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Rose with the Mouse Brown Hair

Pink rose without frame

Pink rose without frame (Photo credit: Candie_N (Will organize photostream eventually))

Regular readers of this blog – I am working on my memoir again so I haven’t blogged in a while.  This is something that I am working on, and as with most of my memoir related stories I might delete this in a few days as it is a work in progress.  This hasn’t been edited by anyone, so I apologize for any typos or obvious mistakes. 🙂 

I never thought when I went to clown school that I would end up being asked to entertain residents in a nursing home. But then, what kind of jobs did I expect to get after clown school?  I can’t turn it down; a paid gig is a paid gig.

I used to hate nursing homes.  My mother would drag her four children to visit every dying relative in our family, no matter how distantly related.  For young children, nursing homes are incredibly frightening places full of, strange smells, scary sounds, and really wretched-looking people.  The idea of performing in one terrifies me.  But every performer loves a good audience, and there is not a more grateful audience than forgotten seniors with advanced dementia.  I take the job, which ends up being the longest job I have ever had in my life.  For over six years I would go to a nursing home in Westchester twice a month, then once a month.  In that time I met many residents, but the closest to my heart was a woman named Rose.

I knock on Rose’s open door and watch her perk up from one of her many naps.  She loudly exclaims in her scratchy high-pitched Bronx accent.

“Oh it’s the clown!  Come on in!”

Propped up in an enormous vinyl chair, the kind you only see in hospitals with its huge padded back and large tray for magazines, she sits beaming at my arrival.    She has a full head of snow-white hair chopped in a sloppy bob, and cats eyed glasses rimmed with rhinestones that were the height of fashion in the 1950’s.  Her upper spine is deeply bent forward so that it seems she has no neck.  Her entire body shakes as she speaks excitedly.

“Aren’t you going to sing me a song?”

To which I reply

“Father had a business, strictly second-hand everything from toothpicks to a baby grand…Second Hand Rose, I am wearing Second Hand clothes…”

Before I am halfway through the song she is clapping wildly with a huge grin across her face.  This is Rose’s usual way of editing my performance so she can tell me the stories she has told me dozens of times.

“Can’t complain, can’t complain, can’t complain…you know I am 88 years old, which is not that bad.  I am eight years above the national average.  I should be dead.  Everyone I know is dead.  My mother is dead, my father is dead and my sister is dead.  I could go any minute in fact…I could go right now.”

Then Rose performs a mini-fake death that is not even remotely convincing.

“Ha!  Tricked ya!  I am still alive!  Can’t complain, can’t complain, can’t complain”

Like many nursing home residents, Rose has a way of saying the most morbid things bluntly yet with excitement.  I guess when you are living at the last stop before the inevitable end; you can’t really kid yourself anymore.   She goes on.

“I used to work in one of the largest Vaudeville theaters in New York.  I was an usher and wore a very smart little outfit.  I was not pretty like my sister she had Honey Blonde hair.  Hair the actual color of honey! I had mouse brown hair, and mouse brown hair is only good on a mouse and even then it isn’t that grand.  But I had a cute figure!  I was a petite gal for the taller men.  Not that I ran around.  Anyway our managers watched us like a hawk.  We had a job to do.   Take a little bit of candy, flirt with a boy, chat with a friend and we were out of there.  I kept my uniform pressed and my head down.  I saw the greats I tell you!  The greats! And you could be a headliner with that voice and that face!  You could be a star in Vaudeville!“

My visits with Rose always go like this.  After several months of my bi-monthly visits, her usual stories change.  Instead of talking about her past she boldly tells me of big plans for her future.

“My sister and I are going to visit Jamaica…the islands…but because I am so sick…we aren’t sure I am going…you know how it goes….can’t complain…can’t complain…we have to catch a flight from Rye New York…I have to pack my things because I don’t want to upset my sister…the sea, the sand the dancing…maybe we will meet an important businessman who will want to marry one of us.  But if we do he will want to marry her…she is the pretty one…she has honey blonde hair…hair the actual color of honey!”

She abruptly ends her story with a pronounced and violent coughing fit.  Before I enter her room, one of the nurses let me know that Rose was battling pneumonia.  At this point she is 90 years old, and her body simply can’t fight off the infection.  I have been mentally preparing myself for this for months.  Every other resident that I have gotten close to, simply left for the hospital and I never returned.  Rose is the first that I have to watch fall apart before my eyes.

On my next visit to Port Chester when I go to Rose’s room the name placard on her door is empty, and her bed stripped bare.   George, a Peruvian orderly that I know well walks in behind me and confirms the bad news.

“She died in the hospital.  But the nurses said she had a calm death.  She didn’t have any family left, but you know how she was…everyone loved her.  So when it looked like she was close the nurses and staff gathered around her bed so she wouldn’t be alone.  She was a nice lady.”

Standing there with my accordion strapped to my chest I start to cry.  Tears roll down over my heavily powdered makeup and fell off my chin.  One of the first things they teach you in clown school is how to properly powder your makeup.  A properly made up face will not smudge through spit takes, a bucket of water, or tears shed on the news of the death of a friend.  I realize how much I loved that woman.  Her resilient optimism in the face of her own mortality, the loss of her family and her failing health gave me an unexpected light.   I wipe away my tears and pull myself together.  I have two hours to fill in the rest of my shift and the third floor is full of residents who want to see the singing clown.  I have a job to do, and Rose wouldn’t want me to let anyone down.

Life After Divorce: Phantom Babies

Discussion

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I get in so much trouble with this blog as it is.  My life is rather unconventional.  I’m a children’s performer by day and a raunchy comedian or a burlesque emcee at night.  My dual occupations seem to scare most potential mates away. No, actually it scares all of them away except for the very young and the very old.  I also seem to attract stalker types and men who live far away from me.  So basically anyone who I might actually date is usually terrified of me. Then I go and do something crazy like talk about babies on my blog…and I do it on more than one entry. What the hell am I thinking?  I don’t know. I have given up trying to figure these things out.

I will be 39 years old in about a week. My grandmother and one of my aunts had children in their early forties.   I’m in excellent health, ideal weight, no smoking, no drinking alcohol, no drugs, no major health problems.  I should have a few more years left, but just a few. I have had to accept that motherhood won’t happen for me. Before I did, I had problems walking past playgrounds on bright sunny days and not bursting into tears. And yes, this exact scenario has played out for me multiple times. What can I say?  I used to try to suppress tears and since my major depression I just let them come when they are going to come.

In my day job I work with children, so they are a constant reminder of something that I will never have. I love children and because I work with them I realize the added responsibility and expense of raising kids. I understand the completely life altering changes children make to a person’s life and how being a parent is the most demanding job on earth. It’s truly a lifetime commitment. You can relocate across the country, move to Europe, change careers mid-life, get a divorce, remarry, but unless you sign away parental rights, a child is forever. Even if you abandon your child or leave their upbringing to another person, once grown the child could still look you up and expect a relationship. Knowing all of this I still feel a strong urge to reproduce.

And I was on that path, married at 29 years old and had a fairly stable relationship for most of its duration. I conformed my lifestyle to suit my husband’s and completely committed myself to the marriage in heart, mind, body and spirit.  Right about the time my ex-husband was pushing for a baby my marriage completely dissolved into a pile of dust and scattered with the wind. More mirage than anything, it was all over in an instant. What I thought was a straight man, was instead a closeted homosexual. We didn’t have to worry about birth control, natural or otherwise, since the relationship had become celibate. I thought it was especially cruel of my ex to pressure me for a child when he had no sexual relationship with me whatsoever. And it wasn’t until the last few months when he started to blame me for the lack of sex.  Which was absurd if you knew the exact details of our relationship.

Things started out normal and slowly dissolved into something completely dysfunctional.  Meanwhile, I believe he was having an extramarital affair of some capacity with a man. He claims it wasn’t physical but I at this point I don’t care. He is gay and there is no changing that.  I thought I was doing the right thing by remaining loyal to my husband despite our problems, but my loyalty cost me dearly.

Now I have a recurring dream of a blonde haired girl with ringlets and blue eyes. Which is funny because curls don’t run in my family and both blonde hair and blue eyes are recessive.  For whatever reason there she is, this fair-skinned doll-like girl with huge blue eyes and a mess of blonde curls.  Sometimes my dream child is a boy with large brown eyes and floppy hair neatly dressed in a preppy little outfit of plaid or argyle gripping my hand as we walk down a Manhattan street.  Other nights I can feel the weight of an infant resting on the right side of my chest. The scent of half digested milk, baby powder and diapers all mixed together in the indistinguishable smell that means baby.  I can sense the breathing and the tiny heart, feel the vulnerability of a minute human who needs me more than anything else.  Then I  I wake up and it is back to reality living alone with OKCupid, Match.com and lots of painful awkward dates.

I could move back to Missouri live with my parents try to find some type of traditional job, maybe go back to school get a master’s degree and teach.  Maybe I could go to a sperm bank, get some sort of anonymous donor and raise a child on my own.  Moving back with my parents seems horribly regressive and only something I would turn to out of extreme desperation.  I have lived on my own since college.  Even during college when most students went home for Summer vacation, I continued to take classes and work. Living with my parents at this point would be like living on another planet.

I could do as some have suggested and have a baby on my own here in New York, supplementing my income with welfare and food stamps.  Purposefully living off of government programs just seems irresponsible.  I also have no family here and no support system other than my friends most of whom are childless and single.

I could see myself as a step-parent or possibly adopting.  The problem arises with finding a partner. I don’t want to completely give up, but I think I almost have to give up.  I have to mentally let go of it, or it is going to choke me emotionally.  I just have to accept that my life didn’t work out the way I wanted it and see a new future and new life ahead of me.  Instead of diapers and cranky sullen teenagers I will have solitary nights used solely for writing or whatever creative endeavor I choose.

It’s not easy.  But so much has not been easy since my divorce.  I believed since my earliest years that if I followed the rules at least some things would work out for me.  But instead I followed the rules, things crumbled and then without half trying new opportunities arose for me.  The universe and just made a new path for me and I am not fighting its momentum.   My new reality may not include motherhood, and that is OK.  So the phantom babies will have to belong to someone else, and eventually the dreams will stop and be replaced by new ones.

Happy New Year and Thank You!

I started this blog about a year ago.  I named it after myself because some fellow comedians told me that I should have a blog.   I didn’t think to give it any other name other than my own.  It had absolutely no focus whatsoever, I actually felt silly posting anything.  Then while I was in therapy for my depression my Italian therapist left for a vacation and like a typical European her trip lasted about five weeks.  She told me to write out my issues and problems while she was gone, she didn’t tell me to broadcast my struggles publicly on a blog.   I started blogging mainly about my dating mishaps and to my surprise this blog slowly became popular.  I was always shocked when total strangers were commenting on posts, and even more floored when I found people were searching for things like

“Juliet Jeske Dating Blog”

Then on the advice of another blogger Carolyn Castiglia, I re-wrote and submitted my most popular post to the Huffington Post.  The post blew up all over the internet and has changed my life and this blog.   On it’s most popular day I had 492 readers, and since then I have anywhere from 20 to 300 readers in a given day.  I am not sure why I have sudden peaks in readers but this blog never fails to surprise me.  Since I started this blog, it has been read a total of 15,648 times.

I just wanted to thank all of my regular readers.  I never really considered myself a writer.  I wrote this blog because it helped me exorcise the demons in my head and work out the frustrations about dating after a divorce.   I don’t know if I will continue to write articles that will keep you guys entertained and interested, but I will do my best to keep it going.  I am going to go through some of my older blog posts to re-work some of my older entries.  I might re-post some of them and feature them on Facebook or twitter, my apologizes if you have already read them.

I will add that one of the amazing things about this whole experience is that it has given me hope.  And I didn’t have a lot of hope when my life fell apart 2 1/2 years ago.  And the amazing thing about hope is that even though I haven’t made a dime off of any of this success yet, the feedback and motivation that I have gotten from the online community has completely changed my life.  I want to get up in the morning now.   I no longer see my future as a black cloud of nothingness but as shifting shades of gray with light peeking out at me through the cracks.  I may not get a book deal and even if I do, my book may not make money.  I am fully aware of the realities and difficulties of the publishing industry so I have very realistic expectations.  But the support of my regular readers and the feedback of so many strangers in the virtual world have transformed me.  I have more faith in myself now than I think I have ever had in my entire life, and it was all due to the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  Funny how life works isn’t it?

May we all have a wonderful and productive 2012.  And thank you again, your support means the world to me! 🙂

Juliet Jeske

 

Weekend Sunrise Interview – Dating After Divorce in a City of Sluts

Below is a clip from an interview I did on Morning Sunrise, Australia‘s #1 Breakfast talk show.  It is their equivalent of the Today Show or so I am told.  They interviewed me based on my Huffington Blog post “Dating After Divorce in a City of Sluts”

The link to the article is here.  It was ridiculously popular having something like 7,000 people “like” it on Facebook and 1400 comments.  I am an unknown, unsigned comedian so the whole thing has been mind-blowing.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/juliet-jeske/dating-after-divorce-in-a_b_944133.html

So they didn’t tell me beforehand that they were going to even mention my ex-husband’s homosexuality.  That was a complete shock to me, they also veered from the script.  I have dealt with the press before so I wasn’t really shocked by that.  The saddest thing is that the interviewer actually says

“In your book”

When in reality it was just one article, no book.  Although I am currently trying to make that happen.  I have no idea how to do it, but I am looking into it.  If I end up getting published you know I am telling everyone on the planet.  🙂

My working title for my book is “Dating in a City of Sluts” or something like that.  I never thought I would write a book in a million years but since I have gotten so much overwhelming positive feedback to go for it, I thought I would give a shot!

City of Sluts the Aftermath

So this whole thing has been insane. If you haven’t yet read the original blog post here is the link.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/juliet-jeske/dating-after-divorce-in-a_b_944133.html#comments

I had been writing this blog for a while and it was slowly but surely becoming more and more popular. On the advice of a friend, I decided to take my most popular post and submit it to the divorce section of the Huffington Post. I had been published numerous times in the comedy section but always in the form of satire videos. This was my first attempt at getting anything I had written published online or elsewhere.

I had no idea of the insane amount of popularity the post would generate. I didn’t know the editor beforehand, and she took a couple of days to get back to me. She thought the article was well written and she liked my voice, so she decided to run it as the lead story for labor day weekend. I don’t think either one of us had any idea that it would cause such a fervor.

Most of the feedback that I have gotten has been positive, and my twitter account went from about 260 followers to over 650 in a matter of a couple of days and is still climbing. The article got picked up by a number of news sources on the internet and the readers kept rising. Right now the story has been favorited almost 5,000 times on Facebook and has over a thousand comments. I have received personal email, subscribers to this blog, fans added to my youtube account, and fans added to my facebook account.

The criticism has been so diverse I have to break it down in sections. I find it stunning that so many people had such different reactions to the piece.

  • I hate men
  • I hate women
  • I hate sex
  • I am misrepresenting polyamorous people – I honestly don’t know much about the lifestyle but I really don’t have a problem with people who are openly polyamorous 
  • I should move to another city
  • Several people have told me they have the exact same problem in their city
  • I am somehow Christian or pro-Christian – I am staunchly non-religious and identify as agnostic
  • I am fat or unattractive – I am 5’7″ and a size 4, I am nowhere near fat, unattractive is in the eye of the beholder I guess but I am not even close to being overweight.
  • I should have stayed married – Well my husband was gay so that wasn’t going to happen
  • I was somehow spoiled by my ex-husband and now I am bitter – that is so far off the mark it isn’t funny.
  • I am whiny and negative – Well I guess but if it was an article that just stated how happy I was I doubt anyone would have read it.
  • I have had numerous people give me dating advice – some good, some crazy
  • I need to lower my standards and date older men, younger men, or less attractive men
  • I have also had several men ask me out, or want to start a correspondence with me online
  • I should love myself more
  • I am attracting the wrong kind of men because of something I am doing
  • I deserve to be alone because I am a bitch
  • But I have gotten a tremendous amount of people saying they are going through the exact same thing, and that they completely agree with me!!!!!!!

I obviously struck a nerve or it wouldn’t have caused so many people to respond.  My general response to anyone who gets seriously worked up over this article or anything else that I write is this…

Write your own blog and try to submit it somewhere and see what happens.

I only glance through the comment section as there is no way I could or would want to read all of them, so it is honestly wasted energy on anyone making a comment.  But I do find it hysterical how people literally project their own agenda on to a fairly straight forward article.

I basically say, I don’t like feeling pressured to have sex with  a virtual stranger, and that if people like that behavior and it works for them then great!  I also point out that both men and women and people of all sexual orientations engage in promiscuous behavior.   I never say my way is better than another choice, nor do I tell people how to live.  But that doesn’t stop the comments.

So thank you to all of the people who have supported the article, and to my detractors well there is no such thing as bad publicity so keep it up!  HA!!! 🙂  Oh and if anyone knows of any PAID writing assignments send them my way!  HA!!!  I am an unpaid blogger for the Huffington Post, I am not a reporter, I am not a published author.  I make very little money as a performer, but I do perform all over New York city.  Since leaving my husband my income has been devastated as I used to work with him, so I am just looking for a place to land.  Will write for food!  HA! 🙂

Why New York is the GREATEST CITY EVER!

So last night, I had the honor of hosting Geek Girl Productions at the Bowery Poetry club. I hosted as Gloomy Goth Girl and the crowd seemed to love her. The show went so well for me, that I was actually getting applause in the middle of poems. Sure I have gotten laughs but I have never had to hold for applause before. I also completely dominated what I would call a “Happy Heckler” in the audience. A happy heckler is a person who feels the need to talk to me throughout the entire show. They are annoying but their comments are pleasant for the most part. Well Mr. Happy dropped a joke that fell like a lead balloon and I simply retorted, “Wow, no one laughed…you see my friend I am a professional, I get paid for this, and I have a mic, not so easy now is it?” The entire room laughed at him. SCORE!

After the show I got paid more than expected, then walked to my subway line picking up a salad from a 24 hour drug store on the way home.  There I saw a good friend Brendan of Project Hex busking with his accordion. I slipped him a fiver and he made me play his accordion on the spot. I then got on the train, which was all messed up due to construction and sort of accidentally got into a friendly debate about woman’s history month with a total stranger. He made the mistake of saying out loud, that women don’t need a special day or month because we have Valentine’s day. Well since Valentine’s day is only a perk IF you have a significant other I disagreed. But the disagreement was friendly and quite fun. We ended up discussing his Master’s degree, and the plight of women in the third world.

I slunk back home at 2 AM and couldn’t fall asleep until much later. As scary and as big as this town is, deep down it is really just a collection of little communities and groups and once you entrench yourself in one…there is no escape. Not to mention the absolutely brilliant people that NYC attracts from all walks of life. Much like my friend on the subway discussing gender issues in the middle of the night.

I never thought as a poor kid from a blue collar family that I would live here, and that I would be friends with street musicians, and artists of all kinds. And that I could perform as my own creations several times a month on stages in front a live and NEW audience. I actually got recognized from a stand up night at the Bowery, something which never happens.  The only way to really grow as a performer is to CONSTANTLY perform, especially in front of new audiences.  And thankfully New York provides so much opportunity as there are stages EVERYWHERE!

I love when I run into friends on the street, usually the lower east side or east village, a situation that seems impossible when the city has over 8 million inhabitants. As big as it is, it is still home because where else do you randomly run into friends but home?  I have lived here now since April of 2001 and I feel more connected to this city than anywhere else on earth.  New York city is amazing and I never want to move. I don’t care if I have to live in the far reaches the city to make it happen. This really is a magical place. Now if I could just figure out how to make more money….