Improv Rambling: Empty Justifications & Not Making Them Empty (plus an execise)
I’ve talked about problematic empty justifications before - OKCupid date, Craigslist, mental illness, etc - and how they don’t help us know how or why we are doing the behavior we are doing. But recently I’ve been rethinking them. They are still not great and, in and of themselves, they don’t really help us in scenes the way a good justification should. But what if we gave those justifications the weight they actually deserved? What if we used them to give us a reason to be invested in the scene instead of using them to divest from it?
Let’s take an in depth look the classic "This is what I get for going on OkCupid."
I like this.
I did things in my 30s that were ignored by the world, that could have been quickly labeled a failure. Here’s a classic example; in 1974 I did a movie called Phantom of the Paradise. Phantom of the Paradise, which was a huge flop in this country. There were only two cities in the world where it had any real success: Winnipeg, in Canada, and Paris, France. So, okay, let’s write it off as a failure. Maybe you could do that.
But all of the sudden, I’m in Mexico, and a 16-year-old boy comes up to me at a concert with an album - a Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack- and asks me to sign it. I sign it. Evidently I was nice to him and we had a nice little conversation. I don’t remember the moment, I remember signing the album (I don’t know if I think I remember or if I actually remember). But this little 14 or 16, whatever old this guy was… Well I know who the guy is now because I’m writing a musical based on Pan’s Labyrinth; it’s Guillermo del Toro.
The work that I’ve done with Daft Punk it’s totally related to them seeing Phantom of the Paradise 20 times and deciding they’re going to reach out to this 70-year-old songwriter to get involved in an album called Random Access Memories.
So, what is the lesson in that? The lesson for me is being very careful about what you label a failure in your life. Be careful about throwing something in the round file as garbage because you may find that it’s the headwaters of a relationship that you can’t even imagine it’s coming in your future.
Q:So when do we get your perspective on OHD and where your romantic life has gone since then?
I think I just did? Though, it’s not super specific to romance. Ask me again if you want more clarity!
Two Years from 100: A Look Back
Yesterday was the two year anniversary of my 100th date, the date that brought the project to a close. That idea though — that my 100th date would be the end of OHD — was incredibly foolish. Only three weeks ago, did I finally post the final OHD date online. It took me two years to edit, re-edit, and write the posts that now comprise OHD and in that time, I’ve edited, re-edited, and begun to write the next chapter of my life as well.
I had no idea what i was getting into when I started OHD, other than knowing that I’d go on a lot of dates, meet a ton of people, and write about it all. I didn’t realize how long the writing would take. I am verbose when I only have myself as an editor and I’m fairly lazy when I don’t have a taskmaster or deadline. Lazy might not be the best word — focused might be a better one. It’s tough to call myself lazy when I was working a demanding job 53-70 hours a week, performing and taking classes at two different improv theaters, and attempting to have some semblance of a personal life. While I haven’t lounged away my two years, letting OHD take a back burner to idleness, I have struggled with priorities.
My number one priority, for most of my adult life, has been women. This has taken different forms from stressing about a crush, doting on a girlfriend, arguing with an ex-girlfriend, courting my next girlfriend, going through with OHD, seeking out hook ups, casually dating, and of course, making sure no one is ever mad at me through it all (an impossible task). Along the way, music, sports, improv, work, family, and friends have come along to detract from that number one priority, but generally with little luck.
Lately though, as I hunkered down and truly focused on OHD, I’ve noticed a shift in priority. I don’t desperately reach out to women every time I have a free night. I don’t need to be texting someone at all times to feel a sense of validation. I even turn down offers to go out, simply to write or get some more sleep. Once the end of OHD was in sight, I really began to focus. I still split time between OHD and improv, but I don’t think that passion will ever fade. Rather, I’m trying to figure out how to make writing (for the page) and performing (for the stage) my life. I’m a multi-faceted guy and I don’t need to fight that.
When I ended OHD two years ago, I began the next phase of my life and for a while, it was very focused on taking advantage of my newfound confidence with women and the crazy network of female connections that the project bore. I thought that maybe I would want a girlfriend after all that dating, but really, I had been a kid in a candy store and then transitioned to an adult in a candy store. By that, I mean that I knew better and I didn’t have the excuse of innocence any longer. If I got a cavity, it was my own damn fault. I was responsible for being a flake. The project was no longer there to have that tough “I don’t want to do this” conversation for me.
Along the way, that first year after OHD, there were a number of stumbling points. I dated, I hooked up, I crushed, and I just kind of kept moving forward despite getting hung up on one woman or another fairly regularly. Improv was going well and I was still plugging away at a job I knew I didn’t want, but it was serving its purpose, paying me more money than I ever thought I’d earn (I had low expectations) and keeping me comfortable as a consumer.
Then I was cut from the theater I performed at. I didn’t get cast at another. Within two weeks, my improv world was upended. I’d been seeing someone on and off for months, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. That began to unravel as well. It was summer and I was 27. I had an unfinished blog kicking around, a dozen loose ends, a two year old indie improv team, and a career I never wanted.
I effectively quit improv for three months. I started exercising for the first time since starting OHD. Shortly thereafter, I dated someone exclusively for the first time in two years. I quit my job of over five years. And I decided to actually finish writing OHD. By the time that all happened, I had also returned to improv with a renewed sense of purpose and I’d become an actor for an amazing children’s theater company.
Of course, I’ve had to learn how to work on my own. That was why it took seven months to finish up the writing for OHD. I’ve also changed my lifestyle quite a bit, though I still get to live in my same apartment and I don’t starve ever. It’s pretty awesome actually. I like cooking more and biking everywhere, even if it means that all my collared shirts hang largely unworn in my closet. I’ve finally started to coach improv regularly and I love it. It’s so informative and fun. I love teaching people and I hope it makes me better as well. And of course, as mentioned, I’ve taken a much more relaxed approach to women.
Maybe I resemble a typical career-driven New Yorker, saying that my work (writing and improv) have taken priority over romance, but I don’t think I’m consumed by it. In combining things I love with the things I do, I’m just more satisfied by less. Of course, I still crave affection, sex, and flirtation — and will succumb to them regularly — but they are no longer my top priority. It feels a bit unlike myself, but having women not occupy the top place in my life, even if they’re just tied for second place, feels like a major change. It feels like the next chapter. Maybe even a novella. We’ll see.
The point is, finishing the OHD writing has been as much a journey as the dates themselves, and it was never about what OHD did for me on its own, but how it has run parallel to the rest of my life. It was there as I spent my first full year in NYC. It held my hand through the first sully single year of my life. It saw me go from being a student of improv to a teacher of improv. It has seen me go from monogamist to open-minded who-knows-what. It improved my sense of style. It gave me confidence. It stood by as I left the only job I’d ever had. And hopefully, it will help land me my next. It has provided me with a thousand conversations over which I’ve had to reassess my life and it’s given me some amazing people to talk to. (Not to mention, I had a relatively full head of hair when this whole thing began and now, three years later, I have fully accepted the role of Balding 28 Year Old.)
Back in 2012, I rushed to finish the last several dates a few days ahead of schedule, so that I could indulge in the weekend-long improv freak fest that was the 14th Annual Del Close Marathon. The 16th annual DCM begins in less than four hours and it’s a nice marker to have — an annual event that reminds me to take stock of my journeys in improv, dating, and life.
Thanks to all the dates, all the people who got me dates, all the people who have read the site, everyone who has offered encouragement (both during the project and since), and to anyone who has helped make me who I am. Let me know if I can ever repay the favor.
In Their Words: Drive-in Movie Theater Date
In Their Words is a chance for the participants of OHD to voice their reflections, critiques, and general feedback on their experience being a part of this crazy thing. For more info…read this.
Remember Sam from Date #69: Drive-in Movie Theater Date? Here she is to answer some questions!
Going into the date, what were your thoughts/feelings towards participating in the project?
I thought it was an interesting project and a fun way to spend some time with someone new.
Why did you agree to go on this date?
No great reason, just seemed like fun. I was in a very “why not?” phase of being single.
What did you want to take away from the experience?
I knew nothing serious could come of it so for once I didn’t have to over analyze everything (only some things).
How would you rate your expectations going into the date?
He seemed like a fun guy so I was confident I’d have fun regardless of a connection.
How much research did you do on Evan prior to the date?
I watched a video of him getting a bikini wax, among many other things. So I mean yeah I went a little overboard with the internet research.
What was your first impression of Evan?
I was happy he was as cute in person (though I guess it’s hard to fake that many selfies) and that he was very amiable.
How did knowing about the project affect the date in your mind?
In some ways it made the whole thing safer but in a lot of others, especially over the course of the past two years, it made things feel less real. I guess real isn’t the right word, more like made things feel like it was the Snapchat of dating and I’d be forgotten quickly. Evan never made me feel like I wasn’t the focus of his attention during the date but it was impossible not to feel like I was one line on a to-do list of 100. Literally. Also, I wondered how I compared to the other girls. I wish I could say it doesn’t matter but it totally does because I’m apparently still 15.
Care to share any confirmed/broken assumptions that you remember?
I wouldn’t have approached him about a date if I didn’t think he was a good guy which he only confirmed.
Do you recall any missteps that either you or Evan made during the date?
I don’t think so? I panicked a bit when I felt like I forced him into coming over to watch Up and am sure I said some things that came off idiotic/vapid but so it goes. I didn’t mean to paint the picture that my water polo team in high school was bullied, some people made remarks from time to time but in general it was fine. I don’t recall Evan doing anything embarrassing?
Was your impression of the project by the end of the date different from your impression at the beginning?
I felt like Evan was putting himself through an emotional roller coaster a bit. He’s a sensitive dude and had clearly been affected by some of the women but was forcing himself to power through. I got the sense that there was a lot more going on inside his head about it but obviously a first date isn’t the place to explore it.
Right after the date, how would you have summed up the experience?
I had a great time.
Now, over a year or two later, has that impression changed?
I told people I had a great time right afterward and still say that! Given the quality of many of my first dates, this is actually an accomplishment. It’s strange to revisit it so much later though. I’m always interested in peoples’ impression of me when we first meet so I’ve had the date on my mind for the past two years as I’ve continued to date. The topic of being authentic vs a filtered version of yourself on a first date is something my friends and I talk about a lot and I’m never really sure where I fall on the spectrum of being myself but also being on my best behavior.
Did the date change your relationship with Evan?
How did you hope your relationship with Evan would change or evolve?
I had hoped to just spend time with someone new that I could get along with.
Does anything stand out for you from the date in particular?
I likely never would have gone to or heard about the drive in theater so I was pretty pumped when he suggested it. Also, I won March Madness that year with UConn and should have gone for it again this year.
Do you wish anything had gone differently?
If you would have asked me two years ago I may have had some opinions but I don’t remember them so they probably were never important anyway.
Pretend that this date was not part of the OHD project: How would it have been different?
Well, we probably never would have met so the date only exists in the context of OHD. But hypothetically I may have been more forward without 99 other dates looming.
How would you relate or compare this date with your current dating life?
I’m in a pretty similar place as I was two years ago which is a little disheartening. I’ve dated some guys, not heard back from guys I liked, and done the same to guys that liked me. Right now there is someone I want to be with but can’t be and it’s still a bit raw. In part, the timing of my post is good because it reminds me that dating can be lighthearted instead of a quest to not be alone forever.
Did you learn anything about yourself from participating in OHD?
I really appreciate being picked up for a date. And also am sensitive about being a ‘cat lady,’ but I’ve always known that one.
How would you compare Evan’s concerns and reflections to your own?
I was surprised at how much biographical info there was about me. It’s totally fine, I just don’t usually get a write-up after meeting someone new so it is strange to re-read what I shared and how it came off.
How would you compare Evan’s overall impression of the date to your own?
I think I was feeling some more emotion than him. I knew there would be a degree of that simply due to OHD but since it’s likely the #1 fear when dating it’s hard not to be sensitive about it.
One last chance: Have anything else you want to say?
My cats names are Mack and Button, for interested parties.
THIS IS IT. THE 100TH DATE IS HERE. ALL ONE HUNDRED DATES ARE NOW ONLINE.
Date #100: Mom Date wherein I went out with a 41 year old mother from Westchester County to Dave & Buster’s in Times Square. We played games, talked about life, drank beers, and ate dinner at Ruby Foo’s. It was ridiculous, fun, and most importantly, the end to a very long journey.
Thanks to everyone who has paid any attention at all, to those that helped me along the way, and mostly, to all the people who went out with me. I’ll be doing some more stuff with the blog, so keep an eye out.
JUST IN TIME TO WASTE THE END OF YOUR FRIDAY.
I AM SO EXCITED AND RELIEVED. YAY.