Awwww yeyah!

Hey guys. I’m working on something fun for later today or tomorrow, but there’s fun to be had all over the internet! Check out this guest blog I wrote for one of my nearest and dearest, Sarah Spigelman of Fritos and Foie Gras fame, and stick around to find out where all the best hot dogs in New York can be found.

 

hungry panda

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If She Keeps It Up I Just Might Tell Her So

Last Thursday, I went to my old midtown restaurant to have dinner at the bar and catch up with my restaurant friends. I ordered a glass of white wine and an appetizer. I chatted with the Party Lion while she made martinis. Then two ladies walked in and I was able to employ my favorite pastime: eavesdropping.

What I always look like in public.

What I always look like in public.

Both ladies were blonde and older enough than me that we would not have attended elementary school at the same time. One was slender (Blonde #1), the other a little heavier (Blonde #2). #2 opened with her recent thirty pound weight gain. I don’t know if she gained it all that day or if she’d just had a moment of truth (like getting weighed at the doctor) or something, but man, she went on and on about it.

As I sat on my bar stool of judgment, I assured my blonde neighbors that I would out shortly and they would be welcome to my seat in the middle of the crowded bar. #1 asked what I was eating. The Party Lion leaned over the bar and explained the smoked salmon, arugula, crème fraiche, and homemade potato crisps. I exclaimed it was delicious, to which #1 replied, leaning in closely, “Mmmm, that means it’s full of calories!”The essence

What. The. Fuck. Seriously, what the fuck? Who says that to a stranger? I was so shocked that I just laughed and looked at the Party Lion who, as a tipped employee, remained neutral with her face, but not her eyes. Suddenly the diatribe on thirty pounds made a lot more sense. I felt bad for judging  #2 so quickly. Her friend (#1) was a bitch. It’s possible that all #2’s talk about her body was just to preempt snarky comments cloaked in well-meaning concern. It’s also possible that I’m projecting, but probably not.

Ladies, if you have a friend who makes you feel bad about yourself do not hang out with that friend. This is a hard lesson, especially if your not-nice friend is someone you admire or a horrible bitch who has shamed you into feeling lucky to be her friend. Shame is a powerful tool for women, especially regarding appearance, career, sexual partners, Halal restaurant choices, babies, not wanting to wear heels, not being able to curl one’s eyelashes, etc. Women are taught to want to please, and that goes double for friendship. It’s easy to get lost in that. I have had not-nice friends who’ve said mean things to me and made me feel like I deserved to hear them because I didn’t measure up in some way. It takes a long time to get over that stuff, and a lot of good friends to erase the words of the bad. If someone isn’t kind to me now, they don’t get to play with me. I don’t have time to have my self-esteem crushed every couple of weeks over brunch. Friends don’t meanly snark at each other. We have the cast of The Jersey Shore for that.

Barbara's definition of "interesting" gets broader and broader every year.

Barbara’s definition of “interesting” gets broader and broader every year.

I Would Know That Confidence If I Knew a Way Back to Then

It all started when I had to wear Toms at the gym. I had carefully carved out mid-Sunday time to work out at my new gym, Planet Fitness: A Judgment-Free Zone. As I pulled out the contents of my gym bag, I realized I’d forgotten my sweet purple and green New Balances. Undeterred, I put my ankle socks on under my Toms and got to work. I got an awful lot of side-eye for a place that is supposed to be free of judgment and, for what it’s worth, bare feet provide more support than year-old Movember Toms.

Which I definitely bought to promote men’s health issues and not just because I loved the tiny mustaches so much.

Sunday continued to be an uphill battle towards efficiency right to the end. Yesterday was a series of irritating events, including being shamed by an older woman on the subway to having a shitty improv class. To be fair, the class was great; I was shitty. I got stuck and then I got frustrated with myself. As I walked to the C train, I got more frustrated. Then I noticed the Rachel Ray studio to my right, which reminded me of the time that I was working in a restaurant and Rachel Ray’s drunk dad hit on me by telling me I reminded him of his daughter. I wanted to sprint down the street, limp-armed until I fell and scraped my face (limp arms will not catch you) or rid that icky image plus the last day from my memory. I’m no sports medicine physician, but I’m sure that would work.

Instead, I trudged towards Brooklyn, getting increasingly irritated at myself. Lately I’ve been able to keep my neuroses at bay, which, for me means two and a half out of five Cameron Frye’s. But after two weeks of bold-choice making and bravely believing in myself, I was bound for regression. Last night, I went the full five Camerons.

I am really, brutally afraid of failure, which is weird because I’m always running straight up to it and accompanying it into terrifying dark alleys, hand in hand. I’ve been comforting myself with the knowledge that my glorious musical theatre crash and burn has made me immune to fear; once you’ve failed at your primary life goal, the world is your oyster. I hate me when I think I know things. The only thing failure can prepare you for is a slow reentry into really trusting yourself again.

I’ve learned a lot about myself since I stopped auditioning. I learned that I like stability. I learned I have a setting lower than three Camerons and that I really do love musicals, but that it’s ok to like other things too. Last night, I learned that a big life disappointment hasn’t insulated me from little life frustrations, nor from wanting to be good at things. Nor from having flashbacks of Rachel Ray’s creepy dad, which is maybe the worst part of it all.

Well Done, Sister Suffragette!

“It’s the day of the show, y’all!” said Joe Biden to the President, Michelle Obama, and the lovely Jill Biden this morning at breakfast in my imagination. It’s Election Day here in the United States of America. I arrived at the polls before six, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to vote. I was pleasantly surprised to see a line of people eagerly awaiting the opening of the doors. After a decent amount of standing in lines and people watching, I cast my vote (SPOILERS: Obama) and headed off to the gym.

Election season in navy New York City, after a small lifetime in magenta North Carolina, is invigorating, and never more so than when Barack Obama first took office. Election Night 2008, I was waiting tables at my Midtown Restaurant. We had the tv turned up so we could hear the results. As Obama was pronounced the next President of the United States, I stood on the steps to the kitchen, surrounded by men who came to America from other countries, seeking its advantages for their children. The restaurant erupted in cheers. There were tears of joy from all angles. Customers were hugging each other. It was the new America. The next morning, the guy who gave me my AM New York yelled out, “We won!” and I yelled back, “I know!” The city was buoyant.

Exactly like this.

Obviously that feeling didn’t last long. Between a hostile congress, an infuriated Middle America, and the fact that this is the city, we deflated fairly quickly. Today at the polls, that feeling came bubbling back. No matter what happens today, I am extremely proud of what our President has accomplished. He’s made huge strides in civil rights, foreign policy, women’s rights, and raising awareness of the ever widening wage gap between the haves and have-nots. I am cautiously optimistic about the outcome of today’s vote. Either way, I am wearing new boots, so at least we can all take comfort in that.

I actually am wearing new boots, but I wish I was wearing these instead….

I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really, Really Want

I love New York. I love brunch and concrete. I love to never worry about parking or car payments. I love to have literally anything I can think of delivered. I don’t mind living in tiny spaces; I like them. When I was little, I begged my dad to get us a trailer so we could live there instead of our house, which I think scared me with its multiple rooms. Now, instead of going home and thinking what a silly little kid I was for feeling lost in our lovely but not overly large house, it seems bigger to me, like my parents live in a vast, echo-y cavern of luxury. New York taught me that perspective.

I love that there are shops that only sell cheese. Most of all, I love my personal catch-phrase, “This is the city”, meaning, Obviously your green curry is spicy, No big deal that that girl has a single piercing going from the webbing of her hand to the nape of her neck, Yes the subway is smelly as Hell’s outhouse. “This is the city” at once sums up what’s great and horrible about New York: the city is amazing and everyone who lives here acts like an asshole about it.

It’s the perk of living in a place that reeks of urine and crushed dreams. It’s the perk of paying exorbitant rent and costs of living. We get to gloat about it and be close to everything that is cool. Oh, you like to be served Ethiopian food while sitting on the floor and watching stand-up comedy? I know a place in the village. You only wear leather made from cows who committed suicide? There’s a shop in Brooklyn. You like to day drink all day, every day, but are afraid of being shunned by society? This is the city; do you.

The secret that no New Yorker wants revealed is that for all our vegan bakeries and Broadway shows, everyone loses their shit for Target. Rich or poor, inhabitant of the Bronx or Tribecca, everyone loves those $19.99 soft cotton sheets. Seeing the Archer Farms brand of oatmeal on a fellow New Yorker’s pantry shelf fills one with respect and envy. One may question her friend about what else was purchased on such a pilgrimage. Did the quest begin with linens and blossom from there? Was furniture involved? Did said friend purchase food for immediate consumption, conveniently available inside the store for hungry shoppers to luxuriously take breaks from so much savings?

We go to our Peruvian brunches and ironically comment on the suburbs. We wear fringe on things that don’t require fringe and see plays in small theaters with controversial subject matter. We read the New York Times on our phones and smugly call it the “local paper.” This is all well and good. We are cool, shockingly so. But no one is too cool for Target.

Nice is Different Than Good

When doing improv (my new creative love), one of the main components of building a scene is to establish the relationship between the players. Who are you to each other? What is each person’s status? A butler talking to the lady of the house is a low to high status relationship, though it’s just as good in improv if you can make the reverse work.

In real life, I spend a considerable amount of time in lower status positions. I am an assistant with no hope of flipping status at work for comedic effect. I am a restaurant manager who constantly has to placate customers. Once, Seth Meyers had brunch at my old restaurant and he asked me where the bathroom was. I shrunk into the wall and stared at the floor and pointed him in the right direction.

But I am beginning to see that the low status I hold might be more of my own doing than that of the world. I have always wanted people to think of me as nice. Nice takes what is offered. Nice doesn’t challenge personal injustices. Nice prioritizes being liked over getting what she wants.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been asking for things I want. Nicely. In return, I’ve gotten a new apartment at a price I can afford and a date that is convenient for me. I’ve gotten an extra discount at Banana Republic and the right kind of sweetener put in my morning iced coffee. And today, I got something else.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that student dentist Timmy the Tooth improperly installed my crown. It would have to be replaced. In the past, I would have privately cried and flung myself from chair to bed, kicking and screaming, before deciding that nothing good could come from contacting NYU and that the world was horrible. After all, nice girls are grateful they got something so inexpensive in the first place and learn the lesson that they get what they pay for. Fuck that.

After taking the time to rage and fling myself upon various soft pieces of furniture, I took action. I called a patient advocate at NYU. We spoke a few times. NYU asked for proof of the faulty crown. My new dentist, and I in turn, happily obliged. Today, I got an email offering to fix the crown or a refund, my choice.

I have been a low status person for a long time. I spent a lot of adolescent social time being quiet, lest someone notice and pick on me. I have stayed away from boys I liked because I thought that affection could never be reciprocated. I have apologized with every nerve in my body during auditions, simply for being there. That is over. The next time Seth Meyers asks me where the bathroom, I am going to stand proudly, look him in the eye and say, “This way, Mr. Meyers.”

No, “This way, Seth.”

Saturday Night in the City

On Saturday night, I managed at my old restaurant. Everything was going well. My new bangs had received an adequate number of compliments. Customers were enjoying their dining experiences. The Party Lion and the ‘dazzled Dolphin were behind the bar. Two people walked in and asked for a table, your typical hot gay guy/slightly chunky fabulous lady duo. A flag went up when their server, the Lanky Llama, complained that they hadn’t ordered food after over an hour of sitting down, saying they had something serious to discuss*. A quick peek at their table told me things were not going well.

A short while later the chunky fabulous lady was bolting out the door. Hot gay guy was right behind her, grabbing her arm. I don’t care who looks like they could kick whose ass more, no man should ever put his hands on a woman. It makes me nervous. I watched as they yelled their way back and forth in front of our restaurant. As he had one hand on her arm and the other grabbing the belt loop on the back of her pants, dangerously close to Eighth Avenue, I yelled to the hostess to call the police. The Lanky Llama headed outside to break up the fight. I headed out right after him, and the bartender from the restaurant next door** was right behind me. Once we were out there, we realized the woman had the guy’s phone and was screaming, “Give me my money or I am taking your phone. Michael, you are an asshole!” Relief flooded over me as I had really wanted to know why they were fighting and at last I knew it.

That relief was short-lived, as the fight (more like a passive wrestling match) continued on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. Out of nowhere, one of the hottest guys I have ever laid eyes on appeared in the middle of everything and stuck his hand out and took the phone and gave it back to guy who had been powerless to get it back for himself. This super hot guy happens to work at the restaurant and we are friends, but his appearance was surprising nonetheless, as he’d been cut several hours earlier. The momentarily triumphant “Michael” came back in to get his backpack and the Lanky Llama, now a hero in my eyes, made him pay the check as his lady friend waited outside, glaring at him through the glass.

* This is one of my biggest pet peeves. People come into a restaurant and then act like the server is being a dick when he tries to take your order. It’s like going to the library and being annoyed by all the books.

Take This Pink Ribbon Off My Eyes

One night, in my early New York days, I got a call from a 917 number I didn’t know. As I still do, though I haven’t auditioned in months, I assumed it was Broadway calling and scurried from the hostess stand to the coat closet to return the call, on my pink Razr, naturally.

The man on the phone told me that he’d found my umbrella at the Actor’s Equity Building*. I asked if he was sure it was mine, because mine is pink. He said it was and that I should come right away to claim it. It was late, but I was so eager to please anyone involved with the theater union that I might have gone were I not stuck at work. I thanked him asked him to please leave it at the front desk.

As I hung up the phone and recovered from my disappointment that it wasn’t Bernie Telsey himself, a cold feeling washed over me; my umbrella was in my bag. Moreover, I’m not five, so none of my possessions have my contact information on them.

Acting teachers caution against putting an address on one’s resume. Casting directors constantly receive headshots and resumes. Some will end up in the trash, where a potential rapist/murderer/fake umbrella returner can use that information to find ladies whose pictures are conveniently stapled to the front. It’s unsettling.

The next day, I calmly went to the equity monitor guarding the desk and keeping the non-Equity actors out of the lounge. I explained what happened and that I wasn’t hurt or upset, but that I thought someone at Equity should know the story. He listened seriously. He took me straight in to see the president of the union.

The president of Equity is more Chris Christie than Great and Powerful Oz. As I sat in his office and calmly relayed what I’d told the monitor, he stared at his desk. When I finished, he asked me if one day I wanted to be in the union. I said I did. (I still do.) He told me I was a pretty girl and that this was New York. Things like this were going to happen. Case closed. I realized anything further I said would fall on deaf ears. I was a young girl, not to be taken seriously. The next time we spoke, I was waiting on those benches alone, wearing a low-cut dress for an audition. He made sure to comment on the dress, though he did not remember its wearer.

*The Actors Equity Association is the American union for stage actors. One can join by getting a union show. One can get a union show by getting into a union audition. At the Equity building, the front hall has narrow benches where non-Equiteers sit and wait, sometimes all day. The back part of the building has bathrooms and chairs, but you can’t go back there without a card, unless you are seen at an audition. Equity dues pay for these facilities, so that seems fair. The water fountain is available for all.

I Often Think About The World In Which I Live Today

My family has this hilarious running gag about me and my being high maintenance. I am certainly not afraid to have an opinion or express it. I tend to over-pack. I require Orbitz Wintermint Gum to always be on hand (seriously, I am terrified they’ll come out against gay rights and then I will really have to test the mettle of my convictions), but I am not above supplying it for myself. If my family could get a taste of what I have seen waiting tables and administrative assisting, they would be shocked.

One busy brunch in section one at my old restaurant I brought coffee to two ladies at table thirty-two. As I placed the cups and saucers on the table, I detected panic mingled with disdain on the face of the younger of the two. My spidey senses tingling, I asked if everything was alright. The girl looked at me and said her cup was too full of coffee for her to add milk. I swear I did not mean to be rude, but I stood gawking at her like she’d spoken in interpretive dance. I had never in my life imagined that would be a problem that another person would need to know about. After about eight seconds of total incomprehension, I offered to dump a little bit of her coffee out for her. Her relief told me that was the right thing to do. I was too stunned to be annoyed.

But that pales in comparison to some of the requests I’ve heard over the last couple of years. At my old firm, there was one gentleman who had a deep curiosity about the contents of his food. He was so engrossed in all the nuances of what he was eating, he asked me at various times to type up ingredient labels for each item of the bi-weekly company lunch, apologize for not having his favorite espresso, and research the potato chip with the lowest fat and sodium quantities I could find.

This week, my whole family is in Scotland. They didn’t leave me behind because they thought I was too high-maintenance. I couldn’t take that much time off work and wouldn’t really want to use it to go on an international golf trip if I could. Probably they wish there were someone with an overstuffed suitcase shouting out sardonic things ten paces behind them in the airport. They haven’t called or emailed because the pain of missing me is barely dammed up and any contact could cause it to explode. I get it. They should know I am just sitting here at my desk quietly, being very self-sufficient.

How Funky Is Your Chicken? Chick Fil A Gate 2012

Because I’m compelled to have awkward moments throughout my life, yesterday I discussed Chick Fil A Gate (Chick Fil Ate?) with my allergist. I didn’t mean to start an uncomfortable conversation, sometimes I just like to show off how flexible I am by slowly edging my foot into my mouth. She sided with Dan Cathy, or at least the people crying “First Amendment!” I was unsure where to go from there. We asserted our opinions and left it at that; she not wanting to offend her patient, I not wanting to piss off the doctor in charge of the four needles jabbed into my subcutaneous fat on a bi-monthly basis.

I don’t disagree that Chick Fil A’s CEO’s son, Dan Cathy, should have all the free speech he wants. Let him paint himself with anti-gay slurs and go sprinting through Chelsea. (Please, please let it happen while I’m having brunch nearby.) People who don’t mind that portions of their waffle fries purchase are going to finance de-programing homosexuals and buying votes in legislatures to oppress minorities should continue to eat them. They’re horrible bigots, but that’s my free speech at work and I wouldn’t want anyone to take it away from me.

The things Dan Cathy is doing are not illegal. I find them morally reprehensible, as do many Christians who were raised to believe in spreading God’s love rather than using our religion as an excuse to be oppressive. I don’t know where in the Bible it defines marriage as between a man and a woman, though I’m sure it does. I also know there are plenty of passages that define marriage as a union between a man and several women, and verses ordering wives to sleep at their husband’s feet (somehow, I can’t envision bedtime going down that way in the Palin household). The Bible is full of contradictions, being written by fallible humans, rather than an omniscient God.

But even if the Bible has a verse in every book that talks about how terrible gay people are and how God and Jesus are always BBMing that they wish a bloated millionaire would use the money his father provided for him from a fast food chain to eradicate them from the earth, it would be irrelevant. We are, in principle, a secular country, founded on the separation of Church and State. We should all be free from persecution; even if what some of us do in the privacy of our own homes between consenting adults makes some of the rest of us feel squidgy. The only document that should be considered when making laws and protecting our citizens is the Constitution. The First Amendment is what everyone is using to back Dan Cathy up, but no one considers he is using it to stomp on the equally important Fourteenth Amendment, which avers:

No state could “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The organizations that Dan Cathy supports spend their money trying to deprive LGBT American Citizens of these exact rights. This is wrong. Everyone who high fived yesterday over their delicious Chicken Cool Wraps is also wrong. Gay rights don’t have anything to do with you or your Bible. You certainly won’t be invited to any gay weddings. This is a basic civil rights issue that has gained ground faster than any movement in history, of which you are standing on the wrong side, covered in chicken grease.