Thank you to the man who stepped in Tuesday night outside Haymarket Pub & Brewery.
Tuesday night as we were leaving the bar where we were watching the election a white woman approached us and asked us who we voted for. We paused, not really wanting to start anything, and she persisted in knowing who we voted for. My friend (who is also Asian) said, "We voted blue."
This immediately sparked her to laugh, start to get in our faces and she mocked us for voting blue. I stood there shocked and felt helpless on what to do to get out of the situation. I had already been crying in the bar before we left and felt sad, scared, defeated, and numb.
A black man with his white girlfriend was standing near us and he interjected saying, "hey, just leave them alone." This woman loudly demanded, "Why? What's the matter?" to him then turned back to us and continued to prod at our decision and emotions.
The man calmly said, "I know what you're trying to do and just don't. Leave them alone." She then turned her attention to him and started directing her aggression to him and his girlfriend, who by all accounts were civil in trying to defuse the situation (way more than I could have in that moment).
Our Uber pulled up and I just didn't have the strength to deal so headed to the car. Before getting in, I went around the aggressive woman arguing with the man and I grasped his arm with both of my hands. I looked him in the eye and said, "Thank you so much." He looked back and said, "No problem, you're welcome." I saw that sort-of knowing look of "we have to have each other's back" or "it's okay, I deal with this all the time." I got into the Uber and immediately started to cry.
To me this encounter wasn't just about a drunk woman pushing some buttons. To me this encounter felt like someone of privilege feeling entitled to bully a group with minorities. I felt targeted for being different. I felt like she wanted to remind us to know our place. That she could be aggressive and mean to us with the confidence that there would be no real repercussions to her and expected us to stand there and take it. And I did have the feeling like I had to take it. Like I deserved it, but I've felt that way much of my life.
The shame and the mockery this woman spewed at me triggered all the years of feeling this way. It gave me that awful pit in my stomach when it's not just pointed out but thrown in my face that I am different, have different rights, have a different experience than the majority that can and will be used against me. It triggered the nightmares I've had since I was a child and continue to have as an adult where I scream to people for help and understanding when I'm in danger and no one hears me. That this kind black man who stepped in knows all too well and has probably had more practice on having to take the "high road" when people mock and shame him. And it sparked fear in me that moments like this will only increase now.
Maybe it was just a drunken encounter, and looking back she wanted to start a fight and maybe she would have done that with anyone. But as an Asian adoptee female with loved ones in so many different diverse groups this all feels like so much more to me.
I am not disheartened just because the candidate I voted for didn't win. I'm disheartened because this encounter encapsulates what the campaign rhetoric and the election results have made me feel.
Today I will continue to grieve the pain the woman and what the woman represents caused me, because those feelings are real and valid and deserve time to process and heal.
But tomorrow I will hope. I will use those feelings as fuel to take the action of that man. Try to be the bigger person, take the high road, diffuse situations on either side in the effort that we all may hear each other and treat each other with respect and love. Be there to support and defend those who at any given moment may not have the resources or capacity to do so themselves. Believe that love trumps hate and that all sides can come together with our anger and fear and pain and try to understand and care for one another.
Thank you to that man and his girlfriend outside Haymarket Pub & Brewery Tuesday. I have spent the last 48 hours grieving and I am grateful that you were there to step in and to give me a reminder of cooperation and community which will help nourish my hope and love back to full force.
I have been inspired by The One and Only Inga's 21st Century Burlesque's article
as well as several performers who have shared this article. All stating they were grateful to have her words which they could relate to and were dealing with or had dealt with similar struggles. Then fellow burlesquer Holly Rebelle asked for my personal thoughts on the article and it further reminded me that sharing my experience could be helpful and healing to myself and a means of connectivity to others. It may not resonate with everyone, or anyone really, but it will at the very least be an exercise of vulnerability and an attempt of connectivity. So here it goes . . .
I am newly moved to Chicago after growing up, living in, and building a great career and community in Denver, CO. Many different things lead me to taking this big leap from the Mile High City to the Windy City (love, job opportunities, other great friendships, new adventures, etc). But more so I have been stirred with a deep desire. A great want to deepen my life and find clarity around what my purpose is. I want to deepen my relationships, deepen my self-love, deepen my passions, deepen my art (which Inga so pointedly talks about.) I have been asking myself, "Why do I create? Why do I perform? Who is it for? What is my intention?" And I have also been feeling myself drawn to helping or serving others, which then makes me ask, "What is my greater purpose? What is this life for? How are we all connected and how do I fit into the bigger picture?"
Y'know, the small stuff right?
And I don't have the answers. Well hell, duh! I mean I'll probably never really have the answers, so I should say I don't have much clarity around what I think about these things and so don't have that information to guide me in what I want to do with my future. Will it involve performing? Will it involve teaching? Will it involve going back to school? (My bachelors degree is in psychology and I've always thought about getting my masters in psych or a MSW) How can I find something that will support my self-love? (performance and burlesque can be a great friend or still a great foe to this endeavor) How can I give back in the way that I am searching for? (I hear Aquarians are humanitarians and happiest when helping people or contributing to the greater good. I am an Aquarius and yes I do proudly believe in all that wooey-woo stuff)
I'm trying to trust and be patient that it will unfold, but that's not the easiest task for me. I like to plan. No, I love to plan. No I LOVE to plan! Organize, create excel spreadsheets, fill my google calendar, map out routes is all sexy talk to me! So the not-knowing brings me a heap of anxiety and it is exactly the thing that I need to try make friends with and move through more gracefully.
Okay, so right, I'll ponder all of these things and resolve that I can't force the clarity and that part of the lesson is to sit in this unsettled place of not-knowing. Got it!
But there's more... In my search for this deeper life I've also taken away my go-to and best practiced defense mechanisms. My two "favorites" are filling my schedule and obsessing over my body image. These two are my most sensitive triggers and I've spent many years of therapy delving into and deconstructing them. For me they both give a sense of control and provide great distraction. I can organize and plan my overpacked calendar and I have the illusion and harsh unrealistic expectation that I can control my body and weight. Hello my name is Midnite and I am a recovering workaholic and perfectionist with a history of eating disorders. They have been my companions since I was a young girl. I remember asking to watch exercise videos at my babysitters house because already before Kindergarten I was aware that I shouldn't get "fat." They are comforting and familiar and are the things I imagine I will struggle with my entire life. (Though the struggle has become more and more manageable over the years)
Because these defense mechanisms no longer serve me and because I want to continue my path of self-love, inner validation, shame resilience, and vulnerability I am doing my damnedest not to call on them right now. As my incredible therapist (and personal life saver and spirit guide) says, "the usual shit that works doesn't work anymore!" I could cram my schedule, start calorie counting on a restrictive diet, exercise obsessively, and busy myself until I'm once again working 90-hour weeks, but I don't even think it would help with the anxiety the way it used to. I'm too far down the rabbithole. I know covering it up won't make it disappear. I'd be feeling and battling the same things, I'd just be more tired. . . and way more hangry!
So right now I'm left feeling like I'm doing nothing and everything at the same time. It feels like nothing because I'm waiting for clarity to unfold, not filling in my calendar and giving myself space and time to let the universe fill in my life with what it intends (see there's that wooey-woo stuff again). But it feels like I'm doing everything because every day I'm fighting within myself, constantly trying to convince myself that this new way is better and healthier than what my familiar defense mechanisms would do. I'm not being "productive" but I'm exhausted. I'm not working much and yet "working" all the time!
I am grateful to have the space and opportunity to examine and wrestle with these things, but that doesn't make them easier. Through it all I try to hold onto the things I believe are true to me. I want to connect through vulnerability, I want patience (and I want it now damnit! Right DeeDee Derriere?), I want to trust in myself and the universe, I want to release control and give into the uncomfortable and the unknown, and (here's a big one) I want to be kind to myself in the process.
I wish I had a perfectly packaged answer that would square with all of my goals, give me all the answers and a road map to plan my future, and empower me to tell others the solutions! But I don't. And that's okay. I'm impatiently waiting for patience to figure it out. And that's okay. I'm struggling with past demons in this anxiety. And that's okay. I may fail and that's not just okay, that's beautiful. I will share my experience and it may be judged or rejected, but that's okay because I'm okay. This unsettling time is okay and in fact probably healthy. Others going through this, know you are okay too and you are not alone.
In the wake of so many tragedies in the world and after coming back from the Burlesque Hall of Fame 2016, where I had the honor of moderating the performers of color panel and where a new POC Miss Exotic World Poison Ivory was crowned, I’ve been thinking and struggling a lot with how to tackle the ignorance, hatred, anger, pain, frustration, and complexities of race, sexuality, gender, identity, and all the other things used to oppress groups of people.
After many thoughtful conversations I've been reminded that for me the best way to act is to try and combat the darkness with light. The pain and anger are real and valid, so vent, cry, scream, feel the rage inside safe spaces with loved ones. But let anger not become my solution, but my inspiration to be the change. Do my best to bring as much love to the outside world as I can and trust that the love will heal and be more infectious and powerful than all the fear and hate. Among the growing pattern of volatility and vicious attacks, I hope to see kindness to ourselves and others. Dialogue instead of debate. Openness to speak up but also be willing to see and hear others with as much love and understanding we can muster. And if we're mad may we let that anger not be the goal, but the fuel for change, solidarity, and love."Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." - Martin Luther King Jr