One of my stable of on-stage stories concerns a struggle dealing with Macy’s customer service on the telephone. I spent weeks of numerous calls trying to get them to deliver a chair that I bought. In frustration, I had my coworker Randy, a project engineer skilled in getting people to do stuff they don’t necessarily want to do, impersonate me on the next phone call to the evil customer support reps.
He was able to get the chair on delivery in 90 seconds.
I was sitting right next to Randy while he did his magic. And by “magic,” I mean I didn’t have the foggiest clue what he did to get Macy’s customer service to crumble so quickly. I was friggin’ dumbfounded. How is it that when I called them up, I got the runaround, yet when Randy called, he got exactly what he needed immediately? What does he have that I don’t???
It was around this time that I attended a lecture at Nerd Nite Northampton (https://www.facebook.com/NerdNiteNoHo/) which was about studies with babies and toddlers to determine at what age do kids understand when someone is intentionally lying to them. I’m always adding two and two, so I figured, maybe I’m communicating with my voice that I’m a pushover.
What if the way I talked is signaling to people that I can’t be taken seriously on stage?
A few weeks ago, I came across a mention to David Thorpe’s Documentary “Do I Sound Gay?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R21Fd8-Apf0) and thought about this question again – do I need to change how I speak? Now, I’m not in the same boat as David Thorpe, and I’m straight, but I’m interested in how someone else is dealing with anxiety about the image they present to the world (though, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that being 42 and never married, not being into sports, and once being told that I’d be popular at Provincetown’s “Bear Week” did not contribute to some level of anxiety about being perceived as being gay. By the way, yes, we should live in a world where this all shouldn’t matter. I’ll let you try to tell that to my anxiety-ridden brain – I’ve just about given up). Predictably, the documentary ends with an affirmation that the real goal is to be accepting of who you are (again, I’ll leave you to convince my brain of that).
Allow me one side note here. When watching a movie with the title “Do I Sound Gay?” on Netflix, try to remember to clear it from your queue when you bring a new girlfriend over to watch a few Netflix movies on the couch. Yikes.
During the past week, I had two separate conversations on this issue I’m having. One was about connecting with the audience. For those 5-8 minutes on stage, I’m performing the story, and not connecting with the audience whatsoever. And in the second conversation, it was pointed out that storytellers on the Moth podcast pour out their souls with their stories, which I do not.
So, here I am. Anxious about how I appear, and therefore putting up a wall between the audience and me.
I suppose one way around that is to keep writing and telling stories, knowing about this problem and trying to work through it. I’m a little over Ira Glass’ seven years before becoming good, so I still have time to do it.