You’re a Mollusk, Sophie

3 Dec


“You’re a mollusk, Sophie, you’re a mollusk. Be the mollusk. Feel the mollusk. You are a GOD DAMN MOLLUSK.”

This was my inner dialogue on Thursday night at clown class.

Yeah, that’s right, you can read: Clown. Class.

“Clown” is a profession, and there is a professional clown here in my mountainous town in Southern France (population 20,000).

My usual improv theater teacher was absent, and so we were treated to a clown class.

As it turns out, being a clown is all about letting go of societally formed blockages and relying on nothing but your visceral instincts. While this may seem like a task that we humans should be able to do innately, let me be the one to tell you that it is not easy. Especially for someone who can’t decide if she wants pudding or pumpkin pie for dessert without texting at least one trustworthy friend and one member (okay, the “Family Chat” group) of her family.

After an hour of dancing “however we wanted and wherever in the room we wanted,” to a mix of Amy Winehouse and French songs from the 1980s, we were told to sit on the stage and become “mollusks.”

A “human stage mollusk” (HSM) is someone who sits and does nothing. Well, not nothing…an HSM can observe its body; it can wiggle its toes and arms; it can even make noise. The one thing it cannot do is acknowledge the crowd or anyone else on stage. An HSM moves and does and talks for its own purposes, and not for the purposes of anyone else. It wants to sit? It sits. It wants to stand? It stands. It wants to sigh while sitting and then stand and then sigh again? It fucking DOES IT. The HSM is basically Judd Nelson’s badass character from The Breakfast Club.

Our teacher had told us we were allowed to do whatever we wanted, and yet, I lay on the floor and couldn’t think of one single thing to do. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to stay horizontal, or rise to stand, or wiggle my toes or my arms. You would have thought I’d never moved my body in my entire life. I couldn’t decide.

Maybe I’m having trouble with this because I’m a Cancer, I thought. Everyone knows that Cancers are the more sensitive sign. We like to do things correctly and we don’t like making mistakes and if someone criticizes us, we throw a fit. Why can’t I be an Aries? Aries do what they want and don’t worry about what they’re “supposed” to do…at least that’s what I read on that Buzzfeed quiz last night…

And that ^^ was the problem! Not only was I thinking about astrological signs and Buzzfeed quizzes, I was also consciously trying to allow myself the liberty to decide. “Go ahead, Sophie, you may stand. Now sit, I permit you to sit.”

But, liberty isn’t something we graciously allow ourselves. It’s something we take! We take it because we deserve it, and we don’t (shouldn’t) think twice about deserving it.

Our teacher had also left a pile of hats and red noses on the stage’s center. (Yes, these are the things clowns actually wear. I was quite against putting a nose on my face that had been rolling around on the floor, and God knows where else, before that…and as for the hat? Would I leave France saying I’d acquired “a greater appreciation for French culture…and also lice”?) When our HSM desired, we were to choose a hat and a red nose, and to assume a clown character.

What the FUCK is a “clown character,” I wondered. I’m always a clown. If only this man knew the things I’ve done for attention…I should be teaching this class, really.

“If you want to sing, announce that you want to sing and then just do it!” the teacher said. “If you want to dance, announce why you want to dance and then just do it.”

Were we secretly being filmed for a Nike commercial? Would I get free Gatorade at the end of this? Everything was unclear.

After about fifteen minutes (yes, this was a twenty minute exercise, during which only four of us were onstage,) I finally decided it was time to do something.

I sheepishly approached center stage.

“J’ai envie de…CRIER,” I announced. (Translation: I feel like screaming!)

The sound that came out of my mouth was not a “scream,” but the sound you’d imagine a mollusk making after being stepped on by an ant. That was my “scream,” my “yell,” my aggressive “oy vey.” That was all I could muster.

How many times a day do I feel like yelling? When have I yelled most in my life? Ranked, in order of extremity:

  1. That time my sister borrowed my________.
  2. That time my other sister borrowed my_______.

That’s it. Those are my angriest memories.

Last week, when that woman dropped a liter of Coke on the floor and 80% of it spilled onto my leather boots, do you know how I reacted? I said, “It’s okay, water will do the trick, have a nice night!”

Have a nice night, I said. That was it. I may as well have offered to pay for her groceries.

Or this week, when a kid in my class hurled a pencil at another kid and it hit the back of my calf, what did I say? “Please keep writing, so I can help you correct your English grammar.” Yes, I verbally punished the pen-throwing bandit with offers to help his grammar.

Clearly, human me doesn’t yell, or reveal anger, or respond to childish shit. But my HSM? What would my HSM do?

It turned out that my HSM didn’t know what to do because it’s the perpetual “on-deck batter” in my life. It’s always there, but it never gets to play. The HSM gets a jersey and a hat and really tight, ass-bearing baseball pants, but it sits and sits, just waiting for its time to shine.

“Put me in, coach,” it begs from the bench. “I know I can do it!”

The HSM should get to play!

The HSM should play frequently, only giving way to the most important of social (and law-related) considerations.

What’s that, Sophie? You want wine? DRINK IT. You want to go braless at noon because you’re tired of keeping nature’s balloons sequestered? DO IT. You don’t want to pretend to like Harry Potter because everyone else likes it and it was a quintessential part of your generation? STOP PRETENDING. YOU ONLY SAW THE MOVIES, YOU BIG, FAT LIAR.

What I learned in clown class is that it’s OK to be human, and it’s important to be a mollusk.


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