Yesterday I posted a super short clip of me playing the guitar on Instagram. It’s a little ditty I’ve been writing and noodling on. This is of note because I fought myself to post it. All of the requisite inner mean girl shit went through my head: “It’s not good enough.” “You filmed this from below, so your face looks fat — remember what that aesthetician said, who is long gone, but whose words stick with you forever: ‘I ask myself, her body isn’t fat, why is her face so chubby?’” “Who do you think you are, posting this. It sounds like a total rip off of another song.”
And on and on. AND ON. My therapist would call this “self-attack.” Mostly I observed the thoughts without engaging with them emotionally, except for the occasional chuckle. The fact that I’m not dissolving into a puddle on the couch or mouth-first into a sack of cheeseburgers is huge, and precipitated wholly from pushing myself little by little to share and making my own voice louder than those inner (and outer) voices.
The inner critic. It reminds me of this guy in the video clip here. An acquaintance brought this guy to my attention recently, to my husband’s chagrin, because now, while walking around the house, I quote this guy randomly shouting, to no one in particular, “You’re a DISGRACE!” and “You’re FLAT!” I’ve even freaked out the cat: “NYU Film School graduate, SUCKA!”
So, the big triumph here is that, in spite of all the shit that could have kept me from posting a clip of me playing, I posted it. The reason I recorded it in the first place is that I have noted for a long time that whenever people come to our house they automatically assume the guitars belong to my husband. Some of them do. A couple of them are both of ours, and a few of them are mine. I’ve been playing guitar (my inner critic yells: “merely passably!”) since I was 16. I taught myself. I also took piano, flute and voice lessons when I was younger. I share this only to show that even with schooling, etc., I still have a trip about sharing my stuff in the world.
Who among us does not? Recently Lorraine Watson, a woman I met through one of my friend Casey Erin Wood’s video courses, sent out a heartfelt newsletter about perfectionism, which I can also relate to so hard. And, I’ll admit, I have used perfectionism as an excuse in a self-congratulatory way. But I’ve learned to say “fuck that noise,” get over my bad self, and post a 51-second video.
I don’t want to paint us all with a binary gender brush, and I’m merely speculating here, but I can’t help but wonder if people assume the instruments are Brent’s because we women musicians are less visible because we feel we need to be that much better at everything before we share it with the world? Since there is this gap between women and “boy’s club” shit, like many industries, including music, you just won't see as many women doing those things because we can be wildly self-deprecating. We won’t show up until we’re doing it perfectly (which doesn’t really exist) backwards in heels, as Ginger Rogers said about how she does everything Fred Astaire does, but “backwards in heels.”
My sister still remarks on my perfumery website, that it was like nothing was there and then a five-year-old child in the form of a website and business was just born. And I argued with her that I worked really hard on that business and that website, but I just didn’t talk about it until it was finished, which is why it may have seemed like it materialized out of nothing with no effort. They say behind every good man is a woman or some shit, but also, behind every good woman’s project is that same good woman toiling away to make the thing as amazing as possible, and making it appear as if it was nothing. “This old thing?” Maybe we do this so “they” won’t ever see us sweat, bleed, cry, be “hysterical” or find yet another reason to discount us (or pay us discount prices).
If we make it as perfect as we can, daddy will love us. Isn’t that really the gross bottom line? The patriarchy-daddy. Ugh!!
So! That’s why a 51-second video clip is a mini-triumph for me. And the small angry man who is the inner critic has a slew of things he might try to say to me to argue against that point as well. But I really believe the simple act of showing up, however that looks, however that is, whatever it’s going to be, has its own trajectory and strength that even I (and my inner small angry man) can’t measure. And that, my friend, is not a DISGRACE at all.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.