Louis C.K. Returns, But Where Are the Women?

Louis C.K. showed up for a surprise gig at the at the Comedy Cellar in New York City on Sunday night. According to the New York Times, he received an ovation before he even began. According to Vulture, there were at least two women who were not having it. And they felt they weren’t the only dismayed members of the audience, but it sounds like they were the minority. One of them reported seeing only four other women in the front row sitting stone-faced throughout his 15-minute set.

It was classic Louis. Surprise visit and 15 minutes of working out new material. He’s one of the hardest working comedians in his industry–and well respected for it. That is, until his fall from grace last year. Following the release of a short statement in the New York Times copping to masturbating in front of at least five women and coercing them into silence, he was dropped by Netflix, Amazon, shut out from the box office and dropped by his manager and previously devoted agent. The very agent who had threatened to ruin the first two women to call C.K. out if they came forward.  And he did. They received death threats, were blackballed from auditions and clubs and lost television opportunities that were all but a sure thing.

The two women in the Comedy Cellar audience reported feeling a similar kind of silencing as the men in the room boomed out their approval. “If someone had heckled him, I think they would’ve been heckled out,” one of them said.”It felt like there were a lot of aggressive men in the audience and very quiet women. It’s the kind of vibe that doesn’t allow for a dissenting voice. You’re just expected to be a good audience member.”

Yes, be a good girl and agree with the men. If you’ve ever been in a room throbbing with testosterone, you know better than to disagree.

The club’s owner, Noam Dworman, told the New York Times, “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.” The social standards about how to respond to errant behavior are inconsistent, he said, and now shifting ever faster, and audiences should have the leeway to decide what to watch themselves. “I think we’ll be better off as a society if we stop looking to the bottlenecks of distribution — Twitter, Netflix, Facebook or comedy clubs — to filter the world for us.”

Dworman’s argument seems logical. Nevertheless, the audience’s response shows how little so many men understand about the MeToo movement, how dominant their voices are and how the needle on predatory sexual behavior hasn’t moved. Sure, men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are gone forever, perhaps leading us to conclude that overtly criminal and predatory behavior has been curtailed. Please. Consider Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and our Predator In Chief. Nobody talks about Thomas’ well-documented sins against Anita Hill. Why even talk about C.K.? Really, when there are predatory men setting laws that will impact women for generations. Aren’t they the very ones who should be shamed out of office? If anyone?

But I digress.

But do I?

What does C.K.’s comeback mean?

Many of C.K.’s fans and supporters argue that C.K.’s offenses didn’t rise to Weinstein’s level. Yet, that argument fails to address the real issue–that when victims come forward, they face swift and immediate retribution. They face losing everything. The problem with C.K.’s return is that the women involved don’t get one.

As a one time fan of C.K.’s, I always felt there was room in his comedy for me, for women. However, I predict that may no longer be the case. I fear his comeback will widen the gender divide as he pulls away from more inclusive topics. If Twitter offers any insight today, those most vocal against his comeback are women and those for it, are men.  This tweet first Screenshot at Aug 29 16-08-51Screenshot at Aug 29 16-08-17

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SNL’s Michael Che, comedians Marlon Wayans and Mo Amer were the first of his colleagues to speak in his defense, but I doubt they’ll be the last. Men are angry and confused. They identify with the public figures who’ve been called out. Even those who say they support the MeToo movement, fail to get what it’s about. An interview last year on MTP Daily with Chuck Todd encapsulated this perfectly for me. Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard say they fully support the MeToo movement and believe the women who speak out. When asked about Woody Allen and whether the two would do another film with him, Sarsgaard levies a decisive no.  Daniels, however hesitates, yet quickly says he believes Dylan Farrow. Then, this happens: Sarsgaard says, “Throughout history there have been so many artists that had bad behavior. Picasso, I mean my god, it’s just been one after another, right? In all professions, but a lot of artists, right?”

And he was doing so well.

Then he adds, a bit defensively, “I would continue to watch Woody Allen movies, I’ll tell you that. I would go back and watch those movies. He’s a fantastic filmmaker.”

Uh huh. Woody Allen’s films demonstrate the various ways in which women exist to serve men’s needs and desires–something that has existed so long in the arts, we don’t even question it. His female characters succumb to his sexual desire as soon as he arrives. When they don’t they are portrayed as devious, manipulative and untrustworthy. Manhattan, for instance, is about a 44-year old guy who dates a swooning 17-year-old Mariel Hemingway.

That’s exactly the point of the MeToo movement. TimesUp on that behavior. Someone’s genius does not excuse his predatory and misogynist point of view or artwork. It does not give him a free pass to continue to undermine women, while his career soars. His talent or ability should not trump a worldview that feeds a narrative that disempowers half the population.

That said, I don’t believe people should be tried, convicted and destroyed in the court of public opinion. I don’t believe that Louis C.K. should go away forever. Instead, let’s stop talking about him and the men like him. If we’re ever going to move the needle, we need to hear from the women.

Let’s give them the opportunities they lost. Let’s showcase their work and their voices. Let’s find their genius. If we are ever to strike a balance, the Entertainment Industry power brokers, the same ones who vanquished the worst offenders in the MeToo movement, should seek out the women who were wronged and give them their lost platforms. Offer them the same opportunities to prove themselves. If they really believe them as they say they do, put their money where their mouths are.

 

A Message from Rose McGowan on Asia Argento

As a sometimes journalist, I receive emails from publicists multiple times a day. Most of the time, they don’t interest me. However, I found this one noteworthy. In it Mcgowan offers insight into her friendship with Argento while denouncing her actions with/ against a 17-year-old boy.  She strikes the right tone reminding us all that the #metoo movement is more important than ever, particularly in light of these revelations.

When the story broke about Asia Argento’s relationship with a 17-year-old boy, my husband had one thing to say, “Those who are preyed upon often become predators themselves.” He meant that if anything, Argento’s seduction of an underage person proves she was a victim of Harvey Weinstein’s and does not, as Conservative Media opines, nullify her claims.

Growing up I knew boys of the same age who had been involved with older women. They were proud of it. They felt it made them men. I truly wondered what the difference was between girls who were seduced by men and boys who were seduced by women. At the time, no one talked about it.

Thankfully, as far as the law is concerned, nothing–which is what the #metoo movement is all about. Anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a predator. Regardless of what many may debate, boys and girls are different. Boys mature sexually before girls. They’re less emotional. They can’t be damaged in the same ways…The law in this country disagrees.  (The age of consent in the U.K, is 16. Another debate for another day.)

Whether Weinstein’s abuse of Argento influenced her decision to have a sexual relationship with an underaged boy may be something for the courts to decide. One thing is certain, Mcgowan’s observations are correct, while the boy in question solicited Argento with nude photos of himself starting at the age of 12, she allowed them to continue, and by doing so, she preyed upon his vulnerability. We are just as guilty for what we do not do as for what we do.

The law exists not just to protect the young from predators, but to protect them from themselves. 12 is too young to understand a single action’s ramifications, too young to know the far-reaching damage a too early sexual encounter can cause. Who doesn’t remember their first sexual encounter? And who doesn’t understand, now upon much reflection, how much it impacts all the rest that follow.

Email from Rose:

I would first of all like to start off this statement saying thank you for your patience. A lot of people have been demanding answers and a response to the recent events surrounding Asia Argento’s sexual assault case. Many people believe that because we have been close in each other’s lives over the past year that perhaps I am affiliated with this incident or being complicit. I am not.

I first met Asia on a red carpet, but it’s only been the past year through our shared experience of the HW case that we have bonded. Asia was a person who understood my trauma in a way that many others didn’t. We were able to talk through them together and champion each other’s voices. We even got matching dot tattoos! Something I had posted on my IG just about a month ago. It’s no secret to anyone that Im a blunt, candid, brazen individual vocally- and I think that’s what I really related to Asia the most with. They were edgy, confrontational, and strong willed with very little care about how much other’s liked or disliked them. Rare things to find in women in this industry or the world. 

 But then everything changed. In an instant. I received a phone call and series of messages from the being I’ve been dating- Rain Dove. They said that they had been texting with Asia and that Asia had revealed that she had indeed slept with Jimmy Bennet. Rain also shared that Asia had stated that she’d been receiving unsolicited nudes of Jimmy since he had been 12. Asia mentioned in these texts that she didn’t take any action on those images. No reporting to authorities, to the parents, or blocking of Jimmy’s social media. Not even a simple message “Don’t send me these images. They are inappropriate.” There were a few other details revealed as well that I am not at liberty to mention in this statement as investigators do their job. 

Rain Dove said that they were going to go to the police with these texts once we were done speaking no matter what. But that they wanted me to be aware of them so that I may be able to take further actions. I responded with “You have to. You must.” I wasted no time. It wasn’t hard to say or support. What was hard was the shell shock of the realisation that everything the MeToo movement stood for was about to be in jeopardy. An hour after our conversation was finished Rain Dove confirmed that they had turned over the texts and were in conversation with officers. Almost 48 hours later the texts were in the press. 

 I had introduced Rain Dove to Asia Argento last month, three days after the passing of Anthony Bourdain. I was with Asia to comfort and support her. Rain Dove came to support us both. It was an emotionally chaotic time and Rain Dove suggested we go to Berlin for a couple days to take the mourning out of Asia’s home and into a neutral space. So we did. While in Berlin Asia had mentioned that she was being extorted for a large sum of money every month by someone who was blackmailing them with a provocative image. No one in the room knew who the extortionist was. Now we know it to be a reference to this case. 

 Rain Dove continued on communicating with Asia occasionally after meeting her- and their conversations have been their own. I know Rain is a person to whom many high profile entities consult when they are experiencing social pressures because Rain is good at guiding them through the research confrontation, rehabilitation, and solution process. While they are a person who is good at keeping a secret for those dedicated to making things right- they are also justice driven. So it was not a surprise to me that I received that call and the messages from them. I’ve referred to Asia in the past as “My Ride or Die” and said very clearly that their friendship comes first. I know that coming to me with those messages must have been hard for Rain because of that so I commend them for their bravery. 

 To the people who have checked in with me to see if I’m alright- the answer is thank you and Yes. I’ll be fine. Its sad to lose a friend connection, but whats even more sad is what happened to Jimmy Bennet. Whether or not the extortion case is true- it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. It is the type of thing I fight against alongside so many. The reason I haven’t released a statement is because I’ve frankly been extremely humbled by this event. I had to take a step back and realise that in my own activism while I fight hard with passion- I need to evolve. In the past I have been occasionally angry. As a victim I was justified in fiery feelings. But I know that those accused are the friends, parents, and family members of other people. There absolutely should be no leeway or tolerance for sexual assault. Hard stop. NONE. Victims also shouldn’t be told how they should react or what they should say about their abusers. However as allies to the victim and voyeurs of an event we should find a better way to balance support of the victim with due process for the accused. I’ve never claimed to be perfect. This week especially has made me come to terms with the fact that we all have a lot of growing to do, including myself. 

 At this current moment it may be easy to focus on the drama of the situation. The conspiracy. But the real focus should be on supporting justice. Supporting honesty. And supporting each other. We can not let this moment break the momentum of a movement that has freed so many people. We must use it to allow us to become stronger. More compassionate. More aware. And More organised. 

 Asia you were my friend. I loved you. You’ve spent and risked a lot to stand with the MeToo movement. I really hope you find your way through this process to rehabilitation and betterment. Anyone can be be better- I hope you can be, too. Do the right thing. Be honest. Be fair. Let justice stay its course. Be the person you wish Harvey could have been.

Fragments On Suicide

I’m 15 and sitting on my bed in my room writing tortured poetry.  Joy Division, Siouxsie And The Banshees and The Smiths play on a loop. Suicide soundtrack. I try cutting my wrists, but a dull knife and a low threshold for pain ruins the romance.  I want attention.

Seventh period study hall, Freshman year. George somebody or other. A tall, wide, redheaded football player, ugly. Really ugly, this guy. But popular. His best friend, Steve, wiry, tan, sun-tipped waves. A tennis player. The Beast and his Beauty.

The teacher, assistant coach of some kind–an alcoholic, barely kept his head adrift and frequently left ten minutes into class never to return. Steve and George found sport in making fun of Lara, a not very attractive, overweight girl with unwashed hair. They drew pictures of her on the board, made the whole class laugh. One day I stood up for her. George made me his target from that day forward. He and Steve drew pictures of me on the board, my face a piece of pizza. They never relented.

Lesley sat in the back on the other side of the room. I’d never met her before the day she found me at my locker and gave me a forged library pass.  “Meet me in the Library for study hall,” she said. I did, and every day after that. She came from money and the right side of town. Her dad had the right kind of job and she had all the right friends–which didn’t seem to matter to her. She saved my life. In high school kids can kill you, but they can also save you.

That you never really grows up. At a certain point she dims, but she never leaves. She hangs around to see how it all turned out, wondering about the longing you told her you’d handle, wondering if you’d make anything of it.

And so you spend the next several decades reaching for it. Until you’re tired and you’re here again, on the page, facing your high school self blank-faced and empty-handed.

“Sorry.” I say. “At least the weather’s better here.” We’re in L.A. Not Chicago.

I’m starting to bargain with the past. It won’t work. I’ll change gears. Try to put it another way.

This thing with Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, well how do you make sense of it?

And the news makes you feel like a child again, because it was a longing to become something big that kept you going and now it’s betrayed you.

Celebrities carry the psychic weight of the public’s needs.  They embody our aspirations, and they feel that pressure. They know their role. Perhaps then, celebrity suicide is a fundamental rejection of us and our fantasies.

According to a report in the Daily Beast, Spade told a friend she didn’t want to seek professional help for depression. She feared it might compromise her brand of bright colorful bags and charming charms telling women we’re one in a million. I wonder if she thought that through to its natural conclusion, that her brand was more important than her life, her daughter, her husband…

I spent 15 years in the beauty industry working for a Spade adjacent company–Bobbi Brown. There’s a kind of symbiosis between them–clean, strong lines, bright pops of color, classic taste. If you wanted to project power in the early 2000’s you wore Donna Karan, carried Kate Spade, and made up your face with the neutral power of Bobbi Brown.

Now look at them. Bobbi no long sells makeup. Karan came out in public support of Weinstein, and Spade is dead. Well, Spade’s death reveals a timeless truth about her industry, negative emotions have no currency. Traffic in them and you’ll lose everything.

Be positive, relentlessly, powerfully, positive. Successful people do it well. Until they don’t.

I wonder if, right after the moment of decision and right before their last, Bourdain or Spade regretted it, remembered their children, thought about their loved ones. People who have survived the 245 foot fall from the Golden Gate Bridge have reported regretting it the second they let go…And hanging isn’t painless…You have time to reflect on not being able to turn back.

Have you ever been depressed–seriously, clinically, you can’t move from your bed depressed? Your thoughts eat themselves. Enormous black feelings cannibalize every breath and you wish you could stop existing.

That’s rage, my friend. Inverted rage at your powerlessness to effect meaningful change. Round and round you go and each time you feel better you know it’s not for long. Right around the corner lurks a trigger–snap, bang, drag, fall and there you go again down the drain and out to sea.  So you dream of the end when you can stop trying and simply let go. It feels so much easier than fighting your way back. Reaching out requires honesty, vulnerability, strength. Depression wears you down until you feel like a thread.

It wears everyone around you down too. At a certain point you’re as tired of you as they are.

A Mourning Dove sits on a power line directly in front of my balcony where I watch. Every morning she sits for hours saying very little. What happened to your love? Where is your home? Why do you like this power line?

I think about suicide because of Kate Spade. That’s its contagion. No matter what you know or how smart you think you are, suicide seduces the damned. Obsessed with Robin Williams’ death, Spade read everything on it. Two years later here we are and there she’s gone. I read three articles on her death then stopped. It gets deep in your head. You can’t leave it alone, like that loose piece of skin on the roof of your burned mouth, you keep bothering it.

But I won’t. Suicide makes those you love angry. You’ve ruined their dream. You’ve killed their hope. You’ve robbed them of a piece of themselves. They will never again feel how you made them feel, and they may never forgive you for it. The violence of your last act chars your memory forever. Each time you come to mind the acrid odor of suicide follows until it’s just too painful to remember you as clearly or as regularly. You fade, forever damned by your last most significant act. Suicide as legacy.

These are all just words scraping the surface of something I’m trying to work out, but can’t. Something is stuck and I’m caught writing childish journal entries–anything to loosen the words and locate the story. Perhaps more of this to come. Stay with me and we’ll find the thread together…

Julio

Jose. Juan. No, Julio. Perhaps. I remember images, but not names. Never names. I worked at The Bailiwick Repertory, a Chicago theater in Boys town that featured plays and baudy shows celebrating the LGBTQ experience long before it was an acronym. It was a holdover from the 80’s, when the transgendered weren’t acknowledged, much less talked about, and being gay was a death sentence.

The Bailiwick also programmed works of new playwrights and gave new directors, like me, opportunities. But Aids had decimated the artistic community and by the early 90’s The Bailiwick grew desperate for more main stream audiences. No one came to see gay theater on the main stage and the only people interested in new works were other theater people. An artistic director and acting coach of mine once said, “You can get comped to death in this town.” His theater went under.

But before that, Julio. Yes, Julio. He came through town touring with a Mexican theater group one icy February. It was an Irish play translated into Spanish. Something haunting. Maybe a Yeats poem or a Wilde play. All male. The performers were gay, except one. Perhaps the straight guy was Jose? Nope. Can’t remember.  Simply a vacuum behind the face and the hot sinewy arms late at night as we slept out a storm on a wooden floor, the snow too blinding to leave. Julio slept in the bed above. He was sick. He warned me. Or simply told me. “He sleeps with someone in every town.” I think he said. Or maybe I asked.

The following day in rehearsal No Name no longer looked at me. He’d wanted one night and I wanted forever. I alway wanted forever. Once rejected, I no longer existed. A hole opened up within me, a familiar sinkhole. It stole my breath. It followed me everywhere anyway. I experienced momentary relief in the eyes of beautiful men who considered me beautiful, until they didn’t.

I found Julio elsewhere in the dim theater and sat next to him. I half expected him to leave. Instead, he turned and gently touched my arm. “Hi, Amy.” My name never sounded like that. I felt seen. Have you ever needed that so much in your life you thought you could die and just at that moment someone offers it? Without needing anything in return?

I don’t know if I said anything. Words often felt like sharp rocks in my mouth. I’d just as soon spare myself the agony of saying them. But I must’ve. He must’ve. Because at some point, as we sat together, he said, “You slouch. You’re so pretty. Do you try to sit up?” I thrust my chest out and sat up straight. “No,” he smiled. “Not like that.” He touched the back of my neck with one hand and my abdomen with another. “Take a deep breath.” I did. He tipped my chin forward and pulled the back of my head up. “Release your breath and tighten your tummy like this.” He demonstrated. “Pretend you have a cord from the ceiling holding you up here.” He tugged a little on my neck. “There. That feels good? Now breathe.” I sat up straight, my body felt right. “Everything feels loose, but like it’s supposed to,” I said. “Yes, you’re open now,” he said.

He was dying. Aids. In my memory he’s wearing white linen. But that can’t be right. It was a brutal February. Nevertheless, every time I see him, he’s in white linen and his feet are bare. He could’ve been 40. It’s hard to know now because, while his eyes shone like jet, his face was gray. He died that year I think. But one brief conversation left its mark.  I can recall the warmth his touch generated in my body even now. Not erotic. Something else, like the warmth sunlight offers after a storm. That’s not right. Too sentimental. I don’t have the words.

But the moment got lodged deep. Each day, at least once, I stand up straight the way he taught me. It’s involuntary. That’s what’s odd. I do it and think of him in his white linen on that freezing February day, wind howling through the walls. And I don’t know. It’s like, just the memory of him, and I can breathe. I don’t know what any of it means.

In 2006 I wrote this about a man I can’t believe I ever loved Part II

The sun pushes the clouds up extending them way above my head
Pink light spreads like layers of
cotton candy across the sky.

I’m not angry with him
I don’t blame him
I don’t ever want to be near him again.

I want to be with him again.
I cannot see my life without him

My heart told me to wait
And then asked me if it had ever been wrong before.

No, it had been right before.
It told me to get away from him all along.

But now it’s changed its mind.

In 2006 I wrote this about a man I can’t believe I ever loved Part I

I woke to your voice clinging to my thoughts
a web of tangled conversations
shaken loose by the storm in my head.

You once told me I thought like a man
Not the thing you want to hear from a lover
But then, you’d have known that.

It’s my birthday today and I know you remember
I feel your thoughts upon my body so dense I can
barely lift myself from the bed.

But I do not call and I wonder if you will
Like I wonder this time each year.

I’m relieved when you don’t but
sometimes
your absence is so near it’s like that first day
I woke and remembered you were gone.

I always knew we were made for heartbreak
You and I
It never stopped me from loving
you.

Get up
Shower
Dress
Drive to work

But I have this sense I left my body back in bed.
I want to tell you that. You’d get it.

Management Meeting

I found notes today from a meeting a long time ago:

Ask questions.
I’m responsible for their work.
Ask them what they are used to. Communicate what I am used to.
Ask, “Who else are you answering to?”
How often are we touching base? Set meetings.
Processes are important. Set process.
How do we get there? Cast a vision for how to get there.
Relationship is essential–foundational
Talk more during meetings, even if you don’t have anything to say. Make them believe you have something to say.

End of meeting.

Oh, I’m not even kidding.

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How meetings make me feel. 

The San Diego Zoo and Other Thoughts

imageAmerica swirls the drain. The world is run by criminals. I don’t know where I’m going creatively. Chipped nail polish. Age. Weight gain. Time pulls me to the grave. OK, that’s a drag of a thing to write. But I don’t know where I’m going creatively. I saw a monkey at the San Diego Zoo studying the feces on his hands. It fascinated him. Or he was pretending it fascinated him. He sat himself in front of the viewing glass, looked at all the people looking at him, and I swear to you, started playing with the feces on his hands to gross everyone out. He shared a habitat with the orangoutangs. The oldest one, the alpha. 42 years old. He looked like a sad version of Maurice from the Planet of the Apes movies. All of the animals in the zoo looked sad. Zoos are inhumane. The Reptile House was the saddest of them all. The reptiles lay tangled in small cages, pressed against the furthest corners or hiding altogether. Nobody likes to be watched for a living.

Except the penguins. They were having a ball. But they’ve only been there since June. Everything is new. They swam happily and played joyfully bumping up against the reinforced glass as children banged their little fists and adults dangled bracelets the penguins tried to catch. I wondered if they would tire and grow as jaded as the other animals.

In the Panda Exhibit the youngest panda went out of his way to defecate at the crowd. He came out from where he ate and sat on the closest branch with his back to the crowd, urinated and defecated, then returned to his place near his enclosure.

In spite of these things, there were a few magical moments. A male gazelle approached me where I stood and stared at me while he ate from a tree. It was strange and wonderful. Not many people watch the gazelles. But they seemed as smart as they were graceful, muscles on top of muscles moved over sinewy limbs. A baby was born only two hours prior. I couldn’t see it, but just knowing it was there was cool.

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It made me appreciate and respect my animals more. My cats aren’t human babies and I think I do them a great disservice when I treat them that way. Nevertheless, we’ve been together nearly 15 years. When I returned home they greeted me at the door and followed me from room to room. Chloe, my calico, waited at my feet until I picked her up. She’s always done that. When her head was bigger than her body I remember looking down at her little face when she was eight weeks old as she waited to be held. My husband read somewhere that domestic cats remain in a perpetual state of kitten-hood. As I sit Charlie, my orange male cat sleeps, paw stretched out pressed against my leg. He often sleeps that way. So, it’s hard not to think they’re not human. Or human-like. Or that they have achieved some kind of sentience through our relationship to them.

I don’t know. This is where it ends today. I don’t know where I’m going creatively. I’ve written a web series I will produce this fall. Stay tuned for that. I’m working on a feature, or a play. I’m not sure what it is yet. It seems to be a hybrid. I guess those are things. I just haven’t written in them in a week. And I have no way of knowing if they’ll ever see the light of day. But, build it and they will come, yeah? Yeah. Otherwise, there’s nothing.

I’m a depressive by nature. I can’t help but feel as if we’re all doomed. Aren’t we? Doesn’t it all prove out? I have to shake this off. Today I drive to the City of Industry for a gig where I have to look ten years younger and act even younger than that. Beauty and youth are commerce in my line of work. You never go looking how you feel. I’ve seen the girls who do that. There are a lot of them actually. I don’t know if they know that when they don’t wash their hair, or finish their makeup, or where clean black, they look like they feel. They look like I feel.

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Kitty in jail

Do you know where the City of Industry is? I’d never even heard of it. It sounds terrible. City of Industry, like a place for car dealerships and massive pharmaceutical complexes. Aren’t those the only industries that make legit money anymore? I used to work for a company that shot talking head videos for pharmaceutical companies. They were inner-office video memos and training videos. That was 15 years ago. That industry is dead. The professional video servicing industry. It got replaced by college students with a camera and Final Cut Pro. Cheaper, faster, less is more.

I don’t know where I’m going creatively, see. I have this web series. I need to finish it, but it’s a comedy and I’m not feeling funny anymore. Or right now. And it’s probably not funny anyway. And what am I doing writing screenplays anyway? Well, everything else is harder. I just know how to do it well. I teach it. Did you know that? Yeah. I’m good at teaching it. I just figured I should finally do what I say. I know what I’m talking about. I don’t know. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, or even to read this, but I’m good at writing stuff. Maybe not today. But in order to write anything you often have to lower your standards just to get past the first sentence.

 

At 30,000 Feet

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At 30,000 feet, after the pilot announces cruising altitude and turns off the seat belt sign, people change. It’s a small shift, a quiet adjustment, intangible even to them.

In the 90’s and early 2000’s, before the proliferation of personal media devices, airlines showed outdated movies and cancelled television shows. You purchased your headphones for two dollars and plugged into the armrest to watch on a screen overhead, or one embedded in the seat in front of you. Movies like Hope Floats, Forces of Nature, He Said, She Said, television shows like Who’s the Boss, Charles In Charge, Full House, and when you were lucky, early episodes of Seinfeld, or Will and Grace. Anything cheap. There were a lot of commercials.

Those programs had a strange effect on many passengers.  People, otherwise hardened by life, cynical by nature, non-criers, sobbed during movies that once made them scoff. They laughed hard at out of date humor. And no one was more shocked than they. I heard a woman tell her story, a New Yorker who flew from L.A. and back again frequently. She sobbed during Pretty Woman and even harder at Notting Hill. She could not explain the mutation. A friend of hers, a man, confessed the same happened to him. Was it altitude? Was it something in the water? Was it that she was alone and allowed to just feel her feelings. Sort of, something like that last one. A psychologists explained it this way: Untethered from her life, her career and her relationships, her subconscious crept to the surface and found a crack through which to escape. I never experienced this. I’m a crier. And I definitely feel my feelings.

When I step on a plane and I’m headed somewhere I want to go, I experience relief. Unbound from my anxiety and frustrating jobs, I relax and sleep for hours, dreaming nothing. Typically my dreams are more fraught than my thoughts even on my best days. Winding through a maze of emotional IED’s, my psyche drags up the most desperate sludge. When I wake, yesterday’s anxieties are replaced by new ones, or old ones, they’re all on a loop. The last one I remember today fused my former church life with my current writing ambitions. The theist to the atheist as represented by two specific men in love with one another and not with me. Obvious, right? Unable to penetrate a career in any carnation (I once wanted a career in the church) I nibble on its crumbs, volunteering for nothing, while I languish in humiliating jobs.

On Saturday I worked a retail makeup event. I received a complaint. The big boss woman, alpha woman, confronted me about it in front of her client, the current client in my chair, and my co-workers. The complaint: The client approached me, wanted her makeup done because her artist cancelled on her at the last minute and she was going to her sister’s wedding. I was affable, we chatted genially. At the end of the application she seemed fine. She could have asked me to fix the problems.

However, the nature of the complaint isn’t important. Complaints happen and when they occur the bosses act like it’s the apocalypse. No one ever asks the employee what happened. I see it all the time. However, in 13 years, I haven’t seen a boss confront the employee in front of everyone. As I stood in shock, she said of the new client, “I need to see her when she’s done. You need to clean up all this fall out here and blend this out. There shouldn’t be any harsh lines.” Her voice boomed.  I nearly burst into tears. I wasn’t even half-way through the application. My client was embarrassed for me.  I went to the back, pulled myself together and made it through the rest of the day. I’ve been simmering since.

The way this alpha woman treated me felt like rubbing alcohol on an open wound.  Insult to injury because the day prior I had worked on an article about Wonder Woman for 17 hours then submitted it to a handful of publications. I felt it was strong and timely, something I never have time to write. I thought it had a good, no a great chance of getting published. Hours later the terrorist attacks in London occurred. Perhaps my article got lost? But I think it’s more likely that it wasn’t good enough, clear enough…something. These pubs are still posting essays on Wonder Woman. It earned 103.1 million at the box office this weekend.

When I worked in restaurants I cried all the time. I received bad tips and complaints. I was a pretty bad server. But I’m a good makeup artist. I haven’t received a complaint in years. I’m new with this company, they don’t know that and they don’t care. Anyway, it’s a bad omen. And here’s the thing. I don’t think I can recover from it. I hold onto things and they get bigger. I sort of revel in not forgiving, letting the anger grow into rage and the rage into hate. It makes me move. Otherwise I get too comfortable in uncomfortable places. And I want to move.

 

 

 

She could sell swampland to a frog

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She sold $1000 worth of makeup and brushes on the regular. This meant she got more hours than other freelancers. Her bosses loved her. Charming, pretty, forceful, but with a smile, she could sell swampland to a frog.

Except her sales carried hefty returns. Buyer’s remorse hit her clients hard. No matter. As a freelancer she’d be gone by the time the products came back and smack the associate, who rang her up, in the paycheck  The freelancer’s hourly did not depend on her returns, but on her perceived overall sales. In that arena no one circled her stratosphere.

You can’t be too honest in the retail cosmetics game. We’re all at war. War with one another, war with the client, war with our companies. The pressure to sell and sell hard creates a burden that stretches ethical boundaries. “Watch her and just do what she does,” my boss told me. I stood by the freelancer as she closed the sale. “Oh, no, no, no, you can’t just take one of these. You need them all if you want to look like this. Your husband will be amazed. You look 10 years younger.The brushes, the skin care, the makeup. It will last you a year. Two years. Here, I’ll give you gifts. It’ll be a great deal. If you come back and get them separately, you don’t get any gifts.” She spoke quickly without a breath and as the customer stood there in a daze, she threw as many free items into the bag as she could find and grabbed the client’s credit card.

Often, when the counter sold out of an item, she’d send the client out with a substitute just to make the sale. Tawny shadow gone? Sunny Blonde is close enough. Foundation number 32 sold out? 33 will do. Sub the Cola for Cocoa, New York Red for Moulin Rouge Red. She’ll never know the difference. The freelancer knew what we all know. If you’ve sold her hard on an item that’s perfect for her, it’s nearly impossible to swing her in another direction at the last minute.

It’s not the end of the world. It’s just makeup. So she doesn’t like it. So she decides it’s not right for her. So what it’s not exactly the right one. Maybe it will work out for her anyway.

Or maybe you’ve just lost her trust and her return business.

Don’t be naive, dear reader, corporations don’t care. All numbers and annual projections are based on perceived possibility. If this freelancer can sell $1000 in one sale, why can’t all of them do that? Who cares how. And so the pressure is on and the ones who figure out her secrets close in on her lead. Others who insist on honesty fall behind and eventually lose the race.

With online deals and internet beauty influencers cannibalizing sales, makeup corporations struggle to find their base. The ground shifts constantly. Anxiety flows downhill and picks up speed. By the time it reaches the makeup artists and sales associates it’s at a fever pitch. Sell, lie, lie, sell. Make the customer love you and it just doesn’t matter. I’ve been in this game a long time. There are times that you can do everything right and it just doesn’t play. Your bosses however will never believe it. A former boss stepped down and became a freelancer. She and I worked together one day. In confidence she said, “I’ve been sitting everybody down and people aren’t buying. I’m doing everything right!”

I shrugged. “Sometimes customers just don’t buy.” I wish all bosses would come down and work the floor.