why it was okay?  What had she gone through in her life and how bad had it all been?

And my friend was no support. She was still angry at me for leaving her passed out in my room while I “went off” with the guys. As if I had a choice. As if she had ever even asked me if I had a choice. As if I was going to tell her what they did to me because then she probably would have been even more pissed off at me. Because of course if I wanted to leave with them (even though I didn’t) I obviously wanted anything else I got, too (and must have been trying to steal them away from her, too.) She was older. Obviously not wiser. But why didn’t I get to be mad at her for passing out and leaving me alone with them? Or would it have been worse if she didn’t pass out? Would the same thing have happened except she would have been there? How much worse would that have been? At least this way she was only indirectly implicated in rape culture, not actually a participant or observer.

Of course I should be mad at the men who raped me. But no one ever knew they raped me because everyone around me normalized the situation so much that I figured I must be the problem. I figured it must be okay. I figured that was what girls were supposed to do and then just shut up and smile afterwards.

I know my mother never meant to hurt me. I don’t know what she was thinking and I never discussed the situation with her at all.   But the way that she acted made me think that the whole thing was okay. That this was all okay. That it was perfectly normal to have your 15-year old daughter disappear from your house, have no idea where she was and if she was okay.   That you didn’t need to ask questions and you should be polite and smiling and happy that she isn’t dead.   Looking back, I expect my mom did this as a defense mechanism. She was probably mad and probably worried and she didn’t want to freak out my friend or anyone else. But at the time I never would have known that. Particularly because we never discussed it. We never said another word about the incident. Ever. This is a dangerous form of “don’t ask, don’t tell” that I think too many people in our society practice.

I don’t think my friend meant to hurt me either. But she was so desperate to be loved by a man that she put our friendship second. I didn’t see her much after that and stopped considering her my best friend. At some point I just stopped considering her a friend at all.

I survived. I am fine. And I still love my mother. In fact, I was hesitant to write this for fear she might read it and be hurt by my analysis of her actions. But this is important stuff. I needed to share this so that people know that rape culture is not just sustained by rapists and not just sustained by men. It is often sustained by the everyday behaviors and defense mechanisms that we turn to. That doesn’t make it okay by any means. It just means that all of us must be more aware and more cognizant of how we act and react and what those actions/reactions imply to others. Are we, perhaps, just by trying to protect ourselves or maintain our own sanity, failing to ask questions, failing to get mad, and thereby unintentionally helping rape culture to continue to permeate society?

 

 

What is Sexy?

Recently several friends (people performing or related to the burlesque community) and I went to a “dinner and dance” show. The dance consisted of the “hostesses” who came and took orders and then went to dance on a long bar-like stage, removing usually one or two items of clothing, but remaining 100% clothed. (My definition of that is they were wearing far more than a bikini bathing suit and outfits that I would wear in public (but probably not to the office).   Therefore, fully clothed. People were screaming. They were titillated. Except our table, which was looking around in wonderment like it was a sociology trip. And I think it was a sociology trip: How the “normal” half (or ¾) lives. The performers were overtly sexy, but it was like watching a bad music video. And I mean bad music video. All the performers lip-synced. All but one did it badly. The numbers were supposedly professionally choreographed, but consisted of a lot of standing and walking and not (with the exception of the one talented lip-syncer) any spectacular movement or dancing. Pretty mediocre. I mean, I would have been thrilled if this was a group of brand-new burlesque graduation students, but not too impressed to see as a touted professional level show. To top it off, during the non-show times, the hostesses were putting whipped-cream covered shots in their bosoms and getting reluctant but drunk ladies to grab their tits and drink from the small glass between their cleavage. It was oh so high-school experimental girl sex, but not as much fun and a little more creepy. Please note that in this interesting sociological foray, most of the audience was women. A very few tables included men, and even with those, the men were in the minority.

 

So, I asked myself: “Velvet, why aren’t these crazy drunk women screaming at our burlesque shows?” They are obviously not part of the normal burlesque audience. If they are titillated by some clothing removal and bad lip-syncing and alcohol shots in the cleavage, then why aren’t they coming to burlesque? And, it is back to the old idea that sexy is scary. Bodies are scary. And admitting we are turned on by bodies – especially cis-gendered women by other women’s bodies – is apparently the scariest of all.

 

So, we play pretend. Ladies get drunk. They look at this partial clothing removal as safe, because it is relatively. They could never go to burlesque because it is too much body, too much sexy, too scary. I MIGHT LIKE IT TOO MUCH. Of course, they don’t admit that to themselves. Because it is only okay in the commercialist, advertising cis-gendered world to touch another woman’s breast if you are her doctor or nurse, you are experimenting in high school (because that doesn’t count, does it?), if you are doing it for your boyfriend because he wants a threesome, or if you are doing it to get a whipped cream covered hangover.

 

I am not judging these women negatively. It is the society we live in and the norms that most people deal with. We have to play at sexy, because most women feel we can’t own sexy. We feel we can’t claim sexy or appreciate sexy. So we go for faux sexy. Even though people that are ‘commercially’ sexy (I keep thinking tiny teen insidious blonde pony-tailed girls in skimpy 666 cheerleader uniforms for Halloween – which makes me want to puke) may not really be sexy to a great many of us. Preferably, at least in women, I will go for voluptuous curves, trim and fit older women in a great suit (and with great power), or a butch in well-cut jeans and leather jacket.

 

So, what is sexy? Sexy is different things to different people, but sexy can be surprising. And sometimes sexy can be scary. Can less sexy actually be more sexy because of the intimidation factor? In the case of this dance club, I think it was. It was an opportunity for people because this happens: “I don’t really think this is sexy because I actually like men, so I can go because it is safe, but underneath I really really enjoy this stuff.” Where a more overt display of bodies and sexuality may be waaaaayyy too discomforting for some women. Of course, that also includes the “I am not supposed to be feeling this factor…” Can we feel more because we feel safe? Are our sexual repressions holding us back from being sexy, enjoying sexy, or even recognizing non-consumerism non-commercial sexy? I think in common society, they definitely are.

 

And who decides what is sexy anyway? I mean, other than commercials and advertisements and other commercial means of making us personally feel like crap so we will (hopefully) buy their product and feel better about ourselves (they don’t really care about this part since they are trying to make us feel bad about ourselves in the first place.) I think my butt and thighs are too big. Mr. Velvet thinks they are sexy. A student recently did this floor move that I thought “Wow, that is hot!” She took it out because she thought she was too big and it looked not sexy. Nope, that was way sexy – put it back in pretty please! Who is right? In this case, the beholder. Obviously. Because they are having the feelings and they are not letting self-doubt invade on that visceral reaction to what they see.

 

Of course, as I said, sexy is definitely in the eyes of the beholder. Once at Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco a guy asked me if he could lick my boots. He totally thought it was sexy and really got off on it. And he was legitimately licking the sole of my boots. The underside. That part that touches the ground every time you walk all day in the grimy, beer-spilled, walked-on, driven-on, probably-peed-on, god-only-knows-what-else-on, dirty, filthy streets of San Francisco. Eeeewww. Not sexy. More throw-upy than sexy. And then throwing up is also not sexy. To me. But everyone has got their own thing…

 

And, of course, that can change over time. My sexuality and the things I find sexy have certainly changed over time. To an extent… I have preferences. They don’t include licking shoes, but they do encompass a fairly broad panoply of experiences. But part of that is because I am more confident in ME. I am more confident in what I can admit I like. I can take time to admire and decide what I like. I am not just reacting to the question of “What should I like?”

 

Case in point, I remember sitting in the locker room after gym class my freshman year in high school and one girl brought in some soft porn and was reading about a woman giving herself an orgasm. All the girls feigned disbelief and shock! Ew! Why would you bother? I look back on that and think really? We said those things? But it made sense at the time: 1) peer pressure and 2) orgasms and who had experienced one? I had certainly had sex by then, but I had not had a single orgasm.

 

So, you might be asking: “Well, what do you like?” I like a lot of things – depending on the person or persons and the mood I am in. But my biggest turn ons are (does this sound too much like a dating website?) confidence, intelligence, and vulnerability. Confidence alone might be okay, but they would have to promise NOT to talk to me if they were not intelligent. And vulnerability tells me that the person is willing to let me inside. The physical package is nice, too – but older, younger and specific body shape make less impact on me sexual interest than character and personality and the way they hold and represent themselves.   Yes, I find your personality sexy… or not. Depending…

 

But, the point of all of this is that there is not one sexy, not one definition of sexy. While people do often stereotype sexy, I often find those stereotypes to be unsexy. So MANY THINGS ARE SEXY!

 

But we still often feel unsure (at least as women – I can’t speak for men) about what we think we SHOULD find sexy, about whether we are sexy, and even about our sexuality in general.

 

So, sexy can be scary. Why wouldn’t it be? As Kathy Acker writes in Blood and Guts in High School. “For 2.000 years, you’ve had the nerve to tell women who we are. “ Now we are trying to figure it out and it is not like we have a clear and direct road map. We are not property, but we are still told insidiously every day in every way around us in commercials and comments and misogynist ways, who we SHOULD be. We are so tied into commercialism that if we have a different view on ‘sexy’ it can make us question our judgment, question our identity, question our thought processes. And goodness knows questioning ourselves and thinking are the most scary things of all. What if we don’t like the answers we give ourselves? Who are we then?

 

When we figure out what we want and stop questioning what we are, then we become the person we should be…

Proverb for the Day Archives – September 2017

That’s enough of this.

 

You must have conviction to carry your dreams through.

 

Life is what happens when we aremaking other plans.
You don’t miss what you don’t know.

 

I try to be nice, but then people piss me off.

 

Go bother someone else.

 

Don’t miss an opportunity to see the world differently.

 

I don’t need your emotional baggage.  I have plenty of my own.

 

Please drive me to distraction and then come pick me up later.

 

Your failure to be on Facebook does not mean you are “off the grid.”

 

Some people blame everyone but themselves.

 

A story may not be true, but there is truth in every story told.

 

I am not responsible for everything.

 

Do not put up with being shut up.

 

The reputation of 1,000 years may be lost by the actions of a single hour.

 

You can’t just take care of the body – you also have to take care of the soul.

 

If you have never been knocked down you may not know how to get back up.

 

You might not change the world, but you can still have an impact on your corner of it.

 

Some things designed to keep us safe may well kill us in the end.

 

I am not really listening to anything you are saying right now.

 

Profits should not usurp values.

 

I don’t know what it is or was – just get rid of it.

 

Excuses should not be valued more than accomplishments.

 

It is easier to use birth control than to chase children with knives.

 

Conversation is always better than ignoring the situation.

Bodies…

Bodies… women’s bodies… used to be pretty scary.

Let’s take the Victorian era – women were tied into their corsets, buttoned into their boots, skirts down to their ankles. Covered up. Repressed.

The 20’s were better, weren’t they? Shorter skirts, boots and corsetry gone. Such improvement… Yet, in 1923 in Boston, when Isadora Duncan was dancing on stage in a silk tunic and her breast fell out of her tunic when dancing (no leotards at that time), the U.S. was in an uproar. “The outcome… was a degree of bodily revelation unbecoming to a middle-aged woman…” “Audience is disgusted!” “Her costume was exceedingly scant… and the upper part persisted in slipping down,” stated newspaper articles all over the country. People were not just shocked. They were disgusted. (1)

Well, it is better now, isn’t it? We see scantily clad women in bikini bathing suits cavorting on the beach. Women’s bodies and sexually stimulated advertisements hit us in the face multiple times every day. Certainly we are inured to the visual stimulation of a female in 2017. Or are we?

We live in an era where women’s bodies are still expected to be perfect. Young, thin, fit. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but there is something wrong if that is the expectation that we are all supposed to fulfill.  We live in a society where eating disorders are rampant (2), where models wearing a size 6 (that is my size) are cast as PLUS-size models (3) and (4), where girls are sent home from school for ridiculous standards of dress (5), and where women are still regularly slut-shamed (6) and blamed for inciting rape (7). Furthermore, new studies show that millennials are not attracted to large breasts. (8)

To me that says that women’s bodies are still frightening. Our own bodies are frightening. And the sexuality of those bodies – the most frightening of all. Some of my most recent students identify as asexual. I understand that asexuality is a legitimate gender identity, and I do not intend to diminish or even question it. Nevertheless, it seems to me that completely foregoing sexuality entirely, denying it even exists, is a reasonable response to the strange and confusing combination of sexual obsession and sexual repression. Sometimes, I feel like it would be just so much easier to give it up entirely. Our bodies are relentlessly defined as sexual, and at the same time we are condemned and judged for having sexual bodies. Who wouldn’t want to give it all up?

I recently performed burlesque at an Isadora Duncan dance symposium. The presentation (performance demonstration and discussion) was on the use of burlesque in Duncan dance. I told the audience that I would be stripping down to pasties and a g-string and if they could not handle it, they should leave now. No one left then. Some left later. Because mentally, it sounds okay. But, then when you see it, it is a little raw. A little revealing. Seeing a naked women dancing, storytelling with her body, and stripping, are way more emotional than you thought it would be. Because it is a real situation; a real act; a real female body on a real stage, not an air-brushed photo in a magazine. And this female body was doing things that were happy, flirty, loving, sexy. It was powerful. It was emotional. And for many, it was – is – still scary.

I knew I would be dealing with historical purists. People who worship Isadora Duncan or think they do. People who think the Victorian way of dress should never have gone away.  One person asked, essentially, if taking off my clothes was required or part of the artistic expression of the dance. Another person asked if I was (paraphrased) debasing Isadora’s high art by doing it in bars. And people questioned whether taking my clothes off was really feminism, at which I patiently reminded them that sexuality is actually a part of being a woman.

Not all reactions were negative. One person said it made her really uncomfortable, but then she realized that what Isadora Duncan had done made people really uncomfortable, too. And maybe we should feel uncomfortable more often. Some people wanted to do burlesque. Because once they saw it, they could see the fun, see the empowerment, see the strength in the dance, in the movement, in the freedom. A freedom to be what we want on the stage, regardless of our sexuality.

But we are still taught that our women’s bodies are somehow wrong. At the same event, one of the showings after mine featured a group of serious modern dancers portraying a “cabaret” style modern dance in their underwear. To me, it was a formal dancer response to woman’s sexuality. They called it Air in a G-String, but Air in a Boy Short would have been way more appropriate.

The dancers were all stereotypical modern dancers – all very fit, thin dancers with small chests and slim hips. They all wore plain utilitarian black underwear. All of them wore boy shorts – some that I would even consider bike shorts. (I wear less on my ass when go-go dancing at shows.) I talked with the creator after the showing and she said that the ladies all picked “what they were comfortable wearing.”   In the performance, the dancers would occasionally hold both hands behind their head in what I consider a traditional burlesque sexy power pose. They giggled or looked embarrassed. Not just the dancers, but furtive audience giggles could also be heard. Not hilarious giggles. Embarrassed giggles.

Then the dancers did the crotch covering move. Covering their crotch – which was fully covered already – with one or two hands. As if to protect it. No self-respectable cabaret or burlesque performer does that unless it is tongue-in-cheek,. This was not. This was a whitewashed, asexualized version of women’s sexuality. It was fascinating how dance intellectuals view women’s bodies, their own bodies, and women’s sexuality. It was sad. Why can’t we embrace who we are? Or do we really think women have no sex, should claim no sex, that we really only do it for men? Have we forgotten that we too have sexual organs, have sexual needs, have orgasms? Have we forgotten that enjoying our sexuality is an inherent benefit of being human? Of being alive?

I teach burlesque a lot. One of the scariest things we do in burlesque is taking off our clothes for other people. Showing our bodies. Showing our vulnerabilities. Showing our sexuality. It is eventually empowering. But there is still a scariness in that vulnerability. Because in this culture, we are often not allowed to celebrate our bodies or our sexuality, as part of our celebration of feminist culture. As part of our celebration of ourselves and what we can achieve, we seem to forget – or are told to leave at the door – our innate sexuality.

Where in the known female stereotype is the hot sexy woman? Is she in the maiden, the mother, the crone? With the maiden we associate innocence and virginity, the mother a certain pious caring, and the crone we certainly consider too decrepit to want or need sex. Actually, the sex is in all three – we are just very good at distancing it from our “respectable” views of what a woman should be.

The superwoman who has a home, family, and a job is never revered for her sexuality. It fades into the background. Tits at work are scary. Men can’t control themselves (9) and it is all our fault.   Look nice, but not too nice. Look like a woman, but not too much like a woman. Be feminine, but not too feminine. And not too masculine either. We have a very small crosswalk of acceptability. If we step outside of those lines, we are liable to get run over. What does getting run over look like? Anything from slut-shaming, to less pay, to no promotion, to disdain, to date rape. Because it is another excuse to belittle us, to demean us, and most importantly, to control us. Stop letting society limit and control us. Stop letting society tell us that our bodies are bad and that our sexuality is bad.

Let’s accept our bodies, accept our sexuality, and support other women doing the same. We are fucking amazing. Let’s be who we are meant be in this world.

 

 

Yes, these are footnote and links:

(1) Kurth, Peter. Isadora: A Sensational Life, December 2002.

(2) http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

(3) http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2015/08/13/the-model-redefining-high-fashion/?utm_term=.a78f35d2eb06

(4)http://www.bistromd.com/womens-health/why-is-size-six-the-new-plus-size

(5) http://ijr.com/2015/04/290270-school-sends-girl-home-calling-outfit-inappropriate-whats-wrong/

(6) http://www.latimes.com/local/education/lausd/la-me-edu-slut-shaming-20160218-story.html

(7) http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/sexual-assault-blame

(8) https://www.maxim.com/maxim-man/millennials-dont-care-about-boobs-2017-8

(9) http://www.scarymommy.com/laurah-lukin-runner-responds-to-rape-comment/