Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Friends, fans, colegas ==> Family

A response to my friend Devin's status update on FB today

It was 'round about 1996 or so that it hit me that I should not expect my friends to be my fans.  Some of them (in Austin, where I lived @ the time) seemed to be coming out to every gig or featured performance I had.  At first, in the beginning.  Then, when it got to the point that I was performing 100s of times a year (oh, the late 90s!), it became ridiculous to think that my friends would want to catch even every 10th show that I played. Friction arose, because there was a prolonged awkward, and apparently necessary, period of cognitive dissonance that set up the following patterns of thought:  1. Friends support one another, and show up when you need encouragement.  2. If I don't show up, it looks like I don't care.  3. Wow, I'm working my ass off to make it as a [fill in blank, e.g., writer, basketball player, pie-eating contest pro] and my own dang friends aren't around when the going is tough and I need an extra napkin.  4.  This ego-bitch has more gigs in a month than a hard drive on steroids.

~ My friend, Teresa, was the test case.  In the beginning, she was there for every open mic feature, protest poetry moment, and slam team try-out.  She seemed to like my work and, in fact, once gave me a now-cherished book of poems by Salvadoreno poet Roque Dalton, likening my fiery feminist verses to his political poetry.  I was touched, and definitely felt the fan love from Teresa.  But, after a few months, I started to notice a distinct pallor in her complexion, and she didn't seem to greet me backstage with the same fervor as in earlier days.  It then hit me that I was the one taking life out of her face, stealing her precious time, and bogarting her attention.  Not good.  Not good for a friendship and certainly not a boost to my confidence.  It sets up an unequal power balance when one person gets all the support and attention, and the other stands on the sidelines, dutifully in attendance.  Same with boyfriends.  They were let off the hook--in our new relationship "boundary orientation" talks--with my brief but sincere 2-minute (shorter than your standard slam poem) spiel about how I knew they had better things to do than stand stagefront acting like they hadn't heard me do "Manslaughter" or "Magistrate of Celebration" a gazillion times. Sure, my guys were my most devoted devotees, but I wasn't about to require them to haunt my gigs as raving groupies.

 ~ Fans are a different breed from friends, and I need both very much.  Sometimes they are one and the same, and I'll add "colega" or colleague to that.  I too can be a friend, fan, or colega to someone, and I see the categories as fluid, wherein I might detach or stray away from a colega as friend--for whatever neutral, non-contentious reason--but always think of myself as their fan and true believer. I might not be in the audience with the loudest applause for them, but you better believe that when and if they ask for a reference letter or resource connection that I'll give it my best shot.  We're all family that way, but even blood relatives don't often get a Christmas gift from me.

~ And, yes, I have found that the wider the net that you cast, the more folks you can call out to when in need.  The ones who are able (and there are myriad definitions of that word that come to mind, and some are simply not able because they're struggling within themselves with something that keeps them closed to you, and that's cool, no blame needed) WILL step forward and up.  We simply get to be surprised at who that might be. ~ Case in point: when I sent out a blanket call for participants for  \ BY ANY STRETCH /, and you responded or "self-selected for an opportunity," as I like to say.  I was so thrilled that you wanted to join up because, when folks come on board for a project w/ me, that's one of the best--if not only--ways to connect with me better.  You took an important first step, and I'll never forget that.  BTW--I am looking over at the books you brought the one time you came over.  They're still on the piano where I set them after you presented them to me, and, hopefully if my schedule ever slows down, I can do more than give them a cursory glance.  But rest assured that I have really really wanted to dive into them to learn you better, and they will never ever end up in the Literature section at Half Price Books like the signed copy of a Saul Williams poetry collection that I once gave my brother.  Write on, brother.  Thank you, Devin.