You may know that I auditioned for and was selected to be in the first ever Albuquerque show of Listen to Your Mother. We had our final rehearsal last weekend and the show is this Sunday – in a real theater…on a real stage…in front of real people. This is a problem for me.
Now, thanks to my years as a radio disc jockey, I have a lovely speaking voice. I speak at an appropriate volume, I project my voice, I portray emotion and humor in the appropriate spots, and I even use gestures naturally. If you were sitting in the audience, you might think I was totally at ease and a natural at this type of thing. But eventually, like any human being, your eyes would wander a bit from my face – you’d check out my hair, what I was wearing, and then you’d notice my chest. Not in a “Wow! She’s got the biggest breasts I’ve ever seen!” type of way (because I don’t), or even the “What the hell? Why is one boob bigger than the other?” type of way (although that is totally true). No – the reason you might be captivated by my chest is because every inch you could see would be covered by bright red, horribly unattractive HIVES!
You know that saying, “He wears his heart on his sleeve?” Well, I wear my emotions on my chest. If I’m angry, upset, frightened, or…as I’m sure to be in this case…nervous, my chest blooms in a riotous mass of blotchy hives. Perhaps it is because I’m fair-skinned – so I tend to sunburn within moments, blush easily, and my ears turn bright red when I’m embarrassed. Perhaps this is just another manifestation of blood rushing to the surface of my skin in response to emotional stimuli.
But that’s not what people assume when they see it in all of its Technicolor glory.
I once was having a conflict with a coworker and my boss came to hear my side of the story. I was incredibly frustrated and angry at my coworker and feeling defensive while talking to my boss. I remained calm while explaining the situation – but suddenly her eyes dipped to my neckline and she gasped, “Jana! You have hives all over your chest!” I took a deep breath, trying to calm my runaway emotions. “It’s nothing. I break out when I’m the least little bit upset.” My boss, who was also a nurse, wasn’t buying it. “Are you sure you feel all right?” She asked, “Are you allergic? You may be going into anaphylactic shock!” She suggested that perhaps she should escort me to the emergency room, which was located in the same building.
This condition doesn’t hurt or even itch – beyond feeling a bit hot, it’s just a display, a hideous shout out to everyone that I’m not as calm, or happy, or confident as I’m attempting to portray. It’s like my own, personal, built in emotional lie detector! Dammit!
If I know ahead of time that I’m going into a stressful situation – such as a job interview – I’ll dress accordingly. I’ve never been able to pull off a turtleneck (which is no great loss – who really WANTS to wear a turtleneck anyway?), but I may throw on a scarf and arrange it artfully around my neck – fluffing it out to cover most of my chest and attempting not to move too much lest I dislodge it. Or, I might choose a higher neckline – if I can cover up to my collar bones and then cleverly rest my chin on my hand, no one usually notices the few stray discolorations that tend to creep up my neck.
But if I’m caught unaware – say, if a patient lashes out at me with a torrent of misplaced rage, or if the one of the bigwigs at the hospital suddenly appears in my cubical, peeved about the progress of a project I’m working on – then my chest practically screams my inner stress and frustration.
So, come Sunday, when I climb the stairs to the stage and stand behind the Listen to Your Mother podium, I know that the hives will make their inevitable appearance. I’ve scoured my wardrobe and realized that I’d rather be comfortable and somewhat stylish rather than covered from chin to toe – so perhaps now is the time to just embrace my chest and its virtual fireworks.
You’ll be able to see the display for yourself when they post my video on the Listen to Your Mother youtube channel. Unless you can think of a magical solution that I can try?
PS — I had a problem with my comment button for a few days, but the marvelous Jen Kehl was able to find the problem in .00002 seconds. So, if you wanted to comment on my last post, but couldn’t — you can now (I was going through withdrawal — seriously!!!)