Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dreaming is Free (Blondie)

When I was thirteen I was at the end of my rope. School was hellacious. I got made fun of all the time. Between a weight problem and an acne problem I was a mess. At the time I was on this face medication that made my lips bleed. I tried wearing make up to sexy myself up. My blush was orange and my lipstick was more or less purple. I looked like a pumpkin. On top of that I wore this water proof mascara because at the time I was embarking on a failed career as a diver. Well I was not only a horrendous diver, move over Shamu, but I was allergic to water proof mascara. So my eyes swelled shut. Did I mention my mother picked my clothes? On top of that I had top and bottom braces with rubber bands, or gum bands as we call them in Pittsburgh.

I had bullseye all over my forehead.

School was a nightmare and I didn't want to go. I wasn't skinny and pretty like the popular girls. The guys didn't want me. If they asked me out it was as a joke.

Then my family got cable television. To make a long story short I was from a family of readers and educators. My dad was the first of seven, the first to get a college degree and the first to not only get an MBA but also to go to law school as well. His father had been a steel worker who had not graduated from high school, but when my dad was older went to school at night to obtain his GED in order to get a promotion. It was an odd father/son bonding moment but they did it. My dad was big on education because he had grown up poor and realized life without it sucked and made you a slave. My mom was a teacher and told us to aim high, as in Ivy League. So the week was reserved for reading and homework, and the weekends television. We didn't have cable because we were not big television waters. But when Friday came, it was television time.

My friends all had cable and were on the up and up with the MTV. My brother, sister and I, in the damn darkness. On a bus once we were talking and the subject of Coolio came up. I didn't know who or what a Coolio was and needless to say that ended in a barrage of terrible jokes.

But my brother Wendell was embarking on a football career and my dad wanted to watch the high school games. This required getting local cable. To get the local channel this involved getting thirty others. Finally we had cable. I had arrived. Yeehaw!

Immediately I became addicted to MTV. The pop culture on the screen, the musicians and the actors, opened my mind up. I wasnt as academic as my siblings Skipper and Wendell. I was more creative. These artists spoke to me. They were creative, thought out of the box, and were changing the world. When they spoke about school they all talked about how they were awkward and made fun of. This seemed to be a theme. I was creative, awkward, and made fun of. Suddenly I had a plan and a goal. I wanted to go to New York, to entertain people, and to change the world. While it sounds cheesy, MTV saved my life and my sanity during those terrible, crucial years.

As a part of this package we also got AMC. On the screen I saw Mae West, my idol and my hero. She had come into vogue during the flapper era, a decade of tall and willowy women. She was short and curvy. Mae West broke the mold by writing pieces for herself. She pushed the boundaries, going so far as to go to jail. She was an inspiration to an adolescent struggling with her weight in a place where different meant deadly. I suddenly didn't feel this stifling need to conform. Instead, I felt like different didn't make me wrong, but rather it made me right and special. I didn't have to be like the pretty popular girls. They weren't better than me, I was better than them.

From there I had a mission. I practiced in front of my mirror to death with my Groucho Marx figure. My parents worried about my loner ways, meanwhile I dreamed of a career as the next Edgar Bergen. I brought home ribbons in forensics as a master storyteller. I wrote stories and eventually got published in a local paper. I took acting classes and volunteered as well as produced a show on public access. I was on my way. So much so I just started a bunch of sentences with the  pronound "I".

I went on to move to New York City, and was even featured on F'in MTV Blocks. In addition, my puppet children and I have been on TV and we are beginning to fulfill our mission of reaching people. The producer for my audio book was exchanging emails with Naughty By Nature, a band I wasnt allowed to watch when they came on the TV. Lauryn Hill's former sound engineer stole my book. I had a convo with Deborah Harry. I live down the street from Broadway. I am writing a damn musical. People have recognized my puppet children and I and often ask for photos. A song I recorded was number one on internet radio for five weeks. Essentially I am doing every thing I set out to do. This is just the beginning.

I have been thinking about all the people who have made my life hellacious lately. It is because I receive a large number of fan letters from young people. Many are bullied. Bullying is an epidemic in this country and people are only beginning to understand the long standing psychological trauma associated with it now. One kid was even beaten into a coma by kids on a school yard. One recently sent me a letter that she was at the end of her rope and she needed hope.

So I posted something to this effect on facebook and this is what I would say to anyone. Growing up I wasn't allowed to watch cable television and everyone laughed at me. Now I am on cable television quite a bit as well as Netflix with my puppet babies, and hell I still don't own a TV. Because I wasn't allowed to watch television, I got good with making dolls talk and I developed an ability to write. Both are making me quite famous and quite successful. Kids made fun of me because I accidentally called the Notorious B.I.G. The Notorious Big. A year ago I hung out with one of this closest friends. I thought Snoop Dogg was a brand of kennel food and not only did he give me a pep talk when we met but he took my card. I thought a Fugee was a cold virus and Lauryn Hill's former sound engineer stole my book and is reading it. I watched a Deborah Harry rerun and I spoke to her in the hall. I not only walk passed MTV every day, but I have been on there. I walk passed Broadway every day, and I will be on there. I walk passed the Today Show every day with the people gathering at the front and smile because I know I have been on that show too. As for the mean girls they all got fat. As for the guys who asked me out as a joke, joke is on them. Maybe they laughed at me, but now they wish they had my life. I am getting the last laugh. So hang in there. It does get better.

Someone wrote me a sweet note back about how I shouldn't let people drag me down from my past and that there was no need to prove myself. And people over the years have also told me that junior high sucks for everyone.

But I would tell any kid in that place to just hang in there. Every dog has their day and their day will come. It does get better as I said. Now I only wish I could time travel and tell my thirteen year old self that. I wish I could show her my life now and give her a hug. Maybe that is why bullies make me sick and when I see that side of a guy he becomes so unattractive. Maybe that is why I stand by my friends, even when they do things like get arrested, because I know what it's like to be kicked by the world. Maybe that's why I don't exclude anyone. I know my thirteen year old self wouldn't believe it. She would tell me about her dreams, and I would tell her they would come true but she would have to work very hard.

Then she would ask me if I had any money. I would tell her, "Working on that."

Sigh, my bank account doesn't know I hang out with famous people. My bank account doesn't know who I hang out with. My bank account says I still need to save up for a TV and a bed.

But living the dream. And with the price of the suffering we go through, at least dreaming is free.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback, 877-Buy-Book, Amazon.com
Ebook Kindle and Nook
Portion of the proceeds go to RAINN

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