relationships

The Upside of Being Excluded

Over the summer I saw a large group of my theatre friends’ kids all attending a night out together- dinner and a show, all to support another theatre kid who was in that particular production. When I asked two friends, “Your daughter wasn’t there…was she doing something else fun?” I was shocked to learn that two of the prominent members of the theatre kid clique were not invited. This wasn’t just oversight on the part of tweens and teens, a mom had organized the outing. Recently, another mom in this group started organizing all sorts of “fun” for these kids, still excluding others. The snub is so deliberate and so huge, that I can’t help but agonize for the victims.  

We talk so frequently about kids bullying one another, about adults bullying one another. When we discuss adults bullying kids, it’s framed by abuse. In these social settings, though, as these moms deliberately disregarded one child while cultivating relationships with others, doesn’t it feel like bullying? It’s classic mean girl lunch-room kind of exclusion. As I continue to wrap my head around how grown women are acting this way in a zip code the size of a walnut, all I can do is care for the young beings who are enduring this behavior. I offered to them a letter:

 

Dear Teenager,

When I saw the photos of your friends all going to dinner and a play together, I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t there.   I thought maybe you had other plans, but I later learned at least two of my favorites (you and another) weren’t asked.  That is lousy.

One of the greatest hidden gifts of my life has been exclusion.   Since I was a child I have been excluded by my peers, especially the “cool kids”.   It used to upset me.  I’d cry.   I would hide in my room and teeter on depression, taking solace in music and books.  As I navigated my high school years without a clique of giggling teens at my side, I didn’t realize that I was the strongest among my classmates.  I had no fear in standing up to make a speech or toast.  I didn’t worry about what others thought when I stood up for what’s right or stuck to my convictions. I didn’t miss out on eating at a great restaurant or seeing a fab film because I was solo- I just went. I didn’t have an inner circle of besties to “help” me make decisions, so fashion, school, hobby, and decisions the like were all mine- no committee rule.  (And to be clear: they were all awesome decisions. 🙂 )  Adults welcomed me into their social circles early in my life, allowing me to cultivate job, communication,  and social skills that many of my peers STILL haven’t mastered. As a theatre person, this repeated exclusion has fostered the skills needed to excel at direction, stage management, and performing alike.  I don’t seek validation from a huge group of “friends” or need to be loyal to whomever the nicest mean girl is that moment.  I am loyal to the script, the process, the art.

Socially, some of the best friends of my life came to me in college.  I still connect and communicate with some high school classmates, but only because of social media. By standing alone and strong, I am better equipped to present my truest self to people I meet. And that’s where REAL relationships come from.   The exclusion I experience – to this very minute – by alleged friends and best friends allows me to see their true colors. And know that they aren’t really my friends. Their behavior reflects on THEM, not YOU.

Finally, as I look back as a technical adult, I am cognizant of the adults who did or facilitated the excluding.   Why wasn’t there one mom who spoke up and said, “What about Juliet?” Why were there moms who planned outings with my entire cast or team and didn’t think to call me- or worse, deliberately didn’t call me? Those moms raised kids who do the same.  My mom raised a grownup who will never let a kid sit alone at lunch, never let a cast gang up on the outsider, never ostracize a weak softball player.

Being a teenager is one of the very hardest things I’ve ever done.  It sucks.  I think you’re talented and smart and kind.  I also know you would never let one of your friends be left out of a group event and you would worry endlessly if someone was feeling bad.  Keep being you.  There’s no one better.

 

Maybe we all need a reminder once in awhile about how kindness is truly the only path in life.

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Summer Stock: A Fictitious Journey

Summer Stock: Drama in Drama

Working through an idea….part one

 

There’s always more drama off-stage than on, when working in theatre.  Why not have a little fun with it…..  I’m building a smarmy, perhaps snarky little script….maybe you’d like to join me on the journey?  I know that many of you recognize the characters….I can’t wait to see how they evolve into Murder! Mystery! Mahem! Or just another blog post.

 

Cast of Characters:

Katie: A potentially lovely person who wants attention, love, and acceptance. Her mean-girl moments are largely secret: not inviting certain members of the “crew” to an all-nighter at her house, cuddling up to the “hot at the moment” newbie for love and adoration, then forgetting they exist when they’ve served their purpose to her ego. She’s talented, but one-note. She’s not overly ambitious, posing no threat to most of the theatre world in which she dwells.  She can be seen literally walking from group to group gossiping. She will harvest information from group”A”, then saunter to group “B” and dish it all.  By the time she arrives at group “C”, she’s chock-full of tidbits to use as power and gain acceptance.  

Regina: The self-appointed queen bee of the Summer of 2017, she dazzles with bullshit. She’s not particularly talented, but she keeps showing up, so many are legitimately convinced.  I mean, you can’t get a job if you don’t have the chops, right?  Wrong. Telling outright lies for personal gain is her MO, and when backed into a corner about said falsehoods, she places the blame elsewhere. There’s always someone to blame so she always comes up smelling like a rose. She’s cognizant of the fact that people talk about her, but it fuels her in a near Shakespearean way. She may actually view herself as Coriolanus.  

Taylor: Legitimately talented and seemingly nice, this young girl takes zero responsibility for the chaos around her. She’s always the victim, she’s always put-upon. She views herself as hardworking, but those around her feel as though they need the proverbial kid gloves. Her product is lovely; her process is tiresome. Perhaps she’s capable of greatness, but we’ll never know: her ego is in her way at every turn.  

Justin: A young man with infectious enthusiasm, he also believes that he is more talented than he actually is. His base-knowledge of theatre is sophomoric, but he’s male. He continues to get gigs for that fact alone. Desperately lacking in self-esteem, this player needs to be loved. He needs to have a large group around him. Even if this group doesn’t know his name, they are THERE.  They are HIS.  Proximity is everything. The superficial nature of his relationships makes him utterly average.   

Paul: A two-faced hack: hugs and kisses you, compliments your dress, then turns to the next person and makes fun of your fashion, rolling his eyes. Claims to love theatre, but never goes to see anything. Has great ideas, but does not execute them. He relies on others to do hard, good work so he can reap glory and credit. His working knowledge of theatre and resume are both strong, particularly given his age. Stunting his growth and success, however, is profound laziness. He will actually start a sentence with the most endearing, intelligent quip and lose it halfway through, ending the sentiment with, “Or something like that. Fuck it.” He relies on charm and after-party schmoozing to pad his circle of friends. He commands attention and generally speaking gets people to respond. “Phoning it in” is his default mode. His tunnel vision is dangerous, and once you’ve been sworn as his enemy, you’re marked for life.   

Kim: The most pathetic, and probably most poisonous person during summer of 2017. Kim is emotionally needy, untrustworthy, and a complete opportunist. She complains, she manipulates, she cheats. A compulsive liar, most of the time she’s convinced of her own fabrications. The greatest lie she tells is that of her moral fiber. [Spoiler alert: she doesn’t have one.] Watch carefully when you’re around her: she will coerce you into offering sympathy, use your moment of weakness to get what she wants, and then accuse you of murder. That’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. She’s trash.

Gary: Also a liar, but not as superficially as Kim. Gary is sociopathic. Gary often boasts about being a “chameleon” or having a “heightened ability to empathize” when in fact Gary does not possess a personality of his own. Gary is usually morphing into whatever an opportunity calls for:  doting boyfriend, concerned friend, talented actor, zealous set-mover, novice mediator. Gary longs for respect, talks about all the reasons folks should respect him, but never actually does anything to earn respect. Gary is a master of disguises, usually donning a mask of concern and care when he’s trying to figure out if your pockets can be picked.   

Flying Monkeys: These ten or so folks are the backup singers of Summer 2017. They are, on the surface, doing their jobs happily. They like the shows, the space, the casts, the crew. They march along chanting their pleasure but then, one-on-one, confide a desperate need to be rescued. They, with tears in their eyes, beg, “Is this really what it’s like?” The Monkeys don’t want to make waves, but they don’t like the ocean either. They hope for a change and are the undercurrent to others’ wave-making. They never go as far as standing up for themselves or others, but they also don’t buy the nonsense of the crazy-makers.

 

This might be fun……

The Wave

I’m a big fan of The Wave.  Not of sporting event fame, but rather, that moment when you’re driving and a friend sees you and waves. I have a friend who is terrible at this.  Truly.  There are only like TWO THINGS my friend Sarah can’t do, and spotting friends in vehicles is one of them. For me, there’s great pride associated with spotting a vehicle in motion and identifying the driver. In my small town, it’s a quick way to keep up on life.

“Mark must have had a good winter. New truck, new letters, new boat.”

“Wow. Guess she got everything in the divorce- he’s STILL driving that Explorer. ”

“You-know-who is back in town. THAT can’t be good.”

“Randy’s home from vacation.”

That kind of stuff. The idle gossip of small-town people.

There are different kinds of waves. There’s the town tight-ass who’s wave looks more like  Nazi salute. There’s the town flirt who’s wave is just as flirtatious as he is- all his fingers kind of tickle the air between him and his windshield. There’s the genuinely happy to see you wave of our local politician. There’s the half wave of  the “I’m so busy being busy I can’t take my full hand off the wheel” local business owner. Regardless of style, with each wave, you have a connection.

For me, The Wave is an essential way to gauge the state of your relationships. A while ago my former best friend stopped waving at me.  This was YEARS after we stopped being friends, but we were still civil- at least on the roadway. When he stopped waving at me, it was as devastating as our friend-breakup. What had I done? Why can’t he see me?  I have the same car! Insert Lifetime Movie worthy obsessing here.  He later upped his game and would turn his head to face the opposite direction when we passed. [Side note: That’s a dangerous kind of “FUCK YOU.”] Turns out, he just doesn’t care about civility anymore.

This morning a different friend of mine didn’t wave. It gave me pause: did he not see me? Was he so focused on his day that my car fell into his myopia? Maybe he just wasn’t aware of me because it was so early- I’m notoriously NOT a morning person. I spent quite a bit of my drive to work mulling over all the possible scenarios, because that’s just how I roll. As I walked to my office, I laughed at myself:
IT DOESN’T MATTER.

 

Besides, Joe always waves.  That’s all I need.