A few years ago I went into DiBruno Brothers in the Italian Market to get some cheese and some olives for a dinner party. I was in a rush. There was a line out the door and I was standing a little too close to the baguettes and thinking: these baguettes are just sitting here, out in the open, with our germ-infested winter coats grazing the crust. As I tried to steer my mind away from unsanitary bread products, to focus on cheddar and gouda, I hear someone from the behind the counter calling out to the next person in line.
"Can I help you, Sir?"
I look up and the cheese monger behind the counter, with beard and beer belly, is looking directly at me. I am the next person in line. Was he calling me "Sir"? What led him to this conclusion? My long blonde hair? My mascara? My chest? Please explain, oh hirsute cheese man.
I stare back at him.
He tries again, "Can I help you, Si--, er, I mean Ma'am. Oops. Sorry."
He said the word sorry, but he did not mean sorry. And somehow he still managed to sell me an award-winning brie and a dirty baguette. My stomach was full of cheese samples and rage.I walked home, furious.
On my walk, I started to think back to when I was 13 and answered the family land line with a tween squeak of a hello. On the other end I heard, "Is this Mr. Rea's son?". It was Bill Paxton calling for an interview about his role in Apollo 13. I was perplexed. How could this man think I was a man? Did my voice sound prepubescent or like a teenage boy who has gone through puberty? This never happened to me before. From that day through my high school years I was plagued with Paxton induced distress and insecurity. But eventually the fury dissipated.
In every day life, I don't experience the Paxton rage, but when relive the memory in my mind, I sure can conjure it.
In thinking about the Paxton rage, I realize that this DiBruno's rage is identical. And that infamous phone call with that famous actor is now a funny anecdote that I share with friends and family.
I get called "Sir" and "Mister" more than any other "womanly" woman I know. I always get irrationally upset in the moment, but when I tell my friends or my boyfriend about these strange occurrences, they immediately laugh. Because they've been keeping tabs. And now there's a long list of incidents.
When they laugh, I ease up and I end up laughing as well. The anger dissipates and I go back to the truth in the absurdity of each "Sir" and "Mister". I can find humor in each moment and then I want to tell the story, again and again.
One of my favorite things about storytelling as an art form is its ability to lift the tragic into the realm of funny. This happens when the storyteller is honest in their telling. They aren't making fun of what happened to them, they are living in the moment and telling us what it was like through their storyteller lens.
This is Cecilia Watson's story from our November show at Shot Tower Coffee. Cecilia is a two-time Tell Me A Story performer and is a frequent TMAS Workshop participant. This story is about celebration and heartbreak and fully embraces Mr. Idle's notion of life not making any sense. Yet, as the storyteller, it is our job to look back on our experiences and try to make sense of them, through honesty and acknowledgement of truth's humor. Cecilia does this beautifully.