I never dread meeting new people. I love a party where I don’t know a soul. I have no problem walking into a room filled with folks who are richer, smarter or prettier than I am...primarily because that would describe me walking into most rooms. But few people intimidate me. It’s not that I have such an inflated view of myself that I assume everyone’s going to love me. Oh cunt-rare! (That’s French, for nu-uh!) After all my elementary and middle school years positioned me securely at the bottom of the social totem pole, I learned how to appreciate the few friends I did have and focus on my own shit. I learned to love myself - and not just under the sheets. People didn’t scare me because I felt good about who I was. It also helped that I was (and remain) a first-born.
Overgeneralization Alert! When someone is the object of hostility, a second child may say, “Why was that person so mean? What’s wrong with me?” A first-born child is more likely say, “What’s wrong with that mutha fucka?” Of course that’s not always the case, but I find it true enough to explain how I was able to rise above the mean-spiritedness that surrounded me in those formative years, bar the occasional sob in the pillow.
I did well in school, and I participated in various activities that convinced me that I had some talents. And then in college I learned how to read palms which is the best thing I ever learned there. Reading palms always comes in handy.
But throughout my journey to self-love, my friends, I never wrote. I never took a creative writing class. I never joined the newspaper or literary magazine. I loved writing. I felt most at ease when I could express myself in words. I wrote stories with my best friend when we were young, but that was a very private activity between the two of us, and I couldn’t possibly put myself out there beyond that. I didn’t want to know that the thing I enjoyed the most – the thing I knew defined me – might not be any good. So I avoided doing it. It was safer that way.
Fast forward, we moved to the UK in 1999, and I had a lot to say about our lives abroad. I started writing little stories to friends back home in mass email messages – before blogging had really caught on. I wrote to tell stories and to entertain without realizing that I wasn’t just sending emails. I was writing creatively, and it felt good. Emails led to blogging and blogging led to a column and more blogging and that led to BlogHer and Voices of the Year, which led me to Ann Imig and Listen To Your Mother. Whew!
My point in telling you all of this is to tell you that I’m a pretty confident person...until I meet other writers. And then, I’m that sad sack again trying not to feel self-conscience and trying to remind herself that she’s good enough doing what she loves to do.
At the first rehearsal of Listen To Your Mother a couple weeks ago, I tried to suss everyone out while muffling those internal voices yelling, “How did YOU get here, Deborah? You must be the token lesbian,” I tell myself. Or, “If I made it, they must all suck.” I try to figure out how I ended up introducing myself to these other writers sat on folded chairs who seemed far more accomplished and interesting than I was. “Remember when being a lesbian was interesting?” I told myself. “That was so Y1K.”
There were academics with impressive degrees, actors with professional headshots and SAG memberships and award-winning bloggers with massive followings and authors of published books then there were the few who said, “I’ve never really written before. This was my first try.” And I hated them through my smiling nod for their natural gifts.
By the end of rehearsal, I must admit, I loved them all. Not like I wanted to be BFFs and invite them all home to meet the family kind of love. And not like I wanted to love them up in a salaciously sweaty kind of way, either. Well, maybe that way a little bit, but what I mean is I loved them for their stories and how completely lost I was in each one and how I could connect with every single piece in some way. Most of all, I loved how they reminded me that great writing evokes emotions because it is raw and vulnerable and not necessarily because you have an MFA or a professional headshot or a published book.
There was no need to feel uneasy or sad-sacky (not to be confused with Coxsackie) because there was no competition or totem pole. There was only the captivating exchange of experiences and a mutual respect for our honest stories. I was proud to be sat amongst them and confident that I belonged.
Neat, huh? I wish you could have been there. But wait! You can be there!!
Tickets are on sale now for Listen To Your Mother NYC on May 6th at 2pm right HERE. Come see!
Keep checking the site for cast bios. I provided a headshot for mine. It was not a professional headshot. It was also not this one: