By Maria Gentille
Queerantine Stories are personal essays or artistic pieces about the queer and trans community during the Coronavirus Pandemic. We hope their stories will help show their varied experiences in different communities within the Jersey City area and throughout the nation.
I can't stop eating... I CAN NOT STOP EATING… But, I force myself to wear jeans most of the day. Otherwise, it’s over. I might as well throw in the towel. I’m not a spring Chicken, you know. Appearance is important at my age..at any age… But especially when you get to a certain place, and we know that place when we hit it. It's when people start calling you Ma'am...
Or saying things like, "You remind me of my MOM,” or, “You’re the cool Aunt I always wanted.” …It's infuriating, and yet, you can't really blame them. They see what they see. I guess, I saw the same thing when I was their age in women I looked up to, sought advice from, or thought, "I bet she was beautiful when she was younger.”
“When you are younger…” Especially for women, I think, we spend so much of our time...tearing ourselves down. Mirror images are distorted, and the person we desire seems like something that will slip through our fingers, and out of our lives faster than you can scream. "PLEASE DON' LEAVE ME! I’LL DO ANYTHING!"
Lately with all this new, unsolicited, time on my hands, I have been trying to "DE-CLUTTER,” a task that I have had on my New Year Resolution "To Do" list since the Clinton Era. One of the things I have been sifting through are piles and piles of pictures trapped in boxes under my bed. I, after all, was the self-appointed photographer for every group I ever belonged to since high school, where I actually WAS the YEARBOOK student photographer...
They handed me a Nikon camera and some free film, and I was off and running; capturing images of things I knew would matter someday.
Most of the photographs on FILM pre-digital era were of my friends, family members I loved, cast members, and, of course, Girls... Oh those girls!!! Girls that I knew eventually would break my heart.. Of course they would, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I, after all, wasn't good enough, rich enough, and PRETTY enough... They were to do exactly what my psyche had warned me about repeatedly... They would leave… I knew they would… So, they did…
A funny thing happened in quarantine. About five weeks into wondering if I would ever sing in front of an audience again… If anyone would listen… If club owners would choose me when reopening their doors… I mean after all, the more time that passed… Older I was getting... Believe me, the clock was ticking at an accelerated speed. I wondered would I make the deadline? Would time stop to let me hold steady? Could I eek out a few more years of performing?
“Ah, yeah. I'm sorry, Maria. We are going in a different direction,” had already happened once. Was This going to make it worse? They never say, “YOUNGER.” ...They choose their words wisely… But, we hear it the way it was originally imaged in their projections.
And so, my heart raced. I daydreamed about accepting my date with dignity if it came to that. After all, I had become an expert in self-fulfilling prophecies.
But a funny thing happened, while sifting through snapshots of moments never to happen again in giant cardboard boxes under my bed, I found pictures of ME at Different ages… Ages where I had wondered if I was good enough at anything, and I thought "OH MY GOD! I WAS BEAUTIFUL!”
Sometimes, it takes the wisdom of an older woman to realize what a younger woman had missed… Even when it came to herself.
Maria Gentile has been directing and teaching in the NY/NJ area in schools, cabaret venues, and theaters since 1992. Directing solo shows for cabaret artists, staff shows and benefits at Duplex Cabaret Theatre, teaching improv acting, vocals, and creative writing, Maria has done it all in the musical theatre field. As a songwriter, Maria has been nominated for MAC Awards in the “Songwriter” and “Piano Bar Entertainer” categories since 2003.
Maria spent six years in the Off-Broadway show as a comedienne, "Tony and Tina's Wedding". She co-wrote three comedy shows with Susan Campanaro; "The B Is Broke", "The B Don't Come Here Any More,” and "The B Is Back On Line”. Maria has been working at The Duplex Piano Bar as a Singer/Bartender since July of 1998. She also continues to work in the commercial and voiceover industry.
For more information, check out her website at https://www.mariagentile.com/ and you can catch her weekly on her show "What's the Story with Maria".