So here we are.

It’s been a bit since any of us have posted here at Rational Creatures. For me it’s been finishing grad school, running after a baby who’s started crawling, moving from an apartment to a house, and working full time. For others I know it’s been the varied demands of motherhood, work, show rehearsals and performances, etc etc etc.

And before that it was Erin dying.

I’ll admit it’s been difficult to come back here. What, after all, can be said? What doesn’t feel silly and petty and unimportant in the face of the bullshit waste that we call her death?

So we’ve just been living. But now, finally, I’ve had some thoughts noodling around in my head, and I figured might as well come back to it. Only time to start is now.

Let’s talk about taking up space.

Women are conditioned to take up as little space as possible. This is clearest physically. We’re supposed to be small – not just thin, but dainty, petite, slight. “You’re so tiny!” we tell each other, as if it’s the highest compliment, because it is, because that’s what we’re supposed to be. Fat women are expected to slim down, or at the very least make an effort at it. And if you’re still fat (for now, until that next diet program works sweetie) you should “dress for your shape”, wear slimming clothing, use these 50 ways to look smaller by next week! Make sure you work out every day, but don’t build your muscles, you don’t want to get big, do you? Three pound weights could be lifted by a sickly toddler, so that should be perfect for you to prevent that bulk! Your meals and your appetite should both be small, by god, and if those don’t do the trick, we’ll make sure we cut away pieces of you, and you’ll start shrinking away, so fast that your skin will hang off of you, and then we’ll cut that away too! (more…)

I wanted to send out a little update to anyone who’s been a reader here: Our own lovely Erin Myers, who has been writing about living with cancer on her own blog (The View from the 21st Floor) and cross-posting here on Rational Creatures, has transitioned into hospice care. She’ll be leaving us soon.

Erin was a fantastic writer. She spoke about her diagnosis and her experience of her disease with a bald honesty and wry humor that made me lean forward in my seat, eager for more, even while dreading what she might tell me. Lady had some big brass balls to be as truthful as she was with us. And her impulse to share it with the world was part of what made her an incredible person to know.

Erin was a fantastic artist. While going through cancer treatments, she performed regularly in a 12 hour long (!!!) collection of Greek tragedies . . . and then, later, sicker, performed some more in an all-female Titus Andronicus. She wrote about her art, how important it was to her, even as she was physically less able to do it. She grasped, clung to, clawed at her art, holding it to her and pushing it out into the world simultaneously. Another way she shared herself with us.

I find myself typing “Erin was” and hesitating, wanting to go back, delete it, type “Erin is” instead, hearing it in my head like a mantra, Erin IS, Erin IS, Erin IS. She is and was and she will be. She will be in the hearts and souls and memories of all those who knew her and loved her.

Other contributors here knew Erin better than I, and I hope they can at some point share some of their thoughts and memories here, maybe not right away, but some day. For now, feel free to comment below with any thoughts of Erin and what she shared with us.

If you’re looking to DO something, as I know I do whenever stupid death comes around and reminds me I don’t control anything, I will make these suggestions: See some theater. Make your own art. Share yourself with those around you. Love expansively. Give cancer the middle finger. And say thanks to Erin for everything she gave us while she was around.

If you’re following this blog so far, you’re probably on board with the idea that women are pretty awesome. And we are! Just like, you know, human beings in general, we are fascinating creatures of wonder and horror with the capacity for genius and love and cruelty and stupidity, all in equal measure. But . . . but. The stories we see about ourselves in the world don’t do us justice. And because of that, I think, the stories we base our lives around suffer from the same problems.

You may already be familiar with the Bechdel Test, which asks the following question about a work of fiction: Does it feature at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man? If you’ve heard about it before, you’ve likely heard how frequently films fail this test. This year, that included two best picture nominees (The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game). It’s so impactful because it’s so simple. But it’s also problematic for the same reason. It’s not enough of a requirement in some cases – can’t we do better than two women who might say one line to each other about shoes? In other cases it’s too much, too simple: Is Gravity not enough of a female-centric story because Sandra Bullock is the only woman, even though she’s pretty much solo for 90% of the film?

But the Bechdel Test is not the end of the discussion, it’s the beginning. The real discussion is about women seeing their stories being told. We are so often relegated to supporting characters in a man’s journey that it feels vital and urgent to see some woman, ANY woman, having their story told.

Consuming media that passes the test can help remind you that life is not all about a Man and his Journey (gag). Here are some things I enjoy that qualify: (more…)

It occurred to me suddenly a few weeks ago that I know a lot of cool people.

I did already know that, I guess. I regularly meet with friends or read their status updates/tweets and say to myself, “Damn, I will never be as cool as ____.” But a few weeks ago there was a perfect storm of coolness and talent, when within a few days of each other, three different friends published great blog posts. The startling thing was that for one of them, I previously had no idea she even wrote a blog. This is a person to whom I would pay money to read their grocery list, as it’s probably hilarious.

I’ve started something like three blogs myself in the past. I have the urge to write frequently, but not, it seemed, frequently enough for me to truly maintain a blog. Part of this was expectations I put on myself that I should write at least a couple times a week if I was going to be a “real” blogger. Part of it was simply that after a few posts, I burned off the fuel that pushed me into starting the blog in the first place. Part of it was that I started the blog with a theme in mind, and quickly discovered I wanted to write about other stuff too, but worried it would be too random.

So when I realized that this funny, brilliant woman – who I haven’t named so far, but just realized that I’m being silly so I’ll tell you it’s Corri Pasko – had a blog that I didn’t know existed, a blog that she’d updated maybe three times in the last six months, I had a minor epiphany. It was this: I bet that a lot of my (smarter, funnier) friends are like me in this small way. They want to write more, DO write some, but feel like they can’t or won’t write enough to really maintain a blog. Or maybe they DO maintain a blog, but I’ve somehow missed the Facebook post linking to it or whatever, and I don’t want that to happen, because damn it I want to read their stuff!

Thus, this blog was born. It’s a place for fabulous people to contribute some of their stuff, with no required topics or posting frequency, no stress of maintaining anything, no pressure – just treat the world to your fabulousness. For now it’s my lovely friends who have put themselves forward and said they wanted to write. Others are welcome to do the same.

For now we are all women, all Chicagoans, all theater people – but we are also all another 1,000 things, and I guess that’s another thing I want out in the world. Nobody is one thing, we are all small shivering naked animals, and we all contain multitudes.

We’ll start today with a cross-post from Erin Myers’ fabulous blog The View from the 21st Floor. Later this week you’ll get to read posts about anxiety, expectations, and CTA ads, just to name a few. So follow along and enjoy.