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Sweeping Generalizations.

6 Dec

Fifteen days until the Woolf-Manas’s hit the road and head to Charm City.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time I lived down there, in the summer of 2012 while interning at the Baltimore Sun. It was awful. I lived in a dirty apartment with zero furniture aside from a bed, a folding table and a giant stuffed lion Ari won me at Six Flags that I used as my couch.

I knew no one in the town, I rarely ventured outside my neighborhood for fear of wandering into ‘stab city’ as my coworker called parts of the area she thought were dangerous. I worked Tuesday-Thursday and as soon as Friday came I would drive right back to NYC. I only explored the city ONE time and that was when my mom came to visit and asked me to show her around.

But there was something that sparked my interest that summer. I was procrastinating some task (my main job was to research and collect info about all the events taking place in Bmore into one database – I fully understood the irony of knowing about exactly every hot and happening thing in the city and going to 0.0 percent of them) and stumbled into a rabbit-hole which led me to an article about how horrible the working conditions are for the people who make H&M clothing. I dug deeper and deeper into the world of sweatshops and fair trade and factories overseas. It’s terrible. And sad. Ultimately I came across a site about minimalism – a lifestyle where you have a very limited number of belongings which will lead to hopefully, a more intentional life, uncluttered by material objects.

I loved it. I vowed NEVER TO BUY ANYTHING AGAIN. 

That lasted three weeks. When I needed a new dress for my engagement party.

It just wasn’t sustainable. I love to shop. It’s a bonding activity for me and my mom, and me and my friends. I love decorating my home with fun things. I love finding treasures at thrift stores or better yet, from the sidewalk or book-share. In the back of my mind however, I occasionally thought back to the one week where I was SURE I could live off a few T-shirts, a couple of books and my laptop. It never happened.

After my last post where I talked about how getting rid of Facebook has led me to get rid of other unnecessary items, I actually borrowed The Magic of Tidying Up. I didn’t just read the article with the bullet points! And now I kind of understand why it didn’t work the first time.  Five years ago, I eschewed material items out of guilt for how they’re made. I wanted a pat on the back for being socially conscious without actually doing anything. And my little shopping-strike barely lasted a month (in the words of our “esteemed” president: Sad!)

After actually reading more about minimalism, I understand that it’s a conscious and intentional choice-filled lifestyle. It’s not about getting rid of stuff but purposefully choosing to KEEP the stuff you truly care about. And I’m not making any grand promises but I’ve been going through the apartment in the way KonMari lays out and it’s amazing how much stuff I’ve steadfastly been holding onto because it was free, or expensive, or a gift, or from a relative, or a souvenir, or a wedding gift. I wasn’t keeping it because I LIKED the item for what the item was. Things are not people. A necklace from my mom is just that, a necklace. It’s not the relationship in and of itself. Once things outlive their purpose (and sometimes that purpose is to make me happy for a few days and maybe be worn once) it’s time to let them go. (Also, I don’t need trinkets from my mom. I literally have her exact facial features so it’s not like I can ever not be reminded of her).

I’m not going to make outlandish promises this time. I am not going to pat myself on the back. I’m not even gonna pat myself on the back for not patting myself on the back!

I am going to donate a shit ton of stuff to Goodwill and hope that someone else will get a happy day out of a new necklace like I had the chance to.

 

Goodbye Facebook!

4 Dec

Hello friends!

I am here to tell you that I deleted my Facebook exactly one week ago.

Well, not exactly because FB doesn’t let you actually delete your profile for two weeks. They put it in deactivation mode for 14 days and if you don’t log in at all within those two weeks THEN it’s deleted. But if you log in even one time within that time frame, you have to start the whole process over. I can’t tell if it’s courteous or diabolical.

(PSA: I’m not here to tell you that you’re all zombies under Big Zuckerberg – Facebook brought me a lot of usefulness during the 12 years I had it; jobs, friendships, news, happiness. But honestly, in the past few years it stopped bringing me joy. The few opportunities I got from the site (including the one that led me to perform on the Lifetime Channel which was very groovy) stopped being worth the seemingly endless time I spent scrolling mindlessly throughout the day).

To save time, here are all my answers to questions I’ve received this week:

“Why didn’t you just deactivate it?” 

I tried that. I tried deleting the app from my phone but I just logged on via the Chrome app. I tried making other people change my password so I couldn’t sign on. It just stressed me out that people might be messaging me and I wouldn’t be able to respond. I am totally addicted. I have a pretty helpful rule in my life and that’s that if something strikes me as scary then it’s a pretty good indicator that I should go through with it. The thought of deleting my Facebook was scary. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned why that was. And that fear was all the more reason to severe ties.

“But I like my Facebook!”

Good! I’m glad! You should do and hold onto things that make you happy. There are some things I will miss but a lot I won’t. It comes down to the fact that I spent a lot of time on Facebook being jealous. Of other comedians’ shows and success and likes. Of people’s vacations and babies and wondering whether my own posts will cause the same envy in others. Reading political fights and seeing cyberbullying among friends and strangers added an unnecessary stress to my life. Not to mention the social experiments FB regularly administers.

“Don’t you need Facebook though? To promote shows and yourself etc?” 

I am far from off the grid. I have Twitter and Youtube and Instagram (if you need to see pics of Whiskey) and God help me, even a Tumblr which I never post on. And this very website you are reading! Plus, I’ve PAID for ads to promote shows on FB in the past and have still had underwhelming audience attendance because I relied so heavily on Facebook promoting for me. Now I guess I’ll have to get creative. Maybe skywriting or going up to people and telling them about shows until I get restraining orders.

“But I liked your posts!”

Feel free to text me, 646-229-1418 any time and I will be happy to tell you any new thoughts on West World, the MTA, working at the Museum of the American Gangster or any other non-sequiturs that cross my mind during the day.

“Will you ever make a profile again?”

Maybe one day. I always knew I wouldn’t want to post baby pictures on Facebook (when that day comes) since giving photos of someone who can’t consent, to a corporation seemed icky (it might be hard to avoid though since Google/Apple probably will own any photos on my iPhone anyways).  This week has been pretty illuminating though in the sense that I catch myself typing in ‘www.Fac…’ before I realize what I’m doing. It’s also not the first thing I check when I wake up or on when Shabbat ends. It’s immensely freeing.

Ari and I are moving to Baltimore in a little more than two weeks and I’ve been decluttering while packing. In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I have not read yet but I’ve read articles on) there is a question posed: Does it bring me joy?

Some stuff does: a stuffed rabbit with a mustache Joy and Liana got me for my birthday, a beta fish my sister bought me that’s lived for an surprising long time, a Ukulele I have not learned to play yet but dammit I will, a T shirt from Urban Outfitters that says “United States of New York: which I am currently wearing.

Some stuff does not: Skirts I bought to wear when I worked at Fox and don’t really fit into anymore nor have any place to wear them to, papers and expired coupons and receipts, DVDs I took from the free stuff pile simply because they were free. Actually most stuff I’m getting rid of were taken to begin with because they were cheap or free.

My friends bring me joy. I’ll still have them no matter what social platforms I subscribe to. My family brings me joy. Even though they live in Israel I probably talk to them more than ever. Ari and Whiskey bring me joy and they are both currently 20 feet away from me.

Writing brings me joy and now I have one less distraction or reason to put it off.

You bring me joy too reader and I hope we can chat face to face soon 🙂

Aviva Woolf, Dog Runner

26 Oct

“Do you realize everyone coming for lunch on Shabbat has either a Masters degree or in medical school except for me?” I asked Ari while he was brushing his teeth last night.

“Yes, that’s true. But if it makes you feel better, you have more jobs than anyone combined!”

“Hm.”

I do have a lot going on these days: giving tours at the Museum of the American Gangster (on St. Marks! Come visit! Get a Groupon!), working at QED for another few weeks, Trivia on Tuesday night, babysitting and now walking dogs for Wag. I downloaded the app last week but didn’t start until yesterday. I was walking to the library and got a ping on my phone that a dog needed walking ASAP within .4 miles and like a pretty mild superhero – I was there!

I hadn’t walked any dogs before (and may have embellished my dog experience on my resume) so I was a bit nervous but I HAD gone to the mandatory orientation in DUMBO so I thought, how hard could it be?

I walked up to the apartment and knocked. A large man opened the door enough to just show his face. He looked me up and down.

“You’re here to walk Max? Let me get him ready.” He shut the door in my face.

Five minutes go by and I’m wondering how long it could take to put a leash on a dang dog. My mind started entertaining crazy things like hey, maybe it’ll be a dude in a dog costume on a leash like that one scene in Preacher that I don’t fully understand.

 

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Dalm-abomi-nation

But no! The man finally returned with just the most GIGANTIC dog I’ve ever seen. A pit bull that immediately started jumping on me, slightly nipping at me. He handed me the dog’s leash/rope while I laughed like ‘haha oh a BEAR! That’s cool! I walk monsters all the time! Here we go, this dog weighs as much as I do! Off we go, dog from Sandlot!’

It half-dragged me downstairs and I held on with both hands like a cartoon. I started to get the hang of it as we walked down Amsterdam and I noticed almost immediately how people started getting out of my way. While this Pit looked pretty vicious he was actually just an energetic sweetie! It was such a rush, walking down the street with this massive dog – tiny dogs scrambled to their owners, sketchy teens on the corner gave me a wide berth. guys hanging outside the corner store pressed against the wall. I felt like some sort of powerful demigod. Run tiny dogs! Flee scared old women!

 

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How I looked.


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How I felt 

 

Since yesterday I’ve walked a few pups and while they’re all so sweet (and strong!) dogs are EXHAUSTING. They’re all jumping and walking and crying when you leave. It’s nice to come back to my kitty who sleeps, curls up on me, sleeps, eats and sleeps some more.

 

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I hate to walk as much as you do. 

Bittersweetly, I won’t be at these jobs much longer. Ari and I went down to Baltimore last week and we’ve decided to move down there for a year, check it out. We visited the improv theater (BIG) and I was able to talk to some people about comedy there. I love to perform and I love living in the city – there’s no reason why I need to live in *the* most expensive one.

I’m ready for an adventure. And luckily I still have my blog posts from my summer in Baltimore to remind me how fun it was too! (or at least how awful it was writing for The Baltimore Sun)

Fuck You Green Shirt

18 Oct

Growing up, my family went to an orthodox synagogue that was a 20 min walk from my house.

Every Saturday starting from when I was 9 years old, we’d wake up at 8:30 am and walk down Union Turnpike until Francis Lewis Boulevard, make a left and go straight until we saw the low, beige building after the bridge. I never particularly enjoyed going to this orthodox shul until I made friends who I’d hide with in the stairwell instead of praying in the main sanctuary. I always felt oversized and awkward in my Shabbat clothes (and not just because of my boobs). It felt like a fashion show that I’d always lose. That feeling didn’t really go away once I got older and I still feel anxiety going to shul today but this post isn’t about religion or New York Jewry or even clothes.

It’s about the walk home from shul.

Sometimes, when I didn’t feel like waiting for my parents and siblings, I’d leave early and walk along Union Turnpike on my own. It was a long stretch of street with “forests” on either side. I know they’re not actual forests since it was Queens and probably barely half a mile deep but they were long areas of trees and every 1000 feet there was a sign that said FOREVER WILD (which I always wanted to steal when I was a teen).

 

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And the picture was some sort of indifferent dinosaur watching a drowning man wave.

 

I would walk home lost in my own thoughts, writing poems or picking up cool leaves. But sooner or later. I would hear a car honk at me. Without fail. Every week. It would be one man, or two. Or teenage boys. Always looking at me – sometimes waving or sometimes shouting things at me. This was such a common occurrence that one time I walked home from school in a heavy snowstorm down that road and heard insistent honking – after trying to block it out for 10 min I finally looked up to see a friend’s dad trying valiantly to offer me a ride home. There was only one reason cars honked at me on that road. And while I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe walking home during the daytime from shul, I always felt embarrassed and powerless. I was 10 or 11. I didn’t stick up my middle finger or shout SHUT THE FUCK UP. I shrugged and said it was a compliment. It was part of life.

This #metoo thing is trending on Facebook and Twitter (as much as stories of sexual assault can be “trendy” but that’s the word so). So many women speaking up about their experiences with unwanted sexual attention, tactile or otherwise, and giving support to those who’ve had similar things happen to them.  I watched my newsfeed flood with the posts and applauded them. I didn’t join in the tag because I don’t think I qualify (whatever that means) as a victim of sexual assault and don’t want to cheapen others’ brave declarations with my jumping “on the bandwagon.” I read stories about my friends having strangers stick their fingers up their skirts as teenagers and bosses touching them inappropriately. On and on. It’s devastating. And I felt lucky that I had (thank God) never experienced sexual assault. I feel weird and bad writing this right now because it’s hard to explain how sad and lucky I feel at the same time. I know it’s only random dumb luck that I haven’t been. There’s no real way to prevent it aside from educating and punishing men, it’s their fault and a patriarchal society where men get away with it.

Which brings me to last night.

Last night was trivia. I’ve been running trivia in Washington Heights for almost two years which might be the longest job I’ve ever had. Tuesday nights are the highlight of my week. I love walking in the bar, saying hi to the bartenders and regulars. I am in charge and I love knowing what I’m doing. It’s so fun and I’m good at it. Even when things don’t work, I know what to do. I have a regular order. Sometimes people see me in the streets in the Heights and recognize me. And 99% of the time, it’s great. And even when it’s slow, or hectic or freezing, it’s always a place where I feel competent.

It started off as a normal game, rules, prizes, round one. I called up team members for the first bonus round where one person from a team comes up and writes an answer to a question, the first correct answer gets a free beer. There were about 12 people and one guy, wearing a green shirt, starts shouting “What the hell! I’m all the way back here! How can I even win this shit?” I joked that he was allowed to elbow people out of the way, much like I do every week. He was still shouting and I made my blanket statement that he could complain at our website.

“I’m going to www. I don’t give a fuck!” He grumbled.

I asked the question. He didn’t get it. He stomped up to me and threw the answer packet in my face and walked away. I glanced around and saw some people shaking their heads or doing that thing where you raise an eyebrows like ‘what an asshole.’ I smiled at them “It’s a bar! What can ya do?” I asked.

The next round was an audio round. I play 8 clips of songs and people have to write down the title and artist. Green Shirt was talking loudly at the bar. We play two songs and I realize I hadn’t downloaded the third one onto iTunes, so I paused it and told everyone to wait a couple of seconds while I grabbed it from my folder.

“OH MAN SHE CAN’T DO IT. SHE’S JUST A WOMAN!” Green Shirt started shouting at me. “FEMINISM AT ITS FINEST RIGHT?!” 

I focused on my iTunes. I kept my head down. Hoped the honking would stop.

“WHY ARE ALL THESE SONGS BEING SUNG BY WOMEN? THEY SUCK!” He continued shouting to anyone.

I got the song up again. “Sorry you had to listen to that guy everyone!” I apologized. My hands were shaky. He didn’t stop. He started loudly singing along to songs and shouting out answers, ruining the game for everyone. One woman told him to stop and he shrugged it off.

Who was this guy? It was like he was some sort of sentient robot who downloaded all of Reddit’s MRA posts and walked to the nearest bar. Usually when I trip up a question, that’s just me, Aviva, not knowing how to read or fucking up the audio.

This time I was a “woman” who couldn’t do a simple job. It was awful.

But what was even more awful was that I didn’t know what to do. I had tried to joke it off earlier, I had even jokingly apologized FOR HIM. What I wanted to do was say “Hey. Shut the fuck up.” Was I allowed to do that? Would I get in trouble??? Would I get fired???? What would someone else do???? How do I diffuse this???

Lili the bartender came by to pick up some glasses. She saw my face and assured me he would be leaving soon. I told her that he had thrown the answer booklet at me and she told me she would kick him out now. I thanked her and she said “Of course, you work here, if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable we can do something.” Soon, he had finished his beer and was gone.  Off to another bar to make someone feel shitty I assumed. How could there be men like this? Or people like this? The rest of the game felt off. I felt stupid stupid stupid that I didn’t say anything or that I was even letting it get to me. I resorted to what a lot of us do, tell ourselves it could be worse! I wasn’t physically harmed! The only thing hurt was my pride! Shrug it off. It’s part of life.

So, this post isn’t funny. It’s pretty sad and I feel a tiny bit sad about it even today. Sad that no matter how safe we can feel in a space, there might be someone to come by and shatter that. Sad that so many women get hurt by strangers and friends and family on a daily basis. Sad for that 11 year old girl who would hurry home instead of taking the extra time to look at the leaves on the way.

I wrote that on Facebook that I wanted to focus on the woman who shouted at Green Shirt and the bartenders who asked him to leave. That’s the positive here. Sticking up for friends and coworkers who need help from creeps and bros and “well meaning” guys. I hope I’m brave like that for someone else.

And while I was too distraught to say it last night: Fuck you Green Shirt. Get the hell out.

 

Map of America on My Dartboard

8 Oct

I’m taking a BuzzFeed quiz. Where Should You Actually Live? 

But I’m asking honestly. Oh great and wise BuzzFeed. Where should I live?

Ari and I want to move out of New York. Our apartment in Washington Heights is insanely expensive. My family has upped and moved to Israel. While I’ve started a road down comedy and performance I’m itching to explore a new scene, a new city. A lot of my friends have moved. To the suburbs. To California. Tel Aviv.

Why not me?

I started working at The Museum of the American Gangster last week. I thought I would only be working a few months before we were out of here. We had given Baltimore a real soft yes for places. We have friends down there, I lived there for a while during college, there’s Jews and a pretty nice improv theater. There’s museums I could work at and it’s not that far from DC or New York. But Ari says that before we commit to buying property we should seriously explore all our options. That means more research and more decisions. I’m not good with decisions. Or rather, I’m too good. I make a decision and that’s it. No going back. Do or die. I chose one seminary, one college, one major, one guy. Sure since then it’s been a windy path with stopovers in What-The-Fuck-Am-I-Doing-Ville but I hate second-guessing. I’d rather just dive in and figure it out on the way down. Ari doesn’t like that. He wants to write pro and cons lists and interview people. Probably a better way of going through life than me who basically makes her life decisions based on dart boards and BuzzFeed quizzes.

Now BuzzFeed wants to know whether I’m an AC or fan person.

Public transportation or Uber?

It wants to know if I need to be within walking distance of Starbucks at all times.

Now BuzzFeed is telling me I should live in New York. Goddamit BuzzFeed! You are so useless I don’t even care that you’re the only news outlet that published the Trump Dossier!

If anyone is reading this and can tell me what to do that would be great. Here’s what I need:

A place where the seasons change.

A city. Either in the city or v close to one.

Kosher food and a liberal Jewish community would be nice.

Honestly, that’s it. Ari works from home and I don’t care where I work as long as I have a stage to perform on at night creating things with interesting and nice and funny people.

So have at.

Comment any ideas or suggestions.

Thanks 🙂

 

 

 

 

What?? ANOTHER Post About Rejection?

11 Sep

Two months later: Insurance said no.

WTF. That was anti-climactic.

But I’ve made the decision to go through with the surgery anyways with another doctor that is highly recommended by my friend and pay for it out-of-pocket. I totally realize that I’m lucky that I have that option, and honestly it’s less than I would have expected.

So that’s all caught up.

I really appreciated the people who have written to me after the post about their own experiences – I always like hearing thoughts on my posts. As always, keep it 100% positive because of my fragile and baby-birdlike ego.

 

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“I don’t care that you found a spelling mistake!”

 

 

Speaking of crushing rejection, these past few weeks have been a banner week in the Bender household. I had two auditions for two different exciting performance-based (and paying!) gigs – one was for a murder mystery theater company, the other was for a pretty prestigious acting troupe that performed sketches written by kids called Story Pirates. The first one was a terrible audition experience and I didn’t get it. The second was an AMAZING audition experience…and I also didn’t get it.

But I now know that it feels even shittier to get rejected after a fun and supportive audition when your hopes are as high as can be. Luckily, I have friends and mentors who were ready to let me cry/cheer me up/send me puppy pics. My sister Shira’s personal brand of cheering up is the slash and burn kind, “Screw em, next project.”

 

 

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“I said chocolate sprinkles!” – My sister, probably

 

When I got the second “it’s a no from me dawg” email, I was walking around East 34th and Lexington after a commercial acting class. I started crying like a big dumb baby cliche. It probably would have been embarrassing if I had a sense of shame anymore or wasn’t in New York City, the land of weirdos.

 

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New York.

 

 

In 2014 I had one thing on my bucket list, “Go to an Open Mic.” That was it. ‘Don’t die before you’ve tried to go on stage once’. And there I was devastated that I didn’t get something that I never in my wildest dreams a few years ago thought I would ever get near enough to even try-out for.

It still felt bad though.

There’s a poster I keep on my fridge that says “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs” (It’s on the fridge, not because it has anything to do with food but because I drew the poster myself and I think that’s where you just hang up all drawings even if you’re 27 years old). I know I assumed joining these companies would be an elevator – it would be someone taking me and my talents in from floating in this ether of comedy and saying ‘here’s a platform, we’ll do the hard work you just have to show up, be great and voila! Success!’

But that didn’t happen. Because, that elevator doesn’t exist (doubly for me since I didn’t even get accepted). I’m still on the stairs. Each experience is a step up. Sometimes you have to sit on that step with pumpkin cheesecake ice cream and cry into your cat.

 

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“Stop crying!” – Whiskey, probably.

 

In good news: I’m still working Sundays at QED where I get to watch comedy shows and work with talented and hardworking people. I’ve had some successful interviews for tour guide positions (especially ghost tours). Pumpkin Spice Season is back!!!!! and the Miami zoo put these flamingos in the men’s room to keep them safe from the hurricane. I love them!

 

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“If you like Big Boobs you must LOVE Aviva” – A Post on Plastic Surgery

16 Jul

“He told me to get back into my bunk and that if I’m out after curfew again he was gonna tell Rabbi Johan.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him I liked big boobs!”

Avishai and Josh laughed next to me. I was 17 and working in a Jewish upstate bungalow day camp. My friends and fellow coworkers two favorite past times were making fun of Laizer, the overweight and long suffering head counselor who had to reinforce the rules for a bunch of obnoxious teenagers who took huge amounts of pleasure in teasing him for his weight.

Avishai looked my way. We were in the same class in high school and I considered us to be pretty close friends.

“If you like big boobs you must LOVE Aviva,” He started laughing hysterically.

Josh awkwardly looked away from me. Avishai glanced around for approval and I couldn’t stand the silence so I started laughing too. I didn’t understand why he was dragging me and my large breasts into this story that I already felt uncomfortable with but I knew that if I didn’t laugh, I would be seen as uptight and maybe not as “one of the boys” as I had crafted my high school persona to be.

I spent the rest of the summer in loose T-shirts. I never went swimming.

I’m 21 and sitting in the college guidance office. Mark, the counselor assigned to me, was explaining my course options for the upcoming semester. He will not take his eyes off my large chest. He is literally talking to them. I shift in my seat. He doesn’t meet my eyes.

Later, I’m telling this story to my roommate.

“What were you wearing?” She asks.

I take out the dress I had picked up from Rugged, a cheap Ross-like clothing store off campus, one of the only clothing stores within walking distance that didn’t have TERPS emblazoned on it. It was a sleeveless dress with a high neckline and peter pan collar. I laughed when I told her the story. I made a funny Facebook status about the “classes my breasts were taking in the fall semester” that got a lot of likes.

I didn’t wear the dress again.

These are only two stories because to write every instance where my breasts have created awkward situations or difficulty for me would take a while. I’m a size 30H. I’ve been the same size since 10th grade. I hate running. I go to a specialty store to buy bathing suits. Even though the national bra size is DD, larger sizes than that have to pay 60, 70 80 dollars a bra.

It’s a pain in the neck – literally. My posture is horrible, my shoulders always slumped forward from the weight of my 6 -7 lb boobs hanging on me.

Every few years I would look into reductions. I would mention it to my mom who would counter with a gym offer instead. Seeing as she signed me up for a gym membership when I was 12, that was her solution for a lot of things. I would drop the subject and focus on things about my body I could change; the color of my hair, the size of my belly, the amount of piercings on my face. My breasts never changed size. Not when I worked out all summer with a weight-lifting trainer. Not when I went down to 129 lbs on my 5’7 frame after beginning a regiment of anti-depressant pills in 2013.

This month however, I finally snapped. I decided that I was an adult now, I didn’t need anyone’s validation to get a surgery I wanted.

I wasn’t an extreme case – I knew that from my exhaustive research into the world of plastic surgery. There were women with sizes in the alphabet I didn’t know were possible, J, N, M. Women who couldn’t wear seatbelts. I made an appointment with a doctor in my network and a few days later, I got a phone call.

“Hello, is this Aviva Woolf?”

“Yes it is.”

“Oh my God, your boobs are gonna be so beautiful. You’re gonna be the most gorgeous girl on the beach!”

The gravelly voiced woman calling was the office manager for the plastic surgeon I had picked. She was also her mother (and a character I would use as a basis in improv practice later that week.) She assured me that her daughter, the doctor, did reductions all the time – they were very popular! She asked questions about my weight, my height, my size. When I told her my cup size she said:

“Too big. I understand. They give off the wrong message.”

The wrong message? My boobs were annoying. Large and unsexy (in my own opinion). I couldn’t wear certain dresses. Men stared at me in the subway. Once at trivia I told patrons they could draw a picture of me for extra points (I did that sometimes as a joke but with mermaids eating pizza, dragons on a skateboards) and one was returned with a obscenely large chest. I didn’t like that but felt I deserved it because hey, I had asked. They took up a lot of room but never did I think they were “sending a message.”

What was that message?

I assumed the only message my breasts were sending was “We exist.”

I debated doing to the surgery for days – reading everything I could online. I spoke to friends who had had it. I didn’t find one piece of evidence that anyone who had gotten it had regretted it.

I went to the appointment and met the very nice surgeon. She took pictures and asked me questions. She showed me a portfolio of her work, faceless women with anchor scars.

She explained that a breast reduction would possibly affect my ability to breastfeed. I thought about the fertility issues my husband and I were having for the past year since I went off birth control. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to conceive at all due to my diagnosis of PCOS, let alone breastfeed. Who knew how long is would take to even get a baby, let alone worry about breastfeeding one.

I went to her partner, an orthopedist who would examine my spine to see if there were any other factors that were contributing to my neck and back pain besides my breasts.

He took 2 hours to come into the waiting room. He was a cold, unsmiling, older man.

“I would tell one of the girls (!) to bring you a gown and to get undressed but you’re basically undressed now anyways.”

I was wearing shorts and tank top.

What message were my breasts sending then?

Currently, I’m waiting to here back from insurance now. They are notoriously finicky about approving surgeries. I don’t know what Ill choose to do if it’s rejected. I’m not sure what I’ll do if it’s accepted. At times I feel vain and stupid for choosing to alter my body to improve my quality of life. Other times I can’t wait to have it done already – to be able to jump and swim without being stared at.

Seeing as I’m currently between jobs at the moment – or day jobs, now is the perfect time to schedule the surgery. I don’t know if it’ll happen but I hope it does. I want to get it for me. Not for the Avishais or college guidance counselors of the world or subway drunks.

Like Hailee Steinfeld says in her song Most Girls:

You know some days you feel so good in your own skin
But it’s okay if you wanna change the body that you came in
‘Cause you look greatest when you feel like a damn queen

Either way, I’ll keep you updated.

 

 

The Aviva Show

13 Jul

Hey mamas!

It’s that time again. I’m unemployed again! Preschool ended in June and since then I’ve been studying to become a Certified NYC tour guide. Hopefully I’ll be taking the test next week but until then I’ve been studying, doing improv, standup, writing sketches, hosting trivia, interning at the QED theater in Queens, babysitting and putting off writing this blog. So not as totally unproductive as I figured my “vacation” would be.

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“Babysitting”

 

My friend Mike (of Pepsi commercial auditioning fame) and I have seriously started performing as a two-person improv team (or as seriously as anyone can commit to playing make believe on a stage). We had one show last month at the People’s Improv Theater in which I produced, hosted and performed in. Hey, if I’m paying the tech 30 dollars and not making any profit from ticket sales you better believe I’m gonna take advantage and turn it into the Aviva Show.

 

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Always work with children and animals.

 

 

The show was actually not a failure! I know that sounds self deprecating but I tried to keep my expectations super low – especially since it was the first show I ever produced. I told myself it would be messy and maybe go wrong and that that was OK. That way, when people came late due to Pride parade, our coach was two hours late for rehearsal, the stand-up I booked got stuck in Brooklyn, and the tech cut off the first team early – I was OK with it! I shrugged it off and said hey, live theater. A pretty far cry from when I almost threw up on stage during my UCB 101 show because I wasn’t doing perfectly. Life is live, you have to prepare for things to get fucked up. I mean that in the most optimistic way possible.

Next week I’m producing another show (@ The Pit Loft, 7/19/ 8pm) and I feel I’m more aware of steps to take to make sure the same mistakes aren’t made and that’s the whole point of having a stupid first show and getting it out of the way.

Up up and away!

 

 

 

 

My Second Audition!

16 Mar

“Do you want to go to a Pepsi commercial audition?”

Like a surprising amount of my blog post beginnings, this one started with a Craigslist ad. It was 10 am when I texted Mike, my go-to buddy when it comes to spontaneous activities such as midnight Dave and Busters runs, margaritas on the ferry to Governor’s Island and now a commercial audition.

“Why would a Pepsi gig be non-union?” he texts back. I sent him the post and it was a little…odd – words were misspelled. RaNdom lEtterS were capitalized. It said the pay for the job, should you book it, was 2,000k. That’s two thousand thousand dollars! Too good to pass up!

We decide to meet downtown anyways mostly because we are artistic procrastinators and this would prove to ourselves that we take action in life as well. Every couple of weeks Mike, whom I met at my UCB 401 class, meet up and discuss projects we are totally going to do like podcasts and web series and live shows.We bounce ideas around, think of names and scripts and laugh until our stomachs hurt. And then he goes back to Brooklyn, I to the Heights and neither one of us follows through on it. Today we were going to do something.

At 3pm I wait outside 630 9th avenue, a building I never noticed before – ‘Film Center Building’ the facade outside announced. Inside was like stepping into The Great Gatsby – gorgeous art deco lines and gold paint.

I decide that maybe we aren’t going to get murdered by showing up for this semi-sketchy casting call – but it reminds me of one of my favorite serial killer stories. I don’t know why I think about this story so often but I do – basically there was this dude, in 70s California who really wanted to murder women but didn’t have the charisma and charm that a lot of psychopaths have. He was very sad about it. So what he did was put out an ad in a newspaper saying he was looking for blonde models to be a part of a photoshoot for a police  magazine. Blondes show up and he asks to put them in handcuffs. No problem. Tape over the mouth? Gotcha. Get in this box? Sure thing boss. And then he just like slits their throat! Easy peasy. Now, I’m not a serial killer psychopath and obviously this is a terrible story but I don’t know, something about it just seems like such creative problem solving.

Anyways, Mike finally arrives and we head to the 5th floor, walk down a long hallway and into a tiny room with 15 other people. Immediately I look for a sign-in sheet like we’re in a walk in clinic or something. No dice. It seems that every few minutes a woman with dyed hair comes out and points at 3 or 4 people to come in. There’s a boombox (!) in the corner blaring what seems to be 90s R&B hits. People mouth along to the music and stare at their phones.

“I have an idea for a commercial,” Mike starts to me when we find seats. “It’s like a house that’s burning down, and there’s puppies that are burning. A firefighter drinks a Pepsi and it says ‘Yeah, it’s that good. And the puppies die.”

“That’s pretty bleak and also I’m pretty sure they already have a commercial in mind.”

“Okay, here’s another one but it’s for Sour Patch Kids. You know how it’s like Sour Sweet Gone? So it’s a gummy bear bitching about their ex for 9 minutes – that’s the sour part. And then it just ends.”

“What if I just introduce you as my son and I pretend to be a stage mom. Like, this is my 18 year old son. I’ve never let him leave the attic until today but all he drinks is Pepsi.”

“What if they ask us to drink it and we’re like umm…we’re allergic.”

“Legit the only reason I came today is because I was kind of thirsty.”

Everyone else in the room is quiet while we pass our stupid ideas back and forth. Even though there’s no official line (I hate that), we make our way to the door up front and wait because everyone who was in the room when we got there has already left.

When it’s my turn I open the door to a tiny room and ask if Mike can join me so we can do the audition together. “Sure – whatever,” is the response.

We both walk in and stand next to each other because there’s only one chair. It feels like we’re in the principal’s office. There are two posters on the wall – Spiderman 2 and SALT.

“Names?”

“Uh, Aviva and Mike.”

“Do you guys work?”

I say no because I didn’t understand the question. I thought she meant as an actor. Mike says he’s a music manager even though I was pretty sure he worked at a soap factory.

“Resumes? Headshots?”

No and no. The Craigslist ad just said to bring your selves (“no food drinks or freidns (sic)”)

The woman sighs. “Here’s what I want you to do: WITHOUT shouting – I want you to pretend you’re at a Beyonce concert and she’s playing your favorite song – and go!”

Mike and I jump around like idiots, mouthing OH MY GOD and clutching each other. In my mind I’m at a Gavin DeGraw concert because I’m not a huge fan of Queen Bey. I have no idea where Mike thought he was, probably at a pizza shop or any place they serve pizza. After 30 seconds of me waving my hands in the air like a Southern preacher the woman goes “STOP.” She tells us to send her our resumes and headshots and thanks us for coming in. It’s been an hour since we first got there.

I got the feeling we weren’t getting the two thousand thousand dollars.

Mike and I stop in at a diner across the street. The walls have these trippy Times Square scenes that seem to move when you walk past them. We laugh about how annoying we probably were to everyone else in the audition room. We talk about how we’re definitely going to follow through on more projects once the weather stops being so frigid.

The waiter stops by our table and I ask for a Coke Zero.

“Eh no sorry…no Coke,” he answers. “Is Pepsi all right?”

I realize I never got my free Pepsi I was expecting from the audition (do they ever give free beverages at these kinds of commercials? What do I know?). I laugh and tell him that it’s fine.

Mike pays for it because I don’t have any cash so technically I did get my free Pepsi in the end.

 

 

 

Nothing Is A Setback

5 Mar

Recently I got an e-mail from WordPress telling me it was time to renew my website and before I remembered that I had a blog I’m too scared to write on anymore, I got another email thanking me for my payment. I forgot I had enabled auto-renewal for this thing. So here I am trying to write a post.

Why did I stop writing? Unclear. Probably due to the pressure I have been putting on myself to constantly put out top-notch quality content all the time. Whether on-stage doing standup or improv practice. And when I’m not feeling perfect, I decide it’s better to not write at all. Even though these struggles are exactly why I decided to start a blog to begin with. Stupid anxiety. Trying to sabotage me at every turn.

What have I been struggling with lately? Besides feeling the need to be ‘on’ all the time? Probably finding something to do when the school year ends. Even though I love working with my kiddies and I super love being able to walk to work – I know that working in a preschool is not where I’m meant to be. Where am I meant to be? Excellent question. Ten points to Gryffindor. Unfortunately, I have no answer. Zero points to me.

I have a drawing hanging on my fridge that I made one day. It’s a quote I found on Pinterest that says “There is no elevator to success – you have to take the stairs.” I think about that quote a lot because I’m not even sure what success is. These days, I get to go on stage and tell jokes or improvise or host trivia. I love it. I don’t get paid for it. I’m not famous. But I love it. Is that success? I know what an elevator would look like – an opportunity to rise before I’m ready. But the stairs are tricky. Sometimes it feels like I’m not moving at all. Even worse, sometimes it feels like I’m taking steps backwards.

Recently, I’ve been meeting with people to glean more advice about certain industries. I was very fortunate to meet with comedian Myq Kaplan and ask him questions about his life as a full-time comic. I asked him how he dealt with setbacks and he said something I very much liked.

“I don’t even like the word setback. Nothing is a setback, as you are never further back than you were before. You are never ‘less than’ after an experience. You are always moving forward.”

So. That’s where I am these days. Moving forward whether I want to or not. Doing things I love and considering it not good enough. It may not be pretty and I may want to delete this whole post because I don’t think it’s funny or interesting enough but I won’t. I’ll post it. And maybe it will make want to write more tomorrow too. And then maybe the day after that.

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