The Guilty Feminist
Our timing worked out beautifully to see the live recording of what is fast becoming my favourite podcast. Co-hosted by Deborah Frances-White and Desiree Burch with guest Dana Alexander, the episode’s theme was ‘emotional labour’. This theme recurred throughout my Fringe experience and I have not stopped thinking it over since.
An example of the unspoken labour we give to others often without desire to (e.g. to keep us safe, to avoid conflict, to benefit others at the expense of ourselves, etc.) occurred on the train home. My partner and I were sitting at a table with a delightful young woman who happened to be the director of the musical live drama The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash (I only mention gender because it remains imperative to highlight women in the creative industries). We were joined by an older whisky-drinking woman who insisted on telling us about her life as a fortune-teller to the world’s rich and famous, often shutting down our existing conversation about the Fringe, higher education and the arts to do so.
We were all polite, thinking that perhaps she was lonely, but knowing that she was playing on this to get attention. For example, she feigned not being able to open the cap on the first miniature whisky bottle to get talking to my partner, even though she managed perfectly well with the second same flimsy little cap. We didn’t particularly react when she insisted on confidently relaying 'facts' to each of us about our lives without asking. Although these 'facts' were vague as fuck, not one reached the ballpark. She forcibly imparted what she thought was wisdom inspired by vaguely Christian values while insisting you could believe in God (Yahweh?) without being religious, which, again, none of us asked for.
When she alighted at Berwick we wondered if politeness and grinning and bearing such situations is good for everyone, even if it would be awkward to continue the journey having potentially upset someone. The woman knew what she was up to, though, as she apologized for talking at us for an hour. People saying sorry for something they’ve knowingly done is a bugbear of mine. It is disingenuous, and makes me resent the waste of my time and energy. Volunteering or consenting to giving company and conversation to an older, perhaps lonely, person is one thing, but having it forced on you in an environment from which you cannot escape is another. One of the podcast panellists suggested an 'emotional labour' chequebook. Where do accommodating people like me with one of those unintentionally meek and welcoming faces sign up for one?
Having told him I was from Belfast, he never came back to me directly again (I did get a personalized smile and thumbs up at the end, though), but he did talk to my partner for a while. Asked what his favourite film was after telling Neil he is a film historian, Andrew replied with Les Debuts de Max au cinéma (dir. Max Linder, 1910), which I tweeted to Neil after and hopefully he’s having some fun with. Delamere is a comedian who is highly adept at building tangential threads based on the contingency of audience responses that enhance his prepared material, and the show is great craic.
The next name called was a woman who said she was on her hen-do. There was no response. The third name was also a woman who disappointingly was also not there. My partner’s name was called, and he was the dungeoneer until the end of the show as his was the last name they had. The organizers must have planned to give all four a go, but found themselves having to drop the easy deaths and keep Andrew alive until the show’s end, when he was mercilessly cut in half by a big cardboard circular saw that had the agency to change direction and run right at him. Knowing that with the heavy, blinding helmet on, he was missing the show he paid to see, so I recorded what I could for him.
This version of the live show was striving hard to attain gender parity in its participants (the comedian playing evil Lilith made many Bechdel Test jokes) even though, judging by the audience present, most of its fans are male. I regretted not emailing, and didn’t because Andrew was up for it and I thought about a hundred people would have been begging to. Andrew was at times getting bigger laughs than the guest comedians who were directing him. He sang, danced the YMCA, and improvised beautifully. It was super fun.