ROOMFUL OF HOTFLASHES
Walking into PPAC also known as the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence, RI Wednesday night was like being planted in the middle of an estrogen bath. Lots of fanning and removing layers in the confines of the beauty called PPAC. The night before was the same, as I attended the French Film Festival at Salve Regina College, lots of women hanging in each other’s company, not many men in sight and perpetual temperature adjustments as I observed the females out for the evening.
I am aware that this sounds like I jaunt from one cultural experience to the next, but it just so happened that these things become available in clusters and I jump at the chance when the mood strikes. The mood doesn’t always strike. I take that back, the mood always strikes, but the sizzling fireplace on a warm night with a video or a great book usually proves to override all notions of the step out the door on a cold night to attend a lecture or a play. The other factor is that it seems all cultural experiences start at 7:00pm or later and for the most part, I am an hour away shy of my bedtime. So to actually buy the tickets and make the commitment is a big step for this winter hibernator. Clearly I am a morning person. When I roll over in the morning and see light out my window, I consider this a sleep in. I like the morning time, but ‘early to rise’ comes with the bookend of the other half of ‘early to bed.’ This is why I am so comfortable with an almost seventy one year old boyfriend, his vibrant circadian internal rhythm is on the same morning schedule as mine and it takes a lot for both of us to be anywhere after 7:00pm.
As I walked into the glamorous PPAC that is right in my backyard attending Beautiful, the musical tribute to the brilliance of Carole King’s story, I was transported into a female tribal force. Sure there were a few sprinkles of testosterone, but I would venture to guess ninety five percent were women hear me roar. The men who had the courage to stand proud along with their ladies looked a little sheepish, but they marched forth into the menopausal pool and prevailed through the claps and ‘mmm..mmmms’ every time Carole stood up to the first love of her life, Gerry Goffin.
Carole’s rise to stardom, at least in the portrayal of her in this lovely evening out with my superchick friend, Jane, was a story most of the fifty to seventy year young women in the audience could identify with. Deep inner talent blurred by a deep attachment to young love, pregnant before marriage, married in her prime and having the life sucked out of her because she thought she needed this love to validate her somehow. How far have we come as a collection of estrogen, I thought. Not sure because Tapestry, perhaps the greatest female album of all time in my generation came out in 1971 so it was also my young mother’s generation, (19 years only my senior) more likely. The heartsick and heart opening songs on Tapestry were foreshadowing for Adele’s famous vocals on her own two rocking breakthrough and breakup albums, 19 and 21 forty years later! Yes I just said forty. It seems that many of these famous albums (as they used to be called) created by women are usually about heartbreak over their men and the immense heart opening that happens after. This type of death can be like this- grief’s entrance into our hearts and its ultimate importance for our soul’s creativity all unbeknownst to us in the throws of its seeming strangulation at the time. Breaking up can be hard to do, but the lessons and lioness energy it creates has a potency like nothing else. As painful as grief can be, the most creative spirits birthed belong to an infinite list that is both famous and every day regular.
As I listened to the familiar music sung by the actors playing The Shirelles and The Drifters, Little Eva and group after group before Carole actually realized she had her own voice, I was transported into my mother’s pale yellow Triumph convertible on our way to Third Beach when I was about six. I have no idea where my brother was, with a babysitter, in the back of the Triumph? No idea and I suppose that in itself has its own story for a later time. Music does this, it captures unique times in our lives and time machine travels us to other periods like almost bringing up the actual smells in the car and of course the sounds on the radio (or eight track for those who really know the era I am talking of).
The hormone fest that was last night was written in every eye contact I had as we unobtrusively took a look at each other through our windows of yesteryear to try to understand the main question, How did we get here? I actually dressed up, meaning I dropped the daily yoga pants that have become my go to attire (yes go ahead cringe, I don’t give a shit, comfort is my soulmate). I instead donned a pair of kickin jeans and a nice wedge shoe, jewelry and hold on to your seats- makeup. So fun to dress up like a girl, in my perpetual casual state I live in, I forget how much a good excuse to get dressed up feels.
What I noticed last night in the glory of I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE and SO FAR AWAY is the nodding and memory that jolted us as a collective unit back to somewhere. It seemed that somewhere was a good place from all the smiles that were beaming everywhere except for the irresponsible woman sitting directly behind us coughing and hacking. I swear in this crazy flu world we live in, why does anyone go out in the midst of a crowd in a confined space and announce midway through the show that she had the chills and a fever, but she didn’t want to back out of the night out with her friends. I swear, Jane and I almost went a little Mean Girls on her, but we held our tongue praying that her germs weren’t sprinkling all over us like fairy dust. Sometimes I think sickness is half psychological as we both started immediately feeling like we were getting sore throats. Besides that annoyance, our evening was a happy one. Watching my peeps walking around in their dress up clothes at the theatre with each other completely identifying with the era of the music and all of its messy and glorious layers made the whole evening extra special. I forget how much I enjoy spending time in venues like this with other women. Carole King music as the excuse was certainly a nice way to end February and start the climb to my birthday smack in the March’s center. Fifty three and I couldn’t be happier that Carole is part of my personal history, she not only opened up her own doors, but she surely has been a perennial influence on mine.