I'm Sorry I Didn't Like Your One-Person Show

I really wish there were a standard line I could use, as people do in break-ups like, “It's not you, it’s me.”

In this case, it’s not you, it’s your genre.

You see, I generally don't like listening to one person—any person—talk for an hour straight. And your show was over an hour. Of talking. By one person. The one person in a one-person show always reminds me of a compulsive talker: They don’t want a conversation, they want a hostage. It reminds me of the guy on a public bus who can=t read my don't-talk-to-me cues and assumes we are taking up where we left off.

Again, it's me. I don't feel comfortable being offered the most intimate parts of a person's life, especially when I have a hard time remembering the offerer’s name. I'm sorry you were assaulted/ molested/never fit in/were the only BlackJewfattygay on your block. Really, I sympathize. But sympathy has its boundaries, and I remind you that you are disseminating this stuff for an audience that has paid to be entertained. Just saying.

For one thing, I never quite buy that any child was always the victim and never said a cruel thing to another kid. Unlikely profile for a human, at least one who has survived birth. The world is sagging under the weight of formerly-bullied adults, but no one ever admits to having been the bully. So either life really is fair because eventually all bullies die young, or some noses ought to be growing.

No, children are not entirely innocent--none of them, not even the child-you-were. Read Lord of the Flies or sit on a school bus for ten minutes. Kids are nasty to each other. Occasionally they kill. What they don't do is respond to every stimulus with wide-eyed wonderment. And unlike you and the adults in your therapy group, they are not in a constant cycle of examining and interpreting their feelings. Kids only do that when directed to by neurotic adults. Okay, some of them, like in your show, do invent imaginary friends, but try to make it original. You might get nailed for plagiarizing the play Harvey, but anything’s better than the invisible dullard you came up with who loved you unconditionally.

Speaking of wide-eyed innocence, every person on earth has been startled by the discovery of masturbation. Every one of us--you, me, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Herbert Hoover. I'm not sure what it is about one-person shows that the one person feels obliged to relive the trauma of those early yanks. I suppose if we could remember that far back, we would all think our first dump was pretty traumatic too. Something was coming out of us, and it felt wrong and amazing at the same time. I am sorry your catholic mother confronted you with your white tube sock, and that your catholic dad held the crusty sock while he sermonized about the mortal sin of spilling the seed into the dust. But isn't the real issue--sorry for the pun--that your parents didn’t practice appropriate willful ignorance? All parents were at one time in the throes of a sexual awakening and went to town on themselves, even if they were sure it was a mortal sin. So they generally knew enough to see no evil when their own kids were old enough for the same. Parents knew it was a useless and embarrassing battle. So, maybe it's not that your parents were fucked up and morally corrupt and religious bigots because they confronted you with your dried blot. Maybe they were paying you too much attention?

I understand how humiliating it was to be caught singing into a vacuum cleaner handle to your favorite rock stars' records while you wore giant earphones. Again, not born to you. We all wanted to be Elton John/Bruce Springsteen/John Bon Jovi/Madonna. What would be original is if someone was singing into a vacuum cleaner handle pretending to be Susan Boyle.

Also, I'm sorry I was not touched the way you expected me to be when you revealed that you were bi-polar/your gym teacher felt you up/ you tried to commit suicide/you had an eating disorder. But shouldn't there be something like a plot, you know...a story arc, to these horrid memories? A little structure? For instance, I do sympathize with you for being in love with someone who never knew you were in love with them. But again, are you convinced that concept is original to you and therefore you can cut the story off without a resolution? No payoff, nothing learned? In my own life time, I have been in love with many people who did not love me back, usually professors in the various colleges I attended, a few fellow students, a dining hall attendant, and one school janitor about whom I had an elaborate bondage fantasy. I was also in love with Audra from The Big Valley, Mary Tyler Moore, and all the men on Barney Miller (except Fish and the Asian guy). I'm pretty certain none of them knew I was in love with them, and if they had, they might have reacted badly. No matter, Mary Tyler Moore was not going to get involved with an eleven year old boy, and somehow deep in my heart I always knew that. That’s not really a story, just a random memory. So...at $30 a ticket, couldn't you at least try to keep your storytelling from going into these constant mid-air stalls?

It is tragic that you suffered emotionally because of abusive stepfathers/abusive classmates/unrealistic images in the media. I know you see a direct cause-and-effect between being oppressed by any and all of these things and your anorexia/bulimia/exercise obsession/morbid obesity. Or that your mother was distant and cold and so you ate to stuff the feelings. (I'm not really sure what that means. Stuff them where? Or do you mean stuff them with something flavorful so they are more palatable as feelings?) But—and I’m just putting this out there—it is possible that weight issues are not so simple in origin, you know, that maybe they result from a combination of things, including a genetic element that even the most nurturing parent could have passed on without malice.

And, while I’m on this candor roll, let me say that I'm not at all convinced that your first significant relationship/marriage ended because the dysfunction in your family led you to be attracted to lovers who were just no good. Relationships are something of a crap-shoot even for the most normal of people? Look at how long it took Kim and Kanye to find each other! Or is it possible—stay with me here—that you may be more suited to being single? Just thinking out loud. (Another thing: The second time you were with your first sex partner, she told you she wasn’t really attracted to fat guys after all. Ah, sweet vengeance, to get back at such a shithead and to get a whole audience feeling your pain. But she probably wasn’t in the audience.)

You used the word torture several times in your show, and while that was way overstating the case every time you used it, there was an irony you missed: You really shouldn't sing. Okay, I said it and it was harsh, but if a person has so little self-esteem that they are afraid of everything and intimidated by everyone, and every setback is a disaster, then how exactly do you have the nerve to sing off-key in front of a live audience? Or play the same three piano chords to accompany yourself? Know your strengths. Music isn't one of them. Maybe it's your mother's fault. Try to work that in.

Please don't do voices again. The voices...oy—like nails on the sheet of ice coating my soul. Now I'm begging. I'm going to beg you for three paragraphs. First off, a child does not sound like an adult male forcing a little-girl voice. Parents would have good reason to leave such a child at a highway rest stop.

Old people do not speak from the same place a cough originates. You're thinking of Homer Simpson's father, but again, you will have to pay royalties. Parents do not speak in full, crisp sentences of platitudes and clichés, especially not the inept ones. Teachers do not refer to their students as "Class," and people who victimize someone don’t explain in detail what they’re about to do, and in the voice of an evil scientist.

God, please don't do ethnic voices ever again. But since you did, why exactly does your fag-bashing, redneck cousin from Maine sound like Jethro Bodine? Also, while there is more than one Boston/Southern/Black/Asian/New York City accent, you have not nailed any of them. Finally, a falsetto does not make you sound British.

And last, the conclusion of the show, the same ah-ha moment that every one-person-show performer thinks is original: I finally found my voice!

Oh, if only you hadn’t...

Why can’t the one-person-showman find something else besides his voice? Why can’t he find his i-phone or his wallet or the right size batteries for his beard-trimmer? Not great discoveries, I know, but different, which would be a small revelation into who you really are.