Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The play is titled Honestly.
It is the stalwart classic of the Too Much Light canon, the play that most often gets inserted into gig menus because of its ease, versatility, and aesthetics. I believe that the play was created by Phil Ridarelli, but cannot strongly confirm that.
The mechanic of the play is pretty close to perfect in its simplicity–all performers line up onstage in front of the audience, speak their names aloud, and then ask the audience to nominate one performer to be featured in the play. When this performer is chosen, the audience is told that they now have one full minute to ask any yes/no questions of this performer, who will answer each question with absolute honesty.
From that setup, you occasionally discover some fascinating things about both the performer and the audience. For example, you discover how rare it is for an audience to come up with any sort of truly incisive question when given the opportunity in a small and sudden window of time. Instead, you often get questions that are akin to the joker in every improv-comedy audience who yells “PROSTITUTE!” or “PROCTOLOGIST!” when asked for a suggestion of occupation…you get questions about disgusting personal hygiene habits, or sexual peccadilloes, or food preferences. Often you will receive questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no (although, in the parameters of the play, even those questions are answered with a yes or no).
Every so often, however, an audience member will manage to ask the performer something so profound and unsettling that even the simple yes or no answer lays the performer completely bare; for that moment, the vulnerability on display cuts to the heart of Honestly. True honesty is difficult. True honesty requires both the willingness to expose one’s weak spots and the faith that one is not about to be jabbed repeatedly in those newly exposed areas.
The last time I was the featured performer in Honestly, I recall returning a number of weak serves with a sort of cursory functionality. Yes, I do think that. No, I do not feel that. Yes I did. No I didn’t.
Then somebody in the audience asked me: “Do you like the way you look?”
And with barely a moment’s hesitation, I answered: “No.”
This was months ago. I’m still disturbed by the question and by my answer to it. I’m disturbed by the question because I have to wonder what made the person ask it…if that particular evening I looked a complete mess; if I in fact often look such a mess; if something in my body language screams personal self-image loathing; if they simply found me outrageously ugly as a human being and wanted to be assured that I didn’t harbor any delusions about my own attractiveness, lest I do something socially sickening like release a calendar of myself.
I’m disturbed by my answer because it was “No.” “No, I do not like the way I look.”
I have almost always been overweight. The reasons for this are fairly commonplace and boring; I was a bookish, often sedentary child with little desire to participate in athletics, and I like the taste of food; and very little changed my habits throughout my adolescence. The first time I ran a mile in less than twelve minutes I practically died of surprise.
Last year, I made yet another attempt to lose weight via a “Weight Watchers at Work” program, which required me to attend weekly meetings and weigh-ins, along with participating in the diet regimen. I began the program in mid-July, and through November I managed to lose a little over sixteen pounds. It felt excellent.
I have not weighed myself since the first week of December, when I discovered that almost five pounds had come creeping back. There are a myriad of rationalizations that I made within myself–Thanksgiving, the cold weather and snowfall cutting into my regular exercise regimen of biking to and from work (a distance of approximately sixteen miles, round-trip, daily), the stress of increased job responsibilities and preparing Contraption leading me to forget my healthier eating habits.
I have not weighed myself but am almost positive that the four months of work I put in have been all but obliterated, and the only real answer, the only honest answer, is that I was done in by my own sense of poor self-worth and and perfectionist temperament. Having plateaued in my weight loss for a few weeks, I grew so frustrated with my inability to meet the target weight of 150 that I was so sure I could reach, way back in August, that my body and mind decided that I was fooling myself, that there was no need to go on trying because it was so obvious that I was doomed to failure. I let myself go after that, convinced also that perhaps I just had too much else to think about besides such piddling things as my health and body image.
I do not have list of New Year’s resolutions to post here. I’m not sure it’s beneficial or healthy to post goals without first acknowledging that my major problem is that I have lost faith, if ever it was there at all, that I deserve to achieve any sort of goals at all. If I do not believe that I can be anything but this short, lumpy, expanding mass of protoplasm, then resolving that I Will Lose Weight is a false testimony, and one that leaves me destined to fail.
Resolving to do anything without first confronting the bugbear of my own self-loathing is an equation for disaster.
The question then becomes: How does one resolve to defeat their own self-loathing, when one’s self-loathing is part of why such resolutions are themselves defeated?
For the record; the wife and I are making a go of it in the diet/exercise department this year, and I desperately want to make this lifestyle turnaround work. But I also want to believe that I can make this work, which is apparently the issue.