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Put on That Red Light

26 Oct



Self-marketing. It kind of leaves a bad taste in the mouth, no? Yet as anyone who has ever interviewed for any job ever knows, you forego that skill at your own peril. This is especially true of any kind of artist, because you are your commodity. And if you don’t sell yourself, nobody’s going to do it for you.

Last week I happened to get an invitation to an online survey from my alma mater college of the arts. They wanted to know, among other things, how prepared was I for a career in the arts?

Well, let’s see.

Ability to problem solve and analyze? Check.

Thorough knowledge and practice of performance technique? Check.

Interpersonal skills that enable you to look people in the eye and make coherent and intelligent things come out of your mouth at the same time? Check and check (most days).

Self Marketing skills?








Alas, other than a fuzzy working definition of “networking” that boiled down to a mental picture of well dressed, cocktail-holding people standing around name-dropping at one another, I really had no good understanding at age 22 of how to sell myself.

My post-grad certificate from the School of Hard Knocks has shored up my education considerably, but even so, I sometimes find myself in the thoroughly uncomfortable position of figuring out how to make one success translate into another.

After Unified auditions in March, I wrote thank you notes to the auditors, including a note about my upcoming projects. It took way too long to do it – I don’t mean the 6-7 lady-hours of doing handwritten notes, I mean the fact that I wasn’t getting around to it until June. True, the hot iron I ought to have been proverbially striking was closer to lukewarm, considering the heinous disaster that was my vocal audition, but still.

And then we come to today. Due to circumstances that have nothing to do with talent and working relationships and everything to do with schedules and the fact that I live in Atlanta where a ten-mile trip takes an hour and a half, I will not be doing the choreography project that I usually do in the winter time slot. It’s a bummer because I am so hard-core in love with the prospect of choreographing right now.

I have a generalized feeling that I should be hustling but am not really sure how to go about it. In the meantime, I’m starting a serious writing project this fall – more on that later – and I have an acting gig on the horizon and a possible directing gig later in the spring. In the meantime I’ll be picking up dance classes when I can.

So if you happen to know anyone who is looking for a good choreographer, send them my way. I’ll be the surly-looking chick at Chocolatte who just spilled decaf on her laptop wearing this tag.


So what do you think – is self-promotion a dirty word? What have you done to sell yourself lately?

Black Thursday? Discuss.

25 Nov

Did you miss me? Been leaving one job, starting another the next day, then opening and closing a show, and sort of writing a play in between. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Black Friday has been breathing down Thanksgiving’s neck for a while now–the 4:00 AM Doorbuster is a hard, cold (literally) reality, for better or worse.

One day?…or one hour?

That’s right, the perennial commercialism debate gets an extra jolt this year due to the fact that many big box stores will be open on Thanksgiving itself. (Yes, that happened last year too, but this year more stores are doing it this year, and at earlier hours, due to the fact that the shopping season is much shorter).

I think it stinks like gym socks that regular store employees–the ones making something nearish minimum wage–have to leave their families on the second most universal American holiday and go to work, and in sheety fluorescent-lit retail stores, no less. I’m sure the execs who made the decision to send in all those folks will be playing touch football on the lawn of their palatial estates the whole day (or have a bottle of single malt and a high class hooker to keep ’em company in the office.) Yeah I know, #snarkmuch? Seriously though, it makes me feel icky and I don’t support shopping of any kind on Thanksgiving Day.

But P has a completely different take. If employees have to go in on a holiday, why not make it worth their while by getting out there too? He says. Most of them probably volunteered to come in, plus they are likely getting time and a half. Shopping at those stores supports them and their families by putting that money (however small a cut of it), in their pocket. And, he pointed out, what about gas stations? Hospitals? If it’s such a universal holiday, you should agree that those places should be closed too.

(Full disclosure: he went to Walmart on Thanksgiving night last year.)

I concede his point. However, I am not persuaded. Not only am I unconvinced that even those who volunteer to work wouldn’t rather have a paid holiday than time and half, but shopping for sales isn’t the same thing as getting gas. It’s unnecessary, even a luxury, to purchase the Complete John Wayne box set at a discounted price–on any day, really, but especially on a holiday. But folks are doing it: more than 35 million of them last year, evidently. Look, you guys know that I am a big fan of shopping. But shouldn’t there be just one sacred moment in the year, even if it does end at 12:01 AM? It’s like people would rather buy stuff for their loved ones than actually spend an entire day with them.

I’m not alone: this Time piece advocates boycotting stores on Thanksgiving day, and brings up a point I hadn’t even thought of: if this becomes the norm, how long is it until Thanksgiving is just another day in the work week?


What do you think? Are you going to shop on Thanksgiving day?

The Perks of Being a Work-Away Mom

28 Aug

It’s a conundrum many a mama faces: stay at home with the new bundle of joy or return to the daily grind. You might be totally gung-ho one way or the other when baby is just a plus sign on a stick, but when the little pooper arrives, followed quickly by the 12th week of FMLA-mandated maternity leave, things aren’t so clear. How can you leave this precious angel in the hands of strangers all day? (Or on the other hand, you might be chomping at the bit to get out of the house. Or a little of both).

I’m Switzerland in the Mommy Wars, so you’ll have to decide for yourself (my best advice is: you’re going to screw something up no matter what you do, so just do what you want. If there was a perfect choice to make we’d all be making it, amirite?). However, if you do make the call–whether from personal choice or necessity–to return to full-time, out-of-the-home work, rest assured there are some benefits. Sure, there’s the usual personal fulfillment, lean in, yadayadayada WHATEVER aspect to the question. But even more important is the benefits you don’t hear about. Stuff like…

You get to pee alone at least 85% of the time.

Not a problem.

And use both hands to get your pants up and down.

You change a lot fewer diapers.

And go through fewer of those expensive Diaper Genie liners.

Experienced hand-holding.

You have extra hands to help with big milestones like talking, walking, and potty training. If you, like me, are totally clueless about when your kid is supposed to be able to do all these things, you can just take the mean, median, and mode of his “classmates’ ” abilities.

Or ask the nanny, who let’s face it, probably has more and more recent kid experience than you.

No need to freak out.

Even if you miss a “first,” your kid’s caretakers are nice enough not to mention it so it can still be new to you. And even if they do gloat about witnessing Junior’s first step, it’s still totally exciting when you see it for the first time personally, TRUST. Also, they know CPR and first aid and might possibly be less frenetic should the need to use it ever arise.


Unlike – ahem – some mothers, who nearly throw up just looking at this picture.

People ask you about your child without the need talk about theirs.

The MMO folks aren’t listening–either because their currently living the same thing, or they’re too busy preparing what they’re about to say about their own speshul snowflake.

Adult conversations with people other than your spouse.

Sure, they may be about how to send long distance faxes and what the weather will be like for afternoon rush hour, but at least it’s not about Elmo, Dora, or alligators vs crocodiles (or God forbid, poop).

Childless shopping.

It may not be at a completely leisurely pace if it’s crammed into a lunch break or a quick stop on the way home, but at least it’s whine-free (but maybe not wine-free).

I wonder if this oatmeal will fit in my cup holder…

Less home work.

Yes, SAHPs work just as hard–possibly harder–during the day than people with full time jobs. Yet they still tend to get stuck with the bulk of the drudgery (even when the working half is around) just because they’re “home all the time” (right). When you work a full day, that lame-ass argument is totally negated. Equal division of chores: it’s not just a pipe dream!

You get to wear “real” clothes.

Wearing yoga pants every day is overrated (and yes, I have actually done it).

Grumpy mornings.

On those days one or the other of you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, passing off your kid to someone else for a few hours can do both of you some good. Don’t hate the truth.

She’s calling to see if the nanny can come a little early today…

..and the best part of working away?

Coming home.

Seeing each other after a long day apart is akin to the excitement of Christmas morning for both parties. Christmas every day? I’ll take it.

The perfect work environment

28 Sep

Do you know why the corporate world invented Saturdays? Because they discovered that five days is the scientific maximum the average person can put up with the standard office environment. The correlation between comfort of the office and productivity after 3:00 PM (1:30 PM Fridays) is a well-documented fact.*

With only a few minute adjustments, proposed here, I conjecture that productivity could increase by as much as 1/3 (1/4 on Fridays).


Foisting off unwanted caramel popcorn gift bags and half eaten boxes of Zebra cakes in the break room only makes people sluggish. How about a plate of cut fruit, including kiwi with no peel, available at all times? And some squares of dark chocolate, just in case.

 dogBring-your-dog-to-work day.

Want people to stop sneaking out early? Hold raffles at 5:30. Prize suggestions: movie tickets, Starbucks gift cards, trips to Barbados.

Replace the standard office-rimmed cubicle layout for scattered groupings of sofas and armchairs. Case in point: coffee shops have sofas, and everyone’s always busy in a coffee shop, amirite? Besides, ergonomic office chairs are a myth.CW67_10_96_1

A medicine cabinet with an assortment of pain-mitigating drugs. Over the counter of course! People with headaches are not productive.

Provide lightly scented lotion in addition to the ubiquitous foam soap. Hotel quality hand towels would be a bonus. So would a bathroom attendant.

Might I suggest…?

The fluorescent lights have gahttago. The warm glow of table lamps make people calmer, prettier, and less thirsty—all conducive to getting things done.

Switch to Charmin ultra soft TP. Need I say more?

*By “fact” I mean Loetell fact, and by Loetell fact I mean an exaggerated, imaginary, or patently false statement asserted confidently, thereby making it sound like a fact.

How Not To: Shake Hands

11 Sep

The web is chock full of tutorials on how to do things—deep clean an oven, defrag your hard drive, make a sleeping bag out of curtains and duct tape. Here at Cushion, I show you what actions you’ll be wanting to avoid—a dos and donts list, without the dos. Please, allow me to make the mistakes, so you don’t have to. 

The importance of a good handshake is stressed ad nauseum by savvy business (and social!) advisors. If my experience is any indicator, somehow people are still not getting the message. Pleased to meet you! But please don’t:

Break my fingers. Yes, you strong man. Me weak woman. Hulk SMASH! But seriously, I can only assume the hand-crusher is rooted in deep-seated insecurities. Nobody wants to be in pain, so please, lighten up.

Forget to shake. It makes me feel like I’m in a foreign country (or at least another era) when someone simply holds my hand in greeting. I’m not saying we have to shake it like salt shaka, but can we go up and down at least once?

Make me do all the work. Limp noodles belong in the pasta bowl. Also, it makes me feel overly aggressive.

Make like we’re at Brownies. Did you ever play pass the squeeze in scouts? When you give my hand that single squeeze, it’s like a physical wink. I always look at the squeezer to make sure I’m not missing a secret message.

Hook fingers. It’s called a handshake.  Unless you’re reaching across an expanse of water, please clasp the whole hand.

Forget to dry your hands. When you come out of the bathroom, I don’t know whether they’re wet because you just washed them, or something more sinister, but neither is something I want to be a part of.

Avoid eye contact. Touching someone is an oddly intimate thing, even when it’s just hands. Let’s not make this weirder than it is by averting your eyes.

High-five me. Not because it’s unprofessional. Because I’ll miss. Eye-hand coordination has always been a challenge. You don’t want to embarrass me, do you?

Don’t answer that.

What I’m reading

27 Aug

There’s a great article in the July/August Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter about work-life balance.  The full text is available online and I highly recommend it. It’s a quite long but important body of thought. Not just for working mothers, but for anyone who strives to achieve balance between a personal life and professional achievement.

The author’s thoughts are in alignment with what I’m all about here at Cushion Cut—ladies and gents who do it all. One notable example, referring to others’ adverse reactions when she asks to be introduced as the mother of two boys in addition to her other credentials:

It seems odd to me to list degrees, awards, positions, and interests and not include the dimension of my life that is most important to me—and takes an enormous amount of my time.

Despite the title (Why Women Still Can’t Have it All), the take-home message is that they (and everyone else) can. America just needs to change our work mentality to emphasize quality over quantity of hours, recognize and reward other signs of dedication (like efficiency), and take advantage of technology to allow more flexibility. I especially like the author’s idea that we ought to think of the office as a sort of base camp, rather than the location where all work must be done. All in all, a great read on the current state of the women’s lib movement–which is relevant to guys more than ever, by the way!

Bookmark it and peruse in your free time!

Ways to Say Thank You

24 Aug

You know what I don’t understand? Corporate awards.


I’m not talking about awarding people for their dedication or a job well done. I’m talking about the awards themselves: the plaques, the pyramids, the granite slabs, the crystal flames. Not all of them are completely wretched. For my company’s 40th anniversary last year, each employee received a blue glass globe the size of your fist. It’s decently pretty, and quite handy as a paperweight or for chucking at cold-call solicitors.* But then of course, we didn’t have to do anything to get one. It makes a lot less sense in the context of say, a service award. Call me crazy, but I think thirty years of dedication to one company deserves more than a glass clock.

Sometimes I try to imagine the dawn of the corporate award. Some executives are sitting around a table saying, “Steve’s worked so hard this year. He’s brought in more accounts than anyone else on the team. What can we give to him so that he feels really appreciated—I’ve got it! An acrylic block with our company name on it!”

OK. I know that what is otherwise a normal object is endowed with meaning as a symbolic representation of the works or service being awarded blah blah blah. All I’m saying is that there are better ways to show your gratitude. At the very least something useful—like a bottle opener for the six pack we’ll be drinking when it sets in exactly how much of our life has been spent in that cubicle. Other ideas:

A gift card to Kroger?

An extra day/week/month of paid leave?

The actual cash you paid for that engraved crystal bowl?

A build-your-own-sundae party? At Harry Potter World? OK, maybe that one’s just me.

Company owners, I charge you to get a little more creative with your awards. Think outside the brass-topped glass box. Wouldn’t it be neat to have a break from the forced enthusiasm at the yearly award luncheon?

*Total disclosure: I picked out those globes.