2018 goals: to be a saint, a whore, and a dyke.

With New Year’s a week away, everyone is writing contemplative think pieces looking back on their year both individually and as a community (cue outdated dumpster fire jokes here). I understand the want to reflect and reminisce and commiserate, but I am looking forward to 2018. I’ve set a big goal for myself: to be a saint, a whore, and a dyke.

When I was 20 years old, I went on tour with a 18-piece salsa band to Mexico. The band consisted of almost two dozen music nerds, all boys, let loose in the sweltering summer heat of Monterrey, Mexico.  Tagging along with us was our mentor, a prestigious member of the iconic Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

We played small clubs and a couple big venues at the local college. I slapped on so much makeup and hairspray, I looked like a caricature of seduction, my zoftig curves stuffed into a tight black dress and heels that were just a touch too small. I leaned on the mic stand when I sang, not for sex appeal, but purely due to the pain in my feet. I’d soak my lips in cheap red lipstick and pop a cigar in my mouth, crooning for middle-aged men in smoky clubs while I sipped on brown liquor.

Our mentor’s language and advice included some gems: “louder, great tits, more beer.” The boys didn’t really like me. They snubbed me because I broke up with their friend, a fellow jazz musician from back home, just a few weeks prior. I was a bitch and an ice queen and most importantly, not really that cute. (I overheard them on the flight down.) So I spent a lot of time following my mentor around. He told me about playing with Eddie Palmieri and Hilton Ruiz and explained the hard life of constantly touring and living out of a suitcase – I was mesmerized.

One night, after everyone left the bar, we sat on smoke-filled patio, just the two of us. He sipped some bourbon and I splurged on a Mexican Coke. The conversation lulled, and he leaned in to give me some advice. “A woman can be three things in this business: she can be in love with one and only one member of the band, she can be locker room talk, or she can be one of the guys. Those are your only options.” He then regaled me with tales of all the salsa singers he could have slept with, but didn’t, because they were whores. I wasn’t listening anymore – the buzz of the mosquitoes and the cigar smoke was getting to me. And what he said was getting to me.

These rules for women are not just for music. They are for everything. For comedy, for business, for life.  You can be a whore, a saint, or a dyke. And it’s not just men who put us in this category, it’s folks of all genders. Sometimes, I think cis women can be the worst at making women feel like they can only be one of the three.

It’s been twelve years since that tour, and I think about that advice at least once a week. Because my goal is to not be just one of those women, but to be all three. I have been a slut and not shameful about it. If not a saint, I’ve certainly been a martyr. I’ve been in love and fallen out of it, I’ve been the leading lady of weekday night open mics and Food Bank benefits. I’ve been one of the guys, and I’ve been called a dyke on Facebook comments so I’m pretty sure that counts. Depriving yourself of love and sex and fun because of some arbitrary opinion about who you should be is just too draining to sustain, and it’s a waste of your most valuable resource: your energy.

My goal for 2018 is my goal for every year since that night in Mexico: be everything. Be kind like a saint, love with fervor, and make loyal friends that will understand you aren’t perfect because you are human. Forgive yourself and forgive others. And always take advice from middle-aged men with a grain of salt.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *