Friday, June 14, 2013

This Girl is on Fire (Alicia Keys)

I have been feeling a lot lately. The career is amazing, almost as if God Himself/Herself/Itsself ascended and gifted it to me. However I am having some deja vu and not in a good way. I have written about this a lot. When I was twenty one I found myself in a relationship with someone who was the textbook definition of a psychopath. He lacked empathy of any sort. Not to mention was verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive. During the course of the relationship I found my safety and well being threatened on several occasions. Not to mention he put everything I did down.

 I wasn't funny according to him, so I started dropping the ball with comedy. I couldn't act according to him, so I began to explore other career paths. Yes, they made me unhappy but it meant I was supporting him. Oh and his friends thought the ventriloquism was stupid and creepy so I gave that up too. He said me or the puppets. I chose him. My ex had been like Prince Charming when we met. It was flowers. It was presents from wherever he could pick them up off the street. Then one day I set him off and blamo. Suddenly this monster reared it's head. We fought. We made up. He promised to change. He never did for very long though. My ex tried to kill himself in front of me not once but twice. Instead of running away I felt sorry for him, and told myself if I stayed maybe he would get help and change. My ex threatened to kill his mother in order to get the insurance money to be with me. Instead of running I tried to get him to do things like get a job, but that never lasted for more than three days. My ex also choked me on one occasion and I nearly blacked out. I arrived to class with strangle marks around my neck and a bullshit story because he promised never to do it again. The list goes on.....

In the end, I can list all the shit things he did to me but I let him. I kept staying hoping it would change. In the end I picked him though. He never made a secret of the fact he was anti-social personality or borderline textbook definition. My ex got a psych discharge from the Navy and from what I gather he may have punched a commanding officer. Truth is, as I said, I picked him. I choose him. Maybe it was being young and stupid, hoping love could fix everything. Maybe it was lack of self-esteem and just wanting a boyfriend. I was all too willing to overlook everything because I was tired of being alone. Even when he shoved it in my face that the only reason I got into NYU was because my parents were "rich" and my dad was a lawyer. I let my whole disaster of a relationship happen, even when he isolated me from my friends and tried to take me away from my family. For as close as I am to my mother, I never let her know what was going on.

When things ended, I had a bunch of bad memories and a different mailing address as not to be found. I did things I thought would make it better. I drank too much and then some. I engaged in other stupid behaviors. I didnt eat cause why? Of course there were the diet pills that made me peppy as shit. I dated ex cons because nice guys were either scared of the fact my ex was totally nuts, or were turned off by the fact I was insane. The ex cons treated me well but they came with complications. Things were crazy, things were wild, but there was no way in hell anyone was ever gonna put a cattle brand on me again.

Then things got bad and I kind of cleaned up my act a tad. I began to talk about my ex in my act. The bits killed. I got on TV some. I wrote a book. I established a hell of a career after living through hell. I was doing okay, right? Not to mention my puppet babies and I became reunited.

Around the time my puppet children and I got on TLC, they highlighted that my ex made me choose between me and my puppets. It was the way it was edited I guess. In interviews I was honest, by ex was sick. I got fan letters from people telling me I made the right decision. When I opened up in interviews, I got fan letters from young women who told me how they had an ex who was similar. Suddenly it occurred to me I had a bigger function, to end dating violence and above all things to end bullying.

I remember one reporter for a magazine in London asked me if I had any photos of me and my ex. I said, "No, he used to hit me. I burned them."

I remember there was a dead silence on the phone ass he whispered, "Sorry." It was almost as if she felt like she put her foot in her mouth by asking. Wasnt her fault though, how was she supposed to know there was more to the story without asking questions?

In my weekly webcasts I would share about my experience as someone who was bullied and someone who had come out of an abusive relationship. My followers rallied around me and I got the sense I was helping people which was cool. I came down like white rice on a paper plate in a snow storm when it came to men who kicked and slapped women around. In a lot of ways I fancied myself a feminine avenger of sorts. My mother had issues with this identity, but I was choosing the activist route by making myself as visible as possible. It was my way of letting young people know they deserved to be treated well regardless of class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Again, I was okay, right?

A year ago I exploded online in a way I never imagined I would. It was around the Daniel Tosh time. To make a long story short, I found myself fighting online. The people I was fighting with werent enemies or people who hated me, but rather my own friends who were in my corner telling me to get a life. I remember appearing on a friend's radio show where a female caller told me if shit bothered me that much to just change the TV channel or to not purchase his album. She had also mentioned she had been raped once upon a time and was familiar with the angst I was feeling. The truth was, I was far from okay. In my quest to make the world a better place I knew there was a time to scream and shout. Also, there was a time to walk away, but also a time to laugh.

What had happened was in my quest not to be a victim, I had become rather fluent in victimese. In my journey not to make excuses for myself, I had bought into the philosophy of excusology. I was becoming everything I hated when it came to women's rights activist. I have never been a whiner and hate that brand of activism because it paints women as not having a role in their own lives, but rather pawns of a male society. However, I had comfortably set up my tent there.

Around that time I got the opportunity to participate in a campaign about dating violence The campaign was going to have me with two black eyes and other scratch marks on my arms. I remember being repulsed at the thought. This was not the message I wanted to send to young women at all. I remember talking to my mom around that time and she said, "Well he never hit you, right?" And thats when I told her the truth. My mom, who was only known bits and pieces of why her daughter became an angry lunatic around that time said, "I will kill him. If I ever see him, I will kill him." During this phase it began to occur to me the way to make a difference was not to pronounce this identity in an aggressive sense but rather to keep doing well with my life.

That is when I got the fire under my ass to publish my book. Since then I have recorded my audiobook. Oh and my book is a part of the collection at Brown, NYU, and Mensa said it was a Must Read. Britney Spears also plugged me on her website. Huffington Post let me write a piece. Fans write me and want me and my puppets to make videos about them. You know the scoop. The best revenge is to live well.

The ex has also reached out several times in order to make amends, which leads me to believe he is part of a Twelve Step or Group Therapy Program of some sort. Getting the amends has made me less angry about that part in my life. It has also made me accept my part in the scheme of things, whether it was staying or picking fights in order to get a leg up myself. It has also made it easier for me to trust people. I thought about writing him back but my mom said it best, "April, your ex is someone who cannot respect you as a person, and he has shown you who he is. You are a fool to ever speak to him again." My mom was right and everyone around me has echoed the same sentiment. He cannot respect boundaries and has too many issues. I took the healthy step of blocking him. While I did that, at the same time I forgive him. He had a hellacious childhood and didnt know any better. Maybe he has found a Higher Power who is guiding him, giving him relief against his demons. I can only hope and pray God protects others from his anger, but most importantly, God protects him from himself.

In a lot of ways I am grateful I walked this path. Not only did I get my proverbial shit together, but I have served as a guide to others it will be okay. I also know it's alright to be alone, and never at any time do I have to tolerate bullying or harassment from anyone, male or female. I am confident and can stand on my own and dont need anyone to pay my way. Sometimes I am so strong I surprise myself. Then I retreat to my crying corner with my cookie dough like any woman in New York. Okay, I had to put a joke in cause this piece is a little heavy.

At the same time, Rambo is my dream man because we have a lot in common. One is that we live in a world that is not always tailor made for us. People don't always understand what it's like to come out of hell. When I used to explain to people what I had been through I would always get the "Get over it." Or better yet, "Why do you keep provoking your ex?" Yes, I asked to be used as a punching bag! Of course there are the occasions when I want to knock the fucking grill out of Lil Wayne's mouth, or go to the after life and kick Tupac where he really thinks. For the record I wouldn't be a woman, I would be a "bitch" on that occasion. And sometimes I wish like Rambo my dream man I came equipped with a flame thrower and could just torch every half naked Billboard of a woman and every strip club that marginalizes my gender. Or there are those times I have just screamed my head off at some asshole male who pushes me around because I am a woman, and not that big. I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs because this all opens a door and gives men the thumbs up that women are meant to be used, abused, and treated as chattel.

On the flipside, I never get what I want when I go that route. With the rappers, it is all an act. I have a lot of rapper friends as a matter of fact. Plus if I yell and scream it gives Lil Wayne and his woman hating grill more publicity. While Tupac used the term bitch loosely, he also campaigned relentlessly for women. Strip clubs kept me employed as a publicity person once upon a time, and at the root of it they aren't evil people either. The world won't change because I have a bad day. The world won't change because I have issues. It will keep spinning and I have to learn to work with it which means I have to accept it. Yes, whether it is the gender marginalization I feel as a comedian and writer or in general. If I let it upset me too much I just get really angry, explode, and end up making an ass of myself.

However, I can make a change. I can be successful despite the fact comedy favors undeserving, good looking pretty boys from time to time. I can say my talent got me in the door and have staying power as their testosterone driven brand of basement humor dies. I can be grateful I came out of a bad phase of my life, and live every day to it's fullest. I can enjoy my friends and have an open, honest dialogue with my family. I can treat those around me with dignity and respect regardless of who they are. I can share my experience, strength and hope when the door opens for me to do so, making me visible to others who need to see/hear me. I can also speak on behalf of women's rights and vote according at the poles. Most importantly, I can know in my heart I deserve not only to be happy but to be treated well. Oh and I can keep my sanity without looking like a damn fool.

The other day I was on the train when two idiots who were seventeen were talking and referred to a girl they wanted to "bone" as a "thorough bread." There was a part of me that wanted to smack these two assholes to whatever shithole they came from and whatever thing bore them. Then I stopped myself. While I am tiny and it would have been funny as hell, these two morons were not worth a felony charge. Plus the tombs are not air conditioned in the summer. Plus if they spoke this way about women, one of two things was going to happen:

1. Some girl there own age would slap them. That is after they took her to McDonalds and made her pay.

2. They probably had no women and their only hope for love was living on their right hand and her name was Palmala Han Solo. She's Thai I suppose.

So yeah, I just have to keep moving and can't let the past cripple me. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the present because it is a gift.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook, also through Brown and NYU Books
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Summer
Portion of proceeds go to Ali Fornay Center

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