Laugh Your Way to Lower Stress

What’s a Slut to Do?

I’m so tired of people yelling “slut” at women who use birth control and would like it to be covered by insurance. Men who carry around a 12-pack of condoms along with their fully covered little blue pills, on the other genital, get a wink and a nod for doing what guys do.

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I like math and this is an equation that doesn’t add up: If X (women) don’t have sex in order not to be so slutty, and Y (men) have sex in order to be men, who are Y having sex with? We all know that the folks who consider women slutty also can’t visualize gay sex without their heads exploding, so how do we solve for Z? Is it socks? Apple pie? A rolled-up copy of the Wall Street Journal?

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I’d also like to know if the quaaludes Bill Cosby used to rape women were covered by insurance. Really, this question has kept me up at night for a week.

I am the least slutty woman I know. I’ve had sex with three men in my life and all of them became my husbands. It’s my rule — if I sleep with someone, I have to pay for it not with pregnancy, but with marriage. Since my last divorce nearly 7 years ago, I’ve slept with a total of 0 people. That’s right, I’m much more abstinent that Bristol Palin! I’m thinking of renting out my uterus to Michelle Duggar in hopes that she might pop out a free-thinking child who doesn’t consider molesting his sisters a normal youthful indiscretion.

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So, no, I’m not a slut, a whore, a tramp, a skank, or any of the other lovely words tossed loosely at girls and women who have sex, think about sex, can spell sex, or belong to some kind of sect. Yet for nearly 30 years, I relied on birth control of some sort, primarily the pill. I credit my ability to live the way I want to Margaret Sanger and a tilted uterus I refer to as “the goalie” because she never let anything into the net.

When I first started taking the pill, I was 17 and it was free at the university health center in… wait for it… Texas! All I had to do was bear with a good ol’ Texas gyno who told me, a virgin seeking to prevent pregnancy that I had “childbearing hips.” Fortunately I proved that my hips were meant for walking and that’s just what they did… without having a human child hoisted up on them.

But because I had sex, albeit it with a series of spouses, and relied occasionally on birth control I couldn’t afford (hey, I stole toilet paper from the library and ketchup packets from fast food chains throughout college), I guess I WAS a slut. Someone should tell that to my college debate team because when I refused to sleep with any of the guys, I was labeled “frigid” and a “narc.” Well, the latter was more because I also turned down offers of cocaine and LSD.

If the voices calling women “sluts” get any louder, why don’t we implement the solution those folks always offer up: Let’s just unscrew everyone. No birth control or abortion for us? Fine, no sex for you! Jerry Seinfeld had the Soup Nazi; we’ll become to the Sex Nazis. No sex for you, no sex for you, bread for you…

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The good news is that studies have shown that women who don’t have sex become smarter while men become stupider. Here’s my plan: No sex with anyone until the presidential elections in November 2016 (you can do it; I’ve made it 7 years!). By then they guys will be too dumb to find their way to the polls and we’ll finally have the matriarchy we need.

When anyone asks where you came up with such a crazy idea, tell them a slut suggested it.

Free at Last!

My most recent ex-husband called me last Saturday. Oh yay…

We’ve been divorced for 6 years, 7 months, 1 hour and 3 minutes (not that I’m counting) and for four of those years, he called me at least once a week. Several times from my driveway.

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So when he phoned last summer to tell me he was moving 150 miles away, I was happier than Dakota Johnson when they finally wrapped up filming on 50 Shades of Grey and she could go back to living a life without handcuffs and safe words. Not to mention eating solid food again.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my ex isn’t a crazy stalker. It was just the oxycodone, anger issues, and gun ownership that made him SEEM crazy and inability to recognize a boundary even if I drew it in red Magic Marker on his palm that made him SEEM like a stalker. So yes, absence does make the heart grow fonder — of the single life.

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He called to tell me that he was going in for surgery on a blocked artery and that he had removed me as his emergency contact person. The latter represents amazing growth on his part. He’s finally acknowledging that I am not going to cross often-snowy mountains in my Toyota Camry to hold his hand while he has a splinter removed from his knuckles or a balloon inflated in his neck. I’m not being mean here. In our less than 5-year marriage, I went with him to more than 150 doctors’ appointments. He’s a gun-toting, angry, pain med-addicted guy with hypochondria and weird sexual peccadilloes (isn’t that a great word?) — is it any wonder I fell for him? (Literally, as on our first real date, he rolled his Jeep with me in it down a mountain). I clearly needed a project. Perhaps I should have taken up clog dancing instead.

I’m not sure how people stay friends with their exes, especially if at one point in their lives they worried that their ex might shoot them. “I’m sorry you’re having health problems, but the idea that a little exertion might kill you is kind of a relief.” That’s probably not an appropriate thing to say, but how would I know? Clearly my penchant for niceness has gotten me into situations a smarter woman would have avoided by simply walking away from the overturned vehicle in the mountains.

The good news is, I don’t have to show up when he’s sick. The bad news is that I’m still his power of attorney, so I have to be there when he dies. I guess I’m okay with that.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to get his new phone number tattooed on my forearm, so I never accidentally pick up the phone when he calls again.

50 Shades of Embarrassment

If you’re thinking about testing the waters of BDSM, might I suggest you go for ice cream instead? As someone who has been there and done that and who now knows that BDSM means “bad decision, stupid moron,” let me fill in some blanks the movie 50 Shades of Gray conveniently left out:

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1.  Handcuffs not only chafe, when your arms are bound above your head or behind your back, you will end up with a shoulder injury. Years later, you’ll have to lie and say you hurt yourself, uh, skiing;

2.  Clamps are for wood shop, not for nipples;

3.  The pleasure you get from pain is from it being over. If you really need to feel this, simply light a candle, put your hand in the flame and then remove it. You won’t need a contract for that.

4.  If you want someone who pressures, coerces, stalks, wheedles, whines, and bullies you and who shows up unannounced when you’re on the toilet or at work, borrow someone’s 2-year-old for the day. At least you know he/she will eventually grow up.

5.  Being told what to do in every aspect of your life is the job of drill sergeants in the Army… and no one thinks boot camp is sexy.

6.  If someone insists you don’t touch them during sex, they’re either psychologically damaged or they turned into a warty ogre the minute you were blindfolded. Either way, ewww!

7.  Anyone who spends more money on torture devices than flowers will always get you something you don’t want for Valentine’s Day, like a coupon for another piercing.

8.  If your ass is too sore from the spankings for you to sit comfortably, forget lounging and walk right out… now.

I had to learn these things the hard… and painful way. I hope you don’t have to.

If I have a cold (as I do now), when you tell me “I really never get sick,” I take that as an invitation to sneeze in your salad.

Come on, you know you gets colds and the flu as often as the rest of us even if you do run 10 miles a day, eat nothing but free-range organic vegan spices recommended by Dr. Oz to improve the immune system, and never go out in public without bagging your hands in Ziplocs.

What kind of weird human behavior is it to deny you ever get sick even as your nose starts to run and your voice becomes scratchier than a pubescent boy’s? I admit that I used to be this way myself, thinking I was stronger, faster, and smarter than the average virus. I hated seeing ads for commercials that promised to cut two days off a cold because that meant I had to admit I’d be sick for at least that long. But it turns out that I am human, hear me sneeze.

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I’m not saying we should all milk the sniffles for all the tofu noodle soup and blankets we can get out of our friends and loved ones, but neither should we deny our own vulnerability. You can live a healthy life and take precautions (I myself have switched to fist-bumping instead of hand-shaking) and still come down with the common cold. If it wasn’t common, it would be called the “rare and unusual cold.”

So if I run into you in the cold remedy section in the drugstore, don’t try to pretend you’re just buying this stuff for a friend. The tissue hanging out of your pockets is a dead giveaway. Admitting you’re sick will make you feel better. It’s about the only thing that will.

            Why are there so many creams for women over “a certain age” that have the word “blur” in them? There’s Miracle Blur, Opti-Blur, Magic Blur, 5-Second Blur, Victoria’s Secret Blur Bra for Boobs Over 50 (okay, I made that last one up, but it’s probably on the drawing board).

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            I don’t want to be a blur. I want to be high definition clear. That’s right, crows’ feet, soft jawline, broadening midsection, dangly boobies and all—I want those in sharp focus. I earned them and I want you to see them, dammit! It’s important that when you look at me, you see a 58-year-old woman who has clearly laughed often and well, not a grumpy cat or a Rubik’s Cube.

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            Notice there are no products for men that suggest they become a blur. Their creams firm, lift, harden and other words filled with sexual innuendo. (By the way, do NOT Google euphemisms for erections. Trust me on this!) No, the guys are told that each line and gray hair makes them more distinguished. Sounds like a problem with semantics to me. I think my master’s degree and 21 years as a comedy writer and performer makes me look distinguished. But what do I know? I don’t write ad copy.

I’m surprised the fashion industry hasn’t gotten in on the blurring trend for older women. Imagine the money to be made in selling camo wear to make sure we blend in with our surroundings: sweater sets with Bingo cards on them, velour track suits to match the walls for mall walks, and jeans and t-shirts the color of lumber for those days spent volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. Everyone knows once you reach a certain age, those are the things you spend all your days doing, right?

Or what about a new store called Forever 61 in which every item of clothing, every shoe and sock, every accessory was gray and fuzzy… a literal blur? That way younger people could quickly scan a crowd and avoid seeing anyone OLD and LAME. Unless, of course, they were looking for their grandparents in an attempt to make sure they’re still in the will.

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            All this is moot however, because most people today never look up from their electronic devices. We could all be naked and no one would even notice. Given the choice between naked or blurry, I opt for naked. It’s way more fun!

When I signed up for a nude group photo with 100 women, I did so for a few reasons: the photographer is amazing; the women’s empowerment message of the shoot is something I care deeply about and at 57-1/2 years-old (yes, I count half years now), the chances of anyone asking me to pose naked would surely fall off soon. From 1 to 0, I’m thinking.

I am not an exhibitionist. I’m okay with my body – I just look better with certain bits camouflaged by clothing, belts, scarves, mirrors, detour signs, tequila, etc.

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I’ve never skinny dipped or flashed. I do occasionally walk around naked in my house, but usually just from the shower to the bedroom and I apologize to my wiener dogs if they seem scared.

Needless to say, the idea of my stripping down past my skivvies with a roomful of other women was a daunting challenge for me. I thought about backing out several times as the day loomed closer. But as uncomfortable as I may be with my own nudity, I’m more uncomfortable with hypocrisy. To chicken out of a women’s empowerment event because I’m a too scared would just not do. I threw my shoulders back, sucked in my post-menopausal poochy belly and headed to the site of the event.

I arrived a few minutes early at the warehouse where we would all meet, strip, apply mud all over our bodies, and then walk approximately ¼ mile to an open field where the photo shoot would happen. (I arrive everywhere a few minutes early—be forewarned, those of you who end up planning my funeral.) There were about 25 women there already, including one who was very pregnant. I let my tummy relax. The women were all dressed and there was an open bar of sorts. From the number of women drinking and standing in line for the one bathroom, clearly I wasn’t the only nervous one.

One of my former radio co-hosts was there, as was one of my closest friends, a woman who is much younger and in much better shape than I am and yet I invited her anyway. She posted on FB that it was about time she got a chance to see my boobs.

I recognized a few other faces in the crowd. One came up to me and told me she had taken grammar from me at the university. “And now you’re going to see me naked. And you’re going to know I have a tramp stamp,” I tittered. Everyone laughed. She said, “I knew you were cool.” And she did it grammatically correctly.

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More women arrived, including one with a newborn baby. A few men were there too, photographers and friends/boyfriends/lovers/spouses of women. They were enlisted in stirring the tub and kiddy pool filled with red mud that we would soon be coating our bodies with outside the warehouse in the middle of a Saturday afternoon like a poor-woman’s version of a spa treatment.

Finally the moment arrived and the disrobing began. Little by little the shirts, skirts, pants, bras, and panties came off of the 50 or so women who had made it past their nerves and into the door of the warehouse. Many of us then wrapped back up in robes or towels as we stood in line for our mud armor. Slowly, everyone shed not only their clothes, but their inhibitions. There were beautiful bodies everywhere – skinny and pudgy, white and brown, young and not-so-young.

Watching the women before us help each other pour mud on themselves and rub in all over was awe-inspiring. Not only did we look tribal, but we felt like a tribe – of strong, carefree women ready to take back power from anyone who tries to control what we do with our own bodies. Our laughter moved from girlish giggles to deep throaty laughs of self-assured women. We are woman, hear us grunt and snort with laughter while playing in a kiddy pool of mud!

When it was my turn, two women I’d never met rubbed mud all over me. As a redhead, I’ve never had a real tan and this is the closest I’ve come. I caught the eye of the other gingers and we were all pleased to finally have a skin color that couldn’t reflect moonlight.

While we were mudding up, several men drove along the fence separating the warehouse parking lot from a nearby storage facility. They honked and did what men would do when confronted suddenly and unexpectedly with many, many naked women. I’m fairly certain a few imagined themselves in a menage-a-whatever 51 is in French, but it didn’t matter. What would have been uncomfortable and creepy on our own was all part of the fun because we were with our tribe.

Then began the long, barefooted walk down across a major street and down a side street, across from a chocolate store (very fitting and had I not been naked and muddy, I might have stopped in) and finally into a field. Let me reiterate: Except for a coating of red mud, we walked naked, en masse, stopping dozens of cars, seeing people leer and almost drive off the road. None of it mattered. We were a tribe. And despite the mud, many of our tribal tattoos were still visible. It was the first time my lower back butterfly flew free outside.

Once in the field, we laughed and kvetched about animal poop below and clouds overhead that threatened rain. When given the instruction, we ran like a pack of female wolves, then we walked back and did it again and again. Someone took a vote and we discovered I was the oldest woman there. A cheer went up from the tribe. That alone, being cheered for being the eldest, is such a rare and amazing gift, I want to re-wrap it an give it to myself on every birthday.

After six takes, the photographer was happy with the results and we marched back, repeating our audacious hike, only this time, slightly less nervous and with slightly less mud (much had rubbed off while running across the field six times and brushing up against each other as we tried to stay close enough together for the photos).

Back at the warehouse, some women showered under a cold hose. My friend hula hooped naked because how many opportunities do you get to do that? I rubbed as much mud off as I could with my hands, put on my robe, said goodbye to my new clan and headed home. I was secretly hoping to get pulled over and have to explain my attire–muddy hair and nails and fluffy periwinkle house robe.

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When I got home, the dogs thought the remaining mud tasted delicious.

I’m proud that I didn’t allow nerves, modesty, or an overactive bladder talk me out of this glorious experience. Who knows what’s next? Is there such thing as naked stand-up comedy?                                                  

No Laughing Matter

Robin Williams is gone, tragically by his own hand. Another brilliant soul so tortured that the only way out seemed to be the final one.

10561768_737527909627759_2845598714225569394_nAs a stand-up comic and someone who teaches people to use comedy writing to create laughter from the negative thoughts and emotions that we all deal with every day, Robin’s passing (and Richard Jeni’s suicide 7 years ago) has affected me deeply. I know that comedy is an amazing life skill that allows people to take pain and anger and frustration and turn them into laughter. I also know comedy doesn’t make the pain and anger and frustration disappear, especially for those whose brains aren’t wired for easy joy.

When I was young, my dad told me that my mother had attempted suicide. My second stepmother used to slit her wrists just enough to draw blood as a cry for attention. I was often the one who had to help her, while she screamed at me that my father didn’t love her, that no one loved her, and that next time she’d use the gun my dad kept in the closet. When I got divorced from my last husband, I kept his last name because he kept talking about suicide and I was afraid that changing my name would push him over the edge. And even though we’ve been divorced for 5-1/2 years, he calls regularly and I try to talk him down.

I am lucky. My brain’s set-point is happiness. When bad things happen, I feel them just as much as anyone else, but I quickly find ways to seek out joy and focus on the things that can create happiness all around me. I’ve lost three dog-children and grieved them so much that for months on end I thought I’d never be happy again. But somewhere in the back of my mind even in the depths of grief, I knew things would get better. I did a comedy performance to memorialize the passing of my best friend (her last request to me) — and wept openly the entire time. But a tiny voice said, this is right, this is helping everyone remember the joy Rhonda brought to the world. Be happy that you could give her this. Even then my brain was working for me, not against me.

People with depression say that if you’ve never experienced it, it’s impossible to completely understand the depths of despair they are feeling. I believe that wholeheartedly. I tried for the six years of our dating and marriage to help my last husband not be depressed — I catered to his every wish; I accompanied him to mental and physical health appointments because his anger got in the way of good treatment choices; I put on a happy face even when his anger, anxiety, paranoia, hoarding, and spending habits were bankrupting me of energy and finances. I had to leave when I realized my own life might be in danger; rather than me shining a light on his darkness, he was dragging me under with him.

There’s an old saying, “Happiness is an inside job.” I believe that is so true. I also know that there are too many people who do not have the tools — mentally, physically, or spiritually — to build the foundation for joy. For too long, we as a country have focused on whether we’re physically healthy while all but ignoring our mental health. If Robin Williams and the nearly 30,000 other lights that are snuffed out by suicide each year are to be truly honored, let’s create a mental health care system free of stigma and easy to access. Let’s openly talk about our own struggles so that those struggling with bigger demons feel encouraged to open up. And let’s take care of our own mental health every day.

For me, that means making people, including myself, laugh.

 

Come, Join the Party

I am a feminist and have been since I realized women were people.

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It wasn’t as easy of a conclusion as it should have been given that my dad tried to raise me as a boy and any time I’d do anything girly, he’d tell me how weak I was. Naturally, I thought girl = weak, boy = strong, therefore boy > girl. (Sorry for the math; it’s the boy in me).

I got over my preconceived notions and long ago realized that my dad’s fairy tales were just as misinformed and misleading as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

So when I overheard two 20-something women talking about feminism, I eavesdropped. One said: “I’m a feminist, but not with a capital F.”

I was flummoxed. I didn’t known 20-somethings knew what a capital letter was. But I jest!

I do think I know what she was saying, which goes something like this: “I believe women are equal to men and should be treated that way, but I’m in college and want to date and perhaps get married, so I will do slutty and demeaning things for awhile.”

And really, who hasn’t?

The word “feminist” has such a bad connotation that even people who are feminists (and I believe that is most of us, male and female) don’t want to associate with it. I blame Rush Limbarf — that’s right, if he can coin the term “feminazi,” I can rename him Limbarf. Oh, and let’s not forget Pat Robertson, who once said, “The goal of feminists is to divorce their husbands, kill their children, destroy capitalism, practice witchcraft, and become lesbians.”

When I heard that my first thought was, “I’m a lousy feminist because I’ve only tried two of those things.”

If it’s just the word that bothers people, maybe we should just choose another. I’ve been on a journey trying to do just that. At first, I thought maybe we could go back to the word “suffragette,” but it has “suffer” in it. No one wants to do that. What we need is a kinder, gentler word that seems inviting, yet feminine. I think I’ve come up with it….”feminipple.”

You’d join the Feminipple Party, right?

And yes, I realize I’m using sex to sell women’s rights, but if it’s good enough for beer and motorcycles, why not?

Girly Girl

I never thought it would happen to me, but I’m clearly a girly girl. As I type this, I’m wearing a bright pink shirt and I just finished weeping openly at a video of deer playing with a dog on FB. That’s all it takes to be a girl, right?

I’ve always been confused around gender issues. That’s what happens when despite the fact that you don’t have a penis you are raised as a boy and told that crying is for sissies, so go do some push-ups until you get over it, pussy. It’s no wonder then that my first husband referred to me as “Bubba” because I did all the heavy lifting around the house (while wearing manly-colored polo shirts his parents bought for me at garage sales) and that when my second husband grew his hair out long enough to wear in a ponytail, I kind of felt that I should grow in a beard to even out the hormonal imbalance in our family. (And this was before I was menopausal and could possibly have done so).

But some time in my 40s, I finally reconciled with my own gender. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known I was a girl and wanted to be one. I just wasn’t sure about how others felt about it. It’s hard to feel self-confident in your sexual identity when you’re being pressured to have children while you’re cleaning the gutters.

One day I was holding a sketch comedy rehearsal in my garage and one of the women suggested we use a curling iron as a prop and then asked me if I had one. She assumed I’d have a curling iron!! That may have been the first moment I believed other women saw me as one of them, not some outsider or mole planted in their midst to report back on what makes women tick.

These days, there seem to be more choices when it comes to identity. You can check any box, no box or all of the boxes if you want to. But back in the 60s and 70s, we had to choose teams. You were either a cheerleader or a football player — you couldn’t be both. And yes, I played tag football in junior high. You either made Thanksgiving dinner or you watched — and hey, who wanted to slave away in the kitchen when you could loaf? You either expressed your emotions or you sucked them up and did some push-ups until you got over them.

I can still do the push-ups, but I’ll wear flowers in my hair or organic free-range gluten-free lipstick when I do. And if a few tears scare you, I advise you not to sit next to me when I’m watching dog food commercials, ‘cuz there are going to be some waterworks!

 

 

Don't hate me because I look 7

In February, I celebrated my 20th anniversary of making a living by being funny — as a comedy writer, humorous motivational speaker, stand-up comedian, radio host, comedy event planner and comedy teacher. The traditional 20th anniversary gift is china, so I had Chinese food on a paper plate and called it good.

Today on my radio show, The Giggle Spot, a comedian friend with whom I’ll be performing tonight called in to promote our show. Within three or four minutes, he started on a rant about how “comediennes” can only be successful if they behave like men and talk about men’s stuff. His example were Kathleen Madigan and Sarah Silverman. In between trying to grow a goatee and willing my testosterone to come in, I mentioned women such as Rita Rudner who had a theater built for her in Vegas, Natasha Leggero, Garfunkel & Oates, and Maria Bamford as examples of women who are successful and “womanly,” whatever that means.

Do we really still have to have this debate? Do male comics still think that they own comedy and that the only way women can succeed is to emulate them on-stage (and off, if you’re Kathleen Madigan whose deep voice sounds like a guy’s). I am old enough to remember when women were told to dress like men for the business world–we put shoulder pads in our blouses and wore bow ties to work. It did not help us move on up.

I know it’s hard to give up the mic guys, especially considering how it is shaped. But the fact of the matter is that women have been taking the stage and making people laugh in this country for a CENTURY or more (since Vaudeville, if not earlier). We’ve been making people laugh at home and in offices for MILENNIA. Whether we wear jeans and a t-shirt or a formal gown with a tiara, whether we talk about our families or detail our sexual exploits, whether we coyly bat our mascaraed eyelashes or take down hecklers with a unholy stare, we are just as much as home on the stage as you are. And our comedy is just as funny as yours. And, no, Freud, we don’t have to have a body part that looks like a microphone to be accepted.

There are a lot of male comedians who are just fine sharing the spotlight with the wimmin folk. But to those of you who think that we must pass some additional tests, that we have to follow your rules, or that when we do comedy that is not for drunk people in a bar it doesn’t count, please pull your dinosaur into the slow lane–we’ve got places to go.