Summertime is music festival time around here, and New Years especially seems to fill my Facebook with posts and messages from both front- and back-of-house. My new venue is small and not at all suited to live shows, so I’ll admit that I’m still in a square peg/round hole sort of situation. I can still smile for the clients, but I do miss the soldierly comradeship of the loading dock at 3am.
That and with a show crew you can call someone a cunt and nobody bats an eyelid. I’m not very good at being corporate. Working Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm, within sight of a window, would drive me bonkers. I got to 11pm tonight before I realised that I hadn’t eaten anything since the toast I scoffed down at 7am. I also hadn’t gone to the toilet since around the same time. That’s a very normal day in my world.
What’s missing is small teams of big, fit, rough-looking young men working around me. The bronze ones. The ones that wear singlets and those knee-dusting skater shorts in various shades of hard-wearing drill. They all have tattoos on their shoulders and stubble on their faces. They all have steel-cap boots. They all have those day-glo orange vests either hanging limply off their broad shoulders, or dangling from a back pocket like a tail. They all smoke roll-you-own cigarettes. The shows would come and go. The bodies stayed the same, even as the faces changed. Just one big tribe.
Despite being there to load the truck at 3am, I was always aware that I was an outsider to the tribe. The eyes would track me as I walked by. The eyes didn’t offend me after a while – I believe they meant no harm by it. But it reminded me that I’ll never really be part of their world. Even the Facebook messages from crews past still see me as “She’s Okay… For A Chick”. That is my name.
It’s a grudging form of respect – one built over many sweaty shows, filled with sarcastic, sympathetic jokes and the willingness to protect them from the more unnecessary and stupid demands of clients. Over the years, they have seen me charm dozens of anal, middle-aged women out of forcing the techs to pointlessly tear down what it just took them four days to build (and just because the ladies have now changed their mind and want the whole thing shifted 3 feet to the left!). I long gave up trying to impress the techs with feats of strength or “hardness”. It’s a competition I would never win. They all outweigh me by 100lbs. I’ll stick with what I’m good at. What I’m good at is taking care of crews.
I know that sometimes I do better to make use of my non-manliness. I can tease a little and make them blush. I know that, after seeing a guy putting up the wrong banner, and then asking him to take it down and replace it with the larger one, I can do a lot to unruffle feathers by walking back across the stage 10 mins later and shouting “Oh, John! I told you I liked the big ones, but you’ve gotta warn a girl before you pull out something that big!” And they all laugh, and all is forgiven and I become She’s-Okay…For-A-Chick. I back up the teasing with a lot of hard work and not shitting where I eat – and that maintains respect. Pretty soon, they are all rolling their eyes at me as the office girls titter in the greenroom over the latest gossip mag – and I roll my eyes in return.
It used to bother me though: the fact that they would track me as I walk past. For years it made my skin crawl. Carl taught me to be wary of techs who stare. It was Carl who taught me that, to them, I would always be a woman rather than a person. No matter how helpful and supportive I was, the tits kept me separate. To Carl, the tits also seemed to prove that I was lying about loving him.
It was a long, slow journey back. I’m convinced that, at least for some males, the line between an appreciative and angry stare is a fine and somewhat smudgy one. Want that. Can’t have it. Want to kill it.
I’m sure that most guys would disagree completely. All of my male friends seem to think that they can pick the “Bad Men” out in a crowd – and perhaps they can. Perhaps they have an innate understanding of male sexuality that comes from seeing it from within. I will never be able to achieve that. But I also believe that they separate the Bad Men from themselves because it is a comfort – one that denies humanity to the Bad Men. They are “not like us”; and, by definition, “we are not like them”. But I know that the Bad Men are just as human as the rest of them. I must accept (but not necessarily like or excuse) humans for both the good and the evil in their souls. It is in all of us. We are all capable of great wrongs.
So after a few years I was no longer bothered by the stare. I must accept it for what it is, and not try to second-guess what it means. I will never be one of the boys, so there will be some secrets that I can never learn.
They were nice to watch in return though. I enjoy the summer.