Sometimes I have this dream where I wake up in a house that's on fire. My throat is already burning and dry, and my eyes are flooded by thick grey smoke that wraps my face like gauze. More than fight for my life, I wonder who the fuck's house I have woken up in, because I know for sure I don't live there.
There is something about waking life that can seem very dreamlike if you look inward long enough. Reality has always been something of a puzzle for me. There's a lot of layers there, who am I, what is the world, and how much of what I see is real or not? It got very muddled as I became painfully aware that not everything I thought to be real actually was. I had to pick apart my reality and the constant that I shared with others.
To make matters more complex, I became a hell of a liar. Lies are a very tricky, complicated thing. Even when they're yours, they have their own fingerprints and their own weight. They wrap transparently over things that are there and take on that appearance, even as they suffocate whatever true being lived below it. Lies, after a point, become convinced of themselves, that their reality is just as good as the original one.
Last year I started writing an article about lies that I remember I had hoped to use as a sort of "come out" for myself. I wienered out by the time I actually decided to post it. I justified my lack of confronting myself because my lies were for my own benefit. They didn't, or shouldn't matter to anyone else.
I put my feet on the floor and I realize that I'm already dressed. Someone's hand is on my arm. "Get up, it's time to go."
No shit, man.
This is kind of a struggle. There's something about admitting what's true that makes me feel like I have to give you some back story to justify why I was a liar in the first place. I guess the simple answer is because I didn't really know what else to do, or who else I was. I was very young.
The real story goes like this: I was a very awkward teenager. I didn't have a lot of friends, or any, really and I spent most of my time by myself. I used to go on these really long walks and listen to music and the whole time I was convinced that someone was going to kill me although I didn't know why I had that paranoia.
On one of those walks, I met the person who would ruin my life. I've already written about that and don't want to again. No one saved me. I just stayed on the floor and cried and felt stupid, and disgusting and used and ashamed, this whole caldera of feelings I had no context for. I never understood how someone could betray me that badly or why, and I shut down. I spent the next three and a half years in my room and In that time, I don't think I ever once admitted what happened. Not until much, much later.
Not until after I had lied about myself for years.
While I was in that hole, I invented the second reality. I invented friends and life experiences so that when I would later have to talk to people I wouldn't feel like such a moron. I invented a past drug problem because it made it easier to ask for drugs when I was old enough to look for them myself.
In my adult life, my lies became my passport to the strange and interesting people. I was too shy, too broken, to talk to anyone without them. With them, I had something to contribute. It got me here.
Get up, it's time to go. And we do. I follow blindly through passages so narrow and full of smoke it feels like I'm pushing through the bowels of a monster with indigestion. The hand that is tugging on my arm is starting to hurt. It's not a hand, it's two fingers. Not fingers, claws. Nubby little claws that dig into my arm. They're so familiar to me.
They're the claws of a T-Rex, a green dinosaur toy that I've been carrying with me for almost a year now. He is conspicuously large but people rarely question me on it, no matter where I take him. His paint is a little bit chipped and reveals his grey body. All in all, he has survived a lot. He is my little protector.
I think I was 19 when I first talked about what really happened, but I only approached it by putting it in the context of my other world.
The story that I told was that there was someone else in the bathroom. He stumbled into my nightmare as an unintentional hero. I wasn't violated, just almost was, and out of the insanity of the experience I had a friend. More friends, as I met his circle. I got into drugs, struggled with them, quit them eventually, went to college. I usually omitted the first part that touched reality until much later. I had my bad crowd, and I used that to explain my weird behavior.
I used my fake teenage years to give myself strength because in that version, I had overcome something, albeit something else. I had an origin story. It helped me explain a lot of myself and even after writing this and admitting that none of it's true, I don't know how much of my daily rhetoric will change. I'm so used to that being my past that it feels like it. I became who I was because of those lies. As I became more sure in my footing though, I realized something that's been hanging around me like the smoke in my dream.
I follow my impossibly large and small plastic friend unquestioningly. I'm not so sure it's because I trust that he knows where he's going so much as I'm confident that I have no fucking clue. Given that, and the fact that I have to assume left to my own devices I end up in the burning house of a stranger, I sort of assume he's better at making these decisions than I am.
We walk outside, but outside is a stage, some show I had but didn't remember. I can't see the audience with the brightness of the stage lights. I feel good about it. There is a kind of stillness, a quiet that lets you know that people are listening, that they want to be listening to you. I think I like that silence almost as much as I like to make people laugh. Stage left, in the wings, T-Rex motions with his tiny arms that I should start. I grab the microphone, look to the floorboards and they're starting to smolder. Well, fuck. This place isn't any more stable than the last one, is it?
I realized as I became more okay with confronting the truth that I also had no grounds to talk about it. Sexual assault is often reduced in court to "He said, she said." All I read about in the media was how it broke down the victims as though they were on trial, retraced every word they said to look for lies and falsehoods. It seemed too late, too distant, to try and find him now, but I had to face the fact that if someone started tugging at my tapestry and uncoiled everything I'd fabricated, what were the odds that they'd start accusing me of lying about that, too?
There is no part of me that thinks I have a defense if they did other than it happened and it broke me. Even now I wouldn't be able to handle that test. The fake reality had webs around the real one, and I haven't really been sure what to do about it.
I think a lot of people could find, at the very least, my motive for lying to be empathetic. It got complicated as I met people that related to my non-existent past; I had some pretty heartfelt conversations with people about their struggles with drugs, or people they'd lost to them, and in the back of my mind I had to wonder if I was cashing in on their struggle, and that felt bizarre and awful. How was I supposed to tell them? It was so second nature to tell those stories and I needed them so dearly. Even now I'm not totally sure what I'm going to do about it. It feels as much a part of me as the actual blankness that encompassed most of my teenage years. It's like I've grown another head, and I'm not sure which one is supposed to control my body.
I don't think I would tell my younger self not to lie. If I hadn't I might have killed myself. It was escapism at the time. It became a little more hurtful when my escape bled into someone else's struggles. The only thing that I can do now, I guess, is bridge the gap between that person I assumed I was and the person I really am. The person I assumed I was, she was tough. She had been through a lot and come out of it strong. I had made her that way, and she was me, so that meant I was, too.
But I'm not. I am incredibly sensitive and I don't take my blows well. I surrounded myself with people that I thought were strong, though, and I made up those stories so I knew what it looked like to feel brave. In a way, it sort of worked. I have a self-confidence that I am gently pulling the false framework away from and creating the skeleton of who I want to be.
Weird as I may be, nearing my 30s and having a plastic dinosaur as my chief companion, I keep him around as an anchor. I'm not very good at managing the chaos in my life. I have trouble deciphering who is really me, who I am inventing out of habit and who people think I am. The older I get the more efforts I make to live honestly. I don't know if it's harder or not, it's just more important.
I can't blame anyone for lying because the truth was something impossible, that harsh reality made you weak, or small, or cowardly, or awful. Maybe that's what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom; our lies aren't just bluffs; if we scare off predators with eye spots, we may adapt to grow those big eyes. Our lies create realities and we can master perception that way. It's a pretty crazy power to have while it lasts.
I'm still ashamed of myself for lying, and for this long, but at least I have the opportunity to be open before getting caught. I've made it this far on a very calculated lie. I can only hope I can make it further on the truth, and hope that my real life isn't such a tinder box.
I have a temper.
This is the entire conversation I had with X. There are some people who are already aware that I had this fight and know who X is, but she deserves her privacy. I choose to write my response this way because I don't believe that our "meeting for coffee" would work. I use this blog to articulate myself and process and I see no reason not to do it this way.
After receiving these, I posted an extremely angry response on the women's group that we were both part of (I left immediately after). It was definitely an attack, but I did my best in my rage to keep the ad hominem low and state what I believed. I'd post that here so you can see that it was irrational and angry, but it's been taken down since. X posted the very first message of the conversation we had, and from what I gather, it was that message alone that people assume I got angry about. I chose not to post the entire conversation in part because I wanted to find out whether or not she would. I knew the information would get back to me one way or another and that would either confirm what I believed about this being a propagation of victim mentality, or prove me wrong in which case I'd be more open to speaking with her more in depth. She did not prove me wrong.
For those of you who TLDR'ed that wall of text, the gist of it is that I didn't book have a woman booked on my show this month. That's true; I had someone booked, she dropped out, I chose someone else that I thought was a strong comedian. I picked someone that I thought was different in style and high energy (I won't say who it was), because I was considering the overall pacing of the show from what I know about the people on it.
I realize that this is a very long blog, but any one who talks to me about it will hear the exact same thing. I have this as backup. I want to be completely clear about where I stand and I hold myself accountable for what I say. If someone does illustrate to me that I am wrong and she is not, so be it.
After booking my last comedian and seeing my all male line up, I posted in a Denver comedy women's group inviting women to show me their sets. Invite me to a show, pull me aside at a mic, let me know who you are so if I was unaware I could book you. I considered this a solution so I could avoid in the future. In her message X accuses me of not looking hard enough. I'm not sure what the realism of this statement is. I hit mics constantly and I watch everyone's set. I pay attention to people that I don't know on shows. I opened up booking for women specifically. I'm not sure what is not looking hard enough so much as her just thinking I'm not allowed to have my opinion as to what is funny, or what would work in my room.
X, this is for you. I am not having coffee with you because none of your reaction to me seemed to acknowledge my views in the first place. You don't seem open to dialogue. To be blunt, wrongly or rightly, the fact that you hid behind your first message to make me seem like I was overreacting, combined with the content of your message, makes me believe you can't. You are aware of my opinion. You disagree. You want me to conform to yours. I will not, not with that kind of communication.
You simply stated that what I did wasn't good enough for you. You don't speak for every woman in comedy. You are new to the scene and the rationale you're applying isn't equivalent to the real world. This kind of blind eye, blanket approach to things is detrimental, in my opinion, to feminism as a whole.
From here on, I'm just going to break down why I reacted the way I did.
There are so many ladies looking to get stage time.
Yes, there are, but there are a lot of human beings looking for stage time. From what little I have to base this off of, there are about 80 women in that comedy group. There were about 400 people in the draft for comedy works, which includes all of us who signed up for new talent or the contest. That's not a perfect gauge of how many there are total, but it demonstrates a level of one in five, the number of women that are booked on the show that I, a woman who busts ass to put it together every month while hitting mics, shows and working 2 jobs, puts together. You are devaluing my work and opinion as a woman because you think I owe you more. I believe in fairness and mathematically, I believe that's a fair representation.
I'm sure your audience would appreciate a diverse lineup.
X, you have never set foot in my room. You don't get to tell me what they enjoy. Saying this implies that it's not something I consider because 2 of 14 shows, both instances because of someone dropping out, there have not been women. This is highly insulting to me, that you're suggesting I have put a room that averages about 60 people together and am clueless to what they might like.
It's strange to me that I need to remind you how hard it is [since] you're a lady comic and have probably faced prejudice yourself.
You contradict yourself on this point strongly a bit later, X, and this is one of the most condescending and infuriating things you said to me. For one thing, this type of statement is both an appeal to flattery and an appeal to consequence. You are telling me, effectively, that I should know better, "I'm better than my decisions. That's a nonsense statement. You're trying to elicit my emotional response as though I'm not completely aware of what I'm doing.
Secondly, you are essentially suggesting that "because I care about women, and your point is about caring about women, then I must be wrong if I don't agree to your point." I hope I don't need to further explain why that is a baseless argument. I believe in feminism and I believe in pragmatism, showing that we are empowered, logical and strengthen our argument with critical thought, not picking every battle for sympathy, which I firmly believe you did here. That, I will stipulate is my opinion and you can try and change my mind on that, I can't state what your intentions are, that's just how it comes across. More on this as we go.
Happy International Women's Day!
This wouldn't have bothered me aside from the fact it's a petty jab at me apparently being ignorant to your brand of feminism. This wasn't an olive branch or solidarity, it was a literal, use of words power play. If you are talking to me in person you can offer me inflection or tone but this is writing and choosing your words is all you have to get your point across. This reeks of ivory tower bullshit where you can tell me about your women's studies courses because my knowledge must be outdated or incomplete. It comes across as you believing I am ignorant. Again, you imply that I must be less ... I don't know, feminist, something, than you, because I didn't do what you liked.
My response explained the situation and steps I had taken for it not to happen in the future. I further mentioned my firm belief that I am against this kind of nitpicking and it prevents me from doing things that I consider to be supporting women, namely, letting them feature or headline when I don't see it happening. It is hard to win respect, and it is hard to be promoted.
I look at every show you have and see that you typically have at least one woman booked.
Holy, holy shit. First of all, 1 in 5, because I believe that is proportional. That number is on the rise which is encouraging, but that's still where I think it is. Second of all, looking at every single line up and deciding to comment on the one anomaly and feeling the need to say something is nitpicking bullshit. You didn't ask me what happened, which is why I become defensive by default simply by explaining it.
If this were a trend that I continued over a few shows, by all means, you should have asked me why; I would have had no good answer. My answer, which is what the pragmatist in me believes, is that shit happens. You are making a nothing statement to someone who does consider women and fairness and it makes me discredit you. When you are discredited, it is to some extension reflected on a lot of us. How much harder would it be to actually point out when someone is booking a sexist lineup when you're claiming that any moment something doesn't go your way is against women?
I find it hard to believe to believe that you can't think of a single funny woman to take her spot. If that is the case, I would have to say you aren't looking or listening hard enough.
X, I implore you to have someone say that to your face and see if you don't find it offensive. Again, I can think of a few women that I thought would be "funny enough." Some of them I want to feature in the next couple months, and there are even fewer of those spots. I don't like to book people multiple times too close together because my audience contains a lot of repeat members. I don't want to have them see the same show every month. Some of them were just on my show, and some of them simply didn't have the kind of energy that I wanted to balance the people I knew were on it. There were funny women, they just weren't right for this situation.
Additionally, you believe that I'm not looking or listening hard enough, knowing and being one of the respondents to a call to women to see their sets so maybe I can find people I have missed. What steps would you have me take? Should I book people that I have nothing to vet with because they're women? I won't. I realize our meritocracy is subjective, and the reason why I want to see people in front of a crowd is because even if they aren't my style of humor, I can see when they do well. What else, exactly, do you want me to do other than put someone on my show who I either don't know or believe is ready for it, or burn through people as openers that I want to give more time as features and headliners?
I appreciate your post [but] it's your show and your responsibility to book it.
See aforementioned point. I took steps to find more women that I might be overlooking. You're again implying that I did nothing, that I do nothing, that I don't consider this. Not once did you ask me.
I am happy to talk to you more in depth about how I see sexism arise in the scene and the nuances of my experience. I don't want to assume it's the experience of all women.
X, this is the sentence that triggered me to write the post attacking you in the first place. You are making a very stark and arrogant conclusion that I must be the way I am because I have just been shrouded in cotton candy and never been touched by sexism.
I was sexually assaulted as a teenager and I have spent most of my life developing myself into a person that can deal with that. Being able to not blame all of men for the actions of that one has taken me well over a decade, and has been at the expense of some very kind people.
I have been talked over, forgotten, been marginalized, misunderstood, dismissed and harassed. There are a few people who don't know me very well that have thought I have slept with a lot of comics to get where I am. I have been hurt, intentionally or not, by men and women. You inviting me to hear the nuances of your experience, just over the year-ish that you have been here, you don't get to tell me that. You didn't even ask what I've been through. You just said you didn't want to assume I've been through anything. Can you not see how that would be incredibly offensive?
You end that, effectively, with "let's get coffee and chat." You don't make that sound like you're inviting me to an open dialogue. That sounds like me staring at you while you get on a soap box about whatever has happened in your life. Maybe you have been assaulted too. Maybe you feel marginalized and trapped. You are inviting me to hear why you are the way you are but in no way have you presented yourself, in this message or your life, in a way that makes me believe you would understand the first thing about who I am and why I think what your doing is hurtful to women as a whole. You can't conceive of being wrong.
I accuse you of taking a moral high ground. Again, because you are nitpicking one of my shows out of many that I have had, and because you dismiss me, as maybe nothing has happened to me. Remember that line in your first message about how surely I must know how hard it is to be a woman in comedy?
I repeat what I said before about the steps I'd taken. I tell you not to police anyone's show. I accuse you of taking moral high ground. I withdraw from your show.
Just book a woman and you have no need to [justify] your actions.
I did book a woman. See continued point I've been making this whole time.
I don't know whose "job" you think it is to police the scene accountable. If I see a show that doesn't have a women booked, especially by a female show runner, I am going to say something.
I don't think it's any one's job to police a scene because that implies there are select people with authority. We should lead by example. Again, if there is a show where women are never booked over the course of weeks or months, then someone, (and I would) should ask the show runner why. Looking at behavior as a whole is important. Focusing on singular events is childish. It makes women seem entitled and trivial, that our merits aren't enough to get stage time. We are not more entitled than anyone else.
Also,because I am female show runner, wouldn't you consider holding me to some higher standard than you do men to be somewhat sexist? I should be held to the same standards as anyone else. I explained to you my rationale and you didn't like it. End of story. You have your opinion, X, and you won't budge from it. You are just going to be shouting into the void and you are going to alienate people from feeling like they can trust women, talk to them, or book them. You make mistakes and accidents look like threats to feminism as a whole. That cheapens the entire idea, and it's completely impractical.
The rest of your post just repeats your points, and I've already talked about them. You acknowledge nothing I said. You are simply saying I am not trying hard enough. You admit you're not perfect in your ways of communicating. That could be fixed by thinking critically about them and communicating with purpose. Ask questions, X. That's the easiest way. Make sure you understand me before you pass this kind of criticism. You don't, you give me no evidence of it, at least. I found this to be irritating and damaging to how I fundamentally believe we can gain strength and community. Alienating men is not an answer. Alienating me, and women like me, is not an answer.
You asked me for coffee. That's your solution. You think you can have this dialogue in a coffee shop. Maybe, X. But you didn't invite me. You told me. Nothing in your conversation so far has really seems to acknowledge why I hold my beliefs valid. You are lost in an echo chamber, X. Your own statements are just repetitions of themselves and not once did you ask me why. I hope you read this over coffee. That last statement, that is a petty jab. That's what you are eliciting with this type of "call out" behavior. It's the girl who cried sexism. X, you are so focused on your point that not once did I believe you realized you were actually talking to me.
When I was angry and posted my rage, I could have done that on facebook at large. I chose not to, not because I thought I was wrong, but because I was certain you would face a huge amount of trolling and attack that you did not deserve. I trust my point and the thickness of my skin to have done fine with it. I posted it in that group because I felt it necessary to "call you out" and this type of insular thinking in general. I don't tolerate it.
I looked for you last night. I'm not afraid of confrontation and more than write this I wanted to say it to you. The kicker is, I had you written in my notebook potentially for next month on my show. I know that when enough time has passed I will simply dismiss you. It was hard not to before because you made these complaints that make me have to believe you suck at proportions. You are not supporting women when you pick every battle. You are a shout in the street.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.