Abuse, power dynamics, etc
It’s a unique feeling, walking on ice.
Amsterdam froze over this week. Last week’s snow turned into a deep chill, and though José and I were buried in work, we set aside half an hour to walk over to Vondelpark and see this once every decade phenomenon.
It was beautiful. Serene, and quaint, and a welcome shift from the chaos of this year. As we discussed last week, I’ve built in a really solid routine, and felt the benefits of that serenity while I floated about.
I was also surprised, as I both moved forward and felt my feet give out from under me, by how familiar my gut feeling was.
Walking on ice.
You’re technically moving, but it isn’t necessarily forward. And at all times, you feel the very real possibility of the earth slipping out beneath you.
I knew that feeling, I realized, from my entire career as a woman.
As we walked back, I couldn’t get that idea out of my head. In my time in trauma therapy, I’ve learned all about how our bodies internalize our lived experience, but this really hit me. When I got home, I penned the Instagram post below. I shot it off in about three minutes by the wüdbürner, feeling both empowered and enraged. To quote … myself…
“I remember the head of PR at Blue Note - a woman I respected SO MUCH, inviting me to a meeting whose title was “Talia’s career advancement.” Four years into full time working at Blue Note. She proceeded to pitch me a job at the same salary, but this time as assistant for the *entire staff.* She explained what a huge career boon it would be for me to make copies, bring coffees, and manage her schedule. I’d be “the heart of the office” and all.”
Walking on ice.
Thank God at that moment I bit back my tears, exited her office, and was able to get out a few months later.
Other times I wasn’t so lucky.
I’ve made a point about not speaking too directly on any of my many abusive and traumatic experiences, because honestly I don’t have the strength or stamina to go too far into it.
When I wrote “Hear You Now,” the Weinstein scandal was just breaking. I wrote the lyrics to myself, rather than to any particular abuser. It felt amazing, and it really, really confused men.
That’s the thing, right? People want a villain so that they can feel they aren’t it. And reporters - can I really blame them for wanting a more click-baitable story? I remember dodging questions left and right about specifics during interviews for the video and feeling like a Mortal Kombat character. “Can you name names?” Whoosh. “Was it someone in the business?” Whoosh. “Did you ever think you’d be the kind of person to be abused?” Whoosh.
That one hit me in the gut.
Did I ever think I’d be the kind of person to be abused? No, I very much did not. A few months after the video’s release, I found myself at a dinner party. The women at the table discussed how they just were “really lucky to have never been in that situation. There’s no shame, of course! But there must be something about me… I’ve just never been there. Who knows why!”
I remember the smug “humility” of that moment, and the deep shame that later translated to deep rage for me. Women raised with infinite business connections and money, just completely flabbergasted at this phenomenon of other women finding themselves in imperiled and compromising positions.
Me, I was raised by the strongest woman I’ve ever met, and I was groomed from the literal first day I got to conservatory. A 26 year old man, who I won’t name because he doesn’t deserve to have this space, became emphatically excited about my work. He had a trust fund (you’ll learn this about me - I have a weird ability to attract men and women with trust funds), and I wasn’t rolling in it, so I welcomed the free meals and career encouragement.
Eventually he went into management, and started to work with some really serious talent. He never fully took me on as a client, mainly because I repeatedly refused his sexual advances. Again, without going into details because they just don’t belong here, he expertly and purposefully worked to break my spirit and my creativity.
He was volatile, full of hot air, and terrifying. I kept him more or less around because I felt it was “easier” to do so than handle the violence that might come from really cutting him off. Six years ago I blocked him everywhere, with the help of José’s moral support. I’ve watched the acts he manages skyrocket, and then I’ve watched almost all of them plateau. Sometimes I wonder if they experienced what I did. In the meantime, I myself have healed, at least enough to not lash out at relatively intelligent women trotting out their faux woke superiority at dinner parties.
I stay healing every minute, including when we took that photo nearly a decade later, right before the pandemic hit. I remember taking it with legend Jacob Santiago. I ordered a slice of pizza at Scarrs, because it had been a long day of shooting. None of it was planned, which to me is obviously why the photo works so well.
Over a decade later, still standing. I’m grateful for the space to talk about this for the first time, to the extent I’m comfortable with. I’m grateful that people like you have stood by me, never probed too hard, just let me know that “Hear You Now” has meant something to you. You have no idea how much that means to me.
I’m grateful, too, that Gen Z is a generation growing up post #metoo. At the very least, they have information that was so far from my grasp. I love them and look to them for inspiration as people just busting it open and not tolerating the nonsense.
And as for me? Talking like I’m 105 years old? I welcome the presence of mind I’ve gained from growing through it. I spoke on our Instagram live this weekend about this weird new phenomenon I’m living in real time, where as I allow my age to show naturally, I watch my lived experience change.
I pushed so hard against being the ingenue, against being sexualized and judged only for my looks. And now, as it’s shifting, though I often panic, part of me really welcomes it.
Because my goal has always been to create, continuously, from the most honest place I can. For better or for worse, during this pandemic I’ve shifted into the most honest and connected space I’ve ever had. This substack is evidence of it, and this new album I’m writing is evidence of it. If you’re down (let me know in les comments!) I might share a demo of it next week with you here.
It’s not that the ice has melted. It very much still exists. But I’ve stepped off it, and I’m doing my best to help other people have that ability without the decade of pain that it took me to get there. Thanks for being with me here while I do.
ps: If you’re new here, we do these very week. Free, and always from the hip. Feel free to join us: