I think I’ve reached the end of my road as a professional artist. I could call it a good run, but honestly, there is so much left undone, unsaid and unrealized that I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself and grieving for what might have been.
I tried. I really did. However, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve outlived my usefulness as a writer and performer. When I look around the world, I see so many wonderful artists creating in ways that are more powerful, more potent, more intelligent than anything I’ve ever done. Also, my point-of-view has become obsolete in a world obsessed with image and fitness.
My initial motivation for performing my own writing, besides the cliche needs for attention and validation, was to present the perspective of the fat girl. When I was 19, I rarely saw bigger women on stage anywhere and I felt like this was a problem. Also, I went through hell and back throughout my youth and adolescence and knew I wasn’t the only one. I felt like it was necessary to show people how hurtful and narrow-minded they are, especially with regard to overweight teenage girls.
Flash-forward 15 years and not only do we know that we’re cruel to bigger people, we cosign it in the name of health and never really check our issues around it. To this day, I receive a lower level of respect, consideration and service in most areas of the world. The party line is that I should lose weight if I expect to be respected and if I don’t, it’s my own fault that people don’t respect me. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s okay if you’re fat as long as you’re fabulous with it, complete with long, luxurious weave, overpriced clothes, uncomfortable and expensive shoes and 10,000 layers of make-up. Don’t forget the healthy dose of sassy attitude, a la drag queen trapped in fat body.
Or if not, I should butch myself all the way out and become the ultimate in swaggering stud.
I find that my perspective of a gender-neutral, basically healthy, definitely nerdy wallflower is neither sexy or popular. My clumsy two left feet leave me at the sidelines of all cultures of color, which deem anyone without natural rhythm an affront to realness and joy and freedom, even though I feel incredibly free when I watch the dance floor explode in patterns of uninhibited wildness.
There’s just no place for yours truly in any of the art or entertainment communities out there. I never finished school and though I plan to go back, I simply have no stomach for academia. I enjoy business, but the music industry isn’t a business industry as much as it’s a pop-culture mafia, filled with cutthroats and hustlers, snake oil men and lots of abject shadiness. Designing things is fun, but I’m no computer whiz and keeping up with technology is like trying to keep up with the Kardashians…expensive, time-consuming and a big pain in the ass.
Also, the same politics that apply in the mainstream apply in the underground. Sorry, darlings, I am never going to be satisfied with being awesome for a girl or for being Black or a person of color or queer or whatever. I want my work to be considered what it is, without it being marginalized into insignificance. I’m also quite tired of folks’ issues with fat clouding my opportunities and their judgment. It’s like I can’t be taken seriously until I lose a bunch of weight and “prove” to everyone how much I love myself because I’ve starved and treadmilled my way into their skinny hearts.
And I’m no comedienne, which seems to be the only way that anyone wants to see a fat woman. Sorry, can’t make you laugh and giggle and such. I’m simply not equipped that way and I have a flair for the dramatic.
You know, I tried really hard and in a lot of ways. I’ve written poetry, performed it, dabbled in burlesque, created two one-woman shows, curated a bunch of shows and series of shows, recorded EPs and an album, played with a bunch of different musicians and written more about my process than I care to share with anyone. At the end of all that effort, I can’t even get the people who’ve worked on projects with me to show up at my shows nor can I get people to listen to the albums I’ve had to give away because no one’s interested in buying.
So I get it. And I’m tired of trying. It’s been over a decade and folks still act like I just got started yesterday. It’s frustrating. At this point, I’d rather leave it to those people who are doing a better job of it than I am and concentrate on making sure I’m taking my vitamins and figuring out what really makes me happy.
Love is a strange thing. It evolves over time and takes on different shades of meaning. I love to sing and write songs. I love to put together shows and events. I love bringing people together, in the name of art and sensory stimulation. I love having an idea and peeling the layers until it has blossomed into a tangible thing in the world.
I loved being an artist, but I didn’t love everything that came with it and all that I’ve had to sacrifice, in order to do it on my terms. I’ve given up stability, countless friendships, peace of mind, time and money, only to find myself broke, with no close friends outside of my Uncle and Jeff, boxes of albums nobody wants and a reputation for being angry, overemotional and too political.
So, I think it’s a wrap for me. I’m glad that I was able to do more with my creative energy than my great-grandmother and grandmother, who were both unrealized artists in their own right. I am grateful that I’ve been able to travel and get a little recognition for what I do. It’s more than many artists get to experience. Perhaps my children will take it a step further and it’s my hope that I can give them a little more than I had and so on and so forth.
If you’ve taken the time to read this, please know that I appreciate you giving your energy towards this rather maudlin and self-pitying little note. You don’t need to tell me not to quit or not to give up or there is a place for me or any platitudes along those lines. I’m sure there are people and places who appreciate some of what I created and maybe you’re one of them. Thank you.
Perhaps I should be satisfied with being a middle-of-the-road artist, but I always wanted to be the best and I just don’t think that my idea of best coincides with anyone else’s idea of best. I mean, why write a song if it has no chance of being someone’s favorite song? Why write at all if I have no chance of being someone’s favorite writer? And why put out anything if there is simply no interest? I mean, I’ll always write, sing, etc, but the putting it out there for people when no one really wants to hear it seems like a colossal waste of time. Also, I’m human and I want a family and a home of my own with a porch swing and pitcher of lemonade on the veranda. The art/performance thing has been my life for a long time and I don’t have very much to show for it, except a lot of painful memories and yellowing newspaper clippings.
To be honest, there’s only one place that I see myself as a thriving artist within a community of other artists who actually respect my work and who are interested in putting together shows that weave poetry and music, costume and movement and that place is on the other half of the planet. Maybe I’ll get back there again and stay…we’ll see.
As my Uncle advised years ago, I think it’s time for me to go within myself and find what I’ve been seeking on stages and pages. Whatever it is, I haven’t found it yet but I have hope that I will.
Thanks for being with me on this journey. It’s been real.
And so voice, I surrender you unto yourself and make it so you resonate where it matters most…within.