Yeah, I know… this could go on forever.
But I won’t keep you terribly long, I just want to show my support. This isn’t so much an opinion as an encouragement piece.
(Edit : proofreading it now, sorry, it’s not as short as I planned)
When one finally gets to the stage in the infancy of their Burlesquing tenure, one usually is euphoric. Drama slips off of you like teflon, missed cues are instantly forgiven by end-of-act applause, and carefully planning everything to watch it go nearly all go to shit, and having it mostly work out with one second to spare with success, all contribute to that good feeling that won’t go away in your early days.
Soon, something unexpected comes, and no-one’s ever ready for it.
No-one prepares you for the Fan without Manners. You knew some audience-performer relations would happen, for better, and hopefully not for worse, but even the best-meaning fans (in their own twisted way,) are more likely to hurl contradictory compliments than roses at your feet.
So, recently I was traveling out of country with several performers who I know personally and professionally very well, and three other performers I’d just met. We were all mostly business the whole time, and I didn’t really get to know the new girls until after the shows were over, and nearly heading home. One of the new girls, Vita DeVoid, began making small talk with me, and we got along fabulously. In truth, she reminded me a lot of one of my favourite performers ever (as well as one of my favourite people,) Musette, who is based out of Minneapolis. Anyways, I found her very friendly, very charming, very professional and personable. She’s good with people. She’s also built rather well, and not what I would consider ‘skinny,’ and certainly not ‘unhealthy.’ These unusually-mentioned observations will be relevant soon enough.
Vita had performed a show soon after that in her native Florida, and had an unexpected encounter with a fan. While apparently trying to be ‘nice’ and ‘complimentary,’ in addition to his kind words of encouragement, he said something to the effect of ‘you could use a sandwich.’
…and this poor girl, though still quite healthy-looking by my book, recently lost 10 pounds in two weeks, because she had to change her diet due to a very recent Diabetes diagnosis. Bit of a sore spot, not that he knew. Not that should forgive his ignorance.
Now, you ladies know there is no limit to the cluelessness of the average Joe trying to compliment a woman and failing miserably. You want to get mad, get angry, have some sort of quick-reply rehearsed, and deep-down you know you’ll never be 100% fully prepared every single time. So, what to do?
Well, there’s two issues here, let’s tackle the first.
“Real Women Have Curves”
…so says women with curves, as the story goes. All women are real women, and right now a man is having to remind some of you that. That’s fucked up, given the “Pater” in the Patricarchal society we’re slowly working out our social thinking out of. Guess what – you can’t go on hailing all women as beautifully varied and goddess-like and shame a skinny (or what you think is skinny) girl at the same time. It doesn’t work like that. Larger girl blames genetics and/or health issues for her weight? Very possibly true, of course, but the same can be said for the thinner girl. Skinny girl shamed with accusations of anorexia and bulimia? About as fair as assuming all larger girls are lazy, and can’t stop eating cake. Stop this nonsense, seriously. You’re supposed to support each other. You wouldn’t tolerate this about race, height, gender, or anything else, in this day and age – why is this thin-shaming okay?
My girlfriend is 4’11” and 103 pounds, tiny-framed. Think Audrey Hepburn. I’m almost a foot taller and about twice her weight, stocky-framed. She eats more than I do. She’s not a vegetarian or vegan, and she’s not exactly a health-nut, so, yes, she gets her calories. However, thanks to the birth-control Mirena, even a year after its removal her hormones are all out of whack, which effects her the most in lack of weight gain. She expects the occasional concern from friends who momentarily forget her plight. She begrudgingly endures faux-concern from well-meaning strangers who think they’re doing a favour by informing her that she’s skinny. She even has Burlesque friends of ours say this to her, but in the scant moments of intermissions and after curtain calls, may not realize those words of concern may not sound so sincere or gentle. She does not tolerate stupid-boy punters who try to manage to hit on her and insult her unwittingly in the same sentence. She’s a bit of a spitfire. Red hair, you know. But, she’s right in her vitriol, when warranted. I love hearing her replies.
So, yes, we all have our body issues; but before you rage against Cosmopolitan for instilling impossibly high beauty standards, especially in the sisterhood of Burlesque, stop perpetuating it, and call out those that do, but do it with a particular grace – which brings us to my second diatribe you’ll have fun with.
How to best handle a non-self-aware jerk.
First off, you have to consider a few things.
- You’re angry, and want to get a point across that satiates you, without getting out of line.
- You recognize there was (usually) no ill intent, but ignorance and lack of tact, and, again, don’t want to overdo your reply.
- You know you may see this person again, and as mad as you are now, you know you will NOT want to deal with them again in this manner, be it another juvenile, twisted-well-meaning quote from them, or a backlash to an over-firery retort of expletives you want to say to them right here, right now.
Well, I have to tell you, I’m not the “kill him with kindness” kind of person. It is my opinion that’s borderline enabling. People who can do this effectively, like the legendary Perle Noire, has executed this move right in front of me, with great success, but… we can’t all be Perle Noire, much less when we want to be, when we need to be.
But, hidden in her kindness, she does successfully what we all can manage to do in our own way. You see, making the accidental-insulter angry will erase the cause-effect scenario, meaning they will just be insulted in kind, and will think it warranted, because you will most likely not reply in a manner that points out his error, specifically. What you need to do, in effect, is to make them feel stupid, responsible for the retort, and delayed-apologetic, that is, once they figure it out… you’ll already be across the room.
Vita was caught off-guard, and, as best prepared as you can be, you will still be caught off-guard on occasion, but why not be armed?
No, I’m not over-thinking this, let me give you an example.
Clueless man approaches Vita. Gives her a compliment, and ends it with, as it happened, “You could use a sandwich.”
Here’s the spirit of replying in turn (as per your gauged level of their intent:)
- Respond by looking at their belly, and back up : “…and you could use one Sandwich less, have your people call my people.”
- “Oh, don’t worry, I won’t be this thin when I reach your age.”
- “Apparently, bad manners are loaded with calories, aren’t they, sport?”
- “…and you could use some exercise.”
- “To each their own,” you should say, then pause, “Whereas I like good-looking men with manners.”
- “The difference is, I look good on stage and film, and people pay to see me naked. Always looking for good advice, though. What’re you packing, then?”
…and leave them with a wink, a swish of the hips, whatever you like. Add your feisty side to your legend. Clever. Quick-witted. Unattainable.
Hell, you can even spell it out for them: “That wasn’t very nice” or “You really have no idea you just insulted me, did you? How does that make you feel?”
The point is, you want to tear their eyes out. You don’t want it reflecting badly on you, the troupe, or the venue. But lines like these? It teaches them a lesson, and, if anyone overhears, or they have the balls to retell it, there will be laughter. Good, old fashioned, out-witting coquettishness in action (I love that word.)
Now, of course, you’re under no obligation to handle this any way over another, and heaven knows you don’t deserve to be put in that position in the first place. Have a little fun with it. Instead of that awkward encounter bugging you for the rest of the night, have a bawdy laugh over a backstage cocktail with the girls. Get a good bar-story out of an unfortunate situation, and add to your legend.
Granted, you may still miss the moment you have for a savvy reply, you’re only human. I know I still do. However, delivering such a line that’s brag-worthy is worth all the ones I’d missed over the years. Also, the snide compliment by your ‘fan’ may not even be about weight. It could be about anything. Your age, sex, color, etc, I’ve heard them all. The reason I address weight, is because I’ve heard this all too often (more than others,) in the past few years. Thanks, Facebook.
So, as a good last resort, regardless the line you’re given, and you can’t think of anything clever, and too taken aback at that moment, just give a pitied laugh as if you saw him naked in a pool of cold water, and simply tell him something to the effect of, “Oh, honey, you have no idea how to speak to women, do you?”
Who wouldn’t back you up on that?
Worst case scenario is that they’ll apologize at a future show, and maybe you get a drink out of it (make sure the bartender hands it to you directly, by the way.) Maybe you’ll never see them again. Maybe you actually taught them something. Maybe those who overhear will give you the most sincere compliments of all compliments.
Hell, even thinking about this is pretty fun, isn’t it?
Make them realize why you’re the unattainable showgirl. Because, to a person like that, you really, really are. Be proud of that. Act like that.
Here’s a very recent photo of Vita, not on the day we technically met, but on the day we came to be new friends.
Too skinny, huh? Would you say no to this if you had the chance, sir? I think not, sandwich nonwithstanding.
…and this is the lovely Musette :
…and finally, my very beautiful girlfriend. (Do you trust my taste NOW?)
(Apologies I have no photos of mine of Perle Noire, due to a hard-drive crash last year. But look her up, she’s a five-star performer and living legend.)