Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Did He Say?

I've never really thought about it, but I have a disability.  I'm hard of hearing.  I have nerve deafness and my hearing is only about forty percent of what everyone else hears.  Approximately 36 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss.  Mine has been since birth.

I wear a hearing aid, which helps tremendously.   Actually I have two hearing aids, but one is almost always in need of repair.  I can usually only afford to have one going at a time.  When one is starting to go out, I quickly get the other one repaired. So I'm not without.   Repairs usually cost between $250 to $300 a shot.  One day, when I have an extra $500 I'll have both working.  And guess what?  Most insurance companies don't cover the cost of hearing aids or repairs.  With the average hearing aid costing $2500 a piece, that's a lot of cash to put out over the years.  My insurance company will pay for me to have an abortion or get Viagra, but hearing isn't as important apparently.  Oops.  That rant is for another day.  

Today I find myself with neither hearing aid working.  One is in for repairs, which is why I decided this would be a good time to write about it.

Like all of our senses, I think we tend to take them for granted until we don't have them or they're temporarily blocked.  I started thinking last night how my deafness has affected my life.  How I've learned to adapt and where it's held me back. 

The first thing I will tell you is that not being able to hear is lonely.  I was a loner as a kid.  Not because I didn't like other people, but because I couldn't really connect with them.  I didn't get my first hearing aid until I was fifteen.  Before that, and even now, it was usually easier to be alone than to continuously ask someone to repeat something, or say "huh" or pretend I heard them.  You'd be amazed at what I've pretended to hear over the years.  That's probably why I'm an actor. 

I also found out at an early age that people don't have a lot of patience for people who have difficulty hearing.  They think just by yelling, or moving their mouths in an exaggerated way they are helping the person who cannot hear.  Actually they're just embarrassing him or her and themselves. 

I know hearing loss can seem funny at times.  Hell, I even joke about it.  One of the things we do to adapt is we put sentences together like puzzles.  We usually don't hear every word, depending on the tone, articulation, etc, so we match what we hear to what we usually hear or what would make sense in that context.  It's not always accurate and that's when it usually makes for a great laugh.  

I'll pick on a friend of mine to see if she reads my blog.  She told a story once of her father, who is hard of hearing, and a laugh the family had over his misunderstanding.  My friend had a cold or something and her mom said, "You should go to the doctor to get some medicine."  Her dad heard, "You should go to the doctor to get a Mexican."   Her father, in all seriousness asked, "What does she need a Mexican for?"

I 'm sure my family has many of those gaffes I made to share as well.  My desire to make people laugh was born from that I'm sure.  Never mind they were laughing at me, not with me, but whatever. 

I don't know if my hearing loss has ever really held me back, other than not being able to play a musical instrument or sing, I don't think my life would be all that different than it is now.  

When I can't hear, I still get lonely.  I also tend to isolate.  It's not a lot of fun being around people when you can't hear them.  So I'm lonely and I write.  That's what I do.  I guess perhaps it has molded me into who I am after all.  A lonely writer who acts and likes to make people laugh.  I wouldn't change that.  It seems to me there's a lot out there in the world that's just noise anyway. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Diet Crazy

Some days I think my head is going to explode when I read about all the various diets that are supposed to help you lose weight. There's Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, Paleo, Nutri Systems, Vegetarian, Vegan, Mediterranean, etc....  They'll all help you if you buy the book, attend the costly meetings, or buy the food.

You can eat fruits on some, but not on others.  Bread on some, not on others. Dairy on some, not on others. Bacon on some, not on others.  You get the idea.

A doctor even told me it doesn't really matter what you do as long as you stick with it.  So that's the key? Pick something you can stick with?

Sounds simple as long as I never want to eat bread again. Or never want another hamburger.  Or always want to count points/calories. Only want eggs. Give up everything but red wine.

It's all enough to make me want to biggie size my french fries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Biker Chick in the Anne Taylor Suit

We all came into this world naked; the rest is all drag.
~ RuPaul

Ordinarily when we think of someone in drag, we think of RuPaul, or a drag queen at the local pub who is "Working hard for her money."  There's the long eyelashes.  The theatrical makeup.  The padding and cinching. It's all an illusion of another character who is not the person standing before you.  It's magic.

Drag can mean something else too.  It's the clothes that many of us put on everyday to create the illusion that we're a corporate big wig, or a docile administrative assistant.   We put on our black and white and serve food and drinks. We dress in brown and deliver packages.  It's the uniform, whether blatantly so, or more subtle, that defines who we are with our day job.  The real question is who are we out of that drag?  That was a question that was raised at a conference I attended once.

It was a Sunday morning breakfast with a key note speaker.  It was the end of the conference, and like so many others, I wanted to blow it off and go home early, but it did include breakfast, which I'd already paid for.  I decided I'd give it a shot.  I sat in the back so I could slip out if it was too boring.  To my surprise it was anything but.

A petite blonde woman looking to be in her late thirties stepped up the podium.  She was dressed to the nines in cute little Chanel suit.  I was sure this was going to be boring, and then she opened her mouth.  One of the first things she asked is how we liked her suit.  The crowd made affirmative noises and she smiled.

"Good," she said, "but it's not who I am."  She took off the jacket.  "I am a drag queen," she said.  

Nervous laughter filled the room, so she went on to explain.  "This is drag to me.  Monday through Friday, I put on my Chanel or Ann Taylor suits and I go to the office where I make million dollar deals and have power lunches.  I have assistants who bring me things and employees who scatter as I walk through a room. Sometimes I go into my office and quietly chuckle at it all, because this is not who I am.  This is the persona I created to survive in the corporate world.  If you want to see who I am, show up at my house on Saturday morning around 10 when I'm putting on my Levis and straddling my Harley Davidson and getting ready to take her out for a ride.  That's who I am, a biker bitch in an Ann Taylor suit." 

The crowd wasn't sure how to respond, but slowly the applause began to build into an explosion. 

The speaker went on to explain how we're all in drag.  We do it to survive.  The most important thing to remember about ourselves and those around us is that it's all an illusion.  We should never judge anyone based on the persona they present to the world.  Take the time to know who they really are. 

I left that conference better than any I'd ever attended.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I must put on my drag and head to the day job.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Your Bliss is Where Your Heart Pounds

Many of us learn at an early age that we are to follow our dreams.  Follow your bliss. Do what makes you happy and the money will come.  There are several ways of saying it, but it all boils down to the same thing.  We're to go for it.  Life's short and you have to live!

I'm not sure what age it happens but eventually, in many of us, the live your dreams speech gets tempered with practicality. Suddenly we have to be practical and think it through.  Those childhood dreams of being an actor or writer suddenly seem too unrealistic.   Too unreachable. We need to start thinking about getting a "real" job.

That's what I did, and I struggled.  I was an A student all through high school until my senior year.  I had a bad case of senioritis and I had no idea what to do with my life.  It seemed everyone wanted me to make a decision that would affect my entire life.  Who gives this responsibility to a seventeen year old?  I wanted to go to college, but didn't know what I'd pursue.  The acting and writing seems too far fetched, so I struggled to find something else that would make me happy.  The choices were overwhelming considering none of them felt right in my heart.  

I followed many different paths, always finding myself down the road and miserable and wondering why.  I'd reach out in despair, only to be told by a good friend, spiritual advisor or therapist that I was supposed to follow my bliss.  My bliss?  What the hell is my bliss, I'd ask?  Through all that practicality, I'd forgotten what made me happy.

A few years ago I rediscovered it when the economy tanked and I lost my job of twelve years.  A job I had grown weary of, but it was steady, nonetheless.  I began pursuing my writing and I had a novel in progress.  What I noticed during the course of writing the novel is that my work on the novel was directly related to how unhappy I was in my regular circumstances.  For example, in a job I hated, I wrote almost every day.  The writing kept me sane and was going to be my way out.  As I got an old job back (the portions I liked), I got complacent and my writing slowed down.  

Eventually I always came back because the writing is what I love.  I took the long way to get here, but I'm here. I'm pursuing what makes me happy.  It doesn't matter what my name tag says at the day job, or what title might be on my business card.  Those things don't define me.   I am a writer!  I say it proudly and with certainty.  Everything else is pretend.  

When I start believing that I'm the other guy, I just need to come back to the keyboard and remind myself who I really am.  The rest is bullshit.

For some the keyboard is a stage, or a concert hall, or any number of venues in which your dream plays.  Where you feel most alive is where your bliss is.  Go for it, otherwise, you're just taking the long, lonely miserable road that is going to bring you back here anyway.  It's fate.  It's destiny.  It's your dream. Your life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Mystery of Neil Patrick Harris

People seem to love Neil Patrick Harris.  Straight people. Gay people. Grandmas. Your average Joes.  They all love NPH as he's affectionately called.  Why don't I get it?

I don't hate NPH, I just don't get the fascination. I don't think he's all that funny.  He's not a great musical talent.  He's an average looking guy who seems to have a stick up his butt much of the time.  Is it because he's a safe gay? Or a gateway gay?  He's the gay people start with before they accept Nathan Lane and Harvey Fierstein.

The photo at right is circulating Facebook and I think it hits the nail on the head.  NPH is non threatening.  He's gay and he's kinda normal.  Wow!  What a concept.  I guess Mr. Leather Fire Island 2012 wouldn't be the best representation of the gay community would it?

So, NPH is our representation, huh?  He's the image of most of us in the LGBT (insert any letters here so no one is offended or left out). An average Joe.

I guess I can accept that.  Mr. Leather Fire Island doesn't really represent me anymore than RuPaul does.  But really?  NPH?  Doogie Howser?  They don't come much more vanilla than that.  I hope he's at least wearing a leather thong.