Me Big. You Little.

Desiree Burch is bigger and badder than you. Except when she's smaller and better (with more parentheticals than you can handle).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Deaf Poetry

So last night I did a runway audition for a charity fashion show. If selected, this will be my first time on the runway since I was 13 and at the Barbizon school where my gold hoop earring got caught on the shoulder-padded polyester blazer that I was rocking over my adolescent 201 lbs. of awkward, and I looked like I was caught in some Whitney Houston 80s dance move freeze-frame. I remember the teacher afterward saying, "don't be so tense..." and I was like, bitch my fucking hoop was caught on this shitty nylon blend Nordstrom's Rack crap my mom makes me wear so I can look like a 40-year-old CPA. Why? Cause it makes more sense to be a 200 lb. 40 year old than it does to be a 200lb 14 year old. I still had the Big Bad BeetleBorg glasses then too (they didn't look exactly like that--theirs are more a-la-Geordi LaForge--but that's what my brother and I called them). It was depressing.

Anyway, this audition was a call for models of "all shapes, sizes and colors" and that kind of decent crap. Don't worry. Fat is not the "new black" on the runways of Milan. At least not yet. The theme of it is celebrating diversity and that kind of thing. It's a charity fashion show to raise money for JADE Films, and this woman JADE (Jamaican-American Destinee-Empress) was the first, and I believe, only director to graduate from Tisch Film School who is an African-American Deaf woman. Obviously this woman has got a lot of shit telling her to stay in the corner and shut the hell up, and yet she has created several award-winning independent films and begun her own company. Quite remarkable. I got a chance to shake her hand yesterday after my audition, which I had been looking forward to doing. I wanted to explain to her how much I respected her work, and the fact that she was putting this show on, but I didn't speak her language. She spoke mine--she went deaf due to mysterious causes in Jamaica when she was four... kind of like Ray Charles, only with ears, not eyes... Ray was such a fucking amazing movie... anyway--but I was auditioning for a whole room full of deaf people with different backgrounds in the hearing world, and as little as regular, hearing auditors want to hear what an auditioner has to say, deaf ones probably want to hear it less (or maybe more, at first, and then just less entirely--like your mom calling to you while you are floating in the pool with your ears under the water and nothing can touch you, accept the creepy-crawly vacuum wigging you out).

And the irony doesn't just stop with that last deaf/auditor wordplay. The best part of the night, which is usually the worst part of any other auditions, was waiting around before hand. There were about 12 people waiting to audition in the hallway, and about 4 of them besides me were actual hearers. The others were all deaf (although the one really cute model girl might have actually just been able to speak in sign language, as she spoke vocally in English very well, but I did detect a slight discrepancy in the way she spoke, which may just mean she was able to "pass" extremely well--she was this tall skinny black girl with a big afro puff in back, and definitely the most attractive woman I had seen all night, portfolio and stilettos in hand). All of them engaged in the most vibrant conversations I have ever seen. I am always jealous of people speaking in ASL, just like I used to be jealous of the cliques of Korean kids at my high school, sitting around in their big circles and laughing in a language I didn't understand, about things I probably didn't understand. This situation was different. I felt much more of a sense of connection to things that they were talking and laughing about, even though I didn't understand a damn thing they were talking about. Oddly enough, this is probably because they were signing in English. The thought that I would understand someone signing in English (or in this case, American... Sign) before I would understand someone speaking in Portuguese is an interesting idea. But I did feel a connection to their conversations, probably because I understood the emotion and animation behind them. And it's so visual, it's great: generally one is used to seeing people having an animated conversation where their hands move uselessly to gesture at intensity, but in this case, the opposite occurs, where every hand movement is emphatically specific, and it is the voice which gestures widely unspecific with grunts and unarticulated laughter.

Oh, the laughter. That was the best part. Because the laugh has that unspecific sound of being unheard and uncensored, so that it's really just expelling every sound that the throat can articulate. Every guffaw sounds like a grunt of sexual desire. Every time the monitor laughed amidst her conversation it sounded like she was coming by being fucked with a large blunt object. It's dumb and beautiful, like laughter is supposed to be when you are unaware of an audience of people (or yourself) judging your joy. It was raucous, and made me turn around the first few times so I could figure out who was being bludgeoned in the skull. But I got used to the sound. My ears god more sensitive. I was reminded of the beautiful subtleties of hearing as the guy working in the design studio next door jingled his keys to go back into his office after having gone to the bathroom and I was the only one who instantly turned around responding to the keys chiming.

When I went in, the girl closest to me in the panel was talking to me and gesturing at the same time, and as I was trying to figure out what was going on, she said, "Oh, you're not deaf?" Which is a great question that I will remember having been asked. I almost thought to be offended for someone by that. Like deaf was a bad thing to call someone (since it's used among the hearing as such, to denote someone's ignorance). I need to wash that P.C. right out of my hair. There was a camera there, with a black guy with dreads operating it, three women behind the table, and one sort of asexual t-shirted female techie hand running away from the camera to sneeze every so often, and a stylish gay at the end of the row--all in all, situation entirely normal for an audition. There was a makeshift runway taped on the floor, and a pseudo costume rack with laundry bags and scarves from which I had to fashion a wardrobe in under a minute. It was quite hilarious, and I can tell that for the non-hearing, it is quite a bit of Chaplin-esque comedy to see "models" run about trying to fashion a costume and look sassy on a fake runway. I forgot that they couldn't hear when they told me to go and I stopped, waiting for someone to turn on the music (and they were like, oh, that's right, she needs music). The whole situation was great--comedic in all the ways that auditions are for auditioners, with a sense that everyone (or at least the auditors and myself--and who else really matters in this case) was in on the joke. And that the joke is actually not funny, but just is. And that's cool too. I got to shake the director's hand, and thanked them all profusely. I should have thanked them as they were thanking me, verbally, but also with the padded tips of one hand pouring forth from just beneath the mouth. I thought to do so, but didn't want to be a poser. But that's exactly what a model is. And I so want to speak sign language with them. Damn. I missed my shot.


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