(Warning. This is not a funny post. It’s an introspective post. If you want something lighter there are many below…)
I participate in a number of shows where I tell stories about myself that are extremely personal, embarrassing and vulnerable. One of these shows is called “MORTIFIED”
(critically acclaimed amazing show) where you literally hand your teenaged diaries over to the producers and they piece together what you are going to read in the show in front of hundreds of people. I remember thinking, “Wait, no, I was going to tell THIS story, this SAFE story, I don’t want them reading my whole diary!!” But I handed it over feeling slightly nauseous.
Before the show I was shaking and hyperventillating. I went on stage and read from my teenaged diary which had the most private things a teenaged girl could ever write with “You open, you die” scrawled in black sharpie on the cover.
But once the fear subsided I felt nothing but acceptance and love. The audience laughed WITH me not AT me, because they had been there too. It was the most liberating experience to be completely cracked open. Expose all my secrets. And be accepted.
I continue to perform in various storytelling shows like this. Tonight I confessed I suffer from “anxiety disorder”- as it was relevant to my story- and it was embarrassing. My cheeks got hot and flushed. I had to tell myself “Don’t be ashamed. Nobody is perfect.”
I am all about full disclosure. It’s so much more fun. And ANY actor, painter, artist, musician who does anything less than fully disclose their genuine self in their work — well you can feel that it’s just not quite there.
It seems full disclosure is even trendy these days. The Kardashians divorce, Oprah talking to the world about her food addiction, Bethenney Frankel films her therapist sessions
and fights with her husband and a lot of us love to watch! To me, it’s endearing. (Well, maybe not the Kardashians. They are just annoying.)
But recently I was reminded that not everyone feels this way. Some people are intensely private. And in my telling stories that may involve them, I am invading their privacy. I feel sorry about this.
When I wrote on facebook that I was doing a potentially humiliating storytelling show with true life stories I got a couple emails and a phone call asking, “I’M NOT IN IT AM I?”
“No! I said… It’s all about ME!”
Interestingly two of the people said, “Well, but… wait, then WHY AREN’T I IN IT? I mean, I want you to tell SOME stories about me!!”
One of my writing teachers once said “Your friends and family don’t want to be written about. Until you DON’T write about them. Then they wonder why they were left out.”
I’m not out to hurt anyone. But unfortunately it looks like I did when a friend saw a dvd of my Dead Moms Don’t Hug show. Let me say, I did not use her name and nobody, not a one person in the audience of that show, will ever ever know who she is! (People are far too busy thinking about themselves anyway to worry about anyone else. As an actor I spend way too much time worrying WHAT DO PEOPLE THINK OF ME? And finally realized, Ummm, nobody cares. They are too busy thinking about THEMSELVES!)
And the story I told… well, it’s not so bad!! I mean in the scheme of bad things you can say, this was really tame.
My show centers on poignant and painful moments (that somehow turn out to be funny… go figure) I encountered while growing up without a mother. There are certain rites of passage women go through with guidance from their moms. I didn’t have a mom. So my show focused on the most permeating powerful “You don’t have a mom” moments in that show. One of those moments was after I lost my virginity when two close friends were very disappointed in me and after ignoring me for a day finally said they were extremely dissapointed in me and that THEIR mothers taught them the value of “saving themselves for a man who loved them,” which I had not done. I was being told I had no morals. I don’t have a mom. I wasn’t raised right. You never forget when someone says to you “OUR MOMS TAUGHT US … ” if you DON’T have a mom. It’s the kind of thing that sticks with you.
And how could I not include that moment in a show called, “Dead Moms Don’t Hug.”?
But just because I needed this story doesn’t mean that this small incident defines my friend. Far from it!
She was just a teenaged girl. I don’t hold this against her. I had hoped she could look back and say, “Oh, wow, I’m sorry I said that. I was a kid!” Because she was! I myself have said and done a million unsavory things during my life so far. Millions. I’m human! I’m not perfect. They are part of me, but they don’t define me. But I think it’s harder for others to take the same look at themselves. I don’t know.
I had actually warned my friend when I gave her the DVD saying that “There is a moment we should talk about… remember when…” but she cut me off saying, “It doesn’t matter, it was highschool!!” So the lines of communication were down. And of course that moment didn’t define our friendship. It was just something I had to put in my show! It would have made no sense if in the middle of the show I stopped and said, “And we also had a lot of fun and I also had fun with so and so…”
And… what I told was TRUE. And I Was the one hurt by it! But even recounting a situation that I was hurt by… hurt the person who DID It- in me recounting it. Nobody wants to be reminded that they did something not nice. Even twenty years later.
Of course there were amazingly wonderful good times with this person. She’s a full, real, amazing, beautiful, smart person with a million qualities. Nobody is black and white. But this wasn’t the show to talk about that in. The show was called Dead Moms Don’t Hug. For God’s sake the only thing I say about my darling super-husband is that I once waxed his balls! Talk about full- negative disclosure! And I ADORE My husband! (but I’m not going to do a show called, “I Adore My Perfect Husband” Because… that’s just not me. And it would be annoying as hell.
Then something equally impactful happened. I wrote a blog about another friend, glowingly glowingly complimentary stuff. It was relevant to my story. But as soon as I published it I began to feel really strange. What if this friend thinks I’m weird for writing about her so intensely? Even if it’s good. And what if she thinks I’m obsessed with her or too into her or have like, a friend girl crush on her. Like, “Why is she WRITING about me?”
It felt equally invasive and uncomfortable. What if she doesn’t want to be written about at all? What if she is embarrassed being complimented. (It happens. Rarely in LA but it happens.)
Anyway, not enough people even read this blog for it to matter what I am writing. But I’m trying to figure it all out.
And then a friend sent me this passage which seemed worth sharing with my other writer friends:
One of the most certain ways to kill great writing is self-censorship. Issues and ideas worth writing about are those that are surrounded by controversy and conflict.
Yet, we are taught from before we can walk to avoid conflict at nearly any cost.
This may all be good advice when you are sitting down for dinner with your in-laws for the first time, but it is horrible advice for a writer. At the core of all great writing is truth, but not just truth. The truth that needs to be said, the truth that creates great writing is truth that creates conflict. This can be the truth of human failing, or hatred, or ignorance or any of a hundred other things.
It is the voice that tells us you can’t write about that subject its taboo and the one that bars and locks your pains away from your writing by telling you that you’re a freak and nobody else has ever went through that.
How then do we find this nagging, irritating voice and murder it. How do we find the courage in ourselves to make people mad, to write things that may even make people hate us? How do we learn to write about things that make a difference?
Well I’m trying to figure the answer to that out for myself right now…
And out of respect I’ve deleted any negative stories about others on my blog. From now on I’ll just be negative about me. :)