Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winning Against January

This past week has been tough. I hate January. It is the winter. Unlike any of the other months of the year it really doesn’t have anything special or do anything. January is the ugly sister of all the months. The plain looking one who didn’t get into the Ivy League and continues to whine. February you have Valentine’s Day. March is St. Patrick’s Day-alcoholic training day. April is usually Easter. May is Memorial Day aka the beginning of summer. June has no holidays but is warm so we let it slide, aka the pretty girl with no brain. July is Independence. August again, no holidays but she is the playboy model of the year, hot and nothing else. September is Labor Day, and although it is back to school it is also the beginning of football. October is Halloween. November Thanksgiving. Oh and December is sparkling, smart, and annoying with Christmas aka The Vassar Girl.

January has always been a rough month for me. Growing up it meant snow days. School always seemed like prison so it was a way to escape. I went sled riding with my brother Wendell and my sister Skipper. Sometimes we watched trashy day time talkshows, there were plenty when I was a kid. We watched them, that is, until our mother turned them off. Just because there was no school didn’t mean there wasn’t any learning. Of course it was always a rough month because I was bullied relentlessly in school as it was. I wasn’t outgoing. I struggled with my weight. Early on I had cystic acne. My mother picked out my clothes. Looking back, it is funny but the cold always made the word stings all the more bitter.

I remember one January in particular was tough. I was eight and in second grade. My teacher was insane. She was later fired for having psych issues after she ranted and began throwing chalk. Anyway, she insisted I was ADHD or had dyslexia. I will admit maybe I have a dash of the two. My mom’s youngest sister is severely dyslexic. However, this bitch wanted to test me over and over. To boot I was sick a bunch. I remember coming back from having strep throat. She gave me a math test and I failed it. I failed most of my math tests on the regular as it was. Anyway I got an F that semester, and my parents threatened to sue the bitch for being so crazy. Oh and she was telling other teachers about my progress. Later that year I was switched to a different second grade class where my grades shot up rapidly. Still I always get sick when I think of school and math. Even to this day, I picture myself as a fat woman who has no one with sixty cats on welfare in housing the government pays for when it gets cold. In this tragic tableau, my cats have their own blankets and I am eating Fluffer Nutter out of the jar with my hand. That was the way those people made me feel. Maybe this is why I am so gentle when I speak and deal with young people, because I know that many that do shouldn’t. But there is a part of me who pictures my imaginary cats with rabies ripping this bitch’s face off. Fuck you, it’s the way I feel.
I also hate January because when I was sixteen I was really struggling with an AP course load in high school. I still remember getting a premature progress report for a class in which I finished with an A plus. My dad remarked that my parents would be lucky if they could get me into some unnamed state school. Of course at this point, my brother was going to Brown. He had played football. I was a reject that wore dark clothes, dark makeup, and wrote poetry. Things changed the following year when I got a role in the musical though. Sure, my parents were concerned. They should have been. My future, however, felt as bleak as the winter landscape. It just reinforced the whole sixty cats, overweight with no future imagine burned in my mind. Needless to say I finished the year in the National Honor Society and later went to NYU. I did alright for myself.

Then of course at nineteen I had earned admission to NYU by some act of God, but the act of God didn’t last cause I was rapidly flunking out. I hated my spoiled classmates who were from prep schools and seemingly had been in therapy since they were children. My weight went up and down like the price of gold. In writing class it was a disaster, despite having talent in that area I was flunking. Sure I was one of the best actors in my high school, if not the best. Now I was being told every acting class how I just didn’t have it. Except for two, most of my acting teachers hated me. Some of it was because I was a young woman. One in particular was rather frightening. She had been the star pupil slated for success. They told her she was going to be one of the greats. Instead, when she left college the rest of the world didn’t get the message, and she found herself working odd jobs like everyone else. I used to go at it with this woman, and for as hard as I worked I never did anything right. Well I got the option to switch out and did. Through the experience, I had upperclassmen guide me. I learned not to be so hard on my peers, too. People weren’t always going to be like me, and our differences would unite us. As for the rest of my college experience, gold. Then I realized no one likes freshmen year.

And then January was when the relationship with the abusive former fiancé was at it’s worst. Partially because of his drunken antics, he destroyed not one but two living situations for me. I still remember I tried dumping him as we were walking down the street. Screaming that he loved me, he attempted to throw himself into traffic. I was sick after this. Rather than run I decided to stay because when he told me things were different, I believed him. Around this time, my friends began to confront me. I was losing a lot of weight very quickly, partially because of the stress of being with a partner who was emotionally and physically abusive. I also was hanging out less, because I didn’t want people to know how bad it had gotten. My friends who were wonderful thought I didn’t love them anymore. In reality, I was pledging allegiance to the bully I called my significant other. I didn’t want them to see the black and blue marks on my arm where he had grabbed me. I didn’t want them to see how he was trying to control my comedy career, and forced me to give up the thing I love most, my puppets. I got out of that relationship by the skin of my teeth. I now have a separate mailing address. But it helped me turn my life around, and I have been using the visibility from national television to speak out against dating violence. Truth, dating is still hard. Trust is next to impossible. The experience was as lonely as the streets on New York on a sub-zero, January night.

Of course then there was the January where the market popped. The telegrams had all but dried. I went from being slated for a TV pilot to handing out fliers on the sidewalk. I told myself it would get better as I got minor frost bite several times over. The girls I worked with were drunken party animals that I despised. Most of the time they didn’t focus and just talked about other’s behind their backs. It didn’t get better. That whole year was just a mess. I had one friend die as a result of a drug overdose, and an acquaintance’s murder make front page news. For the first time I questioned my path and my life. Since that New Year’s Day when I was on the toilet with food poisoning, I have been incredibly superstitious when it comes to a new year. I don’t look forward to it like I did during childhood. I have a set of OCD like rituals. Granted, over time I did change my luck by changing by attitude. Still, I will never forget freezing in the cold outside of a building I had filmed in a few months earlier. Humble pie at it’s worst.These days, because of that shitty experience, I am gun shy when there are signs of success. I know how quickly they can disappear. And that is why I am an egomaniac sometimes. I know how hard they are to hold on to.

This January was just as jarring. Yesterday found my nerves shot after a scathing hate note I received in regards to my videos. When I clicked to block the man I saw KKK icons and such on his page. It was all this junk about white power. The memes that weren’t white power were women being brutally raped and disfigured. Even though I got good news I had nightmares all evening. The reason this hit me so hard is that there was racial violence in my area growing up. After a group of police killed a black man at a traffic stop, tensions were high. A week later a black man wandered the street with a rifle wanting to shoot any white person he saw. The black community apologized and assured us all that he was a sick man, and they were using peaceful protest. Then shortly after the officers were acquitted, a black family moved to that town and they were “burnt out,” iron cross and all. I remember my father being upset, using the daddy lesson moment to tell us that this was not acceptable in any way. Truth is, this made us all look bad. Point is, while it was not Mississippi Burning racial violence is scary. There is a certain element of evil that occurs when the white robes are dawned and the cross is lit. Being bullied as a child and then having an abusive partner as an adult, I don’t like bullying for any reason, hate crimes included.

And then I found out my insurance runs out in September. Oh and I had a huge fight with my mother. Finally, I told her about the KKK hate letter and how this man made my stomach turn. My mom thought it was horrible as did everyone else I told. However my mom informed me he was gum on the bottom of my shoe and to just wipe him off. Someone else informed me that people like that need to wear masks because they are cowards, like any other bully. A writer friend told me to spend less time on the internet. Of course the best part was this young man was Mexican which made it all the more ironic. A black friend of mine, a fellow comedian who lives in the South, put it best. This speaks volumes because he lived close to it. He said, “He sounds like a confused fool.”

Today my mother and I spoke about me exploring more career opportunities with my writing. Some for artistic fulfillment, but also for financial security as I wait for some “yes” or “no’s”. As the temperature dropped and it seemed that everyone’s dreams were coming true, I pictured myself at eight. I was scared I would end up an unloved failure on government assistance with cats. Then at sixteen, the starry eyed outcast. And again at nineteen, crying in the back of a college dorm room. And again at twenty one, needing to leave a toxic partner but frightened for my safety if I did. I owed something to the April’s of January’s past. I owed it to them to wear my big girl pants and not let life get me down.

I began asking questions about insurance and saw there were several options. People reached out to help. I also decided to get out of my house and stop worrying about the career yes’s and no’s. I fought back against the KKK dude the only way I knew how. I got behind the mic and made it into a bit. While it needs some work, it did rather well. Yesterday that twisted clown made me cry, and today he is the butt of my joke. Even though I paid for stage time, I was able to laugh therefore I was able to win. At that moment I realized my second grade teacher probably read in my town paper that I wrote a book and had a successful signing. The acting teachers that hated me are still griping about the careers they don’t have, and I am on television sometimes. The former fiancé lashes out when I am successful, and was a great comedy bit for sometime. I don’t know what is going to pop whether it is my writing, acting, comedy, puppets, singing or whatever else.

However, I know that I can’t let people steal my sunlight. God didn’t take me this far to drop me in the Valley. Sometimes not knowing is the most wonderous thing ever, because what happens next is truly beautiful. Like any cold day, this too shall pass. Take that January.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl 

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