Underneath my yellow skin

Girls on Film

Today’s post is supposed to be on fun (following my self-set schedule), but it’s not going to be on something fun so much on…well, let me just explain in my own, sweet, meandering time. I want to start vlogging because it’s what all the hip, happening kids do these days. Even though I’m an old, aching crankster who wants you to get off her lawn, I want to give it a whirl. Why? There are several reasons. One, many people don’t want to read longform posts these days. I understand because people are busy, not as interested in reading, blah, blah, blah. It makes me sad, but I acknowledge the reality. Personally, I don’t want to watch a video of someone talking about something and would rather just read it, but I think I’m in the dwindling minority these days. Two, I used to be a performer back in the day. I was with Theater Mu, and then I started doing solo performance pieces. It was hard work, but it was so damn rewarding. I would feel as if I was going to throw up ahead of time, but then I’d be riding high afterwards (followed by a crash, damn it). The several minutes after a performance was exhilarating, and the applause was just the icing on the cake.

I am a writer. I have said before that it’s in my blood, but I’d give it up in a heartbeat if I could be on stage. I wouldn’t want to give it up, obviously, but if I had to make the choice between writing and performing, it would be the latter every time.* I loved being in front of a crowd, and I fed off the energy of a live performance. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing, obviously, and I can do it copiously day after day (though I will admit that some days, it’s hard to crank  1000+ words a day), but the interactivity of it is limited. I write my posts, then I publish them and send them off into the ethers. I may get a response; I may not, but there’s no immediate reaction to it. On the other hand, when I perform, the stakes are so much higher. I’ve forgotten my lines while performing, and it’s the worst feeling in the world. I’ve delivered flawless performances and have received standing ovations, and it’s the ultimate high. Seriously. Noting has felt as good as the applause I’ve gotten for my performances. Not sex. Not getting good grades in school. Not finishing the Sword Form (though, to be fair, that’s more a subdued and sustained feeling of bonhomie). Not eating a whole pint of peanut butter fudge ice cream (back in the days when I ate dairy).

I remember one performance in a workshop where I received the best reward when I finished my monologue–silence. Oh, I know everyone’s about the standing O, but there’s nothing like that moment of stunned silence at the end of a performance which indicates that your audience is so absorbed with what they’re experiencing, it takes them several seconds to transition back into reality. I remember another for a dyke event in which I stripped down to my panties and received a thundering standing ovation at the end of the piece. I remember another that gave me so much trouble as I was writing it–it was a performance from my heritage culture (Taiwanese) for children, and the kids loved it. It was worth every gut-wrenching moment of writing it just to have that experience.

I don’t remember why I stopped performing. I wasn’t as involved in the different communities (queer, Asian, etc.), so I didn’t have as many opportunities to be involved. I think depression also played a part. To be clear, I performed while I was depressed, but the depression just got to me. Also, I started taiji, and I only have so much energy to leave the house for voluntary reasons, and I wanted to expend that energy on taiji. Now, however, in the past year or two, I’ve really started to miss performing. I don’t know if I want to go back to writing, directing, and performing my own pieces, but, man, that was so great to do. I’m thinking that doing some kind of vlogging would be a low-pressure way to ease back into performing. In addition, it would be a way to marry my writing and my performing, which is really the sweet spot for me. I was never very good as an actor because I had a hard time feeling other people’s writing. It’s partly because I was such a hot mess in general, but it was more, well, I’m a bit of a narcissist. One of the reasons started writing was because I didn’t see anyone like me in anything I read. Starting with race, then adding sexuality, then adding other issues, and, yeah, I might as well have been a unicorn farting glitter out of my ass.

It’s the same with my performance pieces. They were based on my life, my experiences, and my views, and I was pretty sure I was presenting something that wasn’t been seen in mainstream theater. It’s funny because I had such a low self-esteem about everything, but I was pretty confident about my performances. It’s another reason I did it–I felt like a badass while I was up on stage. I was in command, and I had all these people watching me in rapt attention. Before and after, I was my own shitty self, but during? Nothing could touch me.

When I look back at it, it’s with the nostalgia and melancholy of someone who knows she’ll never do it again. I mentioned it to my brother today how much I miss it, and he said I should do it again. He said if I wanted to do an online show, he would be happy to come over and do the video for me. On the one hand, that would be fantastic because he’s a photographer, and his eye is amazing. He’s done a ton of video work, and I could certainly use the help. On the other hand, he has very definite ideas of what should and shouldn’t be done, and so do I. I’m a control freak when it comes to my performances, and I do not play nicely with others.

Here’s the problem. I have not done video very often, and I’ve never done it myself. There are a few reasons for it. One, I don’t like the way I look. I’m more neutral about it than I have been in the past, but I still don’t look in the mirror when I can avoid it. I still cringe when I see how fat I am in pictures. I still wince whenever I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I no longer loathe every part of my body except my hair, but I’m not sanguine about it, either. I know if  I do video and put it online, I’m opening myself up to a lot of hatred for being a fat Chink, and I’m not sure I want to deal with it. It’ll happen. One of the depressing certainties of  being a fat woman, especially a minority, is that there will be hatred if you dare to present yourself as acceptable online.

In addition, I’m just not comfortable doing something I’ve never done. My brother was telling me to start doing video stuff is not that big a deal, and intellectually, I know that. I helped my mom renew a membership online last night. She tried it herself for an hour, but she couldn’t get it done. I did it in one take in less than five minutes. She said she couldn’t understand it because she had done exactly what I’d done, but it hadn’t worked. I said she might have messed up one number or left a field blank or any of a half dozen other common errors. My point is, it’s something that seems nearly impossible to her, so much so she dreads doing it. It makes her more anxious as she’s doing it, which makes it easier for her to make mistakes. Then, once she makes the mistake, she starts freaking out, which makes it even more likely she’ll make additional mistakes.

That’s how I feel with video. No, I haven’t done anything yet, but I’m already anxious about setting it up. It seems like it’s overwhelming to me, even though kids with iPhone do it with ease. Intellectually, I know I can do it. Emotionally, I start freaking out even thinking about. It’s not just the technical part, but it’s the how I look on camera part. It’s the what am I going to say part. It’s the everything part. It’s partly because it’s a lot of work to do, and for what? Yes, I’m doing this mostly for me, but it’s one thing to write a 2,000 word piece and not get any response. It’s another to belabor over a video, which I don’t think I could do daily.

It’s one thing if I want to do a stream-of-conscious vlog every day in line with what I write. That wouldn’t be very hard, especially if I don’t write a script for it. However, if I want to do any kind of ‘show’, well, then it’ll require much more time than I’m sure I want to commit. On the other hand, what is art for if not pushing yourself? I’ve been struggling with my fiction for some time, in part because I feel I’ve gotten into a comfort zone. Doing video would push me WAY out of my comfort zone, and I think I need that right about now.



*Of course, the best is writing AND performing, but that’s not an option in this hypothetical scenario.

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