Harassment

Because I live in a city- no, scratch that: Because I’m a woman, sexual harassment is part of my everyday life. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

The first time I was ever sexually harassed (that I can recall), it was when I was doing my summer job during my college years, working as a tour guide. A group of teenage boys, led by their rabbi, came to the tourist attraction and at the end of the tour, used the public guest book to express that their favorite part of the tour was my chest (though they used decidedly cruder words than that.) I was humiliated, tore the page out of the book, destroyed it further, and threw it away. I didn’t say a word about it until a year later, when the boys came back and I begged to be taken off their tour (I was, by my horrified manager.)

When I was hired as a server at a restaurant with a bar, I absolutely expected to be sexually harassed. To my surprise, though my personal bubble was invaded once or twice, that didn’t happen. But when I was a hostess at a different restaurant (the one that fired me), I witnessed something very disturbing. The owner of the restaurant is quite famous in Philadelphia and New York, so when his relatives came to his restaurants, they were of course given the best treatment and service. I was only working at this restaurant for a month, but the owner’s father visited at least four times while I was there. He was given his choice booth, he and his guests were given their meal for free, and they were given the best server in the place… or rather, the best server in the place that was also a pretty young woman. Maybe the second time he came to visit, one of the managers actually said to my fellow hostess and me, “[Owner]’s father will sexually harass you. Just let it happen.” And while he didn’t really bother with us, I watched from across the restaurant as he flirted with and touched his waitress however and whenever he pleased, sometimes even following her over to the computer stand and putting his hand on the small of her back as she punched in his order. I never said anything, and I often wondered whether, if I had, I would have been fired.

The reason I was spurred to write this post is because this week has been fraught with harassment. After my first psychiatry appointment, it was nice out, so I decided to walk to work instead of take the subway. Within thirty seconds of leaving my doctor’s building, I had two guys catcall me, Two days later, I led a tour as usual. My group of eight happened to be comprised of very pretty girls, probably college age. As I was leading them around the city, we were shouted at at least four times, and I can honestly say this has never happened before, because I have never led a group of all young women.  It made me extremely uncomfortable, though my group didn’t seem fazed, which is good, I guess.

I like to think of myself as a strong woman and a feminist, and when I experience stuff like the above, or read about it on sites like Everyday Sexism, or see it happen on the streets. But am I really that strong or really a feminist if I can’t speak up when it happens? I know that part of the reason people harass others is to make themselves feel powerful and to bring humiliation upon their victim, but I wish I could rise above that humiliation and speak up. I’m not at that point yet, though, as evidenced by an incident a few weeks ago. I was sitting at the ticket table outside of the cafe with my female coworker. We’d already had an incident that day of non-sexual harassment, which was bad enough that one of the cafe employees came out to make sure we were okay, so we were already on edge. Then this homeless man came up to us and asked my coworker if she had a light. She said no. He was standing behind my chair and decided to ask me if I had one… very far into my personal bubble. I shook my head and pulled my book closer to my face. “You don’t got one?” he asked, leaning in closer. His hands weren’t on me, but they might as well have been. “No,” my coworker said sharply. “She doesn’t.” He got even closer, mumbling about how he wanted “a piece of that.” “Thank you,” my coworker snapped. “Move along.” In true harasser style, the man started reaming out my coworker for being strong and standing up, and I felt terrible; she was taking the flak for me because I couldn’t do it myself. I just felt terrible about every aspect of the experience, and I hope I’ll act differently next time.

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We’re Not Playing Anymore

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This past week has been a week of realizing that everyone around me is growing up. Last Sunday, I drove back to my hometown to attend my friends Lauren and Brent’s wedding. I went to high school with both of them, and on Sunday, they married each other.

This marks the third friend’s wedding I’ve attended. For my friend Kendra, who is two years older than me, it was a day where I watched my slightly older friend do something that slightly older people did. But for my other friends, who are the same age as me, it just feels like it’s a really elaborate game of dress up. Instead of being in the playroom or the backyard by ourselves and wearing old dance costumes, we’re all dressed up in big-person clothes that fit us and we’re in a public place with a lot of other people and official, legally binding words are being said. And even though I knew the wedding was coming and what was going to happen, both times I’ve been standing there going, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?” It hasn’t seemed real, though it unquestionably is. At my table, I was the only one who was not married, about to be married, or had marriage on the mind.

This feeling only increased today. My aforementioned friend Kendra had her baby shower today. Her BABY SHOWER. Very soon, a little boy with half her DNA will enter the world and she and her husband will be responsible for keeping that little boy alive. Believe me, I totally believe in their ability to do this, but it’s still a bit jarring to realize that this is the same girl with whom I shared a tiny dorm room my sophomore year where we ate food that was bad for us and kept Law and Order: SVU on all day every Tuesday.

But while I’m not taking those kind of huge, very public steps, I’m still taking some of my own. I’m looking at changing jobs for the millionth time this year, auditions for my play are happening in two weeks, and today, I took my very first antidepressant pill in attempt to get my life back. I guess I’m a real adult, too, in my own way.

What Teaching Taught Me

I have a lot of funny anecdotes that I could tell from my last eight weeks as a drama teacher. I also have a lot of stories about children horribly misbehaving. But the overarching theme, as well as the point of telling any of them at all, would be that teaching has taught me a lot, about theatre, but also about myself:

1) I am not ready to teach on my own. My coteacher was sick one day and working on a show for a few others, and while I got through the day without the kids suspecting it, I was totally stressed all day.

2) I really like teaching kids. I always have, but this really showed me that I can do it for longer than a week. Though I did get frustrated when they misbehaved, that was a very select few, and happened rarely. Kids are so smart and creative, and what’s especially apparent in drama classes is that they’re not afflicted with the inhibitions that are ingrained into us as we hit our teens.

3) Kids like me and I am able to communicate with them, probably because I treat them like intelligent people instead of talking to them like dogs (hands on knees, high pitched voice, etc. Kids know what you’re doing and also know how stupid it is.)

4) I can teach new things. For most of my eight weeks, I was very much the assistant teacher: helping with demonstrations, being the example, etc. But the day my co-teacher was sick, it was a day when I had one group, two different times, and I was out of games that they could play. So over my lunch break, I looked up some games. Many of them weren’t appropriate for the age group, but I found one that might work, tweaked it a little and, after recycling a few games with them, introduced this one. They LOVED it and we played it for the rest of class, and it ended up being in the show.

5) I am bad at judging the abilities of an age group. This is a problem I’ve always had, even in high school. I either over or underestimate the abilities of an age group. This is a problem with general age groups and me, so forget when I have a group of kids that are the same age AND have a great difference in abilities. So while I successfully taught a great new game to one group, the group that was older than them ended up doing it for the show because they were better at it.

6) Teaching forces me out of my comfort zone in a good way. I have always been insecure about doing physical/movement stuff, even though it’s been a focus of my training since freshman year of high school. We did a lot of movement these last eight weeks, especially the second session, which was completely movement-based. I was terrified, but I had to teach the kids, so I had to get over it. And suddenly, I saw that not only can I do physical stuff, I’m actually pretty good at it.

This teaching job is the best on I’ve had since I graduated. I almost forgot it was a job most of the time because I enjoyed it so much. It’s great to connect with students; one of our kids said this past Thursday, “You know what I like about you guys? You’re like kids in adult bodies. You like to play.” And it’s true, I do; this job allowed me to do that AND make more money than I’ve made at my other jobs. While I’m not ready to teach solo yet, I certainly won’t balk at the very idea of teaching at all, from now on.

Bye Bye, Sarah…

It’s been five days, almost to the hour, since I closed Time Stands Still.

I mentioned in my first entry about the show how scary it was because it was a challenging show. Three days before the performance, however, I was scared for another reason: people still did not know their lines. Because I was so scared by the script, I had my lines memorized really REALLY early, so it was frustrating and terrifying to me that just days before the show, I was still begging my costars to run parts of scenes with me because cues weren’t being picked up. I wanted so badly for the show to be good, and by the day of the last rehearsal, the show seemed to have fallen apart. But during the final rehearsal itself, the show kind of fixed itself. It wasn’t perfect, but being a superstitious theatre person, I was okay with that.

I think that, barring shows at my college, this was the show where I had the most people coming to see me. This made me both more nervous and more excited, and backstage before the matinee, my heart was beating so fast and all I could say was “I’m so nervous. I’m so nervous.”

The first show- which was attended by mom, my friends Kara and Meg, and my therapist- went pretty well. All throughout the rehearsal process, our director had been trying to get us to pick up the pace, and our nerves finally made us do that. The show itself is very emotional, but my character is not, and the electric charge of the show was making me feel intense emotions that I had to work not to show. My mom and I had dinner together before I had to report back to the theatre to have my gruesome makeup retouched. The second show- which was seen by my significant other and my friends Jamie, Maria, and Jackie- went just as well as the first. Since that was our final show, I missed saying lines as soon as they left my mouth. I could feel Sarah slipping away from me, and when I exited after my bow, I started crying.

Something that amazed me was that when people came over to me after the show and told me that I did a great job, I felt like I deserved it. Usually I’m really awkward about receiving compliments about my performances, but I just wasn’t this time.

This show has been such a growing experience for me. While I always work hard during shows, I really pushed myself for this one. I was terrified that I wouldn’t know my lines on time, so I used every spare moment and was memorized ten days early.  Even with my three weeks of bronchitis/cold/recovery, I did what I could to lower my vocal register and make myself sound older. I tried to be more in my body, unlike the awkward 20-something that I am. I learned how to walk with crutches and a cane and how to do a stunt fall while wearing a leg brace, without hurting myself. I researched PTSD and the locations where Sarah travels to for work. I put SO much work into this part and I feel like it came through, at least for the most part, in my performance. Finally during the last few days, I felt like I was skillfully playing a woman sixteen years my senior. For the first time in my life, I thought, without prompting, “I am a good actor.” And that in itself is a huge step.

I miss the show like crazy. I miss playing Sarah and I miss playing opposite my costars. I miss rehearsals to look forward to after a long day of teaching and I miss writing about Sarah and her life in my notebook. I just miss it.

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