On July 27th, 2016, our theme was Consent. Featured readers included Ada Cheng, Sarah Meltzer, and Caitlin Brecht.
On July 27th, 2016, our theme was Consent. Featured readers included Ada Cheng, Sarah Meltzer, and Caitlin Brecht.
On May 25th, 2016, our theme was Birth Control. Featured readers included Christina Brandon, Lynette Roqueta, and Ju Lee Anna.
There’s a lot of mostly imperfect ways to prevent pregnancy. Condoms. Pills. Getting back to their place and seeing a book called God’s Game Plan: The Athlete’s Bible. I can personally vouch for all of the effectiveness of all of these. But sometimes it breaks, you miss a day, that title’s obscured by a John Grisham book and eh, whatever. Come join Adrienne Gunn, Ju Lee Anna, Christina Brandon, Lynette Roqueta, and Elizabeth Gomez for stories of Birth Control.
Also, we’re turning two! More on our toddler status this week, and see you Wednesday.
Adrienne Gunn is a writer, editor, and humorist based in Chicago. She received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and her work has appeared in various literary magazines including McSweeney’s and PANK. Adrienne previously served as managing editor and fiction editor of TriQuarterly, the literary magazine of Northwestern University, and she regularly performs stand-up and storytelling throughout Chicago. In 2016, Adrienne’s first one-woman show Mother of the Year! debuted to sold-out audiences.
Hailing from Chicago’s crooked pinky, Ju Lee Anna is a variety entertainer with a ferocious charm and a sickeningly sweet sixth sense to make with cha-chas and chuckles. Ensemble member at Vaudezilla, she’s got a reputation for serving up a heavy hit of screwball and sizzle as slapstick burlesque delight Shirley Blazen. Ju Lee is a producer on the monthly stand-up comedy showcase Broad Squad and can be seen regularly telling audiences about her queer feminist agenda and love of Mountain Dew.
Christina Brandon is a writer and user experience researcher in retail, meaning she spends a lot of her days thinking about how people shop. She just launched her own TinyLetter, Humdrum, which consists of tiny essays on weird everyday things. She’s also furiously scribbling to finish her memoir about teaching English to university students in China. Her food writing has been published in Gapers Block, and her essays have been published in Compose, Gravel, Work Literary Magazine, and others. Her spirit animal is the kangaroo.
Lynette Roqueta is a proud Miami, FL native. She has been braving Chicago winters since December 2012. A graduate of The Second City Training Center with Improv and Acting, and The Annoyance. Also, she is part of the indie teams Combat The Beard, Barnacle with The Playground Theater, Matt Damon Improv, and Scream Theatre. Lynette has performed at The Second City, Under The Gun Theater, Bughouse, pH Comedy Theater, Playground Theater, and The Annoyance. Currently she is the producer for the web series Squat and performs at various storytelling events.
Elizabeth Gomez is an entrepreneur, stand up comic, world explorer, and a founder of an all female roller derby league. She currently spends her days agonizing on whether to put on pants. She is a Beast Woman Rising and you can see her at the kates or Drinkers with Writing Problems. You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @JuannaRumbel since she’s too lazy to put together a website.
Can we talk about Beyoncé? Or rather, can I? I mean, since everyone is weighing in on it…
*Don’t worry. I won’t speak on the racial aspect of things since I can’t, while also acknowledging that race may or may not play into what I do want to discuss.
Like others before me who were quick to write their think-piece on the matter, I will declare myself a Sort of Fan of hers. Yes, Destiny’s Child’s songs still make me smile and in general, I’ve always enjoyed her music.
But I’m no worshipper.
When Formation came out, I rewatched it about five times in a row, fascinated. I found it powerful, eccentric, creative and tried to understand the meaning of its message without claiming any kind of ownership or overwrought opinion on/about it.
I just liked it. I liked what felt like a political statement and I liked hearing it from someone who had an understanding of it beyond my own.
When I watched the trailer for “Lemonade” on HBO Go, I was…confused. And annoyed. I remember seeing her tease something about this upcoming “once in a lifetime” event and felt even more irritated when, from what I saw, she had gone and made some kind of horror movie.
But of course, after hopping on social media, I was quickly inundated with the overwhelming response of people I like basically saying I was missing out on life if I didn’t take the opportunity to watch it.
Well. It was…incredible? Incredible in how it captivated. Incredible in how emotionally connected I was to it. Incredible in how real it felt.
I will choose, for now, to ignore the swirling talk of this all being a huge production, created and made-up by Jay and Bey to garner sales and sign people up for Tidal.
Because honestly? Even if that were even remotely true, you will never be able to convince me that Beyoncé hasn’t wondered if her husband has cheated on her and you will most likely never be able to convince me that he hasn’t.
There are two things I thought a lot about after digesting this visual and audio onslaught.
The first being: We need to talk about how Beyoncé met Jay-Z when she was SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. In a 2007 interview with Charlie Rose, Jay-Z said he met his future wife about ten years prior. She was 16 in 1997.
And while further interviews and loose details will point more to them “starting to date” when she was 18 or 19, that seems awfully convenient.
But fine. Let’s give them the 18 and then focus on the fact that he is ELEVEN YEARS HER SENIOR.
Which means, a twenty nine year old MAN was wining and dining an 18 year old GIRL.
Now here is where I’m going to start making assumptions, ones that I believe are probably true and deeply entrenched in what might be going on in Beyoncé’s mind and soul if dealing with her spouse’s infidelity.
Beyoncé was destined for stardom, for queendom, for utter domination. No question. She worked her ass off, night and day, day and night. She has been performing since she was a child. And judging from her relationship with her parents, I don’t think she was really concerned with, nor had time to have a boyfriend.
What I’m saying is, even if she lost her virginity to someone else, maybe even had sex with two people before Jay-Z (which even that I’m doubtful of), he is one of VERY FEW sexual partners she’s ever had.
So there’s this juxtaposition. We live in a society (an American one) where being sexy means you ARE sexy means you know what you’re doing in the sack.
There is no way at sixteen OR eighteen she was sexually experienced enough to know left from right, especially with a twenty nine year old man.
And whether or not she had other encounters before him, he became her everything. And depending on what kind of teacher, nurturer, partner he was, that would become her introduction to sex.
A lot of things have to go right in that scenario for her to come out of it OK.
Because again, we are expected to know what we’re doing. It’s assumed that if we look good and exude confidence and seem sexual in any way, or are sexualized without doing anything other than stand there, we internalize that and never actually talk about it.
We’re supposed to know what we’re doing based on what exactly? Movies? T.V.? Porn? The only way to get good at sex is actually having it and even then, depending on who you have it with and how open your communication is, you may never get good at it.
I’m not saying that people haven’t been able to wordlessly get someone off. But is that all you want? Just the orgasm? Also, why don’t we (as women) talk about all of the times we definitely did NOT have an orgasm?
Maybe it seems unsexy to have a discussion before or during. Why do you feel that way? Is it because everything you’ve ever seen on the screen are two people automatically connecting and having otherworldly intercourse?
Sexual attraction gets you there, but it doesn’t and can’t take you all the way. There is no way of knowing what the other person is into without working it out first.
Back to Beyoncé. Her world is coming apart on many levels due to this infidelity. Do you see me? She asks. Everyone else does. She says. He only want me when I’m not there. She says.
To her, this is unfathomable. She is THE baddest bitch on the planet, oh and also his WIFE (which again, in her mind is the ultimate…the commitment, the vows, the promises, the sacredness…to her, this is everything and being cheated it on is the equivalency of him murdering her.) This makes her feel like she is not enough and how could that possibly be?
Why would he want anyone but her?
To touch on marriage and monogamy, this is what I think causes a lot of damage for some people. For those that consider marriage a holy union, an eternal binding with no exceptions, cheating is the worst sin of them all. And a lot of people cheat.
Because it is actually asking a lot of human beings to only sleep with one person, or in general, “be” with one person for the rest of their lives.
As hard as it is to meet people, it is also not hard at all to make a connection with more than one person. If you have exes than you’ve already proven my point.
There’s no completely shutting that off. We will continue to be attracted to and attracted by other people. We will form relationships with people, get close to them emotionally and sometimes physically because that’s in our nature.
Not because our partner isn’t enough, but because there is no actual limit.
We feel because we’ve given everything to someone that they should be satisfied, fulfilled.
Which brings me to the second thing I thought a lot about: Past relationships. Actually, one in particular. I’ve never been cheated on (to my knowledge), so I can’t really speak on it. Yet I still really identified with the first half of “Lemonade”, with all of it’s anger and apathy and threats and indignation and middle fingers wagged in faces.
And the absolute contradiction telling the guy you want: “Boy, BYE.”
When you are sleeping with someone who doesn’t want to be exclusive, doesn’t want the labels and is generally kind of aloof and non-committal, it will drive you crazy.
The answer is always to not be with someone like this, but it happens.
You have no idea if you’re the side chick. You probably are. Or at the very least, you are simply one of a few, possibly many.
I remember trying to see other people in the meantime. Which didn’t really work because if I was being honest with myself, I wanted to be with him. Even though I knew well enough that we weren’t right for one another, the baseline attraction (mine to him) was undeniable.
I could not extricate myself from the situation. That out of control feeling had me going on dates with other people, having inappropriate conversations and casual meet ups with a friend of his and other people he had connections to.
So when out of the blue, the phone calls and texts stopped, I didn’t know how much of it had to do with him meeting someone else or what he knew about what I was up to when we weren’t together.
I believe it had more to do with the former, but the way in which things were left were because of the latter. As in, maybe I didn’t deserve any kind of explanation or reason or courtesy ending of our non-relationship.
On occasion, I’m still irked by this other girl. She is younger. She is prettier. And she managed to lock it down. The one thing I couldn’t do.
During the entire situation I was constantly questioning my self worth over something that wouldn’t have worked for me anyway. Seriously, at one point I was at a bar hanging out with his friends and he was there. On a date with someone.
Anyway. I’m no Beyoncé.
But I feel a lot of things when I watch and listen to Lemonade. I feel for her and I feel for me.
Miss Spoken is billed as “lady live lit”. This is not entirely true, in that it’s true but it’s not all. When we started this series, it was never the intent to be exclusive. However, we do choose to highlight stories by those whose work we know is underrepresented. Women definitely fall into this category, but this not where it ends: queer, non-white, trans, poor, and non-cis experiences are still woefully underrepresented in the live lit world and beyond. We are not the exception. We’re working on it.
A big part of our series is not only featuring readers who don’t get that exposure, but giving their feelings and history weight. The themes we cover are often dismissed as frivolous at best, lies at worst. We want to hear about your everyday, your personal, your feelings, because it’s real and that’s vital. Equally important is having a space where you can comfortably talk about that, get the audience talking and thinking, and maybe make a little money in the process.
Jesus Rose, stop with the PSA and get to the point.
Recently, we reached out to a reader who identifies as non-binary. It made me stop and realize: Miss Spoken welcomes non-cis readers. If your voice doesn’t get a lot of play, we want to hear you. No, this doesn’t mean we’re going to start having male readers. If you’re a man, especially a straight, white, able-bodied man, you are well-represented in the world and can seek out the multitude of options currently available. You will find there are many. The atmosphere we’re trying to create is one where tales that don’t get top societal billing can be center stage – a safe space to perform and listen. We also like if you’re funny, but like falling somewhere traditional on the gender spectrum, that’s not a requirement.
But but but Rose, you just said “lady live lit”, right there at the top of this post.
I did. It’s catchier than “genders less-represented in the artistic canon live lit”. Also, it’s our show and we can do what we want. Readers are chosen at our discretion. We think that makes the show great, and hope you agree.
Here’s a recording of our October 2015 show. The very spooky theme was Sex Ed. Readers included Kristin Mount, Kelly Connell, Julie Marchiano, and Kimberly Duncan.
Tomorrow night, Julie Marchiano, Kristin Mount, Kimberly Duncan, and Kelly Connell talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be- sorry. How good are Salt-N-Pepa? How good and instructive is this show going to be? These are all questions, and the answer is very, very good.
Kristin Mount has been a freelance medical illustrator since 1993, and also teaches Anatomy and Digital Illustration at a private art college in Chicago. She is also a research advisor at the medical illustration graduate program at UIC. Her writing experience includes her anatomy blog, her book, The Figure Artist’s Book of Anatomical Landmarks, and the occasional essay for online publications such as Zaftig and Yes Press. She is grateful for the opportunity to take part in a Miss Spoken event.
For over 20 years Kelly Connell has been teaching Sexuality Education to anyone who will listen. She holds a Master’s Degree in Human Sexuality Education from the University of Pennsylvania and completed all of her course work for her PhD in the same at Widener University, where she received a Certificate of Advanced Study in Human Sexuality- which means she ran out of money two months before her dissertation defense. When she is not teaching sexuality or telling tales about the crazy Life as a Sex Educator she is a busy wedding officiant, host of Sex Trivia, and lives in her small hometown in Michigan.
Julie Marchiano is pleased as punch to be reading this month at Miss Spoken. When she’s not traveling across the country with The Second City Touring Company, Julie can be seen in Improv All Stars at UP Comedy Club, Weary Travelers at iO Chicago, and various improv, sketch, and storytelling shows around the city. Check her out on Twitter @juliemarchiano, or on her fancy website, juliemarchiano.com.
Kimberly is an actor, dancer, singer and writer. She’s a Belgian girl raised in Detroit who loves french fries, waffles and the Red Wings. Sorry folks. Thanks to her highly useful Bachelors degree in Theatre and Dance, Kimberly has appeared in shows across this great land of ours, but her proudest achievement, by far, is helping to create the greatest, sassiest, most independent girl in the world, her daughter, Isobel. Kimberly has told her stories at Voicebox and Louder Than A Mom. She also co-hosts Do Not Submit in Brookfield the 4th Tuesday of the month. Feel free to stop on by, but she is thrilled to appear at Miss Spoken, for the very first time, to share her Belgian version of Sex Ed.
Somehow, between changing schools and avoiding the subject of it with my parents (for a myriad of reasons which I won’t get into now), I never had the opportunity to take a sex ed class.
This was in New York City in the 1980s. I went to public school through sixth grade, in a part of Brooklyn that you might one day see on an episode of “Girls”. Learning about sex was not on the curriculum for us. At least, it wouldn’t be until seventh or eighth grade. Apparently too late for some of the older girls who would go on to start high school a few blocks away with suspiciously round bellies.
Or as I like to call it, nipple-slip camel-toe permanent wedgie season.
My large-bottomed sister and I joke that our asses like to eat, because no matter the swimsuit style, after three steps toward the beach all we have left is a Sisqo fold and an overdressed butthole.
I’ve never found a bikini top with triangles that didn’t shift around like Scrabble pieces. The knot at the top pushes so hard into the nape of my neck that it aches for a day afterwards. Because of this, I’ve resorted to buying bra-style suits that manage my boobs like a cartoon grasping at a slippery bar of soap.
Maybe I should go back to the tankini. I was so relieved the first time I found a full-length top to cover what my brother lovingly used to refer to as “the black hole.” (My bellybutton).
At age 11 I found a purple printed swimsuit at Old Navy, a sort of half-tank with a flattering cinch to highlight my brand-new breast buds. I showed my mom and said, “I like it, but I’m just self conscious about my stomach.” She replied, “Why don’t you go lay outside for a little bit so you don’t feel like a beached whale?”
Her intention: A tan may make you feel slimmer.
My teen understanding: I’m a beached whale.
At 13 I wore my first bikini, one of many hand-me-down swimsuits from my flat-abbed older sister. The swimsuit was orange, with a hazy painted sunset. The bottoms never quite fit right and would at times slip side-to-side, providing a locker-room visual if I didn’t quickly readjust. It had pilling all over the butt from sticking to the side of the pool, but I loved it.
The first time I put it on, I weighed 74 pounds. Orthopedic surgery to correct my uneven legs kept me out of the eighth grade and on heavy narcotics (an excellent weight loss plan). I remember limping into the bathroom to look at myself before going out into the yard, and sucking in my stomach. I could see every single rib, and quickly let out my breath to hide them again.
By 16, I had put on enough weight to go through puberty a second time. I went on a trip to Israel with a hundred other horny Jewish teenagers, and nearly sharted in astonishment when I heard that boys liked me. Up until that point, boys had primarily treated me as the unavoidable tumor on a group of pretty girls, providing me with creative elementary nicknames such as “pot-belly-socks” and “peg-leg.”
Suddenly, these hot underage Jews wanted to rest their heads on my stomach, and invite me for back stairwell “PCs” (private conversations). My weight was almost healthy, nearing the triple digits, but I was still reeling from the sudden weight gain. The constant attention made me feel safe enough to wear a bikini, whereas my best friend on the trip ate one-third of every shwarma and wore Soffe shorts three sizes too big. We were two peas in a pod.
At 19, twenty pounds and s-e-x brought on a horror of self-awareness I had never experienced before, even in a bikini. Fucking was like reading a graphic novel featuring a fatter, clumsier version of myself. Captions read SMACK, CLAP, and SQUISH, and every issue ended with the heroine crying in the shower.
Looking back, my entire life revolved around looking in the mirror and seeing my body for the first time, every time. My life was like a really shitty dubstep version of “Mirror Mirror On The Wall”. I lost all ability to see myself clearly, and began depending on compliments- my clues to what I really looked like.
I wish I could say it was the strength of girl-power that changed my feelings towards myself, but the truth is that it took falling in love to disrupt my body dysmorphia. My post-college boyfriend honored my body with zeal that bordered on worship, and over time I began to see parts of my body the way he saw them. He didn’t call my legs “long” or my body “thin”, but he treated my ass like the third member of our relationship. I trusted his opinion of my body when I couldn’t form my own.
Now single and in my mid-twenties, the funhouse mirror has mostly straightened out. I have a general understanding of what I look like, but sometimes I still study pictures of my body hungrily, searching for new clues. In those moments, I try to recall the confidence I felt with a man who praised my cellulite, and helped me stop fucking in the dark.
When it comes to swimsuit season – accepting my body and all that – I may not have the confidence to buy a thong bikini, but my hungry ass will always be looking for a snack.
Lena Kazer is a Chicago writer best known for her platform shoes and affinity for swearing. An avid over-sharer, you wouldn’t call her an open book so much as a never ending gag reel. Her composition is 75% whiskey and 25% gummy vitamins.
Check out her personal blog at SheLikesBourbon.wordpress.com.
Orgasms are like seashells. To quote the unnamed author of SeashellWorld.com, who will be no doubt confused and perhaps dismayed at being referenced in this post, “A shell formation can produce new structural elements (folds or tubercles), and as growth continues these irregularities can produce what is known as an ornament or sculpture on the upper surface of the shell.” Likewise, what happens between your ears and legs often spirals up to the surface, shaping the external in unpredictable ways.
And like seashells, no two are exactly alike. Swim through the ocean that is Chicago summer this Wednesday and find the distinct ridges and whorls that make up our readers’ experiences.
Kim is a recent transplant to Chicago via New York City. She is an actor/writer/improv corporate trainer and runs off to Mexico once or twice a year to run an artist residency on the Caribbean. Tough life. She has performed on many local and national stages, has written two solo shows, published several articles, one book and is trying to publish a second book about falling in love with an Iraqi refugee called Three Days in Damascus. Kim loves stories and how they shape our memories and lives. She blogs, tweets and and can be generally found at www.kimschultz.net, as well as Twitter and her blog.
A former newspaper reporter, Lesley Pearl found her pen and her voice in 2012 following a nearly 15-year hiatus from writing. She shares stories of love, loss and life after divorce in the popular blog “A Wandering Jewess” (www.awanderingjewess.com) and at live lit events around Chicago.
She is a mad thrifter, an excellent parallel parker, and has an unnatural fear of raccoons. She also tends to lead on the dance floor.
Lesley is relocating to Madrid in July 2015 to teach English, learn Spanish and eat churros con chocolate. She may even take in a bull fight.
Jess Krista Merighi
Born and raised in the burbs of Boston, Jess arrived to the great city of Chicago with $3,000 in savings, 2 suitcases, a month long sublet, and no job. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. She now resides in the Ukrainian Village, and runs the customer service department of a growing company in the West Loop. A poet by trade, Jess is looking to expand her literary lexicon by writing more stories and essays. In her free time she enjoys biking, beering, and being an overall heathen. You can find more of her work at jesskristamerighi.com.
Kim Nelson is a writer, performer, and retired roller derby skater from Chicago. She is a regular contributor and co-editor at the literary blog Drinkers with Writing Problems. According to Buzzfeed, her spirit animal is a dog wearing sunglasses. You can follow her on Twitter @ponytailup.
Growing up in the city of Chicago, Meg Grunewald would listen to books and spoken word on tape to drown out the sirens and noises of city life as she drifted off to sleep. She loved the way tone and inflections could change the whole meaning of a story. Always willing to read aloud in class and bitten by the acting bug at a young age, Meg has always loved performing, of any kind. She’s currently an ensemble member at ComedySportz Chicago, where she plays several times a month. Meg also has 90+ original characters on her vine channel (Meg Grunewald), where she holds over 19k followers. Meg lives in Lincoln Square with her two cats, Squiggy and Weezy. She also avidly loves the “Golden Girls”, particularly Dorothy Zbornak.