Once upon a time, I was a baby aerialist living in San Francisco. I wrote black-hat SEO copy online for $10/hour to pay for circus classes, I lived in an apartment with 3 other relative strangers which smelled ubiquitously of skunk weed, and took the bus for an hour each way to get to Circus Center. I was poor, but I was doing the thing. I felt victorious and free, even though my hands and feet frequently went numb in my sleep and I couldn't afford honey. I spent my free time wandering through the city, admiring architecture and the beautiful wares offered in shop windows, finding little pockets of the city that were soft and beautiful, and many that were sharp and painful.
One early evening, I saw a big party tent up near the opera house by the civic center. Curious, and of course thinking "what if it's circus?!" I started walking that way. A man was in front of me in black tie dress and mirror-shiny shoes, very posh, and he seemed to be headed that direction. I caught up with him and said,
"Hi! Excuse me, are you going to that tent?"
He looked at me as though the postal box had just asked him a question and replied, "Yes..."
"What's going on in there?"
The look of incredulity on his face I'll never forget. He just couldn't believe a dirty little urchin like me was addressing him. He refused to make eye contact. "It's the beginning of the social season."**
**the SOCIAL SEASON?! Who the hell even talks like that? Have any of you ever heard of the "social season"?!
Me, refusing to leave him alone, "what's the social season?"
Him, exasperated, "tonight is the opening gala for the opera, it kicks off the social season."
"Can I buy a ticket at the door?"
"You kind of have to be someone to get in. Excuse me." And then he sped up and disappeared into the sparkley tent of wonders.
YES HE ACTUALLY SAID THAT TO ME. YOU HAVE TO BE SOMEONE TO GET IN.
I lingered at the doorway of the tent, the guests had not begun to arrive in force yet. The inside was draped in red and white, empty glasses sparkling on the tables. The security guard was an oversized, good natured looking man, so I chatted him up for a bit and he was a hell of a lot more polite than the man in the tuxedo. I asked him if I could get in- he smiled apologetically. He said he couldn't let me in, each seat cost $250. I thanked him and left to walk home in my dirty clothes and flip flops.
I got home. I pulled a cocktail dress out of my closet that I got on sale for $20 at Marshall's. I did my hair and makeup, and put on the garnet jewelry my step dad had given me for Christmas that year. I put on my best 2nd hand heels and the wrap I found on a park bench the week before (yeah I had washed it first).
I took the bus back to civic center. I straightened my spine and walked as though I had somewhere to be. I fell in with a crowd of fabulously dressed people, and walked right the fuck into that fancy party. No one batted an eye.
I ate their food. I danced with their tuxedoed men. I laughed and talked to old women dripping in diamonds who cursed more than me and had interesting accents. I drank their wine. I caught a ride home at the end of the night at a reasonable hour and that was the end of that.
And I'll tell you...I was disappointed that the experience hadn't had more of an effect on me. It was just ok. It wasn't a great party, it was just a fancy party. There was much talk of investments and vacations, but no one talked about art or sex or seemed impressed with the quality of the wine. So I was kind of...bored.
In fact, the best part? Was leaving. I asked my ride to wait for a second, then I went back up to the friendly security guard at the front door, the same man I had talked to before. I leaned in and stared at him meaningfully, and said,
"Hey...have a great night, sir."
He looked at me confusedly, then the shock of recognition hit his face and he exploded into laughter. I grinned at him and clipped off in my heels to the sound of him laughing in the distance.
I know I usually wrap these stories up with some meaningful lesson, but I won't this time because I didn't really learn anything new. You can draw your own conclusions, but you already know those things too. So maybe this story is just something true that happened to me that underscores what you already know.
Own your world and your place in it. If you believe it, so will they.
Well I guess I did wrap it up in a bow didn't I? Hey did you know that if you were on my email list, you'd get stories like this one (and others possibly more relevant to you) as well as tips, tricks, announcements about upcoming workshops and applications, and a bit of woo as well? Not saying it will save your life but, you know. It could save your life.