You Don’t Own Me: My Cabbage Patch Kid Story

When people ask how long I’ve been performing, I tell them I don’t like to count the first couple years.  It wasn’t that I don’t value them or that I wasn’t putting forth effort. I was unskilled and inexperienced, cranking out a lot of work that, as it turns out, was not connected to me. I was trying to get things done and it may have worked on the surface, but it wasn’t working in the depth of my soul. I’m still evolving and learning, frequently discouraged by not having the time, energy, finances and physical abilities to execute my visions. I pause sometimes and remember to appreciate the entertainer I am in this moment, even though I hope to become better every day. Present-me needs to look away from future-me and past-me long enough to feel worthy of my own love right now.

Even in those early years I was making a mental list of ideas, songs and concepts that I wanted to do.  The list grows every day. I can’t turn off the burlesque Rumpelstiltskins wobbling around in my brain that see a tiny straw piece of the world and wants to spin them into act gold. I will never get to everything on my list and it is constantly being re-prioritized. Something beautiful happened when both a song and an idea that had been separate on my list, both waiting until I felt I was more worthy of each, collided into burly magic and I realized they belonged together like hot glue and regret. Shortly after this I started taking my first burlesque workshops. It became the right time to believe in present-me enough to put together this act. It was time to go the garden and hoe a row for the Cabbage Patch Kid act to take root in my repertoire.

Smoky SmileRewind to 1981… I am a child of the 80’s. My mother wouldn’t wait in the lines of crazed, Christmas chaos waiting to adopt a beloved Cabbage Patch after being trampled by Tupperware mothers in corduroy and hairspray, but I did eventually own one.  He was bald and had a single tooth.  I lost his certificate much as I lived on to lose the certificate of one of my actual offspring. (I have a safe now, this is no longer a problem. If nothing else in life, I’ve mastered important paperwork.)

Xavier RobertsFast Forward to 2013…  I won a small gift certificate for a tattoo at a charity auction. I joked with my husband that it would probably only be enough to get a tiny heart on my tush.  Somehow, this turned into me deciding that in my appreciation for humor and as a tribute to the 80s, I would get Xavier Roberts signature tattooed on my rump with the year of my birth. I knew it wasn’t an original concept, but I didn’t have money at the time to get anything larger and in my forever state of frugal, I didn’t want it to go to waste. So, the tattoo came years before the act.

Smoky CertificateRewind to 2000s…  For a decade, I was in an unhealthy marriage. It was emotionally and verbally abusive and my walls had enough holes to pass for Swiss cheese. I was in a dark cloud and walking on eggshells. A story for another day, but I touch on this topic ever so slightly to show that this personal part of my life, complete with trauma and triumph, is a foundation for everything this act is built upon.

THE CONCEPT:

I paired Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” with my Cabbage Patch tribute, because it made complete sense in my mind that my feelings of empowerment, independence, and newfound ability to be myself since 2009 merged well with a doll freeing herself from being owned and becoming who she is. I could be light and fun referencing a character, and simultaneously unburden and uplift my soul. I haven’t reached the full vision of the act, because I have some costume upgrades to do and prop building in order to birth myself on stage from Bearcat sized cabbage, as well as overall choreography work. Future progress aside, I am proud of the act and enjoy sharing it with everyone.

THE COSTUME:

Smoky DressThe dress I actually ordered with custom measurements arrived in a size where I can only imagine they read my clearly labeled “inches” as “centimeters”. It took what felt like an eternity, but I finally found a used square dancing dress large enough to fit. I modified the dress to attach a crinoline skirt. The process felt something like trying to put a marshmallow in a sleeper hold and send it through a wood chipper. I also added a zipper the entire way down so the dress would completely split.

Costume ProgressI splurged on fancy beaded fringe, the kind you need to negotiate with yourself about, followed by mapping out a plan on how you’ll pay your phone bill now. Green. Like Cabbage.

If you had yourself a CPK doll, you’ll remember their luscious locks of yarn hair. I needed to build yarn hair. A soft brown cap, a skew of yarn, and a few curse words later I managed to form an easily removable yarn pigtailed wig/hat situation.

Cabaret Cabbage Layer

THE MOMENTS: (*Spoiler Alert*)

The two parts of the act that are the most important to me are reflected by the audience. Every time I tear apart my adoption certificate, my spirit does a quick little hiccup of affirmation that my decisions in life leading me to that weird and freeing moment have been right. Even those patrons who don’t know the CPK reference can gather that this character is about to break free. A significant moment indeed, but shadowed later by what is still to date one of my favorite reveals. Sidenote: I have a mighty affection for performance moments, either by myself or others, that generate reaction and impact greater than anything involving the exposure of a body part. Although greatly amazing and intimate, I feel like those moments of popping out a boob or bum are wrapped up in an easy to open package. Other moments can demonstrate the greatness of burlesque, because the viewer has followed you along the garden tour.  They understand, but moreover they appreciate and they feel something. With any luck it will be a package they didn’t expect to receive and will carry it with them always. After I’ve discarded my shoes, knee-highs, and dress I stand on stage with a shining green rhinestoned ensemble as a peeled version of my previous doll character, capturing attention with my newfound glamour.  The moment that matters: tearing off my yarn hair. That’s it. It’s the simplest of actions revealing nothing more extravagant than my natural hair. Hair I attempt to curl to look nice, but inevitably flattens into a heap of whatever box-color version of dark red I find on sale, usually with my mouse-fur-brown roots emerging. But that’s enough.  It’s me. I’m enough. I’m enough and I’m everything. The audience feels it and I am so happy they get to own that moment with me.

 

 

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