BY :: CUPCAKE
There comes a time in every adult’s life where the sirens call of arts and crafts takes us away from the board meeting table and into imaginative day dreams of sand box castles and finger painting. To a free timer in our lives when grades were stickers saying a job well done and your art was proudly hung on your parents refrigerator. Wasn’t life was good back then. When you lived in a world where any old object was a toy with which you explored the every shifting boundaries of the possible.
Is that a spoon? NO! It’s a space ship. Is that your mother’s red leather stiletto or a race car? Who cares, maybe it’s a hat. Who are you? Maybe a fireman on the moon! Or a worm in a sleeping bag!
I’m not advocating that we all need to revert to being 4 again and disband with all social conventions, but as I look at the current state of culture and politics in America I am over whelmed with a feeling of fear; do we not know how to play anymore?
What happened to sharing and group clean up? When did we sign up to live in a world of bullies and Mine Mine Mine?
What happens between Preschool and adulthood that we switch shoots and ladders for corporate ladders, and almost never return to the dreams of our youth? Why does being an adult seem to necessitate a denial of everything about us which is ‘child-like’? Wonder, exuberance, laughter, freedom, expression, when I speak to people about their childhoods and ask them to tell me tales of their experience these are the words that most often come up. People speak of a time when they remember what it was like to make art with out feeling judged, when they could be experimental, before they learned that to survive in this culture, you have to adhere to a strict set of social rules.
Boys play with army trucks, girls get Barbies, we color in the lines, we don’t get the finger paint on the walls, don’t knock the blocks over, sit at your desk, don’t stare at the clouds out the window, adhere to convention, deny your impulses. Help people but don’t help them so much they do better then you. Don’t share your things, hoard them, they are yours! Keep them safe!
I mean not all of this is bad. Structures, like language or writing, only work because of conformity. Yet now that we have learned all of this, perhaps the time has come for us all to go back to Preschool. To rekindle our collective creative energy, to make ::magic together. Fear, self-judgment and social conventions keep us down, let’s change that. We are adults now, so lets learn to be kids. Plus we have the added bonus that most of us are potty trained and many of us have learned to make an edible meal, all in all we are doing alright. So lets take a step back, shed some of this judgment and re-educate ourselves on how to be people the way kids are; open, inspired and creative.
I want to share a story with you.
Now feels like a good time.
It’s about an adventure Michelle Joni and I took to THE MEGA MICHAEL’S crafting store last week.
It’s about how we interact with others and what we do with invitations to play when they are given.
To me this experience highlights both why we need Preschool Mastermind as a culture, and how easily accessibly these skills are if we just take a moment to quiet our adult mind.
It was 6pm in the evening and after a day of excitedly chatting about our future plans for Preschool, Michelle and I slapped on some lipstick, (I applied mine to my eyebrows) threw on a few frocks and headed out to the R train for a ::magical:: trip to NYC, dressed as zani-color-addicted Preschoolers. We were carrying bags bursting with pom-poms and pipe cleaners and games we hoped to amuse ourselves and others with, on the ride into the city.
As a generally faggoty person who enjoys using my body as a canvas upon which I can express my own unique faggotry I have grown accustomed to some people being repelled by the way I choose to present myself. That said I think visibility is our most powerful tool, and even in moments where wearing a dress renders me a target of verbal violence I feel proud of who I am and am not willing to sacrifice my freedom of expression for the security that comes from not drawing attention to my gender-and-all-around queerness. (as a tall, white, hairy visibly male person, I understand that this is a unique position and luxury that many people do not have.) Michelle is much the same and when we are together I feel joyously free.
To 4 young men on the R train however, everything about our visual freedom was repellant. It was obvious from the moment we all sat down. Yet unlike other experiences I have had where I have been verbally gay-bashed, in our presence these men reverted to bullying us. Bullying us exactly how a kid would. I never felt that any of their hatred towards me was specifically because I am gay, but because I was embodying the ethos of ‘play’.
It began when one of them asked if we wanted to play a game of catch with him. Michelle and I were thrilled, even though they seemed to be hating on us, perhaps they really did just want to be our friends. Michelle threw him a pom-pom and as it sailed across the aisle he smacked it from the air, stepped on it, kicked the remains at us and then began verbally yelling at us.
No one sitting on the train did anything about it. Quick on the heels of his hatred the other three young men joined in, taunting us, telling us we looked ‘stupid’ and generally spending more time making sure that their friends had seen them insult us, rather than worrying about how we responded. The entire time, Michelle and I never spoke a single word to them. I believe we were both to perplexed. There is something so hauntingly sad in watching 4 nearly full grown men, congratulate each other about their collective hatred and distain for those who are different.
At this point in my life I have a thick enough skin and have spent enough hours in therapy to understand that their hatred has little to do with who I am, and more to do with how I reflect their own insecurities back at them. But oh how I wish they had taken our invitation to play and joined us in exploring the dimensions of fun together. This is exactly why we have started this program. For far too many people in the world react to those who are different by attempting to either exert dominance over them, or by running from them. What ever happened to simply playing with each other? We were seeking nothing more than a momentary connection, a temporary respite from the human condition of loneliness and yet to these men that invitation was to transgressive. I want to learn from, to learn how they dance, how they see the world, how they share with one another. I wish I could show them how I see the world, and that maybe in that sharing we would come closer together and learn to respect one another, rather then approaching each other from a place of fear.
As we pulled into the 1st stop there was a tense moment as none of us did anything, Michelle and I refused to get off, as did the 4 young men. The entire time the doors were open, no one on the carriage spoke. The moment the doors closed however and we slid from the station, the insults began again. It was odd watching them. In seeing how safe they felt in bullying us.
My heart goes out to them. Has any one ever taught them how to play, to speak about their feelings? As the train pulled onto the next platform Michelle and I got off, shook off the experience, and got ready to wait for the Q. Walking away from them was a sad moment. I hope they all learn how to laugh with others not at others.
We could not have had a more different trip from that moment onwards. Waiting on the platform we met an architect with a giant yellow leveler, who told us it was her wand and let us frolic around the platform with it, spreading her ::magic::. We discovered a woman with a big bunch of balloons who told us it was her birthday and let us lead a merry band of commuters in a rather lovely and off key rendition of happy birthday for her as we made her a crown from pipe cleaners and glitter.
Yet the best moment may have come when the Q finally arrived and we met three wonderful people on the train who decided to join us in a dance. All it took was an invitation. Michelle put on some music and we both looked innocuously around the carriage till we caught the eyes of the people sitting opposite us. They smiled, we smiled, we invited them to dance. They said yes.
Play is all about delving into open ended invitations and discovering unknown moments. It’s about saying yes and getting lost. Dancing on the Q train was transformative. For me it was about taking back space, this space of commuting and disappointing social interactions and making it a point of energy and connection. It was about naming and then being in my desire to express myself through movement. It was about acknowledging the social conventions that normally keep me from dancing on the train and rejecting them.
It was about indulging myself and giving myself the freedom and the space to play with strangers, to expect nothing from this momentary interaction than an exchange of smiles. Those people on the train were so ready and willing to dance and move and sing with us. It was such a delight! The world is ready to play, Join us.
Ok… story over…. back to what I was saying….
Play is hard work and you can’t do it alone. That’s why we have started Preschool Mastermind, a class where we return to the basics and explore ourselves and our creativity through a host of what many people call childish methods, and trust me, they are. We dress ourselves in outfits, we make magical creatures from play-doh, we put stickers on everything.
This month we shall be launching our second Preschool Mastermind course. We learned a huge amount the first time around and are excited to bring the class back in an attempt to continue this work of not only educating ourselves, but others, about how to play.
In the month ahead we will be releasing more information about the class, but i’m happy to tell you all now that I’ll be leading a Preschool Mastermind focus in CRAFTING YOUR OWN HEROIC MYTH. It will involve dress up, and movie nights and wild adventures and quests through the streets and wilds of the 5 burrows.
Preschool Mastermind is rooted in an embodied practice of learning how to communicate with ourselves and each other. Our classes are salons where we bring ourselves and our work to the table in order to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.
Come learn with us, come share your stores and your dreams. Lets make ::magic:: together.