Picture this: I’m helping a colleague choreograph a dance performance. She’s asked for some input from me specifically on lifts and adding height to the dance through body mechanics (nowadays often called “acro” by all you young whippersnappers). We’re at a convention, kind of hanging out in the big general practice space, and we’re basically treating her two female dancers like those wooden figure models you see at art supply stores. “Put your arm here…no, let me move it…now bend this way, and let’s put her weight here, and…”
At one point there was a specific kind of lift that I thought would work better, and I asked my colleague if I could just show her, rather than trying to contort the dancers. Everyone agreed, and so I found myself standing behind a beautiful athletic young blonde woman, lifting her legs in a kind of double-arabesque, while the choreographer looked at the pose from various angles and adjusted things here or there.
Some of my friends had been watching the process, enjoying seeing the growth of the dance, the changing moves, and, not to put too fine a point on it, the lovely dancers themselves. When they saw me take up that position and hold it, they shouted out some not-too-helpful suggestions. Most of them revolved around a theme of envy: “Oh, wow, that’s a move I’d like to learn, Mr. Gray.” “Sure you’re doing that right, Gray? Want some help?” “Man, Gray, rough life you’ve got there!”
Performers, it may not surprise you to learn, tend to have pretty lewd senses of humor.
Fortune Favors the Frame
I put up with the catcalls as long as I could, really I did. The dancer I was holding didn’t seem bothered by them at all – in fact, she was grinning and laughing, something which actually didn’t make my job that much easier.
See, from my friends’ point of view, I was in a beautifully sensual and erotic pose with a lovely woman half my age. What cisgendered heteronormative O-negative man wouldn’t love to be in that place (and not a few women, for that matter)? In their framework, I was a really lucky guy, and must be getting a huge amount of pleasure out of the experience.
However, from my perspective, my back was hurting, I was kind of worn out from teaching all day, and the particular pose was actually putting a lot of strain on my shoulders and arms. So as the catcalls continued, getting more and more raunchy, I finally looked over and snapped:
“You know, it’s not as if I’m actually having sex with her!”
The catcalls stopped. My friends looked something between hurt and bewildered, and it’s no wonder: I had been rather ungracious in my statement, and I’d upset their frame. They were envious, not actually of me, but of what they thought I got out of holding that dancer up. By pointing out my own frame I ruined an otherwise enjoyable vicarious experience.
Not my finest hour. Plus, think of how it made the young woman I was holding feel?
Actually, I checked in with her, and she was fine, and actually a little appreciative that the catcalls had stopped. Still, I could have kept my mouth shut and just let everyone enjoy the experience.
Getting It Out
The funny thing is, if any of my friends had actually asked me if I enjoyed the experience, I would have immediately gushed about how great it was, how I’d do it again in a second. However, it had nothing to do with holding the thighs of beautiful young women.
No, what I got out of the experience was the thrilling, heady experience of co-creating a dance with my colleague, a woman with a sharp mind and a brilliant creativity and a grasp of dramatic arc and characterization through costume and movement that leaves me in awe. Seriously, she’s a genius, and getting to work with her to come up with something new was a fantastic opportunity that I would literally leap to again, given the chance.
But no one asked me that. So I have to tell you about it here on my blog. And it begs the question: when you are doing that thing you do, are you getting out of it what you want? Or are people telling you you’re getting something else out of it, and you’re just going along with them?
It may be a job, it may be a relationship, it may be an ice cream sundae. Let’s take the last one, as it’s the safest:
“Enjoy two delicious scoops of premium vanilla-bean ice cream sandwiched between two gluten-free triple-chocolate cookies!”
Sounds good, right? It’s exactly what I ordered in Vancouver last weekend. I’ve had some really good gluten-free stuff when coupled with chocolate, and I was looking for some comfort food after a long day of facilitating an Unconference.
When it arrived, it was exactly what it said it was: vanilla ice cream between two cookies. The cookies were room temperature, and like most gluten-free cookies were, well, let’s be charitable and call them “crisp” because “hard as hockey pucks” would be cruel.
I could have eaten the whole thing. I ordered it, after all. Instead, I took out the ice cream – which was really, really yummy – and let my ciliac friend across the table have the cookies to take home with her. I got out of it what I needed, what I wanted, and she got something out of it she didn’t even expect.
Which meant I also got the pleasure of gifting a friend, the pleasure of only eating half a dessert (stimulating my “healthy” inclinations), and a great way to illustrate the concept of taking a situation and getting what you want out of it.
Everybody (even you) wins!
So…that thing you’re doing. That you did. That you’re about to do.
What are you gonna get out of it?
Tune in next week for part 3, which will have even more ice cream!