Monday, January 27, 2014

A Weird Open Mic (and thoughts on loving people better)

I had a weird time at an open mic last week, and I'm still kind of feeling the ickiness of it.

Me telling jokes (not on the evening in question)

Let me set the scene for you:

I was at an open mic that I've been to several times before. It's a great little basement space known for its supportive environment. There are seasoned comedians and some not-so-seasoned ones, and it's always a fairly full room.

On this night, however, the wind chill was 1 degree, and I myself had seriously debated coming. My Texas body cannot compute these freezing temperatures we've been having in NYC lately, plus I'd already taken off my bra at home, which is usually a sure sign that I'm over it for the day. But guys, I slapped that bra back on, cried as the wind assaulted my face, and set out to perform no matter what. When I got there, I was surprised, yet also not-so-surprised at all, to find that the room was just as packed as it usually is.

I should note that Daniel, my husband, came with me. He is important to the story. Consider his presence noted.

The host started the show, business as usual, and about five people went on before me. When I went up, I felt pretty unprepared, but excited to work through some newer material. I started my set, unsure of whether I even found my jokes funny, and while I was up there, I became distracted by a fantastic sound. At any other time, it would be one of my favorite sounds in the world, but at that precise moment, it was causing me to lose my train of thought.

If you've never heard my husband's laugh, you are really missing out on something special. When he finds something funny, suddenly everything is funny because his laugh is so loud, so distinct, so hysterical all on its own. It's one of the reasons I fell for him to be completely honest.


But on this particular night, it was throwing me off my game. He apparently found me absolutely hilarious (that, or he was just being a really supportive husband), and I was pretty sure the rest of the room did not. His laughter felt like the elephant in the room, even though it probably wasn't, so I stopped in the middle of my routine to let the crowd know that this man laughing wildly at my set was actually my husband. People liked this. Suddenly it all made sense. I proceeded, slightly out of sync, but thankful for the laughing jackal I had married.

Okay, the scene has been set. Here comes the icky...

I realized quickly after my set that I made two fatal flaws which would affect my evening: 1) I sat in very close proximity to the stage and 2) I told a room full of people that I was married. After sitting down uncomfortably close to my fellow comedians, I quickly became the target of a lot of their jokes -- jokes which all seemed to be on a similar theme: being married in your twenties is weird. 

Throughout the night, I was called crazy and irresponsible. I was told that an impending divorce was inevitable. I was told that Daniel's fart-suppression would soon be coming to a close in the years to come (that one was actually pretty solid. Props for that joke). My least favorite moment came when one guy asked me, straight up, "Why did you decide to get married? Why?" 

Suddenly, I was being called upon to do something that I feel women are far too frequently called upon to do -- justify a choice that needs no justification.

Whether asked directly or implicitly, women are constantly the target of questions like these:

Why did you get married?
How come you're still single?
Why do you work so much?
Why don't you have kids yet?
Why did you give up your career to stay at home with your children?
How could you possibly choose work over your children?
Why do you dress like that?
Why do you speak like that?
Why are you eating that?

My decision to get married at the age I did is something I've discussed a lot on this blog and elsewhere. I'm happy to report that I'm getting way better at just not caring what people think of it, but at the same time, I'm getting angrier for my fellow ladies.

I'm not just angry for the married ones, but the unmarried ones, the ones with no desire to marry, the ones who'd like to get married but haven't just yet, the ones with babies who also want to have jobs, the ones with babies who want to stay home and take great care of said babies, the ones who love Beyoncé, the ones who love Taylor Swift, the ones who are smart and capable of leading others, the ones who are smart and love being led, the ones who don't wear makeup, the ones who paint on their eyebrows every day, the ones who eat quinoa, and the ones who eat Burger King.

All of them. I'm annoyed on behalf of all of these women because plain and simply, there are a whole host of choices that these women should not need to justify, yet they are constantly called on to do so. From men and from other women, there is a constant feed of judgmental questioning. We put a lens up to their lives, and according to our set of standards, some are getting it right and some are getting it just oh-so wrong.

This open mic was a perfect example of the double standard I'm growing tired of. I mean, really -- A few seats from me sat a man who, for five straight minutes, spoke about his desire to have sex with his sister (REALLY. THIS HAPPENED). Despite his proximity to the stage, no one said a word to him. Me, on the other hand, I uttered one word ("husband") which indicated that I was married, and I was asked, by men and women alike, to explain myself -- to give an account for why on earth I would make such a deviant choice.

It's absurd, it's ridiculous, it's rude, and for the record, I'm totally guilty of doing the exact same thing. This experience has gotten me thinking recently about the women I so readily judge in my life. When I'm scrolling through Instagram -- the sea of engagement rings, selfies, babies, puppies, cats, decadent meals -- my brain instinctually makes judgements about these images, about the girl who took the picture, the girl who carefully decided on which filter to use, which caption to write, which hashtag to hashtag. It seems innocent, but these petty judgements are a part of this larger problem. I'm a culprit, and maybe you are too.

It's difficult because there are certainly times in life where someone's choice is objectionably bad -- a choice that hurts people, a choice that is largely unhealthy. Of course, in those moments, we should be bold enough and loving enough to call out the problem. That is something I believe.

And speaking of love, that's probably a better focus for us to have anyway, even in the comedy world (maybe even especially in the comedy world). We certainly should have beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. Absolutely, we should be people of conviction, but looking on people with love allows our hearts to have humility, and humility helps us to realize our narrow-mindedness. When we love people well, we're better able to see their motivations. Suddenly, it becomes much harder to label a decision as bad, even if it's one you wouldn't make yourself. Love helps us see a world beyond the one we were raised in, the culture that we are from, and instead prompts us to evaluate whether our discernment is pure or self-righteous.

So anyway, I'm going to focus on loving people better. I hope you'll join me. I think it might change the world or something.

And by the way, if you're wondering how I answered that guy's question -- to be honest, I didn't see his set as my platform to talk about judging women's choices. That's what I have a blog for. Instead, when he implored me to justify my decision to marry Daniel, I just said, "I mean, look at him."

Because seriously, look at this guy.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Tell me in the comments-section!


  1. I've commented on this issue before because I, too, am in my early twenties and (soon to be) married. I've gotten comments ranging from "You're engaged so why aren't you having babies yet?" to "If you graduate from college with a ring on your finger I will hit you with your bouquet." I did graduate with a ring and she has since withdrawn the promise. I have to agree with your observations, though; these comments are rarely, if ever, aimed at men! (I also want to mention one of my heroes: Zooey Deschanel, who in a red carpet interview, responded to questions about wanting to have a family with "Do you ask the men these things?" Love her.) Anyway, what I'm trying to say is right on, sister! I feel you.

    Side note: a dear friend of mine (one of my bridesmaids) recently wrote this article that I thought you might appreciate as a fellow 21st-century writer.

  2. YES. I am turning 23 in a couple weeks and will be married when I'm 24. Most of the people who know me have never questioned why I should be getting married so young because they know my fiance and me. But other people (also known as the internet) really seem to hate young marriages.

    Here's the thing...I know plenty of people in their thirties who have no business getting married, plenty of people in their twenties who do, and vise versa. I don't know why people always want women to be on some sort of set timeline. I say women because most of the guys I know are rarely, if ever, questioned about their life plans.

    So yes, I love this blog post and totally relate.

  3. I love how you took this beyond the normal "why do people ask women but not men" thing (those questions are totally annoying and I too am guilty of asking them... I think it's a human thing ;-) and brought it back to humility and loving people. You basically said it all. So, for what it's worth from a random fan, good job with that! Also, MAD props for putting the bra back on and braving the frigid weather. It takes a lot of motivation and willpower to do that ;-)

  4. Oh this is just the bee's knees. Seriously. Love this post. I got married this past August at 24, and you want to know what makes people ask even more intrusive questions? When you get married at 24 and your spouse is in the military. Then people automatically assume it's for the money/benefits. God forbid it's because you love each other and want to be together. Yeesh. I get so worked up about it, but you're totally right; I do the exact same thing to people on Instagram/Facebook/etc. Stuff like this makes me so pumped that I found your blog.

  5. I loved this post! I am a 20 something unmarried woman and constantly have to field questions as so why am I still single? When will I have children? Why am I so picky? And you are right, I don't need to justify myself to anyone ..

  6. I really enjoyed this post, but at the same time it also made me angry that you had to go through with that! Seriously, people need to MIND THEIR BIDNESS!!!!!!

  7. It would be amazing if you could come up with a hilarious comedy set that addressed this. Makes your point, but also makes the people laugh. Maybe the same people who used you as the butt of their jokes in the last open mic night would have their eyes opened a little bit - in a good way! :)

  8. Way to go for responding succinctly and humorously! My strategy is usually to get all red in the fact as I drag out my soapbox. I got married 9 years ago when I was 22, and unfortunately, the justifying of decisions never ends. I totally agreed when Tina Fey said, "Men make decisions, but women have to make choices." And we are constantly called on the carpet for those choices by men and women alike.

  9. Ugh, that's obnoxious! Glad you handled it well. Emily and I got married when we were 22, and then immediately moved to DC, where people wait until they're 30 just to start a savings account, much less get hitched. I've gotten a few "Wow, you're MARRIED?" comments, but haven't really been confronted like you about it. I'll probably steal your response though if I do.

  10. "justify a choice that needs no justification" - you hit the nail on the head. I agree 100%!!
    It seems we women get these questions way more than men. Why's that?
    First off: it's nobody's business how we live our lives. Second: why do things that are perfectly normal raise so many questions?? I don't get it.
    What is so strange about you guys having married in you 20s? Until quite recently that was the norm. I LOVE your response, well done!

  11. I got married at 23 and was the first one of my friends. It never really felt that weird until recently when we moved to the NYC area. I've decided to not let it bug me and instead feel bad that they have not met someone as awesome as my husband... which works sometimes. I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels weird when people bring that up. Being married is awesome :)

  12. The idea that it's somehow wrong to get married in your twenties is so weird. Literally the majority of people in the world get married in their twenties or sooner.

  13. I try to remember that everyone's path is unique, it's not my place to judge. Life is too short, do what makes you happy and if things don't turn out hopefully we learn from our choices.

  14. The stigma of being married young seems specific to NYC to me. In most other places it's just the opposite. I never think of there being anything "wrong" with my being 30+ and single. But if I lived anywhere else, I'm sure I'd be questioned about it all the time. It's frustrating when people think what's good for them should also be good for you. And I'm sure I do this all the time as well! Thanks for the reminder to stop passing judgement and "live and let live."

  15. A. Great Answer: "Look At Him". Love that. and 2. Good for you for your life choices and your confidence. I got married before I was 22. Still happily married more than that many years later...okay, 30 years later! He's my fav. person. And MAKES ME LAUGH! I say "when ya know ya know." Cheers.


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