So we opened The Vagina Monologues last night, after months of rehearsing and planning and some fretting. If you’ve ever been in a community show, you know there’s this nerve-wracking phenomenon where someone always struggles with their lines to the point where you’re thinking CRAP, this is going to be a DISASTER! And then at the final dress rehearsal everyone just pulls it out and you go PHEW, okay, I think it’s going to be fine. (I wonder if that happens in professional productions, too? Probably not.)
Anyway, it was all very exciting. Otto drove in with me to see the show (“Because it’s Valentine’s Day! What else am I going to do?”), and when we got the door an hour before curtain, he kissed me and headed off to kill some time. I walked into the lobby and found a volunteer from the organization backing the show. We’d met before, but she didn’t seem to remember me, so I introduced myself again, and she said, “Oh, Mir! I didn’t recognize you all dressed up!” In fact I was NOT all dressed up, but I did have a metric ton of spackle on my face and my hair was straightened, so I resisted blurting out, “DO I NORMALLY LOOK AWFUL? WHAT ARE YOU SAYING??” (Hi, I’m Mir. I’m 5.)
We chatted for a minute and then I went to head backstage, but this lovely young woman stopped me. “Do you want to grab a program?”
Oh! She had a big box full of programs, and I always like to take a program as a souvenir. Very kind of her to ask. I turned back around from my exit and said, “Oh yes, thanks!”
She reached into the box and removed a program, handing it to me. It was then that I remembered we’d met because she came to a rehearsal and passed around a spiral notebook to collect our bios. Vagina Monologues programs are usually just as entertaining as the show—you have this giant group of women from diverse backgrounds who are then told to give a couple of sentences about why they’re in the show. It’s excellent reading, generally speaking. We’re a funny bunch.
“You can look it over and let me know if there are any mistakes,” she said, as I flipped it open.
I looked back up at her and laughed. “Ooooo… kay?” I said, gesturing at the enormous box in front of her. “So if I find something wrong, you’ll just go get ’em all reprinted? Before 8:00?” She joined me in giggling. I looked back down at the program again. “Alphabetical order for the cast, right?” I asked, flipping pages to find my bio. She nodded.
Here’s the blurb I submitted for the program:
Mir Kamin is delighted to be discussing her vagina in front of God and everyone for the second year in a row. When not bringing mortification to her teenagers, she can be found writing, playing with her dog, and smashing the Patriarchy.
Typical me, right? The sort of thing you’d expect?
Here’s the blurb I found in the program:
Mir Kamin is delighted to be discussing her vagina in front of God and everyone for second year in a row. When not bringing mortification to her teenagers, she can be found writing, playing with her dog, and smelling the patriarchy.
To quote Highlights magazine: Can you spot the differences?
I read it again, then looked up at the sweet young woman who is there because she works for a very noble charity organization. It was impossible to be mad at her. So naturally, I began to laugh. HYSTERICALLY. I couldn’t stop. She looked concerned.
“You… this… OH MY GOD,” I gasped. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. “LOOK AT THIS,” I said, showing her my bio. “SMELLING the Patriarchy? SMELLING??”
I was now being regarded as someone who might be insane, and at the very least should be handled with the utmost of care. She cleared her throat and eyed me warily. “I… yeah, I didn’t quite get that? But I thought you were being funny! Wait, I have the notebook right here!”
I continued to guffaw while she dug out the spiral notebook. Now, truth be told, my handwriting is horrendous. This is true. But as we looked at my scrawled bio, it was clear to me that my writing of “smashing” looked NOTHING LIKE “smelling.” She continued to squint at the page, as if trying to ascertain what had happened.
“What does that even MEAN? What does Patriarchy smell like??” I gulped for air between cackles, still unable to control myself, and—I admit, it’s not nice—finding this woman’s mounting horror absolutely hilarious. She was starting to look really quite upset, and I realized I needed to tone it down. I choked back a couple of snorts. “It’s FINE,” I said. “I mean, it’s funny. It’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.”
“But I am SO SORRY,” she said, and then I stopped laughing, because really, it’s NOT a big deal, and I love this organization, and who knows what this woman’s real job is there, but when she was tasked with typing up 30 handwritten bio blurbs and got to mine at the end of the notebook, maybe she was tired or bored or in a rush. Stuff happens.
I smiled at her. “Really, it’s fine. I get to start the evening with a laugh! It means the show’s going to be great.” She looked unsure, but told me to break a leg as I headed to the stage.
For my part, to get ready for my very serious performance (have I mentioned that this is the most depressing thing I’ve ever performed? BECAUSE IT IS), I gathered with my fellow castmates and told the story of my penchant for smelling Patriarchy at least half a dozen times. We stood in the wings laughing our asses off and it never stopped being funny.
A quick poll of my online pals (viva la smartphone!) resulted in the following feedback when I asked what Patriarchy might smell like:
“Best. Typo. Ever.” (Michelle)
“It smells like vanilla, cinnamon and oppression” (Vicki)
“Well, the patriarchy *does* stink.” (Jennifer)
“Smells I would associate w/Patriarchy: cheap drugstore aftershave, polyester, dusty hymnals, and potluck food.” (Beth)
“For the record, patriarchy smells like stale cigars, cheap scotch, and Vicks Vapor Rub” (Otto)
“Axe body spray.” (Jes)
“That’s a lot better than what I was going to say it smelled like.” (Chris, in response to Vicki’s assessment)
For the record, the show went great (even when a couple of people walked in in the middle of my piece and proceeded to drop a bunch of stuff while noisily getting seated—thanks!), and I didn’t catch a single whiff of Patriarchy during it. But does that mean I need to start thinking about a new hobby? Or maybe just find something else to sniff?