Her glowing, porcelain face protruded from the brick background, then faded into the blue stage lights. Every stroke of her features, handmade with care. She hasn’t been used much, barely taken out of the box. Too afraid of damage, she’s fragile. So fragile, if you bumped into her on the street, she might shatter like china.
You see, even to hold her is to warp her unscathed skin. If she touches too much, her hands will blister and crack. Every step calluses her feet. Don’t you want her to be soft? If she has to worry about anything, or if you make her sad, or mad, crevices will carve themselves into her forehead. And if she loses sleep, craters will nap under her eyes, endlessly taunting her. Don’t you want her to be pretty?
She was Weena*, daughter of a famous Hollywood actress and musician. Now it’s her turn to become the star she was primed to be. She stood before us, not as a woman proudly owning her destiny, but as someone who just realized she was naked in front of a crowd. Her bones glued at the joints, she was petrified.
Her voice was beautiful. Her songs were simple but catchy. Melodic runs really showcased her expansive range. We all rocked and swayed to the feel-good beats. But there was something missing, passion.
Passion comes from suffering. What revolutionary painter or poet never had to struggle too much? I believe art has the power to transform the world. How can you heal if you’ve never been torn apart by life’s shrapnel, and then had to lick your wounds, and limp away with your tail between your legs?
Like an Eloi from H.G. Well’s The Time Machine, her environment never presented many challenges. Therefore, she knew how to enjoy life, but not overcome obstacles, endure pain. Poor Weena was paralyzed by her fear: fear of being exposed, fear of looking stupid, fear of failing. The only time she looked at ease was after her set while dancing with her celebrity friends.
She has the disorienting beauty, decorated in ornate garments, encompassed by the faces of Hollywood’s past, present, and future elite. She even has the voice, but she lacks courage and she lacks affliction.
She has had every opportunity at her disposal, dancing then acting, now singing…but I wonder had she not, would she have the grit it would take an average person?
I always wondered what my life would have been like if I had half of the opportunities Weena has. What if my mom could have afforded the voice lessons I begged her for each birthday? What if I grew up in safe, loving home?What if I wasn’t at constant war with myself, battling the voice in my head echoing “you’ll never be good enough?”
What would I write about without my struggles? What painful memories would I channel when I performed? How could I teach lessons I haven’t learned? How could I help those who are suffering, if I’ve never suffered? How can I change the world, if I am blind to its problems?
Ironically, all of my talents would vanish with my struggles.
Just because you have all of the advantages, doesn’t mean you can cash them in, or even know how to. You may have an audience, power and influence, and nothing to say, no wisdom to share. Or in my case, have plenty to say, but no voice to speak it with, and no one to listen. But let me just say this, I do believe in the power of passion, and the impact of endurance.
Given the option, I’d choose adversity every time.
*The artist’s name has been changed.
“It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no need of change.”-H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
Every week I drive to therapy in West L.A. I drive down Vine, through Hancock Park, near West Hollywood. I see perfectly paved streets, no gaping potholes, no trash seeping out of the gutters, no rotting couches or mattresses clutter the sidewalks. Every lawn decoration, every palm, every petal, quintessentially placed. You do not hear the clinking and clattering of the cans the homeless push around. Mothers lull their children in strollers, not shopping carts. They do not fear as they walk the streets alone.
Each home has its own design and character, inspired by different historical fashions. The landscapes of each house are eloquently designed and maintained daily. I see the gardeners working in the yard of a house erected from the colonial South, with its tall, thick pillars guarding the entrance. I can see the horses and the slaves now. Only now it’s a Mercedes and a gardener. I guess not much has changed.
The only cars around me are pristine, shiny and new. Mercedes. BMW’s. Porches. I feel like a pitifully disguised spy, in my dirt-painted 2002 Accord. I see two girls my age getting out of a Mercedes. “They have no idea how lucky they are,” I think.
I’m not saying that they are lucky because they own a beautiful home and drive luxury cars. I’m saying they’re lucky because regardless of how smart they are or how hard they work they will, statistically, be rich and successful their whole lives. As for me, no matter how hard I work, statistically, I’ll be poor, or at least severely underpaid for someone of my intelligence and passion, for the rest of my life.
Michael Carr, the co-author of a 2016 study showing social mobility has decreased in the last thirty years, said, “It is increasingly the case that no matter what your educational background is, where you start has become increasingly important for where you end.” While yes, I would like to live in a home not infested with cockroaches, and a neighborhood where I don’t have to worry about being robbed, I would also like to live in a society where my potential is in my reach, or at least equally as in reach as anyone else’s.
“The American Dream” paints the illusion that anything is possible, for sons and daughters of all castes and creeds, with blood sweat and tears. It just turns out that some of us end up bleeding, sweating, and right out weeping a hell of a lot more than others.
Think about the intelligent, empathetic, hard-working people, who went to college, but still barely make enough to afford their shitty apartments. Many working two or three jobs, working seventy or more hours a week at jobs they hate, because it’s not fulfilling, and the pay is shit. Imagine the tax on one’s physical and mental health. Not only are you stressed about money, about bills and food, about stretching every penny as far as you can, but your life becomes a meaningless ritual. You become stuck in a time loop, watching less equipped but more fortunate people rise, while you sink like quicksand, taunted by the ghosts of your potential.
Imagine the tax on one’s physical and mental health. Not only are you stressed about money and meeting your basic survival needs, but your life becomes a meaningless ritual. You become stuck in a time loop, watching less equipped, more fortunate people rise, while you sink like quicksand, taunted by the ghosts of your potential.
Ten years ago, or even two, I would have said, “One day, I’ll own a car like that, a home like that, a gardener like that.” I have quite the unrealistic, optimistic view of the world, but every now and then reality sinks in, making a sieve of my thick skin. When that happens, and I look at these houses and these people, I get angry. I get jealous and depressed, realizing the chances of me even getting invited onto the premise of one of these gorgeous estates, let alone own one, are very low…unless I’m landscaping.
If you asked me where I saw myself ten years from now, when I was sixteen, or twenty, I would have said I’d be a doctor. I would have said I would earn my Ph.D. and my M.D. and be a neuropsychologist. I would have done it by twenty-five, having earned an Associate’s degree at nineteen, and being on course to earn my Bachelor’s in psychology and neuroscience at twenty-one. If you asked me today where I saw myself in ten years, the answer would be that I have no idea, I just hope it’s more fulfilling than this.
What better proof that “The American Dream” is very much alive would there be than the story of a young, lower class woman facing unspeakable horrors in childhood, only to work her way to the top through hard work and perseverance!? Unfortunately, this is not my story. While this is someone’s story, I believe it’s disproportionate to the amount of determined, intelligent, and talented poor people there are in the America. We should be hearing these stories far more often than we do. Why is that? There are many reasons, and one of the reasons I made this blog to start talking about them. But in short…
I thought I’d start off by sharing the humbling experience which inspired this blog.
I got these new shoes, burgundy, suede heels with straps that tie around the ankles. I just had my hair and nails done. I had been so lonely and horny lately, that I was swiping on Bumble. It’s like Tinder, but filtering out some of the uber-pervs hoping to play out their fetish fantasies on you (myself included).
I found an adorable little rich boy. I typically go for poor, chubby guys, with a little edge, and a lot of baggage, but since I moved to L.A. I’ve had to lower the bar‒a lot.
He was visiting from New York, so it was perfect. Even if the date did go well, which it definitely did not, there wouldn’t be any expectation for a second.
He called me to discuss the plans for the evening.
“Hello,” I answered, making sure to use my smokey phone sex operator voice. “So what should we do tonight?” I asked.
“We can go anywhere you want,” he replied confidently.
“Oh yeah?” I giggled.
“I have a private helicopter.”
“Okay…” I said, not knowing what else to say to that. Even when I did have standards, having money was not one of them. Bragging is actually a major turn-off for me. Especially when you didn’t work for it, you just came out of the right vagina.
He said he was just kidding, but his uncle does have a helicopter.
He wanted to meet up in Santa Monica, but I was like, “That’s too far, the Lyft will be too expensive.”
“I’ll buy you drinks all night, and pay for the Lyft home. It will be worth it,” He promised.
I suggested we go to Hollywood. He said his friend was driving, so he’d meet me there and we could figure it out.
I heard him call “Vera!” and looked up from the artificially lit sidewalk. He was average height and skinny, but toned. He had a narrow pretty-boy face, was well dressed, wearing much nicer shoes than mine. He was only a few years younger than me, but his eyes looked decades.
He opened the door of his friend’s car for me. I sat shotgun with his friend and he sat in the back with another guy and a girl. He said “I told them we had to get a bottle since there is a New Yorker coming,” and handed me a bottle of Ciroc.
We passed it around the car as he asked me questions about myself. He pretended to be so intrigued by my answers. Everyone in the car pretended to be interested as well, but you could tell they were the kind of people who weren’t truly interested in anything. I think they assumed just because I was pretty and well-dressed enough, that I was one of them, high class, dignified, and always looking for an excuse to talk about myself. I felt like an imposter, but also a talented actor.
He kept mentioning how he was moving here soon (like I haven’t heard that one before). I could see right through him. He was so transparent, or maybe I’ve just grown wise with experience. He was saying everything necessary to get me in bed. I wonder, if he knew that all it really would have taken is the Ciroq and a cock, that he didn’t have to pretend he wanted to date me because we were both looking for one night stands, would he still have gone through the whole courtship charade.
We finished the bottle and went inside. Needless to say, I was drunk. Impressively, I only tripped in my new heels once on the walk into the club. I paid the thirty dollar cover fee, yes, I paid it. We stayed about fifteen minutes, then he called a Lyft back to my apartment, yes, my apartment.
To give you some background information, when Vera gets too drunk, she becomes “Veeda” (my name but with a rolled “r” and some sort of failed attempt at a German/Russian/Jewish grandmother accent. At this point, Vera blacked out and became Veeda. Veeda is known for puking in Lyfts. Had Vera been there, she would have reminded Veeda of this, and they would have kept dancing a little while before going home, and the night might have ended differently. Unfortunately, Vera had stepped out for the night and would not be in until the next morning.
When I woke up the next morning, naked in my bed and feeling refreshed, I began to piece together the night before. I had several “snapshots” after the club: me feeling sick in the back of the Lyft, the wind belting me in the face with my own hair and vomit, looking back at the Lyft after we stepped out, seeing the epic trail of puke exploding out of the back seat window, and him saying “I’m probably going to have to pay for that,” with this strange, disgusted, clenched-jaw smile.
Then Veeda said, “Oh, it’ll only be like fifty bucks,” stumbling with awful grace.
A little more background, I live in a one bedroom in the valley, my roommate lives in my living room, and he had to get up very early the next morning. I know, I’m an asshole…well, Veeda definitely is anyways.
The sex was so unmemorable that I literally don’t remember any of it. All I remember is one moment where I was on my bed, his lean body standing on the edge of it, the condom drooping over his limp dick, his face looking displeased.
Out of nowhere, in the next room, my roommate yells “FUCK!”
Alarmed, he says, “Is that your roommate?”
“Yeah,” I said all nonchalant and started giggling.
I know I was talking dirty to him because Veeda is a freak, but I don’t remember what I said. I was probably saying blatant lies like, “your big cock feels so good.” It was possibly the worst date I can hardly remember. My roommate said he slammed the door as he left, around midnight.
You’re probably wondering, what the hell is the point of this story?!
The point is when I recalled the fool I had made out of myself the previous evening, I really didn’t care. This was not the first time I’d embarrassed myself in front of upper-class men and women, but in the past, I woke up in the morning with a ball of anxiety, regret, and self-loathing in my gut. This time, I just laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. I am a joke that I have been taking too seriously.
I was always trying to become someone else, rather than accepting myself as I am. As Carl Rogers said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”.
Sure, I can look and sound like I have class. I’ve been doing research for this role all of my life, but an act is all it will ever be. Behind the scenes, I will always be my true self. I hate pretending, I’m brutally honest. I like making vulgar, insensitive jokes. I love sex, and I love talking about sex‒a lot. Come to think of it most of the subjects I like to talk about are inappropriate, controversial, or just plain odd, as you’ll soon find out.
I can’t help it. I was born this way for the most part, and the rest I learned.
I grew up in a trailer. My mom, who is either a genius with High Functioning Autism or severely traumatized‒but most likely both, working her ass off to support her four kids with three different men along with her Antisocial Psychotic boyfriend. We have not a drop of aristocratic blood, going back as far as we know from any of my lineages. Yet, I’m still so fucking awesome.
Despite what society says, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be. You just get penalized for being the wrong way!
Society may not be ready to love me, but I am ready to love myself.
He texted me the next morning, to my complete surprise, since I expected to never hear from him again. He told me, “They charged me $150.00 for the cleanup, so just Venmo me the money when you get a chance.” I told him I didn’t have that kind of money. He asked if I could just pay $50.00. I explained to him how even that was too much for me, as I had rent due in a few days and had to make what little money I had left last.
He said, “Well, I could be an asshole and just send Lyft your information and have you pay the entire thing. I was trying to be nice”.
I said, “You can give it to them, there literally isn’t enough money in my account. I am sorry, but I physically don’t have the money. I am out here completely on my own. I will send it when I can”.
…But I didn’t.
“ Learning to listen in the bliss of undistracted silence and the comfort of inner humility is required for the gift of revelation.”- Carolyn Myss, Defy Gravity