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.

Too Many Opportunities?

Is that possible? I think it might be.

As I mentioned two posts ago, I just got a new job with a tourguiding company. After I officially had the job, I debated cancelling all of my interviews that I had that week. But I decided to go to them, in case the tours didn’t work out (I think my last job traumatized me; I seriously don’t trust anyone anymore.) I don’t think I’ll get the last box office job I talked about, simply because they didn’t like how clear I was that I wanted to have an acting career. It seems weird that a theatre would have that reaction, but that’s their prerogative, and it’s not an ideal position for me because of all the numbers.

I had another interview on Monday for a house management position at a big university in this area. To be honest, it’s not the type of job I usually go for, for the exact reason I never go for other non-acting theatre jobs: house management hours are actor hours. I expected the interview to go much like the box office meeting had gone. But the whole feeling of the interview was different. I sort of felt like I was being ganged up on at the box office interview; at this one, I had an actual conversation with the manager, who liked me because I was early, friendly, and wore a blazer (she told me this.) “As far as I’m concerned,” she said, “The job is yours.” I was stunned and shockingly excited. I didn’t think I actually wanted the job, but as it turns out, I really do. I get to use the natural bossiness I usually try to hide to direct a staff and I get to be in a theatre setting, even if all of the gigs aren’t of a theatrical nature. I got my hire letter today and I fully intend on accepting the position. I don’t think it’s enough money to allow it to be only one of two jobs, so as of now, I’ll be serving and touring as well as house managing. But it’s nice to feel enthusiastic about a non-acting job for once.

Then yesterday, I got a call from a restaurant I applied to a week or two ago. I was thrilled to be called, but I felt it would be wrong to interview when I had just been hired at the tours AND (unofficially, at that point) the university. So I said, “I’m really sorry, but I actually just got a job this week. Could you maybe keep my application on file, just in case?” (Again, I trust no one anymore.) I thought he would be miffed that I was giving up an opportunity, even though I couldn’t have known I would be hired elsewhere when I applied at this restaurant. Instead, he said, “We’d really like to bring you in. Can you come in this week?” So on Friday, I have another interview.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do if this restaurant job is genuinely attractive to me. I’m a very loyal person, and I would feel bad quitting the serving job I have now. I like my coworkers and my managers, I like singing, and I haven’t even been there a year. But if I want to take this new restaurant job, the serving job will have to be the one to go, because their hours will be the same. Honestly, it may come down to pay. I get paid very well at my serving jobs, compared to most waitresses, and I never forget that. But if this restaurant job pays better, and it’s a stationary workplace, and I wouldn’t be serving… that’s pretty alluring. Of course, I may be getting ahead of myself; this new restaurant might not want to hire me. But if they do, I’ll have some decisions to make.

Just to make things more complicated, today I found out about the PERFECT job for me. It’s so perfect, I don’t even want to say what it is. Suffice it to say that I got a headrush after reading about it, crafted my cover letter in a way that (I hope) screamed “HIRE ME!!!!” without the frothing-at-the-mouth enthusiasm I felt, and an hour after I applied, I worried that they had already put my application in the “no” pile. I’ve been driving myself crazy all day wondering whether they’ve gotten the email/read it/thought about it/were thinking of replying. If I don’t get this job, I’ll be truly heartbroken.

And then there’s the job I kind of doubt will ever pay me enough to be considered a job: I was hired by an online newspaper as a freelance writer, covering arts-related events at my alma mater. My first article was accepted and published on the site, but we’ll see how much of a job it ends up being.

None of this is anything to complain about, of course. In this economy, to have one job is lucky. To have this many opportunities is insane. I’m grateful for all of them, but I will have to pick and choose, and that kind of thing is hard for me. I don’t like quitting and I don’t like letting people down, even if it’s to take advantage of a new and/or better opportunity. What I need to remember is that I need to think about myself, not how I might hurt other’s feelings, especially since I think people usually understand when someone needs to move on.

Again, this could all be premature. But I am hoping that soon, I’ll be working jobs that are closer to what I love to do while still allowing me to do what I actually love to do.

Application Anxiety

I should be memorizing my lines for the film. That’s what I came to this cafe to do, besides pass the time before my serving shift starts. But I am just really, really tired, which makes it hard to concentrate on something like that. I shouldn’t even be tired; I let myself sleep until ten this morning since I’d been up before the sun the two mornings before. But though I woke up refreshed, my job interview today really stressed me out, and now I’m exhausted again.

My interview- one of three this week, in addition to the ten applications I walked around the city distributing; I now know the true meaning of “pounding the pavement.”- was for a theatre in the city that I greatly admire. Though it seems natural for an actor to work in a theatre in a different capacity than onstage, I actually never have, save for when I did an internship a few years ago. It’s actually something I’ve kind of avoided, simply because box office and front-of-house people (for which I was applying today) keep the same hours as actors, making it impossible to do the box office job AND be in a show at the same time. But I decided to apply anyway because I really would like to work in a theatre, and who understands an actor’s schedule better?

When I got there, I was handed an application, and the paper that was stapled to the back made my stomach drop. It was a math problem. My fear of math is such that I actually almost handed the paper right back and said, “I’m sorry, I won’t be applying for this job anymore.” Instead, I reminded myself that I worked in a box office before and I do handle money when I waitress. As it turned out, it wasn’t a very hard problem, one that most people could probably do in their head, and I was able to work it out without much trouble.

When the manager came out to talk to me, she was not happy with my availability. At first, I thought how stupid I was to, basically, be honest about my schedule, but later in the interview, when it was revealed that if there is no show, their employees don’t get many hours, I was happy I had been honest. That’s actually one of the hardest parts about job interviews for me. I don’t want to have a full schedule that my potential employer sees as a huge problem; I just want to write over the blank schedule, “I CAN DO ANYTHING!!!” But the fact is that I have a job already, and while I need another one, putting the first in jeopardy is not the way to go about it. It got to the point, in this pre-interview interview, that the manager left to ask the other manager if they should even bother going further with the interview because of my schedule. Even though this was a product of my being honest, I felt horrible, though if I’m honest, my feelings probably had more to do with not wanting my name on this theatre’s general blacklist than potentially losing this job.

But to my surprise, they decided to proceed and the interview itself actually went quite well. Even so, it was really draining. Pretending to be peppy for that long is exhausting, especially while the inside my head is a jumble of commands: ‘Keep looking at her; she’s talking,’  ‘Don’t get distracted by that person on the other side of the window. DO NOT LOOK AT THEM!’, ‘What is your body language saying right now? Keep it open,’ ‘Be an active listener!’, ‘Don’t get nervous and lie and say ha ha, you were just kidding on the application, you can do any hours they want OHGODPLEASEHIREME.’

Of course, I’m not as desperate as all that anymore, for the simple reason that I got another job! This past Tuesday, I had an audition/interview for yet another touring company (my new motto is, If You Do Tours, I’ll Be Yours.) It went very well, and I could tell they really liked me. It’s honestly not the touring job I wanted- I’d actually prefer the company I auditioned for yesterday- but at this point, I just need a prospect; I can focus on the dream day job (as if there were such a thing) later, once I can actually pay my rent. Plus, it pays fairly well, I might get tips, the hours are good for any rehearsals I might have as well as working with my serving job, and I’m a good tourguide. I debated whether I even wanted to go on these other interviews, but since I still have to memorize and participate in some unpaid training for this new job, which could take awhile, I figured I might as well try to get something even for a little awhile, and if I can hold three jobs, then I’ll have to quit one of them. I just want to see if I can do it, especially since I have no idea where I’ll be living come May. I thought I had it all worked out until yesterday. I went to look at my high school friend Ashley’s apartment last weekend, and the situation was perfect; besides it being a really nice, in-the-city apartment, I think Ashley and I would make good roomies, and she needed someone exactly when I did. So I agreed to live there, but when she went to tell her landlord that she had someone to take her current roommate’s place, he informed her that he was demolishing the apartments at the end of the student year. Because she’d have to move to a one-bedroom a year from May (she’s getting married), Ashley’s decided to just look for one now and avoid the extra move. So now I’m back to square one.

It’s funny how I’ve only been not-even-actually-unemployed for two weeks, but it felt like months because I was so stressed about getting something. I really wish I had quit the tours earlier so I could be working my second job now, instead of basically starting it when my serving job is picking it up, but what can you do? I’m just too trusting of my employers sometimes, though I wish we lived in a world where we could trust every employer in the world. As it happens, my leaving the touring job was only the start of a flurry resignations from that company; Beth quit less than a week after I did, and my other friend who works for them, Olivia, has seen the light, too, not to mention that Jane is thinking of quitting, as well. Hopefully this shows our boss how irresponsible she’s being.

Since I haven’t been working steadily for a few weeks, going back to work, even for one day, has proved to me that it is all this walking that causes my injured foot to hurt, which I guess is obvious. Even after just one shift of constant walking (and stupidly forgetting my shoe insert), I was limping from my car to my apartment building. Of course, I had been walking around much of the day, including dancing in the morning during an Emperor’s New Clothes show, but it was definitely work that aggravated it. These past few weeks, I kept thinking to myself how great my foot felt. Well, I guess it didn’t feel great, it just felt like a foot, like a part of my body that was working the way it’s supposed to. But there’s no way my life- or anyone’s, really- allows them to rest it as much as I was able to during the last month.

But as much as I know my foot will be hurting by Sunday night, I’m very grateful for this Valentine’s Day weekend; beginning last night, I am working five shifts in four days. During the summer, this scheduling would be something to complain about, but besides the fact that I need the money, I’m really glad to be doing something to earn that money, instead of sitting around worrying.

Thanksgiving!

Though I am no longer in school and therefore do not get an official Thanksgiving break, I was determined to spend some time with my family and friends this holiday. At it happens, I was feeling very loved with the amount of people who were asking me a few times a week for most of November what my Thanksgiving week plans were.

Due to getting my work schedule but seven days ahead of time, though, I had to wait. Two days before the holiday, I drove home and that night, met up with my high school buddies Megan and Lindsay. Lindsay and I, along with our lovely high school French teacher, were helping Megan with her project for grad school. The project-helping itself was really fun and included fancy microphones, pictures of our voices, and finding out that I am a really impressive aspirator. The recordings didn’t take long, so for a few hours, we just hung out, which was great. Afterward, Megan, Lindsay, and I went to this bar/restaurant in town, where I taught the bartender about the Bechdel test (and how the three of us were at that moment failing it), had my first martini (the least gross alcoholic beverage I’ve had, but still barely drinkable), and we only saw one person from our high school who didn’t recognize us anyway.

I knew I would be working Thanksgiving day (everyone who didn’t have a really, REALLY good excuse had to), but I got lucky by getting the late lunch shift. I was hoping to get a lot of tips, since the last time I worked a holiday, customers were shoving money into my hand and thanking me for working on their vacation day. Sadly, I didn’t make a single dime. Though I wish I could have gotten to the family dinner earlier, I made it to my aunt’s house by seven on the dot to find that my family had waited to eat until I arrived. I was so incredibly happy that I got to eat dinner with everyone, especially because it proved to be the good time that is normal for my crazy, uber-Irish family.

The funniest part of the evening was sitting next to one of my cousins who was talking about the awesome concert he saw at the Beacon Theatre in NYC on October 25th. “Wait,” I said. “Regina Spektor?” He confirmed that it was that concert. “You were there?! I was there!” Turns out, he works for her manager and was backstage. It was just a fun, fun night, and afterward I went back to my parents’ house to meet up with my friends the next day.

The meet-up was really fun, but also added to the stress over being romantically alone that I’ve been feeling for awhile. I went out to dinner with Stuart and his girlfriend Courtney, and while we were there, we saw three couples from high school, one of whom is recently married and one that is recently engaged. Of course, it wasn’t just seeing the couples in general- it was the fact that my sister had also brought her boyfriend home for the holiday and in my apartment, two of out my three roommates are constantly having sex. It makes a girl feel pretty alone.

But anyway. The dinner was fun even though none of us really had an appetite. We returned to Stuart’s house where we played a board game until I had to leave to work the next day. While the holiday was sporadic and involved a lot of driving, I’m really happy I was able to spend not only the holiday, but some extra time with my family as well as seeing some of my friends 🙂

LETS’ HEAR IT FOR… um, who?

Last night, I was one of the chosen soloists at work. One thing that I love about my job is how much it’s made me relax as a singer. I’ve mentioned how much more flexible I am with my pre-singing diet, and before this job, the moments before I went onstage to sing were spent pacing, clearing non-existent phlegm out of my throat, and gulping water. But at work, I have too much else to do to freak out like that, and after almost four months of doing this solo, my only prep is to grab the mic and maybe take a sip of water.

So last night, I was told I was going first, which I usually do. When my music started, I noticed that there was kind of an empty space in my brain where the lyrics usually are, but I didn’t think much of it. To be honest, this happens to me a lot. When I was doing my millions of college auditions over four years ago, this would happen all the time: the pianist would start playing the opening chords of my song and my mind would just be blank. But I never actually forgot the words- though my mind was out to lunch, my mouth knew what it was supposed to be doing and I would get through the song no problem. I have moments very often before a show where I think I’ve forgotten my first lines of a scene, but never actually have.

The music kept going and I did my dialogue introduction, all the time trying to recover the first lyrics and hoping to God that my mouth would again save me… and it didn’t. I felt like my mind was actually reaching out for any words I could remember of the song, and there was absolutely nothing there. This has never, ever happened to me before. The only other time I’ve ever forgotten lyrics and was unable to improvise something until I found my way was at an audition this summer, and that was because they asked for 16 bars and let me sing the entire song because they liked what they heard. But I hadn’t sung that song in full for almost a year. I sing Let’s Hear it For the Boy, for an audience, at least once a week. But the words were gone.

“I’m sorry,” I said into the mic. “We’re going to have to start this over, because I’ve completely forgotten the words.” I know I sounded cheerful, and really, I wasn’t freaking out, but when I went back to the DJ booth to ask him to start over, I realized that my brain fart was a little more serious than I’d thought. What I thought was just a weird momentary lapse in memory wasn’t so momentary. When the DJ said, “Are you ready for me to start it over?” I was like, “No. I can’t remember a single word. I can’t remember my song…”

Finally, after what felt like years of me trying to think of the lyrics, this guest that was waiting to make a request starting singing it under his breath. “THANK YOU!” I cried, and had the DJ start the song again. It was still a little rough; I forgot part of the second verse and got confused. I picked it up again and it was fine. It was definitely jarring, though, to have my first moment of dropping lyrics like that. I guess there’s no good way to have it, and still, I wasn’t really shaken by it. Afterwards, my co-workers kept asking if I was okay and, where my customers usually tell me how well I did, last night they didn’t comment at all. But I really was fine, and I think this is another instance of how much I’ve grown as a performer. Where many years ago, something like this would have made me cry, and as recently as this year would have at least made me shake my head angrily at myself for awhile. But last night… yes, it was a little embarrassing, but it’s also live performance. Stuff like this happens, and it didn’t really frazzle me. I think that’s a good sign.

Things My Job Has Taught Me

As of five days ago, I have been working as a server for three whole months. In that time, I have learned a lot from my job. LIST TIME!

I’M UNUSED TO PERFORMING ALONE.
I have performed solo many times in my career, whether it be a monologue within a play or a singing solo. But really, I don’t consider myself a solo performer and to be honest, I prefer working with a scene/duet partner than getting the spotlight all to myself. It’s still very strange to me to be given the floor to myself for my solo. This means that I have to employ the lesson I only began to learn this past year- almost exactly a year ago, actually: I am worth watching and need to own the stage when I’m out there on my own.

SOMETIMES, I JUST DON’T FEEL LIKE SINGING.
This was a shocking revelation to me. I’ve always loved singing, even for the years that I convinced myself that I couldn’t sing. But some days, I’m just too tired to perform, which is shocking to me. I spend most of my days pining for solos, and then I don’t feel like doing it?  This leads me to my next lesson:

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SUCK IT UP AND SING.
I’m actually incredibly grateful to my job for teaching me this lesson. I’ve never had a job.been in a show where I didn’t know until I got there whether I’d be performing or not. With shows, it’s not a question: I will be performing, and I have no choice but to energize myself appropriately or risk delivering a substandard performance. But with this job, I don’t know until two hours before whether I’m one of the day’s chosen singers. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like skipping around the dance floor begging to hear it for the boy, but that’s too bad: I’m singing. So now I’ve figured out how to turn on performance mode very quickly, even more so than before.

I DON’T NEED TO BE SO ANAL ABOUT MY FOOD INTAKE BEFORE I SING.
Since I began to perform as a singer, I have been very, very careful about what I eat and drink before performances. Two days before a singing audition, I would cut out all dairy and, if possible, caffeine, from my diet. This is very difficult for me, as I like to have cereal or yogurt in the morning and drink milk with most meals. But when I started this job, I knew that I couldn’t go without a proper breakfast in case I was singing that day, so I stopped worrying… and you know what? I sing just as well after drinking milk in the morning. So now I don’t have to be so careful all the time! Yay!

PEOPLE ARE CRAZY.
I am compiling a list of crazy stories for a future blog post. But just for some teasers, there was the woman whose pen wouldn’t work who then screamed at me, “MAKE IT WRITE!”, another woman who stared at her menu for five minutes, said “Never mind,” but when I turned away to go get every else’s drinks, yelled, “I’M NOT DONE!”, and the man who accused me of stealing his credit card and, upon discovering that he had dropped it under his own chair, refused to give me a tip.

WORKING WITH FELLOW ACTORS CAN BE GOOD AND BAD.
Because while they are willing to take shifts for people who are auditioning/have callbacks, it also means that I get insanely jealous when one of them comes back with news of being cast. I’m almost 30 auditions out with nothing, and it sucks.

That’s all for today!

Sleeping on the Moonlight

Hello! I promise I have not forgotten this blog; in an effort to keep it from becoming a “today I did this and this and this” blog, as my old ones were, I try to wait until I actually have something to write about.

This past week was ridiculous, work-wise; I worked two doubles in a row between two days of singles. Included in one of my doubles was my very first moonlight shift.

I knew I was in for an experience because every time I mentioned to my coworkers that I had my first moonlight, they would either smirk or say how sorry they were- or both.

The only thing I really knew about moonlights was that they ran really late- or rather, that they ran so late that they ran early. But my first one was even more special than a normal moonlight. I thought a cruel joke was being played on me when I started hearing that not only would the moonlight be starting an hour later than usual- so, midnight instead of eleven p.m.- but they would be having an extra hour at the end, ending the event at 3:30 a.m. This does not count the extra hour and a half to two hours that it takes to clean up and then set up afterwards.

I wanted to cry, because what I suspected was what turned out to be true: while I am a night person, even I have my limit. Even I have a time where I need to be in bed, especially if, in order to get to that bed, I had to drive forty-five minutes.

Moonlights are also quite different from a normal shift- the music is loud enough to turn us into a club, and the food and drinks are completely self-serve, so literally all the servers do is bus. That late/early in the day, I’d actually prefer to be busy to keep my mind alert, and even bussing duties were removed from us because the event during my first moonlight was a fraternity, and there were so many people on the dance floor that we couldn’t get to any of the tables.

This meant that, with nothing to do but fold napkins, my mind shut down. Partly, it was the monotony of doing the same five folding motions. Partly it was that I was sitting down. Partly it was the intense dizziness- they hadn’t given us dinner or moonlight food, and for me, not eating for ten hours means bad, bad news. An hour and a half into the shift, I was asleep in a discarded chair under the stairs. This is probably very, very against the rules, but I did it anyway. There was nothing else to do. Also, I was so dizzy that I was afraid to stand up.

It seemed like the night would never end, even after the night turned into the morning. Eventually, I went down to the kitchen and stole two rolls from a basket; there was no way I could operate a moving vehicle without some kind of sustenance. And eventually, people did leave, but then we had to clean-up and reset. None of us are ever enthusiastic about reset; it’s slow going, sometimes frustrating, and never the highlight of any shift. But getting us servers motivated to reset at 3:30 in the morning… not going to happen. If we walked across the room, we felt we deserved a little nap. We were too tired to snap at each other, so we just dragged ourselves around hoping we put the forks on the table facing the right way. It seemed like we were resetting for five hours.

There was more that happened during my first moonlight shift, I’m sure, but to be honest, I don’t remember much. And I know I’ll have to work more of these, but I still pray that I won’t. I don’t want to be so tired that I fall into a deep enough sleep to dream. I want to be alert and functional at work. And also, I really hate clubs, so I’d rather not work on one that floats on the water.

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