LGBTQ · Life · Trans

World Pride (And Why It’s So Important)

50 years. 50 years since Stonewall. 50 years and my internet feed is still fully of hate speech against those in the LGBTQIA community. Claiming the world is shoving a gay agenda down their throats when cis-het is considered the “norm”–shoved down EVERY SINGLE PERSON’S THROAT EVER. No, you don’t get your own pride. Every day is your march for your values, at the exclusion and detriment of others. Sit down, shut up, and maybe learn something.

It’s likely only because I’m paying attention more than I used to that I see all this hate. It’s like red flags popping up everywhere around me–micro- and macro-aggressions, so frequent they are easily missed or dismissed by cis-het peeps who choose to say others are too sensitive (that lib- word that’s equally ableist, knocking down two groups with one stone) or that they’re only just kidding–can’t you take a joke?

No. I can’t. I’m not that kind of funny.

As I spent Friday night at my kid’s new doctor, learning how to deliver his testosterone injections to begin his hormone therapy–my 3rd trip this week to a town 30 miles away because that’s where he can obtain the best care available for a trans kid in my state–it was a festive mood. The beginning of a new chapter in his life. Validation of what’s in his heart, which will ultimately lead to a physical transformation affirming it. But it’s also bittersweet.

Bittersweet because I know that the more likely he is to “pass” as a cisgender male, the safer he is. Knowing that his ability to blend into social norms for gender roles will reduce his chances of being harassed, ridiculed, or becoming a victim of violence. It’s a step beyond being the weird kid other kids ostracized and it can become a matter of life and death. It shouldn’t be this way. He shouldn’t have to fit a mold others have built in order to have some semblance of a regular life.

Pride matters because of all this hate that is still out there in the world–made even more apparent every time a non-binary person shares a gender non-conforming photo on Instagram, or when a brand decides to launch an inclusive campaign, or when a municipality attempts to raise a rainbow flag (or paint a rainbow crosswalk) and the citizens lash back with pure, vile, hatred. It’s not some obscure portion of the population who feeds these flames–it’s your very own neighbors, made bold by the internet (and sometimes, even bolder in person) to remove all doubt as to where exactly they fall on the bigotry spectrum. Disheartening isn’t a big enough word for this.

I’m lucky enough to be mom to an amazing, talented, artistic, pure-hearted, genius of a child who happens to also be gay and trans. And I will fight you, tooth and nail, if you do anything to restrict his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This Mama Bear has had enough.

Life · Trans

Mental Health Is Everything

Eldest child was recently taken off the wait list at our preferred therapist’s office. This is HUGE. Not just because a mental health care professional’s opinion is required to change one’s gender legally in the State of Connecticut, but also because Connecticut Children’s Medical Center would not even allow us an appointment in their Children’s Gender Program without the referral of a mental health professional in addition to the pediatrician’s referral already obtained. I know my child; he has been thriving as his true self for 18 months now–he showed signs long before that of who he really was–but evidence must be gathered, and it’s difficult to obtain mental health care. I know–I’ve navigated those waters myself.

Two years ago, I fell apart. But that wasn’t the first time. I have a long history of interventions, voluntary and not, going back to middle school. Back then, school counselors acted as, well, counselors for students, reaching out, if necessary, and offering a sympathetic ear. I thought that’s what they were for. Now? Instead, in the conversations I’ve had with the school counselor, she has (intentionally) misgendered my child–with me and with others. And when I asked about this kind of care for students, I was advised to find a therapist. Schools don’t offer those kind of services anymore. Our community sucks as far as support for LGBTQIA youth goes, anyway.

Mental health really is everything. If you’re not capable of coping, everything else will suffer. (School-) Work. Hygiene. Housekeeping. Relationships with others. It’s the foundation for just squeaking by. And it’s incredibly difficult to maintain in systems that work against you.

I’m hoping we’ve found a good fit. I have a really good feeling about her.

My son asked me what to expect at his first visit with the therapist. Luckily, I was equipped with extra copies of handouts I was given at my own CBT appointments–recipes for re-framing a life. Coping strategies. Breathing exercises. Boundary building. And journaling. Of all things, journaling is probably the one that has stayed with me the longest. And quite possibly, provided the most relief.

I’ve been journaling since I was 10 years old. On and off–mostly picking it up when I was having a difficult time dealing with life itself or particular people–my journals are a snapshot of the struggles I’ve successfully worked through. After all, I’m still here today.

Journals are my pensieve–my way for taking the thoughts out of my head that are going round and round and round, blocking my ability to do what needs to be done, and saving them for later, when I have more time and energy to process them. Sometimes, all I can manage is a feeling for the day. A 1-10 scale. A happy to sad face measurement, like you see in the doctor’s office for your pain level. At my best times, I used journals to focus on the things that are more easily overseen. Balancing rants about what’s on my mind with the good I may be denying. But I’m not always capable of being that disciplined.

I discovered a technique (most likely on Twitter, but I don’t recall the exact inspirational source) that proved very helpful a couple years ago: GLAD. You write something for each category: Gratitude, Learned, Achieved, and Delight. In addition to that, I started noting the things that weren’t wrong in my life. Beyond your usual “I’m grateful for a roof over my head,” at times, these could be as basic as “my dog lived through another day.” Yes, it’s important to get the shit out of my brain, but it’s also helpful to take stock of that other stuff, too, and use it to outweigh the shit.

My journals are private, only shared with my therapist, if I so choose. I reassured him that the same would be true for his journals. We all need a little space for what goes on in our heads, without the prying eyes of others. And we all could use a little tune up for our minds. I wish it were more readily available for all.

In the meantime, I’m trying to convince him to take the Art Journaling class at the Warner Theatre Center for Arts Education. He’s a creative guy and I think he would find the class quite beneficial. A multi-layered approach to processing his thoughts. But I also know he’s terribly shy and has a lot of anxiety about joining groups/classes where his friends are not already found. I get it.


Fat Girl in a Little Shirt

The baggage about bodies that we bring into adulthood begins to accumulate in grade school. Little kids, just trying to do what kids do–learn, play, grow–are told they are too much. By classmates. By relatives. Even by parents. Most who write about fat positivity source their childhood as when they learned that the world expects proper bodies to restrain themselves. In the greater scheme of feminism, girls are told to be quieter, dumber, less opinionated, less than. In bodies, we’re convinced that we must fight them every day. The battle all women must take up in order to fit in. Diets. Aerobics. Shoes smaller than the feet being shoved into them. Grab your swords, girls–we’re going to war with nature! (Hopefully, your 800 calories a day will allow you to fit in the suit of armor…)

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when it was first recommended that I go on a diet. But I do remember my mom sweating to the oldies with Richard Simmons. Diet culture perpetuates in the most unintentional ways.

I also remember when it started to matter to me.

In 5th grade, I invested myself in pulling off one of those 80s movie plots by transforming myself from the nerdy girl who hung out with the smart guys and played Dungeons and Dragons to one of the popular girls. Everyone would see me appropriately attired and admired, proving I was worthy. I could do it.

I begged one of the mean girls to aid me in my plan. I don’t know why S decided I was a worthy project, but she actually agreed to share the secrets of the desired class with me. Most notably, she gave me a shopping list. Clothes I MUST wear in order to be socially acceptable. Essential to my very own Ugly Duckling metamorphosis.

My mom was less convinced that a 10-year-old who wore women’s size 6 should be squeezing into short skirts and crop tops, but she eventually humored me. And just as soon as the Bradlees layaway was paid off, they were all mine. That lavender skirt with the raw edge. That crop top with a duck. That collection of clothing proving that, while you can guide me on what I should buy, the real me will shine through with how I execute this advice. Ha.

The crop top? Never did make an appearance to dazzle the cool kids. They weren’t allowed in school. It was for the best, anyway, all things considered. My mom has some lovely photos of me pairing it with a long, ruffled skirt and a crepe paper flower parasol from Riverside Park, all while sporting headgear. I’m sure that’s exactly what S pictured when she took me under her wing. My life, surprisingly, was not a movie.

It became less and less acceptable, as I grew larger and larger, to wear crop tops in public. But in recent years, as I started to shed society’s rules for my body, I became more invested in the idea.

Somehow, bikinis were easier. Probably because people expect you to essentially be clad in underwear at the beach and pool. But what are the rules for shorter-than-usual tops? Are they okay for the coffee shop? What about theatre performances? Do you wear them at parent-teacher conferences? Work is probably a no… I could have used lessons on this. Where are you S?

It turns out that, like most other items of clothing, you wear crop tops wherever you damn well please. Fuck the rules.

I keep telling myself that, anyway.

I made a baby step, though. I wore a barely cropped cardigan to the coffee house a few months ago. If I moved just right, you could see centimeters of my flesh. I think 3 people might have witnessed it. At the theatre the other night, I also wore a long-sleeved black crop top. With a high-waisted skirt. So you couldn’t even tell, when I was sitting, that I was pushing back. A quiet kind of resistance, revealed when standing (and especially when raising my arms–oops). The world didn’t end.

I’m not sure that I’m quite there yet. But I’m dabbling. And you know what? If I want to walk around in a duck crop top with a long ruffled skirt and a crepe paper parasol, fuck it, I will. Because what anyone else thinks about it doesn’t really matter anyway.

(Side note: if you’re interested in that shirt in the Instagram post, you can find it in Mary Lambert‘s merch shop. I also highly recommend listening to her music and reading her poems, which feature fat positivity, queer love, being yourself, and just plain being awesome.)

Entertainment · LGBTQ

10 Years Later, Nothing Has Changed

Last night, I brought eldest kiddo to see The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later at The Warner Theatre‘s Nancy Marine Studio. I wish more parents had brought their teens and tweens. In fact, that room should have been overflowing with people, extra performances added to the schedule due to overwhelming demand. School field trips, with projects for school credit and conversations held about what this community chooses to also rewrite in its own history.

The Laramie Project Ten Years Later

I cried. A lot.

The cast consisted of members of The Warner Theatre Center for Arts Education Performance Lab, the eldest students in the arts education program. Teens, ranging from 15 to 18 years old, brought to life the series of interviews conducted by the Tectonic Theatre Project in 2008, 10 years after the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. What they found was change…and not. A community willing to put the past behind them…and some demanding for change that should have happened.

Jake Asheim, who was tasked with playing the roles of Moises Kaufman (member of Tectonic Theatre Project), Jim Osbourne (friend of Matthew Shepard) and Russell Henderson (one of Matthew Shepard’s murderers) was spell-binding. His timing and patience with each of these roles shined. Conio Lopardo slipped seamlessly between Governor Freudenthal, Jim Osborne, and, most eerily of all, Aaron McKinney (Matthew Shepard’s murderer). Suspension of disbelief is essential in live theatre, and Lopardo successfully pulled this off. His version of flippant, remorseless McKinney brought out all the feels in me and I was astounded such could be pulled off by a 15-year-old. Emily Russell’s Reggie Fluty was passionate and full of life. This was a truly talented cast and they performed a very difficult piece in a very impressive manner.

I cried. A lot.

I cried because I’ve watched The Laramie Project on HBO, so I knew some of the back story. I cried because Matthew Shepard was around my age. I cried because the comments from the members of the community echo so much of what’s relevant today. I cried because, in spite of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, hate crimes persist. Every year, hate gains ground. It feels more and more hopeless, even with tools that were supposed to decrease these numbers. I cried because, even though in June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states of the United States, current administrations are trying to erode that right–are doing their best to take away what was already given. I cried because so much ground has already been lost.

I cried.

Please. There are two more performances of this important play. You can catch it Saturday, February 2, 2019, at 8:00 PM, and Sunday, February 3, 2019, at 2:00 PM. Bring your kids. Bring your parents. Bring tissues. Just go. 10 more years have passed since these interviews, and I fear what another update would bring to light. Laramie could be anywhere. Torrington could learn some lessons from this.

Tickets can be purchased on the Warner Theatre website or from their box office two hours before each performance.


Love at All Sizes

I started writing this in June 2018 and got sidetracked. Recent conversations brought this back to the front of my mind, so I’m publishing it now, even though what inspired this initially is no longer fresh in people’s minds. I highly recommend clicking through to Self Magazine to read what lit this spark in me at the start. And maybe spend some time re-examining your own biases on the topic…

Yeah, I’m fat.

So what?

As news of The Weight Issue rolled out from Self Magazine in June 2018, I spent some time reflecting upon hurts of the past. How I’m not that person anymore. How it has taken a lifetime to get where I am now. And why loving yourself is more important than anything else. Something I hope my children are paying attention to.

Diet culture permeates life. People who are supposed to love you can say the cruelest things, brushing it off because they mean well and are only concerned about your health. Family members who, if I ate “too much,” compared me to familiar fat people who served as cautionary tales of what was apparently the worst that could happen to me. Popular girls at the tender age of 10, offering fashion advice that required losing 10 more pounds. Middle school boys telling me I should just kill myself because I was such a fat whale. High school boys saying I would be pretty if I wasn’t fat. The terror of having to shower in front of my classmates in high school, so many of them svelte and conventionally attractive. Beautiful bodies everywhere. Mine not fitting in any beautiful clothes. A pharmacist who touched my belly and congratulated me on my pregnancy, when I had just lost 35 lbs post-delivery of my first child. The warnings from my mother that people would think I was pregnant.

Sometime in the last 5 years, I stopped caring about what all of them thought.

Sometime in the last 5 years, I started falling in love with myself.

I’ve dieted. I’ve starved myself. I know the game well. In eight grade, at the urging of a friend, I subsisted on popcorn only for a week to try to lose 4 pounds. As an adult, I’ve done such contorted things as limiting myself to 35 grams of fat a day for months at a time to make myself more attractive. It worked: I lost over 30 pounds. But was it worth it? Even with “healthier” programs, like SparkPeople, I would obsess over macros. Insist on remaining below 1200 calories and, at one point, I only ate packaged food, because I could easily add up those values to determine my self worth. There were too many variables in anything I prepared myself. It was too messy, too hard to control perfectly. Is that a large or a medium apple? Where’s my trusty food scale while I’m at a friend’s house? Again, it worked: I lost 35 pounds. I also lost some of myself. The most successful diet I had was during a period of emotional trauma when I lost 25 pounds in 5 weeks (8 of them in a matter of days) because I wasn’t eating. And then I started running for the first time in my life. And the crowd cheered–my consolation prize during that bit of Hell.

I believe it was Lindy West who said, essentially, only in dieting do you try to find a greater value in yourself by diminishing yourself. Wasting away is applauded. Decreasing numbers are supposed to increase self esteem. Less is supposed to be more. That’s some shitty mathematics.

I don’t know about you, but there are so many things that taste better than skinny feels.

What kind of a life is it to constantly live in fear of what your meal will do to your body? What kind of life is it to punish yourself because you “cheated” at your diet? There will never be enough hours spent on the treadmill to erase the damage done to your soul.

I am worth more than this.

So, for the most part, I don’t care anymore. Some days are harder than others, but I try to remind myself that there is no prize for deprivation. All you do is miss out. Morality police would like to claim there’s a virtue in saying no to the cake because it’s bad food and you should eat an apple instead because it’s good food, but they’re wrong. Food doesn’t have a moral value–unless you’re an asshole withholding it from someone who needs it, in which case, you’re very bad. Your health, your body, your business.

Nowhere else in life do you see people butting into other people’s business with such an attitude that they are your savior. Yet, it’s somehow okay for people to proclaim how wonderful it is that I’m eating a “healthy” lunch if I have a salad. To pat me on my back, like I need to be treated as a child, encouraged for abstaining from a far more satiating and satisfying macaroni and cheese because, HEALTHY!!! Should they also be standing outside the stall, singing praise over my ability to wipe my own ass in the restroom? Do I get a ribbon because I dressed myself, all by myself? Where are my trophies for putting up with this shit?

Think about the things you say and what your subtext is communicating to your loved ones, especially since you’ll likely be gathering more at this time of year for the holidays. Concern trolling serves no one but the troll. And in the process, you alienate the ones you claim you’re aiding.

And, as for the rest of you: be fabulous you. Don’t let anyone cut you down to make themselves seem greater. You’re better than that!

LGBTQ · Life · Trans

Fear and Intolerance in New England Places

Disclosure: This post is published with permission from my child.

Some of you may already know that my eldest child is trans male and gay. He came out as gay last spring; he came out as trans in October; I already knew for years. It was no surprise.

As much as I love my kids for who they are–and am proud of them for standing confident in the knowledge of themselves–others are not so awesomely accepting. In fact, my eldest hit the jackpot in becoming the target of bullying in our community.

I reached out to the school’s guidance counselor and social worker. I wasn’t sure how transitioning worked in middle school and I knew that my kid would need a good support system. He had already been the brunt of abuse from his peers for being gay and trans male and no one was doing anything about it. While the social worker seemed to be understanding and on the same page during my phone conversation with both, there was no follow-through or follow-up. When I spoke with the guidance counselor a couple of months later, she misgendered my son during the entire conversation. I was fuming.

It was bad enough that one of his teachers announced to the class (when we were away on vacation) “C’mon, we all know that M is a girl–who does she think she’s kidding?” Or that another teacher marked him absent for 4 days and when I questioned her about it, she insisted she had never met my child. (I’m so proud of my kiddo’s friend who confronted her on that, since she was apparently refusing to acknowledge my kid.) You kind of expect children to be awful to each other. I know my 7th grade experience was not full of puppy dogs and rainbows. More like shit and more shit. And then some shit thrown at you, for good measure. But the adults? They should be someone the kids can turn to for support and protection. And that is not the case, even in 2018. Even in good old blue Connecticut. Intolerance knows no boundaries.

It’s a different world than the one I grew up in–for better and for worse. In 7th grade, I don’t think I knew anyone who was openly gay. My senior year of high school, things seemed to be moving in a better direction, but maybe that was only at the coffee house where I hung out with other like-minded, artistic peeps. We had an insulated bubble; the outside world rarely intruded inside those walls. Yet, it still existed, and I didn’t experience it like my friends did. I wish I knew then what I know now.

My eldest is very lucky, despite the bullshit. What he lacks in adult acceptance, he makes up for in spades with his friends circle. Far larger than my group of friends, and so true true true to themselves. So knowledgeable. So supportive. They’re lesbian and gay and bi and pansexual. They’re trans and non-binary and queer. They’re informed and strong and solid in their knowledge of themselves. Their parents don’t all know their truths (or accept them), but they are there for each other, a surrogate family when biological family is lacking. And I LOVE them for this!

But at the back of mind, it nags. That CAUTION sign. That concern. That worry that grave harm will come to my child just for being who he is.

It’s 2018. It’s surprising, and yet not at all. Hate has, after all, been given the nod by those in power.

I didn’t want to rain on my kid’s pride parade, but I also needed him to understand the gravity of the situation. The potential for danger. So we sat down and watched The Laramie Project together.

My take-aways?

  • The way the townsfolk spoke in Laramie is so much the same that we hear today about racial intolerance. These people who think they’re accepting, but are really only okay if they don’t have to know about it or see it. Live and let live. As long as they keep to themselves, I don’t have a problem. Which isn’t tolerance at all, but systemic hatred. And it’s sickening. And it’s still happening today.
  • If you haven’t watched it before, pay close attention to when they talk with Reverend Fred Phelps. I was angry sobbing after the talk with the “good reverend.” The hypocrisy of it all was revolting. But not unexpected.
  • I also sobbed through the scene when the angels–led by Romaine Patterson–blocked out the protesting Westboro Baptist Church members during the trials of the murderers of Matthew Shepard. I can’t even remember a time before their hate-filled harassment of grieving families. I really want to.
  • Matthew Shepard’s kidnapping, brutal beating, and subsequent horrible death came just days after I turned 21. I was the same age as Matthew Shepard. It was October 1998 and this was not something you typically heard about back then. In fact, it seemed to be the first in my memory. And sadly, not the last horrific hate crime.
  • The concept of hate crimes came out of this. Think about that. That’s not to say that brutal beatings and deaths weren’t happening before. They most certainly were. But this was THE tipping point, as far as legislation goes.
  • Even though attempts at hate crimes legislation began in 1997, before Matthew Shepard’s murder, it wasn’t until 2009 that they finally gained enough traction. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009 and became law. 11 FUCKING YEARS after Matthew Shepard’s murder. My eldest was already 4 years old, at the time.

It was an emotionally draining experience. (We had to follow up with The Greatest Showman to cleanse our palates.) And I’m not really sure what I was trying to accomplish, or if I accomplished anything at all. Maybe I want my kiddo to exercise a little more caution? But at what expense? Why should he have to deny who he is to make people less uncomfortable? Why should I have to worry that he may become a statistic someday? Why is this the fucking world we live in?

In the meantime, I try to be there whenever I can. We attend rallies. We talk openly about what he’s going through. We’ve researched his options for when he gets older (hormones, top surgery, etc.). I help him dress whatever way makes him comfortable. And I try to find role models, wherever I can. It’s always important for kids to find people in the limelight who are like them. It will be an exhausting uphill climb. There will always be shitty people to deal with. But he has his tribe and the love of his family. He will find his way.


La La La La La La La La Land

I could just rename this blog Mom Who Is Always Late to the Party and it would still be appropriate. But really, I’m just a mom who never has enough time to do everything she wants to do. I get to it when I get to it.

Spinning off from my mad crush on The Greatest Showman, as well as eldest child’s enrapture with Dear Evan Hansen, we decided to give La La Land a try. What I knew about this movie before viewing consisted of:

  • I think it won some awards?
  • There may have been controversy about casting?
  • It attempted to recreate the appeal and feel of old Hollywood dancing and singing sensations, like Dancing in the Rain.
  • Ryan Gosling? I guess? I don’t know…

No, I’m not one of those women getting the vapors over the Hey girl memes. Ryan Gosling isn’t my favorite. I’m not sure why, but he just doesn’t ignite a fire in my panties. I can leave him just fine and life would be dandy, and that’s probably part of why I took so long to get to this movie.

Mia (Emma Stone) first encounters Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) while both are stuck in an LA traffic jam. A dance number breaks out in the middle of this mundane scene, with wonderful continuous panning during a bright, happy song. I wish my drive to work was so spectacular. When everyone returns to their cars, the jam magically clears and Sebastian is stuck behind Mia, who is lost in thought practicing a scene for an audition. He lays on the horn, she flips him off… it doesn’t take a genius to determine this is their meet cute.

The roadmap to their relationship was laid out decades before these actors were even born–only the players changed. The fact that Mia (not Johnny) hates jazz and JAZZ IS LIFE for Sebastian is as predictable as could be. Or that Sebastian realizes he’s falling for Mia only when she has a new boyfriend. I don’t have a problem with this calculable tale. With movies like this, there’s a comfort in being able to guess this story line before it happens. A familiarity like a warm blanket and a hot cup of cocoa on a cold, crappy night. It doesn’t matter that they’re cookie cutter. I won’t complain if they’re all oatmeal raisin. They’re still cookies and even crappy ones are satisfying.

But… this was soooooo slooooooooow moving.

And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are kind of sucky singers.

And not especially awesome dancers, either.

Don’t get me wrong–I couldn’t carry a note if my life depended on it, and my dancing isn’t much removed from Elaine Benes, but it’s not my job to perform either task well. There’s no money on the line when I choose to assault ears. Stone and Gosling… there probably could have been better choices made with stronger talents in the musical arena. Then again, maybe I just really dislike Ryan Gosling.

Everyone wins in the end. Mia becomes a famous actress and Sebastian gets his jazz club. There’s a brief Sliding Doors moment when Mia, through a last-minute change in plans, ends up Seb’s club one night. 5 years have passed since they split and she has her husband by her side (and a young child back at home). I feared that they would backtrack the entire movie and go 13 Going on 30 with the plot, but only 13 Going on 30 can successfully pull this off (SHUT UP, I say so, so it is) and La La Land retained its senses and only offered the alternative story line as a momentary daydream, rather than a we Punk’d you! I suppose it should have been sentimental and beautiful to me–how they could have had a lovely life together, if only they stuck it out, and both would have still achieved success. There’s probably something else I should be taking away from this glimpse into another life. But life is full of if only and even this piece of escapist cinematic art wouldn’t go that far into pure fantasy. La La Land sticks with what’s real, in the end.

I’m feeling very…meh about this movie. My eldest was equally unimpressed. While there was the Breakfast at Tiffany’s feel in the beginning (one of my bad mood movies), it fell flat. Obvious inspiration from classic movies and musicals aside, the songs were just…blah. Nothing super catchy. Certainly nothing running itself on repeat in my head. And the dancing was so…not awesome. Sure, they tap dance in the street, but it’s not even a cool scene. It’s more of a pigtail pulling, I-like-you-but-I-can’t-admit-I-like-you-because-being-obtuse-and-teasing-is-always-what-gets-the-girl kind of a played-out thing. And that’s old, in the archaic, crappy way. If you’re going to create an anachronism with a modern movie with a mid-century feel, that doesn’t mean the men have to be douchey. Take the best of now and meld it with the past, and make something better… like a man who has matured past the age of 12. We deserve at least that.

I have a high tolerance for shitty movies if there’s something absolutely beautiful about them, or unique in how the movie was made, even just location. I don’t have any such leniency for La La Land. I’m glad I don’t ever have to watch it again. (Bye, Girl.)


The Greatest Bullshitter

For a few days now, my analysis of my enjoyment of The Greatest Showman has run through my mind. My commute runs about 40 minutes in each direction, so I have ample time to slip into my familiar pattern of overthinking (scratch that: deep thinking, as my therapist would suggest). Despite this pondering, I’m still not sure where I fall on this issue. Let me attempt to unravel some of this for you…

Merely one week ago, I purchased The Greatest Showman to watch with my eldest child. We had rented it the previous weekend and discovered both of us were enthusiastically enthralled. (I hesitated on that final word choice, looked it up, and found an archaic definition: enslaved. That sounds right…) I allowed myself to immerse myself into that loveliness. I bought the album and listened to it daily. I temporarily lost my mind like a teenager with a celebrity crush. Call it my midlife crisis.

I didn’t really have a problem with any of this until a couple things happened: I “accidentally” read some reviews after-the-fact, which made it sound, essentially, like you’d have to have had a lobotomy to love this flaming pile of shit so much. And then I began to reflect upon the story itself, since so many critics decried both the sullying of P.T. Barnum’s legacy with this humbug, as well as the lack of deep delving into the characters so that they would flesh out and become more real. I questioned my sanity. I doubted my life choices. I thought perhaps I wasn’t fit to raise children, since I clearly have awful taste in entertainment. Then I said fuck it to the critics and came to my own conclusions.

  • I don’t give a shit that it’s fictionalized. In fact, it’s better for that. If I wanted to watch the real life story of old fart P.T. Barnum, ringmaster, I’d watch a documentary. Yeah, he was born in Connecticut. Yeah, he was even a Connecticut politician. Know what I don’t want to watch in a musical? Connecticut politicians. If you’re going to make a movie of it, make it good. Make it Wolverine singing his heart out while there’s so much going on in the background that your head hurts trying to keep up. Make it a whir of color, a cacophony of sound, and a ragtag group creating an illusion that’s absolutely mesmerizing. It’s supposed to be a circus. Go big, or go home.
  • I could probably sit down and watch 1 1/2 hours of Zac Efron and Zendaya singing and performing aerial feats. And I had a rather unfavorable opinion of Zac Efron before this explosive piece of awesomeness. I want to see the pretty people do the hard work, because aerials absolutely are hard work. My eldest took trapeze and aerials classes for a year and I know what goes into learning those poses. It’s not eating pizza and sitting on the couch. I’m all the more impressed by the fact that there weren’t stunt doubles. So sing on, little birdies. I’m loving every minute of it.
  • I insist that Hugh Jackman worked a spell on me through the screen. I was so confused by Wolverine’s range in dancing and singing that I didn’t pay attention at all to how truly awful of a person he plays. I love him. I want to make him my 2nd husband. And I wouldn’t do that for just anyone–I mean, really, one husband is more than enough. Barnum the character is a swindler. He uses stolen titles from his former job to leverage a loan to open a business based entirely on spectacle and lies. He gathers a group of outcasts and makes them even more outrageous to fill his coin purse. He claims to hate the upper class, but can’t wait to be welcomed by them and accepted by society. He turns his back on his “freaks” to save face with the snobs. He runs away with his opera songbird and while it isn’t explicitly explored, you know there’s some shagging going on. Why else would her heart be so broken that she attempts to ruin him? And then, suddenly, when it all burns down around him, he realizes he’s been an ass and turns his life completely around. It’s a combination of so many things in narcissistic, borderline men taking advantage of others that should be triggering for me. And yet… All he has to do is smile and I’m like, okay, you do you, Hugh. BUT…bear with me…there’s also the theatre part of this. The fact that he’s a performer, playing a role that suits him. In The Other Side, he makes this pretty clear as he’s trying to deal Mr. High School Musical into his game. He’s going to do like he does, and with Carlyle doing like he does, they’re going to convince the crowds to part with some coin to make them both rich. You know. Like an actor does. In a play, a movie, a musical… You’re paying for entertainment, and lies come with that. It’s all a con. Have you never seen a magician perform an illusion? We welcome this experience. I can live with that.
  • I got a little lost there… I think I’m saying that it’s okay that Barnum (the character) is less than honest with his Museum because people expect him to do so. It’s part of the unwritten contract between audience and entertainer. Suspend disbelief and you win. CGI certainly makes that easier. This is different than politicians who hoodwink the masses with promises of whatever will make them say I like him because he tells it like it is because Barnum (the character) is fake and we should all be adult enough to recognize that, and these politicians are…oh, fake and we should all be adult enough to recognize that. I guess there isn’t a difference other than what Hugh do won’t affect my ability to obtain quality health care and be treated somewhat like an equal to men.
  • I WANT an escape. Please. 2018 is kind of a shitty time in history. Give me something lavish and lush to lose myself in for a little while. Thank you.
  • I had a really cool segue into Curly and Oklahoma! (which, I will admit, is very loosely inspired by the fact that it’s the only musical in which I’ve performed on a “big” community theatre stage and critics called our particular production a “3-ring circus”), but when I sought more details to fill in the blanks 25 years hence have created, I was side tracked by the image of a DVD cover on Wikipedia of Hugh Jackman as Curly from the 1999 film version of the 1998 London revival of Oklahoma!. My worlds unexpectedly collided. Wolverine. Music. Dance. I lost my train of thought. I can’t remember my point now. Damn that magical man.
  • Do you fault the cotton candy for not being caviar? Of course not.

I’m going to do me. You do you. And maybe we’ll meet on the other side. It’s all good.

Entertainment · Life

A new beginning…

One of my favorite pastimes, when I have a problem to solve, is to begin a brand new project instead in which I will pour all of my energy, creating a kind of order in the chaos of my life, and only when I am completely satisfied that I have put sufficient energy into this new project will I return to the real problem at hand and solve it. It’s sort of my way of clearing my head so the solution will present itself, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

So, here I am.

I attempted to re-enter my food blog world (which I had mostly paused during the last year while I worked out some shit in my head), discovered a few new tech hurdles I’m ill-equipped to immediately handle, and, instead, started a new blog. The puzzle pieces will fall into place eventually, I’m sure. But not tonight.

Truth: I missed my old journalistic blog from when my life was both more and less complicated. 2004-2009, I wrote a very personal chronicle of the time spent trying to conceive our first child (TTC), the subsequent miscarriage, the following successful pregnancies, raising kids, adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom, etc., etc., etc. From before Facebook, when I relied heavily upon a group of sistas I serendipitously stumbled upon in an online forum who had my heart and back through it all. Blogging was cathartic. It was also a connection to others slogging around in the same shoes. And it was all very small scale. That was perfectly okay.

My food blog, on the other hand, took on a completely different life. One of reach, and pageviews, and advertising. Analytics, and sponsors, and social media accounts. A full-time job, despite having two additional full-time jobs. And I loved it so very much in a completely different manner. My masterpiece brought me opportunities I never dreamed. I just depleted my supplies for support last year. I needed a break.

It took a year to figure out that I missed blogging. But in that year, I also learned much about myself. A new person emerged from the turmoil–reshaped by anxiety, existential dilemmas, #MeToo, Women’s Marches, LGBTQIA support rallies, stands against violence in our communities, and recognition of the horrific racism in America. In short, I made up for a lot of lost time. And I still have so very far to go.

So where does old me fit in with new? Where does my past mesh with all of this learning that can’t be ignored? Well… it’s turned up in funny places. Like my criticism of Beauty & The Beast. As Molly Ringwald explained in her New Yorker piece, I’m finding that when I revisit my past, it’s not always easy to navigate the murky depths that have flooded those memories and damaged them. How do I not cringe and apologize to my children when, insistent upon them seeing a film from my youth that I much loved, I find instead disparaging treatment of transgender folks, who exist only as the butt of the joke; or the three-lettered f-word frequently appearing in ’80s movies and shows, because that was apparently the worst thing you could be. (And no, it isn’t fat, but it’s only 1 letter off…) Not every example is as obvious, but each time it’s recognized, it makes it so much easier to see how these microaggressions become systemic in a society. And it makes me try harder to do better with my kids.

So yeah, I’m ruining it all. But I have good intentions for them. And I don’t intend to pave the road to hell with them.