Monday, April 30, 2012

On Virtually Telling the Truth... Almost

“It’s a lonely business, wandering the labrinyths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen and what they will hear.” -Stephen Marche
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Stephen Marche posed the question, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” It got me thinking about my own online identity via Facebook, Twitter and this, my blog. In the digital world, I am able to create an image of myself specially designed to project the person I want my cyber neighbors to see. My facebook makes me seem artistic, fashionable, young, alive, free, namaste, blah blah blah… and while this image is certainly close to how I am and damn near exactly who I want to be, there are things about me omitted from my online collage.
Do this exercise. Forget you know yourself and look at your Facebook wall. What does this person usually feel? What is going on in their life right now? What do they care about? What do they think about the other people in their life? My guess is that most of you seem confident, successful, attractive and popular… and that is how we all want to be… but are you really all those things? Every day? Really?
Your sixteen-year-old cousin in the Slipknot hoodie excluded, most reasonable people don’t post their fears, hurt feelings, disasters, nagging issues and insecurities online. Even Facebook has a social etiquette and the people who complain on Facebook are annoying. You know you’ve hidden that old friend from high school who posts about how the rain makes her want to die because she's alone and that really conservative cousin who posts about how America's problems would be solved if women returned to the home. There are things you just don't (or shouldn't) say (online).
If I wasn’t a reasonable person, here are some things I would post that I have felt or experienced recently:
“I made blueberry pancakes this morning alone and that made me miss the man that I left a year ago. Regret is a b, and not b for blueberry.”
“@Jenifer Clement, I never want you to die.”
“Last night’s whiskey gave me some serious digestion issues this morning. #youdontwannagointhereafterme”
“Yeast infection. Great, thanks, ladyparts.”
“Some days I’m afraid that I’m a bad actress.”
Terrible, right? Overshare, yeah? So I am not calling for all out honesty here; I don’t want to know that you cried yourself to sleep because you think you're tubby. (And I've told you a hundred times that you aren't!) But this selective posting and conscious omission leads to our digital selves being a picture of only our best selves, which isn’t real or honest.
For example, let’s say I have a terrible night, which happens, right? Because I am a mildly decent, mature human being, I am never going to post online: “@Beth Jones, you were a real b tonight. I didn’t have any fun. I wish I’d stayed at home and watched my roommate workout on the rowing machine all night because at least that is more interesting than your latest narcissistic rant. Lay off the mojitos.”
But the next week, when Beth and I run into each other in Wicker Park and she suggests we stop into Myopic books where we bump into Aziz Ansari who takes us out for pizza where I pitch my sitcom called Aayush and Me* which he loves and he calls Greg Daniels to arrange a meeting in LA and we get on the next flight out of O’Hare, you can bet your britches I’m updating my status to read: “AHHHHH! Thanks to the fabulous @Beth Jones, I met Aziz Ansari and am on my way to LA to meet with NBC about creating a sitcom for next fall’s lineup! My life is so crazy awesome!!”
So the result is that in the virtual reality version of my life, the world sees only that I think Beth is fabulous and that we do fabulous things together. [But we all know that in real reality, she is a narcisstic b with a drinking problem.] You need only look at your own newsfeed to see that most people’s facebook walls are full only of the fabulous things they do with their fabulous friends in fabulous places. Which of course quickly leads to… JEALOUSY. My whole point is that what you’re being jealous of is not real. You are busy being jealous of someone’s new job, baby, wedding, boyfriend, house, vacation, while they are secretly struggling with a drug problem, a sick relative, an STD, loneliness, fear… Here's a clue, everyone is a mess, just like you.
So remember: 
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with posting happy, celebratory, fun or fabulous things on Facebook. I do want to know you got that amazing job in Antartica, and gosh, your baby dressed up as Yoda is really effin cute, and I can't believe you just got married, your husband is so attractive I'm going to steal him when you die... But these cyberspace blips are not the 360 degree reality of a person. As my mother just said to me, "We must stop comparing our insides to other's outsides." It's a losing game and the loser is always you and you aren't a loser, you're fabulous, remember?

And make sure to write on my Facebook wall how much you loved this post, because as you know, I am a fabulous writer and you are one of my fabulous friends. Let's go some place fabulous together, I just hope my yeast infection doesn't come back while we're there.

* A quirky, yet heartfelt comedy about two struggling actors who fall in love despite their ideological and cultural differences.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

23 at 24

On my 24th birthday, 23 lessons from My Year of Becoming

1. If you buy a table and chairs off Craigslist, make sure it comes with the screws that hold it together. Otherwise it will not hold together.

2. The hardest part of practicing yoga is showing up to class. That, and resisting the urge to drop hundreds of dollars on fancyyogish*t at lululemon. An expensive tank top will not make you able to do crow pose. For 89 dollars, that tank top better make me effin fly.

3. "The price of adventure is loneliness." -Robert Bruce Hope IV

4. You can get a parking ticket in a parking lot in the city of Chicago. Especially if there is a really large sign that says, "PAY TO PARK" above the spot where you park your car.

5. It's really hard to tell someone that you're just not that into them.

6. Often the dreams we have for others aren't their dreams. Sometimes those dreams are meant for us. I often told Michele he should start a blog. Really, it seems it was I who wanted to write.

7. Wish success for others passionately and often. All competition comes out of our own insecurities.

8. I can parallel park like a boss now thanks to an argument I had with Anna Reichert.

9. You can decorate your roommate's rowing machine for just about any festive occasion; Christmas lights look great on the Concept 2.

10. Join a bank that serves free coffee at it, preferably if it is adjacent to your home. Ration your pay and make small deposits every day. Enjoy your morning joe. It's sorta like paying for coffee, except you get to keep the money.

11. "As actors, we audition for our careers, not for a job." -Katie Hartke

12. "To be great, a writer must write through both inspired and questionable impulses.... The reckless reach of Tennesee (Williams)'s many works remind me to sit my ass down and work, no matter how afraid I am that it might not 'turn out good.'" -Lisa D'amour

13. Sometimes an entire island of traffic is at a standstill just so that you will miss your bus because someone is running late on a train to kiss you goodbye. Without all the delay, he'll never make it in time.

14. If you have the choice to stay at work or go to a waterfall, always go to the waterfall. You never know who you might see naked there.

15. You can bake cookies in a toaster oven. Anna Pahomova taught me that.

16. Gregory Corso to Patti Smith:
"Poets don't finish poems, they abandon them," and then he added, "Don't worry, you'll do okay, kid."
I'd say, "How do you know?"
And he'd reply, "Because I know."

17. Although I am lonely, I no longer fear being alone.

18. "I am inviting you to cultivate a special kind of receptivity-a rigorously innocent openness to experience that will allow you to be penetrated by life's beauty with sublime intensity." -my CityPages horoscope

19. Strangers will shout things at you, especially in a big city. You have the choice to ignore these things. You don't have to "Go F*** Yourself" if you don't want to.

20. "You know who is more beautiful than you, Maura? My mom! She has really great skin and I love her hair." -Vivien, age 4

21. "Pretend like every audition you do happened a hundred years ago... that way if you don't get it, you think, 'Who cares? It was soooo long ago.' Then when you get one, you'll be like, 'I can't believe I got that! I did that audition 100 years ago!'" -Vaishnavi Sharma

22. If you are going to flash someone outside from inside a bar, make sure the glass isn't highly reflective... otherwise, you will effectively flash the whole bar.

23. Love. Love yourself and the god within you first. Then love those around you, love those that need your love, love those that don't know that they do. Love your mom and pop. Fall again in love with those that already love you. Love the life you are given and you never know what you will become.

Here's to my 24th year, title unknown. And here's to you, dear reader, for coming along for the ride.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On playing someone like you. Actually, not the song by Adele.

"Crimes of the Heart" closes next weekend. It's a play I'm performing in Chicago* that I first read when I was in acting school in Minneapolis, set in Mississippi which is sort of like North Carolina where I'm from** and a lot like Louisiana where my father's family lives. With my birthday approaching (I'll be a proud 24 on Wednesday!), I reflect upon who I've become during this last year, my self proclaimed Year of Becoming, and I find I have a lot in common with my character, Meg Magrath, the middle sister with "sad, magic eyes."

Meg is fun, brave and passionate. She moved far away from home to pursue her dream of being an artist. She says what is on her mind, even when she shouldn't. She's got a tough shell, but really needs the chance to cry sometimes. She's afraid of being weak, of being obsolete. She loves her family, bourbon and chocolate. She's had a mental breakdown. She is very young and somehow old.

Men are a sore subject with Meg. She broke one man's heart in a big way, like ran away to California the night his leg was crushed when a roof caved in during a hurricane BIG way. Since that time, she fears caring for anyone. Because if you care, you can get hurt. If you care and you destroy everything, it breaks your heart. It breaks your heart almost as much as being trapped in the wrong relationship, the wrong town, the wrong lifetime does. I am like Meg in this way; I care too.

As Meg, I get one more beautiful night with the man I left. One night to heal the seeping ache of five years spent wondering why. One night to move forward with clear, understanding eyes. One night to forgive myself, the hardest forgiveness of all. Even though Doc doesn't ask Meg to run away with him, she comes in singing the next day triumphant and joyous at the realization that, she "could care about someone... could want someone!" This understanding look in his eyes breaks open her heart.

As Maura,  I haven't met "the one"*** and I still am my own wife, as it were. But after nearly a year "back out there," I'm happy to say that recently my heart has returned. Fear's ally, numbness, has subsided and I am left a full, feeling woman ready and open to the world, and love, if it comes my way.

Of course, I am not like Meg in a few ways. I don't chain smoke and the practice smoking I did really effedup my voice for about a week. Thank you, Anna Pahomova. I don't think my father is a bastard. He's actually really nice. I don't have a thick Southern accent.**** I don't fight like mad with my sisters, an ever growing group***** Except for Alison, but she started it!

So no matter how many Tony's I'm not winning for this production, how many cabinet doors fall off the set, how many times the technical elements surprise us, how many Illinois suburban folk love it, how much money I've spent on gas, how many sweet friends travel across the country to see it, or how many pairs of pantyhose I tear through, I have learned wonderful things about Maura Clement by playing Meg Magrath. And that may not be as good as money in the bank, but it sure beats smoking two packs a day.

The cast of Crimes of the Heart, April 2012

*Okay, it's in St. Charles, so sue me!
** Okay, I moved there when I was 12, my dad was a JAG for the Navy. Just like Harmon Rabb Jr. Okay, not like Harm at all, so sue me!
***Okay, I don't believe in "the one." I just mean someone I'm effin wild about who feels the same way about me.
****Okay, I sorta do, but only when bourbon is involved.
*****Okay, I'm not sayin' nothin.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday night's alright for (re)writing old love poems.

Surely you must know

Sometimes when I'm with you,
I feel blissfully and successfully young
as if each passing moment contains
unending purpose and possibility.

But right now, I feel strangely old.
I start to notice things,
like the veins in my hands as I write this.
One day, when I wasn't looking,
they became my mother's hands.

And it's alright if you prefer
Bob Dylan to Dylan Thomas,
or if neither move your old soul,
as long as you keep drinking
dark roast coffee and india pale ale.

For years I've been dying to ask you,
where do malls keep their Christmas trees
during the rest of the year
do William and Penny Lane fall in love again
when she comes back from Morocco
can you see what I can't say when you look
into the hazel swells of my eyes?

If you'd give me the old college try,
like John says, I'd walk down to the end with you,
be it where the evergreen trees quietly live,
or the deadly deserts of a forgotten Morocco,
or the sacred place behind my longing eyes.

With any luck,
my daughter will have
her grandmother's hands
and your sense of rhythm.

copyright 2012
maura clement