I sat there in stunned silence reading the email. I was hurt. Stung by the words I saw ...
It's World Kindness Day. What a lovely thought. I'm trying to do that more. Chat with the grocery clerk about his/her day. Smile at the person on the street. Hold doors open for people. Be more friendly. It's not that I'm not friendly - I am. I'm just usually busy thinking about this or that, trying to get somewhere and tend to forget about my surroundings. As I said, I'm working on it.
That said, I have an opinion on just about anything. If you ask me for it, I'll tell you. Did you know I'm the unknown Simon Cowell of theatre performances, movies and concerts? Just ask my husband. He's the only subscriber to my reviews... and in reality, he isn't a subscriber ... he just has to listen to them because we're married and it's in our contract. If I were an actual reviewer ... well, let's just say it wouldn't be pretty and I'd have to go by a pseudonym. I'm a stickler for pace. Honesty in performance. Voice quality. Connection with the audience. Costumes. Lighting. Direction. Very seldom do I get lost in a performance or a movie. It's sad really. But it's just the way my mind works. I have been lost in performances before though. One time was when I saw the absolutely brilliant actress Nicola Cavendish perform in the one-woman show Shirley Valentine. She captivated me and I became absolutely lost in the story. The second time was when I went to see Cookin' at the Cookery. What a wonderful show. Again I was lost in the story, the music and the stellar performances. Those two shows stand out in my mind above all the rest. I was lost in the movie "Waking Ned Divine" as well. Wonderful performances by all. Don't think I let myself off the hook. I am the hardest on myself, My reviews of my own performances can be ruthless. I am without a doubt my worst critic. Something else I am working on...speaking kindly to myself.
I have never; however, thought nor cared about the look of someone's knees. Ever.
In 2015 I was performing on Vancouver Island with a week run of Eva Cassidy: How Can I Keep from Singing. A show I wrote and debuted in 2013. We had wonderful audiences and they seemed to really enjoy the show. I received lots of emails, Facebook posts and was stopped in the street a few times by audience members who had seen the show the night prior and had a great time. It felt good. It's always nice to hear from fans and their thoughts on things.
I remember receiving an email from a lovely woman two years after she had seen the Eva Cassidy show in 2013. She had tracked down my email address and wanted to share with me the impact the show had on her and her life...two years later. You see just prior to the show her Husband (age 50) was put into a home because he had developed a severe case of Alzheimer's. A week later her teenage son died from an accidental drug overdose. Can you imagine? All that in two weeks. Devastating. She already had purchased tickets to the debut run of my show at the Kay Meek Theatre and decided to attend anyway - only one week after her only son had passed away. In her email, she shared that the evening of music and the story resonated with her. That it had somehow helped her to get through her terrible tragedy. That it gave her some inner peace. That even two years later, she felt the need to tell me how much it had impacted her life. That my friends is a humbling email to receive. I cried when I read it. How kind for someone to take the time to share with me something as beautiful as that. I was incredibly humbled and grateful.
On the flip side, after the run on Vancouver Island this past year I received amongst the accolades an email from a woman who told me she really enjoyed the show. She thought it was lovely and that my voice was quite lovely. Then she said she felt compelled to tell me that I shouldn't wear dresses on stage. Apparently, my knees are too fat and incredibly unattractive. I should wear pants when performing from now on. She then added that I wasn't graceful and should consider wearing flats as well. Let that sink in for a moment. Really? Really? That too was a humbling email to receive. I almost cried when I read it. It hurt. My knees? I looked at my knees. True they weren't like they used to be. I had always been told I had nice legs though ... and here one comment was wiping out all the compliments I had received through the years. I felt insecure. Frumpy. Sad. I promptly deleted her email. I showed her! And then I got angry...
WHAT THE HELL DO MY KNEES HAVE TO DO WITH MY SINGING??????? WHERE DOES SHE GET OFF SAYING SOMETHING LIKE THAT??????
Sadly, I will admit I have had to work through that women's cruel and unnecessary comments. The next time I sang I wore pants. I never wear pants when I sing. But I did that time. When I sat on my stool to sing a song I thought, "Well at least no one can see my fat knees." I was thinking about my freaking knees while I was performing! I had never thought about my knees while performing before. Thinking about my knees while I'm performing takes me out of the actual performance. Takes away my connection with the audience, with the music. Makes me less honest on stage. Those are the things I'm a stickler for. Another bad review from the unknown Simon Cowell. Thank you, random woman, who decided to tell me her opinion about my knees. Thank you so much.
It's OK to have an opinion - we all have them. It took me a long time; however, to realize not everyone wants to hear mine ... which is ironic seeing as I write a blog. But you dear reader can choose to read it ... or not. Agree with me ... or not ...
Don't get me wrong. We can't shy away from criticism. It's everywhere and can at times be the one thing that makes us dig in our heels and go "You think so? Well, I'll show you." I've had people say to me they don't like my voice. One reviewer said, "I didn't have a particularly strong voice." Ummm ... ok. One choir director said to me "my voice was not pleasing to listen to." One adjudicator said, "I lacked stage presence." None of these statements were pleasant to listen to, but I listened. I either learned from them or let them roll like water off a duck's back. My knees though. I can't do anything about my knees. My knees are ... my knees. Why attack my knees?
This 'Anti-Social Media' era where adults think they can bully or tear someone down at any time and that their 'opinion' is wanted or warranted is so damaging. We see it all the time. She's a bad parent. He's a jerk. She's a 10. He's fat. She's ugly. And now politics. Lefties, snowflakes, libtards. RePugnants. Deplorables. Enemies of the people. And on and on. I say fill the world with light. Think before we speak. My reviews are still my reviews. I will continue to be the unknown Simon Cowell to my follower of one. I will continue to give my constructive criticism if someone asks for it. But I will never tear down a performance because someone had fat knees. Or she had man hands. Or... It was funny on Seinfeld but in real life? - not so much.
Since I originally wrote this blog the world has become even more angry. We can't seem to agree on anything. We are divided more than ever. We've lost the ability to see the humanity in each other. Wouldn't you rather live in a kinder world? I would. We can do our part by guarding our words. Look for the humanity in each other. Search for what we have in common rather than what makes us different.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. It means a lot to me. Kindness is important. I thought one way I could take part is to have a contest. It's on my Facebook Page. The Winner will be announced on Saturday at 5pm. Click here for details.