Stephanie Lechner: Nametags and Hairnets

Failing career assessments since the 8th grade

Month: July, 2012

Eat More Logik

When I was a kid, my mom watched a 20/20 special about factory-worker conditions in China, and promptly decided that our family would no longer use or buy products made in China. Even as a young child, I recognized how futile this individual protest was, but it didn’t surprise me—my mom’s always been a bit of a hippie and this wasn’t the first or last time that John Stossel would make my life difficult. To prove my point, I rummaged through our kitchen drawers and pulled out a smattering of products made in China that she would no longer be able to use. Boom! Lawyered! She continued to make snide remarks about her boycott out of sheer stubbornness, but needless to say our house would never be stocked solely with American products.

Boycotts.

Protests.

Political bickering and whining.

These are not new things, so why then, are people shocked, nay outraged, that there was a strong reaction to the supposed remarks that Chick-fil-a president, Dan Cathy, made against gay marriage?

This blog post is not about the gay marriage debate. It is not about my feelings towards a particular fast food franchise. This post is about the backlash to the backlash. I’ve read a lot of comments this week about how unnerved people are that Dan Cathy is coming under scrutiny for his political or religious beliefs.  They are upset that the media has taken his words out of context, that politicians are being exploitive and petty, and that boycotting a restaurant on the principle of political or religious affiliation is both foolish and unnecessary.

Fine. That’s all well and good, but where were you champions of rational thinking when One Million Moms were demanding boycotts of J.C. Penney after they chose Ellen Degeneres to be their spokesperson? Or when Oreo was lambasted for their rainbow-colored, gay pride cookie?

Is this really the line that can’t be crossed? Chicken?

“Hey man, it’s one thing to misquote our President or judge our mid-level department stores, but I will not sit idly by and watch you condemn the very name of Chick-Fil-A! How dare you? 

My point is, if you are going to be upset about the current state of affairs in both media and politics (and believe me, there is A LOT to take issue with), then shouldn’t you be upset about all of it?  You should be scrutinizing every story with such careful logic—not just the ones that jeopardize your favorite waffle fries.

Also, I hate Chick-fil-a. Every time I eat there, I get immediately ill. I think it’s the oil they use.

 

End rant.

 

 

 

 

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My Failed Zydeco Career

Let’s imagine a completely hypothetical scenario wherein I dream of becoming the next great Rock ‘n Roll guitarist, like Slash from Guns & Roses (my love for that man has no limits). In this scenario, I buy myself a cheap guitar and start plucking away, trying to teach myself to play anything that remotely sounds like Sweet Child O’Mine. While I’m doing this, a friend of mine, a singer, starts raving about this Zydeco class he took. Zydeco, you ask? Yes, Zydeco, a small genre of music known for its Cajun roots and frequent use of the accordion.

“Steph, you HAVE to sign up for this Zydeco class. It’s amazing. It’s made me such a better singer!”

“Really, but I have no desire to play Zydeco.”

“Me neither, but trust me, you’ll get a lot out of it.”

Now this wasn’t just any regular Zydeco school. This school was started years ago by Zydeco legend Rockin Dopsie and it was known for launching countless successful Zydeco careers. Slightly hesitant, I sign up for Zydeco 101, and much to my surprise, I LOVED it! Not only did my guitar playing improve, but I found this new found love of performance that was completely unexpected. I immediately signed up for Zydeco 201, and started networking in the small underground community of Zydeco enthusiasts. Soon, relationships started building, and I decided to put together my very own practice band.  Out of this, The Pleathers was born.

After a few rehearsals, our chemistry was obvious, so I suggested that perhaps The Pleathers should consider taking our show out of the garage and in to the tiny underground Zydeco scene. Slowly but surely, we booked a few small gigs and started gaining momentum. The great thing about The Pleathers was that our chemistry worked so well on stage because it also worked well off-stage.  We were band-mates, but we were also good friends.  Two years went by, and a few of our founding members departed to pursue other ventures.  Meanwhile, most of the original members progressed through the higher levels of Zydeco classes with their heart set on super-stardom. For me, while Zydeco classes were fun, they were expensive, and only one piece of my artistic puzzle. Sure this formula worked great for Rockin’ Dopsie, and a handful of other performers, but Zydeco isn’t exactly a paint-by-numbers situation. A + B doesn’t necessarily equal platinum records (as if there was such a thing as a platinum selling Zydeco album).  We brought on a few new band members, and I could sense the dynamic was shifting. The Pleathers became focused strictly on climbing the ladder at Zydeco school, and that fact that I could not afford advanced courses and wasn’t convinced that I needed to enroll in class to be successful became a bigger point of contention. While I started considering that maybe I would be happier going back to my first love, Rock and Roll, I was highly invested in the success of The Pleathers and decided to stick around. Then came the email—The Pleathers secretly gathered together, decided that my lack of commitment to Zydeco school was too big of a hurdle, and voted me out. I had been Van Hagar’d out of my very own band. Yes, in my fantasy world, the only way I could cope with this massive rejection was to imagine that I was David Lee Roth in this scenario. I’m not sure what was worse in this situation—that I had been dumped, or that I had been dumped via email.

To say this was a huge blow to my heart and ego would be an understatement. Everything I had worked on for the past two years was obliterated with a single email. I was back at square one, and it took me months to learn the lessons I was meant to learn. Lessons including, but not limited to the following;

  1. I should never allow a group of people to determine my value as an artist or as a person. I should never allow my unique voice as an artist to be diminished.
  2. Supporting a team or group can be good and beneficial, but not if it begins to interfere in my individual personal and artistic development.
  3. Rejection is never the end. In fact, it’s usually just the beginning.

These are hard, painful lessons to learn. You see, after two years, I completely lost my voice as an artist. I certainly don’t regret my time as a member of The Pleathers, and I still very much love Zydeco, but I don’t think I would have been happy or fulfilled had I continued to climb someone else’s ladder. I’ve also realized how important it is to be truly supportive of each other in this community. For artists, we’re all in this crazy mixed-up game together, and there is room in it for all of us. I am so thankful for every friend who has come to one of my shows (especially the truly awful ones), or took the time to read a blog, or gave me a late-night pep talk. After a brief hiatus from all kinds of performance, I have recently stepped out trying my hand at solo performance. I am certainly no Slash, but I am 100% artistically myself, and I can’t ask for much more at the moment.

A month or so ago, I came across this blog from a local zydeco Improv coach, Kirk Damato, and it was like reading a hug (seriously, all you Zydeco nerds should be reading this if you aren’t already). After facing his own setbacks and rejection in the community, he realized how lucky and grateful he was to have the support of his friends and colleagues.  And then he posted this video, which I will leave with you today.

Magic Mike 3D

Remember when male strippers were funny?

And now we have Magic Mike, one of those movies that makes me scratch my head and ask  “How did that get greenlit?” And then not only does it get made, it makes a box office killing, like Avatar or Final Destination 37. What really surprises me is how massively popular and mainstream it’s become. Strike that, what really surprises me is that, given how massively popular and mainstream it is, they didn’t release Magic Mike 3D. Put on your glasses for some full-frontal 3d entertainment! Why do I get the impression that the satire of this film was completely lost on the audience?

But seriously, there is something to be said for the wide-spread obsession over Magic Mike.  Really, what exactly is happening here? Ladies, is this really what we want—Channing Tatum’s junk in our face (in 3-D)?

Don’t answer that.

Then you add in Fifty Shades of Grey and I’ve got to wonder if the feminist movement took a giant step back when our ultimate fantasy became a rich egomaniac controlling our every move. I’m sure there are some who would try to defend these works on some artistic merit. And there are also those who read Playboy for the articles. Bollocks. (Sorry, guys, I’ve been watching a lot of BBC shows lately which makes me think I pull off phrases like “bollocks”) Even if these books did have a shred of artistic merit, nobody being honest with themselves would say that is their main selling point.

As I was tossing this around in my brain, I stumbled across a male friend’s facebook status,

“I’m writing a new book. It’s called 50 Shades of Twilight Fall on Magic Mike.”

Clever. Curious if there even was a male opinion on this pop-culture obsession, I asked for his perspective. Later, he wrote:

“Honestly, I think a lot of good men have lost their voice in this world. What would they sound like if they actually spoke up? Perhaps…

Attention Ladies:

I am not a vampire, or a macho stripper, or a rich, young, sex-crazed entrepreneur. I am a man and nothing more. But if I am a real man, you will need nothing more. (editor’s note: I think we can all safely assume he’s not addressing lesbians.)

I stand for the things that truly matter, and I do not flare my temper for trivial reasons. I am in control of myself. Therefore, I do not need to control the world, and I certainly don’t need to control you. I will keep my body strong for your protection and handsome for your approval, but I will not attach my value to it – just as I do not attach your value to yours. I will win your heart….THEN, I will start to romance it.

You claim real men no longer exist. This is fair, for there is much to suggest so, but I claim you have given up too easily and have settled for less.

I will surprise you.

I will secure you.

I will accept you as you are, but inspire you to be more.

I will waltz you clear of your feet and set you down in a place far better than you would have thought.

I will hold your heart in my hand, and actually know what to do with it.

Above all, I know who I am. My Strength does not come from you. My integrity will not be swayed for you. My passion is not created by you. But all of these will be offered to you. Yes, I am only a man……but if I am a real one, it is enough.”

I know, right?

A thing like that! (Sorry, guys, I’ve also been watching a lot of Mad Men lately).

Perhaps it’s a little on the schmaltzy side. Perhaps it reads a bit too much like a Nicholas Sparks character, but I might argue there is some room in the world for a little schmaltz. I’m not going to lie, it definitely piqued my interest in a good way, but my initial reaction was a solid “Oh, come on!“  Why was my knee-jerk reaction to such beautiful sentiments stone cold skepticism? I polled a few different females around work and the interwebs this week to see if I was the only cynic, and I did seem to grasp a general consensus: a lot of women love the idea of a man possessing such traits (though they hardly believe in his existence), but they are not fond of a man who openly declares that he has them. There were a couple of skeptics who found the statement to be inorganic, possibly disingenuous and wished my friend to put his money where his mouth is, but my favorite response which captures the common sentiment was this:

“For the most part, I think this is how we’d love all men to act, but you can’t, like, say it out loud. The truth is, I do want a partner who makes me want to be a better person, but I want to discover that myself. Is that a double standard?  Perhaps.  But I am a woman.  A real one.  And that’s how I roll.”

And I totally get it. We say that all men are jerks, and we want a nice guy to treat us well, but we usually walk right by the nice guys on the way to Douchetown.  Why is that?

I have a hunch this fella (who has been such a good sport about this), is being genuine, so I threw it back to him and I told him that the ladies weren’t buying it.

His response:

“It’s not that these men don’t exist (contrary to popular belief), they just don’t speak up for themselves for fear of being labeled an arrogant D-bag. It all backfires, of course, because then they simply get tossed into the “Nice but Boring” camp of men, which attracts fewer women than a TBS marathon of Bloodsport. And so the definition of a genuine man becomes lost, and women are forced to toggle between what they believe are their only two options: The Nice Guy or The Jerk. But what if those few men who strive to be more actually spoke up? What if they took a chance and reminded women they were still out there? Maybe it reads old-fashioned or idealistic or cheesy or even arrogant, but so be it.”

Touché, sir, touché.

You can see how men would be confused, though, right? We claim to want them to be decent, kind and honorable, but the minute they say they are decent, kind and honorable, we interpret it as weakness?

We don’t mind someone taking care of us, as long everyone knows we could take care of ourselves if we wanted to.

We want the White Knight, as long as we get to ride on our own damn horse.

In a word, we are so utterly complicated.

No wonder men can’t figure out what the f$@% we want–we can’t even figure it out ourselves! Sorry, guys, I’ve been watching a lot of Louie lately.

There is a lot to be said on this topic, but I merely wanted to get the conversation started. What do you think?

Has old-school chivalry been replaced by male strippers?

Listen, Bread, You’re Toast.

“We need to talk. “

 

Let’s be honest. It is a sentence no person wants to hear. For me, it usually results in the discovery of yet another secret relative, but that’s a story for another day.

 

For a lot of people, “We need to talk” is followed immediately by “Things are just not working out.” Nobody wants to be on either side of that conversation, but it is very difficult to end a long relationship, one so very comfortable that you can hardly imagine a life without it, despite its toxicity. It usually starts with a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction, and you start to think, maybe there is something better out there, a happier existence than your current state of affairs. You think to yourself, “Maybe I just need some space.” So you back off, and limit contact, but soon, one concession leads to another until you are right back where you started again only this time you are vaguely aware of what life might be like on the other side. The vicious cycle continues

 

Your friends try to warn you:

“This is no good for you!”

“You deserve better!”

“Why are you being an idiot!??”

 

But to no avail. It’s probably just easier to keep chugging along in your meager existence than to take the plunge in a new direction. Just keep taking the metaphorical hits; at least you know where they’re coming from. Soon, you start reminiscing about the good days, memories just fond enough to keep you in orbit, while gradually, your unhealthy relationship grows like a cancer until you simply can’t stand it anymore. You get up the courage to take a stand and move on!

Now the only thing standing in the way of you and independent freedom is “The Talk”

 

Ok. I think I might be ready.

 

Listen, Gluten, we need to talk.

Permanence

4 years ago, I packed my life into two suitcases and got on a plane to NYC. I’ve always been a sort of restless wanderer, but each step was full of such unbridled enthusiasm at tackling the unknown. A cheery, optimistic wanderer who was happy to roam about freely unencumbered.

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Yesterday, I packed my life into a tiny 5×10 storage unit. I didn’t even fill it up halfway. I again packed two suitcases and moved into someone else’s apartment. New York City apartment living can be cruel. I stared at that half-empty storage unit before I locked it up and thought about my transient lifestyle. I’m not a materialistic individual, but as I round out my 20’s, shouldn’t I have more things?

I feel less like the happy smurf and a little more like a sad gypsy.

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I’ve had no less than a dozen jobs.* I’ve changed addresses on average once a year in the past 10 years (more than once some years though I did manage to resign a lease for the very first time a coupe of years ago in Queens. I felt like such an adult).

I’m a firm believer of the old adage that says that variety is indeed the spice of life. If I’m not changing jobs or addresses, I float seamlessly from social circle to social circle to the point where my friends are slightly convinced, based on the wide range of anecdotes I share, that I’m much older than I claim to be. Up until now, my fear of commitment and roots could give most men I know a run for their money (societal gender stereotype alert). The point is, I always seem to be moving on to the “next best thing”. Perhaps I should stop chasing unicorns. Maybe I should sit still for a moment and watch what transpires. Maybe life will surprise me.

I’m only staying in this apartment for two months before I hope to settle into something more permanent. I already informed New York that we are going to have a serious discussion about things should I still be going through this whole roommate Craigslist rigmarole when I’m 30 (NYC—consider yourself warned!). This post probably sounds more like a lament than it truly is. It’s actually a good bout of introspection (technically the “intro” went out the window when I decided to share this with this internet, but that’s just semantics). Maybe I’m lamenting a tired perspective and ready to embrace a new one, one where I’m less afraid of permanence.  Well, almost ready—just typing that word permanence made my chest tighten a bit. But seriously, guys, I definitely need more things.

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*Full list of past employment: Dairy Queen ice cream specialist, Jonathan Byrd’s cafeteria line server, veterinary technician, grocery cashier, restaurant hostess (twice), retail inventory counter, administrative assistant, cult inventory manager, portrait photographer, video editor, office manager, Olive Garden server, spa receptionist, reality TV intern, spa operations manager, temp, and currently a retail distribution planner.