Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sol Invictus

In the previous entry, I described the wonderful work of Sophie Calle I saw at Louisiana. I also saw another exhibit, one much darker but no less impressive, by German artist Anselm Kiefer.

I was unfamiliar with Kiefer's work prior to Sunday. His work was mentally exhausting; the Louisiana exhibit spanned five rooms containing art inspired by controversial topics in modern history--in particular, his art took on themes from Nazi rule. The art was fascinating for me. It was sort of the same feeling I get when I watch a particularly depressing, but well-made, movie. I cannot honestly say I "enjoyed" Anselm Kiefer's art. But I can say that to my relatively inexperienced artistic eyes, the work was masterful. Like the Sophie Calle display, Kiefer's exhibition made me feel something; his work was not happy or remotely hopeful, but it brought my mind to a darker place and time in history that I will never be able to truly comprehend. And interestingly enough, I found that his massive, mural-scale pieces were the most effective. His smaller works are excellent, but Kiefer's use of paint coupled with other raw materials on a bigger scale work to his advantage. There was one piece in particular that stuck with me. It spanned an entire wall, and depicted a bleak field scattered with musty pink dots, roses. Clusters of material resembling barbed wire were attached to the canvas, in some places jutting out away from it. And scattered among this beautiful chaos were small, rectangular strips of fabric, onto which Kiefer had written sets of numbers, the meaning of which remains unclear to me, though I have my guesses. Perhaps most stunning of all was its title: Wohin wir uns wenden im Gewitter der Rosen, ist die Nacht mit Dornen erhellt...Wherever we turn in the storm of roses, the night is lit up by thorns. There were other murals, too; and in another room, painting after painting of a man in Nazi uniform, saluting Hitler, in various settings. There was a gigantic book, the pages of which were covered in a metallic sort of material and painted with abstract landscapes, again dotted with sets of numbers. There were smaller books, too, containing pictures of "barren landscapes" onto which Kiefer had glued syringes or surgical scissors. The entire exhibition did not leave me with a good feeling, as Ms. Calle's had, but it did leave me with a strong emotion. And for that, I highly recommend this wonderful German artist.

My favorite Kiefer piece of the day, an enormous painting entitled Sol Invictus [The Unconquered Sun], made using paint and what appeared to be sunflower seeds...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Take Care of Yourself

Today I took a trip out to Louisiana to see Sophie Calle's work. I was introduced to this unique French artist by a good friend of mine this summer, and was very excited to see some of it in person today. And I wasn't disappointed: Calle's work was quirky, serious, whimsical, and relatable, all at once. In one project, she found a man's address book on the streets of Paris. After photocopying the entries, she returned the missing little black book to its owner; she then picked a dozen or so of the addresses and contacted the people to "know" this stranger without ever actually meeting him. In another work, a fan recently separated from his long-time girlfriend wrote to Calle. He explained that he loved her work and wished to spend his time recuperating from the breakup in her house, specifically sleeping in her bed. Not with her, mind you--he just wanted to use her bed. Calle had the bed, mattress and frame and all, shipped overseas to the man, and he returned it several weeks later with a thank-you letter. The bed was on display today, along with the man's bizarrely innocently charming correspondence. Calle's body of work was intriguing and incredibly personal, but the highlight was her 2007 project entitled Take Care of Yourself.

A while back, Calle's then long-time boyfriend broke up with her. The man, dubbed "X" to protect his (now-infamous) identity, did so in the form of a letter, the contents of which would be considered frustrating for most women to read. He ended with the charming sign-off, "Take care of yourself. --X." Not sure of what to make of the letter's contents, and in an effort to move on after the break-up, Calle showed the letter to 107 women in all areas of work and asked them to interpret, explain, react to, answer, etc., in whatever way they wished. The result is a magnificently intimate collection about love, and how we deal with the end of a love. There was a rifle shooter who, from a far distance, shot bullet holes through the word "love" three separate times on the paper. An etoile from the Paris Opera Ballet angrily crumpled the letter, stuffed it into the toe of her pointe shoe, and proceeded to pique around a rehearsal studio before collapsing into a heap on the floor. A zoologist fed the paper to her ill-tempered parrot; a legal expert defined hidden "contractual terms" the anonymous man had laid out in the text; an accountant came to the conclusions that the assets of two separate statements--"I will always love you" and "I can never become your friend"--were equal. I loved this room of women and the strong rawness of their reactions to a break-up which was not even their own. I copy the letter here for you, then, to form your own response. And remember: Take care of yourself.


I have been meaning to write and reply to your email for a while. At the same time, I thought it would be better to talk to you and tell you what I have to say out loud. Still, at least it will be written.

As you have noticed, I have not been quite right recently. As if I no longer recognized myself in my own existence. A terrible feeling of anxiety, which I cannot really fight, other than keeping on going to try and overtake it, as I have always done. When we met, you laid down one condition: not to become the "fourth." I stood by that promise: it has been months now since I have seen the "others," because I obviously could find no way of seeing them without making you one of them.

I thought that would be enough, I thought that loving you and your love would be enough so that this anxiety--which constantly drives me to look further afield and which means that I will never feel quiet and at rest or probably even just happy or "generous"--would be calmed when I was with you, with the certainty that the love you have for me was the best for me, the best I have ever had, you know that. I thought that my writing would be a remedy, that my "disquiet" would dissolve into it so that I could find you. But no. In fact it even became worse, I cannot even tell you the sort of state I feel I am in. So I started calling the "others" again this week. And I know what that means to me and the cycle that it will drag me into.

I have never lied to you and I do not intend to start lying now.

There was another rule that you laid down at the beginning of our affair: the day we stopped being lovers you would no longer be able to envisage seeing me. You know this constraint can only ever strike me as disastrous, and unjust (when you still see B. and R. ...) and understandable (obviously...), so I can never become your friend.

But now you can gauge how significant my decision is from the fact that I am prepared to bend to your will, even though there are so many things--not seeing you or talking to you or catching the way you look at people and things, and your gentleness towards me--that I will miss terribly. Whatever happens, remember that I will always love you in the same way, my own way, that I have ever since I first met you; that it will carry on within me and, I am sure, will never die.

But it would be the worst kind of masquerade to prolong a situation now when, you know as well as I do, it has become irreparable by the standards of the very love I have for you and you have for me, a love which is now forcing me to be so frank with you, as final proof of what happened between us and will always be unique.

I would have liked things to have turned out differently.

Take care of yourself,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lille Fredag

For today, Thursday--aka torsdag, aka "lille fredag"--no introspection. No thinking, no lists. Just a dose of happiness in the form of some music from Amelie...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Anatomy Lessons

I'm very into several things lately. Grey's Anatomy, because it's almost too much to handle and thus is a wonderful way to escape real life. Lists, because they're a good way for me to feel organized and neat when in actuality, I'm not either of those things. Chocolate milk, because it's wonderful. So for today, I analyze my anatomy...with a Matilde chokolademælk in hand. From feet to head, then:

- Feet: Approximately size 40 (that's a good old-fashioned American 10; a Freed of London 7X). Ten toes, with a bizarrely long second toe on each foot. Strange bumps protrude from the big, second, fourth, and pinky toes, a result of spending hours on end in what amount to paper-mache shoes. The third toes on each foot are miraculously, strangely okay. A bruised big toenail decorates the left foot; a deteriorating toenail tops off the right second toe. No blisters, but there appears to be a gaping white hole in between the fourth and pinky toes on the right foot. This is a large, persistent corn. It is actively disliked. Heels are fine, minus the callused skin factor. The muscles underneath both feet have an alarming tendency to cramp without warning, but this can be remedied so long as I carry around a tennis or dog toy ball to roll under my arches.

- Lower legs: Ankles are unmemorable, though small. A chronic case of eczema or some other mild skin rash is apparent on both legs, just above the ankles, but it sort of just looks like a band of freckles around each shin, so I'm cool with this. The legs could stand a good session with the Venus razor. Due to pale skin and klutzy tendencies, small bruises scatter both shins, but this can be explained: Each time I extract my bike from the parking rack, I manage to stab one shin or the other into one of the pedals. Since I do this at least four times a day, it's a battered area of my body.

- Knees: Knees are relatively unscathed. Though the aforementioned bruising can be seen in a large, now-faded contusion just below the right kneecap--a result of one-too-many patella-centric positions in Svanesøen.

- Upper Legs: The thighs appear to be healthy, though they too could really use a shave. Like the rest of my physical self, the upper legs are freckled, but--in a Sunday-morning miracle--appear to be completely free of bruising. This is good. The multi-vitamin+iron pill I take every morning appears to be working from the area starting above my knees and ending at my hips. The hamstrings could use a good stretch, but this does not make them any different than most of the other muscles in my body.

- Hips: My hips are not terrifically notable. Neither perfect for child-bearing nor for high-fashion modeling, my hips are relatively nondescript but for the fact that they seem to loathe allowing leg heights above 90, maybe 110 degrees. My hips don't lie: They are not big fans of adagio.

- Butt: A wonderful ballet instructor once told me that it's very difficult to injure your butt, and thus there is no excuse not to use it. I would rather not discuss this particular physical asset. I have a jumper's butt, which basically means: It is certainly not nonexistent. That's all I'm saying about the junk in my trunk.

- Torso: My stomach is freckled, and I have an innie bellybutton. Which is located ridiculously high on my stomach. I have a short torso, shorter than my legs anyway, and it's pretty boring, I think. I don't have a six-pack, due to my general distaste for sit-ups, but my tummy isn't too mushy. I mean, I'm a dancer. The ribs and collarbone are somewhat visible, but nothing to write to a clinic about. I have a fun triangle of freckles down near my appendix area (which I still possess, FYI); when I was younger, I dubbed this cluster the "Bermuda Triangle," but that's just a sign of my bizarre tendency to name things and make bad puns. And as for my chest, well...Pamela Anderson has nothing to worry about.

- Arms: I have ten fingers. One, the right index, underwent plastic surgery to repair a destroyed nail bed and ripped cuticle following a previously-chronicled altercation with a car door. The rest of my fingers are normal, save for the fingernails. I am not a biter, but I pick at them. (I'm a nervous person.) My wrists, like my ankles, are quite small; my arms are freckled and magically unbruised. My elbows are not hyperextended, but if I straighten them as much as I can, I have a sort of exaggerated muscle that sticks out and creates a nice sort of ditch on the outside of the elbow joint. It's not huge, but I can imagine it might be useful for storing something small, like a penny.

- Shoulders: We now come to the part of my body which (along with my gluteus maximus) is the bane of my professional existence--my shoulders. Aside from their alarming tendency to creak and crack, the ball-and-socket joints I have been blessed with are perfectly healthy, for normal life. But their resistance to remaining "down," in a graceful, at-ease position makes them a burden to me. Literally and figuratively.

- Neck & Back: My neck could, in an ideal ballerina world, be longer. More giraffe-like. But as it is, I suppose it is acceptable. It likes to crack first thing in the morning, and while this sounds grotesque, in practice it feels pretty wonderful. And like the rest of me, my back is dotted with "beauty marks" (aka freckles). A very mild case of scoliosis might be noticed upon extremely close inspection, but the real issue lies in the muscles of my lower back. Which are not into being flexible. If the rest of me takes a few hours to fully wake up, and thus classifies me as "so-NOT-a-morning-person," then my lower back is practically nocturnal.

- Face: My face is just that--a face. At the moment, due to a heavy performance schedule (which thus requires a heavy amount of heavy makeup), my epidermis is staging a protest in the form of a few decidedly not-freckle spots decorating my face. My mouth is nothing spectacular, with two lips of fairly normal proportions and a mouth full of (admittedly small) teeth. Unlike my younger sister, I cannot touch my tongue to my nose. My nose is small, and upturned. (And unreachable by my tongue.) I used to like it but have come to fear that as I get older, my nostrils are growing more obvious. If my ears were a cheap tshirt, they'd probably be a size M/L. My eyes are not bad, actually; when the pupils are tiny, I can see a blue outer rim, green in the middle, and goldish specks around the pupils. The eyebrows, however, were a source of great self-consciousness for years, though I've recently come to accept them. Large and defined, they require frequent maintenance. Silver lining is, I don't have to exaggerate them with (even more) makeup for stage. My forehead, mercifully, is not a fivehead and does not require its own zip code. And as for my hair? More often than not, my hair cannot decide which direction it wants to take, and so ends up choosing "all of them."

- Brain: Perhaps the messiest part of my body is locked away, beneath layers of crazy hair and skull flap and bones. My brain. It is constantly too full; I worry or overthink or concentrate or imagine all the time. Literally. I have tried to master the art of meditation, of clearing my head of any thought. But the moment I feel like perhaps I am nearing achievement, of being a total at-peace Zen wonder woman, a thought interrupts my yogi master success. I'm not a very calm person. I used to use the logical side of my brain most of the time--the side involving facts and rules and science and math. I thought and reasoned in very black-and-white terms. But as I get older/none-the-wiser, the more I use that other part of the brain--the creative part, the part with too many words and too many weird day(and night)dreams and too many feelings. I think I prefer this part now, because the more I live life, the more I realize that it is like Scandinavia, and not like Oreos: much of the time, it's not cookie-cutter black-and-white. Life is a grey area.

- Heart: Finally, what might be both the strongest and weakest part of anyone's anatomy--the heart. It's a muscle, and a powerful, resilient one at that. For a long time, in fact, mine was possibly coated in iron or steel. I was not into discussing feelings, or admitting emotions, or really letting anyone in. I wasn't into vulnerability or risk, and this was safe. This, I thought, was a good armor. But you know, walls can't stay up forever. It's too exhausting. And maybe one day, all it takes is a figurative blast to knock it down; for me, moving across the planet did it. I came to this country a sarcastic, somewhat-stoic, occasionally pessimistic, precociously bitter (or maybe jaded), fairly private person. And 14 months later, I'm...well, totally not. I'm still sarcastic. And I'm still not glass-half-full. But I have let people in, and I have even used the word "feelings" in conversations, and I have had heart pain (and I don't mean indigestion; my smuggled Tums cure that easily enough, in smoothie flavors!). Over the past year or so, that wall I spent 20 years carefully building around the muscle I once regarded as my safest, as my most protected, has been broken down to reveal a frightening fact: the heart is alarmingly fragile. And as someone who is a ballet dancer and who is aware of injuries, I can tell you something else. No matter what physical pain you endure--a broken bone; a torn ligament; a stress fracture--the heart takes the longest to heal. There's no ultrasound treatment, no physical therapy, no Band-Aids. But there is time, and very good friends, and yes, (provided the wall has been knocked down) talking. Besides, for all of the badness the heart can endure, it can take a whole lot of goodness too. And trust me: knocking down the wall is totally worth it, just for the good parts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Partly Cloudy

As babies, we start out with a clean slate. For most of us, the world is shiny, everyone is good, nothing is terrible. Our biggest fears result from overactive imaginations--monsters, unseen things in the dark, kidnappers. We have the naive ability (or, perhaps, the innocent confidence) to harbor dreams The Grownups deem fanciful or ridiculous. We want to be astronauts, Olympic gold medalists, Batman,...and, ok, some of us? Ballerinas. When we are little, parents are wrong, with our friends we are the best, life is easy. But as we get older, and learn more, see more, start to think too much, and the doubts creep in. That confidence, that six-year-old swagger? Somewhere along the line, right around the time boys go from stupid to fascinating and mirrors go from inanimate objects to surfaces perfect for intense self-scrutiny, some of us forget how to just be. Some of us try to blend in so much we lose ourselves; some of us try to stand out so much we lose others. And everyone goes through a phase of not knowing what they want, of not knowing who they are, and perhaps more importantly, of not having the faintest idea of who they want to be. I haven't figured out any of this life business yet, and I have spent the better part of 21 years on this planet trying. But as the oldest of five children, as a girl with severe self-confidence issues, and as a person who has chosen to work at an art form in which we as professionals are eternally striving for some unattainable aesthetic ideal, it helps every once in a while to remind myself what makes me...me. In a foreign country, as a member of the corps de ballet of a very big, world-renowned ballet company, it's frighteningly easy to feel lost. In a company of about 94 fantastic friends, it is not as hard as one might expect to occasionally feel alone. I might preface the body of this post by saying I'm not clinically depressed; I am not an unhappy person. On the contrary, my colleagues will tell you that my laugh is frequent, snort-filled, and entirely too loud, akin to me having my own personal, permanent cowbell. But I'm not a sunny, girly ballerina child. If I was a weather forecast, I'd be like Denmark most of the time: partly cloudy. The other shoe is a size 40, and it's always ready to drop. So. Every once in a while, in an ongoing attempt to cure myself of what could be mildly crippling insecurity (both in and outside the theatre) and to remind myself of who I am, I make a list. Of things I hate about myself. Of things I like about myself. Of things that should perhaps cause me concern for my sanity. Today's list.

- I have a lazy eyelid, my left. It just doesn't want to keep up. When I'm especially tired, it's out of control. I am not a fan of the Lazy Left, but I will say this: I can close it completely independently of the right. Which, as it turns out, is a freaky party trick. Silver linings.

- My ears move up when I smile. And I don't mean a little bit; this isn't like a zit you get where you think it looks like a small planet growing out of your face, but it turns out no one else sees it (until, of course, you mention it). No, my ears go up a lot when I smile. I don't necessarily dislike this, but you know, with the shorter hair now, it looks a bit like I'm a Dopey impersonator.

- I'm really bad at chores. I hate cleaning, particularly the bathroom. I hate taking out the trash. I hate doing the dishes. I hate sweeping, and vacuuming, and stepping up on things so I can dust the corners of the ceiling, where all the dust bunnies hang out. I like the result--I get a clean apartment that smells like popular chemicals--but I abhor the process. (I don't mind laundry, actually; and I legitimately love ironing.) The one thing that gets me through cleaning is my Cleaning Playlist, a compilation of only guilty pleasures: Hanson, the Bangles, Queen, Ike & Tina, Meat Loaf, Metallica, Billy Idol, Madonna, Cher, Jimmy Buffett...I clean in my pajamas, always, with these top-notch tunes, and the job magically, eventually gets done.

- I watch a lot of medical shows, which feeds my hypochondria. Since I can remember, I overplay minor maladies. This is just how I'm wired. I thought a chest rash from a new detergent was inflammatory breast cancer. (A $300-something emergency room bill and a diagnosis of "Get some of that $2 cream at the drugstore" confirmed: it was not.) I was convinced that the lump below my left armpit was a tumor. (An ultrasound showed me that it is just a place where two veins in my arm share a ventricle, or pathway or whatever it is.) If I get a migraine, it's cancer. If I get a bad cold, it's swine flu. If I get a stomach virus, I am actually dying. But if I learned one thing from House, it's this: It's never lupus. And if I learned one thing from Grey's Anatomy, it's this: The best doctors are hot, and actually spend more time sleeping around with each other than practicing medicine.

- My eyes involve three different colors. I like this, actually--my eyes, I will admit to liking.

- I have very large feet, and the second toe on each foot is much longer than the first. I've been told that if I ever lose a finger, I can just do a little amputation-and-swap. My feet are the opposite of beautiful. I once had an old woman on the subway scold me for wearing flip flops: "You should really wear closed shoes so the rest of us don't have to look at those." But in a way, I'm proud of the corns and calluses and bumps (which I know aren't tumors). They're a sign of hard work, a lifetime of hard work. So to that woman on the subway, I say: I don't ask you to put tape over your mouth so the rest of us don't have to listen to your cranky comments. Flip flops are for everybody.

- I can crack almost every joint you can think of. I can crack two joints in my fingers, all of my toes, my cuboids, my ankles, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, neck, and back. I cannot crack my nose. One time, my collarbone cracked. For a minute, I thought I was going to die--it was shockingly unexpected and hurt, for a split second. But the relief felt afterward was pretty sweet, and I have never had it happen since. And I know it's weird and disturbing, but the simple joy of having an uncooperative bone or joint give a little click is a good feeling similar to that of taking one's hair down after having it pinned up the entire day. Trust me: it's wonderful.

- I can't cook. I burn toast. And set frozen bagels on fire in the microwave. I think the slice-and-heat Pillsbury cookies qualify as baking. I don't host dinner parties because if I did, I would end up buying a bunch of different kinds of cereal and some milk, lining everything up with bowls and spoons, and telling everyone to pour themselves a bowl.

- I like that I talk easily enough. So easily that I once had friends ask whether I had ever had an awkward conversation. (I have.)

- I changed my smile when I was eight. I used to grin so big that my lips would almost disappear...it was all teeth and gums. I saw a picture of myself, and I didn't like how it looked. Audrey Hepburn and I had just been introduced, and I wanted to be her. So I practiced. And now, I still grin, but my lips don't disappear. I wish I could be a wise, deep person and say I regret consciously developing a new smile. That I wish I'd loved my smile just the way it was. But if I'm being completely honest? I don't regret it. I have small teeth. I need a smile with a good amount of lip.

- I like that I had parents who wouldn't let me get away with being melodramatic. (A) Because now that I live on my own, I can indulge in self-drama til the cows come home, and (B) because I grew up with a healthy amount of perspective, as well as the phrase, "Save it for the autobiography." And now even when I do go into daytime-soap-series-mode, I'm aware of my own ridiculousness.

- As a result of the summer when I was 13 and became obsessed with improving my feet for ballet, I can now pick up small objects--marbles, ballpoint pens, the like--with my toes. This is handy.

- I have a body that wasn't built for ballerina dancing. I have tight muscles and joints, my feet aren't anything to write home about, and I'm fairly certain that whoever was left in charge of designing humanity built my shoulders with the idea that I would get into football. This, I'm not a huge fan of. But I will say that I like the fact that I've learned to make it look like I was maybe put together with the faint thought of ballet as a career option. And I like that I can go onstage knowing that the things I can do well--and even the things I can't do so wonderfully (I'm looking at you, adagio)--are the result of a lot of hard work. Also of being mildly precocious when I was younger.

- I can't sing for beans. I don't sing in the shower. I don't even sing along to the aforementioned Cleaning Playlist. I literally cannot carry a tune. I don't hum because my range consists of two, maybe two and a half notes. I can't whistle. There is a reason I chose a silent art form.

- I like that my parents signed me up for piano. And I was sort of good, too. I learned to play some pretty hard stuff, by lots of very famous dead guys. I haven't played in years, but I can still read notes. And play Chopsticks, the Linus & Lucy tune from Charlie Brown, the Rugrats theme song, and the first bit of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue from memory. For this I am grateful.

- I really like my photographic memory. This is one thing I don't even feel bad bragging about--I was born with it, so I can thank my parents. It comes in handy all the time, and always has. In school, when I had to take tests, I could pull up a mental image of the page from the textbook and just sort of remember. I wasn't good in gym, I mean I was the girl who couldn't fit the softball helmet over her ballet bun, but the stuff on paper? That stuff I was good at.

- Despite my lack of self-confidence and my various, wide-ranging personal insecurities, I like my life so far. My family encourages my...individuality (code for "weirdness," trust me), and I have found very good friends who might very well enhance it. I'm not a super-girly person. I don't have boyfriends, I don't do makeup well, I don't find window-shopping fun. I make occasionally inappropriate jokes and many cheesy puns, I laugh too loud and cry too easily, I wear knee socks with alarming frequency. I do things like get my shoelaces stuck in the pedals of my bike, and I am usually that girl whose grocery bag breaks on the way home and then everyone sees her tampons and cereal and lack of actual cooking ingredients all over the street. I swear and don't cover my mouth when I yawn. I overthink everything. I am a closeted romantic, but use the weak man's weapon of sarcasm to cloak this. I listen to very bad music, watch bad television, and read good books like all three are going out of style. I'm not, and will never be, cool. I will never be in a fabulous "crowd," I don't ever know the newest bands or fashion or any of that. But I don't mind. I have my good books, my bad TV, my hard work ethic, my big hair, and my perfectly weird family and friends to remind me, when I forget, that I'm not a wallflower. And I'm not alone.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Education

Growing up: It's an unavoidable, occasionally painful fact of life. And no matter how hard we try, or how much we pretend it's not happening, one day you wake up and realize that you have become what you always dreaded; you have become something resembling an adult, or at least something resembling a human being with adult responsibilities. It happens fast, and without warning. One day you're six years old, and your biggest problem is the fact that the toes of your socks won't line up exactly right; the next you're a twenty-something living on her own in Scandinavia. Life happens. And without little lessons along the way, without teachers and people to give us helpful hints, it can be a scary thing. I've been lucky to learn a few things, to have a few pretty wise people in my life. And so, I give you a list of some of the things I've learned thus far.

- If you've just eaten a bowl of oatmeal, fill it with water and let it soak for a bit before putting it in the dishwasher. Otherwise, the leftover bits will dry and stick to the bowl, and then you'll just have to clean it again, so just save yourself the trouble.

- You can clean silver with toothpaste. And if you're cleaning a mirror, wipe it with newspaper. This won't leave streaks. Plus you can read the comics while cleaning.

- Don't be a backseat driver. Until you get a license, you may not pass judgment. Also, the driver gets first music choice.

- Answer questions directly. As the child of two lawyers, I found that any feeble attempts to avoid answering uncomfortable questions were met with the magical phrase "Move to strike as non-responsive." For example--Mom: "Did you call your sister an idiotic moron?" Me: "She was pillow-surfing down the stairs!" Mom: "And I will deal with her separately. Move to strike as non-responsive. Try again. Did you, or did you not, call your sister an idiotic moron?"

- Beware of yellow snow. Don't eat it.

- Singing, hats, and elbows are not welcome at the dinner table. Particularly the latter. I would be serenaded by my grandfather if my elbows were on the table: "Carling, Carling, if you're able, get your elbows off the table; this is not a horses' stable, but a high-class dining room."

- If you defrost a bagel in the microwave, it does not take more than 1 minute. If you would like to set a bagel on fire in the microwave, it takes about 3 minutes.

- Fighting over seating arrangements in the car is pointless. It just results in something resembling "Car Wars, Episode III: Attack of the Bratty Children."

- On Christmas Eve, if you're out of milk to leave for Santa, apparently Diet Coke and Guinness are perfectly good substitutes. Also, if you're ringing in your first Christmas away from home in Paris with friends, it's totally fine to do so in a gay bar. Gift bags will be involved!

- In matters of the heart, don't play games. According to my mother, life is too short, and emotional games are a waste of time. Boys can be stupid, but I was taught to try not to be. Also, if I end up getting married, ice cream sundae bar > cake.

- Don't wipe your nose or face on your sleeve. There's a new invention for messes, and it's called a napkin.

- We never faked sick. The rule was: If you're too sick for school, then you're too sick for after-school activities. And we liked those a lot. As a result of this no-faking policy, I like to think I'm something of a tough cookie.

- In emergency or even just mildly frantic situations, don't panic. For instance, if you slam your finger in the car door, breathe and open the door. Don't just rip your finger out. Then you'll get plastic surgery, and a gift from your parents--a book called "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking."

- Reading a good book is the best free vacation you can take. Take them often.

- Despite what my brother thinks, the floor is not the biggest shelf in the house. Particularly in the entrance hallway of a house, where according to my parents, "those things, the hooks and hangers in this little room we call a closet? Those are where the coats go, not thrown on the floor so we can all step on them."

- Eat what's on your plate. Home was not a restaurant, so if you didn't like what was served you could make something yourself, not eat, or just eat what was served. We mostly went with the last option.

- Sometimes my mom or dad would ask us to go find one of our siblings. We'd stay put and yell the appropriate name. Turns out my parents could have done that too, so if someone asks you to go get someone, chances are they could yell themselves and thus won't accept you doing so. Just go find the person in question the first time.

- Treat others as you would like to be treated. If you act like you're better than people, and my parents are around, you might get asked awkward questions. Questions like, "How is it that your nose isn't bleeding from being so high up?" or "Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?"

- Living well is the best revenge.

- You catch more flies with honey. If you want something, you'll get it a lot easier if you're nice about it. In related news, it's ok to want to get to the top, but be kind along the way. Otherwise, when you achieve your goals, you'll be alone. And no one wants to get to the top, only to find out it's lonely up there.

- Use a coaster. Magazines can be used as coasters.

- Take responsibility for your actions and be honest. These were two biggies. If you mess up, own up; and don't lie. This includes lies of omission.

- Don't sit too close to the TV, and don't turn it up too loud. Otherwise you might be accused of being my grandfather.

- If you have a ring that's too big for your finger and you're not the type to go get it resized, just wrap a small Band-Aid around the back of it. Bam. Ring fits.

- Never fall asleep with your glasses on. You'll wake up with post-its stuck to them, very confused.

- If you want to decline someone's request, you can always just start singing, "You can't always get what you waaaant..." They will go away faster.

- Get up with your alarm clock. Don't get into the habit of hitting snooze, and you're going to have to get up eventually, so just do it before your dad comes in to wake you by singing one of three hit tunes: Kumbaya; something about Noah's "ark-y ark-y"; or my personal favorite, "Wake up, you sleepyhead! Get yourself outta bed!" repeated over and over.

- Every time you leave the house, brush your teeth first. It's just a good habit.

- Always check your Halloween candy. According to my parents, unwrapped candy was out. And for me, personally, so were apples, thanks to my mother's story about how "back in the day," bad guys would stick razors in apples and give them out to innocent trick-or-treaters.

- If you can't take it, don't dish it out. That is, if you can't take a little fun teasing, you give up your right to tease others. Also, in my family, if we feel comfortable enough to make fun of you, this means we like you and you're in.

- I used to be even more of a hypochondriac. But my dad taught me something: Time really does heal all wounds. Doesn't matter if it's a fracture or a break or a bruise or whatever. Ultimately, injuries and illness need time (in addition to proper treatment, of course). Time and patience.

- Stand up for things: beliefs, yourself, others, favorite sports teams. You'll sleep better, and be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning.

- Garages are actually not meant for cars. In three different houses in my childhood, we had a garage. We never used them for a vehicle. Garages are much better for storing crap and can hold a ton of books.

- Be yourself. If you're weird, embrace it; if you have crazy hair or a loud laugh or an inner dork, don't be embarrassed. Wear what you like, do what you like, be with who you like. And most importantly, do what you love, and do it to the best of your ability. That's all any of us can do to be happy.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


After two weeks of very busy days and busier performance evenings, I find myself at home early on a Saturday afternoon with a steak dinner for a friend's birthday in my very near future--very different nighttime plans from my regular schedule of late, which have either been involving Napoli or Svanesøen. This is wonderful. I had a chance to take a much-needed sauna after rehearsal today. I have an opportunity to catch up on my current outside interests--Grey's Anatomy, digging out my corns, and snacking. But perhaps best of all, free time lets me stock up on something I am severely lacking: sleep.

Sleeping should be easy: we get tired, we lay down, we fall into dreamland. I am usually a very skilled sleeper. If there were Sleeping Olympics, I am fairly certain I would win, or at the very least make the podium. But getting back into the season, and the performance schedule, and the art of the daily afternoon nap, I have found that my ability to catch zzz's grows increasingly rusty. After a performance, I'm tired. Happy, but tired--my body is always ready to go straight home to bed. My brain, though, and energy levels take a little bit longer to calm down. Sleep is necessary, not just for my personal physical performance, but also for my colleagues. Because I am not a nice person if I don't have two things: (1) large amounts of strong, black coffee in my system; and (2) rest. I wouldn't be friends with cranky, decaffeinated me. So. The key is to find ways to induce sleepiness after a performance.

For me, this involves a combination of things. I always have a snack and a bottle of water after a performance--usually toast with peanut butter or a banana. Also, always always chocolate milk. I put on pajamas, and big fuzzy slippers, and whether I feel tired enough to sleep or not, I go into bed. Despite my dad's warnings about "media stimulation," I'll spend time on Facebook, I'll sew (more!) pointe shoes, I'll watch (more!) Grey's Anatomy, I'll read. And some nights--like the past few--none of these things work. Then I lay in bed, wide awake, until far too late; or sometimes I'll doze off but have an interrupting, indescribably bizarre dream, like one I had this week involving surgery on a 500-lb. chicken carcass, with cameos by my father and Rogers & Hart...anyway. I digress. More often than not, eventually the endorphins and adrenaline fade away, and I get to experience possibly the best feeling at the end of a long day: the feeling of doing absolutely, wonderfully, physically nothing.