The making of marketing, and where it intersects with me
Yesterday my director Tanner and I sat down to select the marketing image for nerdfucker. (This is my new play, which I'll start touring this year in Canada.) I’ve been holding onto these nerdfucker shots for nearly a year, and shared them with maybe two other people during that time. Part of that is trying to pace the release of new-show info right, but the tapes in my head are part of it, too.
You know the tapes I’m talking about. This is not conspiracy talk. No one wrote the script on those tapes; no one is talking to me through the fillings in my teeth, and yet I hear the messages as clearly as if someone is dictating them through a subcutaneous microchip feed. They all boil down to this: your body is crap. I manage to ignore those messages most days, but when I’m sitting there with a close friend-slash-work colleague, and we are eyeballing over 100 different photos of my naked back… the messages flood my brain and suffuse my skin, and it takes an effort of will to sit there and stay still.
This is not unique to me. Most people live with this sort of discomfort, if not outright self-loathing. It’s one of the prime directives of capitalism—again, no one programmed it, that’s just how the system works—to make us dissatisfied with our bodies, and then offer us lots of expensive ways to feel satisfied, none of which are permanent or even effective.
I’ve gotten a lot of those messages, and some of the more hostile forms of them, at that, and because I’m stubborn as all hell, I think I’ve fought back a lot more than many people do, once the light bulb clicked on, you know? Once I shifted out of “why am I fat and what can I do to change that” into “oh MAN I do NOT need to waste my life worrying about this shit.” There was a period in my life when I spent a lot of time and thought packing it up and throwing it in boxes and kicking it to the curb as hard as I could.
I fought the messages tooth and nail, and now, on the other side of that fight, that big fight, I feel pretty good, most days. I’ve learned what feels good to wear and eat, what it feels like when I’m moving in ways that work for me. I’ve most especially learned the bit about fear—on the other side of fear lies the potential for transformation—and how to step into that, over and over.
But the thing is, on the other side of transformation there are echoes, which I still have to fight. The tapes in my head play over and over, that I’m not worthy of love, of attention, of being on stage. Yes, of course, every successful show, every adoring caress writes over that. I don’t count on external validation as the sole source of re-recording those tapes, either. When I catch myself thinking those things, I stop and forcefully tell myself, that is just society talking, and society has something to gain from me hating myself, companies make more money from me hating myself than they do from me staying strong and taking that energy out there and fucking shit up. Of course they want me to think that.
So I tell myself that, and keep recording over those tapes, over and over. I have to, because I can still hear the bullshit lies, no matter how carefully I choose my friends and lovers, no matter how firmly I tell myself that they are lies. There are still ways for the messages to creep in. They’re there, waiting for a vulnerable moment.
When I sat next to Tanner last night and we flipped back and forth through the images, that was one of those moments. I didn’t say much. When I have to choose pictures or scrutinize the fit of a new dress or something like that, and I’m with people I trust, I have learned to shut up and let these other people decide. I remember that, even though we are both seeing through an overlay of societal bullshit, this person loves me more than I love myself in this moment.
Looking through the pictures, I could barely hear what Tanner was saying, because inside my head it was all, look at those bumps, look at your arms, your chin, look at that, who do you think you are to get half naked, who are you to pose like that? Who do you think you are?
And in my head I was answering back, as firmly as I could manage, Well, I’m the only one to pose for my show poster, honestly. That’s not me anymore, but it’s who I was. Who could do it better? My character doesn’t believe any of the praise, either; she doesn’t trust it. She puts all of that effort into supporting other people, because she’s afraid she’s not worthy on her own. At some point, someone is going to come along and say something hurtful, and set those tapes running again. And her eyes…
“Your eyes there,” said Tanner. “That’s the one. You look vulnerable.”
And he’s right. I do. I am. She is. We are.
Sometimes I write about phone sex calls. Sometimes I write about theatre. Sometimes I write about my deep-down shit, wherever that lives. Become a patron of mine on Patreon and keep the writing coming.