I’ve been coming up on stage trying to make people laugh, think about human relationships, or acknowledge mental health for a little over 3 years now. I try to do the first one the most, because I think there is a countless number of people better at the latter two then me, but I still have to acknowledge what I find important so I write about the other two pretty often. In the two open mic communities I attend (and they are both communities) there are people who address race, sexuality, body image, politics, civil rights, perception, the universe, fallacies we all fall into, rape culture, safety, love, abuse, war, suicide, and anything they think is worth standing up for. I’ve learned so much about how to love myself, how give support, and glimpses of what it’s like to live out of my white straight cis male body.
Today has been a weird day. A customer today kept calling me babe, baby, etc to a degree that bothered me more than I’d like to admit. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t ask her to stop. I handed her the coffee, and she was gone. Later that night I was discussing the changes in my work schedule to family member. Making conversation during the game. I mentioned the only time I really wanted off was wednesday nights for one open mic I attend, and on thursday nights for the open mic I run and occasionally host. His response, after dismissing my priorities, was ‘who will remember in 4 years?’
Like I said, I’ve only been attending these open mics for a little over 3 years now, but I still remember my first slam at OU Write Club. I dressed up for it, I put a cheap dress shirt, cheap tie, and a pair of chinos. I dragged my now roommate there, because I was too nervous to go alone. Even when competition started and I knew there were only five competitors, two of which grandmotherly figures who only intended to read during the open mic, I was still shaking. I remember my twitchy leg, my bouts with anxiety, fidgeting and picking at my sleeves. When Eric called my name, I blinked and was at the microphone. I spent all week memorizing my poems so I could make eye contact with the room. As the words spilled out of my shaking body, I looked around the room and my fellow competitors were listening, the open mic writers were listening, the room was listening. Some looking directly at my eyes, some looking down bobbing their head in agreement, others smiling.
After the slam some of these people came up to talk to me, shake my hand and congratulate me. I was awkward and uncomfortable, unfamiliar with being complimented on something so outrageously personal. Driving home I felt charged, excited, and like I just did something important, even if it was only important for myself.
3 years ago, i found a microphone, a stage and people ready to listen, not just waiting their turn. I’ve been taught about love, people, bodies, rights, perception, safety and anything worth standing up for. I’ve learned so much and in 3, 4, 10, 25, 50 years I’ll remember.