Because of the egregious lack of theater work for middle-aged women, I’m spending much of my career writing roles for them. This month, I have been given to doubt the wisdom of that choice. Perhaps a lifetime of disenfranchisement – in part by our own volition, to be sure – has moved us into the realm of believing our own hype? Might we feel a bit too entitled?
In recent weeks I’ve watched a menopausal actress in the rehearsal process steamroller a director, questioning every direction, every script nuance, while giving the other actors staging and character notes. Whenever rehearsal moves along well she stops, breaks everyone’s concentration, and asks questions – with genuine worry – about things that have nothing to do with her character or her job-as-actor.
Yesterday, I could have sworn that the words on the side of a truck in motion were Cleveland Heights Reptile Team and wondered, in the split second that followed, if they had an educational component, maybe went into the schools and taught kids about snakes. Then I realized that it was a Rescue Team.
And then there was this morning. I’d emailed a colleague to query my name’s absence from PRs about a small group of which I’m a member. I receive the PRs and, I believe, all other communications, so I know I haven’t slipped through the group’s cracks or been surreptitiously uninvited. She apologized and said she’d rectify the error, and this morning I received an email asking if my last name, which is in both my email address and ‘signature,’ wasn’t incorrect. My name. My signature. Because she had it on her list as being something sort of similar.
I was asked if my signature of my name wasn’t wrong.
This isn’t only about women, I’m both relieved and horrified to say. In recent months I’ve struggled against a menopause-aged man, one who believes that he has certain power even when told to his face by his superiors in the presence of witnesses that he does not have that power. He believes he’s working for the good of all but is not remotely interested in any involved person’s meaning of “good” other than his own.
In our remarkably privileged society, we all have so much to give, so much knowledge, so much experience, that we’re bursting at the seams. The flaw in the system? We want to give it *our* way.
If someone gives what you already have, are they really helping you? Or do they give to feel good about helping, not to actually, literally, all-those-modifiers-that-drive-us-crazy help?
How to handle those who think they know better than we do, what we need? Perhaps by giving recognition that their instinct – to help – is a generous one. By gently leading them to the view that if butter is needed, donating baseballs isn’t useful. By responding with humor – neither self-deprecating nor mean-spirited, but humor nonetheless.
And by finding those who have what we need, not those who tell us they have what we need. Which is a whole ‘nother topic for a whole ‘nother column.
It’s all a question of perception. These helpful-wanna-be-people perceive that one is a good receptacle for their generosity despite one’s protests (yes, my name really is “Magid”), despite societal rules to the contrary (a director directs, an actor acts), despite the terms of their contract.
Perhaps the problem is that we’re all running so fast that everything around us is a blur. I, for one, am slowing down to see what IS. Join me, won’t you?