If you are anything like me, you were surprised when in the third season of 30 Rock, Liz Lemon reveals how she repeats the exact same pep talk in the mirror that you give yourself before going out to meet new people.
“Stop sweating, you idiot. What is wrong with you, you stupid bitch?”
They say we are our own worst critic, but I came away from high school with a vastly different impression. Having pale skin, sharp features and a small lanky figure did not for great times, make. The tale is as old as time itself, however, and the experience forced me to develop a sense of humor and a personality, and the looks came in good time. Like most people who come into attractiveness in this way (I use the term relative to my prepubescent self), I never shook the neuroses I developed as a teenager. For example, if I am out in public and I hear a group of people laughing, I still instantly assume they are laughing at my expense.
In my mind there is no chance someone found a new cat video on the Internet or finally nailed their Christopher Walken impression; nope, these complete strangers are ripping me apart.
I know what you’re thinking right about here and, yes, it is exhausting to be me.
If I am phrasing this as nicely as I possibly can: men are bold and relentless. It can be hard to be a woman with a pulse anywhere not have at least one man try to chat you up. But, hey, this is what Little High School Libby dreamt of! Finally! I’ve been preparing for this my whole awkward life! This guy is going to be so impressed that I’m not vapid and have so much to say; only problem is who the hell can hear it between my nervous laughter and mumbling? He’s probably too busy wondering why my face turns purple every time we make eye contact and how a girl a little over a hundred pounds could produce that much sweat without dehydrating and dying, anyway.
Clearly I’m not super great at making new friends. On top of that, I’m a conservative who lives in Connecticut, arguably one of the bluest states, who likes to do what she calls comedy in New York City.
Well who cares, right? Just don’t bring up politics.
I wish it were that simple.
Considering how mainstream it has become to use “Republican” and “Fox News” as a punch line, it comes up. Especially when you’re dealing with New York City comics. I also feel that it’s best to be upfront about what is important to you, and if someone doesn’t like it, well better to weed them out sooner rather than later. This has proved to be a great philosophy and since I’ve adopted it, I’ve made really solid friends who tolerate the fact that all of my wall space is taken up by Reagan posters, and even find it a bit endearing.
When I dropped out of college last year and decided comedy was my destiny, I started with an improv class at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (which, by the way, is a wonderful place full of wonderful people). Doing something new was very out of character for my cripplingly shy self, but I was instantly comforted by the friendly faces of my classmates, one in particular. In the back row sat a tall man with striking blue eyes wearing a dirty cap over his even dirtier hair, reading the newspaper and scribbling in a worn out notebook. Clearly he was a real comedian, and I was instantly infatuated.
When we played a game in which we had to rant about either something we love or something we hate, he went on a well thought out tirade on people who listen to their music so loudly in their headphones on the subway that the whole car is forced to listen to it. He is so cool.
The next day I happened to score a seat next to him and before class started, we got to talking. After a full day of playing Zip Zap Zop and practicing brutally awkward improvised scenes, we left class together. The hotel I was staying in was just a few blocks up, but he seemed to be heading downtown.
No matter; I’ll find something to do. He’s so infinitely fascinating and witty I can’t tear myself away quite yet. We ended up spending a better part of the day together eating sandwiches and people-watching in Union Square. In what I can only assume was an attempt to impress me with his vast book collection, we ended up in a used bookstore. As it turns out he mostly collects books in an ever-growing queue, never finding the time to read everything that he wants, but that’s beside the point.
At one point he pointed to a book written by Bill O’Reilly, looked me in the eyes and inquired,
“What do you think of him?”
My heart dropped to the floor. There is no way this plaid-wearing Brooklyn-based comedian and I share political views. Bill O’Reilly isn’t my favorite TV personality, but as a conservative Fox News-watcher, I feel protective of him. Almost like how you can rip on your parents all day and night but the second anyone else agrees with you it’s “Hey, you can’t say that!”
I admitted to voting Republican to him as if I were admitting I eat raw kittens in front of school children to get off.
I was right in my assumption that he doesn’t exactly display the Gadsden flag, but his reaction was so insignificant that I can’t even remember it. He’s one of the good ones and out of our friendship came a lot of meaningful debates; we even found common ground on gun control. Despite the huge crush I initially had on him and now living on opposite coasts, we’re still friends over a year later and imagine to a point we always will be.
In my experience, that’s more of the exception than the rule.
I love true crime documentaries. In my post drop out what-am-I-doing phase, I decided to try to be in them. I got to be a featured extra in an episode of Deadly Devotions on Investigation Discovery, and I have no doubt in my mind that I will go to my grave swearing it is the coolest thing about me. The other extras were all aspiring actors; I was just there because I’m a fan of the show. It was a much longer day than expected and over the course of it, we got to become pretty friendly. One scene we shot involved being shoeless and sitting on the ground (I was part of a Hari Krishna group, yep) and I noticed one girl had an elephant tattoo on her foot. Well I happen to love both elephants and tattoos, so I complimented her on it. Hand to Gosh this was her response: “Thanks! But oh my God, I’m not a Republican!” Everyone laughed. I felt my face get hot and like a knee jerk response I retorted, “Oh, I am.” Immediately I felt the tension grow among us and I really, truly followed it up with, “…I don’t hate gay people or minorities, though!”
What?! That is horrifying that crossed my mind, much less came out of my mouth. I’m a human being in 2013; of course I don’t hate gay people or minorities! But that’s exactly how it feels to tell someone your politics involve less government and lower taxes.
Heed this message, my fellow conservatives/libertarians/all kinds of people:
Never feel lesser for what you believe. Not for one minute. The good ones will love you for it, and the bad ones probably don’t even vote to begin with.