Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.

Archive for the ‘Feminism, Or: Bitches Get Shit Done’ Category

January 23rd, 2013 by Mere Smith

Lady Gaga and the Zero Spare Fucks

Dear Lady Gaga,

I get it.

Finally, I get it.

And I don’t mean like all those other times when I “got” it intellectually, or emotionally, or intuitively.  Boil those adverbs down and they’re just fragments of true comprehension – kinda the same as my “understanding” of quantum physics.  Which is to say, I grasp the concept, but not the underlying math that makes it possible.

But this time?

No, this time I really get it.  Math-wise.  Down in my brain and marrow and what passes for my shriveled heart and soul.  Sure, it took 38 years and more angst than I’d like to cop to in order to get here, but at long last it’s truly sunk in and…

…I finally fucking get it.

I know you’d be proud.

* * *

Thing is, I have a penchant for female singers whose art mostly revolves around Officially Not Giving A Fuck.

Vis-à-vis rock’n’role models, my life can be timelined thus: Madonna → Tori Amos → Ani DiFranco → Nina Simone → Lady Gaga → Amanda Palmer.

So this Christmas, when The Finance gave me Lady Gaga concert tickets, I was ecstatic.

And at the same time, terrified.

I won’t go into minute detail about my preferred hermiticism, raging agoraphobia, or how the idea of standing in an arena surrounded by 20,000 people makes me want to shred my own face off with a cheese grater – but suffice it to say, I had some “issues” to deal with just to make it to the Staples Center in the first place.

Yet when I saw those tickets – not just e-tickets, abstract tickets – but real, physical tickets I could hold in my hands, I vowed I’d be goddamned before missing my chance to see a woman whose main claim to fame – besides great pop/dance music – involves telling bigots and misogynists and homophobes and bullies to fuck the fuck off.   And actually using those expletives to do it.

In other words, a woman after my own heart.

But here’s the main difference between me and Gaga:

 

rollnstone

photo by Nick Knight for Vanity Fair

 

Yeah, that outfit?  I’da tried that on when I was 16.  Maybe.  In a dressing room.  By myself.

I would’ve shimmied into that bodysuit, squeezed my feet into those 8” heel-less boots, and – if you wanna know the horrific truth – probably executed a couple of vaguely titillating Vogue-like dance moves in the mirror before crashing into a wall, no matter how much circulation my toes weren’t getting, or how deep those Swarovski crystals were slicing into my nips.

But as mentioned, all of that would’ve taken place in a dressing room.  By myself.

I never had the – what I imagined at the time was “courage,” though now I think of it a tad differently – let’s say, “wherewithal,” to sport maxi-strange-lithe-and-sexy ensembles out in public.

Don’t get me wrong: sartorially speaking, I could do strange.  Even back in high school, “strange” was my forte.  Using eyeliner every day to draw Egyptian ankhs by my eyes helped. (Fucking little emo thieves – I started that shit, and in rural Florida, no less!  Where you could be bodydumped in the Everglades!  Urban copycat pussies.)

In my early 20’s, I could even do the lithe-and-sexy thing (it helps when you work out two hours a day, six days a week, and your boobs only point forward).   But never – never – could I quite get the nerve to pull off Gaga-levels of sexyweird fashion.  Frankly, I don’t think anyone can come close – or ever has, unless you count Grace Jones in her heyday, or Madonna and Gaultier’s brief fling with the cone-bra in the 90’s.

But that’s why it works for Gaga.  It’s just who she is.  She’s into haute couture, artpop (not the other way ‘round, oldsters), multiple personae.  And because she’s being true to herself, all that sexyweird works.  Even this, while not high on the fuck-me scale (unless you’re a furry) –

 

gagahellokitty

photo by Markus Klinko & Indrani

 

– is just as authentically Gaga as this:

 

naturalgaga

photo released by Lady Gaga

 

See, when I was younger, the problem with me (as I perceived it), was that I was NONE of these desirable things: sexy, brave, willing to suffer the slings and arrows – and blisters and bruises – for style.  I could fake it for a while, but it was my fault my ovaries weren’t brass enough to carry me through the day in outrageously odd-yet-smokin’ outfits without eventually crumbling under the stares and catty comments and lewd come-ons and thence crawling back into my overlarge hoodies and socks with cartoon owls on them.

In other words, I was giving way too many fucks.  Okay, so maybe less fucks than the average bear, but all the same, more fucks than I wanted to be dishing out.

Which is probably why I’ve always been attracted to female performers who possess ZERO SPARE FUCKS.

And two hours before the Lady Gaga concert, at 38 years old, much to my chagrin and embarrassment, I still had a few fucks to give.

* * *

I wish I could’ve taken a picture of my costume for you.

A long black cocktail dress, combat boots, my studded leather motorcycle jacket, and some extremist Goth make-up that put my high-school ankhs to shame.

No kidding, I’d just spent an hour in the bathroom mirror applying foundation, powder, incredibly detailed and dramatic eyeshadow – and then taking my liquid black eyeliner and drawing flowing lines and curlicues and stars around my eyes until I looked less like an artist who’d created something beautiful, and more like a four year-old who’d gotten into Mommy’s lipstick without knowing it’s called lipstick for a reason.

And as I stared at that girl in the mirror, that four year-old trying so hard to be a grown-up, trying so hard to imitate her idol, trying so desperately to be anything other than what she really was, I had (you guessed it) an epiphany.

Seriously.  Right there in the bathroom.  Naked, barefoot, eyeliner in one hand, vague sense of “What the fuck?” in the other.  I blinked rapidly, scanning my face, trying to figure out what felt wrong.  I was going to a Lady Gaga concert, for Christ’s sake – it’s not like there was a “right” way to look.  Gaga’s run through every physical manifestation on the planet (as well as a few off-world) so it’s not like I would’ve – or could’ve – stuck out in a crowd of Little Monsters.

Then what was it?  Why was I feeling so off?

Was it because, since I can barely play Hangman, my hand just isn’t steady or trained enough to create designs as magnificent as I envisioned them?  Was it because I’m not used to wearing make-up at all anymore, and I was only feeling baseline uncomfortable?  Was it because the look was So Weird – and not just So Weird – but SO BALLS-OUT WEIRD – I was just having trouble adjusting to it?

And that’s when the epiphany punched me right in the mouth:

This is not who I am.

* * *

I hadn’t conjured those words on my own.

That’s the creepy part about epiphanies: they seem to appear out of nowhere, fully formed, at the forefront of your consciousness.  Actually, that’s how you can tell if something’s truly an epiphany: it lands on you without warning, almost like some unknown Whatever is whispering in your ear, and you get the feeling like, Hey, you know what?  It’d be really, really good if I listened to this.

I stood there for a second, still looking in the mirror, and let the words hit me again:

This is not who I am. 

And as usual, that unknown Whatever was right.

Fucking Whatever.

* * *

As I ran the hot water in the sink, I yelled out to the living room, “Honey, how much time do we have before we leave?”

“Thirty minutes!”

“Perfect!”

“Perfect?” his voice rose.  I heard the couch cushions shift.  “Why perfect?”

“Because I’m taking this stupid shit off and not trying so hard and I’m just gonna be me because that’s what Gaga’s really talking about, see?  She doesn’t want us to be these little Gaga clones, she just wants us to be us – whoever we really are and that’s what I want now, too!  I mean, Jesus, look at me: I’m nearly 40, I have a fucking pooch belly!  I’m not this chick – I wasn’t this chick when I was 20!  I’ve never been this chick, with the boots and the dress and the fucking stupid eyeliner!  Even when I was pretending to be that chick, it’s not who I was!  I just had an epiphany!”

“You…” A slight pause.  “Are we going to be late?”

The Finance had seen the Goth face-painting (and said nothing, the doll).  He’d genuinely liked the cocktail dress, wanted to make sure the boots were comfortable – wise veteran of Shondaland – and said something nice about the jacket.  Showcasing one of the many reasons I love him, he said he didn’t care what I wore, so long as I liked what I wore.  (Which is probably why he got me the cartoon owl socks, too.)

As I lathered up my hard-earned Day Of The Dead face, he appeared in the doorway and tried to hide his surprise.

“Wow, so… you’re taking that… and what’s happening again?”

“I had an epiphany.”

“Okay.”

“This is not who I am.”

“Uh-huh.”

“That clrbblbil dress and jackblrtbbrl and fucking makeublrrblp—”

“You wanna wait ‘til you finish?”

“Yeh, gimme a crbbll sec—”

Of course it took more than a couple seconds to scrape off the mortar and paste I’d just spent a careful hour layering on, but when I finally looked up, cheeks and eyelids scrubbed raw, the Finance was still leaning against the doorway, waiting patiently to hear what his psycho Financée was doing completely reversing fashion course a mere half-hour before we were due to leave.

“You all right?” he asked.

“I’m awesome,” I grinned cheerfully, drying my face with a towel.  “This thing with the outfit and boots—”

“Which are comfortable, right?  ‘Cause we’re gonna be standing—”

“Fuck the boots, I’m not wearing the boots.  I’m wearing my Nikes.”

“With the dress?”  He looked confused.

“Fuck the dress, fuck all of it.  I’m wearing my baggy pants.  Because those?  Those are me.”

“Yes…” he trailed off, his voice going, If there’s a right answer here, I am totally missing it.

“I’m telling you, I just had an epiphany.”

“I got that part.”

“And all the clothes, and weird make-up?  I mean, I haven’t worn those combat boots since—” I slathered on some moisturizer.  “When’s the last time I was in fucking combat?  I wear Nikes.  Every day.  Those are me.  Baggy pants are me.  And I’m going to wear one of my Sherlock t-shirts because I’m a fucking nerd and that’s who I am and I’m finally, finally fine with it!”

I may’ve grown a little overly emphatic at that point, as he lifted his hands and said, “Whoa, not fighting you!”

“That’s the thing, though!  The thing I just realized!”

“That you’re a nerd?”

“Yes!  No!  Sort of, but yes!  I mean, Gaga’s always saying be proud of who you are – and with the cocktail dress and fuck-all, who is that?  None of that is me!  I looked like a fucking corpse – a poorly painted corpse – and none of it is really who am.  I mean really, really who I am!”

“And this is the epiphany.”

“Don’t you get it?  I was trying to dress up like Lady Gaga – but I’m not Lady Gaga!”

The Finance kept staring at me, like, I sure as shit hope she didn’t think she was Lady Gaga, ‘cause then we’d be in a whole new world of crazy.

“And yet here I am trying to look like her, trying to look like some girl that coulda been my daughter if I’d been knocked up in junior high.  Fuck that!  I’m me, and I like this me, and I’m not gonna be afraid to be me, nerdy and all.”

“So no dress.”

“No dress.”

“Baggy pants.”

“Fuckin’ A.”

“Nikes are comfortable.”

“GOD, YES.  And my socks that say, ‘Admit it, psycho is hot.’”

“And a Sherlock shirt.”

“That is my single Gaga concession,” I admitted.  “I’m wearing the one that says, ‘Ordinary people are adorable.’”

As I reached for the powder to tone down the shine on my nose (something that really is me; me and my fucking oily skin), the Finance came in and kissed me on the top of the head.  I’m pretty sure he was just thrilled at the prospect of not having to walk around with a poochy Morticia Addams, but what he said was, “I like you nerdy and all, too.”

* * *

So I get it, Gaga.

I finally get it.

I love the way you look.  I love that you’re a motherfucking rock star who dresses like a motherfucking rock star.  I love your music, and your message, and I love them even more now that I’m starting to love who I am, and have stopped feeling inadequate, like I’ll never be as cool as you.

Because I’m not a motherfucking rock star.

I’m a motherfucking writer.

I’m a motherfucking writer who wears baggy pants because they’re more comfortable for marathon sessions behind my computer.  Who wears nerdy TV show shirts because I’m a giant TV nerd.  Who wears Nikes because high heels cause me such pain they make me Hulk-out angry.

A motherfucking writer who wears cartoon socks because I think they’re hilarious.

And while I love you, I honestly don’t give a shit if you, or anyone else, thinks my socks are funny.  Because after spending my entire life listening to you and other strong women tell me to be myself – and to be happy being myself – I can definitively tell you:

Me and my pooch have ZERO SPARE FUCKS to give.

 

UP NEXT

Tales from the Actual Concert

With Cool Photos Like This:

IMG_2814

January 7th, 2013 by Mere Smith

It’s 2013! Time For Plan B!

So it’s five days into 2013, and already I’m on Plan B.

planb

Okay, that’s not entirely true.

I’m not technically on it anymore, but I was on January 5.  And ladies, lemme tell ya, what a delightful experience!  Simply a rainbow cornucopia of pleasure!  A veritable fruit salad of Nausea, Fatigue, Dread, and A Longing For Sweet, Sweet Death!

(FYI – Most folks might find this entry contains more than they care to know about me, in which case, seriously, what are you doing here, anyway?  Have you learned nothing?  Go read some Berenstain Bears books and play with your sexless little Kens and Barbies!  Off with you!)

Suffice it to say that on Saturday, the Finance and I were “celebrating” our return home from various family vacations when –

WHOOPS!

He experienced…

…let’s just call it a wardrobe malfunction.

Initially I wasn’t worried.  In fact, given that I’m almost hypervigilant about my cycle (more on “why” later), I already knew I wasn’t in Prime Ovulation Territory.  Not to mention the condoms we use are as thick as kitchen gloves (sorry, hon) and are chock-full of spermicide.  No, as a general rule, we have that thing strapped, tranq’d, and in lockdown, and in the nearly five years we’ve been together, we’ve never had to change the (BLANK) Days Since Our Last Workplace Accident billboard.

But then – shock of all shocks – for the first time in my entire life, I thought, “Well, I’ve already deemed 2013 The Year Of Glorious Mistakes… maybe this is the Universe’s way of doubling-down on my bet!  Calling my bluff!  Ha ha… oh… hrm…”

I reclined there for a few minutes, all warm and vaguely amused, imagining – me!  a mom!  what hath Hell wrought?  but maybe in a good way? – when I turned to the Finance to share all this shit out loud, y’know, have a good chuckle.

Which is when the Finance asked, “Well, but – what about your meds?”

And holy scheisseballs on a Saltine, Brunhilde.

Way to snap me back into reality at Mach 1,000.  My cervical vertebrae are still vibrating.  (Which sounds a lot dirtier than it really is.) (Pity.)

You see, one of the medications I’m on for Bipolar II increases the chances of birth defects.  If I ever decide to actively plan to get pregnant, in order to be on the safe side, I’ll have to stop taking this medication.  So more bipolar crazy, but less birth defects.  It’s a trade-off.

However, as my shrink has reassured me time and again, this medication doesn’t necessarily cause birth defects, it just increases the chances of them.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that going to the mall on Tuesdays increased my chances of having my head chopped off by a psychotic clown, I would definitely find another day to go to the mall.

And thus suddenly that nice warm maybe feeling evaporated like water on the surface of the sun—ffft!  Instantaneous.  And –

“Oh, shit,” I said out loud.

“Oh, fuck,” I said out loud.

“Oh fucking fucking fuck fuck,” I said, and launched myself upright and into the kitchen, still naked, grabbing my journal, where I meticulously keep track of my only-slightly-less-than-clockwork cycle.  Flipping through the pages like an Evelyn Wood valedictorian (look it up, young’uns), I doublechecked my math over and over again.

Seventeen days.  Seventeen days.

If my cycle’s this long, on the seventeenth day, I’m fine.

If my cycle’s this long, on the seventeenth day, I’m fine.

If my cycle’s that long, on the seventeenth day, I’m… should be fine.

Should be.

And that “should be” is what screwed my mental.  So to speak.

See, I can’t abide “should be.”  In my experience, “should be” is the equivalent of  “definitely isn’t.”  Because over a decade ago I took a gamble on “should be”…

…and lost.

Big time.

So big that – to boil it down – “should be” left me sobbing in a corner three weeks later while a man screamed, “You fucking babykiller!” at me.

After that, keeping track of my cycle just felt like self-preservation.

Yet all these years – and SO MUCH THERAPY – later, I realize that this situation is about as far from that situation as you can possibly get while on the same plane of reality.  I can’t even picture The Finance thinking those words, much less screaming them, but all the same that “should be” slammed me right in the fucking gut like a steel-toed boot.  We’re talking flashbacks, projectile tears, pure panic-attack adrenaline.

But never again, I’d said to myself then.  And never again, I said to myself now.

“Should be” is not an option.

So I called the nearest drugstore: they had Plan B.  Check.

Need a prescription?: nope.  Check.  (Thank you, FDA… AS OF ONLY THREE YEARS AGO.)

Check drug interactions with my shrink: and…

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.

The very same medication I’m on that increases the chances of birth defects?  Makes Plan B less effective.  Apparently it accelerates the rate at which Plan B is metabolized – the bottom line being: you have to take TWO DOSES of the super-potent one-dose version.  That is, take one super-potent pill, wait 12 hours, then take the other super-potent pill.

Twice the side effects with still no guarantee the shit would even work.

But… should be…

“Honestly, you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” I thought.  And not for the first time, “Why is being crazy so fucking inconvenient?”

(Oh, and I should probably note here that if you wanna get all screamy rageful anti-choice in the comments, I’ll be deleting you.  I mean, please, feel free to express your opinions calmly and respectfully – even if they differ from my own.  But be a dickbag, and I’ll chuck you out on your ass.  My house: them’s the rules.)

So within an hour and a half of the first “Oh, shit,” I was taking the first dose.

And then commenced feeling like shit for the next two days, as I followed up with the second dose 12 hours later.

It was like having a low-grade stomach flu, except you can’t throw up or you’ll have to take the pills All. Over. Again.  Which, at fifty bucks a pop, is some expensive fucking vomiting, so you just lie on the couch and feel barfy and gross and have that oversalivation thing where your mouth fills with spit and you think If I have to swallow one more mouthful of spit… which just makes you feel even more barfy, and your stomach grumbles aggressively — aggressively!  angrily!  like, “Fuck your stupid libido, Smith!” — and it’s like you weigh north of 600 lbs. because you sure as hell can’t get up and why can’t you just pee right here? — upholstery can be cleaned! — since the bathroom is miles away and you’re just… so… damned… tired… but you can’t sleep as you’re nauseous and when you do doze off you have nightmares, and even watching TV is too much effort and dying would just be so much easier, wouldn’t it?, because suddenly there are only three circles of hell: Pregnant, Nauseous, and Dying, and Dying is the least worst one by far…

…all this because I was blasting my body with a tera-fuckton of hormones that I barely survived, much less any random cells lying around in my uterus.

Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be sterile for the next four months or so.

Poor Finance, though.

He’s going to be celibate.

November 12th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Wrong

[[POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE]]

Due to the graphic nature of the following topic, this entry will, I’m afraid, be brimming over with profanity-encrusted vitriol.

Granted, that in itself is not especially shocking (right now my regular subscribers are going, “Bitch, you know we can read, right?”), but when I found myself on Saturday morning railing about this story to The Finance for almost a solid hour, I realized if I didn’t exorcise my rage through writing, I was going to contract some kind of soul cancer.

You should know that in all good faith, I tried to approach this post with something that at least approximated sanity, but it seems when it comes to this particular occurrence I have no control over my anger whatsoever.

My anger has emancipated itself, and is thinking of getting a neck tattoo.

So if you’re having a bad day and you just can’t take the ugly, or you – very understandably – don’t want your marshmallow harshed, that’s totally fine.  Duck out now and wait for the next entry, where I’ll try to talk about something funny, like…  uh…

(Yeah, turns out when you sit there and just try to think of “something funny,” it’s really hard.  All I kept seeing was monster trucks and koala bears.  Fucking hilarious.)

Thus fair warning: this post is gnarly.

If you’ve come this far, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

* * *

On the front page of Saturday’s Los Angeles Times, I was stunned to see an article reporting that a woman had been raped on an LA city bus.

My inner knee-jerk went something like:

“What do you mean ‘on a bus’?  What the fuck?  Was there nobody else on the fucking bus?  No driver?  Was the bus in park?  Was it hidden in a fucking underground tunnel?”

And the answer is no.

The bus was moving.

During rush hour.

In broad daylight.

With a driver.

And with other passengers on it. 

All of whom claimed not to see anything.

* * *

Returning home from her special education classes, an 18 year-old woman – really, a teenager with the intellect of a 10 year-old – was raped in the back of this bus as it trundled along its regular route, making its usual stops, before finally reaching the end of its line, where the rapist at last disembarked.

Taking into account there are about 12 different WRONGS about this situation — and I’m pretty sure we’d all be in agreement as to what those 12 things are — I’m not going to file the standard list of grievances here.  There’s plenty of fingerpointing that can be done, but I’ll tell you one person who is absolutely blame-free:

That 18 year-old girl.

Let me be as clear as I possibly can on that point:

This girl did nothing wrong.

Reading the first few column-inches, I was filled with the same outrage (and outright rage) I’m sure a lot of you are experiencing right now.  Not an unusual response, I’d say.  Frankly, I’d be worried if you didn’t feel a little sick to your stomach.

However, horrifying as the event itself was, that wasn’t what launched me into a ranting cyclone of fury.

No, that happened when I read this quote by sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Scott:

.

“Unfortunately [the victim] was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

.

* * *

Has your jaw ever dropped so hard it popped?

Well apparently that can happen.

* * *

.

“Unfortunately [the victim] was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

.

Are you fucking shitting me?

Honestly, be honest now: are you fucking SHITTING ME?

The wrong place?  At the wrong time?

No.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is walking under an ACME safe just as it drops.   Wile E. Coyote had a bad case of the wrong place/wrong times.

This girl?

Was ABSOLUTELY NEVER in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s repugnant that anyone — anyone — should say that she was.

I want you to look again carefully.

Look closely.

Look at the words:

.

 “Unfortunately [the victim] was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

 .

The Victim.

Did something wrong.

Which is why she got raped.

 .

Oh, absolutely not.

The heat of a thousand suns’ worth of Fuck You, Man.

If a city bus – what we literally call public transportation – if being in public is “the wrong place” –

If 5 p.m. – rush hour, the busiest time of day, with the greatest number of people out on the streets – is “the wrong time” –

When the fuck is the “right” time?

 .

 “Unfortunately [the victim] was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

.

Can you see it?

It’s subtle.

Insidious.

Sure, you could read it as one of those thoughtless clichés uttered by every “Law & Order: SVU” cop ever written: “Wrong place, wrong time.  Wrong place, wrong time.”

And that’s probably what Sgt. Scott meant by it: a seen-it-all verbal shorthand for “This sicko was bound to go off sometime and it fucking sucks, but he went off on this girl.”

But the very laziness of that verbal shorthand turns an appalling (on multiple levels) crime into something the victim was responsible for.

.

Stick with me here.

Because let’s really break down his statement, shall we?

 

“Unfortunately…”

 

Nope.  Not a good start.

Sgt. Scott, I know nothing about your experience on the force, but I can tell you there is nothing “unfortunate” about being raped.  “Unfortunate” implies a bad stroke of luck.  Rape derives from intention.  Rape is about anger, and power, and stripping victims of their agency and humanity.

Ding your car door?  That’s unfortunate.

Fight with your spouse?  That’s unfortunate.

A mentally disabled girl sexually assaulted in full view of a public that does nothing to help her?

That’s not “unfortunate.”

That’s a noxious fucking nightmare of physical, mental, and emotional violation that you’ve just reduced to a car ding.

Your word choice?

That was unfortunate.

.

“[the victim] was…”

.

And since we’re talking about stripping a person of their agency and humanity, let’s remember who’s in charge during a rape.

Here’s a hint: it’s the fucking rapist.

And if the rapist has all the agency – he’s obviously the one dictating what happens – how is it that after the rape, all that agency, all that accountability, gets shoved back onto the victim?

After all, it’s not “the rapist was…”

It’s not “this fucking psycho brought the wrong place and wrong time with him.”

It’s

“[the victim] was…”

.

So tell me.  When exactly does she get that agency back, hm?

When does she step up and take responsibility for being “wrong”?

I mean, is it optional?  Can she, at some future date, choose to accept the fact that she picked “the wrong time” to ride a bus?  That she showed up too soon?  Or too late?  Or at any point in linear existence when the rapist happened to catch sight of her?

Or is it not a choice at all?  Does her agency just return automatically, say, as soon as the assault is over?  The moment he pulls out, does it suddenly click in her head, “Oh, it’s my fault I’m here, and not at work/home/anywhere-else-in-the-fucking-world right now.”?

Tell me, at what precise moment does a woman become an accessory to her own rape?

The answer, of course, is fucking never – a rape is always the rapist’s fault, and only the rapist’s fault – and goddammit, I’d really like to hear people speak like they fucking understand that.

* * *

Now, do I think Sgt. Dan Scott is a yay-rape! kind of guy?

Of course not.

Even though we’ve never met, I like to think he’s a protect-the-helpless and catch-the-baddies, white-hat Wyatt Earp type.  I’ve always had a soft spot for sheriffs.

But I would also like him – and all men, and all women – to consciously consider how they think about rape, and moreover, to be aware of how they talk about it.

Language has always reflected the beliefs of a society – and no matter how repellent we may eventually find some of those beliefs – i.e., victim-shaming arises from the archaic belief that women who get raped “deserve it” – only recognition and acknowledgement of our language’s reflective connotations (along with the thought, “Hey, that’s incredibly fucked up.”) will lead to changes in our thinking, our vocabulary, and thence to changes in our society.

But first we have to pay attention.

Really pay attention.

Once we stop even subliminally shaming the victim –

 .

“Unfortunately [the victim] was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

.

– perhaps we, and the police, and those passengers on the bus —

— those people who swear they noticed nothing –

— will finally open our eyes and see.

 

August 30th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Fucking Egregious Sexism

In my last post we discussed everyday sexism, both the concept and the website.

Today we talk about Fucking Egregious Sexism: the moments that are so outrageous, they stick with you for years as your most salient representations of the actual practice of sexism.

Whether these instances stick because they scare you, anger you, make you feel small or stupid, or in any case alter how you act or think about yourself – Fucking Egregious Sexism is something all women encounter from time to time, and though we’ve mostly learned (wrongly) to accommodate/overlook everyday sexism, Fucking Egregious Sexism is where you just sit back and go, “Whoa.  Seriously?  Did that just really happen?  In the 21st century?  Seriously?”

Now, working in white-male-saturated Hollywood, I could immediately rattle off at least five (ten) (twenty) of these incidents – easy – but as the light bill must still be paid, I’ll be keeping those under wraps in order to remain employable.

(As I always tell my mother: Just you wait for my memoir, lady.)

Thus, this story is non-business related… and one of the only reasons I’m telling you about it at all is because it changed how I saw myself (see the previous post), as well as forcing me to admit that the way I’d been handling this type of Fucking Egregious Sexism wasn’t proactive, as I’d fooled myself into believing; it was reactive, and meant only to protect myself from further danger/damage.

In other words, I wasn’t really standing up for myself – I was only fending off something potentially worse.

And I want to be better than that.

Stronger than that.

And maybe sharing this story with my readers will help me feel as though I’m accountable not only to myself, but to others, as well.

* * *

Two weeks ago, I went to lunch with a male friend.

We were sitting in a booth, eating hamburgers and chatting, when an elderly man walked by.  Just after passing us, this man suddenly stopped, about-faced, then wrapped his gnarled hand around my forearm, saying, “You know these things don’t wash off, young lady.”

I have prominent tattoos, so I’ve grown used to hearing this kind of thing from the white-haired set: both men and women who seem to feel utterly entitled to inform me what a terrible mistake I’ve made.  (I’ve even had women shake their heads and tsk-tsk me about not being “marriageable” anymore.  As if I’ve somehow been sucked into a Jane Austen novel and can’t embroider or play the pianoforte well enough.)  Though over the course of two decades I’ve become much more tolerant of this behavior, the smartass in me (which is, okay, about 98% of me) always wants to snap back, “And you’ve gotten so wrinkled!  Why did you do that to yourself?  Goddamn you look ancient!”

But having grown up in the Deep South, I was taught to always be polite to my elders.

Even when they’re complete assholes.

So, “Yeah,” I laughed, removing my arm from this man’s unasked-for and unwanted grasp, on the pretense of reaching for my napkin.  “I’ve heard soap and water just doesn’t cut it.”

Without even consciously knowing why, my laughter-as-a-defense-shield had just been deployed, and I found myself thinking, Go sit down, you judgmental old man.  I don’t want to get into this.  And what “this” was wasn’t even clear to me yet; I just felt criticized and uncomfortable and knew that I wanted this exchange to end.  Even his invasion of my personal space – him, a total stranger, grabbing me without asking – hadn’t set off my Big Alarms, but I think it was because he was old, and like I said, I didn’t feel consciously threatened.  Only annoyed.

“What does this one mean?  What language is this?” the old man asked, replacing his hand on my left arm, swiping his finger across the tattoo in the crook of my elbow.  Meantime he’d shuffled in even nearer to me, and leaned over the booth so close that had I wanted to kiss him, all I would’ve had to do was turn my head.

I swayed away from him enough to avoid touching him – but not enough to seem rude.  (And why?  There’s a great line in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”: “The fear of offending is stronger than the fear of pain.”  I can tell you from experience that this “fear of offending” is inculcated in women from the time they’re young.  It’s partly why the term “good girl” is so loaded.)

“It’s English,” I answered patiently.  “It says ‘Buddha Time.’”

“‘Buddha Time’?  What the hell does that mean?”

I smiled through gritted teeth.  “It means that everything comes in its own time.  You can’t make something come faster than it’s going to, and you can’t make something go slower than it’s going to.”

“Hmph,” replied the old man, unimpressed, his finger still brushing across my skin, back and forth.  “Maybe I should get that tattooed on my ass.”

It took maybe a half-second for this remark to wend its way from my ears to my brain, but once it landed, my eyes flicked up to my friend’s as if to ask, Did you just hear that?

And my friend’s face said, Yeah!  What the fuck?

“Sure,” the old man continued.  “I could get ‘Buddha’ on one cheek, and ‘Time’ on the other cheek, and then I could do this—”

He stood upright, turned his back, then mimed pulling his pants down to moon me.

Literally, his ass was eight inches from my face.  I could see pinpoint stains of some unknown origin splashed across the seat of his blue polyester pants.

And what did I do?  Big strong feminist that I am?

I laughed.

Not because I thought it was funny.  To be perfectly honest, I felt like spewing burger.

I laughed because that’s what I do when my Big Alarms start ringing.  I laugh to protect myself, to ward off The Bad.  I laugh so the other person won’t lash out at me.  I laugh because the only other alternatives are to either start fighting or run away.  And here I was stuck in a booth with an old man’s blue polyester ass looming over me like a vulture.

Realistically, what was I going to do?  Scream “Ass!” and knock him over?

The old man turned around again and leered, “You know, if I was forty years younger…”

You’d what? I thought, suddenly furious.  If you were forty years younger, you’d what?  You’d fuck me?  You’d turn me over your knee?  You’d forbid me to get tattooed?  You wouldn’t date me if I had them?  Awww, sadpanda, what a huge fucking loss YOU GIANT CREEPER.

“Well thank god you’re not,” I said, a small concession to my seething.  

And then laughed again.

What a wimp.

“I hope you know,” he went on, “a lot of men don’t like that kind of thing.”

Asshole, asshole, asshole.

I said, “Well, lucky for me, my fiancé does.”

“Oh!  Is this him?” the old man backed up a step and pointed at my friend, causing my friend and I to crack up in earnest.  He and I are known for our epic insult-slinging contests, not for being touchy-feely.

“Uh, no,” I answered.  “This is my friend, —-.”

And then the Big Alarms started blaring.

Because after being told that my male companion was not my fiancé — in other words, that I was even geographically single — the old man got even closer to me.  His arm crept around the back of the booth behind me, his other hand landed on the table, he leaned his chest forward, and suddenly I was surrounded.  The only way he could’ve gotten any closer was to sit directly on my face.

“Reeeeeallly?” asked the old man, sounding delighted.  “Then maybe I could get your tattoo in my bathing-suit place.”

He made a clicking noise with his tongue.

And I thought, Okay.  This is not good.

“Hey, is this old man bothering you?” came a voice from over my friend’s shoulder.

I looked up, thinking, Oh thank fucking god.  Someone’s come to drag this old sleazebucket back to The Sex Offenders’ Rest Home.

“This is my son,” said the old man, his voice tinged with both irritation and regret.  Whether it was because the guy was his son, or because his son was interrupting his molesting me, I couldn’t tell.

“Are you bothering this pretty lady?” the son, clearly a surfer in his early 40’s, asked his father.

“Her tattoo says ‘Buddha Time,’” answered the old man.  “I’m going to get it tattooed in my bathing-suit place.”

“‘Buddha Time’?” asked the son.  “What are you talking about?  There’s no Buddha in the Torah!  Besides, you’re Jewish — you can’t get tattooed!  Go sit down, wouldja?”

As the son brought their food toward his father, the old man grumbled something about his son spoiling his “fun,” then slid into the booth directly behind me.

My friend watched him sit down, then rolled his eyes and murmured, “Greeeaaaat.”

At which I laughed.

But honestly this time, as I thought my troubles were over.

.

I had no idea.

* * *

I want to take a second here to say that I did not need nor want rescuing.  Had I had my shit together enough and simply reacted the same way I felt, this nonsense would’ve been over the second the old man grabbed my arm.  I would’ve told him — okay, let’s be frank — I would’ve asked him — to stop touching me (fuck, I would’ve even said “please” — you can take the girl out of the Deep South, but…) — then he would’ve gotten pissy — most men do when rebuffed, I find — maybe called me a “bitch” — and he would’ve left me the hell alone.  But I didn’t do any of that.  I retreated into my learned-helplessness mode — laugh! laugh, laugh laugh! your sliminess is so funny! — so as not to offend him, and let him get away with everything that came after.

My male friend asked me later if there was something he “should’ve” done during the previous — and the next — section of this story, and I told him what I’m telling you:

If I had wanted help, I would have asked for it.  As it was, I felt as though I was “handling” things at the time — poorly, I’ll admit now — and I would have interpreted any attempt to “rescue” me as a rather insulting sign that I couldn’t deal with the situation myself — and I would’ve resented it.  Would him stepping in have changed how everything went down?  I’m sure it would have.  But I wouldn’t have learned the lesson that I did, now would I?

I think good, feminist men often get screwed in this kind of deal: they know what’s happening is jacked, they want to help, but they truly trust and believe in their female companions’ ability to take care of themselves, and don’t want to act like the stereotypical White Knight rushing in to save the ditzball damsel.  Because truthfully?  I think they know that we — or at least I — find that almost as offensive as sticking your blue polyester ass in my face.

So to my friend, and to all good, feminist men out there: when this sort of thing happens, I think the best recourse may be simply to ask your female companion if she wants (not “needs” — “wants”) any help removing the thorn in her side.  It preserves her choice, her agency, and lets her know she’s not alone in thinking this thorn is actually a massive douchenozzle.  Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone can give you the strength to do what you should’ve done in the first place.

* * *

Now where were we?

Oh, right.  After the son had corralled his father (albeit a little too close for my comfort, but at least he wasn’t leering at me and saying “bathing-suit place” anymore), my friend and I finished our meal.  We stayed in the booth yammering for a while, as we rarely get to see each other, and in fact, yammered so long, the old man and his son finished their meal before my friend and I even got up.

“You wanna see something?”

Fuck.

No, I do not want to see ANYTHING from you, Grandpa Creeper. 

The son was taking their trash to the can, and meanwhile the old man had resumed his position standing next to our booth, leaning over me, his crotch at eye-level.

“I got a tattoo, too, you know.  You wanna see it?”

And had I learned anything from the previous encounter?

Had I at least gathered enough guts to say, “No!  That’s enough!  Go away!”

Yes.

Yes, I finally had.  And that’s exactly what I did.

I waved my hand at him and said, “No.  I don’t want to see anything.  That’s enough.”

“Aw, c’mon,” wheedled the old man.  “I got a tattoo.  You wanna see it?”

“No. I’m done.  I’m finished.  It’s over.  We’re done.”

And that’s when the old man gestured at his crotch — like I said, this couldn’t have been eight inches from my face — and crowed, “It’s my tattoo!  A one-eyed snake!  Look!”

“Oh my god,” I shook my head, while my friend stared at me like, How are you not punching this guy in his shriveled old nads?

Thing was, inside my head I was mulling that very idea, when the son came up and said, “Dad!  Quit doing that!  Get outta here!  She doesn’t want to see that!”

And this was the point where I considered, Hey, maybe the old guy has Alzheimer’s or something.  Maybe he’s not a creeper.  Maybe his frontal lobe — the part that controls impulsivity and decision-making and the knowledge between right and wrong — is just moth-eaten or plaque-covered and I’ve been hating him this whole time for something he can’t control.

Even though I didn’t quite believe it, ’cause the old man sure seemed to have all his marbles — he wasn’t confused or inarticulate or full of rage or violent or yelling, the way people with Alzehimer’s sometimes are.  He seemed just like your garden-variety sexist-pig sicko, getting his kicks by touching women without asking and thrusting his ass and junk in a woman’s face and talking about his one-eyed snake.

But whatever.  Either way I was over it.   And apparently so was the son.  He told the old man to go wait for him by the car, and with a few more crotch-pointings and cacklings of “One-eyed snake!”, the old man eventually left…

…only to wind up standing outside the restaurant window right next to our table, where he continued to crotch-point and yell, “One-eyed snake!  Wanna see it?  Huh?”

The son apologized for his dad, and finally — FINALLY — waved him off to the car, which threw me back on the side of well-maybe-it-is-Alzheimer’s — until the son started asking me about my tattoos.

I felt a vague mix of dread and deja-vu as I explained what a few of my tattoos meant, when apropos of nothing, the son said, “Yeah, I used to have a nipple ring.”

The dread/deja-vu thing started hitting a little harder, like hurricane waves up against a seawall, as the son went on: “It was great for the ladies.  They liked to pull on it and bite it, and I loved it, boy, that was great, but I just didn’t like the way it chafed against my t-shirts.”

You know those moments that are, like, six years long in your head, but only a couple seconds on the outside?

Yeah.  That happened.

All at once I started visualizing this guy’s whole life.  Thinking, Well how else is a boy raised by Grandpa Creeper gonna turn out?  What must that childhood have been like?  What must that old man have taught his son about women?  About respect?  Did he ever even put those two words in a sentence together?

And on the outside I heard myself answer, almost like a robot, “I have a bellybutton ring and it doesn’t bother me like that at all.”

While on the inside I was screaming at myself, WHY ARE YOU EVEN TALKING?  SHUT UP!  SHUT UP!  AND WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT YOUR BELLY RING FOR JESUS CHRIST’S SAKE?  DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR BODY!  DON’T EVEN MAKE HIM THINK ABOUT YOUR BODY!  DON’T TELL HIM ANYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF!  YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT!  YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT!

(Looking back, I think that may be the moment I regret most in the whole debacle.  Telling myself I was “asking for it”.  It makes me sad to think that I could internalize such bullshit so concretely.)

Which is when the son noticed my nose ring.

“Oh, you have a nose ring, too, huh?”

No, you dumbass, I’m just holding it for a friend.

“Oh, let me tell you,” the son grinned, “if you and I had sex, I’d grab ahold of that thing with my teeth and just–” he made growling sounds — grrrrr rrrrr!  — tossed his head back as if he were yanking on it, “and you would mooooaaann.”

I couldn’t even bring myself to look at my friend.

By then I was wondering, Does he think I bring this on myself?  That I attract these weirdos?  That something I’m doing just draws these freaks in and then allows them to do this to me?

 And suddenly a light went off in my head.

This is not my fault.

These sickos?  These freaks?

This is not my fault.

FUCK this.

Fuck nipple-ring guy, fuck his creepy father, fuck all these fucking fuckwad fuckers.  FUCK IT.

“Go away,” I told the son.  “Get out of here.  Go.  I’m not listening to you anymore.  Get out.  Get out!”

But?

I was laughing as I said it.

* * *

And I was still laughing as I yelled it, when the son stopped in the exact same place outside the restaurant, in front of the window next to my friend and I, miming having sex with me while biting and yanking on my nose ring, growling the whole time.

I could hear him.

“GO!  GO!  LEAVE!  GET OUT OF HERE!  GO AWAY” I yelled.

Laughing.

* * *

I’m not laughing anymore.

 

August 28th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Everyday Sexism

Everyday sexism.

Ask most women and they’ll tell you it’s a fact of life (though it shouldn’t be); it’s seen as a non-event (though it shouldn’t be); and now it’s a website (which it absolutely should be), called The Everyday Sexism Project.

Tell you what.  Do the entire female gender a solid and go check out the site right now.  Call it a mini-field trip.  Spare two minutes.  That ought to be enough to either open your eyes or start grinding your jaws.

Go on.  I’ll still be here when you come back.

Hey.  Glad to see you again.

How you feelin’?

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Like this?

 

Good human.

See, I know the vast majority of my female readers hear the words “everyday sexism” and think, “Well, yeah.  I put up with that shit all the time.  That’s why they call it ‘everyday’.”

In fact, it’s so “everyday” that before writing this blog, I tried to come up with examples from my own life, and all the “everyday” ones just sort of blended together into one long LSD-trailer of images and sounds and feelings of shame and disgust.

My shame and disgust.

Which is exactly what those sexists were aiming for.  And of which I’m not proud.

What I could recall clearly were the instances of Fucking Egregious Sexism.

You know Fucking Egregious Sexism.

It’s those moments you’re still talking about 5, 15, 30 years later – because they either scare the piss out of you, enrage you to the point of wanting to do violence, or so upset your worldview that you have to renegotiate it completely.

That’s Fucking Egregious Sexism.

Everyday sexism, on the other hand, is like the sky.

It’s always there, hovering.  Never goes away.  It’s only on rare days – crackling lightning days, hot summer days that suddenly unleash hail the size of golfballs – that you look up for a second and go, “Oh, hey, right: sky.”

Because if I had to list every time a guy…

grabbed me, groped me, cornered me, pinched me, rubbed up against me, called me a “bitch,” a “whore,” a “cunt” (and I love it when they append “stuck-up” before the noun; as if that’s the insult), called me “opinionated” (’cause… women shouldn’t have one?), “confrontational,” “unladylike,” told me to shut the fuck up, told me I could never be good enough, that I was stupid, fat, ugly, that I “ought to make more effort in the looks department,” that I should wear clothes that “emphasize (my) assets,” that I “should have kids by now,” deferred to my male companion, spoke mostly to my male colleague, ignored me entirely or deigned to talk down to me, assumed I was incapable, assumed I couldn’t learn, treated me like I was deaf, or mute, or an idiot, or an object, catcalled or whistled at me, acted as if I were nothing but a disembodied pussy and tits, talked over me, shouted me down, looked past me, looked through me, tossed off a sneery “whatever,” took credit for my ideas, thought “no” meant “oh jeepers, shucks, I meant ‘go ahead’,” tried to infantilize me, tried to shame me

…seriously, y’all.  We would be here FOREVER.

And that’s just the everyday sexism.

In my next post I’ll tell you a story about my latest experience in Fucking Egregious Sexism.  Partly because I thought it was funny at the time, and partly because of what I discovered about myself once I was free of the situation:

I didn’t think it was funny at all.

At last — at last — I realized that laughter is merely my defense shield — against both everyday sexism and Fucking Egregious Sexism.  Granted, as far as defense shields go, it isn’t bad; nothing wilts a penis faster than female laughter.  (This is often where the “stuck-up bitch/whore/cunt” yawnfest begins.)  Unfortunately, that’s not how I’ve always used this shield.

Having been through an emotionally abusive relationship, I developed the shield in order to ward off danger, just so fights wouldn’t escalate and get uglier and more injurious… as they invariably did if I stuck up for myself.

And two weeks ago, during my last encounter with Fucking Egregious Sexism, this is what finally dawned on me: while laughter can act as a defense shield, it also tells the offender – whether partner or stranger – that what he’s saying or doing can’t be that big a deal, if the woman he’s saying or doing those things to acts like it’s funny.

Even if we’re only laughing out of self-preservation.

And this is where my own culpability comes in.

< I’m-prepared-for-the-flames section >


Attention, Women:

When it comes to sexism — either everyday or Egregious — your reactions are your responsibility.

Now before you freak the hell out about me playing blame-the-victim, allow me to state my belief that the only way to be truly victimized is to give up your right to react.  Women who have ceded all their agency, all their power, all their free will — the shut-down, the closed-off, the damaged-into-silence — those are the women I think of as “victims”.

I should know, because I used to be one.

However.

Being a “victim” is not a life sentence.

You should know — know — with a deep, utter certainty — that devictimizing yourself is ALWAYS an option.

But no one can do it for you.

You have to reclaim your power, your will — because you want it, you need it, and because it is your inalienable right to have it.

Once you’ve done that, you are no longer a victim.

You are now a survivor.

A survivor can speak up.  Stand up.  Speak up and stand up for somebody else.  If a person pulls misogynistic shit, call the motherfucker out on it. Chances are everyone already knows the person’s a raging asshole — they wouldn’t call it “everyday” sexism if it was hidden away in a dark little cupboard somewhere — so rather than taking power away from you, it’s more likely the raging asshole will end up losing power to you.

That’s karma, baby.

So be brave.

And as a survivor, I repeat: remember that your reactions are your responsibility.

When it comes to everyday (and Fucking Egregious) sexism, your reactions are your only responsibility.  Rarely can anyone make sexist fuckwads into non-sexist fuckwads, much as they may want to and hard as they may try.  The only things you can control are your reactions to said fuckwads.

Because should misogynists try to make you feel like crap?

Of course not; but they try to do it anyway.

Do you deserve their dismissiveness, abuse and disdain?

Of course not; but you’re going to get it anyway.

So should you be forced to monitor or alter your behavior around them?

OF COURSE NOT;

BUT DO IT ANYWAY.

And I’m not saying, “Be timid like a little mousie so the big bad bully doesn’t see you.”

I’m saying, “Get in that bully’s face and verbally punch him in the fucking mouth.  Preferably in front of a cheering crowd.”

Metaphorically lying there, thinking of England, while some creeper shoves his sweaty fat fingers into your crotch on the F train (yes, happened) won’t do shit for you, his next victim, or any other woman these sexist fuckwads try to cow into fear and submission.

So stand up.  Yell.  Point fingers.  Be “confrontational,” “unladylike.”

Try to scare the piss out of them for once.

Of course these rules go all wobbly when a threat of physical violence or sexual assault is involved – self-preservation is automatically triaged higher than moral outrage – as proven by my own “adaptation” – but as I eventually learned: even walking away is a reaction.

A first step.  A reclamation of free will.  An autodevictimization.

After which you should vow to yourself:  I will never again cede my power to anyone else.

And that’s the first step to fighting everyday sexism.

< / I’m-prepared-for-the-flames section >

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Next Post:

Fucking Egregious Sexism

August 10th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Mea Culpa, Teen Vogue

So today on Twitter, I RTd this link from Upworthy, a .gif rah-rah’ing Emma Stone for “calling out” the media during an interview with Teen Vogue (media which, one assumes, includes Teen Vogue itself), branding the questions she’s often asked regarding her personal life, her hair color, her style icons, etc. as sexist.

 

.

This, of course, would be superfabulous.

If it were 100% true.

Problem is, Upworthy took the last quote in its .gif (Stone saying, “It is sexism.”) utterly out of context, omitting the fact that it was actually the Teen Vogue reporter, Lauren Waterman, who was the first one to call this line of questioning “sexism” — and Stone simply agreed with her.

(Which, by the way, was met with a resounding, “Oh, come on,” by Stone’s boyfriend and co-interviewee, Andrew Garfield.  Nice one, Andy.  And just so you know?  Saying Stone is your “hero” later in the piece doesn’t make up for your staggering douchedom here.)

To suggest that Waterman was blindly playing into the media’s usual “Who ya datin’, whatcha wearin’, how much were them shoes?” rigamarole does a disservice to both Waterman and Teen Vogue.

Because it is my understanding — and no doubt Stone’s and Waterman’s, too — that when interviewed by a fashion magazine, you are probably going to be asked about fashion.  Go figure.  (You want Stone’s take on the Greek austerity measures?  Wait for her interview with The Economist.)  Likewise, the additional questions about Stone’s personal life are de rigueur for any media outlet these days, fashion-centric or not.  Last I checked, TMZ didn’t give a shit about Stone’s feminism, merely cramming her cheek-by-jowl next to a picture of Olivia Wilde under the charming headline: “Who’d You Rather?”

Which leads me to my point.

The very fact that in the published interview (meaning the Teen Vogue editors approved the content), both Stone and Waterman talk about the idea that this line of questioning is sexist is a giant leap forward in terms of openly examining and deconstructing the media’s objectification of women.  Would Stone have actually used the word “sexism” if Waterman hadn’t?  Who knows?  Stone was already treading the line, telling Garfield that he’s never asked these kinds of questions in interviews “because you are a boy.”  But credit where it’s due, it was Waterman who threw down the “sexism” gauntlet.  And kudos to Stone, she picked it right up.

Now will this exchange stop Teen Vogue — or any media outlet — from asking these types of questions of women?  Of course not.  They know their audience — and that their audience has been indoctrinated into thinking that they’re entitled to the answers — thus in order to survive in the free market, they feel obliged to ask them.

My only request is, if the questions “must” be asked, at least have the ovaries to do what Waterman and Stone did: talk about why these questions are sexist, and how being reduced to your hair color, wardrobe, and personal life is the exact opposite of feminism, which sees a woman as a fully realized human being, not a collection of titillating soundbytes.

August 8th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Zoe Saldana: “What Is Your Fucking Issue?”

Yes, it can get repetitive, even for a feminist — but every time I hear another woman say it, I feel a little less crazy.

Thanks, Zoe.

http://vimeo.com/41078222

from The Conversation with Amanda De Cadenet

June 18th, 2012 by Mere Smith

#VaginaBlogs

Last week, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger silenced State Representative Lisa Brown for using the word “vagina” during a speech opposing an anti-abortion bill.  From this sprung the #VaginaBlogs.  

This is my voice.

.

Dear Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger,

As a woman, it is my right to choose – your speech.

So please stop saying the word “penis.”

I know, I know, you probably haven’t uttered it aloud on the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives yet, but I’m pretty sure you’ve thought it… and likely not even the clinical term for it.  You’ve probably just thought things like, “Ugh, that Democrat wants to reform health care?  What a dick,” or “Those people working to recall me? Cocksuckers!”

While I disagree with your sentiments, I do understand your use of substitutions for the term “penis.”  There are some sentences for which “dick” or “cocksucker” are simply the most colloquially, syntactically-precise words.

And today you tweeted:

@SpeakerBolger: Clearing up inaccurate reports: the word vagina isn’t the issue.

Clearing up inaccurate spin: stop lying, you dick.

Because here’s the rub, if you will.

When I say “vagina,” I am not saying “pussy.”  I am not saying “hoo-ha” or “vajayjay,” “lady garden” or “the bearded clam.”  The only time I actually use the word “vagina” is when I’m discussing my “vajewelry box” with either my gynecologist or my sister.  (And with my sister I usually call it a “vadge,” but that’s because we’ve known each other for over 30 years, so leaving off the last two syllables doesn’t confuse her.)

Thus, when I make the choice to actually use the word “vagina,” it’s usually because I’m in a more formal setting, and “vagina” is what the American Medical Association has officially labeled my “jungle o’fun.”  Again, let me be clear: when I say “vagina,” it is because I am making an effort to be “polite,” using the accepted clinical metonym for the collection of body parts between my upper thighs, including the labiae majora and minora, a clitoris, and my actual vagina – also fondly referred to as my “love tunnel.”

If you would prefer that, in the future, I replace the word “vagina” with any of the synonyms included in this letter, I’d be more than happy to accede to your wishes.  Myself, I tend to lean towards words that lend a connotation of jauntiness to my vagina – as I feel it has a rather jaunty personality to begin with.  For example, some of my favorite appellations are “hot pocket,” “velvet wallet,” and “coochie” (I can’t help it – it reminds me of Charo – Queen of the Jaunt).  Tell you what.  I’ll let you pick, since clearly I cannot be trusted to name my own anatomy in a way you find inoffensive.

Let me know when I can stop by the Michigan State House of Representatives to announce your choice.

Wait – it is your choice, right?

.

Mere Smith

June 4th, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment — JUNKPUNCHED

 This blog entry is the seventh and last part of a continuing series.

If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.

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Resolution

A JOB?

 

It’s taken me a while to figure out how to write this entry, and while I love a good surprise as much as the next killer clown, I’ve decided not to bury the lead.  Thus, after all the effort that went into The Pilot Season Experiment, the result is:

I did not get staffed on a show this year.

In therapyspeak, now is when somebody asks, But how does that make you feel?

And in the spirit of TPSE, I’ll be real with you:

It feels like shit.

Shit on toast.  Shit on a snowflake.  Shit on a stick.

Shit shit shit shit shit shit.

In fact, when I got the final thumbs-down from my manager last week, I had to take a day away from the internetz just to go fetal on the couch and mainline episodes of “Sherlock,” all the while telling myself, “I could write this show.  I could SO write this show.  I’m smart.  I’m funny.  I’m nearly sociopathic.  I could write the tits off this show.”

Meanwhile that wretched you-suck-bitch whisper inside my head was needling, but could you?  could you really?  do you have a single ounce of talent, you ancient slag?  a half-ounce?  do you even possess a DIME BAG of talent, you poor, silly cow?

Luckily I’m far too egotistical to let my doubts and fears keep me fetal for long.

For which I thank… myself.

But that recovery only came after the grieving period.

Because at the time, hearing that in spite of your utmost exertions you are not getting the job – a job – any kind of job – I’m pretty sure the experience is akin to getting junkpunched.

POW! Right in the nibblets!

.

At least, this is how my guy friends have described junkpunchery.  One solid jab straight to the nads can fold your diaphragm in half, make your vision go blurry, and instill the urge to throw up for a couple hours.

That sounds about right to me, though my nausea lasted a couple days, was somewhat more existential, and I needed some serious reaffirmation from friends and family in order to keep from ejecting my bile duct – ptew! – right out of my mouth and onto the floor.

**

So what went wrong?

Ah, this town’s eternal paradox.

Because the answer is: nothing.

Absolutely nothing went wrong.  The meetings were great, I got along with everyone, and no one even called me a cunt to my face.  (I always leave the “behind the back” option open.  This is Hollywood, after all.)

I realize “nothing” can seem a bit unsatisfying at first, but it becomes clearer when you consider how many factors go into staffing a show to begin with.

For besides the superficiality of The Pilot Season Experiment (since, let’s face it, kids – it was a lot more Extreme Makeover than it was est), I did everything of substance within my power: read every script, took thorough notes, researched the showrunners, went to every meeting offered, showed up with enthusiasm and ideas, tried to be as funny and friendly as possible – all while wearing SPANX.  Fuck, dude.  If that ain’t commitment, I don’t know what the hell is.

But then there are the things I can’t control, such as:

My title (think of it as my “rank” in the Scrivener Army).  Given my years of experience, technically at this point my title is “Co-Executive Producer,” which is just one notch under the top slot of “Executive Producer.”  WGA union rules – thank god – prevent studios and networks from forcing us veterans to accept noob titles… and noob paychecks (in a sense, “demoting” us), which, given their druthers, they’d do in 1/88th of a heartbeat.  While this makes getting a job tougher for me (vet titles come with vet paychecks, and studios/networks are notoriously tight-sphinctered), these rules are absolutely vital for lower- to mid-level Writers, since most of us in this town are weak and fearful and would probably blow the first person to guarantee us a job.   Correction: blow that person AND their pet ferrets.  However, if there are only two upper-level “slots” open, it’s generally a good bet that…

…the showrunner’s friends will get them.  Having attained the rank of showrunner, it’s likely that the Writer has been in the business long enough to cultivate friends who’ve been around just as long as he has.  Those friends need jobs, too.  And it’s always easier to hire someone you’ve worked with before rather than take a chance on someone new, because that new person could turn out to be either a) useless, b) insane, or c) a complete fuckhead.  If the showrunner still has a slot left open after offering it up to his friends, then come…

…the Suits’ friends.  Studio and network executives also have friends.  (I know.  It’s so weird.)  And because they’ve helped the showrunner get his show running, in the Versailles-like protocols of Hollywood, they’re due a modicum of quid pro quo.  If they suggest one of their Writer friends, and that friend isn’t immediately and obviously a), b), or c), the showrunner may feel obligated to hire said friend.  However, if even the Suits don’t prevail, there are always…

…the overall deals.  Overalls (not the Osh Kosh kind) are exclusive contracts that Writers sign with studios or networks in which they’re paid a certain amount of money regardless of whether they’re actively working on a show or not.  (This is basically just a way for studios/networks to say to other studios/networks, “Neener neener, wiener!  This is MY toy and YOU can’t play with it!”)  So naturally, when it comes hiring time, the studios/networks will push the showrunner to hire an overall-dealer to work on the show, so that the overall-dealer earns that money the studios/networks are already shelling out.  It’s as close as they come to getting a “free” Writer.

There are about forty other considerations that have nothing to do with me, too, but this is starting to sound like sour grapes —

Not this kind. Unfortunately.

— when all I really wanted to say was, Despite getting punched in the junk, I’m not taking it too personally, because almost nothing in this business is personal.

It feels personal, sure (what junkpunch doesn’t?), but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many years of slaving away over a hot Final Draft, it’s that there are so many variables involved, it’s a miracle that any show gets made, that anyone gets hired, and that anything gets done.

**

But what about the impact of The Pilot Season Experiment in regards to my rounds of meetings?  Wasn’t that what this whole series was all about?

Like all of my fellow faux-scientists, I’d love to say that I got definitive results: that it either made an ENORMOUS DIFFERENCE!!! or, conversely, ZERO DIFFERENCE!!!  But I think the truth hovers somewhere in between – and has more to do with how I felt – than how I was perceived.

See, before going into this year’s round of monkeydancing, I was feeling kind of low.

Not so much “What’s it all about, Alfie?” as “Ohhhhh, balls.  The expiration date stamped on my ass is getting closer.”  And yes, I can assure you: every person in Hollywood has an expiration date stamped on their ass.

Hold on, wait – let me rephrase that.  Some of us have expiration dates, and some of us (sorry to steamroll a dead horse here, but you can’t untrue a truism) – namely, straight white men – have a much more elastic Sell By date.  You know, a sort of suggested idea of when you’ll start to get E. coli if you hire them – but then again, maybe they don’t have E. coli at all, and you can risk it.  For example, Clint Eastwood has been officially and universally declared E. Coli-Free In Perpetuity.  You can hire Clint ‘til the day he dies – and probably after – without so much as a tummyache.

Dead? Not dead? Doesn’t matter. Still E. coli-free.

The rest of us – y’know, the vaginas, the ethnics, the ethnic vaginas – get a damn-near definitive stamp slapped on our rumps on Day One.  The gay white guys get a stamp, too, but it’s not in indelible ink, and can be switched to a Sell By date at any time, depending on how much money they rake in for a studio/network.

So the question is, when is that expiration date?

Well, unless you’re extremely, extremely fortunate (like Robin Green of “Sopranos” fame – though it should be non-judgmentally noted, she partners with her husband, the straight-white-male Mitchell Burgess), you top out in your early fifties, if not before.  And no, I’m not speaking anecdotally.  Check out the 2011 WGA Executive Report (Figure 13), where you’ll find that TV writers’ salaries peak between the ages of 41–50, before dropping drastically in the next demographic.

And that’s including straight white guys.

So you can imagine the vaginal expiration.

As a matter of fact, aging – or in other words, my starting to nudge up against the 41-side of that 41-50 demographic – is one of the reasons I undertook The Pilot Season Experiment to begin with (not to mention the reason I shot poison into my face).  Women in their late 20’s and early 30’s – those chicks to whom the years have yet to be unkind – are mostly lower- to mid-level writers.  As I explained above, it’s much easier to get a job at that level; between the ages of 25-35, I wrote for five different shows, almost continuously.  But once you’ve reached a certain “rank,” you’re either lucky as a motherfucker to get on a show, or lingering like a wraith in Development Hell (posts to come on that topic soon).

Hollywood says it wants veteran Writers, people who’ve had experience, people who’ve gained wisdom and insight into how to do the job well.  But when they say “people,” what they really mean is “the white folks with schlongs.”  (Come to think of it, that’s what “people” has meant since the founding of America, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.)  Considering I have no intention of chopping off my boobs or sewing on a dick, this makes me… what?  A greater risk?  A poorer Writer?  A non-person?  A total fucking alien?  All I know is, this:

.

…is so much not a joke in Hollywood that it makes me want to punch someone else in the junk.

**

Alongside my expiration date, my main impetus for trying The Pilot Season Experiment was that women – regardless of their experience, and much more so than men – are judged on their looks.  (I feel like I just wrote, “Oh and by the way, water is wet and dirt is dirty.  Just so you know.”)  Thus for this year’s Merry Go Round O’Pain, I tended to my appearance much more than I did when I was younger.

When I was in my late 20’s, all I had to do before a meeting was read the script, throw on a tank top, and make sure I wasn’t actively bleeding from the eyes.  This year: I got Botox, bought Spanx, cut my hair, wore make-up, dressed in clothes that made me look “responsible” and “together”…

…and still didn’t get hired.

So what was it?

My looks, my age, my personality, my connections, my reputation, my writing?

(Did you even notice that writing came in last on that list?)

As I said before, it could be all of those things, it could be none of those things.  Hollywood is a fickle beast – actually, it’s just an enormous hairy asshole with tiny ephemeral moments of joy tucked up inside it – so I’ll never truly know for sure.

What I can tell you absolutely is how I felt during it.  And that is…

Dude, this sucks.

.

I felt stressed (more than the usual for pilot season).  Uncomfortable.  Fake.  Frustrated.  Inadequate.  I was resentful that I had to do any of this shit at all.  Often I felt like the battle was lost before I even got out of the shower, since I knew I was about to kowtow to societal expectations.

Basically, trying to play the game made me miserable.

And maybe that’s why I didn’t get hired.

All I know is, before I started all this nonsense, I was pretty goddamned happy with myself.  Not happy with being unemployed, of course – though the dress code of “pajamas” is nice – but happy in my own skin?  I think I can say yes with almost 97% of my being.  (That self-loathing 3% is because I don’t call my family often enough, I spend too much time on Twitter, I don’t drink as much water a day as they say you should…)  I was just fine being me — being Mere, the regular old Mere – until I started dissecting the nature and implication of appearance, then striving to “keep up with the Rashida Joneses,” so to speak.

Then I felt terrible about myself.

Having Botox made me think about how old I was getting.  Chopping my hair off and dying it crimson made me wonder if I was too old to be doing that at all.  Wearing Spanx made me confront (and intensely dislike) my generous Hips and Ass.  Buying new clothes made me think about how skinny I used to be, but am no longer.  Applying eight different kinds of make-up made me wonder what was wrong with my real face.

What I’m saying is, for every step I took to “improve” my looks, it was one more step down the spiral staircase of self-hatred.

And seriously, girls, how fucked up is that?

That all those activities deemed “necessary” to appear more competent (no exaggeration: read this) could make at least one woman (me) feel worse and worse… it’s a vicious circle whence the only escape is to do one of two things:

1) Either totally succumb and go full-on Aspiring Miss America

2) Tell the Normies to fuck off.

Guess which option I chose?

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So if The Pilot Season Experiment has had any definitive result, it is this:

I will never again try to be anyone but myself.

Because goddammit, I’m pretty fucking cool.

Granted, I may have a filthy mouth, creases between my brows, weird hair, oily skin, a fat ass, and a preference for clothing that, in a pinch, can double as a medieval tent…

…but I’m also happy that way.

Besides, I’ve been pitching a new show around town lately, and I may be employed (and out of my pajamas) quicker than I want to be, anyway.

Cross your fingers.

And fuck your SPANX.

Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?

May 24th, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment — WAR PAINT

This blog entry is the sixth part of a continuing series.

If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.

 

Step Five

WAR PAINT

 

In case y’all haven’t figured it out by now (and if you haven’t – whuff – time for that Remedial Reading Comprehension course, folks): I am not a girly girl.

I take no joy in dresses, or heels, or doing my hair, or any of that other shit chicks do to look “pretty.”  Far as I’m concerned, “pretty” is just the word that comes before “sure,” or “goddamned sure.”  For me, it has little to no aesthetic meaning, and most of the time, I feel about “pretty” like I feel about C-SPAN: it bores the fuck out of me.

However.

There is one aspect of the girly oeuvre that I do enjoy… and that’s make-up.

Not wearing it, mind you – it’s a shit-ton of work if you want to apply it correctly, and I’d rather invest that time in tweeting inappropriate thoughts about Benedict Cumberbatch – but I do love collecting it, like my brothers used to do with those tiny rubber M.U.S.C.L.E. men figurines, whose sole raison d’être was hiding on the floor in plain sight until stepped on, then provoking stream-of-consciousness cussing my parents mastered like Mozart did the clavier.  If you never knew that “shitballsmotherfuckingballshitfuck” was a word?  Step on a M.U.S.C.L.E. man and increase your vocabulary.

So wearing make-up?  No.  Having a big box of it sitting under my bathroom cabinet?  RuPaul would be proud.

My only problem for The Pilot Season Experiment was that nearly every piece of my vast make-up collection was upwards of five years old.

Guys may be like, “So?  I have some cologne my mom gave me for high school graduation and I still use that shit!”

Women, on the other hand, know that after about a year, make-up goes to hell on you.  It really does.  Mascara gets clumpy, eye shadow gets crumbly, foundation turns to syrup that looks like radioactive self-tanner.  Even powder foundation (which is what I use, considering I have oily skin that repels make-up as if it were vinegar) starts to streak across your face like Sioux war paint.

And in fact, that’s what I call make-up when I’m obliged to wear it: war paint.

Because if I’m going to the trouble of applying that crap, you can be guaranteed one thing: it is not peacetime.  I am going to war.  I’m leaving my house AND I’m trying to make a good impression.  In any other case, I would rather draw dicks on my face with a Sharpie than slap on the war paint.  When The Finance comes home after I’ve had a meeting, even he says, “Ah, you still got your war paint on?  I like you better without it.”  Which is when I love him so hard it feels like my spleen will burst.

I’m sure some of you women out there will protest, “But make-up’s not that hard!  I do mine in five minutes every day!”  And with the greatest respect, fellow females, I say: BITE me, you lying lady liars.  Any woman who can apply her make-up in five minutes or less doesn’t need make-up to begin with.  Which on the one hand – hey, great for you!  you’re genetically blessed! – but on the other hand – don’t be giving Quasimodo advice on standing upright.  It’s just hurtful.

For instance, here’s model Adriana Lima with no make-up on:

There is not enough “fuck you” in the world.

 .

Atrociously gorgeous, no?  Well, not all of us look like Aphrodite when we roll out of bed.  Some of us look more like the Kraken:

This is my driver’s license photo.

.

Thus, when I decided to do The Pilot Season Experiment, I knew I’d have to visit Sephora, because it’s the only store I trust to have quality make-up that won’t drip down my skin and give me scary clownface.  I wept over the expense and trouble I’d have to go through for approximately .08 seconds, then planned my trip like it was fucking D-Day.  For luckily, I had exactly one item of war paint that was less than a year old:

Good old Maybelline mascara.    Don’t knock it, you snobby bitches.

 .

Which meant I GOT TO BUY EVERYTHING ELSE BRAND NEW.

(Really, it’d be indecorous to show you the dance I did when I realized this; mostly because I wasn’t wearing a bra and I might knock someone out with a stray flying tit.)

My trip to Sephora started like all my trips to Sephora do: with me rushing around the store like a bratty 4 year-old in a candy shop.  “I want thish!  No, I want thish!  Mommy, can I have thish?”  (Which is a little odd, considering my mom wasn’t there, and I don’t have a lisp.)  In my head, though, all I heard was, “Yes, darling, yes!  You can have everything!  You can have it ALL!”  Which is sort of awesome when you’re an adult with her very own credit card and an excuse like, “But I’m doing this for work!”

Because what shops like Sephora and MAC and all the high-end make-up counters in department stores offer is something deceptively simple — something everyone wants — something people will do terrible things in order to have.  And that something?

Hope.

Hope that if you smear this on your face, or delicately dab this on your eyelids, or brush this on your cheekbones, you will somehow transform into the most beautiful, incredible creature who ever deigned to alight on this planet.  You will haz ALL TEH MENZ! (or ALL TEH WIMMENZ!  or ALL TEH HUMANZ!) just begging to slay dragons for you or, more likely, to go get you a mocha latte whenever you want, because you are a goddamned supermodel, goddammit!

And while it’s true, beautiful people do have an easier time making it in the world (see here, herehere, or, I don’t know, fucking open your eyes), odds are, if you look like the Kraken in the morning, you can be relatively certain that no matter how much war paint you apply, you are not going to be Aphrodite when you’re done.  Make-up is not plastic surgery.  Make-up is not a structural renovation.  Make-up is a new coat of paint in the living room and possibly some new posters to distract from the cracks in the walls.

Hope can be wonderful.

But hope can also be awful when it shows itself false.

To really hit it on the nose: it’s just like pilot season.

Me?  I was fortunate in that I knew exactly why I was shopping for make-up — pilot season and The Experiment — so I didn’t have my sense of self-worth wrapped up in it, since I also knew I’d only be wearing that war paint for the equivalent of two weeks out of the year.  It’s sort of like eating an entire birthday cake while you have the stomach flu.  You know it’s not going to stick around for long anyway, so you might as well indulge.

And indulge I did.

Yes, primers. Like paint.

PRIMER 

These are primers (or what I call “face spackle”).  I bought two kinds since I wasn’t sure if the anti-acne gel in the blue bottle would dry out my skin — because trust me, there’s nothing worse than having oily skin… AND dry little bits of face flaking off and floating on top of the sheen.

After you wash your face, you spread this spackle over your skin like moisturizer.  Except it’s not moisturizer.  It’s simply designed to make your skin as uniformly flat as possible, so you can apply foundation evenly without looking like you’re trying to cover smallpox scars.

Powder foundation, blush, and setting powder.

 

 

FOUNDATION AND BLUSH

I started using BareMinerals about ten years ago, after having used liquid foundation for the ten years before that, then finally realizing I’d been doing it wrong.  Adding liquid foundation to oily skin gives you a very small window to look good: like, so small you won’t get out of the house before turning into Tammy Faye Bakker.  (Dear Baby Jesus, please let some of my readers remember who that is.)

What we have here is the powder foundation (in Fair, since they didn’t have a color called Whitest White Girl In The Whole White World), some blush, and some powder named Mineral Veil, a “setting powder,” which is basically just code for “Hey Oily Chicks, You Need This Like WHOA.”

Each with a different function.  Admit it, guys — you thought this shit was easy-peasy, didn’t you?  Fools.  Fools!

BRUSHES

You know those little Q-Tip-wand-doohickeys they include with the cheap-o eye shadow you buy at CVS?  Yeah.  Those suck donkey-schlong.  Problem is, you don’t realize the schlong-suckage until you’ve used real brushes.  Kabuki brushes, face-contour brushes, angled eye shadow brushes, smudger brushes, eyeliner brushes, eyebrow brushes, lip brushes, pubic hair brushes (just seeing if you’re still paying attention) — the list goes on forever.  This is what I meant when I said applying your make-up “correctly” takes a shit-ton of work.  Like any good painter, you have different brushes for different techniques, and what works to spread foundation over your face will not work to apply eyeliner beneath your lower lids.  At least, not if you want to stay on this side of the Goth I-write-to-men-in-prison line.

If you haven’t used Stila eyeliner, please turn in your vagina before you leave.

EYELINER

Every make-up artist I’ve ever met has said to apply your eyeliner before you put on your eyeshadow.  It allows you to remove smudges easier, and if you accidentally poke your eye out with the eyeliner pencil, you can usually pop it back in without it ruining all the make-up you’ve put on up ’til now.  (You might have to touch up your foundation and take a Vicodin, but honestly, I’m not seeing a problem there.)  Since I have blue eyes, I bought Stila eyeliner in black, grey, and brown — because putting teal or jade eyeliner near my eyes generally results in me looking like that green chick Kirk bangs in the original Star Trek.  (Oh, he did TOO bang her.  I’m not even going to argue this.)  In other words: we’re talking freaky extraterrestrial.  This would be fine if I was going out to party — I vaguely recall — but when you’re trying to convince a showrunner that you’re a responsible, intelligent human being, “Alien Eyes” is not a good nickname to walk out with.

Know what colors look good on you. As a general rule, “rainbow” is not anyone’s color.

EYESHADOW

Simple, right?  Two small cases, six colors, nothing flashy.  Not that I’ve never done flashy. In your twenties, flashy is your birthright.   Could I have gotten away with being Kirk’s bang-buddy ten years ago?  You bet your ass I could’ve.  My hair was fucking blue.  What were they gonna say about my eye make-up?  But if I’m going to be real (which I promised in the very first installment of this series), I must tell you: when you hit your mid-thirties, flashy stops being flashy and starts looking desperate.  While I would never deny that desperation is a large part of being a Writer in Hollywood, another large part is making people think that you’re not desperate at all.  Because the more you can project a sense of “ZOMG, like, this whole town wants me to work for them,” the more people will want to steal you away from everybody else. For no other reason than they just don’t want to be The Guy Who Missed Out On Hiring The Hot Thing.  This is insane, I realize; it’s based on air and attitude and nothing else — but don’t think for one second it’s also not 100% true.  Therefore, if the barest whiff of desperation can tank you, you avoid anything and everything that might imply you’re even familiar with the word “desperation.”  And glittery silver eyeshadow on a near-40-something?  Screams “desperate” so loud even Helen Keller would grab her ears.

LIPSTICK

The color I’d smear ALL OVER this guy.

.

Look.  This is the lipstick I bought.  I know you can’t see it very well in this picture, but it’s low-key, kind of mauve — and if you don’t know where this goes on a female face, there is absolutely nothing I can do to help you at this point.  I’d go into more detail about lipstick in general, but one, I give zero fucks about lipstick, and two, I’m really distracted by Mr. Cumberbatch in the background there.  He has nothing to do with pilot season or The Experiment, but he does have a lot to do with how I unwound during it.  Which reminds me, I need new batteries.

For the remote control, you pervs.

Just kidding.  They’re for my vibrator.

.

GOD’S GIFT TO OILY GIRLS

You hear that? It’s a heavenly choir of angels.

 .

If you are a fellow tribe member of the Oily Face Nation, and you only buy one thing from Sephora in your whole life, it should be this.  I have tried numerous kinds of blotting papers, and these are the best by a loooooooong shot.  Press these suckers on your nose, chin, and forehead five minutes before a meeting, and you’ve got at least an hour before you start looking like BP came on your face.

It’s a small thing — as close to inconsequential as you can get when you’re talking about war paint — but the fact is: oily skin looks like greasy skin.  Greasy skin looks like dirty skin.  Dirty skin says, “I might not have showered before I got to this meeting.  I might not shower if you hire me.  If you’re going to sit in a tiny room with me all day for the next six months, you’d better hope I wear deodorant.”  Which is a long side-track of thought for a showrunner to follow when he’s supposed to be listening to your brilliant ideas (that is, when he’s not staring at your camel toe).  So anything you can try to de-grease your face?  Do it.

It’s one less thing to pull focus away from your brain.

And when it comes down to it,

THAT

is what war paint is all about.  

When you wear make-up to a meeting, all it should say is: not only am I smart enough to talk character and story arc and potential episode ideas — I got my personal shit wired, son.  I can bring home the bacon AND look like Charlize Theron while I’m doing it.  (Some of us can only hit Charlize Theron in “Monster,” but effort is effort.)

Use that war paint to show off those sparkling green eyes, that seemingly flawless skin, and you will learn — like the thousands of Adriana Limas that have come before her — that looks really do matter.

People more readily attribute good qualities to attractive people.  Sucks for us Average-to-Middlin’ Folk, but when we take advantage of every opportunity we have — even when we know it’s all bullshit, and unfair, and forcibly normative — then we can look back on pilot season with a certain satisfaction, knowing that we have done everything in our power to get hired.

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NEXT WEEK

A JOB?

Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?