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Iphigenia Rising

A Little Bit Iphy

Two Rules

I’ve got two rules that I live by and I’ve been sharing them a lot in conversation with people, so it’s time I share them here. 

When people find out about the work that I do as a model, pole dancer, and a burlesque performer, one of the reactions that’s really common is concern for my safety. It’s a totally valid concern, but it’s also one of the reactions that causes me a lot of frustration. I’ve worked as a stage manager and a house manager for years. I’ve been in charge of evacuating audiences and offices in case of emergency. I’ve dealt with plenty of crisis situations and I’m a woman who’s lived in the city alone, for goodness sake. Safety is my number one priority. I’ve been put in a lot of compromising situations throughout my live, so I do my damnest to not walk into them (or at least walk into them prepared) as often as possible. 

Rule #1: Don’t be a Dumbass. 

This is my golden rule. It’s a mixture of forethought and awareness, and I use this rule in every aspect of my life, every day. 

Going on a shoot with a new photographer? Don’t be a dumbass, have an on call buddy. 

Walking home late at night? Don’t be a dumbass, walk with purpose on well-lit streets and duck into a public place if someone is tailing you.

Managing a show and a performer gets injured? Don’t be a dumbass, a person’s health is more important than a show.

Know that your schedule is packed for the next three days? Don’t be a dumbass, batch cook your meals NOW. (Your future self and your bank account will thank you later). 

It’s a deceptively simple rule, kind of like using common sense, but I think this rule takes more than that. You have to be two steps ahead of yourself and (when possible) everyone else. It’s constantly asking questions of your circumstances for your own good. 

Okay, then what happens?

Am I familiar with that area? 

Who can I call?

Do I have enough information to take a calculated risk?

Don’t be a Dumbass is also a lot of trusting my gut. If I have a bad feeling about something I just straight up don’t do it. And it’s scary how often I’m right. You don’t always need intellectual evidence to not want to do something or to know that something isn’t the right move. Sometimes you just know. It’s hard to listen to your intuition like that at first, (and to know the difference between intuition and shit like anxiety and paranoia) but once you get a handle on it, it can be a life saver. 

All of this is true because of Rule #2: People are Idiots. 

Now, I’m not saying this to be mean. We are all capable of doing some really, really dumb shit. I’m guilty of being an idiot. Shit happens, we don’t always think shit through–fuck, sometimes we are just plain wrong. 

To me, these two rules are cyclical. At the top of the circle, and at the top of your game, there’s  Not being a Dumbass, and down at the bottom there’s Being an Idiot. You have to work hard at Rule #1 in order to stay out of Rule #2. It’s a sisyphusian effort. I’m not always successful. Sometimes I am an idiot. 

And, the more I think about it, People are Idiots is less about shaming other people for their less-than-thought-out behavior than it is a constant check of my own. I do not want to bring idiotic behavior to my friends, collaborators, and coworkers. I owe it to them to not be a Dumbass. That’s just good work ethic. 

So, those are the two rules I live by. Two sides of the same coin to keep my awareness up and my hustle strong. I hope you might find them useful (or at least amusing) too. 

J-O-B

I’m deleting the word ‘job’ from my vocabulary. 

One thing I’m finding about having a new part time Office Fairy Gig and doing other freelancing stuff is that there is a hierarchy of legitimacy between the different types of work that I don’t find very useful. All of my work is legitimate and I need to be doing all of it in order to make a living. To me, being a rockstar at billing insurance and being a rockstar at posing for a camera are just as much work. (Trust me, both happen on a case by case, moment by moment basis. Both have rules that are meant to be broken). So, for me, referring to one of the four or five of the types of work I do as my ‘job’ isn’t really useful. All of the things are my work. All of them count. 

I barely ever have a day off anymore, which is cool because I’m not trapped in the same environment all the damn time. Yesterday I went to model work. Tomorrow I will go to office fairy work. In the cracks between I’ll be working from home as a dramaturg. And even when I’m “off the clock” I’m usually training for pole/Burlesque/performance work. Work is great. I love all of my work, but I would hate to delegitimizate 75% of my work by calling 25% my ‘job.’ So that word is officially out of my vocabulary. 

It doesn’t help me or anyone else respect my total work appropriately and, quite frankly, my hustle is better when I take this approach. If you’re doing work-especially work you’re getting paid for- that isn’t your ‘job,’ I encourage you to make the same switch. 

Don’t Call Me Pretty*

Because I am well aware of the fact that I am. I am amazed by compliments, or rather, I’m amazed by what people (mostly dudes) think a compliment entitles them to. As a pole dancer, model, burlesque performer, red head, and above all else, a woman, I get complimented a lot. I have a perspective on this frequent experience and it’s outlined below in all of its complicated glory.

On a daily basis, some dude will tell me I’m pretty. When I hear this, I think one thing: Yes, water is wet. He’s not wrong, in fact, I know more than he does how right he is. I am pretty. It’s a statement of the obvious, like the fact that water is wet. It’s just true. I know it in my bones. I mean that literally.

Wow, your abs are great.

Yes, I felt the pain from all the sit ups I did to get them.

Your ass is perfect.

Yes, I do I lot of squats.

Your tattoos are so–

Yes, I worked with an artist to design them and place them exactly where I want them on my body and we talked about Halloween parties and ex-boyfriends while she injected the ink into my skin.

You make such great poses.

Yes, I’ve been dancing my whole life, I know how to move through space.

You really know how to work with that (insert costume/prop/architecture here).

Yes, I have Viewpoints and clown training. I’m a theater kid. I know how to be in relationship with things around me.

You’re so pretty. 

Yes. I know. I am well aware of this fact, just as I am aware that the sky is blue. And while stating the obvious to me is not a cardinal sin, there are some other pieces involved in the Instance of a Compliment that are problematic.

Pretty privilege is real. I experience it all the time. People give me shit because I am pretty. People are nice to me because I’m pretty. But this privilege is a double-edged sword and I expend a lot of labor out in the world because of it. People also assume something about my level of intelligence because I am pretty. They assume things about my sexuality. They assume things about my sexual history.

I work as a model. Pretty privilege puts a roof over my head and food on my table and I am not complaining about any of that. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As a freelancer, I do research, I edit people’s writing, I dramaturg, and I model. Guess what earns the most money? The one that is the resource that lots of people want: prettiness. And not only do I have this privilege and use it to my economic benefit, I also am fully, irrevocably aware that I have this resource and that it is one of the many things I can use to live.

When some random dude calls me pretty a few things happen:

  1. They think they are telling me new information. With every compliment, especially from total strangers, there’s this air of She Has Never Been Told This Before. Actually, the only new thing is who is saying it to me. I’ve heard, “You’re so prettybeautifulgorgeousstunningohwow,” plenty of times. Most likely, I will only hear it from you once. Knowing that I am pretty puts me in an interesting position. I don’t beg for compliments, I don’t pretend that there is much of anything special about these kinds of interactions because they are frequent and usually meaningless. Some might say this makes me jaded, I say it makes me practical because:
  2. Once the compliment has been given, there is a sense that the Compliment Giver is now owed something. The something they get is usually, “Yes, thank you.” Even this, not just saying, “thank you,” but adding a “Yes,” in front, throws people for a loop. They don’t expect me to agree with them, because like I said, this is supposed to be new information to me. It’s not. I’m loud about the fact that it’s not. When this doesn’t work out the way the Compliment Giver wants it to, when I don’t show undying gratitude for the obvious information that just came out of their face, they try again. They dig themselves into awkward holes about how my hair looks amazing, just like their sister’s. So you want to fuck your sister? I let it get awkward. They started it. I can end it.
  3. It is this idea that anything more than an acknowledgment that words were said to me, despite their obvious nature, that gets to me. Like I said, my prettiness is a resource that earns me money. As the owner of this resource, the most that you can reasonably expect me to do in response to such a compliment is to hold out my hand with an itching palm, asking you to pay me. No you cannot just have my resource because you mentioned that it exists. A smile costs ten dollars.

Now, some of you might think that all of this is jaded or bitter or mean of me. It’s really not. This attitude was forged for many reasons, among them are my safety, my sanity, and that hearing the same basic thing over and over again is incredibly boring. What would I rather hear instead of “You’re pretty?”

Ask me a question.

What time is it?

When does the next bus come?

What parts of this costume do you want to accentuate?

What story are you trying to tell?

Where did you get those shoes?

Ask me literally any question. I like questions more than compliments for a few reasons:

1. You have to think up a question to ask me. That takes more engagement and brain power than it does to observe something and blurt out the observation.

2. You actually have to listen for an answer. You have to remain engaged in a way that you won’t be if you’re just listening for acceptance of a compliment. You don’t know what to expect. You have no idea what I’ll say. (This is half of the reason I have started to say things other than just “thank you” to compliments. It throws people back into the present moment).

3. Asking a question means you are bringing less assumptions to our conversation than giving me a compliment does. A question, at it’s base level, is an admission that you don’t know something and not knowing is fantastic. We should all do more of it. It rocks. A compliment assumes that I want to be told this information and, like I said, it often assumes that I am straight/single/looking for love at a bus stop in Ballard. (If you must know, I am: not straight/perpetually single/ and definitely not looking for love at a bus stop anywhere).

In short, compliments are cheap. Questions are expensive. I am an expensive person. My time, energy, looks, and thoughts are valuable to me. I do not like wasting them. I do my best to avoid wasting them. Come at me with content and with an intent that is something other than, “I want to get inside you,” Because you won’t ever get that, especially if your first words to me are some variation of, “You’re so pretty.”

Yes, water is wet. Tell me something I don’t already know.

*Pretty is used as a stand in for all related adjectives including but not limited to: beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, strong, stellar, interesting-looking, perfect.

 

My Shop

Absence of shirt and shoes is acceptable.

But Whatever you do,

Keep the bulls out of my China shop, 

Because I am too tired to piece all of these 

Delicate dishes back together

So that others might eat off them.

They tell me how beautiful, 

How well crafted each cup, 

saucer, and plate is,

But it is also insisted that they live in a cabinet.

They are only to be used for special occasions

Or to be shattered by a bull who gets too close…

By accident of course.

Absence of shirt and shoes is acceptable. 

Goodness knows we might as be comfortable 

Among the shards of glass. 

The Fuck It List

In my One Year of Pole Dance post, I mentioned that pole dancing was a kind of bucket list item for me when I started. Whenever I say this to my older friends, I am met with squinty eyes and assured voices that say, “You’re too young to have a bucket list.” And that’s true. Last night, mid-photo shoot, I figured out what I actually mean and what to call this brand of risk-taking. 

I have a Fuck It List. Fuck is the only word in the English language that means both to ‘make love to’ and ‘to do great damage to’ (thank you Derrick Jensen for this beautiful definition). Items on the Fuck It List are both attractive and repulsive. There is something terrifying about them, but they draw you to them with a mixture of curiosity and beauty. For me, they are things that make me think, “That’s crazy….I want that.” 

Pole dance was an item on my Fuck It List. Nude modeling was yet another and I threw myself into that yesterday. Just like pole, I was Good Nervous beforehand. (I make distinctions between Good and Bad Nerves, due to the fact that regular nervousness and anxious nervousness feel very different in my body and mind. Good Nervous is not a cause for alarm). I was also incredibly excited and, as it was with pole, I fell into the activity naturally. All of it was surprisingly easy. Don’t get me wrong, modeling is exhausting work, but it is too much fun to be difficult. 

So, on the stairs of a parking garage near Seattle Center, posing naked with the Space Needle in the background, as the camera clicked and my arms and shoulders twisted,    I realized that I had checked off yet another item on the Fuck It List. I didn’t know that I needed to do fine are nude modeling (especially in front of the fucking space needle) but I definitely did and thank fucking God I am doing it. 

The thing about Fuck It List items is that they are scary. But then you get into them and they aren’t so scary. They rock. They feed your soul (and if they’re the right kind of thing, feed your wallet too). Fuck It Lists are not about hopes and dreams, they are about doing the thing that you love and are scared shitless of. The thing that you don’t quite know if you can do or not. And the only way to find out is to go for it. 

I am in the process of fully articulating my Fuck It List. It’s not long. One has to be strategic about their risk taking. That being said, I fully encourage everyone to make a Fuck It List. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. 

We get this life once. Be bad ass. Fuck it. 

One Year of Pole Dance

Today marks one year since I started pole dancing. Holy crap.

I started pole dancing on a whim. It was kind of a bucket list thing, even though I’m well aware that I’m too young to have a formal bucket list. Pole was one of those things that I always had been interested in, but wasn’t sure when to try it. So last year I told myself that when I was strong enough to make it through a whole Pure Barre class without dying/stopping, I could sign up for pole. And I did.

I went to my first class alone, which is a fact that baffles most people. I clearly remember busing down to SODO, into the middle of Sketchville, thinking, “This thing better be worth it.” It was. It continues to be. Sketchville isn’t so bad after all…most of the time.

This year has been amazing. When I started I remember only hoping that I would be able to do things that are easy for me now. I’ve accomplished each one of my pole goals, and pretty much have been on time with all of them (as far as my goal setting standards are concerned. And yes, my standards are pretty ridiculous). From inverting to wearing eight inch heels like it’s (mostly) nothing, each thing I find that I can do surprises me and makes me stupid happy. I can barely fathom what is possible within another year or two and I can’t wait to see what more time, dedication, and work results in.

Also, starting pole on a whim has made it that much easier for me to try whatever the hell I want in other aspects of my life too. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen? This attitude is lovely and freeing, but perhaps a little dangerous. Point is, whatever you’re curious about: DO IT. Stop spending tons of time thinking about, “What if…” and just go. The worst that can happen is that you find out it’s not for you.

If you are interested in pole dance, please, please come join us. I promise you won’t regret the crazy good things this art form can do for your life or the bruises you’ll get in the process. Pole life is really good.

Now. I’m gonna drink wine and have a tiny celebration.*

Bottoms up.

Iphy

*Do not be a dumb ass and pole drunk. Nothing good will ever come of that.

5 Big Things Since Quitting My Job

Time sure flies when you turn your life upside down. Here’s a list of everything that I’ve accomplished since I decided to make a hard u-turn six weeks ago and change my whole life:

  1. I’ve started my own business. This is at the top of the list because I never thought that I would actually do this, or that I would do it this soon. Surprise! Starting my own business was really, really easy. So many of the skills I needed to set up shop and take care of the legalese, tax, and banking tasks were things that I had learned from working in administration. The biggest difference was that this time I wasn’t doing it for my employer and I wasn’t running in circles trying to get all the information I needed for applications. I had all the information because I was doing it for myself. Buck stops here. Fantastic. Now that all of that is taken care of, I get to do the fun part: building a clientele base and networking like crazy. (Insert shameless self-promotion here:) If you’re writing something and you need killer feedback on it, which you definitely do, you should comment below and chat with me to book something with me so we can make sure you’re saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a play, a fan-fiction, or something weird that I haven’t even thought I would ever help to research or edit, bring it to me. I want it. Gimme shit to read, people. In return you’ll get professional feedback or research that will blow your mind. I promise.
  2. I’m making art like crazy. By the end of next month I will have danced in three different shows. I have choreographed my own shit for all of them. I have started stage managing again. Again, by the end of June, I will have been in performances for five weeks straight. Doesn’t matter if I’m covered in glitter or wearing blacks. A year ago I would have said you were full of shit if you told me I would be doing this many shows all at once. It’s great. I’m also writing like crazy (if you couldn’t tell) and my plays are actually getting the attention they deserve. That is definitely a miracle.
  3. I’m part of a community again. This is huge. Working a nine-to-five job that was not arts-centric really divorced me from the community that I really care about. I’m amazed, honored, and truly grateful that it’s been so easy to jump back in. The Seattle arts community has its issues, as every community does, but damn, y’all sure are happy to let a girl come back after a few years of her being distant as hell. I’m over the moon to be working hard for lovely people again. It’s also wonderful to know that people have my back and are willing to help me and be creative on my behalf. Whether that’s problem solving or collaboration or helping me get a gig to put food on the table, it’s all there and it rocks.
  4. Dealing with my shit. I’m gonna say it again: I suck at down time. The biggest reason that I suck at having free time is that when I have nothing to do, I can’t avoid dealing with my anxiety and having all of this free time has forced me to grapple with things that I would normally avoid while running around like a chicken with my head cut off. There’s been no avoiding it. Grapple, I must. It has been scary because I’ve had long periods of down time before that did not go well, but this time around is actually headed in a positive direction. I’m more solution focused this time and while I’m not 100% successful 100% of the time, I am addressing core issues as opposed to just putting band-aids all over the place. It’s nice. Without getting into gorey details, here are some thoughts: Therapy rocks. Be honest about your feelings. Cry. Do some yoga and do it regularly. Eat protein. Cry again. Boundaries are your best friends. Don’t put your energy into things/people/places that don’t give you energy back.
  5. I’m learning a lot. There have been some big questions that have come out of this whole experience. Some of them are quite practical like, “What do I do next?” “How do I make money now?” And others are more abstract and have more of a long view. The biggest one of these is, “What does success mean for me? What does it look like?” What I’m discovering is that my definition of success does not look a whole lot like what many people would categorize as success. I’m done with administration as a full time career. I can’t rot in an office for my whole life. Unfortunately, lots of people think that cushy office jobs are what success looks like. I am not those people. I value different things. I value variety, spontaneity, and work that, while challenging, doesn’t feel like work because it’s too damn interesting/fun/insane to feel like it. It’s a different way of earning money. It’s inconsistent and takes some different thinking and strategizing, but you know what? I’m happier. I’m way less stressed. And I’m definitely not bored.

I’m sure there’s more than these five things. I know there’s more, but a lot of it probably won’t really make sense for a while. Stuff is still up in the air. I’m not quite settled into a new life pattern yet, but I’m getting close and it’s fantastic. As always, thanks for joining me for the ride.

Iphy

Christmas in Vegas

The first Christmas that my sister and I lived in Vegas was nothing like I expected it would be. When I first moved out there, I had visions of perfect peace– closure with my mom’s death, happiness to finally be getting to know my father–but that was all grossly ambitious. My father doesn’t celebrate holidays. I should have known better.

Dad decided that he needed to work on Christmas, so at 10am he drove my sister and me to the Fashion Show mall on the strip, handed us each two hundred dollars, and said, “Have fun!” As he drove away from us in the parking garage.

For those of you who haven’t been to Vegas, the Fashion Show mall is huge. It spans basically a whole city block (Whatever you’re thinking of as a city block, expand that by three times and then you’ll have a Vegas City Block), and has almost every store you can think of.

We were happy enough to go shopping. I mean, getting to pick out our own presents meant that we would only get stuff that we really wanted. In later years, when I was living with guardian families, I constantly got presents that I had no use for. One such relic that still lives in my closet is this hideous magenta rain coat that a guardian’s family thought would be great for me. I don’t know why they thought red hair and pink coat would be a good combo, but they did. I haven’t replaced it because I’m cheap as hell. So in my closet it stays.

The problem with this first Christmas was that we were left at the mall for my dad’s entire work day. Eight hours with no escape. After about the first three hours of shopping, we got cranky. And bored. And bought shit just to buy shit. It was weird. I remember us having to drag each other to the food court (located all the way on one side of the mall) for sustenance. As we sat and ate we really didn’t know what else to do. We bought everything we wanted, but it didn’t really feel rewarding? Like Christmas? Where was the wrapping paper? The cheesy cards?

I think even then, as teenagers, we knew that the stuff and the money spent on the stuff wasn’t the point. Thank goodness I had my sister with me. The only thing worse than being dropped off on the strip together would have been getting dropped off there alone.

Mother’s Day

Eleven. This is my eleventh Mother’s Day without my mom. Usually, I boycott every form of social media during this weekend because I don’t like to see all the memes, all the posts on walls, all the reminders to be good sons and daughters. Those of us without parents don’t exist in this cute little holiday world. But this year I am making an effort to do something different.

Losing my mother at age fifteen taught me a lot of things. Most of these things we don’t talk about a lot and the English language doesn’t allow for much conversation around these topics. (The principle response to “My mother passed away,” is “I’m sorry,” to which I always want to say, “Me too?” “I’m sorry,” is the best we’ve got for death, which is unfortunate.) Chief among all the things I learned is this: You get people once. Yes, you get to know people for a certain duration of time, whether that’s five minutes or fifty years, but even the people who stick with you for a lifetime are only there for that one lifetime. Fifty, sixty, seventy years is a blink of an eye in our vast universe. Fifteen years is fucking short. You get people once.

Despite having my mother with me for the first fifteen years of my life, I feel like I had one moment with her. One chance to learn how her smile lifted the wrinkles around her eyes, how the veins ran across her thin hands, what her voice sounded like, and what her favorite foods were. How much more could I learn with one more chance?

So my advice to all of you on Mother’s Day is not to do something extra-special, you don’t have to worship people, you don’t have to feel obligated to do something commercial because of a clearly commercialized holiday, but on this and every other day you get be present with your moms. Be present with everyone who you love every chance you get. Take them in like you will never get another chance to learn how their laugh sounds. How they part their hair. Where they pause in their sentences. What they are afraid of. Just be present to all of it because one day your time to learn about and be present with that human being will be up.

Now, this isn’t a guilt trip. If you don’t talk to your mother or father for the sake of your own sanity, don’t do it. Don’t give yourself to people who don’t fill you up. There’s no reason to stay present to a situation where the bullshit out-ways the benefit.

There’s also no reason that this shouldn’t apply to the families we’ve chosen for ourselves. My mother was my introduction to strong, bad-ass mothers. I have met many more since she passed and I am grateful for every one of them. Goddesses in blue jeans. Women with shit to do and people to care for. I will be doing my best to be present to them this weekend because God knows they deserve it.

Be there for your people. Soak up everything that you can. Enjoy each other. This universe is huge and I think that when we get someone good handed to us–by blood or by circumstance–we best pay attention to that person.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Much Love,

Iphy

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