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Thursday, March 06, 2014

The 7 Words my Son Said That Broke My Heart

Just yesterday, I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. He was 8 lbs 7 oz. 22 inches long and with all his fingers and toes. A beautiful, healthy baby. Holy sh*t, did he blindside me. I never thought I could love anything as I much as I did that baby boy. Well, guess what? Said baby boy was 20 years old when he moved out. Away... from home. I've had good and bad days since he left. I was sad a lot. 20 years of taking care of him. Feeding, clothing, bathing... wait, I stopped that when he was a toddler. That's the wine talking. I look around and see so many of my younger friends in the midst of it all. How frazzled they all look. The baby years: When all you do is look at this thing you and your hubby made and wonder at the miracle of it all. They are totally dependent on you. The toddler years: When they take their first step away from you and become their own little person the first time they say no. The child years: The most fun years where everything they do is done with such joy. Oh, and the hugs and kisses. The tween years: The aforementioned joy is now DRAMA at every waking moment. You start thinking, why did I get pregnant? And you have to tell them "I promise I won't kiss you in front of your friends." The teen years: I was lucky, he was a great teenager. But for the rest of you... You really start worrying Who is this satan's spawn I gave birth to? And then, just like that, they leave. No warning at all. "Mom, it's time for me to go" Seven words that broke my heart, sniff. Him leaving home meant a various amount of things to me. He was an adult, I was getting older, I would actually have to talk to my husband. I knew this was the part of parenting that sucks. You hear other people say "Push them out of the nest and see them fly." I really don't know how birds do it. I bet when no one is looking there's a group of canaries drinking out of a spiked water fountain lamenting the loss of their chick. Look, I KNEW it was the right thing, but it's like one day we were driving along at this fast clip and suddenly, we screeched to a halt. Truth is, I missed him A LOT. My heart ached and I pulled away too just to make his transition easier. Don't even get me started on what THAT does to a Jewish mother. NOT being able to hover??? Oh, the humanity... I DIDN'T WANT TO STOP MOTHERING!!! I liked it too much. Everything about it. The dirty faces, the spills, the fights, the tears, the birthday parties, the house full of noisy kids after a little league game. I could go on, but you get my point. So, I made peace with it and said to my son Layne, "You're the light of my world, go out and soar kid, show 'em what you're made of. I'm already so proud of you." Fast-forward about a year later. Imagine my surprise around October of last year when my son mentioned to me that he was unhappy with his living arrangements. I had to word my response carefully, even though I was bursting at the seams, thrilled that my son wanted to return home. "Well," I said "If you really need to come home, I guess we'll make room." (Of course I wanted to do a happy dance right then and there but I held myself back.) A lot of my friends couldn't believe that I was letting him move back home. "What about your new-found freedom?" Yes, empty nesters, this is what you will hear when your child moves away: Freedom, vacations, hours of uninterrupted sex! Let's go over these, shall we? Freedom? From what? I still paid for his cell phone and groceries AND he came home to eat at least twice a week. Vacation? I'm a comedian, we don't DO vacations. My vacation is when I go on the road. And uninterrupted sex? Are you kidding me? I live with my mother-in-law who has no boundaries, so let's not even go there. To be honest, I am a nurturer, I like taking care of people, the more the merrier. When he moved out we of course did what every empty nester does -- we made his room into an office. We live in NYC where space is premium, so an extra room was heaven. And as much as we wanted him home my husband & I were not too thrilled about having to share our "office". It didn't help when he actually said to me, "Can't you move the computer back to your room?" And in typical New York style I told my son "Go Fuck Yourself" And yes, he still wanted to move back. During the holidays when he spent more time at our home then his own, I could tell he was ready to be mothered again. My favorite part of the holidays was when he and a bunch of kids he went to high school with showed up and just hung out for a few hours. For those brief moments, I was den mother all over again. Pizza was brought in, beer now instead of juice boxes and when they left to go to a party the house looked destroyed as it always did back then. And I smiled... he's home.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Aging out of My Career originally posted at Huffington Post 50

I have been a standup comedian since the fall of 1980. Back then, it was a novelty to be one. Hell, no one really understood what a standup comic was. And the only women hugely successful at that time were Phyllis Diller & Joan Rivers. My how times have changed. In the 30-odd years I have been slinging jokes, television had a run of comics in front of brick wall shows, comedy clubs opened all over America and oh yeah, the Internet. When I started out, you waited outside the club you wanted to work at all day, waiting for a number in which you then came back at the end of the night for the privilege of going onstage. It was a lot like waiting for tickets for a concert back then. I met some great comics on that line, Margaret Smith and Rita Rudner were just two. Paul Reiser was hosting, Bill Maher was one of the regulars, and a young guy named Jerry Seinfeld was the comic you HAD to see. If and when you got passed at the club you were given the lovely opportunity of going on late in the evening to a bunch of drunks. And that's how you got strong. Night after night, onstage with no-one paying attention to you. Sometimes the crowd was louder than you, sometimes you ducked from someone throwing a beer bottle during a fight. All in the name of getting your 10 minutes of jokes funnier. Eventually I ended up doing the New Jersey one-nighters. And that's exactly what it sounds like. Some restaurant with a room in the back with a bar figured "Hey it's empty here during the week, let's do a comedy show." We got paid, we got fed, we were in heaven. Around the late 80s comedy exploded. And we were all basking in the new found fame that standup comedy had brought. I did every TV show that showcased comedy in one year. I knew that returning to these shows would take another year so I decided to become pregnant. I was told being pregnant would ruin my career. Funny thing, I was back on television three months after my son was born. Nowadays there are a huge amount of comics with kids. Back then it was unheard of. I lived my life performing on the road and it was starting to get to me, leaving my young son at home. So to give him somewhat of a normal childhood, I moved to Las Vegas to work in production shows. Yes, you read that right, Las Vegas & NORMAL childhood. Except for the fact mommy was the dirty comic in a burlesque show, my son had a very ordinary upbringing. Little League, school performances, friends that lived around the corner. I was 48 when I moved back to New York City; it's been seven years since I left Sin City. You do the math, but I ain't getting any younger. My husband and I had pined for NYC since we left it all those years ago. We wanted to come home and so we did. New York changed since I left all those years ago and so has comedy. It is no longer an artist's game, it's for the masses now. And if there's one thing today's society has been programmed for, it's that old people don't matter. Being over 50 means you are this close to death. I see it when people look at me in the streets, when I walk into a clothes store, when I turn on the television or watch a film. Occasionally we get something starring Helen Mirren or Judi Dench and us oldsters jump, (ok maybe not jump, we could hurt ourselves) for joy. Truth be told, sexism is a piece of cake compared to ageism. At least I got whistled at when I was younger. Now the wind whistles through my thinning hair. So when DID the ageism start? Lucille Ball was 40 when she created I Love Lucy in 1951. She went to become one of the most influential people in television and was revered until her death at 78. The thing about the days of early television was that everyone was given chances (no one really knew what they were doing) and from that great TV was born. Mentally I don't feel any older, physically it's day by day. Hanging out at a comedy club till the wee hours just isn't fun anymore and that's where a lot of my business takes place. Oh I can still drink anyone under the table doing shots of Patron but my recovery is now about a week. I start yawning around the time The Daily Show is ending. I have traveled thousands of miles across the USA and around the world to make people laugh. I'm tired. The problem is that I still love being a comic. It has been part of my life for over 30 years. You know the saying "Everyone's a comedian?" These days, everyone IS. Right now, somewhere, someone is thinking to themselves I make my friends laugh, I'm gonna make a video and put it up on You Tube and it'll go viral. That's where Hollywood is looking for their talent these days. I can't compete with youth, nor do I want to. What am I going to say to the powers that be, "Hey I'm old and wrinkly but I have wisdom!" I'm proud of my age and refuse to bow down to the gods of plastic surgery. Nothing is scarier than an old person with a wrinkly body but with a face you can skate on. I've been told that mentioning my age will hurt my career. Yeah right, just like "having a baby" did all those years ago. It IS a young person's game. So maybe it's time to throw in the towel and find something new. But the catch here is because of the rampant ageism in TV & film, the "real world" has been told not to look at us boomers either. Slowly I have been moving away from standup comedy which makes me sad. I am doing more directing & producing shows, mentoring young comics, a lot more writing. At least with writing, no one can say, "get me a good looking 22 year old". Well, if they did, I would just say, "give me a minute to write her in". In the seven years since I've returned to NYC I have seen so many people who were just finding their way as young comics blossom into huge successes. Getting onstage every night, writing new jokes, honing their material. And that's the way it should be. I'm just hoping one of them will let me play their mom... or grandma.