I was sitting at dinner after performing in Hudson Valley Sticky. It was a Saturday night, and I was tipsy enough that I’d decided to order fettucine alfredo, complain about how big the portion was, and eat the whole thing.
I was sitting across from Ali, my close friend and frequent collaborator, and we were feeling good. We’d performed my short play AutoMoron and got big laughs. We’d watched the Hudson Valley Sticky team make a spooktacularly fun Halloween edition of Sticky, complete with strong, inventive writing, risk-taking performances, and direction that made use of the whole space. Next to me was an actor from the show, and I told him how great he was, and we congratulated each other in that merry way that performers have after a show when they’re still riding high on the rush of laughs and audience engagement.
Next to him, was another man, who had been at the show, but who I hadn’t met. It was a relaxed, congenial atmosphere, until that man said “look at her boob.”
My God I was taken aback. I realized suddenly he was talking about my boob, and telling the actor to look at it. I looked down at my shirt-covered boob and spotted my little blue butterfly pin, pinned above my boob.
“It’s a blue butterfly,” he said.
“I wear it in memory of my grandmother,” I said, trying to regain a footing in a conversation that went from comfortable and fun to belittling.
He ignored me, and spoke to his friend. I gathered that they’d been collaborating on a screen play rife with imagery that keeps popping up for them in real life, like this blue butterfly. I didn’t understand what this had to do with my boob, but I felt small, I felt put in my place, I felt really bad. The men continued speak of their men business. Ali flashed me a look across the table. She’d taken in that whole thing, and also didn’t know what to say. They spoke of other imagery in the script.
I wanted to say something that would make him as uncomfortable as he made me. I thought, I could make a crack about his body, about his penis, for example, but men talk about their penises all the time, and it doesn’t seem to make them uneasy, quite the opposite in fact. I thought about what makes men universally uncomfortable.
“What else comes up in the script, ‘storks,” the man said.
I piped up from the dark corner I felt trapped in, trapped with my boob and butterfly. “My son and I were recently talking about storks. He asked me if that’s where babies come from so I told him all about vaginas.”
The conversation stopped. But I felt great. Talk of women’s bodies below the waist make men universally uncomfortable (and if you’re one of the rare men who is not made uncomfortable by vaginal talk, whoop-de-doo for you, Jeff Lebowski). The man didn’t say anything, so I expanded on this conversation I’d had with my son (who does not appear to be uncomfortable when we speak of vaginas), and explained how vaginal muscles expand and contract based on need. I made a joke about labium.
The man left the table under some excuse and didn’t come back.
I ate an entire plate of fettucine alfredo.
Fuck that guy.