Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hedwig - Love Thyself

I saw the movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch many years ago, and the story resonated so deeply with me, I’ve carried it with me for years.  While I haven’t seen it in quite some time, I listen to its music on a daily basis.  When I heard the stage version was coming to Broadway, and with NPH starring to boot, it was a no brainer that I was going to be there.

I’ve seen the show twice now, and I would go back again and again if I could.  It starts with a bang and is so in your face and flashy and loud, and by the end, everything is stripped away and vulnerable.  The show is loud, quiet, flashy, simple, crude, beautiful, hilarious, serious…so many juxtapositions.

While I can’t personally relate to what it’s like to be a young gay male in East Berlin who was sexually abused and later had a boxed sex change operation to be able to legally marry and escape Communism, it’s easy to relate to feeling different.  It’s easy to relate to the fear of not being accepted….feeling shame when there is nothing to be ashamed of.  Not fitting in.  I can see myself in Hedwig.  I think by the end, everyone can see themselves in Hedwig, no matter what you may have thought of her in the beginning.  At the end of the show, when all the flash is stripped away and you see the REAL Hedwig, I can see myself up there.  My vulnerable self that just wants to be me….accepted or not.

It’s no secret that I am completely insecure.  I’m sure there are people that probably think, she must be a lesbian or something otherwise she would have a boyfriend or have been married by now.  So what’s the problem?  The problem is that I can’t accept me.  Or rather, I can’t accept that another person would accept me for me.  I’m not the prettiest girl.  I’m not the skinniest girl.  I feel at extremes.  I’m quirky.  And physically, there are things I just don’t like about myself…that I’m embarrassed about.  When I watch Hedwig, I get it.  I understand.  The message of the show…Be Yourself.  Don’t be ashamed to be yourself.

I’m actually a very happy person, let’s make that clear.  I live a wonderful life with amazing friends and amazingly supportive and loving parents.  I’m alone when I want to be alone and I have awesome people around me when I want to get out and have fun.  I have a roof over my head and food on my table.  I’ve gotten to travel lately and indulge regularly in my theatre addiction.  Life is great…..I just need to love my physical self so that I can allow someone else to love me too.

I wish the message of Hedwig could reach further audiences.  I have no doubt that many people will hear what it’s about and see pictures of Neil Patrick Harris in drag and say, this is not for me…no, thanks.  And that’s a shame.  That’s a shame because it’s so much more than a guy in drag.  I wish people could get past that fear of what they think is different, because they would realize that we are really all the same.  There is nothing wrong with being different.  There is nothing wrong with being unique.

I’m fittingly watching a girl on So You Think You Can Dance as I type this.  She’s a beautiful young girl who suffered from an eating disorder at age 16.  She never thought she was good enough and was just scared of what other people thought.  Now she’s healthy and happy and back to doing what she loves….dance.  As she was starting her audition, Christina Applegate whispered, “I hate it.  Just, being a girl.  It’s hard.”  Well it is hard being a girl.  It’s hard being a gay man or woman.  It’s hard being handicapped.  It’s just hard being different.  It’s hard being yourself when there are just so many people filled with irrational judgments.  Or what’s even worse, us fearing judgment from people when it doesn’t even exist.  It’s a mental game.

“Rain falls hard
Burns dry
A dream
Or a song
That hits you so hard
Filling you up
And suddenly gone

Breath Feel Love
Give Free
Know in you soul
Like your blood knows the way
From you heart to your brain
Know that you're whole

And you're shining
Like the brightest star
A transmission
On the midnight radio
And you're spinning
Like a 45
Dancing to your rock and roll

Here's to Patti
And Tina
And Yoko
And Nona
And Nico
And me

And all the strange rock and rollers
You know you're doing all right
So hold on to each other
You gotta hold on tonight

And you're shining
Like the brightest stars
A transmission
On the midnight radio

And you're spinning
Your new 45's
All the misfits and the losers
Yeah, you know you're rock and rollers
Spinning to your rock and roll

Lift up your hands”

 - Midnight Radio Lyrics from Hedwig