About Me

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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rose in Harlem

Look up and just a little to the left. Unless you’re reading this from an RSS feed (in which case, hey, thanks for adding me) you’re going to see a little picture of a yellow rose winding out of a city window. This icon is my avatar for both my blog and my Twitter feed. I love this icon. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t think I would ever want to change it.

The picture itself was snapped by me back in 2006. My roommate (one of four of us, squeezed into a little apartment up on 145th) had brought the plant back from work one day, a heavy, green, sickly thing. She told us it was a rose “bush,” although from the wilted sight of it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. She was determined to nurse the tiny plant back to health; I predicted it would finish dying by the end of the week. But my roommate was gentle and attentive: she pruned back its dying leaves, repotted it, gave it food and water and what little light our alley-facing kitchen could afford. Within a few months it became a sturdy stalk, waxy, thorny and altogether definitely resembling the plant from which roses grow. Still, despite its metamorphosis, I could not have been more surprised the day I saw a little yellow bud appear on the stalk, a bud which proceeded to bloom, expand, and wind itself across our window.

The image of a little yellow rose bud blooming against all odds has been a powerful symbol for the life I persevered toward in New York. It is to me, a sign of hope – the possibility of life, of beauty, even through the smog and sulfur of that impossible city. The visible proof of what enough care and dedication can do.

When I started thinking about my move back to Albuquerque, I thought briefly about retiring the icon, wondering if the “rose in Harlem,” image really made sense anymore. But its depiction of hope and my wish to find and nurture beauty even in unlikely places still held true. So, so far, it’s stayed.

There’s another reason, though, that I chose to let a picture of a rose represent me online. I’ve always liked the idea that my face is more or less invisible to the general virtual public. When I first started working as a director in New York City, I found that my biggest handicap when it came to finding work was my youth. Not my inexperience, my youth. People didn’t even want to talk to me. They didn’t want to get to know me long enough to find out how inexperienced I was. My face told them all they needed to know. I went through a phase where I made a deliberate effort to “dress like a 30-year-old,” (whatever that meant) under the wisdom that one should dress for the job she wants, not the job she has. People ten years older than me were getting the jobs I wanted, I thought logically, so I should dress ten years older than I am.

That was a long time ago; I was barely past 20 then, now I’m nearing 30 for real. But I still have a very young face, and a very soft, girlish look. When I started talking to other artists online, I sort of relished the idea that I would be judged solely for my ideas and not for the way I look. Nobody would be able to say to me, “You’re too young, too cutesy, too blonde to contribute to this conversation.”

But I’m not in New York anymore, nor desperately seeking theater work. I’m looking for new kinds of work now. I want to find the community; I want to find and nurture the beautiful local arts, business, and culture we have here. And I’d like to write, really. I’d like to turn this blogging, which I’ve enjoyed so much, into something more.

And I’m new here. Maybe it’s a good idea to put a face to a name. That way, I might see somebody on the street or at a party and they’ll say, “Hey, I know you. You’ve got that amazing blog I’ve been reading. Here, have a job.”

It will happen exactly like that.

In any case, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a help or a hindrance to have my face a tiny bit obscured. And I’m wondering if it’s worth it to part with my beloved rose.

What do you think? Are you ever judged, correctly or incorrectly, on the way that you look? Have you ever hidden your face (or put it everywhere) as a strategic move?


  1. I used to have different avatars, then a sketchbook version of a headshot, and I finally went to a headshot. And while I was doing well enough with meeting people beforehand, once I was using a headshot, those "chance encounters" jumped exponentially. People would make a beeline for me at conferences or meetups, sometimes hugging me before I even knew who they were, with a "you look just like your picture!"

    I'd like to think the people who get to know you here will get to know you as opposed to your picture. (Of course, I do have a few years on you...)

  2. Ah, internet. Ask and ye shall receive. This is an incredibly compelling reason to change my profile pic, which is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks, David. Maybe it is time to retire my little rose :)

  3. I used the that now represents me as a lark. (the story is here - http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/?p=4309 ) I know David's argument is the rational one, but I'm in love with my old not-me avatar. So grappling with the same question you're grappling with, I have stuck with it. But when I'm counseling my colleagues about how to begin using social media to further their careers, I tell them to do as I say, not as I do, and use a picture for precisely the reason David suggests.