Advice for Actors: Adding Hawaiian Wisdom into Audition Season

Alright.

So the SuperBowl is over. Christmas has passed. Chinese New Year has come and gone.

Now all we have to look forward to is the 50% off candy on February 15th and…

Audition season.

Audition. Seeing that word stirs up all sorts of emotions inside my bones.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “season” lately. Living in Hawaii is extraordinary. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful. But I admit, missing the summerstock audition season keeps me up some nights. Five seasons in NYC have, well, seasoned me. But like all of us do after a tumultous relationship ends, I look back at my previous audition seasons with a fondness. I find myself only remembering the good things and conveniently forgetting the pain and the heartache.

This season, I can’t be there with my friends at Ripley-Grier digging for a photo I.D. on the one day a new guard starts working the ground floor and actually requires it. I won’t be there to tie my friends’ jewel tone halter dresses, or to take turns bringing Starbucks to an EPA at Nola, or to lend out my baby blue stapler at an open Gateway call.

But just because I can’t be there to take part, doesn’t mean I can’t be there in spirit.

So this month, I dedicate each post to you – my auditioning friends who are bustin’ their tail every day in the cold, tryna getta job for the summa.

Now if you aren’t an actress, or a dancer, or a singer, and you are lost as to what “audition season” pertains to, I welcome you to continue reading. Because you can probably relate to us more than you realize.

You know how you head to a job interview excitedly, making yourself presentable, and wearing a nice outfit, and updating your resume, and hoping – praying really – that they like you, and then leave wondering if you’re qualified or not, knowing that you did all you can and the decision is now all theirs and it’s completely out of your hands, and maybe having a lot of anxiety about it, not being able to completely let it go?

Actors do that process every single day, sometimes more than once.

Auditions are like interviews – only we have to sing, dance, and act on top of having a fabulous resume. And also play nice with others. And also look amazing. All the time.

So actors – this month is for you. This blog was born for you really. For us. For all of us who struggle with the ups and downs of this labor of love we have pursued for so many years.

And non-actors, this is for you too. In reading the next few posts, I hope you find yourself gaining new appreciation for performers at your local regional theatre, or for your granddaughter who has big dreams of moving to NYC after attending college for musical theatre, and even, for yourself. Whether your significant other is pursuing their dream this spring, or your brother or sister is traveling up and down the east coast to fill up their 2014 with gigs for their health insurance, these posts are for you as much as they are for the artists.. Empathy is a powerful thing. I hope this helps everyone find empathy and understanding for the lives of performers and artists.

Here goes.

1. The respect for “auntie”.

There is so much respect for elders in Hawaii. When we come across a woman older than us, we call her “auntie” as a sign of respect. The same applies to men – we call them “uncle”. It’s still not ingrained in me, and I forget sometimes, but I didn’t grow up here. It’s a different story for children who are born here. As soon as they learn to speak, little kids call everyone older than them, including me, “auntie”. It’s part of their culture. It’s how they’ve been raised.

When the four and five year olds that I teach forget my name, they call me “auntie”. Those children walk into my classroom without questioning how nice, or mean, or boring I might be. They give me the benefit of the doubt. I am immediately respected, and I am immediately “auntie”.

What if we walked into each audition room in the same manner?

Often times, I find myself walking into the audition room assuming I won’t get kept even if I do well. I assume the person sitting behind the table is “over it”. This is partly a protective measure for my ego, but it’s also the result of many audition experiences that have, what’s the word, oh, right, “jaded” me. Rarely do I find myself heading into that room full of respect for the people casting the show I’m auditioning for. But truth be told, we’ve all auditioned for some visionaries. We walk into that room expecting a casting intern, and much to our surprise, Kathleen Marshall is standing there waiting for us to line up. Shit. Hello, Kathleen Marshall. I wasn’t expecting you at all. I left my A-game in the changing room. I’ll…be right back. #jaded #shit #whydidn’tIwearmyflourescentleotard

This season, I just thought it might behoove all of us to walk into that room full of respect for the pianist, the director, the choreographer, the music director, the casting director, and even the intern who is taking lunch orders. I know that the people behind the table can sense the energy that comes through that door. Although they might not be able to put a name to the powerful aura we let off, they will feel it if we walk into that room full of respect for them – those “aunties” and “uncles” behind the table. Leaving our cynical attitude in the holding room and giving each person in that room the benefit of the doubt might change our entire thirty seconds in that room. And then, we can walk out of there feeling like we #nailedit.

2. Only use your fins when you need to.

If you ever have the opportunity to sit on hardened lava and observe sea turtles in the wild, I highly recommend you put your iPhone away and do so. You’ll find that sea turtles often float in the roughest of seas, near cliffs and rocks that would prove fatal for any human who finds himself so close to a dangerous shoreline. As a turtle comes up for air, you can spot his fins flapping above the surface, enabling you to follow him through your sunglasses as he floats in the treacherous water.

The turtles have been around for centuries, and when you watch them float, you can almost see why. They allow themselves to be carried into shore by each wave, but they never, ever crash into anything. As the waves ebb and flow, the turtles only use their fins when they have to to keep themselves away from danger. They float in, and swim away from the rocks just in time to get back into the flow of the sea. Over and over, they float with the waves looking helpless, and just when you gasp in fear that they’ll be crushed by the powerful water, they use their ancient fins to steer themselves clear of peril. It’s truly amazing to watch, and we can all learn a lesson from these protected creatures. By only using our fins when we have to, we can go with the flow a little more.

Hawaiian Sea Turtle

This audition season, things might not always work out the way we want them to. We might not get the time slot we want, and we might not get called back for the character we really wanted to read for, and we might miss one ECC because we’re caught dancing a second time at another. But hey, e ho mai baby. Let it come, let it flow. Flow with the waves this season, so that when you really have to use your fins – aka cut a bitch who jipped you in line at the one EPA you got up at 6am for – you’re calm, collected, and ready with a piping hot cup of Starbucks to chug after the confrontation. Don’t exhaust yourself on anything that doesn’t really matter in the long run. Only use your fins if you have to.

3. Don’t forget to look up.

Before I left for Hawaii in August, I made a final trip home to say goodbye to my family in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful day in July when I drove down the lane to my Poppop’s farm and hugged him, assuming I’d see him again in November after my time at the yoga retreat was done. We both looked up at the sky and he said, “Man, that’s a blue sky. You know, sometimes I call Rick just to say, ‘Rick, did you look up today?” Rick is my uncle, my Poppop’s oldest son, and he shoes horses, so he’s often looking down when he’s working. Grandfathers are always full of simple wisdom, aren’t they? I’m so lucky to have mine in my life, even if it’s only over the phone ever two weeks.

Here in Hawaii, we’re blessed with beautiful skies most every day. But we’re also blessed with the humpback whales who make their home here for the winter. They come here from up north to have their babies and mate before beginning their trek home in April. Johnny and I are kind of obsessed with them, and often find ourselves in danger of rear-ending the car in front of us because we’re watching the ocean for whales breaching instead of the road ahead of us.

There have been times where we’ve been chillin’ on the beach, and a whale will breach two, three, four times in a row and we fist pump and cheer. We look down the beach and everyone has their nose in their phone. They only look up because they hear us cheering and they have no idea why. They miss the humpback breaching, and then they board their plane back to the mainland complaining that they didn’t see a single whale on their trip.

WhaleBreach

This season, don’t forget to look up. If you take your nose out of your phone in that holding room, who knows what might happen. You’ll make a new friend who will sign you up tomorrow morning at Chelsea while you’re at Nola. You’ll catch the eye of the casting director who is familiar with you who ushers you into the room just before lunch so you don’t have to wait all day. You’ll spot a girl across the room wearing your same dress, giving you ample time to change into the second dress you bring to each audition for emergencies like a good little actress always does.

Observe your surroundings. Pay attention to who gets kept and who doesn’t. Make nice with the monitor. While everyone else is playing Candycrush, you could find opportunity for networking and inspiration without even trying. Don’t miss the whale breach. Don’t forget to look up.

4. Finally, show off when everyone else is resting.

We have spinner dolphins here who live up to their name whenever we have the privilege of swimming with them in their natural habitat. These wild dolphins feed at night, and rest during the day in quiet bays where snorkelers and paddleboarders don’t seem to bother them. The dolphins shut off half their brain when they rest, and travel in small groups for protection.

However some of them, don’t seem like the resting type. They’re actually little stars waiting to be discovered by their snorkeling audience. The dolphins jump, and play, and shoot so high out of the water that they spin multiple times before splashing back into the clear blue sea. They’ll often do this jump-spin several times in a row, and you’ll hear lots of people chuckling that the beauties are “showing off”. Because they rest the majority of the day, everyone squeals with delight when the dolphins “show off” because it’s a real treat.

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This season, pull out your element of surprise, and show off when everyone around you is resting.

It’s a Thursday. You worked late last night. You’re in the third group of men to be seen at an afternoon dancer ECC and you’ve already been to a singer call this morning and you’ve only had time to pick up a banana and a coffee today. You look around you, and every other guy in the room bares the same, bored, exhausted look on their face as yours. No one even feels like going in that room to learn any sort of dance that might require physical exertion. It is now, that the spinner dolphins can inspire you. It is now, that you can think of the sea turtles, and use your fins.

This is a time to pull your energies together and show off when your exhausted group gets called to dance in front of the casting team. Make those poses pop. Use your face. Walk into that room respecting those “aunties” and “uncles” and find the passion in your heart to make them look up with your energetic dancing. The same applies to a singer appointment late in the day, or pulling a second monologue out of your ass even though your boyfriend kept you up all last night crying about his fear, of your fear, of commitment.

Show off in the room (and I mean seriously, in the room only, none of this holding room show off crap) when everyone else is resting. When everyone else is “over it”. When everyone else walks into that room hating the casting team with a passion without an ounce of respect for their artistry.

This is YOUR time to shine.

This is your season to shine.

I can’t be there to shine with you, but honey, I am cheering for you like you wouldn’t even believe. That cheer that Johnny and I do when a whale breaches – when we fist pump like idiots and yell “YEAH” like big burly men who just watched the Seahawks kick the Bronco’s sorry asses – that obnoxious cheer is for the whales, and the turtles, and the spinner dolphins, and for you.

Go get ’em, Broadway baby. This year is yours.

And I don’t know what it’s worth, but I’m sending you all the aloha. All the love. And all the support. Because you’re my ohana. And ohana means family.

Shit, I’m crying. I gotta go. But next week, more audition season February Hawaiian love for you. Also, I made a shitty poster of these tidbits of Hawaiian audition advice so you can hang it on your bathroom mirror if you so choose: Hawaiian-Audition-Wisdom. That’s all.

*If you haven’t yet considered contributing a positive body word picture for my next video project for the Roar movement, please read the guidelines here (short version) or here (more specific, long version.) I would LOVE love LOVE to have your participation!

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An Epic Interview That Will Change Your View on Fitness Instructors

About a year ago, maybe more, my friend Caitlin Krause invited me to take a barre fitness class she was teaching at Pure Yoga on the Upper West Side. As a dancer, I walked into class feeling confident and overqualified. I mean, c’mon, a barre class? Easy peezy, here we go.

As a human, I walked into class feeling self-concious about my lack of Lululemon, and a little concerned at the lack of skinny mirrors.

Fifteen minutes into the class, I realized that I was basically wrong about all the things.

Lululemon doesn’t matter when you’re testing your own leg strength with just your body weight. Skinny mirrors don’t matter when you’re on the floor doing the most effective core workout you’ve ever experienced.

Caitlin kicked my ego’s ass just enough to make me feel accomplished, yet wanting to come back for more. My saddlebags shrank, my abs tightened, and my anxiety subsided. I had been terrified to enter her class – assuming I would be clueless and uneducated about the workout.

Guess what? I was right. I was clueless and uneducated about the workout. Because I’d never done it before.

That’s the whole point of trying new fitness classes. Of course we are clueless when we step into that room! That’s why those instructors have jobs. And 9 times out of 10, that’s what makes an instructor happiest. They WANT to help. They WANT to clue us in. They are HAPPY to teach to the clueless and the uneducated. Their livelihood is to help people learn to love their bodies and to teach us how to keep our bodies healthy and strong. Instead of being so intimidated by fitness instructors, I’ve learned to love them and be grateful for the gifts they have to offer.

Two months of Caitlin’s class – about two or three classes a week in early 2013- and my body was in the best shape it’s ever been. I felt sexy and strong, despite my secretive binging habits.

Most importantly, the class was the first group fitness experience I had ever had that left me feeling great. Optimistic. Not a complete failure.

So I encouraged friends to reach out to Caitlin and try her class as well. Not a one of them took her up on the offer.

Most of us have a weird thing about group fitness. Either the instructors are stronger than we are, or our peers are skinnier than we are, or we just feel like we don’t quite belong.

But there are exceptions to every rule, and I think I found mine when I jumped into Caitlin’s class with naivety and no expectations.

So I wanted to give you Caitlin’s insight to group fitness, in hopes that you could find your exception as well.

Maybe you’re already set with your spin classes and Zumba sets, maybe you’ve been to one step class and walked out, maybe you are too scared to try Crossfit. Whatever category you fit into, I think you’ll appreciate this honest and candid interview below.

Meet Caitlin Krause:

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Caitlin and I first met working at Equinox Fitness in NYC in 2009 – as spa desk girls.  She is a dancer with over 25 years of training who found her passion in fitness instruction. She loves to lay out in the sun as much as I do, she has a perfect cat named Winnie, and she is literally the best at walking in high heels, like, the best though. She’s a normal, yet fabulous, twentysomething who changes people’s lives multiple times a day. She says, “People attend fitness classes for a number of different reasons, but regardless of what they are, my main goal is to teach and inspire people to push past what they think they are capable of in a supportive, nurturing, positive, and safe environment.”  Caitlin revolutionized the way I look at group fitness, and I think she does the same for a lot of her clients. I’m proud to call her an inspiration, and a friend. Below, are some insights that I think you’ll appreciate as much as I did.

Me: Fitness instructors are often looked at with this golden light around them. We tend to assume that y’all are perfect, y’all eat perfect things, y’all get perfect sleep, have perfect sex, make perfect money, all that good stuff. Do you care to speak on that assumption?

Caitlin: All I can say is NO ONE IS PERFECT!!! It would benefit all of us to move on from this idea of perfection. There isn’t a person alive that doesn’t have any problems, worries, struggles, challenges, vices, or insecurities. Fitness instructors are not an exception. Seriously.

Me: Some of us fear group fitness classes because we assume the instructor will judge us if we aren’t “good enough” in class. Can you share your thoughts on this?

Caitlin: On the topic of judgement, I’ll say that being a fitness instructor in the most basic form is like performing in a one woman (or man) show. I am up in front of an audience pouring my heart and soul out for people to accept me, or reject me, however and whenever they would like. Regardless of a person’s background before becoming an instructor, all of us who teach are subject to harsh judgment and criticism right there in every class, every day. No one is alone in feeling the wrath of judgement!

Now onto this idea of being “good” in your fitness class. If everyone was “good” or “great” at the class, what would be the point of my job? I am there to teach people how to use their body, their muscles, and their brains in a different way. My job is much more rewarding when I can see the light bulb go off in a person’s head. When people who attend my class begin to understand what they are doing and what I am asking, it’s absolutely awesome when, together, we see a change in how they feel physically and emotionally.  

Most importantly, we need to get rid of this idea of being “good enough”. Good enough for who? This isn’t school or work. I am not rewarding you with an A+ or a raise in salary. The reward is coming from within yourself – the results that you see from pushing yourself past your comfort zone. And isn’t that what this whole “being good” thing really is? Why do we only feel comfortable doing things we are already “good” at? Being good doesn’t push us, and it doesn’t change us. Progress is only made through challenges and changes. That old saying is true: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

If you’re seeking out a new fitness class, it’s probably because you want a new result. None of us get new results from something we are already comfortable doing. We all have to stop expecting ourselves to be “good” or “perfect” at something new. Eliminate this and half the battle has already been won. 

Me: Fitness instructors are often able to do all the reps, all the push-ups, all the sit-ups, etc. Was it always like that or did you need to work your way up to it?
Caitlin: For the majority of my life, I have been an athlete, so I’ve always been fairly strong. Pushing myself to improve and get stronger was something I loved to do before I was an instructor. However, teaching 20+ classes a week definitely changes your body. What I ask people to do one time a day, I am often demonstrating at least 4 times a day. Remember that I get four times the practice.  

Me: Did you like group fitness classes before you became an instructor? 

Caitlin: Growing up as a dancer, I have always been in a group class setting. I don’t think I was ever aware of whether or not I liked it. It was all I knew.

Once I moved to New York for college, I started attending fitness classes as a way to stay in shape outside of dance. Honestly, it circles back to this idea of being “comfortable.” Starting at the weight section of the gym can be totally overwhelming. I had no idea what I was doing, and rather than be concerned I would hurt myself, I was concerned that other people at the gym would judge me – that I would look like an idiot. So, I decided to attend the group classes because I figured it was safer to have someone just tell me what to do, alongside other people attempting the same idea. Turns out I LOVED THEM!!! I love the energy a class setting has. I love that I started to build relationships with the people I would see multiple times in class. It became a supportive environment where we could challenge each other in a non-threatening way. Plus, I live for LOUD music!

Me: Was there anything about the classes you attended that you wished were different?

Caitlin: For the most part, I always took classes that were amazing and had instructors that inspired me. I’ve been lucky to study under some of the most dedicated teachers. Those teachers are the people who inspired me to want to do what I do.

I was always taking as many classes as possible to figure out what I liked, and what my body responded to. From time to time I would leave a class thinking that it was a good class and a good work out, but I didn’t LOVE it.

It took me a long time to understand the difference between a teacher and an instructor. I found I loved the classes where I felt I was being taught something – not just instructed to follow along.  

Me: When you started teaching your own classes, were you able to incorporate what you had wished was different in classes you once took?

Caitlin: I struggle with this question everyday! It is so important that I continue to learn and grow as an instructor. I want to be better for my clients with every single class.

I tell myself every day to just be authentic. This was the hardest concept for me to understand when I first became an instructor, and it is one that is present in every aspect of my life. What makes me, ME, is amazing and pretty damn special. While I knew this, I still couldn’t fully accept it. Self-acceptance is SO difficult. I’ve learned that I can only be me, and that includes all the wonderful and not so wonderful things that make up who I am. And not everyone will love that, and that’s okay, too. As long as I always work hard, and stay true to who I am as a person and as a teacher, I’m doing okay. People will see that and respond positively. If they don’t, I’ve learned that it has nothing to do with me.

Me: What is your best advice for a woman who has never exercised and is too shy to come to a fitness class?

Caitlin: Honestly, I feel like this answer is exactly the same as the one that follows this. When people begin to think of doing anything outside of their comfort zone, they might feel scared or intimidated. This means that there isn’t much difference between someone who has worked out consistently and someone who never has, if they are both shy and intimidated by a new class. We all need to just accept that sometimes we won’t be the best, or the smartest, or the most fit, and that it is okay! Once we accept this, doing something new isn’t quite as scary. We might even find that we are more successful at the new endeavor, because we have more energy to observe all the new information being presented to us. 

Me: If a woman who is out of shape shows up for class and tells you she’s intimidated by the exercise, what is your response?

Caitlin: I get this all the time! Patience really is a virtue. We all want to do it perfectly on the first try and see the results NOW! However, the number one thing I tell my clients is to be patient. No one will walk into a class they have never taken before and be perfect (no such thing).

Often times, the hardest part is getting yourself to the workout. Once you are in the room, half the battle is over, and you deserve to give yourself a pat on the back for that.

I’m sorry, I just want to make sure we all read that one again.

The hardest part is getting yourself to the workout. Once you are in the room, half the battle is over, and you deserve to give yourself a pat on the back for that.

If we can both agree that you won’t totally know what’s going on every second, and you probably won’t do everything correctly, and that it is okay to possibly feel a little silly, then everything will be just fine. Breathe. Be patient with your mind and body. Learning new things can be scary, but again, I stress that it’s the challenges that change us. Don’t ever let something intimidate you just because it’s challenging. And DON’T GIVE UP!! 

Me: How can women help themselves when it comes to finding the best fitness classes for them?

Caitlin: Do your research and try different things! Search the internet for what is around you. If the company’s website doesn’t give you enough information, call the gym/studio and ask questions. Try as many different things as you can.

I love exploring new workouts. It keeps things interesting, and it also helps me realize what I hate and what I love. Once you’re at the class, do not hesitate to talk to the instructor!!! Tell them it is your first time, and about any injuries or issues – even if it’s just feeling nervous to be trying something new. I’m serious. I love to talk to new people and learn how they are feeling – it only helps me help you more! The more information I have, the better chance you will have a positive experience. 

Me: Can you speak on men? How is it when they come to your class, and should women feel intimidated when men take the same class as them?

Caitlin: I actually don’t treat men any differently than woman. I just see every single person as an athlete – there in my class to work. However, I definitely think there is a misconception that just because you are a man, you are comfortable in the gym. Or that men are wired to know how to use the free weight section in a gym. Men can be just as clueless, insecure, and shy as women, and they might even feel added pressure to perform better because “they are men” and they are “supposed to be stronger”. Again, try new things and find out what works for you, and let the assumptions roll off you shoulders – no matter what gender, age, or kind of athlete you are.

Me: Anything else you want people to know about fitness instructors?

Caitlin: Sure! I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that my favorite part about my job is watching people change. Whether it’s mentally, physically, or emotionally, watching the changes is the BEST part of my job!

I love my job, and I’m here to help you. I’m here to answer your questions. I’m here to challenge you. I’m here to teach you something new. I’m here to play the music and facilitate a fun class. Most instructors are here to do the same. Trust us – we love what we do and we want to share it with you – not judge you or intimidate you. Do your best and remember that the class is for YOU, not for me, not for your peers. It’s for YOUR body and YOUR spirit. You deserve to treat yourself!

Live in NYC and want to try out some of Caitlin’s amazing classes? She teaches Figure4* at Pure Yoga New York as well as Megaformer** at SLT Strengthen-Lengthen-Tone. If you don’t live in NYC, take Caitlin’s advice and search for classes that sound interesting to you in your area. Try googling “barre fitness”, “pilates reformer class”, “TRX”, “Urban Rebounding”, or simply “group fitness” followed by your zip code or town. You might just find the niche you’ve been looking for, and a whole new group of friends.
*Figure4: Pure Yoga’s exclusive barre class incorporating weight bearing exercise, dance technique, and strength training. This combines into a high energy and fast paced workout that produces a long, lean, and toned body. Through interval cardio and choreography, the metabolic rate stays high and the student remains energized and engaged while creating a sculpted physique.
**Megaformer: The innovative Megaformer/Lagree Fitness workout is specifically designed to strengthen, lengthen, and tone the body quickly and safely. This workout is largely based on the holistic principles of Pilates, but also emphasizes the strength training and cardio elements not inherent to Pilates to achieve muscle definition faster than traditional Pilates and or weight training alone all in as little as 50 minutes.)
And my loves – if you haven’t submitted your masking tape positive word picture to roarmovement@gmail.com, you only have a week and a half left to contribute a photo! Be sure to read all the guidelines here: And You’re Gonna Hear “Us” Roar. (if you’re short on time, skim the beginning and find the project guidelines mid-post).
Much mahalo to Caitlin Krause for offering her time and wisdom to this week’s post. Much mahalo to all of you for contributing to the next Roar video. Next week’s posting will be a good one – it’ll really make you think! Aloha and have a great week!

This Is Live Theatre, Baby

Last night, for the first time since moving to Hawaii, my friend Ethan visited me in my dreams.

Ethan was from the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and he passed away in his East Harlem apartment very suddenly when he was 23 years old.

Ethan and I went to the same musical theatre conservatory in NYC, but didn’t really get to know each other until my theatre company produced a production of Lucky Stiff in 2008. The musical is a hilarious story about a man whose dead uncle has left him six million dollars and he can only have the money if he takes his dead uncle’s corpse on a vacation to Monte Carlo. If he doesn’t, all of the money goes to a charity instead. Basically, just know that there is a man who is trying to acquire a fortune by pushing his dead uncle around in a wheelchair pretending that he is a alive and chaos ensues.

In our production of Lucky Stiff, all of the roles in the show were cast by August of 2008 except for one.

The dead uncle in the wheelchair.

That’s when Ethan contacted us and said he’d like to do it. Not to be morbid, but he was the best dead character I’ve ever seen in a show, ever.

He didn’t just sit in the wheelchair and play dead. He bounced up and down when the characters were on a train and he fell over when the train hit the breaks, like a dead body would if it was merely sitting in a wheelchair. He had his head and limbs move loosely when he was wheeled around and he literally stole the show. He had people doubled over in laughter – especially when he came to his nephew in a dream and tap danced as a ghost.

When I first found Kalani, the yoga retreat I volunteered at this past fall, and found out it was in Hawaii, I knew that it was right. I had always felt a pull to come here, especially once Ethan passed away. I wanted to see where he had come from, and to see where all of his closest friends had traveled to in order to celebrate his life in the summer of 2009.

The entire time I’ve been here, I’ve thought of Ethan often, when I’m alone looking at the ocean, or when I have one of those spiritual moments at the end of a yoga class.

But last night was the first time he visited me in my dreams since I arrived here on August 1st.

In the dream, we were doing Lucky Stiff and for some reason, Ethan was wearing a mask. Under the mask he had a ton of eyeliner under his eyes – in black and white – and he had ridiculous red lips.

He went missing halfway through the show. The actors were cueing Ethan and the actor who played his nephew onstage, but Ethan was no where to be found. In the dream, since I was offstage watching the show, I went to look for Ethan.

I found him in the backstage area trying to put his mask back on, but for some reason, the eye holes of the mask were glued shut. So every time Ethan put the mask on, he couldn’t see anything.

We both tugged and pulled at the eye holes to get them to open up and they wouldn’t budge.

So, I took the mask off and looked at Ethan. His face was full of fear.

“What if they see my face? They shouldn’t see my face if I’m supposed to be dead. What if my eyes flutter by accident?”

I looked at him and said “Honey, it’s just a show. All we can do is our best with the circumstances we are given. This is live theatre. The unknown of it all is the best part.”

We wiped all the makeup off his face (why the hell was he wearing makeup?) and he went back on stage and tap danced his face off in the ghost number, maskless.

After waking up from the dream this morning, I remember almost every detail of it. I remember what the black box theatre looked like, what his dressing room looked like, and most of all, what his face looked like when he turned from me to go back on stage.

He went on stage as though he could care less what happened, but yet he loved that part of what he was about to do. He was ready, and fearless, and excited.

I feel incredibly calm this morning, for the first time since I returned to Hawaii after my two and a half week visit home to the east coast.

I think Ethan was trying to teach me a lesson.

First of all, the whole mask thing with the eye holes being closed?

Simple lesson. Take the mask off. Take the hard shell off. Let the guard down and be vulnerable. Shutting life out is not the answer.

Since I’ve returned to Hawaii, nothing has gone right. I almost set the apartment on fire this morning, I had only one student in the hip hop class that I taught on Saturday, my boyfriend and I are sharing a car that I don’t know how to drive (fucking stick shift man), and I’ve felt extremely lost and confused, wondering if I’m doing the right thing.

So I clench up and hunker down in my cold-hearted, New Yorker shell that I brought back with me without realizing it, and pretty much snarl at anything that comes within a six inch radius of me. Including my beautiful roommate – the man I love.

First lesson of the dream is to open my eyes and take in whatever is happening – even if I don’t like it at the time.

Second lesson: life isn’t a movie.

One of my directors used to say, “This is live theatre, baby. If you want predictable perfection, go to the movies.”

Life is live theatre, guys.

Sometimes, people are gonna forget their lines. Sometimes, zippers don’t zip in a quick change. Sometimes, we trip over our own two feet because we were too focused on the next scene instead of staying right here in the present one.

And finally, today, with the help of Ethan, I woke up from my obscene obsession with perfection and laughed a little bit over the smell of burning plastic in the kitchen.

It’s like, dude, we have to laugh.

Okay, so there’s traffic and you have to pee really bad before work. (No, just me?)

Okay, so the milk in the fridge is sour so you have to drink black coffee and it’s horrible. (No, just me?)

Okay, so you’re only back in Hawaii for less than two weeks and already want out because everything isn’t dreamy and tropical and easy like you assumed it would be. (Yea, probably just me.)

But dude, in the next five years, will any of it matter?

This isn’t a movie. It’s real life. Shit happens.

Five years ago, Ethan and I were putting together Lucky Stiff. Naive, young, and full of hope for what the future would bring.

We literally never, ever know what tomorrow will bring. So we have to live today.

Right now, I’m lucky enough to be living in Ethan’s home state, just trying to do the best I can while I’m starting a brand new chapter from scratch, with not a clue of what I’m doing. I’m just going off my intuition.

My gut tells me I’m supposed to be here, so I’m figuring it out one day at a time.

I want to honor Ethan this week by spreading the message I think he was trying to share with me.

Stop expecting perfection, and just move through your day the best you know how.

One of the four agreements in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, is simply, “do your best.”

Just do your best.

Today.

I guess, this is my newest mantra.

Life isn’t a movie, baby. This is live theatre. Shit happens. Hiccups occur. We trip and fall. And as soon as can, we gotta laugh about it.

So, Ethan – man oh man, mahalo, my friend, for visiting me in my dreams last night and reminding me that it’s all gonna be okay. You are deeply missed, madly loved, and forever appreciated.

Mele Kalikimaka, everyone.

And to my entire Company 1B family – my Lucky Stiff family from days gone by – look at how far we’ve come. Know that five years ago, we were naive, young, and hopeful. I hope all of us still have bits of those traits in our hearts even now, as we grow older. And all of you – no matter where you are across the world – are always in my heart.

 


My RSVP To The Misery Party

It has never been cool to be “alright”.

As we grow up, moving into our twenties, all we hear from our friends a few years older than us is that our “twenties will be a shitshow”, and we “just have to get through it” and then we will be golden.

We are warned of the heartache and the financial woe and the depression before it even arrives. And when it shows up at our front door, we practically welcome it in saying, “Ahhhhh, I’ve been expecting you.”

So we join the masses of anxiety-driven twentysomethings just like us and think to ourselves, “well, at least we have each other.”

Because misery loves company.

So in our twenties, we find ourselves making friends with the people who are “going through it” just like we are, because they are the only people who “understand what it’s like” to be in a dark place like we are.

But what if we weren’t warned about the shitshow to come? What if we weren’t told to expect failure and heartbreak?

What would happen if we experienced the joy that comes with being single and free in our twenties without knowing that doom was lurking just around the corner?

I mean, honestly, I don’t know the answers. I’m legitimately asking you.

What if we went into our twenties blind and ignorant?

Would we still come out alive?

Most of you who read this are beyond the stage of warning. You’ve already been told what to expect and you are bracing yourself for the storm that awaits as you round each corner of your twenties – just trucking through each year until you reach the golden light at the end of the tunnel – thirty.

I was always told that thirty was it. Thirty was gonna be the change. The sigh of relief.

So I’ve been waiting for that. I’ve been crawling through the trenches of 24, 25, and 26, wiping my Pinot Grigio laced tears out of my eyes hoping to see through the dust that 27, 28, and 29 will bring, knowing that if I just keep crawling, I’ll make it to thirty and everything will be just as it’s supposed to be.

Well. Fuck. That.

I am sick and tired of being told what my life is going to look like. I am sick and tired of having this miserable picture painted for me from the generation ahead. And I am sick and tired of waiting until I am thirty to feel alright with my life.

Yea, the economy sucks. Yea, the job market sucks. Yea, student loans fucking SUCK. But do we really need to be told those things as we grow up? Couldn’t we just as easily find all that out on our own and let it do the damage to our lives that we each allow it to do, instead of having it consume our thoughts immediately after graduation knowing full well that we are “in for a rocky road” in this day and age?

What if, all of us, in our twenties, accepted that where we are right now in life, is alright?

Actually, let’s expand that statement.

What if, all of us, seriously all of us – no matter what age we are, accepted that where we are right now in life, is alright?

What if we didn’t seek out other miserable people to spend our time with?

And what if we started supporting our friends who make baby steps towards happiness and health instead of scorning them for making it out of the trenches before us?

In Hawaii, I’ve learned to use the term Pono. In simple terms, Pono is rightness and balance.

“When you are Pono, you have a feeling of contentment, wherein all is good and all is right. Pono teaches the attitude of positivity. Life itself excites you. Those who are Pono are optimistic and full of hope. All they see in their future is that things can only get better. Keep your life in balance. Do what is right.”Managing With Aloha by Rosa Say

What if we all found the feeling of Pono in ourselves – the feeling of contentment – even amongst the world’s wars, hate, and crisis?

I think if we found the Pono in ourselves, we would encourage others to do the same. Because I’ll tell you what. When I ask myself if something is Pono – is it right – and I follow my gut, it brings me to a place of balance. I feel rooted in myself, and in my decision. And so nothing can sway me. Not even the negativity of those around me.

And so even though misery loves company, I no longer participate in the party.

Meaning one less person is contributing to the negative world, and taking a stand for the positive one.

And that feels Pono to me.

So this is what I am asking you to consider.

When your friends find something that mean something to them – even if it sounds boring to you – is it Pono for you to razz them about it?

When your best friend decides that after six years of bourbon blackouts and tequila hangovers that he wants to try sobriety for the sake of his health and his sanity, what is Pono? Teasing him, or supporting him? C’mon man, support his ass. Yea, it totally sucks that you lost a drinking buddy. But maybe it gives you an opportunity to look at your own drinking habits and check in with your own body. Maybe you could use a break, too.

When your best friend thinks she’s met the love of her life but you think he’s a total loser, what is Pono? Preaching to her or supporting her? C’mon girlfriend, cut the girl a break and support her anyway. She isn’t going to listen to your advice no matter what you say – you probably know this by now – so just humor her when she tells you the one nice thing he did for her this month. Be with her until she wakes up and smells his bullshit. And take an opportunity to observe why you hate her loser boyfriend so much. Does he remind you of someone you’ve dated who you still haven’t forgave?

See, the thing is, is that there’s always shit of our own that we can focus on working out instead of razzing our friends about their choices. It’s just easier to tease them than to look at our own shit in the mirror.

Here’s the thing.

Life does not have to be about the fear of failure. Life does not have to be about how far we have to go before we can celebrate making it to 30. Life can be about the shit that’s happening right now.

Observing the shit now, feeling the shit now, conquering the shit now, moving on from the shit now.

Just love the shit. All of it. It’s life, baby. This shit is what makes up our lives. It’s here now. So might as well love it.

In a world that teaches us to become better all the time – get a better body, grow better hair, be better in bed – it’s hard to accept that what’s happening right now might just be alright.

But beautiful girl, if you didn’t see that magazine on the street today about the five best Keratin treatments for long hair – would you have even been thinking about your four split ends?

If you didn’t see that book on your friend’s shelf today about the Best Sexual Positions for Businesswomen in a Hurry in 2013 in New York City, would you have even been wondering if your sex life is boring?

Every day, the world throws negativity at us. Telling us we are not good enough right now.

Well I say, wake up and smell the coffee that you’re brewing right now and take a good strong look in the mirror.

Find something that you fucking love about yourself in the mirror and adore it. Now. Right now.

For me, it’s my legs and my waist. I have strong legs with fierce calf muscles and I have a waist that curves in at the right spot. I have learned to love these things over the past four months after my friend Nadia told me to make time in my day for looking at them, accepting them, and believing that they are awesome.

What do you love about yourself? There is absolutely something. Come on. Don’t be shy.

Once you find it, love it. Give it some love every day. Admire it. What does that body part do for you? Do what you need to do for yourself to love the parts of you that you are fine with right now, and do not let any magazine tell you that you need to change it.

Every time you and I do something that’s Pono – that’s right with us – that’s right for us – we change the world. We become one less miserable figure in the scheme of things, even if it’s just for five minutes. And slowly, but surely, we can inspire others to do the same.

“Are you content? You may feel there is much to be done, however a feeling of contentment is possible when you feel the path ahead is one that is right for you, one where you will enjoy the journey. It may be a difficult journey, but because it’s the right one, it’s the best one, and you take it willingly, eagerly. Contentment dishes up feelings of being at peace, of being calm, stress-free, and tranquil. For the moment there is no striving.” – Rosa May, Managing With Aloha

I just want to take this moment and tell you that it’s alright, to be alright.

It’s okay to be content, even if no one around you is content too. It’s okay to feel calm, stress-free, and tranquil, even if everyone around you is going batshit over wrapping presents and baking cookies. It’s okay to like yourself. Hell, dare I say it, it’s okay to love yourself.

You guys. The world around us is always going to tell us to be better.

It’s up to us to find our contentment no matter what the magazines and Twitter feeds tell us.

And it’s really important for us to accept that being Pono, being content, is alright.

This holiday season – take some time out of everyday for yourself. It’s important that you find out what you need – because the more you take care of yourself, the less misery you bring to the party. And maybe, just maybe, once we stop waiting for thirty to come, or perfection to come, or success to come, we’ll realize that being right here, right now, in this moment, is pretty fucking awesome.

And after a while, the misery party, complete with it’s tantalizing cocktails and it’s newest diet-trend-approved hors d’oeurves, won’t even exist anymore.

“Being Pono becomes our best preparedness for the certainty of change. When people are secure in who they are, they do what they do best. They have that positive and optimistic attitude that comes from doing what they love to do in the best way possible. outside forces do not shake them up too badly. They are centered, they are balanced, and so they are resilient and strong.” – Rosa Say, Managing with Aloha

You, my bad ass friends, are resilient and strong.

Find your Pono – your feeling of contentment.

You deserve it. Honest to God, you do.


Empathy for the Men, the Skinny, and Those Who Need to Gain Weight

On April 1st, 2012, I took a break from packing up my bags for my next contract and met my friend Hernando for dinner. We met at the Brother Jimmy’s on 92nd and 3rd (the one that no longer exists, RIP) to catch up on life.

Now, I hadn’t seen Hernando in a few weeks. So when he walked in, 15 pounds heavier than the last time I saw him, I was shocked.

In the best way possible.

You see, like many of my male friends in the performing industry, Hernando has always been skinny. Too skinny.

Now, if you’re glancing over at your fridge right now – the fridge that you’ve covered in cut-outs of Victoria’s Secret models and magnets that say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – wondering if being too skinny is a thing, just hear me out.

Being too skinny is actually a thing. Seriously, it’s a thing. For boys especially, it’s a THING.

These days, when artistic teams are casting shows like Anything Goes or The Little Mermaid, they are looking for beefy, broad-shouldered men to play their sailors and their ensemble men. And although a lot of my skinny friends can dance circles around the beefy men, they have a harder time getting cast. Being skinny makes them look younger. Sometimes it makes them look weaker. And so they have a hard time.

I’ve found that even I am a culprit of turning up my nose at the skinny boy stereotype. When I’m choreographing a show, and I sit behind the table, I look at a skinny dude and wonder if he’ll be able to lift the girls.

After all, as a 5’7″ woman, I have been paired up with skinny men during musical numbers wondering if they can even lift my thigh, much less pick my ass up and throw me over their shoulder.

But they do it.

Appearances are very misgiving. The skinny boys are strong, they just don’t LOOK strong.

And in a business that is based on looks more than 60% of the time, looking strong is kind of key.

So what the hell are they supposed to do?

Well, I’ll tell you what some of them do.

Hernando decided he wasn’t going to sit around and be too skinny to be cast.

So, over my dinner of a house salad and a beer, and his dinner of two chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, and a green vegetable I can’t remember, he told me about his process to gain weight.

He has been working out with a personal trainer for three days a week for over a year and a half.

And he eats 3200 calories a day.

3200 calories, people.

He drinks two protein shakes each day that are 900 calories a piece. In addition to those shakes, he eats three meals each day, and when he can, he eats high calorie protein bars as snacks.

Problem is, he has a hard time eating enough because he’s just not always hungry for all that stuff.

Remember when I said to listen to your body and only eat when you’re hungry?

Well, here this guy is, having to force himself to eat when he’s not hungry just to keep his weight up.

If he doesn’t keep track and eat all his calories, he could lose two pounds in a day and a half just because his metabolism is so insane.

His eating regimen sort of sounds like diets I’ve been on – if I don’t track and eat the right amount of calories, my weight is affected. Just, in the complete opposite direction.

So, really, it’s all relative.

The body confidence journey has been just as hard for Hernando as it has been for me, just in different ways.

And like I said from the very first blog post, we all have our shit.

That night, when I left Hernando after dinner, I went home, finished packing, binged on some Nutella, and went to bed. I flew out the next day to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a two month contract.

While rehearsing and performing down in SC for two glorious months, I saw the boys I lived with get up and go to the gym religiously six days a week.

The boys on this contract were those beefy, broad-shouldered men in the biz.

And while I ran on the treadmill every day, I watched the boys skip right over the cardio machines to go lift. I cursed them every. single. day. I knew they were lucky, and I knew I was not. That’s all I saw.

What I have learned is, these boys don’t go to the gym to lose weight. They go to maintain their weight. They have worked so hard to put extra mass onto their shoulders, their arms, their pecks, and their legs in order to be cast as the beautiful, muscular men that you see on stage when you see a show. But they have to maintain it. If they don’t go to the gym and lift, they lose the muscle. And some of them end up back in the skinny boy body they started with.

And yes, they can eat whatever they want, but they are also expected to maintain a certain level of muscular stature to be accepted into the roles they want to play.

It’s taken me years to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone has something body-related that they have to deal with.

Have you ever thought about all this crap before?

I, personally, had never thought about it this way. I was too busy focusing on all the pizza those boys were eating that I couldn’t have – but would eat anyways when they went to the beach – that I didn’t realize they don’t have it easy either. I have always been focused on how hard life is for me. I never looked up to see that everyone around me has their own struggle too.

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Listen up, people.

People work really fucking hard to make it in this business.

Hernando dedicated his time, energy, and money to gain 25 pounds in the past year and half. Not only do I admire his drive and his bravery – I also drool over his pecks.

The guy friends I worked with in Hilton Head are still hitting up the gym every day. And you know what? They’re booking jobs at Goodspeed Opera House. Going on tour. Being called back for Pippin.

For all the time I have spent counting calories and doing Ab Ripper X, they have spent the same amount of time adding weight to their lift routine and drinking protein shake after protein shake.

We do what we have to do. We all just have different things to do than the people that surround us.

So next time you’re in spin class, swearing at the instructor and wishing she had pressed repeat on “Blurred Lines” – cuz that song is so fucking baller – maybe you can find solace in the fact that your best guy friend is at the gym, trying to add five pounds to his entire regimen because he didn’t book Chicago yesterday. The sexier, taller guy with bigger pecks than him did.

We all have our shit dude.

Let’s remember that we’re all in this together.

Throw some encouragement out to each other. If you go to Mark Fisher fitness this week (and amen for Mark Fisher Fitness – LIKE AMEN Y’ALL) and you’re in class with people of all shapes and sizes, keep in mind that you’re all there for different reasons. If you’ve been too nervous to go to Mark Fisher Fitness because everyone there is a muscle daddy and they all did Broadway Bares, call their asses up and ask them some questions. Those people are the nicest fucking people I have ever talked to. They’re just very into making you feel awesome about yourself. I am willing to bet that they’ll help you figure out when to go to class, and how to not feel shitty about working out next to a girl that’s been going to every Snatched in Six Weeks program since the beginning. Not everyone that goes there is there to lose weight. Some of them go to gain it. So comparing yourself to them is not helpful to your well-being.

If you have no idea what the fuck Mark Fisher Fitness is, you can still throw some encouragement out to each other. If your friend is never willing to go for a run with you, consider that maybe it’s because they spend an hour and a half lifting every day. And they don’t do cardio because if they do, they’ll burn all the calories they consumed in their Sun Warrior Raw Protein-blueberry-banana-chia seed-peanut butter shake this morning.

Next time your friend orders two chicken breasts and fries and you hate them for it, just keep in mind that if they eat a salad with you, it throws off their entire eating regimen.

Isn’t that crazy?

Yea, maybe it’s crazy. But we all have something we have to do to to make ourselves marketable. And if it’s not for the performing industry, maybe it’s for dating. Maybe it’s for self-confidence. Maybe it’s to become a personal trainer. Maybe it’s to overcome a quarter life crisis and feel really sexy every single day when you look in the mirror after you take a shower. Whatever it’s for, we all have something we are always working on.

So if your skinny friend has complaints every now and then, let them vent to you. Let them. They are having a hard time and although your story might be different, and you wish you could literally cut 25 pounds off your ass and hand it to them wrapped in a bow, ya can’t. Believe it or not, being supportive of their struggles will mean just as much to them.

You’ll find that empathy can really save your sanity. And that goes both ways. Receiving empathy and giving empathy is a really special thing in this world.

Appreciate what you have and admire others for their own struggles.

Everyone has their shit, but we’re all in this together.


The Power of Friendship in Eating Disorder Awareness

On a Thursday in May, my friend Christina called me to check on me.

Christina and I go way back. She knows a lot about me.

She knew I was in rough shape. Homegirl’s got instincts.

I didn’t book a job for the summer. First time since 2010.

I didn’t have a boyfriend. First time since 2009.

I was not aware that I have always used both those of things as my sole source of happiness.

Without a gig or a man, I didn’t have anything to distract me from my depression.

And when all my friends left for the summer to go to their summerstock gigs and their medical school residencies and their teaching jobs in LA, I was left here alone. Single. Unemployed. Unmotivated. And seriously bingeing.

On that Thursday when Christina called, she talked to me for an hour, giving me this clarity that no one has ever given to me before. She basically slapped me in the face with this awareness – I have always found my joy in a performing job or in a boyfriend. I’ve never figured out how to find the joy in just, living life.

I had never really been aware that this was a real issue for me. Until she explained it quite simply in common language and decorative curse words.

It was one of the first “aha!” moments that I had in my journey. It was a spark that helped start the fire under my ass to find help and figure my shit out.

When we got off the phone that day, she texted this picture to me.

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Ladies and gentleman, this post is about how friendship, and sometimes the lack thereof, can change your life.

I mentioned in last week’s post that eating is a very social activity.

Okay, for me, it’s a VERY fucking social activity.

I live in New York City.

When I want to hang out with my best friend who lives in Astoria, but I live in Washington Heights, and I have no idea how to use the M60 bus, we’re probably just going to meet in midtown for lunch. Or dinner. Or drinks. Or brunch. Because neither one of us wants to transfer trains and go alllllll the way to the other’s neighborhood.

Dude, food keeps friendships alive in this town.

That being said, let me just fill you in on what happened when the five closest people who I socially eat with THE MOST, peaced out of my life for a few months. These five people are my best friends. The people with whom I spend the majority of my time. My inner circle. The people that I text “good morning” to when I wake up at 2 in the afternoon.

We all have these people in our lives. All five of MY people just happened to leave the city for different jobs in different places at the EXACT SAME TIME.

So they leave. I’m here alone. Now what?

Well, I cried a bit. I drank a bit. I ate a SHIT ton of cookies ‘n’ cream with chocolate sprinkles.

And then I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom was always looming in the distance. But up until my inner circle of friends left the city in May, I was able to distract myself by spending all of my free time with them – socially eating and socially drinking – and keeping my binging a secret.

I should clarify something. I have a lot of wonderful friends in this city. I wasn’t literally “left alone”. But in my world, everyone is coming and going all the time. There is a natural ebb and flow that occurs when working in a big city, and in a business that takes people all over the country at any given time. So friendships are constantly shifting. I become closer to certain people during certain times in life, and although it always seems to be exactly what I need in the end, I don’t recognize the positivity of the situation when it’s happening to me. And I do believe that the coming and going of friends in this life is a beautiful thing. But everyone has their core group of people that they go to no matter where they are on the map.

Point being, when dealing with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, I tend to hibernate. I retract from the people outside of my inner circle. I fall off the radar, if you will.

I ended up very alone, on my own accord.

During this awful, alone time, my friend Rachel was moving out of her apartment and clearing clutter. She gave me a book to read. This was the first of many books that helped me begin a very slow ascent back to sanity, happiness, and awareness. Rachel gave me a tool that has changed my life forever.

Granted, even with that first book, and the love of my friends, I have had to struggle through a very dark, low time before finding energy to take that first step toward freedom.

But eventually, I just, started to do it. One foot in front of the other. Melissa – one of those five best friends currently out of town – always says to me, “baby steps”. It is absolutely my favorite mantra right now.

Baby steps.

I tell you all this, because in addition to my friend Rachel looking at me ten weeks ago and handing me that book with a fierce determination in her eyes, a very large part of my recovery as a binge-eater came in the past few weeks when all of my best friends were out of town performing at regional theatres.

I mean, my friends haven’t been around to hit up Brother Jimmy’s on a Thursday night. They haven’t been here to order Domino’s and stress-eat through yet another tragic episode of SMASH. Nor have they been here to go for a run across the GWB, and then stop on the way home to grab a half-gallon of Breyer’s Peach ice cream (seriously? peach?) and a six-pack of Shocktop to have for dinner.

Basically, unless I wanted to take some picklebacks on my own, I wasn’t going out as much as I used to while my nearest and dearest were out of town.

So I stayed home. And read. And faced my shit.

I cried. I binged. I read some more. I cried. I binged. I kept on reading. Writing. Praying. Reading more. I cried every day. And then…one day, I binged a little less. And a little less. And a little less.

Baby steps.

I had to face my shit, figure out how to fight through it, and come out alive. All by myself.

My closest friends and I agree, that the alone time I’ve had in the past few weeks, has actually been the best thing that could have ever happened for me.

Everything happens for a reason. Their timing was perfect.

I want to take an opportunity to say that thoughout this process, my friends, both in town and out of town, have offered me multitudes of encouragement and love.

I know that for years, it has broken their hearts to see me hurting because of the way my weight controls my entire life.

For years, they watched my mood change when the numbers on the scale went up and down.

For years, they looked at me with confusion on their faces when I abruptly got up and left social gatherings. They had no idea that I was leaving to go get food to take home with me for a binge. They never knew what was going on. It was just typical me – flaking on plans again.

For years, they listened to me turn down the Trader Joe’s Sea Salt Caramel bar that they keep in their kitchen cabinet for me for when I have a “chocolate attack”. And for years, they never said one judgemental word when eventually I gave in, ate the whole bar in one sitting, and bitched about it the rest of the night.

My friends do not give a SHIT what I weigh. Or what I eat. They just, love me. For being me.

If I could see myself through their eyes, I would beat myself up so much less and love myself so much more.

I’m willing to bet that your friends don’t give a shit what you weigh either. They just fucking love you.

Ladies and gentleman, when your friends look at you, I bet they see a lot of things that you don’t see in the mirror every morning. They see your grace. Your humor. Your ability to solve problems. Your loyalty. Your wit. Your compassion.

But that’s not something that they will always remember to tell you.

Sometimes, we just forget to tell our friends that they are funny, intelligent, warm, talented, creative, hard-working, and amazing.

I feel like it’s not very common for people to go walking around, reminding their friends of how wonderful they are. Sure, friends will compliment a trendy bracelet, a new haircut, a fierce pair of shoes. But complimenting personality traits, or the things that make us who we are – no matter what our weight is and no matter what color our hair is at the moment – is not really a thing.

So…let’s make it make it a thing.

Seriously, what would happen if we all started telling our friends how fucking awesome they are?

And while we’re at it, let’s just go balls to the wall and tell our friends how fucking gorgeous they are. Whether your friend is skinnier than they want to be or they are heavier than they want to be, tell them how beautiful they are, whenever you can.

There’s nothing like that rush of surprise that you feel when your best friend tells you that you look hot.

I believe that the moral of my story is, give your friends a little extra love this week.

A compliment from a friend is unexpected, and special, and goes a really long way.

I, for one, am extremely lucky to have the most loving, compassionate people as my best friends. They tell me I’m beautiful when I’m in pin curls. After I wash my make-up off. At a hungover brunch the day after an opening night party. And never once, has my weight affected the way they love me.

Never forget that the same applies to you and your friendships too.

The number on the scale is never going to make your best friends love you any less.

Hey. Hey YOU. Did you hear that?

The number on the scale is NEVER going to make your best friends love you any less.

Have a great week with your friends 🙂


How Dating A Gay Man Shaped My Twenties

Glitter and Be Gay: A Blog Post

Living With Men Who Love Us, But Do Not LOVE Us

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There are a lot of women in this business who have grown up around gay men. We danced with them. Teched shows with them. Helped them come out of the closet when we were in high school with them. We went to college with them, had them over for holidays, brought them on family vacations. And now they are our roommates and dates to weddings and best friends. We love them like they are family.

We are not meant to date them.

However.

Sometimes, when we are all young, these same men haven’t figured out how to open the closet door to a happy, healthy, open life. And sometimes, they are well on their way to figuring it out, but they aren’t ready to open that door yet. And to this day, some of them are still not ready. And they are still trying to take us out on dates.

Our vision of straight men become real skewed in this biz. In college, we eyeball the straight dudes in any of the performing arts majors and then slowly, one by one, watch the majority of them come out of the closet. Depending on where you went to college, if there’s not a lot of straight options, you latch onto whatever option there is. Then, you automatically assume you need to keep his ass on a leash, because this could be your only chance at love for the rest of your time on this earth. And all of a sudden, you’re dating assholes, arrogant lacrosse players, and boring dudes just because they are straight.

DANGER DANGER.

This is not going to end well.

Over the years, these crazy things start taking place when we meet straight men because we aren’t used to having them around. We start dating men who are already spoken for, men with porn addictions, and men we meet while cocktail waitressing (which for your information, is not really dating. It’s more like, they just come to see you at work and take you home afterwards. But whatever, sometimes, when you’re 21, that’s good enough.) We allow all these men into our lives because we are hungry for the attention we are not getting from the gay men surrounding us every day. We will take the attention with whatever consequences it comes with, even if it’s keeping our relationship with our bar manager a secret, or it means we are traveling to the Bronx for a good lay. And I think a lot of it stems from feeling unwanted by the closest men to us in our life, who just happen to be gay.

It’s a special life that we lead. We are so loved by these gay men in our lives. They care for us. They hold us when we cry. They tell us to dress up and take us to dinner. They help us pick out beautiful Christmas gifts (and Hannakuh gifts!) for our mothers. The listen to us bitch, they make us laugh until our bellies hurt, and they tell us we are beautiful even at the most hungover brunches. They take us for drinks when we are in over our heads and they tell us we deserve better. But at the end of the night, after a wonderful day or a delicious dinner, we go home alone. Because although they love us, they do not LOVE us, or want us, or crave us in any other way beyond friendship.

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A few years ago, while living with one of these special gay men who cared for me, lived with me, and helped me dress fabulously for first dates, my ex-boyfriend came up.

I don’t know if any girl is ever ready to hear about her ex-boyfriend’s college sexcapades with a man.

But, ready or not, I learned about them over a casual pitcher of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat in 2009. You see, four years after a heartbreaking split with my first love, I was living with one of the first men that my ex-boyfriend slept with. There we were – smack dab in the middle of 109th Street, two blocks west of Central Park – a man and a woman who had slept with the same man.

Only, truth be told, he got farther with the ex than I ever did.

Look, I wasn’t surprised. I always suspected. I was always teased in high school about dating him. But to finally hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, was so freeing. I was so thankful to know that it wasn’t my fault.

Turns out, it wasn’t my fault that he didn’t want to hang out every day after school like every other couple did. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t want to touch me under the covers when we watched a movie on the couch. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t call me every day when he went away to college. He didn’t want me. He didn’t miss me. But not because I was me. Turns out, he had his own shit to figure out.

He was gay. All that time, he was gay.

But I didn’t know that. For sure. Until four years later.

The newfound closure that came with that Cherry Wheat, came four years after the fact. And those four years after the fact were some of the most influential years of my life. From the age of 18-22, I carried around body confidence issues and self-esteem issues that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And honey, once you have them, they only get worse.

Because when you’re 17, and you get to sleep over in your boyfriend’s college dorm room for the first time, you expect things to go DOWN. Maybe he never wanted to hook up in the car. And maybe he never wanted to sneak away from the pool party. And maybe he never wanted to go down your pants backstage while you teched the high school musical. But the dorm room, he’s gonna be so into it there. So you shave things you’ve never shaved before and you wear the laciest pair of underwear you can find at H&M. You have butterflies all day, imagining steamy positions and loud outcries of pleasure.

And then you get there, and your boyfriend just wants to go to sleep.

With pajamas on.

And you lay awake next to him cursing at yourself for everything you’ve done wrong. You make a mental list of all the things you are not. You are not sexy. You are not attractive. You are not irrestible. You curse your boobs for being small and your hair for being big and curly. You stare at the ceiling, thinking that although you can shake your ass in dance class, you’re just not a sexy girl.

When he breaks your heart the summer after you graduate from high school, you enter your freshman year of college with insecurities that your new musical theatre friends don’t have. They know how to flirt with all the baseball players, and they get asked to sit with them in the cafeteria, while you go back up for another helping of the taco bar.

And when a boy even glances at you during the next themed party that you show up to, accessorized with your freshman fifteen and the new plastic bangles you stole from Claire’s, you end up in his room making out, without him even having to use a pick up line. Which is basically a foreshadowing all of the slutty things you’re about to do when you move to New York City, including a series of one night stands in your early twenties with some very questionable subjects.

When you’re in a relationship where you’re just not wanted, you’re not craved, it really sets you up for some major setbacks in relationships for the rest of your life. That first love, that first relationship, it trained me chase men. To work hard to make them want me. And to settle for less than the best – every single time I meet a man.

To this day, anytime things feel easy with a man – comfortable, relaxed – it feels wrong. And boring. I have always gone after men who do not want me. And that’s what feels right to me.

Until now. Because once you become aware of a complex you have – for instance, the way I use food as a drug, or the way I always end up with men who do not want me – you can never go back to ignorance again.

Awareness is a very powerful thing, my friend.

Once you are aware, the only way to go is up. Up, up, and away from what’s been holding you down. You are finally able to begin a courageous upward journey towards making it less of a problem than it was yesterday. And doing the best you can to live your life in the meantime.

Listen, you never know people’s stories. You never know what they’ve been through, what they’ve been lied to about, or what has destroyed their heart.

Things like dating a gay man can ruin a young girl, on the inside, for a very long time. I had no idea how much it affected me, or dictated the men I chose, or controlled my self-esteem, until I got older and wiser.

It affected the reason I binge, the reason I dressed sluttily all the time, and the reason I was outspoken. Respectively, those things were comfort for the pain, cries for attention, and shields from judgement.

I hated that ex-boyfriend of mine for many, many years. There was red, hot anger that would cause my chest to tighten when I thought about him. I never felt that hatred for another person in my life before. It was ugly and it enveloped me.

But now, I do forgive him. It was a slow process. However, I’ve learned that half of my gay friends dated a woman when they were younger. They were too young to know what they were doing to their girlfriends. No one knew. It was never a malicious thing. It took me, being best friends with my gay men, to understand that. I was just another one of the girls who helped the boy come out of the closet.  I was the Grace to his Will.

I wish we were friends now. Our situation is different than the Will’s and the Grace’s of the world, but as long as I can let go of the hurt, and the anger, forgiveness will be enough.

To the gay men in this world: Don’t forget to remind those girls who helped you come out of the closet how much you love them. Those chicks loved you for all that you were, and all that you are, despite what you did to their hearts.

To the women who dated the gay boys in this world: Try your best to forgive the boys. They had it just as hard as we did, if not harder. Keep those friendships close and help each other grow up. Together. The boys never meant to break your heart, or lie, or make you feel unwanted. We all figure things out at different times and you happened to be there when they were sorting all the new things out.

To everyone else: Show compassion to everyone you meet. There’s a reason people are scared to trust. There’s a reason they binge. There’s a reason they’re dating that asshole right now. You might not understand why they are the way they are, but that’s what is so beautiful about compassion – you just offer it up without a reason or an answer.

And no one ever complained about feeling too much compassion.

*Friends, if you find out later in life that someone you did date was cheating on you, please take the time to get tested for HIV and other STD’s. I told my gynecologist immediately when I found out my ex-boyfriend had slept with other men during the time we were together and he set  me to be tested right away. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You owe it to yourself and your sanity to get tested. There are free clinics in most cities and by googling “free HIV testing”, you can find options in your area.

Next week’s posting:

Let’s Have A Kiki