I can’t believe I thought this was going to be an easy topic for me to write about. There are so many ways in which I feel separate from the world I figured I could choose any of them and bang out a quick couple of paragraphs. But you know if you sit with the feeling separation and loneliness long enough you’ll start thinking about the roots of those feelings.
I’ve talked a lot about how my mom was a New York Jew (I’m pretty sure they have their own genus and species) and that she was very much an anomaly in Alaska where I grew up. What I haven’t talked about is the religion she joined in her mid 30s that brought her to Alaska.
Two years before I was born my mother became a member of the Baha’i Faith. She was living in Beverly Hills at the time and making her living as an actress. For some reason she gave up her career in TV and moved to Alaska to be a pioneer for the Baha’is. She met my dad the day she arrived and they were soon married. But that didn’t lessen her zeal for bringing the faith to the Last Frontier.
She spent the rest of her life flying around the state in tiny planes bringing her religion to Aleuts, Inupiats, Athabascans and the occasional white person. Naturally, she would drag me along with her as we knocked on doors, hosted meetings in remote fishing villages and basically coordinated the statewide shock-and-awe treatment for the Alaskan wilderness.
All of this was incredibly embarrassing for me. Even as a kid I knew how annoying we must have been. What made it even weirder was that mom always managed to combine her love of acting with her spirituality. As an icebreaker in these little towns she would often perform one-woman shows that included bits of Shakespeare, a few Greek Tragedies, and then wrap it all up with a monologue from Faust. In 19 years I don’t think she made a single convert. On the positive side she did manage to introduce the people of Alaska to the art of absurdity.
Bringing friends over to the house was equally embarrassing. When David Mason walked by the big photo of Baha’u’llah we had hanging in the living room I told him it was a photo of my grandfather. When Doug Sherwood saw the Arabic writing on the wall in the hallway I told him it was an art project my mom did in college.
I desperately wanted my mom to go back to being Jewish because at least the kids at school knew what Jews were. I wanted to be able to point to Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers and say those are my people. I loved the Jews my mom made me read and watch in the movies. Culturally she was still Jewish. But spiritually she was a Baha’i and it made me hide that part of my life from everyone outside the faith.
As I got older I slowly pulled away from religion in general. Mom died when I was 17 and that was the last thing keeping me connected in any way to organized faith. Aside from a few close friends, I’ve never told anyone how deeply embarrassing it was to knock on people’s doors and talk about religion. I was always a shy kid but this made me go even further into my shell and those feelings of not wanting to bother anyone affect me to this day.
One of the few places I do feel comfortable opening up is at this show. You guys have been so supportive of mine and everyone else’s stories that I’m hoping some of you will share your own experiences of not fitting in.
Tell us about a time when you felt alone and out of place. How did you deal with it? Did you come to terms with being an outsider or did you finally figure out a way to join them?
The rules for stories are below but you know the kind we’re looking for: true stories that happened to you that still mean something to you days, months or years later.
Remember to practice out loud on friends or pets and keep it under 8 minutes.
I hope to see you at our next show on Thursday, May 28, 7:00pm at the Roy St Cafe.
PS – I’ll be sending out another email right after this one with three other places for you guys to tell stories. Stay tuned!