"I just want you to be happy." - my mother, upon hearing my father pressure me to become a lawyer or doctor, putting my genius to better use than he thought I could as an actor
"Well, Red, if it doesn't work out, fuck it, drink a beer and walk away." - my father, right after I announced at age seventeen that I was getting married
When I fly, I try to read, nap, choreograph or practice my French, with the occasional slip into enjoying the in-flight entertainment (Virgin Airlines, anyone?). Touring can be stressful, and I usually start my trip with too little sleep, often an early morning after a late night show. If I don't pop in my headphones fast enough or close my eyes at the beginning of the flight, someone just has to talk to me (and even then). I don't mean just asking me to let the flight attendant know they need an extra sack of nuts. No, I usually fly alone and they want to have a conversation. (I try to be friendly, but I'm no nonsense when I travel. It's minimal makeup, jeans and my trusty John Mayer pullover. I have a slew of things to do before my arrival, and recharging my personal batteries is high on the list so there's no time for chit chat.) 25% of the time I wind up in these conversations when I have no patience, not enough cocktails and too much to do. The mile-high chit chat usually has to do with where I'm from and if I'm flying for business or pleasure. Then they ask what I do. When I reply that I'm a burlesque dancer (apparently surprising them because I'm not wearing feathers or shaking my sparkly titties all over the plane but instead I'm trying to catch some sleep), they always ask:
"How do your parents feel about what you're doing?"
Seriously? I somehow manage to give them an answer that's geared more toward excusing what I do than really saying what I mean. Why am I being so nice? Because I'm hoping this ends the conversation pleasantly and I can get the fuck back to sleep or get back to reading some amazing book on my Kindle or perfect the phrase "Je veut payer par carte de credit." I say "They don't mind and I've always been dramatic and naked. I was an actor."
But let's look at this. How do my parents really feel about my life choices? Are they disappointed that I take my clothes off and entertain people for money? Who really gives a fuck. Are my parents satisfied with all of my life choices? Do they have to be?
On the flip side of the coin, am I satisfied with their life choices? No, but what does that matter? With my entire family, I can truthfully say that I've been disappointed with at least five of the life choices of each person. My dad smoked and had a wandering eye, bringing a lot of stress to my home life. My mother wasn't the best person to teach me housekeeping and babied my brothers, expecting better grades and smarter decisions out of her daughters.
Of course, they can truthfully say that I've disappointed each of them with at least five of my own life choices. My dad used to get pissed off when I wouldn't eat my sandwich crust. He also didn't want me to break into an abandoned house with my friends when I was sixteen. My mother thought I should know better than to hit my older brother when he was douchy to me. She also wanted me to do the dishes in a timely fashion. How did they feel about those life choices that more directly affected them when I was a minor? Weren't those a bit more pressing than what I do now, a grown-up who's been out of their hair and married since 1993?
No one is going to endorse every life choice you make. But it's your life. You know yourself better than anyone else. You have to do what makes you happy. (It's ideal if you don't cause harm to another person in the process, because that would interfere in their own pursuit of happiness.) And people will respect your plucky integrity.
I come back to the advice from my parents at the beginning of this blog entry. Great advice from the hippies who raised me.
Maybe I should wear a sleep mask on these flights.