Storytelling, Sex Scenes, & Sisterhood

Thursday night was my fourth and final storytelling class where we performed our stories to an intimate audience of classmates, family, and friends. 

A few weeks ago, I shared here about my fear of the spotlight and mic and that I emailed my teacher to request that I go on earlier rather than later. 

I was the second of 10. Yes!!! No "cooking" for me.

I'm happy to report that I told my story with relative ease. I'm sure if I'd held out my hand, it would have shook visibly, as it did during the practice run a few weeks ago. But I felt surprisingly calm. I think my comfort level had a lot to do with my teacher, Mindy Nettifee (an extraordinary storyteller, poet, teacher, person). In an email, she reminded us the day before the show, 

If you've got the nerves, just keep trying to remind yourself that having nerves is actually kind of exciting and fun and that this is the warmest, most low-stakes, loving place to get up on a mic and do your thing.

Walking home from the event, what I came away with, even more than feeling brave about facing a fear, was feeling nourished and supported, in the most sweet and sacred way, by my teacher and fellow female students.

We were all, for the most part, first-time storytellers. Together, for 4 weeks, we swam in the waters of deep emotional intensity. Just opening our mouths and sharing a true story is one of the most vulnerable, and empowering, things we can do. It didn't matter if our stories made us laugh or cry (we did both). But the love and support, humor and laughter in that room -- before, during, and after the performances -- quieted the fear in our bellies. 

The night was a funny, fabulous dance of giddily and compulsively sharing about our nervousness, "doing our thing on the mic," and cheering each other on. 

I'm thinking now of Lisa who went on last, and she began by telling us in a way that had us howling, that yes, in case we were wondering, going on last DOES suck, and yes, she DID have a stomach ache, thank you very much. And then she told a story about being a park ranger in Alaska in her early 20's that had us mesmerized, falling in love with her, and laughing our asses off.

At intermission, Lisa said to me with a quiet voice and serious face, "I don't feel like my story is as compelling as the others."

It's so HARD for women to see in ourselves the glow and gifts that others see.

And yet, we're super skillful at mirroring and helping others see what they can't.

Walking home from class, I remembered a story I heard at the Austin Film Festival this fall. The panel was on writing sex scenes in TV and film and the story came from Ben Lewin. He wrote and directed The Sessions, the 2012 movie about a polio survivor not wanting to die a virgin and his experience with a sex worker (Helen Hunt).

He shared that the set was fun and loose – until Helen Hunt had her first nude scene – and then everything went frigid and stiff. The men on the set were excruciatingly careful not to look the wrong way or say the wrong thing when she disrobed.

Lewin shared that the award winning actress felt shy and insecure about her 40-year-old body.

Thankfully, Rhea Perlman was also in the scene. 

“Wow!!!! she yelled. "What a body!!” 

Saying what no man could say, she put Helen Hunt at ease and broke the spell. 

To sisterhood!

With love,

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