Don’t say Don’t

Every couple of weeks I seem to stumble upon yet another list of “Don’ts” for women over the age of 40. Hair, makeup, fashion, and basic life in general. Not sure who keeps writing these, but allow me to tell you who isn’t – a woman over 40.

Around age 45 something mystical happens to females; the universe gifts us with the wisdom of no longer giving a fuck. Whether or not we choose to accept is up to the individual.

In my late 20’s or early 30’s, don’t really remember exactly, but it was that time in life when your body is magnificent and you can rock the hell out of a bikini but don’t realize it until years later when you see pictures, and then you’re pissed for having ever listened to anyone or anything other than your mom and your gut.

It was back then.

Anyway, I was in the gym locker room and noticed a woman blow-drying her shoulder-length blond hair. Probably mid-60s, wearing jeans, red pumps, and a smoking hot black lace bra. Her body looked soft and a tad fleshy, as will happen after a life long-lived, but I’d never encountered anyone so gloriously self-assured and could not look away.

Relax, we didn’t make out.

But I did purchase new bras afterward.

This woman knew something that a kid my age wouldn’t for quite a while; her self-worth. There were no shits given about ridiculous lists or care of what anyone else thought should be retired with age. My girl felt sexy and so she was freaking sexy.

Whenever I read which hairstyles and clothing are now off-limits because my Logan’s Run crystal has flashed its final message (which means my time is up and I should dress like a hausfrau) it brings to mind the woman in red pumps and black bra, who first showed me what it looks like to not give a fuck.

To her, I will be forever grateful.

I Care Not for This

There are many annoying things about being a grown-up; Sound reasoning. A common-sense approach. Doing better because you know better.

It’s stifling.

Oh, and let us not forget Einstein’s “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Thanks for bringing that to my attention, ass.

Remember nights filled with way too much red wine and crazy love affairs with the wrong person where you truly thought things might end differently this time and not with a broken heart or sleeping on a spinning bathroom floor next to the toilet?

Those days are gone, friend.

It seems like when you break a bad habit the wanting of it would go away, right?

Shouldn’t it just magically disappear?

Nope, it does not.

Still want it. Still like it. Just not going to do it.

Why?

Because you’re grown and now you know better so you do better…even if you’d rather not.

Oh Well, Fuck That

As a young comic, I periodically worked as the opening act for a very funny headliner who happened to be out of her mind.

It was 1992, and at the age of twenty-six, I’d been on the road for about four years. Just your typical painfully shy, nice girl from a small town, trying to find her comedy voice while hoping that no one was looking.

Wasn’t much of a drinker, had never done drugs, and really didn’t think other people did either. Because surely everyone had seen Scared Straight, the anti-drug movie, in junior high school like I did, right?

Yeah, I was that guy.

She was a few years older, had a Marlboro Red voice, and a shock of curly blonde hair that she’d cut with nail scissors when it made her mad. And, also, was one of the funniest comics that I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with.

Please don’t get me wrong, when I say displeasure I simply mean that it was not a pleasure.

We were friends but hated each other and she was addicted to pharmaceuticals. Which wasn’t the cause of her crazy, it was merely an added bonus.

Sometimes she would try to get me to pimp drugs for her from stage. Before the show, she’d say, “Ask if anyone has Percodan or Tylenol 3 with Codeine. Just tell them I hurt my back.”

I never would, so at some point during my set, I’d hear her scream from the rear of the showroom, “Ask them!”

Then I would say,” Oh yeah, that’s the headliner. I’m supposed to pretend she hurt her back so that someone will give her drugs.” The audience would laugh and then afterward somebody always would.

So, as it turns out, I pimped drugs for her.

Percodan and having a conversation with me during my show were two of her favorite things. If she didn’t think I was doing well I’d hear a gravelly, “Wrap it up. I’ll take it from here.” Or, if she just wanted me to tell a certain story, “Fuck that. Tell them about us staying in that haunted hotel in Santa Fe.”

A whole lot of time was spent fighting with each other while I was trying to work. But the crowds loved it as if it were some sort of a special Punch and Judy bonus show.

Punch and Judy are puppets that were on Saturday morning television in the 1970s. Mr. Punch would beat the crap out of his wife, Judy, and other random puppets, including a baby puppet.

Somehow that show does not seem nearly as light-hearted now that I’ve described it.

By the way, If you’ve never had the pleasure of spending any quality face time with addiction, let me tell you, it is the opposite of lovely. It’s sort of like hateful, self-loathing, and mean, all rolled up in a big old sweaty ball.

I said sweaty ball. Hehe.

To be fair, she wasn’t the only one dealing with demons back then, I had plenty myself. Most comics do, it’s just that mine were more genteel, preferring the sweet solitude of my cranium so as not to disturb anyone but me. Because that would be rude and my demons are nothing if not ladylike.

So, she was addicted to painkillers while I was addicted to men who didn’t find me funny or talented and just really seemed to enjoy saying so at the drop of a hat. (Who doesn’t love a good daddy issue, right?)

That said, allow me to tell you about the time we stayed at a haunted hotel in Santa Fe.

It was after a gig in Albuquerque and the man I was seeing at the time (we’ll call him, Mr. You’re not funny, Becky) had flown in for the week. The three of us decided that when the shows were finished we’d drive to Santa Fe and spend the night in a haunted hotel.

You know, as you do.

The hotel’s centerpiece was a Victorian mansion called The Staab House. It was built in 1882 by an old Santa Fe Trail merchant named Abraham Staab.

Now, I’m not sure how you amassed your fortune but Abraham amassed his as a major supply contractor for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. He then built the beautiful three-story brick mansion for his wife, Julia.

How do I know all of this? Because I researched it and then copied and pasted.

Mr. and Mrs. Staab were the parents of seven children and incredibly wealthy. The ballroom in their home (because they had a ballroom in their home) was one of the social entertainment centers of Santa Fe society.

You are correct, they do indeed sound like douche bags.

But, never fear, the fairy tale lifestyle eventually came to a screeching halt after their youngest child passed away. Julia then became very depressed, took to her room, eventually went mad, and now haunts the place.

My goodness, I do love the idea of taking to your room and going mad. Although it doesn’t really work in this day and age. Trust me, people just assume you’re hungover.

Touché, assholes.

Imagine how dreadful it must have been for Abraham trying to comfort his wife after the loss of a child. “We shall be fine, my dear. There’s still six left. Six is a lot. Believe me, I pay to feed them, it’s a lot.”

While checking in, we asked the man working at the front desk to tell us some of the ghost stories. They were typical; glasses flying off shelves in the bar, people seeing or hearing Julia in her suite, and sometimes, if guests left clothes lying around their room, they would come back to find them neatly folded, and at the foot of the bed.

The last one really didn’t sound too scary, especially not to my boyfriend, pretty sure he thought that’s how it worked anyway. Yep, every night a spirit would cross over and pick his shit up off the floor, or fold his laundry and put it in a mystical little thing called a dresser drawer.

Oh, and isn’t it interesting that broken glasses always seem to get blamed on ghosts and never the bartender who’s been shooting Jägermeister since noon? (Which, by the way, tastes like an old lady’s house smells.)

Before going to dinner that evening we decided to leave some shirts on the floor, just in case. When we returned, ta-da! They were folded and at the foot of the bed. Well, of course, we all freaked out and ran to ask the guy at the desk if the staff had done it. He assured us they had not.

Then my boyfriend made the two of us swear that we didn’t do it.

“We swear!”

Which made him super excited because of his love of ghosts and Bigfoot and all things ridiculous.

We stayed awake through night in hopes of witnessing something supernatural. Which did not happen because the next day my friend admitted that she’d paid to have it done after we’d gone out.

Our little excursion then ended, the way they usually did when the three of us traveled together, with him driving and screaming, her in the back seat crying and chain-smoking, and me on the passenger side, gently cradling my ulcer.

You Ain’t Nobody

Just discovered four brand new linen napkins in a kitchen drawer. They must have been purchased during a time in my life when I felt I was too good to wipe my hands on my jeans. 

I Got a Rock

It was several months after my nineteenth birthday when I fell in love with stand-up. It truly felt like being in love, complete with the giddiness and euphoria you feel at the beginning of a relationship right before the other person rips your heart out and then kicks it in the nut sack.

Six nights a week were spent at the comedy club (much to the chagrin of my sweet mother who would’ve preferred nursing school) just hanging out in the back of the room, watching the same show night after night and studying the professional comics – what they said, how they said it, and the order they said it in.

Sometimes they’d let me do a guest set, which means five minutes on a real show. Plus, they would talk about the road and how it worked. It was all terribly exciting to this small-town kid.

Although the club owner was nice and let me hang out, he didn’t take me seriously.

You’ll see.

After a couple of years of open mics and a few paid gigs, it seemed time to make the move to a bigger city, quit my day job, and hit the road full time. The decision was life-altering. Not only for me but, I felt certain, for everyone in my world.

C’mon, how could it not be?

Also, I was going to be the first local comic to do it. Alright, there was only one other comic, but still.

The date was set and everyone was informed of the plan. It’s all I could talk about for six months. It was then discovered (as will happen, and usually in the most delightful of ways) that nobody else really gave a shit. Or, two, for that matter.

My last night in town I stopped by the club to say goodbye and bask in the words of encouragement from my home club family.

Your home club is really important. It’s where it all starts. You get to be bad there and learn to be good. The staff has seen you from the beginning and it feels safe and like they’re your biggest cheerleaders. These people become a family to you.

I arrived feeling very excited and nervous and knowing they would be too. “I’m going on the road! Sound the horn!”

Nobody mentioned it.

Well, maybe that was because there was a surprise going-away party later? Nope.

Surprise, no party!

In spite of all that, before leaving at the end of the night, I walked into the club owner’s office and dramatically delivered my heartfelt goodbye speech, “Thank you so much for everything. This would not be happening without you. You have no idea what it means to have your support on this journey I’m about to embark upon.”

Oh, dear, journey and embark came out of my face. There may also have even been a bow afterward, I don’t remember, but there was definitely one taken in my mind.

He just stared at me blankly. No clue what I was talking about. His expression seemed to say that not only was this was the first he’d ever heard of it, but it did not at all seem like a good idea. And then, we hugged awkwardly.

I left the club and walked into the starlit Texas night ready to start my big adventure feeling weird and strangely alone. Feelings that I would soon learn go hand in hand with being a comic.

One year later, the other comic in my hometown decided it was time to hit the road too and I happened to be in town that week visiting my mom. (Or, maybe didn’t have work and needed a place to sleep and eat for free, either way, I was there.)

He was working at the club so I went to hang out. After the show, we were having a drink and catching up, when in walked the club owner and the entire staff carrying a cake and balloons. It was a “you’re going on the road!” party for him.

Surprise!

Then the owner got on stage and gave a glorious speech about how this guy was the first local to go pro and how so very proud they all were of him.

Clapping. Cheering. Also a Hurrah.

I sat very still.

Could they not see me? Had they forgotten that I was the first? That it was me who for the past year had been driving all over God’s green earth from gig to gig in my shitty canary yellow 1974 Ford Pinto, surviving only on peanut butter and no jelly sandwiches.

Were they all just a bunch of thoughtless pricks, or was it possible that I had somehow been transported to an alternative universe?

A world where I had never done stand-up but instead had decided to stick it out with Red Lobster and work my way up the corporate ladder hopefully making GM someday. (Which I most definitely was capable of doing, thank you very much.)

And then.

And then.

And then, there was a t-shirt.

The words Road Comic emblazoned on the chest. The “other comic” arose slowly and stood, regally perched on his cloven hooves. Proudly and humbly he clippity-clopped towards the stage, embracing cocktail waitress after cocktail waitress along the way to accept said shirt as if he’d just won an Academy Award in The Best Dick Joke Category.

Cut to: Me sneaking out the back door, walking into the starlit Texas night, etc., etc.

Yep, a motherfuckin t-shirt.

And The Livin is Easy

Remember when we were kids and thought that pistachio nuts were red? Then we found out it was because they were being doused in the cancerously delicious dye Red 40.

That was sure fun.

On lazy summer evenings, during that magical time when moon and sun simultaneously rise and set and your soul whispers that anything is possible, we’d hop on our bikes, with little red-stained fingers, and happily cruise along in the mist coming from the truck spraying for mosquitos.

So many fond memories and upper respiratory infections.

Twas a simpler time when it was safe to be outside from dawn to dusk. Just hanging out on the curb, waiting for your dad because he promised you could spend the weekend with him. And you could just wait and wait and wait until the night was as black as pitch and your mom would finally make you come inside because he didn’t show.

Ah, the carefree days of childhood.

Up from San Antone

From the time I was old enough to sneak into bars, all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a stand-up comic.

Life changed during the summer of my nineteenth year on this planet when the comedy boom of the 1980s hit and Jolly’s Comedy Club opened in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas.

That’s right, the Amarillo.

The one from Route 66 and Amarillo By Morning. It’s actually mentioned in a lot of country songs because it just sounds like the name of a town that you’d hear in a country song. A dusty, little cow town on the plains of Texas. I-40 runs right through the middle of it, leading anywhere but there…which is exactly where I wanted to be.

I hated small-town life. Dreaded the thought of getting stuck there, marrying a feedlot cowboy, and then dying. And not necessarily in that order.

My first time on stage during that open mic, Tuesday, June 22, 1987, 8:15 p.m. central time, (every comic can tell you their comedy anniversary) I knew things would be okay. It didn’t matter that there weren’t a whole lot of laughs, cause I was saved. No cowboy husband or a job slinging hash for me.

Onward and upward!

I performed secretly for months before telling my ridiculously overprotective, single mother and older brother that I wanted to drop out of Jr college and go on the road telling jokes. They took it surprisingly well. Probably because I prefaced it by saying, “I have something to tell you. I’m a lesbian.”
After a really long and incredibly awkward pause when it seemed like they both might burst into tears, I said, “I’m kidding, I’m going to be a professional comedian.”

“Thank you, Jesus,” was their heartfelt response.

That was when my brother revealed he’d been worried that I might not be straight because my roommate and best friend at the time was a hefty girl who played catcher on our church softball team.

If he’d ever paid attention to the way I played right field, his worries would have been laid to rest much earlier in the season.

As it turns out, my friend wasn’t gay either. She was just chubby.

And, by the way, my family doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with being homosexual. It’s fine. Just as long as it’s not one of us for cryin’ out loud.

Anyhoo, after religiously doing open mics and not getting laughs for another year or so, it seemed like the perfect time to hit the road. So, I then quit my high-powered waitress job at the Red Lobster, even though I’d just gotten my year pin with the diamond chip in it. (See how serious I was?)

By the way, when I say there weren’t any laughs when I first started I’m being only slightly self-deprecating. There were some but just not very many. As is the case with most new comics. Usually the audience members were people I knew. Some of them I’d grown up with, gone to school with, and worked with. Most of them just sat and stared.

Thanks, guys.

It isn’t easy trying to chase a dream when it feels like nobody’s rooting for you. It hurt my feelings at the time, but I’ve come to understand this; it isn’t that people don’t want you to reach for the stars because they don’t like you. Nope, that’s not it at all. Sometimes they don’t want you to do it because it means that they too will have to try.

And who wants to do that? I don’t blame them. Trying is hard.

Don’t let anyone kid you. It’s nothing like not trying.

And, so began the journey. July 3, 1988, I quit my day job and hit the road in my 1974 canary-yellow Ford Pinto. I was twenty-two years old, had zero money in my pocket, and even less of a clue about how the world worked. I know: awesome game plan.

It’s always felt like I was raised twice in my life. First, in a small town by a nice family who didn’t drink or smoke and a grandfather who was a Methodist minister. Then again in green rooms, showrooms, and comedy condos across the country by comics who drank, swore, did drugs, and fornicated with cocktail waitresses in the bedroom next to mine.

I must tell you, it’s made for an interestingly boring life.

Just Take it Easy

If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s this; sometimes you just have to say to yourself, “Well, I guess this is what my neck looks like now.”

So It is Written

As a younger woman, to be famous was what I wanted. Now, it’s to grow vegetables.

In a cottage by the water, with a mop of graying mermaid hair, I shall write silly stories, tend my garden and talk to tomatoes.

A feral tabby will lounge on the porch, ignoring me, and never come inside because neither of us wants that, and then slip away at the darker stage of twilight to do whatever it is that wild cats do.

I’ll drink red wine from a mug and gaze at the moon and do it all again the next day.

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