Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stories, Tattoos & Listen To Your Mother

When I was 21 I had a job in a fancy downtown office building.  I pretended to be a grown up.  I wore hand-me-down Ann Taylor suits from my big sister.  I watched how everyone else in the office greeted the grumpy secretary who obviously hated all of us and her job and her life.  "Hello Linda," I said and nodded just like all the other people in my office.

When I got to my desk, I laughed thinking I might sound like everyone else, but I was so not like everyone else. None of those conservative hacks had a belly ring or an awesome tattoo on the their lower back underneath their stuffy suits.  (Yeah, it was a million years ago when lower back tattoos were still cool and not "tramp stamps.")  I felt like I had a secret bad ass life.  My father told me tattoos and piercings would hinder my job search, but there I was in a fancy downtown office.

One day, while I was trying to hide all the paper I had wasted when I totally screwed up with my very important "make the copies" part of my job, I saw something that shocked me.  Susan, one of the most conservative hacks in the office, had a small butterfly tattoo on her ankle.  I could only see part of one wing peeking out from her navy blue pants.  The orange-ish panty hose she was wearing underneath her blue pants also disguised the butterfly tat.  But it was definitely a tattoo.  She caught me staring, "It was a million years ago dolly, but yeah, I have a tattoo and a heck of a story.  I'll tell it to you sometime."

I never heard Susan's story.  But I have a few theories.  I think Susan might have had this crazy boyfriend/lover that was part of the Hell's Angels.  He convinced her to get a tattoo and she was so in love that she went for it.  After a few years and a million adventures with her boyfriend/lover, she had dreams of a small house, a baby, maybe even marriage.  But the boyfriend/lover  didn't want to settle down, he was all about the open road and his bike and chasing one adventure after another.  So she tearfully told him she was leaving him.  He rode off into the sunset, without her.  Sometimes she traces the outline of the butterfly and thinks about what might have been.  

Or maybe not.  Whatever it was, Susan had a story.  We all do.  Just like tacky tattoos, our stories connect us. Our stories, our secret boyfriend/lovers, our what-might-have-beens, our struggles, our triumphs.

This has never been more apparent to me than last Sunday at our first Listen To Your Mother Metro Detroit rehearsal.  It is the first time we had the whole cast together and it was sort of amazing.  

As we prepared for the table read, we told the group we didn't really want to do typical introductions.  "We want you all to get to know each other through your stories," we said.  

One by one they shared with the group.  And we all felt connected by stories of beginnings, endings, infertility, early motherhood, adoption, forgiveness, illness, loss, survival, anger, redemption, pain, being a mother and having a mother. 

There were tears, laughter, hugs, true connection, and mostly compassion.  Compassion for one another.  Compassion for every mother, every grumpy secretary, every Susan, every body.  Because we all have a story.

If the first rehearsal is any indication, the show is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.  I am honored and humbled to be a part of the production team that is bringing Listen To You Mother to Metro Detroit. 

The show is on Sunday, May 4, at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit.  Click here to buy tickets (the cost is only $13 a ticket).

Watch this short video from last year to find out even more about what Listen To Your Mother is all about.


  1. Oh, I want to BE there! Your show is going to be fantastic. And then we can go get another tattoo together. :)

    1. I wish you could be here for the show...I still haven't lost hope that you'll just jump on a plane and come to Detroit in May. Then we really could go get a tattoo together. Sounds awesome!

  2. I so wish I could be there! I'll just have to wait for the YouTube videos :)

    1. I wish you could be here too! But yay for YouTube so you can hear the stories.

  3. Reading the nationwide accounts of LTYM and how it's rolling out, a city at a time, at a pace that works for each city, is giving me the absolute CHILLS. Sisterhood much?

  4. I love your story about Susan's tattoo. I wish she would have told it to you on the spot. :)