The play delves into the schizoid nature of contemporary values, values that are based on ever shifting ideologies, emotional vagaries, and principals that have the shelf-life of un-organic milk.
Contemporary Western thought is fractured. Science thinks its battle is with religion, religion thinks its battle is with non-conventional lifestyles, liberals and conservatives think they are battling each other.
Where is the fallout from all of this? How are we simple humans meant to navigate these treacherous waters?
We all read lots of news, lots of fake news, and lots of articles written by the barely-credentialed and over-credentialed on facebook, twitter, where ever else. Each day we are bombarded with perspectives that scream their own rightness.
In Puff Puff, I decided to take two co-workers, who are blown about by the winds of change much like Dante’s adulterers Paulo and Francesca, to see what happened to them when they are confronted with the realities of schizoid America.
I’ve always been a big believer in research, ever since my Sarah Lawrence days of hundred page, year long conference papers, so for this play I decided to pull together some facts before jumping in.
The water was cold, and the research served as something of a wet suit as I slid under the dark surface.
As I wrote, I began to realize what the play is really about. It’s about taking action and making decisions without a dedicated moral framework in which to do so.
What are women supposed to base their decisions and opinions on when the ground is in a perpetual state of undulation?
Are we supposed to protect our virtue? Be sexually liberated by sleeping with everyone? Are we wuppose to value sex as a part of intimacy? Or is sex just another fun thing that we are meant to engage in whenever the mood strikes us? All or none of the above?
Should we value our sober sense and clear-headeded-ness and use those qualities to make decisions? Should we get intoxicated and revel in our freedom to do so, regardless of the potential consequences in a violent world? Should we interact with the world the way we think it ought to be or should we take the nature of the world into account when we thrust ourselves upon its mercy? Should we anticipate that the people we encounter will have our best interests at heart or should we guard ourselves against them, and their unknown interests?
Are consequences to our actions something we should accept and deal with, or should we be finding ways out of consequences? Do we believe that actions we take should have consequences, or do we believe that we should be able to correct for actions whose consequences are not what we want? Ought we think an action through to its various potential results, weigh those results against our wants, and proceed accordingly, or should we take action according to how we feel at a given time and then combat any unpleasant consequences when we feel those consequences are unjust?
Should we look out for each other? Walk each other home at the end of the night? Let each other wander off with strangers, in search of a good lay? Should we cover up or show it off? Spit or swallow?
Should we embrace social norms of femininity or reject it? Should we try to emulate men in order to gain power in the workplace or should we play submissive and use sexuality to get the upper hand? Should we adjust our hemlines according to what we want those hemlines to achieve?
Are hemlines really up to the job? Lip glosses? Mascaras? Do we blush only when embarrassed, are our cheeks only to meant to be rosy from exposure to fresh air? Or should we rouge it up? Take it off or put it on?
Do we own our bodies and take pride in them? Do we alter them and take pride in that?
To shave or not to shave your pussy, that is the question. To dye or not dye your hair, change your eye color, enhance your bust, ass, tighten, slim, gap.
All or none of the above?
Being female in America is a messed up thing to be these days. Women get paid less, have worse jobs, end up having to sacrifice more monetary and careerist gains than men in the name of child bearing/child rearing. We are looked down upon for being too feminine, or for being too masculine. Skinny girls are shamed, so are fat ones. Girls in the middle feel like shit. Women aren’t even women. Anyone can be a woman who wants to be a woman, who feels like a woman.
I am a woman, and I have no idea what feeling like a woman feels like. Sometimes it feels like I wish I had bigger boobs. Sometimes it feels like I wish I had a penis. Sometimes both. Sometimes it feels like I wish I were an astronaut and lived in a solitary space base on the moon with a mountain of mystery novels, Murakami, and Dostoyevsky. Sometimes I sleep. Sometimes I bleed. Sometimes I want to destroy things, or nurture, or be in charge, or be cared for. I don’t do my nails, or make-up, or wear uncomfortable clothes. I wear my hair long because my hair dresser raised her rates. Sometimes I want to hang with my kid, sleep around, be monogamous, cook big meals, eat out. I’m addicted to chapstick.
The messages we get from media, parents, spouses, children, partners, friends, hook-ups, bosses, co-workers, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, professors, mentors, bartenders, Oprah, Whoopie, are all different. They all stand on vastly different soap boxes while they shout out their pronouncements of what a woman ought to be, do, look like, feel, want, say, vote.
The ladies in Puff Puff are caught in the middle. Not too pretty, thin, ugly, fat, smart, well-paid, married, un-married… They don’t know who they are, they don’t know what they should want to be, they aren’t even in control of their own fantasies.
What is it to be female in America?
How ought we make decisions in a society with no shared morality? (Even “do not kill” is up for grabs.)
What is offensive about the play is that it’s not polite to talk about these things in what passes for polite society. What is offensive about the play is that no matter how far we’ve come since the first wavers burned their bras in the quad, women are not meant to speak up intellectually on ideologies that affect everything from what we should do with our children to what we should do with our pussies and power suits.
If you believe that women are offensive when they step out of bounds, then you will find Puff Puff offensive. If, on the other hand, you believe that all ideas are open for discussion, that the schizophrenia of the female experience in the US is ripe for real discourse, then you will welcome this play.
You can even buy tickets. We have two shows next week. I play a woman in the play.
My mom bought me this jacket when I was maybe 16 and we went skiing. I picked pink because the store was out of yellow and my mom thought it would be too hard to spot me on the slopes in the navy blue. I wasn’t a fan of pink, am not now. But the jacket is still good. So I wear it despite its pinkness. That feels relevant to lady-ness/not-lady-ness somehow. Also the thing about how I’m still wearing a jacket that I wore in my youth feels relevant to those feelings as well. It’s so odd being a person.