Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mama Monologues and Truth Telling

By Cindy Bailey 3.26.08
Photo by Dilyara Breyer

If you want to hear essays that are raw, edgy, touching, hilarious, outrageous, and truly alive , then you have got to get yourself to one of these Mama Monologues put on by the Writing Mamas Salon. Motherhood never sounded like this before! These talented writers—who also happen to be moms ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies—are telling it like it is, and the result will blow you away, I swear.

Last Saturday evening, March 15, the Writing Mamas Salon presented their latest installment of Mama Monologues, entitled, “Motherhood and Mindfulness,” with special guest, Sylvia Boornstein , co-founder of Spirit Rock and best-selling author of Happiness Is an Inside Job . Book Passage and Spirit Rock also supported the event, which was a fundraiser for spiritual guides, Stephen and Ondrea Levine, who are struggling with medical challenges. Suggested entry donation was $20.

More than 60 people (including men!) packed the gorgeous hall of the Christ Episcopal Church in the hills of Sausalito to hear 20 writers and the guest speaker read from their work.

I was captivated not only by the content of the stories, but also by the variety of voices and styles, and the performance-like delivery these women gave. The evening was electric—and I'm not just saying this because I also happen to be a member of the Writing Mamas. Others in the audience felt it too. My only criticism is that, at three hours, the event ran a little too long.

Dawn Yun , founder of the Writing Mamas and an accomplished author herself, emceed the event. Here are some highlights:

In the story, “My Indiscretions,” Mindy Uhrlaub —a filmmaker who used to be in a rock band that opened for the Smashing Pumpkins—bemoans the loss of her sex life against the overwhelming duties of childcare, which she refers to as “slavery.” Uhrlaub admits that at the end of the day, “the bed is more appealing than what [her and her husband] might do in it.” Because she's horny at noon when her husband's at work, she begins an affair with a cowboy, meeting him at a local motel in the middle of the day. We're enthralled and uncomfortable until we learn that the cowboy is her husband.

Jennifer Gunter had us laughing out loud at her outrageous story, “Designer Vagina.” As an OB doctor, she's seen it all. Her hilarious essay reports on something that apparently is all the rage: injecting collagen in—and having plastic surgery on—your vagina. “There are two ways you can react to this: the first is, What the fuck?” Gunter goes on to say she understands plastic surgery if, say, “your labia has to be rolled up like Dumbo ears and tucked into your underwear.” She has less sympathy for younger women who are looking for a new aesthetic.

Not only was the material side-splitting, but Gunter's delivery was punch line perfect.

Lorrie Golden , a psychotherapist whose essays have been heard on NPR, opened her humorous essay, “Gratitude,” with the following: “This gratitude craze bugs the shit out of me.” What followed was not a rant, but an intelligent, honest look at what it means to have to be grateful all the time. “Life without cynicism and darkness is depressing,” Golden quipped. We laughed hysterically, but also found depth and meaning in her words.

Avvy Mar , a psychologist who's completing a memoir, read her incredibly moving story, “Impermanence,” which was about her realizing in a flashing moment that the life she had before was gone. That moment came to Mar in the hospital while waiting for her newborn to be checked out, and realizing it was taking too long, that something was wrong. Mar's beautiful, lyrical writing never fails to touch deeply. Wow!

After the readers, guest speaker, Sylvia Boornstein , took to the stage and enlightened us with her knowledge and spirituality. She told a classic Buddhist story, read from her book, and had us join her in a short, beautiful meditation. A peaceful ending to a lively evening.

Here were the evening's other readers:

Jennifer O'Shaughnessy read “Smooth Satisfaction,” a story about her husband's idea of a romantic weekend being to sand the deck

Shannon Matus-Takaoka read “You Know What Really Annoys Me About Toothpaste?” a smart, humorous piece about indecision

Lianna McSwain read “Jellyfish,” which was about her husband's insight of his son as a jellyfish

Kristy Lund read “Breathing Room,” which was about needing some!

Pru Starr read “Cheap Party,” a tale about a creative birthday party

Gloria Saltzman read “Still Life with Teenager,” a touching piece about life with teenagers

Laura-Lynne Powell read “Motherhood After Abortion,” which was about just that

Svetlana Nikitina read “Zen Bird,” a beautiful story about her child teaching her the meaning of Zen.

Anjie Reynolds read “Tree,” a poetic piece about what a tree has to offer

Rachelle Averback read “Be the Lighthouse,” which was about learning to let her teenager go

Kate McDonald read “Resurrection,” about her father's death

Kathleen Buckstaff performed “Mama, You're Rich,” a sweet tale of her love for her children

Li Miao Lovett read “Doubting Damn Doula,” a labor story about her misguided doula

Andrea Passman Candell read “The Mixing Bowl,” a piece about the idea of nurturing kids' interests into careers

Kimberly Kwok read “Young Moms,” which was about advising younger moms and the loss of one of her children

• Dawn Yun read “Remarkable Moments,” an essay about incredible life-after-death moments

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