What I Really Think about InvestiDate and More Important Questions

Perhaps I waited too long to write my follow up on InvestiDate and figured the news segments would speak for themselves. Since at least one of my friends seems to believe that Maria Coder is brooding fear by teaching people tools to investigate their potential dates, I think the time has come for me to speak honestly and clearly about my experiences and her class. When I met Maria Coder and decided to attend her first of likely countless classes she will teach, I didn’t know what to expect. With an intentionally open-minded outlook on life most days, I thought it couldn’t hurt, and perhaps I might learn something, as a single woman living alone in a big city. I did.

InvestiDate helps you stay safe

Two classes and two interviews later (Catch my Today Show segment here and my meeting with ABC Eyewitness News anchor Sandra Bookman above.), I have an opinion. Crazy or cautious? Well, the psychologist who commented on my segment of the Today Show would have you see me as one of the “paranoid” types of women who would take “that kind of class.”

Although I’ve never before admitted this in public, I have had some difficulties here and there, growing up, dating, and even just going out with friends in public spaces. Despite having had some incredible experiences meeting, loving, and knowing people in my lifetime, I’ve also loved someone who lied to me for many years, had someone slip a roofie in my drink (thankfully without the intended outcome, thanks to the presence of a very dear friend), and suffered a separate date rape many years ago. In reality, I’ve chosen to leave plenty of equally trying experiences out of this discussion. Were I afraid now, I would have every right. I suppose, not knowing me closely enough to see the personal growth I’ve experienced since then, one might easily suspect me of at least paranoia.

If, however, you’ve read any of my other blog posts or know my life, you know I do not tend to err on the side of paranoia, no less caution. I went skydiving because it scared me. Singing a cappella opera, nude, as all of the other models leave the stage in Sarah Small’s Tableau Vivant of the Delirium Constructions and publicly writing about it has left me with an incredible influx of amazing fans and some less flattering folks exhibiting some stalker-like behavior. Not exactly the action of a paranoid woman, and certainly one of the most challenging but meaningful things I’ve done in my lifetime thus far.

Anyway, I won’t lie and try to say that dating hasn’t presented its share of challenges too. Sure, sometimes I need to regroup after a hard breakup and take a little time. Skeptics of InvestiDate, now is the time to read carefully. Initially, after Maria’s class, I questioned my readiness to restart dating. When a dog leaned up against me on the street that night to get me to pet him, I thought, “May be I should just stick to dogs.” Surprisingly though, over the course of the next two weeks, the seed that had been planted at the first class began to sprout thoughts in my head about dating websites and that really nice guy in the neighborhood. Before I knew what had influenced me, I had already updated my profile on okcupid and started checking out new sites. I again somehow had the confidence to date.

Maria teaches tools to keep people informed and safe, not hidden away in their apartments, afraid of a connection with another human being. She actually approves of dating on Craigslist and recommends ways to do it safely. These are not the actions of a fear monger. She is not teaching us how to put duct tape and water bottles in a box in case Al Qaeda attacks. Like a teacher of a self defense class, she instructs each student regardless of gender, background, confidence or fear.

If a somewhat fearful person attends InvestiDate and, by making sure her date isn’t a sexual predator, feels better about allowing a little more trust and vulnerability when meeting a stranger in the city, good for her! For the record, I don’t intend to use most of the tools she teaches, but I will employ some. Honestly, when a video of me singing nude has circulated to hundreds of thousands of people already, on its way to a documentary, I think I’m a fool if I don’t take any precautions here or there. Still, even Maria Coder admits on the most recent news segment that the point is “to give you the power to make an informed dating decision.”

On a day like today, when the whole world seems bent on having an opinion, let’s make them count. Be clear, be unified where you can, and above all, please don’t waste time worrying about people who only want to empower us to move forward with our lives. While we’re at it, may be we can figure out some ways to help each other live our lives together more easily and fruitfully. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know who does. I do know there are better things to question. I wonder, “What will happen at the Brooklyn Bridge at 5pm, and what happens if the super-committee doesn’t reach its deadline?”

Trading My Guises for Gifts in Tableau ~ 169

Old and new friends and acquaintances reunite, familiar music resounds, as Sarah Small and her brilliant cast and crew come together once more for another, more private tableau vivant. Set in the Bathhouse Studios in the East Village, this version has both a more intimate audience, set, and feel. The same challenges arise as each of the models hold their static poses, sing, and watch in our peripheral vision to catch the tempo, the changes in harmony by the stringed instruments, and the moments when Sarah Small might float in to signal our poses to come alive and interact.


Original Photo Copyright Cecilia De Bucourt
Original Photo Copyright Cecilia De Bucourt

Earlier in the day, after a few hours of rehearsal for the tableau, interviews, hair, and makeup, Sarah also floated about the set, this time in a Tim Burton-like white dress and half upswept hair. We took our places afresh, this time for a new video concept involving Sarah as an obsession rivaling social media’s love of Justin Bieber, as we literally fall lifeless at her feet. Upon the long-awaited final entrance of a baby in the final shoot, lifted up to the heavens, we all breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of a little rest and dinner before the performance.

Reminding me of my days of high school marching band, I felt a bit lightheaded but excited after our, “do it again, just one more time” (all lies!) kind of day. What could have possibly energized me so much after a truly exhausting day with little time to stop to eat or rest? With such a different venue from our DUMBO Arts Festival performance, a seemingly small change provided me the first and most profoundly personal inspiration from this tableau vivant.

Rather than enter through the crowd, the house opened to a space full of “sleeping” models, each of us frozen in static poses for twenty-five minutes until a Bulgarian wool-clad Kamala Sankaram powerfully sang “Caro nome” from Rigoletto to bring us to life. Amusingly, Kamala actually made the dynamic a bit louder than usual on her first phrase in case any of the models actually had fallen asleep, but having to hold a perfectly static pose for twenty-five minutes makes sleep fairly challenging. Although I have spent some time considering the prospect of life modeling (posing nude for artistic endeavors, usually classes) in the future, I never quite grasped the difficulty in maintaining even a seemingly comfortable but perfectly still position for twenty minutes or more.

Somewhere between odd but unresolvable back pain and moments of Zen where I actually almost dozed off despite the discomfort, my thoughts began to compare the sensation with the reality of living my life in a static pose of inactivity. Like many Americans, I struggle with the temptation to hide from the cold or the challenges of life in the comfort of my warm apartment, in front of the anesthetizing influence of the television, computer, or other media. Only after I stand up and attempt to participate in living do I perceive the alternating pain and sleepy haze into which my paralyzed state has thrown me.  Doubtless this observation provided the motivation to move slowly away from the television, one muscle at a time, and back to living my glorious life.

Although I’ve re-discovered a much fuller existence these past six days or so, since my first day of braving the hazy shade of winter relentlessly blanketing the city, I have yet to act on another gigantic impetus to change, once more inspired by my performance at Sarah Small’s Tableau Vivant. Somewhere between each palpably quickened heartbeat before singing “C’est l’amour vainqueur” from The Tales of Hoffmann, a familiarly impish spirit of adventure washed over me as I decided to wait longer than I could seemingly bear in the silence before beginning my first note in the nude. Similarly, at the end of an ever-present and confidently sung aria with no clothes nor poorly-acted pretense, I enjoyed my final high note in suspended time, without fear or reservation, before coming back down to end the piece and tableau.

Afterwards, as we descended past the grateful audience down the frigid staircase to return to our fully-layered lives, I chuckled with an unusually cogent confidence upon the realization of a truly impressive feat. “Why,” I thought, “would I ever feel afraid or self-conscious at auditions when I know I can do something this amazing so expertly?” Those of you who have read my writing more than once or know me personally understand that while I must regularly promote myself as a performer, such self-assurance does not greet me readily when I rise each morning. For this I have to work so hard, such that I failed to attempt a single audition last month, even after agreeing with colleagues to apply for at least five monthly.

Yet somehow, performing with a roomful of dedicated and similarly vulnerable humans, without a single pretense or guise of fabric to call my own, the Tableau Vivant gives me the strength and faith to perform honestly and without apology, as the very best version of myself. In my life, I believe I have never received a greater gift; however, the offering each performer and creator lays out at the feet of their audience materializes into a much more profound treasure of creation. About this community at large, the performers within, and the message Sarah Small’s Tableau speaks to humanity, I have far more to say over the next few days. My thanks to those of you who have decided to join us.