All the cards are on the table, and the cats are outta the bag….

Any time I mention the fact that I’ve never told my parents that I’m a burlesque performer they are usually incredulous and say something along the lines of, “how is that possible? It’s such a big part of who you are!”

Well, yeah.

I was incredibly shy and introverted as a child, like enough to where having to talk to a stranger would bring on complete panic. I had issues telling my mom what kind of music I liked, let alone tell her the other things I enjoyed/thought were cool that I already knew she didn’t like or had negative associations with….like tattoos, horror movies, sex work…you get it, some regular parent stuff.

My parents are older than most of my friends parents, I’m about to be 29 and my parents are 67 and 71. They just don’t have context for a lot of these things, and I get that. My mother has literally told me that only trashy girls and gangsters have tattoos. She’s thinking in terms of 1955, but that point is beyond her.

We had lunch on Monday. Tuesday she sent me an email saying she’s worried about me and she’s sad that we only have a “surface” relationship and I don’t share with her. Then she sent an email an hour later saying to ignore her previous message and that she was just whining and feeling sorry for herself.

In my response…it just felt like time, so I told her. I came out of the glittery closet and told her that her daughter is a sparkly naked lady. I’m scared because I know this has the potential to change our relationship forever. I’m scared because I know she may not be able to accept this about me, let alone celebrate it. But, I guess I just had to, at least she would know if not understand. I mean, she’s a dance teacher and I feel like she could be hurt by realizing her shy daughter has become a performer and is dancing and singing….and didn’t include her. Below is the letter I sent to her. She still hasn’t responded.

What? Don’t be sorry, being real isn’t whining. I’m just seeing these now, covering 5 projects on top of my own stuff has kept me pretty busy today.

I feel like I’ve been so run down for so long that that’s just what I have to talk about. And that’s what’s real for me, I’m unhappy with this job that has taken over my life and trying really hard to keep it together, so I can’t help but share it. For a long time I wasn’t taking any action to fix this, kind of like I did in past bad relationships. In the last few weeks I’ve been trying to take the steps to get myself back on track and to be happy.

I’ve never thought we had just a “surface” relationship, I tell you ALL the emotional stuff. But part of me has always felt like there are things about me you might never like or accept. Like, I have tattoos and I know how you feel about that. I know you’ll always love me no matter what, but I wonder if you would always accept me and celebrate me.

And maybe that’s me projecting, maybe it’s not like that at all, but that’s how I’ve felt for a very very long time. I’m not saying this to hurt you of course, I just want you to understand me.

It’s not like I do drugs or steal or hurt people or anything like that.

Ok Momma, I’m going to come out of the closet. In case you don’t already know, which I kinda thought you might, I AM a burlesque performer. So that’s a thing. I have been for 6 years. I actually run a monthly show and have co-produced/created 2 theatrical Productions that fuse theater and burlesque. I’m working on one now actually.

Totally sobbing as I write this. As this has progressed I’ve felt more guilty for not tellin you about it, because I’m performing and dancing and you would probably want to know. I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t think you would understand. I thought you would be disappointed and judge me, and I couldn’t carry that on my shoulders because this is something I truly love.

I’m not sure if you can get this, but burlesque honestly gave me permission to like myself. To feel beautiful and talented and not feel shy and terrified of people. Can I feel that way with anything else? I dunno, maybe, but this is what opened the door for me. I have made more friends and had more fun because I joined this community. It has taught me so much.

Yes, it is sexual, just like many things in the world. But that is secondary to the humor, camp, politics….so many things. And it’s where I can own it. Where it’s mine. And not some guy harassing me on the sidewalk, it’s not being done TO me. And it’s body positive and female-centric, radical self acceptance. And glitter. So much sparkles. You know how I feel about sparkles.

I think I was pushing away because there was too much I was keeping from you. And keeping such a big piece of myself from you is hard. And not fair. I hope you can forgive me for not telling you sooner. I’m genuinely terrified that you will not accept this and you will judge me and not be proud of who I am. But I can’t live in terror of my parents, my biggest fear is living a life that I regret because I was scared of what others would think.

I’m sorry to do this over email, but not at the same time. I’m crap over the phone and it’s hard for me to gather my thoughts an speak clearly. I’ve always liked letters more, then I can really think about what I want to say. So if you call after reading this and I don’t pick up, don’t worry I’m just having a panic attack.

I’m the same person I always was, but now you know exactly who that is. I hope you can love her and feel proud of her and not just tolerate the parts you may not understand.

I love you so much Momma. And now you know everything, I don’t need to hold it back anymore

 

 

Photo by Martin Caplan, Corset by Dark Garden Corsetry

Photo by Martin Caplan, Corset by Dark Garden Corsetry. This was taken on NYE at the New Bohemia party at the Armory, trolling the basement with a bad-ass girl gang

“A rose, by any other name…..”

“would smell as sweet; So, Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title….”

Yeah, that just happened. I just got all Iambic Pentameter on your asses!

I’m sure all Theatre students, performance and tech alike, have at least one Shakespeare monologue memorized and glued in their brains for the rest of their lives. I will never NOT know Juliet’s lament. That and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. Curse you, Robert!

Anyway, to the point!

I’ve recently been dealing with the problem of names. In burlesque, your name is your calling card and identifier. The pressure to pick a good one is high! And, yeah, maybe if Romeo wasn’t named “Romeo” but instead….Bueford Bumfinger or something, Juliet still would have loved him….but would have come up with a clever nick-name as well.

I’m working on a super-secret burlesque project that only 5 or so people know about. My partner in crime is an old-school DJ, and when I say “old-school” I mean 1970’s. I’ve seen pictures of the powerful mustache and big collars to prove it. And while burlesque might not be his forte, his enthusiasm is awesome. And, when shooting ideas my way, he has no problem with me saying,”No, that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Try again.” My kind of man.

A few things to consider in naming your burlesque persona/troupe:

1. I’m sorry, if you’re using a “Burlesque Name Generator” online then YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. It can be a nice way to get cookin’ and get ideas flowing, but I think to take a name from one of those things is discrediting yourself. You’re name should be uniquely “you”, not some word-salad pooped out by an app. I give your imaginations and creativity more credit than that 🙂

2. Just like naming a child, “overly-creative” spellings are really just going to bite you in the ass and have you correcting people for ever.

2a. Ask yourself: “Is this easy to pronounce and/or read? If I was an MC or an audience member, would I get it?” Example: A dancer I met years ago and who has left the scene went by the name “Dia Bolique”. Phonetically “Dee-ya Bo-leek”. I’m a word nerd, so I get it! Dia Bolique! Diabolic! Haha, you so clever! Except that more often than not, the MC would stumble over it. You have to decide whether that will drive you crazy or not. Even Dita Von Teese started as “Dita Von Tease” and an MC botched it somewhere down the line and it just stuck.

I freakin’ love this poster and it looks great on my wall! Alas, 3 out 4 dancers names are spelled wrong. Happens to the best of us!

My stage name is in that same group. I’m a total bibliophile geek, it’s a play on words that makes more sense when you see it written out. “If-N’-Whendy”. Get it? And it’s always been true of Whendy….never a matter of “If”, simply a matter of “When”.  I get “Effin’ Wendy” a lot. Which I don’t really mind and it kind of works. I have the mouth of a trucker and I’m sure my mother feels ashamed somewhere and isn’t sure why….I always thought it was cute, clever and definitely different. Google “If-N’-Whendy” and I’m the first thing that comes up! POW!

3. There are about 1 trillion Kittens, Kitties, Cats, Devilles, Lulus, Lolas, Pistols, Switchblades, Jezebels and cocktail-themed namesakes. I’m not saying NEVER, EVER use these. But tread lightly. And do it differently. Some of your personality should really shine through your name.

3a. Also, ALWAYS GOOGLE THE NAME YOU WANT. It’s a big world, odds are someone, somewhere either has that name or something like it. Be respectful and do your homework. If you become really serious, you can copyright your name and register on burlesque sites.

For instance, the first name I ever wanted to use was “Hellena Handbasket”. I googled it and there’s some lady back East by that name who literally weaves baskets. And one Hellena Handbasket who teaches tassel-twirling or something in Boston. Boo, no-go for Hellena.

After that, I toyed with “Lucky DeVille”. Lucky Devil, get it?  I am a lucky, devilish little kitten, and I liked the way it sounded. Well, consider this: burlesque has been around for a long time, and there are a lot of established performers out there. You don’t want to piggy-back on them or seem like you’re lumping yourself in with them. Kitten Deville is a former Miss Viva Las Vegas and has won awards all over and is internationally famed. She is the damn “Queen of the Quake”, cherubs. So, I wasn’t going near that with a 10-foot pole.

4. Topical concepts. My business partner was trying to get the hang of naming and naming groups. He threw “Can You See Me Now?” in my direction. NO. When you align yourself with a topical reference, you’re kind of branding and dating yourself. You might be “so 5 years ago” a few months from now. Are you planning on performing for the forseeable future? A few years from now, when you gain some younger audience members, will they get the reference? And, in my particular case, we’re a kind of underground, guerilla venture. I don’t want to reference some stupid corporate phone commercial. That’s not who we are.

Some of my favorite names in Burlesque, in no particular order:

(and these are all taken kids, so you can’t have ’em!)

Alotta Boutte

Charley Gauxdown (of the New York Gauxdowns’, I presume?)

Legs Malone

Gal Friday

Your Little Chernobyl

The Wam Bam Troupe

The Swedish Housewife

La Chica Boom

Note: I pulled all these names from memory, and didn’t spell check anything. So, before you correct ol’ Whendy here, that’s called making a point my friends! Easy to remember? Easy to spell? Easy to read? Consider all these things….

What is your persona? What is he/she like? Glamorous? Dangerous? Silly? Raunchy? I literally scribbled names down on paper for weeks, trying to find the right one until Bombshell Betty named me. It just sort of came out and that’s been me ever since 🙂

Having an alter-ego or persona is a powerful thing. I remember being backstage at a show, when someone addressed me as “Whendy” for the first time.  I felt like a super hero! Whendy had permission to be all the things my real-life persona hadn’t wrangled yet.

Names are a powerful thing, poppets, choose wisely 🙂

XOX,

Effin’ Whendy