What I Really Mean When I Say No

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013-11-16 13.21.57

 

 

 

 

Dear Men of America:
I was raised to be a “good girl”, a kind and thoughtful person who expressed herself genteelly and never ever raised her voice in public. This has served me well, and in most cases has brought about good results. However, the rash of recent headlines from the Cat Calling video and the boorish misogynistic responses to it, to Rush Limbaugh saying (and then suing for being quoted as saying it) “how many of you guys…have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it”, to the fact that 60% (or more) of the sexual assaults in this country go unreported and of those that are reported only 4% will lead to a conviction, has me mad. Boiling, raging, shout it from the rooftops mad!

 

 

 

This is not, as the oh, so charming gentleman on CNN put it, a question of women not understanding how men think. We don’t care what you think. We care that you listen to us and what we are saying is NO!  No, we don’t want to walk down the street and be followed by suggestions of what you might like to do to us, or told to “smile”. No, we don’t like sitting near you in bars, restaurants, and trains and hear you discussing with your buddies which girl is hot, and how you’d like to “do” her in Technicolor gory details. No, we don’t want you to put your hands on us uninvited.

 

 

 

And when it comes to sex…No means exactly that. It is not a challenge to your skills of seduction. We are not looking to be “let off the hook”. These are tropes that need to lumber off the way of the dinosaurs. No means no means no means no. Say it with me now, no means no!

 

 

 

And please, spare me the excuse that what a woman was wearing. Gentlemen, YOU are responsible for your thoughts and actions not us. We are not the guardians of your moral purity and virtue, you are. If you can’t be trusted to control yourselves you are a danger to yourself and society and should not be allowed to roam freely about the world.

 

 

 

You must understand,there is a world of difference between a smile of greeting and an outright leer. Everyone, male or female, likes to be acknowledged, but there is a time and place and way. Compliment giving is truly a lost art. It must be sincere, given while looking the person in the eyes (not the boobs or the crotch), all the while maintaining personal space. It is devoid of lip smacking, rude gestures and lascivious sound effects. It is not screamed at a woman walking past and above all, it should be something that you should feel comfortable saying in front of your mother, grandmother, sister, girlfriend, wife or daughter. If it does not meet these criteria and the complimentee feels the need to flee to the nearest safe space you have not mastered this art.  In fact, I suggest, you practice thousands of times on those you know before you try it out on an unsuspecting public. Mothers and grandmothers are especially good to practice on as their hand of justice tends to be swift and sure if you aren’t getting it right. Even then, bestowal of a compliment DOES NOT entitle you to anything.

 

 

 

Margaret  Atwood said “Men’s greatest fear is that women will laugh at them, while woman’s greatest fear is that men will kill them”. I am angry because we are afraid. We are afraid because when we say no you do not listen. I do not hate men, I have a husband and a son whom I love dearly and have made my life wonderfully rich. What I hate is that when women speak to issues of our personal physical and mental health and safety there is an immediate tsunami of justification as to why we can’t possibly mean what we say. There really is no doubt about what women want in this area. We want to be able to walk down the street unmolested and be heard unequivocally when we say no. It ain’t rocket science guys, just good manners.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Deep Thoughts | Leave a comment

Every Outfit Tells a Story

 

 

 

October 11

 

 

 

I’m not a fashion blogger, and I really have no desire to be one. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy and respect fashion bloggers. There are many I read every day, and I am constantly inspired by their posts. But for me, it’s not quite the right fit. I’m more interested in clothes as an outer expression of my inner self rather than what’s “on trend”. I feel that the clothing we choose to put on every day tells a story. Sometimes it’s deliberate. There are mornings when, before I get dressed, I think about where I’m going, what I’m doing, and what message I want to send by my outfit.  Then there are other times when I’ve got a thousand things to do and I quickly throw something together. No matter what, there’s always a story and that’s what I’m going to spend some time writing about occasionally in this space.

 

 

When I was six my top three career choices were singer, actress, or fashion designer. To be a fashion designer you had to be able to draw, and try though I might, I could barely manage basic stick figures. In high school, during the set design section of my drama class, the fact that I couldn’t draw a straight line WITH a ruler was a source of endless consternation to Miss Greb, my drama teacher. So, possessing no drawing ability whatsoever and even less straight line perception I concentrated on  becoming a connoisseur of beautiful things. Cultivating the ability to put an outfit together was my way of compensating for my lack of design skills.

 

 

 

October 15

 

 

 

On the surface the outfit in this post is nothing special. There was no occasion, I wasn’t trying to say anything with it. It’ s just the type of thing I put on that makes me feel pretty, and wears well over the course of a long day. And yet, if you take the individual elements – denim shirt, lace skirt, shiny sparkly statement necklace, and stiletto heeled booties – it really does clue you in on something pretty elemental in my life. Looking at the list of items in isolation you’d think that these are things that just won’t fit together, but put together in the right way they do. If I have a philosophy of life or music it is the belief that labels and genres don’t matter. I love taking things that on the surface wouldn’t seem to go together and blending them to form a new whole. I do it with music, with parties, and with my clothes. There’s always the element of danger in that my novel combination may explode into one great big mess, but that’s the fun of it. I learn something new even from my great big messes. Especially from my great big messes. Sometimes the big idea isn’t inventing something entirely new, it’s taking a few something olds and putting them together in a new way that brings real innovation. And there it is, my philosophy of life, clothing, and music in one little blue outfit.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fashion | Leave a comment

It’s all a Stage

 

 

 

November

 

 

Whenever my teenage self committed any sort of infraction from coming home late to getting upset over something trivial, my step-father would say “life is not a series of one act plays”. He thought this was one of his most clever lines as it squelched any typically “hysterical female” behavior while at the same time highlighting the utter unsuitability of my planned career choice. I didn’t love it as much as he. Never once did I think “wow, that’s really deeply profoundly true, I’d better change. Perhaps enroll in an accounting course.” It just irritated me. The line burrowed itself into my subconscious where it would pop out from time to time and remind me just how much I hated hearing it. Until…I had a moment of realization…it wasn’t true. Not even a tiny bit. Life IS a series of one act plays and it’s a magnificent thing.

 

 

 

when Spawn was born it seemed he did not sleep for the first three months of life. As soon as we would crawl into bed he’d wake up screaming and nothing would persuade him to go back to sleep. Many nights we were driven to desperation. Really… driven. We’d wrap him up, put him in his car seat and drive around the neighborhood until he finally slept. It was a miserable time, but eventually we all adjusted and Spawn started to sleep better . If it wasn’t for the entire night it was enough so that his parents could form a coherent sentence the next day.  Now I can look at it and see that it was just one tiny act in a much larger story. It had a beginning and an end. The characters in it learned something, and moved on to another, happier phase. (Of course, now that’s he’s of age to drive himself around the neighborhood that brings a whole other kind of sleep deprivation.) Would looking at things this way have solved the problem at hand? Probably not. We’d still have been sleep impoverished zombies, but maybe zombies with a teeny bit more perspective.

 

 

 

Impermanence terrifies me. It feels sometimes that things change so swiftly that I have no control and I HATE that. Somehow, looking at each new day as my own personal one act play helps me to focus on what I can control and let’s me appreciate the things I am able to accomplish in that span of time. That’s the beauty of it, the acts can be short or long, and sometimes you can experience several different acts at once, but at the end of them all you can look back and see where you’ve triumphed and where you’ve fallen down, and use it get you through whatever comes next. And no matter what, every act has something to celebrate. Never forget to celebrate!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Deep Thoughts | Leave a comment

The Music & the Movie: Chef

 

 

 

I don’t watch as many movies as I would like. It seems there’s always an excellent excuse – I need the proper time to really give it the attention it deserves I must finish this absorbing book firstI want to wait until Spouse and I can watch it together – Consequently my Netflix Queue and DVD basket runneth over. But give me a movie that combines luscious food with a great sound track and the excuses disappear!

 

 

I have watched Jon Favreau’s Chef twice now. I first saw it when it was in the theatre and I liked it so much that as soon as it was released on Amazon Prime I bought it. It is one of my favorite movies in a long time. The casting is delicious (Favreau, John Leguizamo, Robert Downey Jr. Sophia Vergara and Scarlett Johanson) and the story is an engrossing mix of road movie and unconventional love story. Actually, it’s three love stories; the story of a man falling back in love with his vocation while he falls in love with fatherhood and rediscovers his love for the woman he left behind. This last part of the story is told so skillfully and subtly you don’t even realize you’re rooting for it to happen till the very end.

 

 

 

 

And then there’s the FOOD! This is not a film for dieters. The scene where Favreau’s character makes a grilled cheese sandwich is enough to reduce me to tears of lust. This is the ultimate in food porn. Brisket, carne asada, beignets, a whole continent’s worth of delicacies filmed in such loving detail your taste buds beg for a bite. The filmmaker’s passion for food illuminates every shot. There are no debates here about what we should or shouldn’t be eating just pure joy in the power that good food has to nourish us and connect us to our past and present experiences. I’ve always felt that if there were less shame involved in eating and more emphasis on the pleasure that truly good food brings, and how it connects us to our fellow humans there would be fewer eating disorders, but that’s a thought for another post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The music, curated by Mathieu Schreyer, provides the perfect punctuation to the story. Interesting and always perfectly on point, it helps move the story along, and adroitly illustrates the changing locales. A soundtrack that is a blend of the new, the old and the old done in a new way gets me every time. It was not enough for me to listen to the officially released soundtrack, I had to look up each musician who contributed a track and listen to more. I even listened to all the available back episodes of Schreyer’s show on LA’s KCRW. There is a fine art to creating a soundtrack that captures and enhances the story without distracting from it, and Schreyer has certainly mastered it.

 

 

 

And now it’s time to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich then turn up some Gary Clark Jr & Perico Hernandez, and dance it off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m Still Wearing Your Name

 

 

 

 

 

STOP 1

 

 

 

Yesterday I unfriended someone. This isn’t something I do a lot. I don’t require all my friends (real or virtual) to believe or think exactly like me. If I did I’d be a little lonely and a lot bored. But my tolerance ends when the name calling begins.

 

 

Here’s what happened…Scrolling through Instagram I came upon a picture posted by a distant relative of a group of teenagers with the caption “hanging out with these fags”.  I tried to convince myself that these were kids and that’s just how they talk, certainly they didn’t mean anything by it, but the more I thought about it the more it disturbed me.

 

 

Words are powerful things. They carry the weight of history and heritage. They express who we are and what we hold precious. They have the power to hurt or to heal. In some religious traditions it is believed that the world was brought into being through words. Words are sacred and the most sacred of words are names. The ones we are given at birth, the ones we chose to call ourselves, and the ones we call those we love. Of all words these must be chosen with the greatest care.

 

 

I do not believe in the idea of “reclaiming” words, that taking a word that has traditionally been used slur and using it to address your peers somehow liberates it from its history. To call your friends fags, bitches, sluts, whores or anything else in that vein doesn’t strike a blow for change, all it does it blur the lines between what is acceptable and what is not. It gives those who would use these words in their most brutal and pejorative sense an out to throw up their hands and say “just kidding”.

 

 

Every day women and men are bullied with these terms. The shame, humiliation and fear they feel will stay with them all their lives. They will never be able to hear these words as lighthearted banter. As long as these words are used to abuse a single soul anywhere they should be considered anything but amusing, and cannot be, will never be, reclaimed.

 

 

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Goodbye My Friend

Terri Allen

Terri Allen

 

 

 

This is tough…This is not the post I planned to write today, in fact, it’s not a post I ever imagined having to write. How do you write a post to say goodbye to someone you never expected to go? Someone whose last conversation with you was full of ideas for new projects and plans to get together in just a few weeks? Suddenly the fragility and unfairness of life have come crashing in and I am stunned.

 

 

Spouse and I consider the Washington, DC area to be our hometown. This was the place he, Spawn, and I began our life together. In the ten years we lived there we made many friends who became family. It was also where I found my first artistic family, in which Terri Allen played a major part. She was part of a group of musicians, artists, and actors who took me under their wing, and became my first friends and mentors.

 

 

To be honest, I don’t really recall my first meeting with Terri. Suddenly she was just there, a part of it all, helping, advising, and being my friend. Terri with her great laugh, exuberant hair and huge heart could always be counted on to listen, support, and to offer wisdom when needed.

Terri understood commitment whether it was to a lyric, a project or a friend.  And once she committed she worked! She was not one to come up with an idea and let others do the heavy lifting; If she proposed a project she could be counted on to put her entire being into its success.

 

 

I never knew Terri to hold a grudge, spread gossip or say an unkind word about another performer. We shared a goal of creating a community of singers bonded by a mutual love of music. We wanted a place where people felt welcome and supported each other.  To this day, the DC community is the warmest most open group of people I have ever had the privilege to know. Much of this is due entirely to Terri.

 

 

I can’t find the words to say goodbye to this force of nature, my beautiful friend who sang with her whole heart and soul.  All I can say is Thank you. Thank you, Terri, for being welcoming and loving, for being part of my crazy ideas and coming up with more than a few of your own. Your graciousness, your humor and your total commitment will forever inspire me. You have taken a piece of my heart with you, and I will never be the same.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sing! With Us

 

 

Mayes, A H Callaway, L Callaway, Bailey

 

 

Having made my quinquennial pilgrimage to the pool I have packed away my swimsuit, ankle length sarong, long sleeved tee, giant hat and the vat of industrial strength sunscreen  and returned to work. Next up is a project that I’m ridiculously excited about.

 

I love to sing, and write and tell stories, but almost as much as I like to do all those things I like to help other performers do those things. In August I will be doing just that alongside three performers whose work has inspired me for throughout my career. Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Sally Mayes and I will be teaching a workshop called SING! August 18th through the 20th at Shetler Studios in New York City.

The purpose of SING! goes beyond helping you sound pretty. Our goal is to help every student get to the heart of the song in a way that expresses who you are as a performer and a human being. We give you the chance to work on three different types of song over the course of the class and then guide you in putting them together to make a mini set of songs that combine music and spoken word. We also talk about finding a visual style that’s unique to you and what you do as a performer. The best part is that you get to show off what you’ve learned in a final performance before an invited audience of special guests.

 

I can hardly wait to get started. Our schedules are so crazy it’s a rare occasion that we are able to combine our talents in this way, and I’m looking forward to seeing some magic. I hope you’ll join us, it will be a class like no other! You can get all the details HERE.

 

 

Posted in classes | Leave a comment

Meanwhile…

 

 

 

 

 

Busy! Busy! Busy! That has been the theme for the last month. I finally have a moment or two to breathe, and contemplate what’s next. While I’m doing that you can pop over to Little Yellow Couch and check out my latest  guest post. This one is all about finding, and enjoying Summer Music Festivals. I’ll be back soon with news and other assorted goodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Icons & Influences: Dixie on My Mind

 

 

I & I Dixie Carter

 

 

Everything I know about being a woman I learned from Julia Sugarbaker. Well, first my mother, but after her, Julia Sugarbaker, as embodied by Dixie Carter, was my most formative influence. In fact, as I look at pictures of Dixie I’m reminded of Mom. They both possessed blade sharp cheekbones, finely arched eyebrows, and a mischievous glint in their eyes that spelled trouble. They were both strong, opinionated southern women, and they are both, sadly, gone.

 

Dixie’s Julia was among the last of a vanishing breed of smart, articulate, and funny female TV characters.  She got the joke, but kept her dignity. This was what I wanted to be when I grew up , a woman of style and substance who knew her way around a quip. The women I’ve aspired to emulate have never been the Marilynesque bombshells, but the funny smart ones who got things done.

 

This is what I’ve learned from watching Dixie Carter over the years:

 

  • Smart is sexy: I remember sitting in a class at some point in my teenage years where important knowledge about dealing with boys was being imparted. To wit, boys don’t like girls who are “too smart”, beat them at games, or display an appetite. Therefore, I was supposed to be quiet, let them win, eat before a dinner date, and always descend the stairs at an angle so that my hips appeared smaller. Dixie said one of the things she was proudest of was being her high school’s valedictorian, and winning the math award. Thank you, Ms Carter, for never playing dumb!

 

 

You can wear lipstick and high heels and still be a feminist:   Wanting to look good is not shallow, it’s just good manners.

 

Speaking of manners…having them and using them does not make you less powerful. I got to meet Dixie very briefly many years ago in Washington, DC.  I had sent her a letter about her singing and she called and left a lovely message inviting me to come see a play that she was doing in town. She was as lovely, kind and polite in person as I had hoped she would be. We only talked for a few moments but I remember her graciousness to this day.

 

You can make your point without being ugly: Julia Sugarbaker was known for her rants when something offended her sense of justice. What I notice now more than ever before about those epic speeches was just how rarely she raised her voice. Sure she got passionate, but she never screamed. Instead she used razor sharp articulation to get her point across.  Dixie brought her musician’s sense of timing to them using pace, and rhythm to turn what, in the hands of a lesser actress, could be strident tirades into brilliant comic soliloquies that had us all wishing we could be that eloquent when faced with idiocy in its many forms.

 

To sing is to live: She said that at age seven she knew her destiny was to sing at the Metropolitan opera, but due to a botched tonsillectomy that never happened. That didn’t mean she stopped singing though. Though she never sang at the Met she sang on stages, in nightclubs and on television for her entire life. She never stopped.

 

It’s never too late: From the age of twenty six to thirty five she dropped out of performing to raise her children. She didn’t move to LA until she was forty and her great success with Designing Women didn’t come until she was in her late forties.

 

So, thank you, Dixie, for being an inspiration. For the laughter and the music and for teaching me that smart, articulate women with good manners can go anywhere they want in this world if they work hard enough. Finally, for introducing me to the work of Michele Brourman, without her my life would be all the poorer, as I’m sure you well know. You are our guardian angel of good taste and sass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Icons & Inspirations | Leave a comment

Once Twice

 

Arthur Darvill & Joanna Christie

 

 

I’ve been on a theatre tear of late. In the past few weeks I’ve seen six shows, attempting to make up for some time spent in hibernation mode. This happens sometimes.  I got mired in whatever I happen to be working on at the moment and have to be gently nudged back to civilization by my friends.  The joy of sitting in the dark of a theatre with my favorite people experiencing a transcendent moment of performance is a small miracle that brings an all too rare feeling of perfect contentment that I can squirrel away for a rainy day.

 

 

Once is definitely one of those small miracles. It had been on my list of things to see ever since it opened, and I finally got the chance to see it. Actually I’ve seen it twice in the last couple of weeks. I saw it and was completely charmed by it the first time, so much so, that I immediately wanted to see it again just to determine whether it was a crush or true love. Luckily, Michele B. breezed through town last week, and we decided to go to the theatre together. A treat in itself because usually we’re working so hard when we’re together we hardly have time for anything else. Even though I had just seen Once, when it came up on her list of possibles I leapt at the chance to go back. And yes, I discovered that it is indeed true love.

 

 

There’s so much to love here. It’s a one set show that bucks the trend of bigger, louder, faster, with an unconventional love story at its heart.  The innovative use of movement and the pop score with shades of Celtic and Eastern European musical forms make it feel both brand new and traditional all at the same time (my personal aspiration as a musician). The songs are used not so much to move the plot forward as in a traditional musical, but act as subtext and back-story.

 

 

What I think made me fall head over heels though, was what the show has to say about soul mates. This isn’t the idea of the romantic soul mate that charges into your life and sweeps you away to live happily ever after (sorry for the spoiler, but the show doesn’t end with the time-honored happy ending), but the promise of an Artistic Soul Mate. That person that enters your world for a brief time be it a few years, months, days or even hours, and in that time inspires you to see yourself in a new way. Sometimes they’re romantic partners, there must needs be chemistry in all things after all, but more often the love affair they inspire is with your art. The Artistic Soul Mate can appear right at the point of abject creative despair and instinctively they are able to kindle the spark that brings you back from the brink. An Artistic Soul Mate just gets you, no explanation necessary.

 

 

I’ve been lucky to have a few of these in my life, people who could see me clearly even when I couldn’t. Whose words and deeds pointed me in the direction I needed to travel. I will forever adore Once for the reminder that such people are out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Theatre | Leave a comment