No One Asked Me to Write a Think Piece on Sexual Harassment

Comedy opinions are like assholes. They’re desperate for attention.

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Recently, I received a threat that if I didn’t start writing the blog again, I would be actively disappointing one person. Thanks, Billy!

To give you some perspective, I’ve spent the last several months MIA as a make-up-less hermit fused to the grooves of my roommate’s sofa. Think Winona Ryder in Reality Bites, except not cute and with less Ethan Hawke. Oddly enough – my friendships deteriorated, my weight sky-rocketed, crying in the car became a new beauty ritual. That is, until the dealership repossessed it. Like, I binged enough prison documentaries to make Netflix nervous kind-of-year.

I stopped going to shows (except my own, of course). I lost interest in writing. My totally logical and actionable plan of getting TV sexy and starring in ABC’s hit reality series, The Bachelor, was forcefully derailed by bankruptcy, health problems, and a classic plot twist – sudden death of mom. Like, who is even writing this story? Three shit events in one year that will forever haunt my social media reminders. Yes, Facebook. I remember when mom died. Thank you.

But, hey. The world turns. The show goes on. Naturally, to get back into the swing of things I picked an absolute fluff piece: sexual harassment.

2017


Full Disclosure: I have nothing revolutionary or interesting to add to the sexual harassment dialogue. In fact, I barely discuss the subject.

Mmm. Sexual Harassment. Where to start? Let’s see. I don’t feel like recounting all the buzz-worthy times I’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted. I don’t want to talk about the time no one would listen, or when I never said anything, when I internalized shame, when my advice to other women was to get over it. The stabbing confusion when the men close to me didn’t get it, or honestly had no idea, or were tired of hearing about it.

Here’s what I will say about it: a joke that reinforces misogyny is just misogyny. This goes for comics and non-comics alike.

Like, a joke that supports, promotes, or is held together by the underlying belief that women are inferior to men is simply a statement that women are inferior men. When a person makes a joke that reinforces the patriarchy, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Side Note: Comedy opinions are like assholes. They’re desperate for attention.

I do not like talking about stand up. My biggest fear is someone might think that I think I’m an authority. I can count the years I’ve done stand up on one hand. I’ve almost never left Atlanta. I don’t know anything about anything. I’m not trying to sound preachy, and I don’t think I’m better than other comics. OK, Cody?!

However, I am from the south and I know when someone says “I’m not trying to be __________, ” what they mean is “I’m definitely about to be __________ .” In fact, they are so about to be __________ , that they need to remove your agency to respond.

When I say “I’m not trying to preach,” what I mean is “I’ve arrived at the pulpit.” I’m dressed and pointing to God. I’m ready to spread my narrow interpretation of stand up, and I don’t want any of the responsibility or backlash that comes with it. Yes Lord, I’m a full-of-shit hypocrite and that’s exactly what gives me the strength to speak. Now, please pass around the likes and shares plate.

In comedy, there’s satire and irony and sarcasm and misdirection and many other things that my inexperienced comedy p-brain can’t even comprehend. Imagine you’re a spider and a 5 minute set is a spindly web. Comedy devices are like your spider butt where the web comes out and you stretch it as wide as it will go to catch as many flies as possible. Some comics weave a complicated web, others not so much. No one gets paid, but we do get a lot of flies.

The point I’m trying to make is this: if the underlying message of your jokes purports that women are not real people then, regardless of whatever comedy devices you use, you’re just reinforcing that women are not real people. If the underlying message is sexism, then it’s just sexism, baby! Coming out of your butt!

There’s an unspoken (and oft spoke) rule in stand up that what happens on stage stays on stage. Most comics will say anything to get a laugh. If a comic engages with the audience at all, which – dear God – they should, occasionally something dumb spills out of their mouth which, taken out of context, doesn’t represent their real opinion. It just happens. Some on-stage transgressions are more forgivable than others and everyone’s threshold is calibrated differently, but what happens on stage stays on stage. It’s a healthy, necessary boundary.

Of course, comics should have the freedom to say whatever they want. That’s the beauty of this whole charade. That doesn’t mean others will like it. It doesn’t mean a comic won’t get the light early. It doesn’t mean they’re entitled to get booked. It doesn’t mean the moment their feet hit the ground they’re suddenly immune to other people’s feelings.

I used to do a joke where the punch line was that my dad thinks I’m a slut. It was not a good joke, nor was it based in reality. I just said it one night and it got a laugh, so I kept using it. I felt bad every time it was amplified by a microphone into a crowd of strangers. I worried my dad would hear it somehow. What if I had to explain that joke to him? A guy who had worked his entire life to give me everything he could. A man who had supported me through everything, even a goth phase. What would I say to him? Sorry, dad! It’s just something I said at the expense of your feelings. It’s just a joke!

Eventually, I became a slightly better writer and abandoned the shitty tag.

So, what is my point and what does this have to do with sexual harassment? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything? I don’t know. Good thing no one asked me to write a think piece on sexual harassment and its role in comedy. Some good ones are here, here, and here.

Yes, I believe in free speech. Yes, comedy is art. Yes, I think whatever someone says on stage is fair game, but jokes are not magic. Laughter does not absolve all premises. Ironic misogyny is just misogyny. Ironic racism is just racism. A homophobic act out is just homophobia. Whatever comics say on stage they’re saying to real people in real life. When someone says they’re not being __________ , they’re definitely being __________.

I’m not telling you to drop your sexist, racist, homophobic tags. I’m definitely telling you to do that.

Louis CK’s ‘feminist’ jokes weren’t genius bullets from a woke gun. They weren’t even really jokes? He basically re-branded a confession. They were giant dumps his flaccid conscience had to take at the expense of others.

What are yours?

 Thirty and Single

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In my twenties I was looking for a man who viewed me as both sexually attractive and his equal. Now, I’m just looking for a Zaxby’s.

You’re thirty now. Who cares? Start a phrase with in my twenties. You’re a sage now. You know everything. “In my twenties…”. Wow. Pompously prophetic and perfect for setting up a misdirect. You’re a comedian now. Hello, you’re THIRTY! Easy street with all of its low-hanging fruit is where you pay rent. Is that cellulite on your ass? You’re damn right it is. Did I mention you’re thirty?


I’m thirty and strolling around a bar waiting to do comedy. I stumble upon a familiar scene. Familiar in the number of times it’s happened to me yet only visible because of how far removed I feel. There’s a woman in her early twenties. She’s fresh faced and spry. Her hair is bouncy, natural, and never dyed. She’s effortlessly clothed in a silky white dress that just hangs off her body exactly the way God intended with zero stains on it. There’s no shameful spaghetti strap underneath.

This sweet babe, immaculately glowing, plops down next to me. Offering a bottle of whiskey tucked underneath her arm, grinning wildly. She’s completely dumbstruck when I turn it down. Young and conditioned to believe that whenever there’s alcohol she must drink it. Alcohol is her personality. It’s what makes her carefree and fun. Resolving her of any and all responsibility from her actions, which she doesn’t need anyways because literally nothing bad has ever happened to her. She’s insufferably naive. She’s me- ten years ago.

This young woman takes the stage and tells the crowd she’s not a big drinker. Taking a huge swig from the bottle, she laughs, fans her face as the whiskey punches her taste buds, dribbling down the sides of her mouth. With cheeks flushed, she wipes it all away with her sleeve. Not a single person has tried to stop her from bringing her own alcohol into this bar.

The audience claps and cheers. Seemingly supportive, but at thirty I notice it’s all-dudes cheering her on and they’re actually grunting. Her tedious but totally cute set ends and she exits the stage. Immediately flocked by men and only men. They ask a million questions. They don’t listen to her answer. They tag her jokes, all while playfully encouraging her to drink more. She’s leaning back. Soaking in the attention like rays from the sun her life recently exploded out of.

It’s the highest point she’s ever felt and yeah the thought did cross her booze steeped mind that maybe these dudes just wanna have sex, but she’s confident she’s driving this airplane and, dammit, all she wants is the sex too. Why not crash?

30 and impervious to the male gaze, especially the baby ones, I can see all the moving parts of this situation. After years of skimming the ingredient labels on processed food, reading a twenty-year-old is nothing. I look over at this poor P.Y.T. and I’m dying to thirty-‘splain that none of these guys respect her in the slightest. It’s not worth it. They’re not even listening. Look, they’re literally standing around her like a pack of dogs.

I’d rather scoop her up and drop her off into tomorrow then have to explain the perils of her addiction to male attention. Should I school her on the physical and mental risks of owning her sexuality?

Maybe I’ll just wait until she’s tiptoeing out of a boy’s basement apartment holding her Payless shoes. I’d appear in my true form, as Sex-Life Future. Wrapping her in my dusty death cloak, I’d whisk her away to reveal a desolation row of spinsterhood. Behind every door is another roommate asking you to move out. What’s that ominous figure? It’s your bankruptcy lawyer. Peer into this mirror, little one. She clutches her hair in shock.

That’s right. You’re 30% gray now.

Then I’d thrust my head back. Rip a hair raising cacophony of cackles that causes every hard dick to limpen before us. She falls to her knees clutching my cape, begging me to let her give love a chance.

Or, ya know. She’ll figure it out.


When you’re thirty and single never start a sentence with in my twenties because you’ll get stuck like that forever. I may appear to be a jaded, frosty, eight hundred calorie milkshake whose bleeding heart froze over the second time he never texted me back, but I’m so much more than just the resting bitch face my twenties gave me.

I’m THIRTY.

I watched Beauty and The Beast three times so don’t tell me I’m not doing anything about love. But thirty-year-old me talking to twenty-year-old me is right. I can’t just sit around waiting for hell to melt the cellulite out of my ass. It’s time to get to The Bachelor.

Yes, I’m three decades old and I still believe in love. And I’m making it my personal mission to find it. So that one day when I’m starting a sentence with in my thirties at least it’ll be something worth talking about and not just a bunch of guys at some bar.

Hi, I’m a different person now.

One minute I’m a big brassy broad typing words into the abyss because who cares and the next minute I’m losing focus as a doctor asks me to sit down, so we can talk. One minute I’m banging out stupid slapstick social commentary trying to entertain myself long enough to lose weight, get my health on track, and morph into the successful, smiling, salad-eating meme of a woman I know I can be. And the next minute I’m crying in a parking garage and everything has changed.

tl;dr -> My mom died.

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This entry was a struggle for many reasons. Mostly because my mom was such a sweet, private person. Why should she be subjected to my harsh sense of humor and selfish point of view? I’d like to make it clear that this entry is about me and not her. She deserves a delicate nuanced biography poured over by the world’s greatest writers. This is not that.

________________________________________________________________

BEFORE

The WABE write-up with Lois Reitzes has just been published. It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Mom makes it known that she is an avid reader of my blog even if she doesn’t get it, which she also makes sure to tell me – all the time.

“Jennifer,” she says, “you’re a good writer so don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about.”

When I was younger an admission like this would have buried itself under my skin and lived forever. I would have read so much into a simple comment like that. It would have made me sick. I would have gotten another tattoo.

But I’m older now and my skin is thicker. Now the comment hits me, bounces off, and flies away. I laugh and reply:

“Me neither, mom. I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

I love my mom. I love everything about her. Sure, we haven’t always gotten along but when I hear stories about other moms I always find myself thinking – oh, well my mom would never do that! She would never shame me for short skirts or make me go to church. She would never encourage me to seek out romantic relationships as a way to feel whole. She never asks me about my boyfriends or prescribes any value to male attention. When I was young she would shove me into a frilly pink dress, curl my hair with a burning iron, march me outside and say- “go explore”.

I was always good enough for her – so could I please stop getting tattoos?

Before the radio interview airs, I message the producer of the show and thank him for having me on. I gush that I’m just thrilled to have something good to tell mom. Finally, some physical proof that although we both have no clue what I’m doing we can see that, in fact, I’m doing something.

The next day when the article comes out the first person to text me is mom. A banner pops across my phone:

“What is NPR?”

I laugh to myself, omg. I call her and explain what the article is about. She asks me if it’s good and I tell her it’s good. I assume she’s being difficult again to be funny. I have no idea that her heart is only pumping at 35 percent and all the medication she has been taking is starting to build up in her system.

A few weeks pass and  it’s the day before my birthday. I read a story about mom out loud in front of a hundred strangers. I ask not to be recorded because she would kill me if she knew I was talking about her. The story is about the other night when dad entered the living room carrying mom and said, “we’re going to the hospital.”

It was the second time I’d ever seen my mother in the hospital which was strange only because she had survived breast cancer twice. I knew she was constantly going to doctors but I never saw it. Mom was an expert at hiding what she didn’t want you to see.

The first time I saw my mom in the hospital was when I was thirteen and had to get a cyst removed from my neck. She knew hospitals well and she refused to leave me alone. She sat straight up on a tiny cot in the corner of the room until it was time to leave. She wouldn’t let anything come near me. She would have stood directly next to the doctor, staring into his sweating face as he cut into my skin if they let her. She was strangely protective of me in moments like this.

On the surface, what I’m reading out loud to all of these strangers is an anecdote about the second time I saw mom in the hospital. It’s about the numerous plastic bottles of urine lying around. Her awkward attempt to set me up on a date with her doctor and my obsession with the tiny man who buffed the hospital floors. It was about waiting for hours in the hallways of the ER just to be seen. It’s about pretending to be strong for mom.

During the performance, I take a cheap Dollar Tree crown out of my pocket and place it on my head. I confess to everyone that tomorrow is my birthday and I’ll be 30. I realize the performance is about myself. About my inability to cope with the possibility that I could ever lose her.

As I read the story out loud, I have no idea that dad is on the way to the hospital with mom. That she will remain there until the day she dies. I have no idea that she will never come home again.

It’s my birthday and I’m 30. I go to work.

Dad tells me that mom has been in the hospital for two days and it’s not good. He says he didn’t want to ruin my birthday.

It’s almost Christmas now. Mom and I watch “Jingle All the Way” on a tiny TV that hangs from a hole in the ceiling pretending to be excited about her sugar-free, sodium-free food. Boiled chicken breast again, oh boy. My brother sneaks a Wendy’s milkshake into the room and her eyes light up. Dad rolls in a piece of luggage filled with Christmas decorations and lines them against the cement walls. We have to remind her that she’s in the hospital and that it’s Christmas. She wants to go home and asks about it constantly. “Soon,” we tell her.

It’s the day after New Years and things have gotten worse. Mom cannot speak anymore and I don’t know what to say anymore, so I talk incessantly. I tell her I ate Wendy’s and it was gross. I squeeze her hand as she looks at me. I ask her if she’s scared. My brother tells me not to ask her that. I snap back that she’s a person and she’s my mother and I can say whatever I want to her. Secretly, I wonder if he’s right.

What happens next is what I always thought would be the worst moment. The moment that levels us. I thought this would be what destroyed me, but I was wrong. The worst part was not knowing. Anxiety takes you out back and pushes you down into the dirt. Dread ties you up, covers your eyes with a damp handkerchief, and leaves you alone in the dark. All you can hear is the sound of a young woman on the H&G network squealing about how cute her new tiny home is.

Then it happens. Dread rips the handkerchief from your eyes and they adjust to the light.

AFTER

The nurse walks away from me. It’s over. And it was nothing like TV.

Did she gently float upwards as if caught in a tide? Did she look down at us and say it was okay? Did she reach out and realize her hands and feet were translucent? Did she smile when her mind and spirit became one plane? Did we turn into a billion pulsating dots that twinkled sound? Did the secrets of the universe undress themselves? Was it warm, breathtaking, and logical? Was it like TV?

Crying alone in the car on the drive home from the hospital is a regular past time for me now but this is the last time I’ll have to do it.  I wonder if there was a Spotify playlist for this. What song could I listen to now?

In the car I tie an imaginary rope around my waist and lower myself down into every bad thought. I wonder if she was scared. I lower myself father. I replay everything we said to each other. Fast forwarding and rewinding. Pausing on every mistake, which are completely illuminated now in retrospect. I lower myself father.  I can see the last thing we said to each other before we knew it was too late. I lower myself farther. I remember every night that I went home and left her in the hospital alone. I imagine her laying in the dark, unable to sleep, calling out to a stranger for help. Waiting for me to come back. There’s no give left. I grab the rope and pull myself out.

After she died, my skin grew thin again and everything became shards of glass that cut and paste grotesque clumps of scars but you can’t see them from all my tattoos. Suddenly, I’m at mom’s funeral standing in front of everyone who knew her. It’s not a show but I can’t stop myself from performing.

I say:

I look exactly like my mother.

I never realized it until now. I open the door to greet my mom’s friends who bring food. Wow, they say. Taking a step back. You look just like her.

My first memory is of her. I remember laying on my back squirming and crying. I was surrounded by insurmountable walls.  Colorful plastic pieces spun slowly around my face, encircling me like vultures, mocking my frailty. Is this it? Is this how it all ends? Suddenly, she appears. Mom. A giant smiling face appearing over me. Hands reaching down. She lifts me out of a devastating nightmare, also known as my bedtime.

Back when I was a sweet tiny blonde. Long before tattoos or Limp Bizket, I would sneak into her room while she was at work and meticulously rummage through her things. What kind of shoes did she wear? What did her makeup look like? What do her coats smell like? What did her makeup look like on the walls? I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know the kind of a person my mother was. I wanted to know what kind of person I would be. I looked through pictures and realized she had had a whole life before me. I hoped there would never be a life without her.

Mom was thirty when she had me. I’m thirty now too. Today I found an old picture that dad had taken of her before they ever thought about getting married. She’s back lit. The edges of her hair are glowing from the sun and you can just barely make out her face. Wow, I said. Stepping backwards with the picture in my hand. I look just like her.

I’ve always been intimidated by my mother’s strength. I remember being little and when I did something defiantly, she would point to her stomach where a barbaric scar lived. Slashed across her belly from one side to the other before doctors had the foresight to strategically hide cesareans.

“This,” she would announce, smiling…”was you. You were stubborn just like your father and didn’t want to come out. So the doctor’s opened me up and pulled you out by your feet.”

My eyes would widen with guilt and I would stare at the scar convinced she was a gladiator or a Power Ranger.

The first time mom had breast cancer she told us she would lose her hair but she was strong needed us to be strong too. My brother and I were too young to understand her request so we just shook our heads yes. 

In school I tried so hard to be strong that it made me sick. I would leave class, walk to the main office, straight past the receptionist- past the officer- past the principal-  to the nurse’s desk who, after a while, must have had mom’s work number on speed dial. Without words she would hand me the receiver and I would stretch the cord as far as it would go to corner of the room holding my breath as I waited to hear mom’s voice- 

“Hello?” she would say.

“Hi, mom.” I said back. 

“What’s wrong, Jennifer? Are you ok?”

“I’m ok. How are you?”

“Everything is fine. Go back to class.”

I would hand the phone back to the nurse, take my hall pass, and walk back to class. I did this every day.

After the second breast cancer diagnosis, she asked me to shave my head in solidarity. My mom shaved hers. My dad shaved his, but I chickened out. 

Once she was in remission, I would watch mom, the warrior princess, pull people aside, people she cared about and show them her scars. Look what they did. Isn’t that amazing? They would quietly nod their heads speechless. Another casualty at the hands of mom’s strength.  

Here’s a list of things my mom did with her strength: she got the money back from the elderly teller at Bank of America who stole my first paycheck, she taught me to never trust anyone on the road, she screamed at my first boyfriend over the phone after he called me a name because she was secretly listening in on another line, she refused to ride roller coasters, she high-fived every runner at the Peachtree Road Race. She raised my wacky and weird little family. She said things like sit up straight, hold our shoulders back, stop sucking your thumb, pay attention, close your legs, act like a lady, stop staring, don’t say that, don’t pluck your eyebrows, calm down, take your makeup off at night, and for god’s sake moisturize that perfect skin I gave you.

Anyone who knew my mom knew that she was sweet, kind, loving, generous, funny, mischievous. She was weird and obsessed with birds. She was artistic and creative but particular. She was hard working, yet refined. She was classy. She was definitely bossy. She was quiet. She was loud. She would laugh with her whole heart. Sometimes she was sad and unreachable. She was dark, but always light while carrying the burden of her strength.

When we got into arguments, she would say things like: why don’t you get a real job? You’re gaining weight again. Where is all your money going?

And I would say things like:  you’re not listening. You don’t care. I’m trying.

It took me so long to hear what she was really saying. Which was:

You are my daughter. You look exactly like me. All I ever wanted was to hold you up higher than myself to make it so you never had to struggle. Not like I did.

And what I was really saying. Which was:

Mom, if I never struggle, then how will I have your strength?

I’m not a strong person, but I know one looks like and I look exactly like her. 

 

 

 

 

 

What If New Years Is Not A New Start And That’s OK?

Two New Years ago I swore I wouldn’t go out. No way in hell was I standing out in the cold with the drunk spoiled children of America, getting a sloppy kiss from some doofus Emory student that I’d waited on a hundred times and never tipped me. No way was I spending what little money I had on sweet diluted cocktails that only served to make the people I worked for richer, and me, chubbier.

Plus, I was totally getting broken up with on New Years.

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Photo Credit: Melanie Goldey

Growing up in the south, you know exactly what being stuck in a trap feels like because you’re born into one. It’s why our food tastes so good and our songs are so tragic. We understand that time is cyclical like a greasy doughnut. It’s a shiny engagement ring from death. It’s nonsense we made up to explain the slow decay of our bodies…

especially when you’re getting broken up with on New Years.

My roommate’s boyfriend at the time owned a very successful and very popular bar. We were promised lavish VIP treatment for showing up. I had sworn up and down I wasn’t going out for any reason, under any circumstances, under any sun. So when my roommate propositioned me it made total sense that I caved instantly and was whisked away to the last place on Earth I wanted to be- in public.

People are spilling out into the streets. People are yelling in each other’s faces. Everyone’s eyes are rolling back into their heads. Everyone’s wearing shitty Express clothing. It’s one of my many nightmares.

I was doing pretty OK until just before midnight when my roommate dashes out to find her boyfriend to give him the fabled New Year’s kiss leaving me stranded at a table big enough to host jesus’s last supper on. I look to my left and I’m surrounded by younger, more beautiful girls whose hope is dripping from their eyes. I look to my right and there are even younger, even prettier girls who believe in newness and do overs, whose smile takes up their whole face, who trust with their whole heart, who are still just a series of actions with no consequences.

I had promised myself this New Years that I wouldn’t end up in the corner of a dark bar pretending that time was a means to an end. The fact that I was was proof that time didn’t exist, that nothing ever changes, that new years means nothing. That life is not a story with a beginning and an end; it’s just a dizzying ouroboros, a cyclical prison, the politest momento mori where sometimes the scenery changes.

I look up and people are already mouthing the countdown but I’m so far up my own ass I can’t hear anything. 10, 9, He’s not going to call me.  8, 7 What am I doing here. 5, 4, Maybe if I just close my eyes. 3, 2, Maybe I can freeze time and stop…

1!

I open my eyes and watch my wish float away refusing to materialize. I’m sitting amidst screaming, jumping, kissing, hugging, pushing. There’s champagne spewing into the air like fireworks. I’m pretty sure I see Seth Green. Holding my head in my hands I try to blow into a noise maker but it’s silent.

A young man crouched down on the ground catches my attention. He’s attractive and looking straight at me. I smile. Maybe he’ll come over and turn this whole year around, I think to myself. No, he starts crying. Another guy approaches him to give him a hug. The crying boy violently pushes him against a wall, punching him in the chest. I blow on the noise maker again and the crepe paper just unfolds without a sound. I take a sip of my drink but there’s tons of confetti swimming in it. I spit it back out of my mouth.

A bartender walks by and points to the mounds of confetti on the ground.

“Guess who gets to clean all this shit up,” she says to me. I laugh. I pantomime snorting confetti off the table. She laughs. Happy New Year.

Fast forward to present day. End of 2016. My mom’s been in the hospital since my 30th birthday. I woke up two days ago to find my pet parakeet dead in the bottom of his cage. I’ve gained weight. I’m getting sued. I could really cling to a fresh start like some crotchety old bag knocking on religion’s door so she doesn’t have to spend another year alone. Ah, well. What’s one more year of making the exact same mistakes. 

Now screening the greatest horror movie of all time through my eyes.

(PHOTO BY: JON DEAN)

Every horror movie should begin in a women’s locker room.

I’ve never really understood the point of forced public nakedness, besides inducing shame. It’s pretty barbaric. I’ve been overweight my whole life and getting naked has never made it any easier or more pressing to lose weight.

At least, when I was forced to get naked in school it was before social media existed. Back then the worst thing another girl would do was call you a slut or pass you a fake secret admirer note. She would 3-way call you that night (with another girl on the line that she doesn’t tell you about) asking which boy you think is cute and then go to school the next day and tell all the dudes what you said. Like, omg.

This was back when things happened in real time and nothing existed online forever. Honestly, I fear for little girls today who have to obsess over their looks AND internet presence. I imagine they suffer some truly next level cruelty that would make me eat my own blog.

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When I say that women’s locker rooms are terrifying, I’m not trying to discredit the discomfort that men deal with. I’m trying to say that our horror movie of a life is just plain scarier and gnarlier. We pack a lot of trauma in a tiny punch. We’re the It Follows to your It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. We have double the amount of private parts. Our nakedness is all encompassing and constantly evolving.

Horror movies couldn’t exist without us.

I’ve never been in a men’s locker room so I can’t speak to that experience but, according to our President Elect, it sounds like guys just stand around talking about what vile things they would do to women. They’re a safe space for butts to receive a whimsical slapping of a Wal Mart towel and just another nightmare place to be female.

Our nakedness exists even when our clothes are on. Our bodies are currency. Men talk about our bodies. Other women talk about our bodies. The media, the church, corporations. Literally everyone can talk about your body except for you.

When I first started doing stand up, women would often come up to me after shows and say omg you were so funny thank god you don’t talk about your period on stage bc I get so tired of hearing women joke about their periods. My first reaction to these compliments was oh hell yeah I’m amazing someone likes me this rules i’m on top of the world my head is so fat it’s a fat red balloon careening towards the sun!

Eventually, the warm glow of praise wears off. Your head reaches the highest point and explodes, falling back to earth as sweaty scraps of latex, landing like used condoms on the fuzzy surface of pond murk until a duck claps it into its beak and chokes to death.

At which point, you can either quit comedy or dig into your heart with a rusty spoon.

When you evolve past the temporary high of a compliment is when you can really grow into something special. I mean, yeah, you’ll be miserable most of the time trying not to resent strangers who say nice things to you. At least now you can get to the rancid meat of it all. You’ll learn to listen to what lives underneath a compliment.

When I love that you don’t talk about your period really means don’t talk about your period.

Recently, I went to the doctor (that PCOS thing) and wrote down on the lengthy questionnaire of totally insane questions that women are still asked today that I hadn’t had a period since early 2015. When we were face to face my doctor asked if I had written it in error. “No, that’s correct,” I said. “I haven’t had a period in over a year.”

Boy, you should’ve seen this docs face. It was priceless. Which absolutely terrified me. Here’s a woman in her 50s with a doctorate degree in medicine and years of experience in the gynecological arts staring at me like I had just crawled out of the lake with spiders in my hair.

Apparently, periods do not just go away in your 20s. Apparently, I was still having them they were just trapped inside of my body.

Her horrified face must have been the realization that I was literally full of period blood. I was living out the most horrific movie of all time. If you split my body open Carrie would walk out. You could have cast my insides for the door scene in The Shining. I was like Glen’s death in Nightmare on Elm Street. My insides were like Frank’s outsides in Hellraiser. I am in hell someone HELP ME.

Immediately, my gynecologist put me on a high dose of progestin and in 10 days I bled for 12 days and 12 nights. I was watching my own private horror movie as I spilled diva cups on bathroom floors and made make-shift padding out of public restroom toilet paper.

Yeah, periods are icky and stupid but they’re also a release. Like a snake shedding its skin. If you can’t imagine what having a period is like then try to imagine not having one when you’re supposed to.

Like a shit you can’t take. The second piece of cake that made you miserable. The one beer that was too many. A shitty date you can’t get away from. A bad habit you won’t admit. A person that you’re in love with and will never tell. A spouse that you married but can’t stand anymore. A dream you will never pursue. A secret that eats away at you. A series of mistakes you can never take back. A person that you were a long time ago who seems like a stranger to you now.

I could talk about all the porta-potties and public restrooms I left my period blood in. I could talk about all the misery and suffering that oozed out of my body like a tube of gooey red toothpaste. I could talk about the sheer amount of blood of it all. I’m not saying that i learned anything from all the blood. I’m not saying that those periods trapped inside of me were a metaphor for the burden that women carry. I’m not saying that the moment I finally learned to accept myself a dozen roses melted between my legs and laid themselves at my feet. I’m not saying any of that.

That would be gross.

 

 

 

 

Very unfair; our reluctance to give up a shared resentment of women and the very American tradition of hiding it.

It’s 2 a.m. the morning of November 9th, I roll over on my sheet-less floor mattress to face the TV and discover that Donald Trump has officially won the presidency. My very first thought of this “unprecedented” development being:

Fuck, now I have to get married.

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My second thought is that I should grow up and put sheets on my bed before any bachelors see me like this. I roll over and fall back to sleep.

Marriage. That’s what this whole blog is about sort of, I guess. It’s about the hardest kind of love- loving yourself. It’s about dieting, discovery, finding love on national television, looking T.V. hot, and having a completely unrealistic million dollar fantasy wedding. It’s ridiculous. It’s stupid. It’s the coming of age story of a 30 year old college graduate. It’s a female bildungsroman. It’s a carnal joke. It’s me returning the world’s gaze and saying yes, I heard you. I guess I can’t have roommates forever.

Until now I’ve always naively pictured myself getting married for love, and not because I needed someone to kindly escort me out of this life like I was lost in a men-only clubhouse.

“The only thing I feel good about is that he’s not allowed to be himself anymore, ” I barked. Turning swiftly into the parking space.

It’s three days post-election and I’m driving back to work from Chik-fil-a with a hostage in my car and for once that awful feeling in my stomach isn’t hunger. It’s dread. I’ve got a modest salad in tow and she’s clutching a large diet whatever soda that I paid for to make up for the fact that inviting her along for the ride was literally a trap. The plan being to get someone in my car just long enough to speak my mind. To finally tell someone how I really feel- which was not good. Like, for starters- complete shock. Impending doom. Defeated. Betrayed. Rage. Complete fucking rage. All I can see is red. Are you seeing red?

Would you like to get food with me as I unleash palpable anger and shock and betrayal and disgust and doubt and fear and fear, because if anything has the power to pacify my disillusionment it’s not this goddamn salad.

“Two days after the election and he tweets – it’s very unfair, that people are protesting my win,” I say putting on my best Trump impression. “Then he tweets- uh,  what I meant to say was that it’s totally your right as the American people to protest peacefully.”

“Yeah,” my friend sneers, “it’s like the only way to stop him was to elect him President.”

We look at each other and burst out laughing. We laugh because it’s dark. We laugh because it’s so true. We laugh because we’re both comics. We laugh because we’re both white. We laugh because we’re both women and what the hell else is there to do.

How do I feel?

It’s hard to say. Chik-fil-a ‘s salads definitely leave something to be desired like a half-ass hug from an acquaintance you didn’t anticipate on hugging. A person that you’re certain you’ve never hugged before but they’re going for it. To save them from embarrassment your body leans forward and your arms stretch out, miming a surrender, mimicking sincerity. Your heart’s not in it and your body language hoists a giant white flag. They start to resent your base level kindness. You didn’t want anyone to feel stupid so now everyone has to feel stupid. All you can hear is the deafening sound of static until the moment your bodies stop touching and you become a person again; that’s a Chik-Fil-A salad.

After the election I don’t post anything. I don’t detail my opinion online. I don’t react. I don’t chime in. I don’t tell others how I feel. I don’t rage against the electoral college. I don’t protest.  I don’t share memes. I don’t link feminist articles. I don’t educate anyone on tone policing and gas lighting. I don’t join the outpouring of emotion. I don’t channel my frustration into energy. I don’t channel my disappointment into productivity.  I don’t tell anyone how to feel. I don’t process anything. I’m in complete shock and I’m not surprised at all. I feel nothing.

Then, Leonard Cohen dies.

I lay on my floor mattress and listen to his last album. It’s brief and immaculate and I wonder-

Why are all my heroes men?

Have you ever listened to Leonard Cohen? Did you hear his song Bird on a Wire and weep? Was he talking to only you? Did you know he never looked a woman in the eyes and asked her to marry him?

What about the documentary Man On A Wire? Did Philippe Petit’s anarchic artistry and breathtaking relentlessness bring tears to your eyes? Did you see him bridge the twin towers like a madman? Were you on the ground below asking yourself if this man was dancing in the sky? Did you know that, immediately after he cheated death, he cheated on his partner? The one who quelled her own dreams for his.

I read article after article of how women betrayed the nation. That we collectively sold ourselves out. That it’s Hillary’s fault. That we voted based on race and class. That we’re the most divided demographic. That we could never come together. That we’re also not second class citizens and we have the same rights as men. That this election wasn’t about gender. That women, biologically speaking, aren’t funny. That our government regards our bodies the same way they do guns- domestic policy.

Is there anything more divisive than woman?

What do you call that feeling when the whole world whispers into your ear that you’re meaningless? That voice that tells you shhhh- be quiet. You looks decide your worth, your feelings aren’t valid, the world isn’t against you, you’re crazy, you’re being crazy, you’re being loud, that you have exactly the same rights, that nothing is stopping you but yourself, that this isn’t about you, that you’re constantly in competition with each other and that’s why you’ll never affect change, that’s why you can’t come together to vote the first woman president of the United States – because you hate yourself.

Did you see the picture of Donald Trump looking over his voting booth to spy on Melania’s vote? Do you remember the picture of our new president glaring over the partition, you know, that piece of plastic that symbolizes our basic American right to privacy? Did you see that picture of Donald Trump spying on his wife’s vote? Answer the question. Did you see it? Did you see it and immediately forget? Do you expect me to sleep at night with that image burned into my head of our soon-to-be President of the United States looming over his wife like the personification of our collective nightmare?

2 weeks ago my doctor told me I have PCOS.

I’ve always resented smooth transitions.

Yup, you definitely have PCOS she says, handling the situation with the same nonchalance that I would have had to a table at the diner holding up a thick hair they had just freshly plucked out of their food.  Yeah dude, it happens all the time. Did you want ketchup?

Her mouth says it’s an endocrine disorder and insulin resistance is causing my body to produce more male hormones than female hormones and if I don’t cut out sugar, things that turn into sugar, and dramatically lose weight that my symptoms will grow worse. I’ll grow excess hair on my face and body, my voice will deepen, plus acne, my neck will turn darker, and I’ll suffer male pattern baldness. Her mouth tells me that it’s going to be extremely difficult to lose weight and it’s incurable.

Her eyes tell me not to get emotional in her office. Her eyes say that I would have known this a long time ago if I had ever had access to health insurance at any point during my twenties. I ask her about depression and she says that depression isn’t part of it. I ask her what I can do and she says manage it. I pay my copay. I think about my future uphill battle. I think about how funny it is. I think about how I had health insurance just long enough to find out that even my own body is jumping ship on woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 How’d you get to be so

“How’d you get to be so pretty?” my grandfather says, teasing me.

“I don’t know! ” I would respond, giggling at the non question. At five years old, I hadn’t developed the part of my brain that gauges sincerity and playfulness. I still haven’t. If you came up to me right now and said “How’d you get to be so pretty?” I’d probably roll my eyes at you and fart.

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(photo by: JON DEAN)

My roommate and I frequently visit Sonic late at night on the weekends. He orders a small milkshake and onion rings. I order two large milkshakes because I can’t decide on one. I love the brazen sweetness of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Master Blast® but I also need a Fresh Banana Classic Shake w/ extra whipped cream to bring me back to reality. Both of these milkshakes combined, total over 3,000 calories. We laugh about the upcoming election. I don’t mention that I’ve already been to Sonic today. I’ve practically forgotten it myself.

We come to a stop light and I look over to the adjacent car. The person in the drivers seat is looking back at me. She probably assumes that I’m bringing someone else a milkshake and not double fisting twice my caloric intake.

Moreland Avenue is a major road that cuts thru East Atlanta. It hosts the largest selection of fast food in that area. Once a month I’ll drive down and go to every single drive thru restaurant in one swing. Cook Out, Krystal, Wendy’s, McDonalds, and Sonic. I’m finishing off chicken nuggets from the first place as I cruise up to the next. I crumple up the fast food sack and throw it over my head where it lands in the backseat of my car.

In an alternate universe, there are adorable happy children sitting in the backseat of that car. I’m driving my family to the mountains for our annual vacation. I’ve packed a picnic basket full of wholesome snacks. My husband is laying back in the passenger seat with his arms crossed. He peaks out of his left eye and catches me looking at him. He smiles, resting his hand on my thigh. My face glows and I return my gaze to the rear view mirror back to our kids, only the back seat is empty. I glance back to the passenger seat but no one is there. I’m alone in my car and the lady at Long John Silver is yelling through the intercom. “Uh, 6 shrimp please,” I respond. By the third call box food doesn’t even taste good anymore, but I can’t stop. Stop for what?

I imagine my grandfather teasing me now, “how’d you get to be so disgusting?”

By the time I get to Sonic, it’s the end of my marathon and I want to kill myself. I wish this was a hyperbolic statement. I’m so full. I’m sick. I’ve taken a sweater and balled it up tightly, wedging it between my lower back and the car seat. The weight of all the fast food is causing my spine to lose its alignment. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

If you can’t be who you want, then eat what you want. My life reduced to a phrase written on a Target sweatshirt. There’s a girl out there with love in her heart, flowers in her hair, and underwear so tight that it’s cutting off her circulation.

A few days later, I’m sitting in the drive thru line at Chik-fil-a and my bra is cutting into my side. It’s digging into my skin. I’ve gained so much weight that my bra leaves red rings around my stomach. Sexy. I can’t wait for a guy to try and rip my bra off in a fit of passion and realize that the only reason I went home with him is because of the lack of oxygen reaching my brain. I’m pretty sure bras are supposed to gently hug your waist and the straps pull your boobs up in the commonly accepted position of straight forward for all the world to see.

Not me. My bra is too busy gathering loose skin into rolls, smelling like stale cigarettes, and collecting loose crumbs of food. My bra straps have given up entirely. They’re like infected tonsils who serve no purpose, except to remind me that I once needed them. They fall off my shoulders 100x a day as if jumping from a building fire. My boobs are propped up by my sheer enormity. That’s what I call my stomach any time I have to sit down or bend over or look at it in the mirror.

I weigh 240 pounds. That’s as much as two female contestants on ABC’s The Bachelor combined.

In reality, I stopped thinking about my bra as soon as I started. I’m used it. It only bothers me sometimes when someone good looking stares straight through me like I’m a ghost. Right now, all I can think about is this Chik-fil-a hand spun milkshake sign I’ve been sitting in front of for 30 minutes. Hand spun. Marketing at it’s finest. I have no idea what hand spun means but it sounds awesome. Like the dictionary definition of the word. As in awe-inspiring. Christ-like. I don’t even care that it’s 8 o’clock in the morning. There’s no better time to accept 1,000 calories into your heart. Straight into my heart and all the veins leading to my heart and my ass and stomach and just a tad to my second chin for good measure. I just had two milkshakes last night but these calories have died for my sins and it’s hand spun.

I order it, but, because I’m so close to work, I have to suck the whole thing down in three minutes before any of my coworkers see me drinking a milkshake this early. “It’s ok,” I tell myself. I’m going on a diet first thing tomorrow. I crawl into work, catatonically full. The warm sun is pouring into the window of my office while my eyelids grow heavy.

I’m tiny. I smile. I have pretty hair that smells fresh and catches the reflection of the sun. I eat small portions of unprocessed food in a tiny wooden bowl with a gold spoon. My lips are disproportionately large like the perversion of nature. My mouth, while mostly closed and smiling, opens to allow in a bite or two of dandelion greens sprinkled with lemon zest.

This is what plays in my head when I’m passed out at work after having a milkshake for breakfast.

I wake up suddenly and my heart is beating fast. I turn on my computer monitors and rub my eyes. I go to check my email, but not before messaging my co-worker:

“What’s for lunch?”