It was my first day off in about seven straight days, after a tech week for a production of Twelfth Night. I’m playing Olivia, a role I’ve always rather coveted, and the cast and directing team are a dream because they just always want to make me laugh and they’re nothing but supportive. It’s been a really fun summer. So yesterday I took some time off to rest and recharge. I read an entire book by the pool (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; brutal, but stunning) and I took a little walk to the jetty near our Niantic beach house. It was, by and large, a good day.
The previous day I had come off a good run of our show to an older woman who volunteers at my theater. She congratulated me on a job well done. Before I could sign out of the conversation – I was exhausted and just needed to get home and rest – she started to talk at me, rather than to me, about my father and the Rio Olympics. I’m always okay with people asking me about my Dad, but this particular day was just very tiring and I was feeling on edge. It reminded me of when I performed in a production of Shrek last fall and we got a review that focused nearly 60% of its content on my Dad’s presence at the show the reviewer went to, and not nearly enough on the brilliant cast involved.
So when this woman did it, I smiled of course and answered all of her questions, but when I got home, I felt a little edgy still. So I did what any self-respecting woman in 2016 would do. I talked about it on Facebook. Nothing bitchy, just a small comment.
While I sunned at the pool, I scrolled through Facebook and found a comment on my post. A girl I barely talk to that I’ve known since high school decided that this was the right time to make her presence known. She commented something along the lines of Oh really? You’re going to complain about someone not caring about your dumb little show because your dad is at the Olympics? Humble brag much?
I immediately wrote back Your disrespect of what I like to do with my time says a lot more about me than it does about you.
I hoped that would be the end of it. She then completely swarmed my Facebook with five comments in a row – because that doesn’t look crazy – about her various accomplishments, including how she’s a patron with the Royal Ballet, about how she “had no idea who your dad was until we went to high school together, you talk about him all the time, Jesus Christ” and how I’m the “most entitled person she’s ever met” and then (and this one really pissed me off) how “sure, you’ve had eating disorders, so does every privileged white girl.” Basically, an entire list of things that had nothing to do with the post. She closed her rant with “You should just defriend me, because I am offended by basically everything you post.”
Before I could even respond to this verbal garbage dump…she had deleted every single one of her comments. But remained facebook friends with me. So I did what a normal person does – I blocked her on every single social network I have.
But the guilt and fear engendered in me from those comments has gnawed at me for 24 hours. I didn’t know what to think, or do. I didn’t cry, nor get mad. It’s just been sitting in my gut like a rank fish at a market.
The first thing I felt was pure empathy. When someone has to go off on someone like that in public it means they hate themselves. I’m serious. That’s why a small, SMALL part of me feels bad for Donald Trump, because he’s probably got the self-esteem of the head of a pin. (Probably the same size as his baby hands.) I felt really bad for this girl because no one who feels good about themselves has to rant and rave that hard.
The entitlement thing makes me laugh the hardest though – I don’t tell anyone who my Dad is unless they ask. I haven’t asked my family for a cent in a very long time, unless I absolutely need it. I don’t make much money anyway, but during the summer it gets pretty tight. I’m still trying to figure out a way to make all of my various jobs coalesce into a decent yearly pay. It gives my mom some headaches but I’m happy. I like where I’m at.
I also felt really bad for her that she seems to have this cavern of bottomless jealousy for me and my family. When I post about my Dad or something going on with my family, it’s not to brag or to be entitled. It’s because I’m proud of him and of them. It’s to show how much I fucking love the guts out of my family and how goddamn rare is that? My family are my favorite people on this planet. I got to wake up this morning to my 3 year old godson putting me in a chokehold because he wanted me to wake up and play so badly. I wake up nearly every morning or go to bed every night to a text message from my mother telling me she loves me (and occasionally one from Dad too but he’s not much for texts). I have a text chain with my sister and brother that’s full of just gifs from Friends.
If that’s entitlement and privilege, than I am one privileged and entitled motherfucker and I own it. I am privileged to have a family that loves as ferociously as mine does.
I don’t think it’s a crime to have a happy family. I wish everyone got that privilege.
The list of her accomplishments made me feel guilty that I don’t do more with my time. But then I remembered – I was put on this earth to communicate deep and weighty emotions through words and stage craft. If that’s not worthy of recognition, I don’t know what is. I use my privilege of performance, of writing, of unabashed loud fluid feminism, to educate and help people.
And, not for nothing? But I just try to be a good person every single day. Every single day I get up and wonder to myself how I can make someone else’s life better or make myself happy in a way that’s also impacting the world.
She showed me who she was in that Facebook comment. I show the world who I am every day. In the words of Augustus Waters, I like my choices.
Also – I found it hilarious she’s offended by the things I post on Facebook mainly because I tend to solely post photos of Chris Evans on there (he is my Internet Husband, sorry Jenny Slate, you can have him when I’m done).
PS. Some people have asked me why I wouldn’t just change my name. Well, it’s complicated, but the simple answer is this – for years I hated my name. Not because of the attachment to my Dad, but because of how ethnic it is. Alysa Marsiella Auriemma? When everyone else in your class has nice WASP-y names? No thanks. But now, I absolutely love my name. I’m holding on to it with my bare goddamn hands. It’s the only one I’ve got, thank you.
PPS. Everything I’ve written about in this post is also a great way to weed out guys who are easily threatened.