Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Improvelution

I've been doing improvisational theater on and off for about 28 years.    My love affair started in 1984 when I got to take a class at the Florida State theater department.   I loved the non-structure of it.  You had to understand how to work with your scene partner but you were free to create any character, anywhere and at any time.   You were not stifled by the words of the playwright because second by second you were creating the character, the dialogue and the movement of the scene instantaneously.  It could be in Ancient Greece or modern times or a 1950's sitcom - it could be where ever your imagination took you because you could mime your scenery, costume and props.  Your partner had to take what you served them and volley it back to you so that you could both build a really good scene.   That's what I love about improv - it  can be as exciting as a tennis match.  You have control and yet absolutely no control at the same time.  You might come in with a strong idea of how the scene would go but then your partner would have a different idea and you had to go with that.    Good improv scenes are a lot like life - the best ones run on possibilities and acceptance - allowing yourself to say "Yes, and..."  not "No, that will never work."    And just like life, you will meet obstacles that will challenge how committed you are to really sticking with something that you love. 

I didn't major in theater when I went to college because it didn't seem practical and frankly I was afraid I wasn't good enough, even though I was the president of drama club in high school and got cast in plays.    So I settled for something that seemed to make sense for me - becoming a dietitian.   I was very conscious about nutrition and exercise so I figured I would be a good candidate to help counsel others on how to maintain their health.  I had left high school with a 3.8 average and was ranked number 21 in my class.  College should have been a great time for me - but because I was following my practicality and not my passion - I was floundering.   I was getting Ds and even failed a biochemistry class which had never happened to me before.    I was having crying jags for hours on a regular basis because I was so miserable - the only bright spots were the theater classes.  I did audition for plays at FSU, but found that most of the grad students and professors only wanted to cast theater majors and those that had been cast in shows before.    I knew people who had gone for a four year degree in theater and still didn't see any stage time because the same people kept getting cast.  I knew it wasn't me but the system, but it was still pretty frustrating.   So after four years of giving it the old college try - I left Florida State without a degree in anything and my spirits pretty low. 

I got back to Miami and started to wait tables which ironically would have been exactly the same thing I would have done if I had gotten my bachelors in Theater.   The world of food service had it's perks like tips, cute waiters and discounted entrees but I needed more from my life.   I went to see a group called Mental Floss to see what the professional improv acting scene in Miami was like.  They were extremely funny and just what I was looking for - they even had a few women in the group.  When they announced that they would have auditions I was totally there.   I remember that I got to do a scene with Marc who was a company member and it was really funny.   The feedback was very positive and I was asked to start doing workshops with the group which would eventually lead to performing on a regular basis.  

The workshops were led by the founder who was frankly the weakest person on stage, but I was hoping he'd be a better instructor then performer.   He gave some good direction but when the players from the group were there, they openly disrespected him which didn't set a good tone in the workshops.   I tried to stay out of it because I just wanted to start performing.   Finally, after a few months, I finally got my chance and got to do a show with the regular cast.  It was an amazing night - one of those times when everything flowed.  I was in half the games in the show and it seemed like one of those perfect tennis matches when you could hit the ball back with the same strength that you received it.   I left the theater walking on air and one of the guys, Patrick, asked me if I wanted to get something to eat with the company.   I felt so honored and accepted.   That night started my road to doing improvisation professionally. 

Patrick and I started dating shortly after that which at first seemed to be a really good thing.  He saw himself as my mentor - someone who had gotten his Master's Degree in Fine Arts at the Asolo Conservatory in Sarasota which ironically was a program of the Florida State Theater department.   He had very definite ideas about what sort of performer I should be and no matter how much the audience seemed to enjoy my performance, he never really had much positive to say - he never put me down overtly - but he never praised me when I knew I had done a really good show.   I should mention that my last boyfriend was a guy who got angry for no reason, insulted me and also hurt me on one occasion so having a passive-agressive guy like Patrick seemed like a step up. 

As time went on, I created characters like Fluffy La Puff, a stereotypical dumb blond that made Jane Mansfield look like Einstein, Billy Idol's little sister, Billy Jo Idol and Eunice Frump, a country bumpkin who was the creator of "Puddin' on a Bun."   I'd get great feedback from the audience after the shows - people would come up to me in the lobby and tell me how much they enjoyed what I did, that I reminded them of Carol Burnett or Gilda Radner (two of my comedy goddesses by the way), but I rarely got much positive feedback from the other guys in the group.   It wasn't just me, there were a few other women in the troupe that were also experiencing the same thing - always being made to feel like the weak sisters in the group.   In the years since then, I've talked to other women who have had similar experiences.  The comedy world can be extremely sexiest and hard on even the most talented of women.  Even John Belushi used to give Gilda, Jane Curtain and Laraine Newman a hard time on Saturday Night Live.  Belushi flat out stated that women were just not as funny as men.   And so it went, the audience loved the women in the group and the men just kept limiting what we could do.   It was like hitting your head against the wall.   I wanted to leave but since I was also dating Patrick, it felt like my entire world would collapse - no boyfriend and nowhere to perform comedy - who else would want me?  I felt really trapped and I didn't know how to get out. 

Then one day, I got a call at work from Marc who was now the director who told me that he and the other guys in the group decided to put me on inactive because I was not up to speed.  He told me not to feel bad that another woman in the group had also been asked to leave.  When I asked him why he never gave us any type of direction in workshop for what we needed to improve on - his reply was "You're supposed to know!"   I replied, "The whole point if you being director is to direct people who don't know - so if you're not happy with what  we do - then it's your fault for not acting like director!"  which probably was not what he wanted to hear.   Now I'll admit that I probably had areas that I needed to work on but if they are never brought to your attention, you'll never get better.  It also didn't help that the women in the cast felt like they were being singled out.   Amazingly, I still decided to help out working in the box office hoping they would put me back on stage again.   The best part was having people walk up to me and ask if I was in show that night and me telling them that I working behind the scenes.   "Man, that sucks, we wanted to see Fluffy," said one patron within ear shot of Marc.  That same week, I also has two people stop me in Dadeland Mall to tell me how much they enjoyed me in the shows.  My guardian angels were sending me signs that all was not lost and that despite the opinions of some of the guys in the group - I was a good performer - I just needed some solid direction.   

One night after a show, the guys came over to Patrick's to play cards.  It was raining pretty hard and they were out of poker snacks and expected me to go out in the monsoon to get them.  I should have said "Hell no bitches!" but instead I got my purse, my keys, and slumped out of the door.  I fumed in the car but then got a wonderful idea.  I came back and put out their food and then asked sweetly if I they would deal me in.   They condescended and figured that I probably hadn't played cards much so they could exploit that.   Unfortunately for them, I'd been playing cards since I was ten, when my Mom and Dad used to show us the ins and outs of five card draw, seven card stud and black jack during our summers at Fort Myers Beach.   I knew a straight from a dead man's hand and didn't need a ton of wild cards to win the pot.  At first I didn't bet much and pretended that I didn't understand what a good hand was.   They rolled their eyes and took my money in that first round.   I could see them chuckling - even Patrick was joining in.   I kept my poker face knowing that I would win it back and then some.    I won the second hand and pretended like it was pure luck - again betting a modest amount.    As the night wore on, I was winning the majority of the pots, folding every now and then to not let on that I was setting them up for that last big win.   Finally, we got to the last hand in which they all bet their money (which was about $60 bucks) and I had another $20 in the pot.    Everyone had to show their hand and Sal thought he had it with four queens which included three face cards a wild card (you can use wild cards to help substitute when you don't have enough of one card to complete your hand - it's a bonus if you're lucky enough to get one).   Unfortunately, I had four kings (without a wild card) and an ace which beat his queens.  Now, I know that guardian angels don't usually get involved in poker, but I felt that they worked through me to let those boys know that you should never assume that a woman is incapable of anything - whether it's improv or poker.   Their stunned faces were priceless and it had stopped raining when I got back in the car to drive home. 

A few months later, I had finally had enough and stopped going to Mental Floss altogether.   In the meantime, I started auditioning for other theater companies and got cast in almost everything I tried out for.   At one time I was in different stages of rehearsals for three shows and I met the love of my life - Max.    Patrick and I finally broke up.   It felt great to be free of all that negativity.  

A year later, I started my own improv theater group, the Eclectic Company because I loved the art of improv and wanted to do it my own way.  I got a top notch group of actors who later unbeknownst to me - had also been told by Mental Floss that they were not good enough either.   The Eclectic Company shows on South Beach were a huge success and word got back to the guys at Floss that there was a new game in town and it was being run by me.  That was the start of my journey as a woman who was willing to buck the trend of improv groups led by a bunch of white guys.  It has not always been easy - performing spaces and actors  have come and gone, but my love of the art of improv has always been there - whether I was actively performing or teaching it.  Today, as the Artistic Director of the OTC Comedy Troupe, I get to work with smart and funny women and men who just want to do good improv and support each other.   

So to those that feel like there are obstacles put in their way and begin to question their passion - I say stick with it and don't look at a roadblock as a bad thing.  Sometimes it's a guidepost that puts you on a different path.   If I hadn't left Mental Floss, I would have been trying to please people that just weren't going to give me a chance no matter what I did and it would have sucked the joy of improv right out of me.  I never would have met Max.  I never would have seen that I was capable of innovating the art like doing a live improv webshow that got over 225,000 views.    Those roadblocks ended up being the best things that ever happened to me.   As any smart gambler can tell you - you don't have to play every hand you've ever been dealt - you just have to stay in the game.   

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Martyrdom of Burnt Toast

My birthday is on April 5th and each year my wonderful husband asks me what I would like for my birthday.   My response is usually, "Oh, I don't really need anything -  you and the kids are enough to make me happy."   "Okay," he'll respond, "But I would really like to get you something for your birthday, is there anything you want or need?"   "Really, you don't have to bother," I repeat making seem like I'm not worthy of some type of birthday present and the sad thing is - in a way I believe that's true.   Somehow asking for what I want is scary like I'm not being good and kind if I put my needs first.  It just seems selfish and I know it's bad to be self centered even on the one day of the year when you have permission to let the world revolve around you.   I guess I feel like I'll let God down if I actually speak up - like it's an act of unbridled greed.  Good people don't think of themselves ever - it's not heroic. What I don't realize is that I'm robbing Max of the chance to give me what I want rather then spending time guessing which just leaves him frustrated.   

I can't remember my mother openly declaring that she wanted anything for her birthdays or holidays when I was a kid.   She was the type that always took the last of everything - burnt toast if there wasn't anymore bread to crisp after her five kids had taken the "good" slices.   She'd rarely buy herself something new.  My dad would have me and my sisters (when we were old enough to hit the malls) get her clothes for Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries.   I understand that having to feed and educate five kids took time and resources, but even after the tough times had passed and they had the money to take trips to Greece and Europe, my mother would still sacrifice, still think of herself last, still not ask for what she wanted.   If she visited me and my grown up siblings, she's still ask permission to get the simplest things rather than just getting it - the whole mi casa es su casa (my house is your house) concept was lost on her.  It might have been a generational thing but after telling her frequently that it was okay to get a something to drink - it seemed to be less about being polite and more about giving yourself permission to get what you need. 

Why do women have such a hard time asking for what we want?   Is it that we'll be seen as aggressive or bitchy?  After all Cinderella got Prince Charming by being nice and taking all sorts of crap from her evil step sisters - the original mean girls who were, well - aggressive and bitchy.  So the message is that suffering is virtuous and eventually your goodness will be rewarded with a hot guy on a white horse who will save the day and will give you some sense of redemption.   Really?!  Unfortunately, that's the sort of Disney Princesses many of us grew up with.   Cinderella being nice to her evil stepsisters no matter what they did to her.  Snow White being abused by her wicked Stepmother and answering with a naiveté that almost gets her killed.  Sleeping Beauty just sleeps for 2/3's of the movie while everyone else tries to save her - which really doesn't say empowered woman to me.  I used to explain to Amber when we would see those movies that it's not okay to have anyone treat you badly.   You have to be your own Fairy Godmother and make those opportunities happen for you on your own terms without having to worry about midnight changing everything back to rags.  It's okay to shatter that glass slipper if you can't use it to step forward.  That's why I love Drew Barrymore's - Ever After: A Cinderella Story.  This Cinderella actually cold cocks her evil step sister when she goes too far and she gets the Prince to fall in love with her brain, not just her looks. 

Thankfully, in the mid-1980's the Disney image of the helpless princess changed and brought us heroines who could fend for themselves like: Aerial in The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Jasmin in Aladdin, Titiana in The Frog Princess and Rapunzel inTangled.   Disney has even taken some of the fairy tale characters circa 1950's and earlier and made them more empowered in other cartoon continuations of the story.   But for many women, the damage had already been done.   We want to be good helpers - to put other's needs before our own - because it makes us feel valued - it makes us the go to gals - the ones who will save the day and give beyond a healthy line of demarkation.  Unfortunately modern day evil step people smell that need to be validated and pounce on it the minute they see it.   How many times have you helped out a coworker who had a sob story about not being able to make a deadline because it was everyone else's fault but theirs - after all updating their Twitter and Facebook status with silly YouTube videos isn't going to happen on it's own.   Or agreed to help out at an event a the local PTA or church because you're so good at it and no one else can figure it out.   When you are spread really thin and you want to say no, you're made to feel like you've let the team down even though the team leaves early to hit happy hour while you finish the report - because they know you will literally kill yourself to get it perfectly done.  Seriously, if you died at the copy machine that night, they'd step over your body to make sure that the package went out on time and then would call 911.  I once worked for someone who was a expert in this - he was rarely around to literally do the heavy lifting,  would leave events early to be home with his family, would play in every golf tournament in town for "networking purposes" and was rarely in the office on Fridays.   Yet, if you needed to look after your own personal needs, you weren't being a team player.  This sort of manipulation plays well with people who have delusions of being the hero who can pull victory out of the corporate jaws of defeat.   

So ladies, it's time to throw off  our self imposed shackles of duty and say something we're just not comfortable saying: "No, I'm sorry, but thanks for thinking of me," and leave it at that.   You don't need to explain to your PTA committee or the ladies of the church bazaar why you want your life back, you just need to have the courage to do it . Each time it gets easier so that you pick and choose the projects you want to do.  You can delegate for those work team projects so that the responsibility is on everyone's shoulders and make sure that they are giving progress reports at each staff meeting so you're not hung out to dry at the end.   It's going to feel weird, but in a good way.  You might actually have time to do the things you enjoy doing.  You won't be pissed all the time that you're doing everything for everyone else and not being appreciated.  It will feel good to no longer be the martyr at Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering.   One of my favorite quotes is "Well behaved women never made history."   Doing what everyone else wants you to do keeps you from finding your own path and the hero you need to be - to create the history you can be proud of.   And for God's sake, eat a piece of toast that's not burnt. 

There's a reason why when you fly, the flight attendants tell you that in the event the cabin loses pressure that you need to secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others.  You need to take care of yourself - it's a simple concept that makes sense and yet seems to elude so many of us.   You can't help make the world a better place if you are sick physically or mentally - so it's okay to treat yourself and ask for what you want.   Trust me, God will not be disappointed - in fact he/she will probably say "Thank me, she finally figured it out!"   I know it's not easy and it's a process that I'm working through myself.   But this year for Christmas, when my husband asked me what I wanted - I actually had an answer - "The Wii Just Dance 3 and I'm pretty sure it's on sale at Target," was my immediate reply.   It was that simple.  It was that easy.  He was happy to not have to guess again and I was happy because I really wanted that game.   So Max, for my birthday, I would like to get the Glee Karaoke and Glee Karaoke 2 for Wii.  You can find both on Amazon for less than what I paid for the kid's Glee Karaoke 3 at Christmas.   There - that was not so bad.  In fact, it felt down right heroic.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Replacements

The other day I came across two boxes that were hidden in the back of the garage that had to be moved because there was a leak from the top floor shower dripping on them.   The boxes had undoubtedly been there for many years - probably since we moved into the house in 2004.   As I started to go through them trying to salvage what was wet, I realized that these boxes were more of time capsule than anything else.  They were a mishmash of things that were thrown carelessly together in an effort to move our lives quickly from one place to another.  I probably had the intention of unpacking them immediately once we moved into the new house before life distracted me from that goal.  

There was an interesting conglomeration of items - the petticoat from my wedding dress along with my wedding veil which were wet but not moldy.   I was able to save the petticoat and veil.  It was amazing how well they looked after a quick wash and line dry.  I'm not the size 4 that I was when I got married but at least the veil still fit. There were my high school year books that didn't get wet thankfully, old photos in plastic frames that were protected, and an ivory pipe collection from Max's side of the family had only a little wear and tear.   Finally, I found some old clothes of the kids that probably should have been donated rather than moved.   Knowing me, I probably thought they would get a few months more wear before they went the Salvation Army.    I put the damp clothes in the washing machine marveling at how little they were once and that their butts actually fit into these little sweat pants and dresses.  

I'm know I'm not the first person to say how fast the time goes when you have kids.   Time seems to slow down when they are babies and you are sleep deprived - you wonder when they will be able to do things for themselves.   Your whole life is about taking care of them - seeing to their needs.   You might have momentary feelings of resentment - when you just want five minutes in the bathroom to yourself but you need to have them in there with you so you can see what they're doing.  Everything has to be baby proofed once they get mobile.  Then when they are toddlers - they are all about saying "I do it - I do it" so emphatically that you let them even if you know that glass of milk they're pouring will end up over the counter and raining droplets on the floor.    Time speeds up once you are able to sleep through the night and their infant bodies seem to double and triple in size at a lightening speed.   They start to talk in full sentences and let you know exactly what they think and will ask you a ton of questions.  They develop this bold brightness - this trust in the world and their ability to navigate it. You marvel as they go into pre-school and let go of your hand so quickly to be with new friends or holding on for dear life because this new situation scares them.   In elementary school they have homework and school projects that make you realize that you are not smarter than a second grader much less than a fifth grader.  

I guess for me the wake up call on how fast it all goes came when Amber was about 10 years old and still in grade school.  We had gone and done some back to school shopping and gotten new shoes to start the school year.   We'd gone to Payless Shoes and found a wide variety of Barbie, Bratz and My Little Pony shoes.  I made a little joke about the Barbie shoes attacking the Bratz shoes which Amber just rolled her eyes at.   Six weeks later I noticed blisters on the tops of Amber's toes and asked her what was wrong.  "My shoes are really hurting me,"  she said.   I always buy shoes at least a half size bigger than what they are wearing and asked her to put on her shoes.  Instead of having toe wiggling room, I could see how her toes were crammed into the top of her sneaker.    We went to get shoes that night.   The sales lady took one look at her feet and got out the women's foot measure.   "She's ten and we just bought some little girl shoes a few week ago, how could she be in a women's size?" I asked.   The sales lady laughed - "Sometimes they literally grow over night and it look like she's a women's 5 1/2."   When Amber heard that, she was off like a flash to the women's department trying on bright red pumps.   I ran after her, past the the Barbie and Bratz shoes that I had casually mocked a few weeks ago and now was sad that I would never buy again for my daughter.   I found some sensible flats for her to try on to which she responded - "Those shoes are for little women Mom, they're not for me."   Gulp.   My daughter was turning into a young woman right before my very eyes and I was not ready.    

Daniel went from being my easy baby to a toddler with strong opinions about everything.   He's always known how to use his fair haired good looks to get what he wants.  When he was a toddler, he figured out how to climb out of his crib and go down the hall of our apartment at the time to see what we were watching on TV.   He'd get picked up and put right back into his crib.   One night as Max and I were watching The Gilmore Girls, there's three year old Daniel crawling on his stomach Marine style with a blanket, a small pillow and his favorite stuffy, Pup-Pup.   Once again, we told him "Get back into bed."  He looked at us with a mischievous smile and said "I in bed."  Technically, he was right, he had brought the contents of his bed with him - so yes - he was in bed.  Ah, loopholes - my first insight to the fact that my son might just be a lawyer.   Since then, he's become the family's resident expert on the Titanic and other shipwrecks.  But now he has set his sights on bigger things than just cruise ships - he's created his own country of Asoman which is in the Pacific and has it's own language, form of government, exports and currency.  He's even designed a flag and buildings for the capital of the country.    Some kids do Fantasy Football, my 11 year old son does fantasy countries.  

Those things ran through my mind as I got their time capsule clothes out of the dryer - and held them in my arms - still warm from the dryer and smelling of fabric softener.   The stripped green pajamas they both wore because it didn't look like a girl's or boy's PJs.  The little sun dress that Amber wore in the first grade.  The blue sweat pants Daniel used to wear to the park when he was 18 months and would sit on the swings and want us to push him.   The sight of them together holding hands and six year old Amber admonishing us for giving a time out to a two year old Daniel for breaking something he was told not to touch.  "How could you possibly punish this perfect little boy?" she asked with one hand on her hip and the other hand in his.    I prayed then and now that they will always stay best friends and look out after each other like that. 

As I put those clothes in the box to donate to St. Vincent DePaul, I realized that my children are growing up whether I wanted them to or not.  They are the next generation - our replacements.   They are also two of the smartest, funniest, creative and loving people I've ever met.   And while Max and I might not be perfect parents (Good God- who is?) I'm going to look forward to seeing what sort of adults they turn out to be.  My guess is that the future is in very good hands. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

What Really is Stupid?

stupid (adjective) - not carefully considered or sensible - marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting.  

I hate being considered stupid because I'm blond.  That prejudice makes me feel self conscious when I'm trying to do something like talk to auto mechanics who see me coming and instantly start to hear the cha-ching of a cash register.  They're pretty sure that I'll accept anything they say without question because blonds are not supposed to be very bright.  So when they come back with a diagnosis that my car has a broken "flux capacitor" and it will take thousands of dollars to fix it, they figure that I'll take out a credit card and gladly hand it to them, no questions asked.   Unfortunately for them, I happen to be a big fan of the "Back to the Future" movies, so unless they plan on installing one so I can go forward or backward in time, I'll get a second opinion.  

Being blond does not have the perks you might think it would.  They are so many stereotypes of the "dumb blond" in the media dating back to the 1930's (think Jean Harlow), to the 1950's (Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe) to the 1960's (Goldie Hawn) to the 1970's (Chrissy on Three's Company).  Unfortunately, people like Paris Hilton seem to make the case that your brains wash out with the bleach.  It creates some real pressure not to say or do anything that would be considered stupid and if, God forbid, that you make a mistake because you're blond, then it confirms the idea you are naturally not as smart as the non-blonds.   I've actually had people talk slower to me than a brunette in the same room because they believe that bubble headed mentality. Being the only blond in a workplace of women can be toxic - because if your colleagues buy into that stereotype - they can make you feel like the weak sister no matter how many projects you complete on time, how many awards you win or sales you complete.  It feels like any mistake you make is magnified because being blond automatically implies that you are stupider then anyone else in the office.  You know you're intelligent and yet the constant condescension can really wear you down. 

But I think the stigma of stupid can have far reaching consequences even at an early age.  For girls, whether they are blond or not, the issue of intelligence can be a tough balance in our society.   Before the age of 10, studies have shown that young girls are more likely to raise their hands or participate in class because they have a certainty of the knowledge they possess.  As they get older, they are afraid of being seen as a nerd or worse - smarter than a boy they like, so they dumb themselves down and pretend to know less than they do.   They act dumb to get the guy and let's face it - that's just plain stupid.  For instance, in Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan's character, Cady went from a smart geek girl to one of the plastics just to get a guy.  She even pretends to fail a math class so that the guy who was tutoring her would not find out that she could have easily aced all her tests.   In Legally Blond, Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods starts out as dumb blond who has no idea about her potential and then solves a murder case that would have been impossible for her fashion and hair phobic counterparts to figure out.  Turns out that being style savvy worked in her favor but it took a long time for her colleagues to take her seriously - they were blinded by her good looks, blond hair and hourglass figure.   

When I performed with the improv group Mental Floss, I did a character named Fluffy La Puff.  She was a stereotypical dumb blond with a Marilyn Monroe/Swedish accent.   She would say suggestive things like "I don't know you, but I know I want to love  you!" and "Let's play the Teddy Bear game, I'll wear the Teddy and you can be the bear!"   She wore a tight short blue dress with white pumps, had big boobs (rolled stockings can give you the illusion of serious TaTas.) and a platinum wig.   My reason for doing her was to lampoon the screen goddesses who had made a living playing dumb.   I wanted men to see how boring that sort of woman would be and for women, that they would never be taken seriously if you acted like a bimbo.   So after I did her, I expected the guys to make fun of her, but instead I had a few men come up to me after the show and tell me that Fluffy was their favorite character because she was hot and dumb.   "Real women are too complicated - with Fluffy - what you see is what you get," a middle aged man said wistfully.    I would have hated for him to take Fluffy home only to find out that her two biggest assets were some strategically placed panty hose stuffed into a D cup bra.  I should have expected that from a few sexually frustrated men, but surely the women in the audience got what I was doing.   "Where did you get those white pumps?   They are totally sexy," asked a young college girl.   "Wait, didn't you get the point about Fluffy?" I asked.  "Sure," her friend said, "White pumps make your legs look long, tan and you can wear them with anything."  Sigh. 

I think the biggest problem with the word stupid is how it's used.    Many times it's an insult meant to demean.   Those who use it often don't want to learn more about the person they are labeling.  It's easier to dismiss an idea or person as stupid rather than looking further.   Albert Einstein was once thought of as stupid by the headmasters of his school because he was curious and asked more questions then the other children.   He questioned and didn't accept the status quo.  He was great at physics but struggled in other subjects  --  even math which he freely admitted to.   He understood that making mistakes was a way to grow and that it didn't mean you were dumb - it just taught you how to think critically and learn.   One of my favorite Einstein quotes is:  "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."  I once worked for a man who was petrified of making mistakes and hated when anyone on his staff did.  If he caught it - he'd totally blow it out of proportion and made you feel totally incompetent.   While I understand the "failure is not an option" mentality - sometimes you need to fail to learn how to succeed.  Fearing mistakes leads to stagnation and keeps you at a putrefying level of mediocrity. 

For me, the definition of stupid is having the knowledge to do or prevent something but choosing not to.   For instance, people who text and drive are really, really stupid.  You'd have to live under a rock to not know how dangerous and illegal it is.    Probably the best thing I've learned from the assumption that I'm a dumb blond is that you can't judge people based on how they look, what they wear, what country they come from, their religion or any of the other silly things we want to base our preconceptions on.  I try to get to know people instead of assigning a convenient label - it's just a smart thing to do.   As anyone whose ever worked with me can tell you, it's really a bad idea to underestimate me - in fact it's downright stupid.