When I was 10 years old, I had a hard time standing up for myself.
It was an innocent time before fighting for a seat on the subway…before fighting for a text back…
Which is to say, when I was 10 years old my mother took me to a free workshop at the community center a few towns over. The title? “HOW TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF! FOR GIRLS!” (They did not have MFA degrees or sense of commercial advertising, but it was suburban New Jersey, OK?)
I walked in one evening after a grueling day of dodging bullies and found myself sitting cross-legged with shy girls like me of every race and creed and county. I felt right at home.
That night, we shared experiences when we didn’t feel equipped with the right words to say in times of confrontation. When Sarah from Rahway told us how she couldn’t muster the courage to confront the bully who was jumping her for lunch money every day, the whole group brainstormed what to say back next time the scrawny tormentor shoved her against her locker. We offered some things like: “please back off,” or, “do you know you’re making me feel uncomfortable?” Then we took turns improvising scenes, using our newfound rhetoric to handle the situation at hand. It was empowering!
When it came to my turn to share, I ran through the wide and varied catalog of instances where I felt ill-equipped. Where I felt stupid and anxious and stuck. Eventually, I blurted out:
“Well, I mean… what do you say when people won’t let you play kickball with them at recess because you’re just ‘too fat?’”
The room went silent as my twin kryptonite leaked straight onto the floor. But Denise from Union raised her hand:
“Well what if you just say…did your brain take a laxative? ‘Cuz there’s a lot of shit coming out of your mouth!”
The tension burst, laughter erupted, and suddenly I had a back pocket response to all those people who felt compelled to cross me with a put-down.
It occurred to me: comedy is the balm to life’s ills. And from that day on, I’ve always kept a dab of it on my lips.
This has, and always will be, the aim of my work – to provide women with a script for life‘s unscripted moments. To empower women to take risks and to show up as themselves, because, actually, you know what?
There’s no need to fear the world with a witty comeback in your pocket.