I am in love with Midge Maisel. There, I said it.
It's a relationship that is not without its problems. For one thing, she was born in the 1930s, so there is a slight age difference. Also, she is Jewish; I don't think her parents would approve. Maybe most difficult is the fact that she doesn't actually exist. But you know, sometimes I don't feel as though I exist, either. Still, as Midge comes to life in all her dimensions, she is teaching me to be less fictional.
Midge Maisel (aka Miriam) is the main character in the Amazon Original series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The series is set in the late 1950s, ironically, just around the same time as Iris & Lily. The story is about a woman who suddenly finds herself on her own and on stage as a comedienne at a time when such things just weren't done. At least not by respectable ladies. Or any ladies.
It's been intoxicating to watch as Midge first discovers her own talent as a comic, and then learns how to use the tragedies of her personal life to make people laugh. That may be what I love most about her - that she finds the humor in her pain and that she is willing to unabashedly share that with other people. I share my life experience in my writing, but it's much safer to scratch it all down in a book, add some dramatic fictional details, and then peer out at the response from the safety of my writing studio than it is to stand up on stage, get naked in front of strangers, and face unfiltered feedback the way Midge does.
Midge is brave. She knows what she wants to do, and then she just does it. Once she makes up her mind, she can't be talked out of it, scared away by it, and she definitely does not shrink from a challenge.
Midge approaches her comedy from several directions, going first for the cheap and easy laughs, and then hiring someone to write jokes for her, before she finally arrives at herself, and at a place where her truth-telling is so raw and complete that there is nothing to do but to open your throat and vomit out laughter in your recognition of the sheer ridiculousness of life and your slapstick attempts to control it.
It was on that journey of stumbling through various renditions of herself that Midge discovered what it was that she really wanted to say. And boy, does she find her voice - another thing I love about her. Midge doesn't tell jokes just to make people laugh. She tells jokes to make them think. The laughter she dangles in front of them is a mere carrot on the end of a shocking and uncomfortable stick. And she doesn't care who's in the room, or how they might feel about the truth she tells - because that's not the point. The point is that she tells it. She says what's on her mind, without reservation or fear. I think maybe that's what I love most about her.
After all, truth falls on us all, just as does the rain and the sun. Truth stands up on stage, stripped of any pretense, and gives us the opportunity to respond. How we feel about the truth and what we do about it is a strictly personal matter. We can heckle it, run from it, or accept it.
I am enamored of Midge because she reflects to me qualities I value, qualities I would do well to more fully allow in myself: wearing an armor of confidence, having a clear and distinct voice, a dedication to telling the truth, and the courage to let the truth do its work in those who hear it, without trying to manipulate or control the outcome of it.
If I speak out as an agent of truth by writing a story, singing a song, or even telling a joke, it isn't up to me to sugarcoat it or apologize for it, or protect you from its effects. That's what truth does; it changes people. It opens eyes, it melts hearts, it tears down walls. It began with the Word, and by the word it must continue, through our Truthtellers.
There is one thing that Midge and I don't agree on, though, and I worry that it will interfere with our bliss. While I believe all truth should be told when it is necessary, it isn't always necessary. Telling truth for the sake of shaming others or for the purpose of expressing your rage or exacting revenge doesn't take courage. That's when being silent is braver. Sometimes saying nothing gets you a bigger laugh than any words ever could.
So while this isn't actually a post about changes I'd like to make for the New Year, I suppose it is a post about my desire to embrace my own comic sense and timing, to unleash my voice and speak truth, and to grant other people the liberty to receive that, laugh with it, bristle at it, cry about it, deny it, love me or hate me for it. But to speak it. Without reservation or apology, though perhaps with greater wisdom and fewer cuss words than Midge.
While you may say that Midge Maisel doesn't exist, she does. She's in me, and she's in you, too. She is calling us - she is calling me - to break out of being what I am supposed to be and to start being The Marvelous Ms. Scipioni. Or, in keeping with the spirit of alliteration, The Stupdenous Ms. Scipioni.
Who will you be? What is your platform? What is the truth you are called to tell?