She Makes Me Laugh & What’s Missing

All of this is so weird, right? Every single conversation I have, whether it be with a stranger, a friend, or a family member – we always remind each other, how fucking weird is this? I blow-dried my hair for the first time today since March 12. MARCH 12. Honestly, one of the biggest takeaways from the weirdness is that my hair looks pretty good when I let it dry naturally. Who knew?

I don’t mind weird. Weird is my comfort zone. I remember as a kid, getting bullied – getting called weird and responding back, as if it would change their mind, “Uhm, thanks, weird is a compliment.” There’s not a lot of room for nuance when you’re nine, and the bullies didn’t get it. But I’ve been living in the weird for my whole life. It took me a while to figure out how and when to be weird. It didn’t really click until my first improv class. Sure, I had friends by then who appreciated my specific brand of weirdness, but I didn’t have a community. Then, at 23, at the behest of a Thought Catalog article, I signed up for an improv class. I remember thinking at the end – fuck, I should’ve been doing this the whole time. Here were the rest of the weirdos. They had been doing zip-zap-zop and mind melds while I rushed a sorority and ate my weight in jello shots. Truthfully, my biggest regret from college is not joining an improv team. That’s when you’re supposed to do it! It makes sense to be an idiot on stage in college, we’re being idiots everywhere else anyway. Why not do it in a group of eight and give yourselves a punny name that’s one step away from being a ska band?

Anyway, the point is, right now is new weird and I miss my old weird. It was instant, but I built a space for myself in the New York comedy community. I took years of improv classes, spent thousands of dollars, performed in the basement of bars I would never actually go to, and I loved it so much. And then, She Makes Me Laugh happened. Well, it didn’t just happened, but it did.

I want to be completely honest right now. I knew what She Makes Me Laugh could be. I love the NY comedy community, but at the time I entered, there were glaring flaws. There were almost too many shows, or a lack of producers who had the time/energy/care to put in the work of creating a great show. You would respond to a Facebook post, get a spot on a show in what literally could have been the site of a murder. I did shitty improv in places with so many fire hazards. On top of all of this, the majority of the performers, and in turn, the audience, were dudes. It doesn’t matter that they were mostly white (but they were). So I saw an opportunity, and I began to build.

I’m so thankful to my girls – (Sm)ashley, Maria, and Michaela – who shared my vision. We built something beautiful. I wanted a monthly show featuring an all women lineup. Monthly so we could take care and curate the lineup, and promote the show properly. Here we are, four years later, and look at what we’ve built. We’ve had performers on the show that I still am astounded by. Judy Fucking Gold. Nikki Glaser. Jessica Kirson. Aparna Nancherla. Jo Firestone. Not to mention the women from our community that we had the privilege of providing a platform and an audience for. My favorite piece of feedback I get from producing the show is from the performers. We put on a great show and we make sure our performers feel appreciated.

So much was supposed to happen this year. We moved venues and started taking in money. For the first time, the vision I had for what She Makes Me Laugh could be had momentum. We were going to LLC. 2020 was the year I was going to be a business owner. We had so many plans for the festival at Caveat. There was so much more we had the ability to do, so many opportunities, so much inspiration. Then it all stopped. Everything. All of it stopped. I don’t know when we’re going to be able to put on another show. When will people feel comfortable sitting knee to knee in a comedy club? We can’t ask performers pay to submit to a festival when so many of them have lost their source of income. We’ve lost our source of income. We haven’t lost She Makes Me Laugh, but the future is incredibly uncertain. I don’t know when we’ll be back. I don’t know what it will look like. I don’t know where we’ll be. The only thing I know for certain is that I miss it.

I miss live comedy, the instant feedback from the audience. I miss the smell of cheap beer and house wine. I miss producing so much. It took so long to find my community of weirdos, and while there are still shows happening, I can’t bring myself to produce a livestream show. I am in awe of my fellow producers who are putting on Zoom mics, Instagram Live shows, however they’re doing it. Some part of me is broken right now and my drive to produce She Makes Me Laugh has not translated online. I know I’m probably wrong, but I can’t bring myself to change my mind. Not right now anyway. Instead, I’m writing long, rambling blog posts, watching Disney movies, and waiting for my old weird to come back. I’m here waiting.

Saying Goodbye

I haven’t seen my grandpa in two years. Geda Kolya, Nikolai Zabolotsky, my father’s father, was 84 and had Alzheimer’s. More than anything in the world right now, I hate that disease. Two days ago, I was told he had corona. Last night, after what felt like a joke of a timeline, he passed away. The terrible and heartbreaking thing is, I said goodbye to my grandpa last time I saw him. Everything that he was – a man who provided for his family, who loved his grandchildren with every fiber of his being – he had been gone before last night. I’ve repeated the phrase I’ve already mourned him more than I thought I would this morning, but it’s not entirely true. It’s easy to push the reality of what Alzheimer’s did to my grandpa when you’re not directly confronted with it. I may have said goodbye to who my grandpa was, but today I say goodbye to my grandpa.

Geda Kolya and I always had a language barrier between us. I am mediocre at Russian at best, and his broken English could only express so much. But I never doubted how much he loved me. My dad told me when I was born, he was ecstatic, in love. He had a family with two sons, and his first grandchild was a boy. I entered the world as his little girl, showered with love. We couldn’t share everything with each other, but we shared everything that we could. As a child, our game of choice was checkers. Easy enough to understand for a child without having to explain the rules. I still love checkers. I don’t play checkers anymore.

I could tell stories about my grandpa from his life in Uzbekistan – and while that built the foundation of who he was – I think it’s more important to remember why he left and came to America. He was a stoic man, so much like my own father, but he did everything in his power to provide. He knew leaving the life he had built in the Soviet Union behind wouldn’t be easy, but he knew the future of his family depended on it. It’s because of him that I was given all the opportunities to succeed. It’s because of him that I’m aware of the privilege I was given. I only knew my grandpa so much, and I know there’s so much that was left untold. All the parts that I knew, I loved. I will miss him, and I will continue to build a future he would be proud of.

Seriously, I’m Exhausted

I’ve mourned relationships that have never happened. I have shared pieces of myself with men who disappear, had calls and video chats with men I romanticized. Labels were never something to discuss, I had learned too many times – that conversation is a way to end whatever I thought we had. There is no guidebook for mourning a relationship that never was. You are allowed to be angry. You can screenshot that last conversation and send it to your friends, finding comfort in their disbelief and frustration. When did this start happening? When did I allow myself to find comfort in people I knew were temporary? Why did I expect closure from something that we couldn’t even name?

In 154 days I’ll turn 30. For the past month, I’ve watched the seasons change, the world slow down, and the plans I had come to a screeching halt. In 154 days I’ll turn 30 and I don’t know what that means now, what it will mean on September 23rd. Will my life change? I still have plans, I still have dreams, no matter how delayed they are. I want to move into my apartment, decorate the walls with my personality, instead of siloed decor in my bedroom. I want to adopt a cat, but I really want to adopt a dog. I want to stop dating men that disappear, turn themselves into stories in my history. I have plans for my life, and I want a partner by my side.

Bad things happen. Family members get sick. People lose their jobs. A pandemic destroys the life I thought I knew. I have good friends, I have family members who support me. Throughout it all though, I want a partner. I want that one person to lean on when the world hurts too much. That person who cheers me on and lifts me up when I struggle and succeed.

I’m exhausted of the temporariness of it all. I’m sick of dating, the build up of hope and pep talks in the mirror as I spray perfume on my wrists. I’ve been given so much advice. Don’t try so hard, love will come when you least expect it. Get on all the apps, you have to put yourself out there. Never leave the house without makeup, you don’t know who you’ll meet. When I figure out what the trick is, what the cheat code is, I’ll shout it from the rooftops.


What Is Normal?

I don’t know how other families deal with death. I don’t know if they confront discomfort in the face, welcoming it head on like a a friend they wish they didn’t have to see again. Do they shy away and hide in corners? Ignore the signs and warning signals, do they look for comfort in God, or escape into anger? I only know how my family deals with death.

You introduce yourself as the child of immigrants, and you want to add the disclaimer, “But don’t worry, I’m not looking for sympathy. This is just just a fact about my history I can’t change.” But my family made their way to the United States, having witnessed and purposely left a lifetime of pain on another continent. We were in America to discover happiness, to latch onto prosperity. How could you find joy in a new life when the ghosts of an unjust past hovered just out of view? And so, they didn’t acknowledge the pain that was left behind.

That’s not to say there was not the cracks in the armor, the splinters in the wall. The women in my family cried at the drop of a hat. It was almost heartwarming. I remember being 19, sitting across from my grandparents in the vinyl seats of the Jersey diner. Good new – I was going to study abroad. I was embarking on an adventure, breathing in all the world had to offer. And my grandmother, with all of her love and blind hope for me, burst into tears.

You don’t discover what is “normal” until you get older. The first time I went out to breakfast with friends – not with my family – I ordered sour cream with pancakes. You learn quickly what is normal. I still don’t know if it’s normal that I held my grandmother’s hand as she passed. I don’t know if it’s normal that my father was the one cracking jokes, in between the grey moments of whatthefuckishappening. I don’t know. None of it ever felt normal, but it’s weaved into the tapestry of my being now. I crack jokes now, but I pause and tell my father if you need to express emotion – not jokes – I am here. My family is the same people who made their way over from Uzbekistan and Latvia. We have grown, building lives in the country my grandparents sacrificed all of it for. So we make jokes when it hurts, because too much to feel at once. But we’ve learned to pause and quietly say if you need to be hurt, if you need to feel, I am here.

A Good Cry

I’ve always described myself an easy cryer. On a normal day, I cry when a character gives birth on a TV show, during a car commercial, if I see a particularly cute puppy. I have a low threshold for the tears that fall down my face. When I was younger, I was called out for being too sensitive. I was bullied, and like any child who’s self-esteem is broken and beaten down, I cried. “Stop being so sensitive,” was something I heard over and over again. I was told I was dramatic, that the name calling and isolation would build character. I wasn’t old enough to build the walls I needed to get through it, I didn’t have the protective armor to shield my ego. So I cried. I got older, and either the bullying stopped, or I learned to tune it out. I stopped crying every day at school, but I still cried. I found moments when it was acceptable – sad movies, TV shows that were made to pull at your heartstrings, books that introduced you to beloved characters only to kill them off. It was okay to feel then. The sensitivity that was threaded into my DNA, the very being of myself, found ways to exist.

March 12th was my last day in the office. We had heard rumors of a work from home memo from management, whispers among the employees in the office. We were incredulous, scared, and nervous. I packed up what I would need for what I thought would be two weeks – maybe more, but who really knew? The National Guard had been deployed to New Rochelle, quarantining the small town just north of the city. Corona was close, but how could we know? As my coworkers and I packed laptops into bags, discussed whether to bring computer monitors home, there was an air of this will be over soon, why are we overreacting?

Then we weren’t overreacting. In the beginning, I counted days in quarantine. I tweeted with humor – Day 12 of Quarantine: Just bought a puzzle. Day 15 of Quarantine: I rearranged my furniture. I don’t feel like counting anymore. The puzzle is sitting the box, touched once and then packed away. The furniture has been rearranged. Time keeps moving forward. Today is April 17th – after what seemed like an endless March, April has rushed forward. Days blend together into weeks and it will soon be May and we’ll still be here. I’ll be sitting here in my room, on the third floor of a mediocre building in Greenpoint, till at least May 15th.

On Monday I lost my job. I should have seen it coming, but even with the lack of assignments, the silence and lack of communication, I didn’t understand until it happened. I sat in my bedroom, at the workstation I had put together specifically for this – the desk I had bought a week after leaving the office, the chair that, while slightly uncomfortable, fit so well with my decor – and politely listened to my boss tell me the news. The agency had lost three accounts. It wasn’t sustainable to keep this many people employed. I wasn’t sustainable. I said I understood, I said thank you, I hung up, and I cried.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. All of this is so new to me, to everyone, my body and mind don’t seem to know how to react. Ten minutes ago, I cried while listening to a Vanessa Carlton song from 2002. Last week, I cried after talking to my parents on the phone. The child that I used to be has been kicking at my insides. Let me out. Let me feel. Let me be too much. Let me be sensitive. Please. It’s taken me so long to build up the walls to feel safe in the world. Now, the world has changed and the walls are no longer keeping the outside out.

My Last Date of 2016

I’m really good at first dates. Honestly. In the same way that I’m good at interviews, I crush first dates. I know how to make a good first impression when it matters. I can be charming and witty, I know how low cut my shirt has to be (just enough to hint at the tit), and I know which perfume to spritz onto my collarbone, my wrists. I don’t know where it came from, but somewhere in between the East and Hudson Rivers, I learned how to flirt.

Second dates, though. Second dates aren’t as simple. They’re make or break. I can’t re wear my first date outfit. Suddenly everything I own is terrible. All my perfume is too strong, doesn’t smell right mixed with my pheromones. Second dates are weird. Unless they’re great.

My last date of 2016 was a second date. The first date was great (que sorpresa!)  Sitting on a couch in the back of the bar somewhere too close to Grand Central, knees touching and kissing just enough. He asked me to come back with him to his place, “just to make out.” He didn’t like making out in public and wanted more privacy. I told him no, each time having to have a justification. (Note: if anyone says no to a sexual request, do not ask for reasons. This is not the time for a debate.) He told me he was going to ask me on a second date, and a good kisser will make you ignore all the red flags waving in the wind.

I don’t want to get into all the things that went wrong on the second date. Mostly because I don’t want to embarrass myself, I let them happen. I said yes to a date inside my apartment, even though I wasn’t ready for him to even see my bed yet. I said yes even though I had suggested other ideas, in public settings. I don’t mind kissing in public. Let the world see how wanted I am. Let the patrons of Random Williamsburg Bar judge me as my hands sit on someone else’s thighs. But I said yes. I don’t want to get into the fact that, because we were at my apartment, I had to tell him I wasn’t ready to have sex. I don’t want to talk about how, per his words, “didn’t know what to do now,” once he had touched my breasts and I told I wasn’t ready to go further. I don’t want to talk about how he suggested to watch Beauty and the Beast over text, since he had never seen it, and when I told him I had downloaded it and was ready to watch it, he laughed and said, “I’m not watching that.”

No, what I want to talk about is how he got mad when I didn’t laugh at one of his jokes. We had smoked, both stoned, sitting on the Ikea couch in my living room that’s attached to my kitchen. He made a “that’s what she said” joke. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t laugh, because it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t a huge thing either. I didn’t stop and tell him, hey, you have a terrible sense of humor and you should never tell jokes again. I just didn’t laugh. I moved past it. He looked at me, and started pressing me. Why didn’t I laugh? Didn’t I think that was funny? He just finds the humor in everything, so I should’ve laughed at that. If I couldn’t laugh at that, then I obviously couldn’t laugh at anything.I may be paraphrasing here, but you get the gist. I didn’t laugh. To him, that was wrong. Wrong enough to be lectured. It was as if I had something insulting to my mom without realizing. Of course I should have to defend myself until I realize what I did was wrong. Of course I should have to apologize.

Don’t fuck anyone who does this, whatever variation it comes in. It’s the same guy who will ask you for a reason when you say no to sex. It’s the same guy who will text you at 11PM, knowing it’s terrible but painting it as romantic. All variations of the same fuckboy. My last date of 2016. Here’s to a new year. No more laughing to stroke someone’s ego. No more opening my heart and bedroom door to people who haven’t earned it. No more fuckboys.


November 24th, 2016

Ever since the election, my relationship with my mother has shifted, just ever so slightly. It’s a bunch of tiny, imperceptible, but screaming cracks in the facade. She’s a Republican, and I’m somewhere in between. Most of my family is Republican, and I just sit slightly to the left side of that line. So on November 9th, I avoided talking to her. I was so sad and scared, I talked to my coworkers instead. The mood in the office was similar to a wake. We were checking in on each other. “Are you okay? How are you feeling?” I didn’t hear that from my mother. I heard it from Emma who sits across from me. My mother didn’t ask me how I felt. She called me the next day and asked if we could talk.

Things are different. My mother is still one of my best friends. But. She’s still one of my best friends, but she asked me why I thought he was anti-Semitic. I hate that I had to defend something I wish didn’t exist. When she asked me if we could talk, we didn’t really say anything. I cried, but I was drunk. We didn’t really talk about it. We still haven’t. It’s been all pronouns and dancing around the actual words.

Tonight, I asked her if she was coming to my next show. She’s been to every single one. Almost a year of blind support. She said she wasn’t sure. I didn’t understand, the show as at 8PM. There was no reason she shouldn’t be able to go. “I’m afraid there’s going to be political stuff.” There is going to be political “stuff.” “I hope you love me more than you hate politics.” She said she didn’t hate politics. I’m not sure what she hates, but it’s stopping her blind support.

I don’t know if she voted for Trump. I don’t ever want to find out. I think so much more is hidden out in the open now. The difference in our politics was never an issue before. Now it’s sitting on the table, being avoided and whispered around. I hate it, and I don’t know what to do about it.

A Follow Up to “The First Time I Regretted Sleeping With Someone.”

I saw you yesterday. I saw you yesterday for just a second. I was in the middle of a conversation and you interrupted me. You walked by and turned your head and saw me first. You must have heard me first. I’m loud when I talk, even though I wasn’t loud with you.

I forget most of the time that we share a borough. The apartment I live in now is nicer than the one you lived in when you hurt me. I’m pretty sure you lied about what you did and I’m pretty sure you lied about having a girlfriend. Your face sometimes shows up on a dating site, and I see a certain shade of red for a certain part of a second. Then I move on.

I saw you yesterday, though. I was in the middle of a sentence and I stopped before I hit the end. My friend asked me what was wrong and for the first time I told her I was raped. Then no, I changed that word. I was assaulted. Then no, I changed that word, too. I wasn’t treated nicely. I still haven’t found the word for what you did. Because I let you in. But you had misrepresented yourself so purposefully. The dick that was inside of me, the dick that made me bleed did not belong to a body I knew. Not really.

I was young and I made a mistake. I moved on. I still make that mistake sometimes. Trusting someone before they’re worthy of being trusted. Letting someone in when they shouldn’t be let in. You were my first mistake.

I saw you yesterday. We share a borough and a train. I might see you again. I live here now. This is my town. This is my city. Fuck you.

A Very Lucky Group of Weirdos

I read a good amount of feminist blogs and websites. The first sites I check in the morning, after my dose of pop culture from Vulture, are XoJane and Jezebel. I’m a quiet feminist, only speaking up about it when I feel like my voice would add something, not just add to the chorus of already shouting voices.

There is a type of expose/article on these websites, written by women looking to shed some metaphorical weight. You can find it on XoJane, in the “It Happened to Me” section. You can find it in the comment section on Jezebel and in TrollXChromosomes thread on Reddit. There are women all over the internet telling stories about their horrible families, how their mothers and fathers failed them. I feel for these women, deeply and significantly – but, I will never understand them.I grew up with a great family.

I’m sorry if what I’m about to write sounds braggadocios, or gauche. I just thought it would be nice to get it all down. The other night, as I perused Buzzfeed, I saw a listicle, “21 Things You’ll Only Get If You and Your Mum Are Super Close.” I sent it to my mom without hesitation. In recent years, as I’ve moved out of the house and come into my own, I’ve found the relationship with my parents strengthen. It’s not perfect, we still fight and have disagreements, but it’s a great relationship. I honestly consider my mom to be one of my best friends, as nerdy or whatever as that sounds. I mean, I’m not going to turn to tell her about my sex life, and I’m not going to ask her to smoke a bowl with me from time to time. She is the person I turn to in crisis and in triumph. I turn to my dad for advice more than anyone else. I’d say about 90% of the time he is right, which is a pretty high batting average. And then there’s my brother. I don’t know if it’s because we’re both a little bit older, and a little bit farther apart, geographically speaking, but this is the first time in my life I can feel us becoming friends. Our communication is still 95% pictures of dogs, but that’s literally my favorite thing in the world so it works.

When I was younger, I hated how much my family was enmeshed and over-involved. I would get a cold in the morning, and in the evening I would get a call from my great-aunt asking how I was. When I was figuring out who I was, it was so hard to have all these other voices shouting while I was trying to hear myself. Now that I have some solid ground to stand on, I love them. I love how loud they are, because I can be loud. No one is going to judge you for yelling in my family. No one is going to tell you to not cry. Cry as loud as you fucking want. We’ll hug you while you do and then shove some food in your face.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is, I know I’m lucky. I have two parents who love and respect each other. They respect me and root for me. When I throw myself into this weird comedy world, they come to almost every show. They support me when I ask them to, and they support me when I don’t. I have a brother who confides in me, and who I can turn to in confidence. I have an extended family that makes small, intimate family dinners a minimum of 16-20 people. None of us are perfect, but there is so much love it’s insane. We’re a very lucky group of weirdos.


When Do I Turn Into a Spinster?

At what age do I officially become a spinster? Is there going to be a warning sign, like when Facebook lets me know my mom’s birthday is next week? Is going to be like turning 45 and immediately start receiving AARP catalogs in the mail? Am I going to turn 27 and have a cat show up on my doorstep? Am I suddenly going to have a strong desire to watch all of Bones?

I know I’m only 26 and that apparently, being 26 and single in NYC isn’t that big of a deal. It feels like a bigger deal though, when at least five people I know got engaged within the last two weeks. I have to force myself to be happy for them, but this really ugly part of me isn’t. The ugly part of me is jealous and angry, it begins to question everything. It tells me if I still lived at home, or anywhere else by New York City, I would be in a relationship by now. I wouldn’t be alone. It looks in the mirror and tells me I must know why I’m unloveable. It’s staring right back at me. Most of the time I tell the ugly part of me to shut the fuck up. I pick up the phone, and I congratulate the people I care about who have found love. I pretend I’m 100% happy for them; fake it till you make it right?

Still. As I crawl closer to 30, I can’t help but wonder at what point does it become sad? My parents are starting to do that incredibly well-intentioned, incredibly Jewish thing of  attempting setting me up with any guy in their social circle of marrying age. Doesn’t matter if they’ve never met him, doesn’t matter if he has absolutely nothing in common with me, doesn’t even fucking matter if he lives in Florida. I know that being 26 and single isn’t the worst thing in the world. I have a good job, a career path, passions that I pursue (successfully), but sometimes (a lot of the time) it doesn’t feel like enough. It’s like I took all the classes but didn’t get the diploma. It all amounts to a lot and nothing at the same time.

My parents are lucky. They met when they were young. They were married when they were young. They’ve stayed together for more than 30 years. They’ve beaten the odds. They’re the winning couple. I know I’m happy and lucky. But they’re looking at my world through that lens and my world looks confusing as fuck. My mom was married with a kid at 23. I’m 26 and live with three other people that I met on Craigslist. I can see how it looks scary, and a little sad, and a little confusing. I just want to be able to tell them it’s okay. Sometimes I don’t even know if it is though. Is it okay? I’m going to be 27 in less than a year. 30 is right around the corner, and I’ve never been in love. When do I turn into a spinster? When does being single turn into being sad?