Yes And…Fuck No

Excellent sticker from last year’s SXSW Interactive.

I hate improv.

By which I mean I am very bad at it. I am as likely to be described as free-thinking and in-the-moment as I am of possessing a bubbly personality.

Improv is very popular in Austin so criticizing it is akin to disliking the talky-singing thing that Willie Nelson does. I have taken a few classes in the mistaken belief that I could get better at it. Panic sets in around the second or third game which usually involves throwing a squishy ball at someone else in the group while making a sound. It’s terribly stressful to come up with a unique sound, though of course the instructors will tell you that whole point is not to think about the sound until it’s your turn. At which point you just open your mouth and let it come out. Like Tourettes Syndrome.

I also dislike watching improv when the audience is asked for a suggestion because it’s usually framed in such a way that the improvisers have a pretty good idea of the responses they’ll get. If they ask, as one group recently did at Fronterafest, for a suggestion of something you enjoyed as a child there’s a fairly high chance that they’ll get riding a bike or rollerskating or swimming. Less likely that the suggestion will be having a leisurely wank. And even if it is, the performers will somehow go deaf to it. Even if you shout it.

Worse is when the suggestion is taken and the improvisers go about their performance without ever making reference to it. And if the actual improv is just an interminably long conversation between two people about nothing at all without any actual heightening or point then I’d sooner go and watch a Chekhov piece about paint drying.

My point, because there is one, is that proper improv is based on the philosophy of saying YES, AND… In other words, agreeing with whatever has just been said and then building on it as you raise the stakes to create something watchable and powerful. If you say NO right at the top of the scene there’s nowhere for you or your partner to go and you’re a jerk.

In much the way that Hull has been voted as the UK city of culture, I decided to take the unexpected and questionable decision to make 2015 my year of Yes. Note the absence of multiple or even a singular exclamation point. This is a quiet yes, and involves agreeing to new opportunities and suggestions without thinking about them long enough to change my mind. At the beginning of the year I hoped this would create some new experiences and ways to fail and might lead me back onto a stage by the end of it.

It is March 1, officially two months since I began. I have been to a 5 minute performance group which was not as short as it sounds and was far more fun than expected. I took part in an all-women group creativity, goal-setting, empowery weekend thing where I did not cry. I also started a 21 day online drawing challenge with my husband. Yes, my animator, illustrator, cartoonist husband. We started the challenge on January 15 and I am currently on Day 11.

At some point, when I may have been on Vicodin, I also agreed to take a graphic novel workshop with Erik at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont in August. This is a week long class where we can develop our work, get feedback and generally talk about graphic novels. I am slightly stuck on the ‘develop your work’ part, given that I don’t actually have any work.

Since I failed to complete my stage play, I have a fanciful notion that I can use the graphic novel medium to tell the story of last year’s craziness with the birth mother popping her clogs and the not-French Armenian father and Charles Aznavour and the half-blood sister. The only minor flaw with this plan is that I can’t fucking draw. But at least my sticky out right ear and sharp nose will help distinguish the stick figures. And as my friend Lauren said, if worst comes to worst, just draw yourself as a circle with a beret.

As per yesterday’s post, I am doing something that terrifies me. My great worry is that everyone else in the class will wonder why the hell I’m there if I clearly cannot draw. As a parallel, Lauren asked me how I’d feel if a painter came to a writer’s workshop that I was in. I take the point, but my sense is that I’d laugh and whisper about them with my other clever writer pals.

If only I’d chosen to climb Kilimanjaro this year instead of next.

Useless Uterus

We don’t have any full length mirrors in the house. At least none that are portrait length and it’s a real faff to climb onto the bathroom counter and lie lengthways across it just to confirm that your legs are too old for shorts.

IMG_1021All our mirrors  divide me in half so I have a pretty good idea of what the upper looks like but the lower quadrant is a bit of a mystery, though I have created this visual representation. Upper half  is decent, except for the blusher which used to be on my cheeks but has sunk down my face due to gravity* (see brilliant theory of everything below).

But then it all goes wrong below the waist and everything sort of spreads out and I have to start wearing full coverage knickers that I was told were a sexy animal print but which turned out to be hyena skin. This body type is referred to as pear-shaped which is a highly undesirable shape. Except for pears.

*The reason for this is that as you hit middle age and thus closer to death, the earth’s gravitational forces start pulling you closer to the dirt. So everything starts the slow move south. That’s also why you get shorter as you get older. This is my brilliant theory of everything which I have mentioned here so don’t think about trying to steal it as your own brilliant theory of everything, because the Oscar is mine.

Being bottom heavy and wearing hyena-knickers is also a clear sign to the rest of the world that you are getting older and therefore of no real value or significance. This is one of my greatest fears this year as it is the last of my 40s and as John Lennon (almost) wrote, ‘and so this is 50, and what have you done?’ Once I am 50 that’s pretty much the last year that I’ll be able to claim to be at the halfway point of my life and frankly that’s pushing it.

My impending 50s, much like the 1950s, sound entirely dreadful. There’s the whole useless uterus thing and all the lovely symptoms that go along with it, though I find it annoying that I should have to experience them too even though my uterus is unsullied by nasty baby birth goop. As with my child-bearing hips, a uterus was a bit of a waste seeing as I failed to fulfill god’s purpose for me, even though he doesn’t exist so this would be like me having failed to live up to Superman’s expectations of me. Annoying do-gooders, both.

My fears about this age are largely what they’ve always been. That people will think I wear my hair short because it’s ‘easy’. That I will spend a large percentage of my day in sweat pants purchased from Athleta because they are ‘comfortable’ and cost slightly less than Lulu (already fulfilled this one). That I will talk about things like ‘mindfulness’ and spirituality. That I will stop being brave.

Doing something new every year, preferably something that scares the living daylights out of me, is how I measure the success and the passing of a year. Skydiving, adventure racing, marathons, stand-up, acting all came out of the drive to be something other than ordinary. And to celebrate being child-free and irrational.

But along with my cheeks (facial and arse) my courage seems to be sinking in direct proportion to my advancing age. This year I chickened out of doing the FronteraFest Short Fringe, one of my favorite venues for performing. (Why do we say ‘chickened out’? I won’t bother researching, safe in the knowledge that my husband will send me links to both Wikipedia and Snopes). On the good side, I did see this fearfulness coming and have taken a few steps towards saying Yes to some things that I will undoubtedly fail at. But that’s another half-written blog. Currently titled ‘Fuck No’.




Today I ordered 3 DNA home test kits so I can finally figure out who the hell the father is.

I wanted to post this opener on Facebook yesterday but Erik had the kind of expression that said ‘my-mother-is-on-facebook-so-please-don’t’. I gave him my ‘at-this-point-I-don’t-think-it-would-change-anything’ look but I’m nothing if not an obedient wife. Continue reading “DNA Dad”