Recently, I found it somewhat distressing that when prompted to come up with a woman who had influenced me in honor of International Women’s Day I could not think of anyone. Growing up there were few women that had a positive effect on me. I couldn’t think of a friend or family member. There are a few women I’ve met recently that have encouraged and inspired me but an outright influence was hard to grasp. I thought there had to be someone who influenced me significantly somewhere along the line.
I knew I could also cite someone I didn’t know personally as an influence. In that respect I've found significant influence only just recently. There are two in fact, yet they are intertwined for me. Amanda Palmer and Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess. I’d like to share Amanda with you first; Jenny will be in my next article. There’s too much to say about these amazing women to put them in one post together as appropriate as that would be.
Amanda Palmer was one of the first people I followed on Twitter. I came late to the Twitter party, only two years ago. I was following members of Duran Duran (my guilty pleasure) and caught a link to Amanda’s blog from Simon Le Bon. I wasn’t familiar with her name at first but instantly recognized the Dresden Dolls. I enjoyed her writing so much I started following her. I delved into her music more and was inspired by her songs. They deal with issues like relationships, gender, sexuality, and even vibrators. At times her songs would make me cry, but in a good way. I found her tweets as magical as her music and writing. I also found them mind bogglingly inspiring.
In the months since I started following her she shared, questioned, inspired and provoked. Her crowdsourcing fascinated me, how she so openly asked for things from her Twitterverse and how they enthusiastically joined in to help her. She had stripped down performing to just a ukulele and would do ninja gigs where she’d just show up and play at different locations from a library to a street corner, all organized via Twitter. What I loved the most is that she challenged people to think with her tweets. Either by asking a question that provoked a hailstorm of reaction or would just put out a suggestion that would give her a flood of responses.
The Twitter hailstorm that caught my attention early on was the #FuckPlanB discussion. She had advised someone to pursue only plan A and “fuck plan B.” The tweets that followed were eye opening. I realized that many of us would get a degree or get a job that has nothing to do with what we are passionate about in fear of not making a living. I had done that myself. At a very early age I set aside Plan A before I ever even pursued it. I didn’t even give myself a chance to fail. In my fear of failure I had immediately gone over to Plan B, then Plan C and now I was somewhere in about G. I was inspired to explore my Plan A again and am now less apt to shy away from something because of fear of failure both in my personal life and in the new career path I’m on.
Amanda’s tweets and blog entries would continue to touch me in profound ways. She was both honest about her insecurities yet diving into things like her trademark stage dives. She leaps with open arms trusting that the community she has around her will catch her when she falls. I have been inspired by her body positivity. She fearlessly bares herself in a way that celebrates the beauty of the body in its natural state. She’s let fans draw on her as a thank you for supporting her Kickstarter. At an opening party Boston’s Museum of Art, Degas and the Nude, (she voiced the tour narration) Amanda posed nude at the museum while her husband sketched her.
She’s also my hero for describing her marriage to Neil Gaiman (a writer who’s work I love too) as open recently. She talked about their relationship in an Out magazine article last year. They have delightfully constructed a relationship that is all about customization to suit their individual lives while creating a life together. They don’t feel the need to sit in a specific camp and play by its rules. Instead they crafted a beautiful world for their love to live in that gives them the freedom to be the people they were before they met and to include others in their lives. They didn’t feel the need to shoehorn two lives together or cram it into one vessel. They have time apart and time together, space that is separate and space they share together. They come and go in and out of each other’s lives like an interpretive dance. As someone who is non-monogamous but considers themselves wandering somewhere between the camps, having not taken root in either the poly or swing tribes, I find this so refreshing and, dare I say, inspirational. This is what non-monogamy is to me, a relationship that doesn’t even want to declare itself as anything but open. It simply is the relationship that works for them.
There is one song I play often because it reminds me to check myself when I am in doubt. I discovered it through a link from another woman who has influenced me, Jenny Lawson/The Bloggess. I won’t get into why I admire Jenny too much here since that will be in my next article. The interesting correlation here is that I discovered my favorite Amanda Palmer song through a Bloggess tweet. The song linked in that tweet was "In My Mind." This song is a reminder to accept yourself and be happy in your skin, but even if you don’t, it’s ok because it’s normal. We can get caught in the negative thought loop of our perceived flaws. Sometimes we need to remember we’re fine exactly the way we are.
I have grown, improved and changed much since finding these inspirational women a scant two years ago. Amanda has moved me to think differently about my path, my choices, my sexuality and my life. I have taken leaps into opportunities I otherwise would have balked at in fear. I have opened myself up sexually and in releasing myself from social convention have found a new identity, which is my authentic self. And although I may still agonize about my body at times I have embraced the fact that I will never be that perfect vision of myself, and that’s OK.
Amanda’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Some argue that she’s not exactly the feminist ideal and criticize her crowdsourcing methods. Guess you can’t please everybody. Those who connect with her work seem touched by it profoundly in more than just a “hey, I like her music” kind of way. Her entire vision of the world is what inspires and influences me. I hope to some day sing “In My Mind” somewhere. Perhaps in a red dress, playing a ukulele. And I hope to never forget Fuck Plan B and that I’m exactly the person I want to be.