Tuesday, January 6, 2015

You May Be the Most Important Person in the Room

I. Wall and I sat in the back row of the megaplex watching TransAmerica for free because she worked at the theatre. We were high school seniors. I didn't know any trans people, so the story was very novel. I added it to my list of favorite movies on FaceBook later that night.

KHo was the friend I was never supposed to "get." We were opposites in all of the on-paper ways--jock vs. drama club president, party animal vs. introvert, hates to read vs. wants to write. We truly didn't have basically any of the same tastes, and I'm sure--especially as a freshman in college--internally I did a fair share of judging her love of pop punk and Bend It Like Beckham. I saw a copy of Trans at Target for sale one day we were hanging out. Felicity Huffman's face hologrammed from man to woman. I told KHo that's the movie I loved last spring, but she probably wouldn't like it--contemporary social issues and family drama etc. etc. Almost to spite me she bought it. We watched it, and I was right in my prediction. She took it in without much joy, and at the end I was like, "See? You didn't like it. I knew it." She was like, "Yeah, maybe I would have if the character had been anything else besides 'trans.' The movie was just about the fact that she was trans." And she was really remarkably right. It was boring. There was nothing to it. It was a glimpse into a world that's intriguing for most--but a cardboard cut-out of that intrigue. I looked at KHo who wore baseball caps and Nikes like a uniform. Grew up a tomboy and truly never got into a makeup. Perhaps she had better thoughts about the way society makes a fuss over people who do or don't wear this or that etc. etc. It didn't matter I was the one who was generally more liberal, artistic.

II.  Shells and I were supposed to hang out one weekend, but I felt like I should go to a classmates one-man show. She said she'd take me to this thing--even though she hates plays and pretty much just went because I promised it wouldn't be longer than an hour. It was about being a young black person. He played several characters. There was a talkback. Shells just sits in talkbacks miming a gun to her head and blatantly checks Instagram. People asked about process and craft but also the issues. Finally, my friend left the stage, and Shells' car keys were in hand. As we walked to the car I asked, "So, another play to add to your list of 'didn't like.'" She was like, "Yeah, well, maybe if the kid had gotten to college any other way besides basketball. I've already heard that story a million times. And why did the half-black girl keep talking about her hair? If you're half-black that's the last thing you would ever do. Black women think you're bragging and white women get uncomfortable." It occurred to me how boredom might not be the only thing Shells was feeling as a black man represented her onstage--especially as the only black woman in the audience. Yet she said nothing! She was at that talkback! I asked her why! Why not say that, any of that! "Because I don't do theatre. I don't know," she said. But, no, you might be the most important person in the room.

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