I was offered press tickets to see a preview of Fun Home, the new Broadway musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home. Alison Bechdel is famous (to me and to every lesbian from the 90s, as the author of the famed comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.
I knew a bunch of people who saw the first version of the musical when it played at The Public Theater, and also I know the dog walker of the woman who adapted the graphic memoir as a musical. It’s a tiny queer world. (Her dog is REALLY sweet.)
I have very few feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as someone who lives in New York City, developing FOMO resistance is a survival strategy. Yes, somewhere at this very moment there are a ton of parties going down and I’m not missing anything. I feel this way about books and TV shows sometimes, trusting that one day I’ll get to it if it’s that good. This is why I didn’t read Fun Home when it first came out and I was too broke to see it at the Public.
Ugh, I wish I had read Fun Home when it came out! It was so good!
The setting of the story is Alison’s family’s obsessively restored house not unlike the Addam’s Family’s period mansion. Additionally, the family’s funeral home business (the “fun home”), time traveling to college when Alison came out, and in the musical there is time traveling to present day while Alison is working on the graphic memoir and trying to understand her father.
Her dad is volatile, moody, obsessive, difficult, secretly gay and it isn’t certain but probably he committed suicide, just four months after Alison came out to her parents.
Due to the literary references and analogies in the book I kind of found myself wishing I had read Henry James, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more heavy hitters in American and European literature so I could better understand Alison Bechdel’s when I was reading the graphic memoir (imagine a cartoon doing that), but then I remembered that my brain is full of the entire works of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Dorothy Allison and I’m not missing any of the old white dude set.
In reviewing the photos from a family (minus her mother) trip to the shore with one of their young male baby sitters, with new eyes, she draws connections to literary hard hitters.
“In one of Proust’s sweeping metaphors, the two directions in which the narrator’s family can opt for a walk–Swann’s way and the Guermantes way–are initially presented as diametrically opposed. Bourgeois vs aristocratic, homo vs hetero, city vs country, eros vs art, private vs public. But at the end of the novel the two ways are revealed to converge–to have always converged–through a vast ‘network of transversals.'”
This is all written over a drawing of the family’s station wagon in the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s the kind of book that you can glaze over the stuff you don’t understand because of the pictures, but if you’re a word whore like me you’re looking up the two words per page you don’t know.
I went to see the musical on Broadway fresh from reading the book and so curious how that sweet elderly poodle’s mom had adapted it to the stage. Here’s Alison Bechdel’s comic in video form about the transition from book to Broadway.
I thought the musical was great. It was super tender and distilled the important parts of the book for me. It was brilliantly staged in the round, with furniture moving up from the floor and around through holes in the stage. It struggled to flesh out the mother’s character, who I thought had a bigger part in the book.
Dara thought Bruce Bechdel (Alison’s closeted gay dad) could have had a bigger emotional payoff, but I also wish I had been listening to the soundtrack ahead of time so I could really hear what he was singing in the last couple of songs, which is I think where the payoff was. Also, it’s so heartbreaking to watch the story of a person, especially a queer person or otherwise non-societally conforming, who lived their whole life in a 1.5 mile diameter circle.
The part that I felt was most different in the musical was the part played by Joan, who in the book is kind of a background character, but the dimension she gets in the musical makes her so charming and also the actress has some great swagger.
It’s also really freaking cool to see a masculine of center Lesbian as the star of a Broadway musical, as the narrator character is present-day Alison Bechdel (not the real Alison, an actress) in all her tee shirt, jeans, converse, short hair, bespectacled glory.
The book is a quick read, and I think my having read it made a huge difference in how I was able to experience the musical.
It was also so great to learn soon after the show that there is a sequel to the book! Are You My Mother.
Everyone I’ve talked to about the book says they love the scene where young Alison sees a butch for the first time. Here’s the you tube video of the song from the musical. It’s so amazing when you see a butch for the first time and you’re not used to seeing gender non-conforming people who you identify with!
Tickets are Broadway pricey at $75-$150, but this one is worth it. It’s on Broadway through September 13th, so grab them fast! And if you can’t make it to NYC to see it, read the book and then get the soundtrack. Both are really fantastic! (Ugh, especially the cute coming out dialogue “Thanks for the Care Package.”)
As much as I laud the benefits of intimacies long distance--I love to travel, laycations are decadent adventures and can be cheap, not as much chance of ex/friend overlap makes it cleaner--the truth is I really haven't given dating in New York the same kind of dedication and ardor I do my other pursuits. I am always so skittish about friend overlap and just busy with my three careers and friends that finding time to go on blind dates with people seems daunting.
In the interest of truly dedicating myself to the pursuit of a casual local sweetheart or two to give me an occasional distraction without requiring a plane trip and a dog sitter,* I have decided to create a blog series out of going on cruising escapades. I am also really interested in broadening my horizons--I think that is the best way to see what the New York queer scene has to offer. Plus, constantly stepping outside of your comfort zone is one of The Success Principles and I have recently begun following the advice of the tall tan man.**
My first step out into Bevin's Untapped Cruising Territory was the Go Magazine Nightlife Awards.
I also have news for you--Femme does not automatically equal high maintenance.** Most of the powerhouse Femmes I know are, in fact, pretty self-sustaining. The most high maintenance thing about going out with us is scheduling dates!
Dating situations have been broken off with me and many friends before because the person "Just doesn't date Femmes". Often this is accompanied by an explanation that Femme is high maintenance and they don't have those kinds of resources to date a Femme.
Historically I've always accepted that, too. You can't do anything about someone's preference for or against Femmes. And I am certainly not going to argue myself into someone's bed--I don't chase once I get "No". I gave that up many years ago. The "Yes, no, yes, no" game is something straight girls are taught to play and I don't do that.
But frankly, "I don't date Femmes" is a flimsy excuse and used far too often as something to hide behind when the true reason is something different.
Thanksgiving is a really hard time of year for me. It is one of those holidays that puts into sharp relief how very single I am. I am happy with my life, I am making my life into the kind of life I want to be living and am extremely grateful that I'm not in an unhappy, unsatisfying and sad lesbian foot warming* kind of relationship.
However, when you were in a relationship (or 2 back to back relationships, in my case) where you were creating a family... Thanksgiving is just one of those family holidays where you feel extra weird when your day to day family doesn't involve other people.
Just like Bad Fat Days, which happen to all fat activists and body loving fat people, being Single in Sharp Relief can be jarring even for the most ardently happy single person. But we already have all the coping mechanisms we need to get through it, just like Bad Fat Days.