As some readers may know, I have been reading sections from my upcoming book, Writing the Diaphragm Blues, at a local pizza place and watering whole in Tacoma, WA. Medis Pizza has an open mic on Thursday nights, that mostly cater to musicians, but there has been slam poets, regular poets, and readers of prose.
I started reading from chapter one the week before last, and the effort was well received; so, I decided to read from chapter two this last Thursday, and invited a few friends. The week before, one poet, reading before 9PM, had some pieces littered with harsh sexual language, visuals and images, as well as lots of cussing. Since the restaurant/ bar allows children to be present until 9pm, a few parents were upset and left. Not wanting to recreate that experience for parents, when I signed up to read, I put the words “adult content” next to my name, to let the hosts know that they should not bring me up until after nine. God help me for being sensitive to others!
My disclosure prompted one of the house, a different host from the week before, to come up and ask me about my presentation. I let them know I was doing a spoken word reading, that there was no foul language, or even graphic scenes, but I would be talking about coming of age and birth control. His reply was puzzling:
“… Some places don’t allow for that kind of thing.”
“What kind of thing?” I replied.
“You know, I just hope you will be entertaining.”
“Of course I’m entertaining; I did not come here to bore people. I would even say it’s quite funny.”
“okay then.” And then he left the table.
He went to tag his cohost, and the two of them walk out of the restaurant. I watch them talk about me through the doors, looking back at me as I sat at the table… “There’s a feminist here…” At least that’s what I imagine they were saying.
The person who signed up before me was a spoken word slam poet of high caliber. I enjoy listening to his work very much. As he was going on stage, the host came back to me again:
“Maybe it would be a good idea if we wait to put you up.”
“Why,” I asked.
“Well too much spoken word.”
“Is that so?”
My friends at the table started to look at the host, wondering why he was doing everything in his power to avoid having me go on stage…
“You will be entertaining, right?”
I’m not entirely sure why he was afraid that I would not be entertaining. Did he imagine I was going to go onstage, leading the greatest feminist revolution ever seen: burn my bra while downing a beer, proclaim the word vagina 56 times, possibly slowly V-A-G-I-N-A. when I finally did get up, the audience was laughing at my offerings… I’m hell of a funny person. But the two hosts got uncomfortable. I talked about the first time I got my period, and how my dad threatened to get me a chastity belt. I talked about the conversation my dad had with a man at 7-11 when he bought me my first set of menstrual pads:
“I hear those things make great odor eaters.”
True story and funny stuff, but as the audience laughed the hosts walked out of the restaurant to talk about … me? … and within moments, the co-host (the main host would not look at me, but turned his back every time he came close) came back and cut me off… Giving me less time than the slam poet. I got a whooping 5 minutes to the rest 15+ minutes.
“I’m sorry, we’re running out of time.”
The last insult, although it might be a compliment… But from him probably an insult, was the recognition that maybe I should be on NPR and not reading at the open mic. He’s probably right.
The next two people who got up were guitar players, and they were told, and I kid you not, “play long as you want, you are a last to ask for the night.”
When I started to write my book, I was frustrated at the amount of sexism, and genderism I read about and hear about daily. But I am still surprised when I am faced with sexism, face-to-face, in such a blunt manner. The host was rude, condescending, and even after declaring how he was a “big ol’ liberal …. but . . . ” but not when it comes to women? Yep, that about sums it up.