Does My Work Reflect Misogynist Thinking?

Zooey Deschanel.

Unoffensive Manic Pixie Dream Girl has tainted my writer’s imagination for female characters. Thanks Hollywood.

Guy meets girl. Guy falls for girl. Girl falls for guy. Guy meets another girl.  The. Drama. Begins.

Who is the Guy character?  He’s a loser. What kind of a loser?  The kind that doesn’t commit to anything, but feels sorry for himself.  Who is this (first) Girl character? She’s smart, but dysfunctional and relationship-challenged.  What does she do about this jacked-up love triangle cliché?  Well, either she leaves and starts a “journey of self-discovery” along the lines of “Eat, Pray, Love” (orders deep dish, reads The Secret, gets groped by her OKCupid first date in his Ford Mustang). Or she becomes…what? The long suffering girlfriend/wife? The magical waif who changes him? Or the Psycho Hose Beast who we all pity.  Either she stays or she goes.  The play hasn’t even been written and I’m already falling asleep.

I started writing a new play and it’s not going well.   The character (because it’s really three stories we have to tell) and, sadly, found that I cared more about the loser guy than the dysfunctional magical-waif would-be hose beast. A loser guy can redeem himself. A loser woman?  What is that? A victim? A trope. (noun, trope; a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression…I was an English major and still not sure what it means.)  The girl becomes a thing, an idea, something we roll our eyes at.  I could make her into a righteous feminist, then we’re getting closer to Solange territory and now I’m even more bored.   Or I could make her ambitious and unfeeling, getting into Lady MacBeth evil woman territory, and now it’s a Hollywood premise.   Female characters are often anything but multidimensional. We are queens, dark angels, fairies, or pure physical matter, we consistently live at the edge of the emotional spectrum.  We are anything but complex.

I got tired of banging my head on the walls of my media-drenched brain and stopped writing, drove to Yogurtland, and asked myself “Am I really just bumping up against my own internalized misogyny.”

It’s not (entirely) my fault.  It’s not like my brain is exempt from a life-long bombardment of misogynist thoughts, images and attitudes that reduce women to talking points in a conversation a male dominated culture has with itself: Cruella De Vil, Daisy Buchanan, Blanche Dubois, Ophelia, Juliette, Psycho Hose Beast, or the latest, Manic Pixie Dream Girl…..fantasies, victims, bitches and psych ward candidates.  The Western literary Canon of male characters is overflowing with complicated, nuanced, loserish or evil-ish characters, from Falstaff to Lebowski to Lecter Hannibal. Even sociopaths get cool guy pass, because they are so smart.  Want to write a male character and not have to worry if he is sympathetic or not?  The world is your oyster.

Like corn syrup and gluten, misogyny leaks into most every aspect of gestation when it comes to culture, media and art.

I do think that Black Women writer’s have done the most to bring women to a place much closer to an experience not defined by the male oeuvre. (oeuvre; noun; the works of a painter, composer, or author regarded collectively…I don’t think I’m using it right).  I can’t trace “Beloved” to anything a man wrote.  “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “The Great Gatsby” were my favorite books in college but could not have a more different approach on the topic of the female search for love.  Janie is a woman who “with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny, while Daisy cries about shirts and Myrtle turns into road kill.  (I have since re-vamped my entire perspective on “The Great Gatsby”).

In short, my imagination has been tainted, yes maybe even raped, when it comes to creating full-spectrum Good And Evil dark, likable and annoying, female characters…

Regardless of what I churn out, I now know that I need to put it through the litmus test of Hollywood Taint.  And that is sad.

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Birthday Piñatas

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Fixing my hair before taking my turn at killing the piñata.

I doubt that many moms today would look kindly upon the practice of allowing a blindfolded kid to swing a bat or other stick-like object with total destruction in mind.   Not to mention, the blindfolded kid first gets spun around until he/she is fully disoriented.  Who doesn’t love a blind disoriented kid swinging a stick in random directions amongst children?  Want a piñata party Ms. White Middle Upper Class Professional Mom?  Might need to sign some legal documents and get an on-call paramedic.

My mom made me a piñata every year until I turned about 8 or 9.  The night before my birthday she stayed up until the wee hours carefully gluing tissue paper onto a paper machete object that originated from a balloon.   She did this with full knowledge that the final work of art would see complete death and destruction within 24 hours.  TALK ABOUT DEDICATION TO THE “PROCESS.”

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This guy is a little scary.  Please note: Not the same piñata as the one above but they are definitely siblings.

I don’t know if she had a vision of what the final piñata would look like, but due to the roundish nature of balloons, they usually became a face, often a clown, per the evidence of these pictures.  One time she used a long balloon and we decided to make it a fish or a whale, we weren’t sure…however, everyone thought it was a submarine with a smiley face.

pinata_apartment_house

A fish or submarine?

I don’t think my mom was slaving away with resentment at fulfilling her duty.  I don’t doubt that the piñata-making party didn’t involve some wine and cigarettes and friends dropping by to do some gluing and decide what this thing should be.

One year we took a box and made a Rubik’s Cube.  It came out beautifully, but was impossible to crack open.  My dad eventually had to break it open.

My father would control the swing that made sure the piñata wouldn’t be destroyed too soon and that all us kids would have an opportunity to enact blind violence on this purveyor of candy.  He made sure to torture us sufficiently so that every kid got to swing into the air or anywhere before he lowered it.   Eventually, we got tired of the game and wanted to collect the booty.  So he would let someone, usually one of my male cousins, destroy the thing and we all dodged flying Tootsie Rolls. I’m sure more than one party guest got a Jolly Roger in the eye socket.  But that’s where the Budweiser came in.  I remember one year nobody could crack it open and eventually my dad took a bat and beat it to the ground.   Parents had fun too.

Eventually, I must have stopped caring about party games. I wanted sleepovers with other girls where we rented VHS movies like “Valley Girl.”  And my mom could no longer express herself through piñata.

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Salsa Teachers

My friend Solomon helped me out with my pitch for the NBC Playground Submission.  It’s kind of a snowball’s-chance-in-hell situation, but we had a blast making this.

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Defending My “Not Tired” Piece

XoJane.com published a blog post I wrote entitled “Not Tired” and day-um people wrote some intense comments. I got called “lazy”, “condescending,” “self-righteous,” and “defensive”.   HEY INTERNET, DON’T HOLD BACK OR ANYTHING. Also, one commenter noted that my frequent use of all caps and parenthesis is a textbook sign of poor writing. OK, SHE HAS A POINT.  (But talk about condescending…). And then the comment-ers debated amongst each other about the seriousness of gluten allergies and Game of Thrones.  I did learn one thing: DO NOT READ COMMENTS.

I want to defend my stance in Not Tired, but the fact that I feel shamed for writing it illustrates the problem perfectly.  However, I have deep-seated desire to be liked, understood and accepted…on the Internet. I know. Not gonna happen.

Yes, I am well-rested…NOW.  But this has not always been the case.  I spent most of my life feeling VERY TIRED. In high school, I woke up at 5:45 AM, went to school and ran 6 miles (even in the rain), attended my roster of AP classes (in which I often stared into space) and the afternoon worked as editor of the yearbook, or met with student council or studied.  I often got home at 5 or 6 and fell asleep on my Calculus homework. I also took care of my toddler-half-sister and maybe once in a while hung out socially.  I loved school.  Without school, I might have run away from home. I commuted between my parents’ homes and it never occurred to me I could change this schedule. So at 18, when I graduated  from high school, I felt pretty tired.  Working that hard got me into an Ivy League school where the pressure to work felt even greater.  I often wondered if I had gone to a UC school I might have some time and space to figure out who I was.  But such is the folly of youth.

Forget about my college-bound geek schedule (which now would be ten times as busy), but the issues in my home and family that drove me to such intensity.  As an adult, I’ve worked many 40+ hour jobs and commuted, and woken up at night in a pool of sweat dreaming about deadlines and projects and art directors who hated me.  I have stressed out my adrenal glands to the point of illness, and none of this advanced me in work, creativity, life or health. It wasn’t about surviving, but about avoiding my feelings, and figuring out what I really want to do, or who I am.

And asking yourself that question is a huge pain in the ass responsibility because it’s terrifying.

Are we good? Ok, I’m done.

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Say No To Mom Jeans

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Mom Jeans, go away!

Last Saturday I went to an open mic where a female comic commented on my schlubby jeans/blouse ensemble.

“You used to wear dresses all the time. Now that you’re getting some **** you don’t dress sexy no more!”

She could have said, “I’ve noticed a change in your attire since you started dating what’s his face.”  But comics are not known for their tact and a reference to the male fellatio will generate a laugh. (I GET IT).  However, she did speak the truth in acknowledging that I may be on the slippery slope to Mom Jeans.  It’s one thing to feel secure in my relationship, but another to move too far my position on the rights of women over 35 to embrace a sexy style without shame or fear.

When I started dancing salsa eight years ago, I lost some weight and started wearing more dresses and/or “revealing” clothes. Partly because I felt more confident in myself and my body and because the milieu of salsa all but requires such clothes by law.  Also, dancing gave me a j’oie de vivre that drove me to new levels of fitness without really trying, one that I yet to find in other types of exercise (sorry yoga).   I honestly wasn’t on a mission to define my calves or muscles on my bra strap or lift my butt or whatever teachers of the Bar Method say to motivate the room full girls with rocks on their fingers the size of marbles who just signed up for the bridal special. (I quit after three months once I realized I couldn’t take listening to a woman with a headset cheer me on with, “Good shaking Solange! This is where the change happens! This is where the change happens!”)

When I stopped dancing salsa (as much) my body slid down on the “Bam!” scale, and while I tried to fix it with downward dogs and some really unmotivated jogging, I found  that forcing your body to look a certain way takes all the pleasure out of human mobility and usually leads to injuries.  God, clearly wants us to dance and/or play soccer.

Regardless of what I look like, I found that I liked wearing dresses and that such pleasures can and should be enjoyed at whatever weight and age.  When I got into a relationship, I just got lazy.  Sure, I occasionally dress up for my BF, but I forgot that girls actually dress up for EACH OTHER. (my bad).

So that night I pulled my H&M dress that clearly designed for a 10th grader and went out salsa dancing, and went out and got my groove back.

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Why I Enjoy A Good Head Squish On “Game Of Thrones”…

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Best couple ever!

Like many nerds and non-nerds who enjoy graphic nudity, on Sunday night I took a break from the stress of life to watch a fictitious show wherein the main characters get beheaded, have their face squashed in like a tomato (via the eyes), poisoned, bludgeoned with an axe, thrown out of a hole in the floor thousands of feet above ground, stabbed and murdered as guests at a wedding, sentence their children for murders they did not commit, and generally live in a state of constant fear and anxiety, without faith or trust in much of anything.  YES, VERY RELAXING.

It’s a violent, raunchy show, possibly offensive to women, but also just offensive to humanity, which is really maybe the point.  While the feminist jury deliberates the rape-y sex scenes vs. Amazon warrior quotient on GOT, I can only hope that someday I’ll be as happy and carefree as a prostitute in any given episode.  Oh, those silly hookers, always laughing and giggling, despite the occasional rejection by some sweaty pirate or Knight who wears armor all day (no doubt without deodorant…uh, King’s Landing Rite-Aid?).  Has any male writer ever actually met a REAL PROSTITUTE? Not a lot of giggling. Yes, a lot of PTSD.  (Please Male Writers, let a prostitute be desperate, sad and traumatized…in short, let her be a real human being).

Other than the implausible hookers, I really don’t mind and sometimes enjoy the gory violence and I’m not sure why. As much as I despise guns and gun culture, and believe that violence comes from a testosterone fueled need for expressed aggression, power and psychosis…I don’t mind an occasional head squish, decapitation or arrow through the body on TV.  Yes, I love it when the special effects team goes nuts with exploding intestines on “Walking Dead.”  And despite my opposition to the depiction of gun slinging as jazzy and cool in movies with buff monotone men or charming one-liners, I don’t mind it in the context of creating a story allows us to ingest archetypes and epic dramas and battles.  I believe we need grandiose sagas with death, love, greed, power and a moment-to-moment sense of life and death, in order to feel our humanity, and NOT do what was once referred to as “going postal” and now is called “mental illness” (if you’re white and male).

And while I’ve never hit someone (on purpose), and don’t believe I ever will (though, I do have some yoga biceps) , I really like seeing women open a can of whoop-ass (do people still say that?).  So when tough-on-the-outside-but-girly-inside Ygritte came tearing into Castle Black ready to shoot MORE arrows into her ex lover-boy, getting-hotter-all-the-time Jon Snow, well…I GET IT.  Guys, you can’t just have crazy hot sex with us in a cave for a week and then go back to your man-club of guys who don’t get laid, and NOT expect us to have murderous thoughts.  She behaved perfectly, in the alternate universe of Act How You Feel.  Which is what good TV should be.

Maybe I wouldn’t hire George R. R. Martin to babysit my kids (he has quite the potty mouth), but I wonder if imaginations like his help people NOT commit violence like what happened today in Oregon, and yesterday in Las Vegas, two weeks ago in Isla Vista and a year ago in Santa Monica…

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The Secret Garden Comedy Show

Please watch The Secret Garden Comedy Show promo video directed by Russell Mills and starring myself and Russell. (I contributed some half-baked ideas). The monthly show begins on Friday, June 6th at The Panini Garden (2715 Main Street Santa Monica) at 7:45 pm!

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Not Tired

resized_not_tiredI decided not to go to my (ENTER HIGH NUMBER-th) college reunion.  Yes, yes…I know…LAME. Mostly, I felt that it’s too far and expensive, but also I just don’t know if I can stand around and talk about kids and schools and mortgages because, well, I don’t have to send my kids to school because I don’t have any, and I live in a rent control apartment (yes, the same one…) and in White Upper Middle Class Northeast culture it’s the equivalent of living in your parents’ basement on unemployment and video game focus group stipends.  Not procreating or entering upper-management?…WHAT HAPPENED?!

I’m not ashamed of my life. Well, a little.  I’m not taking any spa weekends or shopping online for my shoe purchase (well, I am, but minus the “purchase” part) but I am paying my bills without killing myself or spending ten hours a week on the freeway listening to NPR and wondering how my commute contributes to my back problems and thigh width. Most importantly, in my free time I dance salsa, perform stand up comedy, write and produced one play. NOT BAD.  I still have to work a “DAY JOB” but I can do it on my couch and let’s just say I’m not wearing a blazer.   Work still presents challenges and stress. Really, the only difference between working from home and working from The Office is that at home I don’t have a creepy guy asking, “Do you know how to fix the printer?” or “Can I finish off the birthday cake in the fridge?”  (Please Note: I LOVE Creepy Guy).

I have many friends who have a family and a full-time job and I admire their commitment, strength, time management skills, and love for their kids and home.  I enjoy children and I believe I could love, raise, and torture a child (yes, if we assimilate kids into this culture we torture them) as well or better than many parents.  And I often think about whether I should take more emergency-like measures to become a Mom.  [When I make a pro and con list, one of the pros is "Then I can be like everyone else"...maybe not the best reason].  Living as an unmarried, childless, self-employed woman makes me an object of scrutiny for my family (well, I think they’ve given up by now), employers, and creates a lot of uncomfortable moments. However, I am one thing that many Mothers are and that is Not Tired.  No, I am Not Tired.  Not. At. All. I sleep and wake up when I’m ready.   Actually, I sometimes wake up in time to work Central Time (that’s like 7:30!), but then I take a nap.  I am not connected to the mainstream world of tired people.   I know…it must be wrong. Very. Wrong.

It’s actually revolutionary. In the History of Women in the world how many of us — not counting aristocratic or upper class women  (who were really prisoners of home and circumstances…can we agree?) — can attest to this?  NOT TIRED.  It almost feels like a crime.   Like many women, I have spent much of my life saying the following:

“I’M FUCKING TIRED.”
“I’m exhausted.”
“I’m stressed.”
“Things are ‘crazy.’”

Now, I recently produced a play and, yes, that was very tiring. Also, sometimes I have to work for focused amounts of time and, yes, I get drained.  But on average, I am able to recover, rest, sleep, think, get depressed, go to therapy, work out…take care of myself. THE NERVE.

I’d love to live in a world where women went around saying things like:

“I don’t know what to do with all this ENERGY.”
“Another day of being supported with all my responsibilities and needs.”
“Maybe I should do more…”

Becoming Not Tired was somewhat of an experiment at first.  Like most people, I used to justify my existence on the planet with an unreasonable list of activities.  One day I thought “What would happen if I just chilled out?” I became a “freelance contractor” (aka, unemployed, with the occasional gig). But then the gigs became enough to support my bills. What if I just let things be? Would I sink into debt? Would the sky crash down on my well-rested head?

Nope.  Nothing happened. All that’s happened is that I started to lead more the life I wanted.   I do go struggle with priorities and time management and self-discipline.  I do feel terrified at times…But, just for today, I’m not fucking tired.

Posted in This Los Angeles Life, Uncategorized, White People, Work | Leave a comment

Job Posting

Digital Project Manager – Cutting Edge Of Everything Design (Culver City)

compensation: DOE

Cutting Edge of Everything Design is looking for an experienced Digital Project Manager who can GET SHIT DONE.  You will help define user experiences for web, mobile and other digital platforms from concept through “can-we-get-drunk already?” completion. As you can see, we are straight shooters here and don’t have time to dick around with people who whine about things like,  “I never get to have dinner with my kids, ” or “I have no personal life.” Hey, if you value MEDIOCRITY, then that’s YOUR problemo. If you want to be on the Cutting Edge of EVERYTHING, then this is your shot…

Responsibilities:
- MAKE SHIT HAPPEN.
- Inspire the team with your total commitment to work by staying till 10 pm (MINIMUM) every night.
- Be Bad Ass.
- Make your stuff real, real, real, REAL cool
- Be good at numbers and stuff like that.

Attributes:

- Single
- Codependent with clients, boss, team, and project.
- Not very interested in having any kind of personal life
- If the fern needs water, you go fill your glass
- Passion for quality
- Hunger for innovation
- A thirst for learning
- Any other physical urge to stay at work…Your body is DYING to be here.

Preferred Skills:

- Computer
- Yes and-ing
- Mixing drinks
- Bachelor’s degree-ish

Cutting Edge of Everything is an award-winning digital agency located in Los Angeles.

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Cinco De Mayo In My Hood

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This man celebrates Cinco De Mayo.

As Cinco De Mayo approaches I dread the impending influx of Drunk White People into my hood.  On behalf of the 1/2 white part of myself I apologize to all Mexicans in the vicinity for the abuse of this holiday that’s not even really celebrated in Mexico.

I have lived in Marina Del Rey for sixteen years.  I sometimes wonder if deep down inside I’m really a divorced middle aged white man who “really enjoys life.”  Marina Del Rey is like a Spring Break that started 35-years-ago and never ended.  When I was on OKCupid Marina Del Rey, Sherman Oaks, and Burbank were my “red flag” locations for a potential date.  The later two because the distance meant they weren’t serious. But Marina Del Rey is a single older man reclaiming his youth. Except for his impressive portfolio and more impressive tan, he wants to live like he’s 25-years old.  And when I say 25, I mean in 1987.

Sometimes people get stuck in a decade, but the entire neighborhood of MDR lives in a time warp of the 80′s.    It’s the one neighborhood I WISH LA hipsters would overtake because mustaches and irony beat out fraternity-style partying and hooking up at the Baja Cantina, which remains as immune to irony as salsa dancing and the late great Patrick Swayze.   While Venice has enjoyed the same Bohemian culture for the past thirty years, Marina Del Rey has remained home to the smokers with deep tans who don’t care for the panache of Santa Monica but still like an ocean breeze and local bars within walking distance. (Hey, at least they aren’t driving…).

If it wasn’t for my rent control situation, albeit a glorious situation, I would not live in a place that’s so far from my values and tastes and culture.   I have visions of K-Town or Downtown LA with authentic ethnic food within walking distance (not that Baja Cantina doesn’t have authentic Mexican food…).

On Cinco De Mayo Baja Cantina hosts a rock band. That’s right…THEY DON’T EVEN PLAY MEXICAN MUSIC.

All I can say is…perdón.

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