Piggly Wiggly Moment

In the year 1970, or it may have been 69 because my mom still had a beehive, either way, the Pedigos lived in the town of Perryton, Texas which is located in the gas and oil fields of the Northeast Texas Panhandle.

Ralph Pedigo, my mother’s husband at the time and also the father of my brother and myself, had relocated our family to this tiny place in the middle of nowhere, on the high plains surrounded by a forest of massive oil rigs and pumpjacks after being hired as an officer for the Highway Patrol.

Ralph proudly wore a Stetson Silverbelly felt cowboy hat and a gun and would cruise the desolate highways and farm to market roads enforcing the speed limit and asking people if they knew why he had stopped them. With tickets usually being issued regardless of the answer.

Sometimes in the evenings, after a trip to the Dairy Queen, we’d drive those roads in his patrol car and watch the sunset. Because that’s what you do for fun in a small town, eat ice cream and watch as day becomes night. There’s a wonderfully achy loneliness that washes over you when the sun descends on a stark landscape. It’s always been a good match for the melancholy part of my personality that enjoys feeling sad and like it’s me against everyone.

During that magical moment at dusk when the sun, moon, and stars are simultaneously visible in an orange and purple-y sky, I’d stare out the car window at the 40 foot-high pumpjacks watching as their giant heads slowly moved up and down, extracting crude oil from the wells, like a toy drinking bird in his little top hat, waiting for the red fluid to move up into his head making him top-heavy so he could finally dip forward. It felt like I was the only person in the world, and I’d dream about how when I was big, I would sit on top of one and ride it no matter what anyone said.

Although only four years old at the time, there are a lot of memories of that place. The little white house with green trim we lived in on Colgate Street, and the smell of Dippity Doo hair gel on Saturday evening as we’d sit in front of the television watching Laugh-In while my mom would torture me by trying to make curlers stay in my baby fine hair, so I’d look pretty for church the next morning.

I remember once being at the grocery store with my mother and realizing I had to get out of there. The town, not the store, which was a Piggly Wiggly.

It started as just a normal outing. Me in the shopping cart with my legs dangling, occasionally kicking my mother in her crotch while she tried to shop and prevent my seven-year-old brother, with his bright red hair shaved in a flattop, from putting anything he could get his paws on into his mouth or the basket.

Everything was fine as we began our checkout. My perch in the cart was the perfect vantage point to watch the cashier, wearing a red and mustard yellow polyester uniform and a button with a picture of a cartoon pig wearing a butcher’s hat, and also, I could keep an eye on the Chips Ahoy.

The cashier made small talk with a cheerfulness that didn’t quite reach her eyes as item after item was robotically rung up and then slid towards the kid whose job was to put things in paper bags and then into the trunk of our Cutlass.

Somewhere, between shampoo and cans of dog food for our Chihuahua named Rodrigues, I was overcome with a feeling of dread. The kind of dread that makes you mad and your gut hurt, and you try to casually spot the closest exit without anyone noticing, in case you need to make a run for it. And I remember thinking to myself, “This will never be my life.”

I may not have been old enough to know what her life was, but I somehow knew what it wasn’t.

Maybe she was married to a roughneck that worked in the oil fields, and they had kids and roots in the town and were happy as pigs in shit, or maybe not. Sometimes people are satisfied because they just are, and other times it’s because they think they have to be. But whatever, that was not going to be me.

I haven’t told many people about that memory because it seemed kind of arrogant, but recently it dawned on me that everyone has their “Piggly Wiggly Moment.” That moment when God or the Universe, your gut, whoever tells you that you can do anything you want and if it feels like there has to be more to life than “this” then there is, and it’s okay to go find it.

It’s been over fifty years but to this day, whenever I’m scared to do something or hearing too many voices, including my own, tell me I can’t, I always go back there and try to channel that little girl with the wild heart who wanted to ride an oil pump like a bronco and didn’t care what anyone thought about it. And then I just go for it. Because no matter how scary something is, there is no way I’m letting a four year old be a bigger badass than I am.

Oh, That’s Kinda Funny

I was 19 the first time someone told me that women aren’t funny. He wasn’t just talking about me specifically although, I have heard that said quite a bit and have also said it to myself more than once in the deep dark of the night. Which I happen to believe is the best time to question your self-worth and life choices because it’s way easier to feel the full effects of despair when you’re cloaked in pitch blackness. But this “matter of fact” statement was made about my entire gender. All of us. Every woman on the planet.

Sorry girls, but as it turns out, not-a-one of you whores are funny.

The year was 1988, which was a simpler time, before social media when if a person wanted to say something mean or disrespectful they actually had to say it to your face, and not from behind a computer screen in the comfort of their childhood bedroom or minimum wage job.

But, thanks to the internet, things are much easier for folks now. For example, once a stranger named Marianne was able to Google me and then email to let me know she was watching my Comedy Central special and that I really suck. (Not just “kinda” suck, mind you, but “really.”) That could never have happened in the olden days, and sadly, Miss Marianne would’ve had to carry around that disdain for me and my act until her dying day.

As a stand-up comic, who happens to be female, I’ve become very familiar over the years with this boring “women aren’t funny” stereotype, and it doesn’t bother me at all because it isn’t true. And, the people who believe that usually aren’t funny or very bright and probably didn’t get laid in high school, which is somehow our fault, and so who cares.

However, as a 19-year-old kid, it bothered me a lot. Which was the intent of the angry hack comic who said it.

Touché, bitter dude.

There is power and sexiness when you can control a room and make people laugh. It’s threatening to some, and so there’s a “How dare you?” or “Who do you think you are?” attached to women who can do it. Which I know because people have said to me “How dare you?” and “Who do you think you are?” (Some people talk like that in real life, it’s not just on soap operas.)

I took it personally at first, spending many a year trying to change minds and prove people wrong. Until one day, I just didn’t want to anymore because that isn’t my job. Just like it’s not my job to convince someone that we walked on the moon in 1969 or that you should eat leafy greens every day.

You’re grown, darling. Figure that shit out.

If for some reason a funny woman bothers or feels threatening to a person, I’m not going to try and change their mind or figure out why because honestly, I don’t care. That seems like a conversation they probably need to have with their demons in the deep dark of the night like a normal person.

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.

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.”

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