a letter from Eva Mae Garnet
Today marks one year since my epic European burlesque tour, and five years celebrating Mother's Day. Trying to find the balance between being a loving and attentive mother, and an overly ambitious performer, came to me often than I expected and sometimes painfully.
Last year I decided to challenge myself when asked to perform in the London Burlesque Festival, and to perform in Hamburg for 'Home of Burlesque'. Because of the timing between the two booked performances, I wanted to utilize that opportunity book throughout Europe for what has thus become my longest tour. As things organically grew, I ended up with 9 performances in 5 cities and 4 four different countries over the course of 20 days! For me that was a lot--not just performance and travel-wise, but it was a lot to ask of my husband and daughter, just so I could go out and live my dreams.
As the days neared, anxieties set in about leaving my family, flying, getting lost in translation, and of course the idea of traveling alone. I spent countless hours crying out of fear and guilt, feeling selfish for not only having these dreams of being a traveling showgirl, but for actually following through with them. I didn't back down, and once I walked through that airport check in, it was like a gear switched, because not only was I assured that my family was going to be okay, but that my daughter would grow up watching her mom pursue her ambitions, even as a mother.
The first stop was Germany, and fun fact, it's actually the country I was born in. I get through customs, and start my journey on public transportation, with an almost embarrassing amount of luggage. (Lesson learned for the next go around... maybe.) I was relieved to figure out that if you can use the subway in the states, you can basically figure out the subway anywhere else. Buses are a whole other situation that I may have had more than one panic attack over. After finding the venue, I get settled into my apartment (thanks Sven!) and try to get some sleep. Only thing is, I didn't realize how hard it would be to sleep with no husband, and no stealthy child trying to crawl into the bed in the middle of the night. So despite being exhausted, I did not get much sleep.
Performing was so much fun as always, and I was grateful I was able to have my good friend from the UK, Pinky Deville, performing with me for those first 3 days in Hamburg. Having her there not only kept my mind from racing back home, but we got to explore the city and she helped show me the around, while also laughing every time I would tip my waitstaff or bartenders. I guess that's only an American thing, but hey, if I can share the love, why not?
Next, it was off to Berlin, and I have to say, that I absolutely fell in love with the city. I was feeling a little more confident, and had turned on my mobile data plan to look up local directions and better yet, to talk to my family for a while. At my first Berlin show I met fellow traveling showmama, La Viola Vixen. Post-show, she told me how she found a blog I wrote on my website about motherhood and burlesque. My heart beamed as she told me that she felt a lot of the same pressures and struggles, juggling the duties of motherhood, while keeping up in the competitive field of burlesque. I don't know if I told her this, but this was the sign from the universe reassuring that I wasn't alone in my feelings. Later on I was able to meet her baby girl who let me give her all the baby hugs. There is something about the raw spirit of a young child (who has yet to be tainted by the world) that just makes your days so much brighter.
Next it was off to Vienna to perform at Kitty Willenbrunch's show. Vienna has an energy and art to it that is magnetic. I made a point to go see the paintings of Gustav Klimt and stood in front of his remarkable pieces, crying. There was one in particular that was incomplete, and you could see the sketch lines where his ideas and shapes were starting to take formation, which struck a cord inside me. Even incomplete, even being a work in progress, it was beautiful. And seeing the flaws and imperfections made it even more so. By that time I wasn't sleeping well, I was emotional, and mom guilt was heavily setting in again. I was struggling with the fact that my daughter was asking for me and waiting for me. I was struggling with wanting my family to be right there with me experiencing this moment together. But when I saw that piece I knew that deep down, I'm still drawing out all the sketch lines. And even in my incomplete state, I was beautiful. I was well. And I was valuable.
My second to last stop was Paris and to be honest, by the time I got to the city, I was done. I really hadn't slept much due to constant traveling, performances, time zone changes, and I was incredibly homesick. Maybe if I had more time between gigs and traveling I wouldn't have felt as overwhelmed. I did enjoy eating all the delicious and indulgent food, and the gig I performed at was fun, although I found it really interesting that there was a child in the audience. At first I wasn't sure if I was just tired but nope, I performed one of my dirtiest acts in front of a 5 year old, so I guess that's just how Paris gets down maybe?
Finally, I arrived in London where I was meeting my co-producer and wifey, Ginger N. Whiskey. Poor thing, all she wanted to do was go out and have adventures with me, and instead, she ended up having to take care of an emotionally exhausted friend who just wanted to cry on her shoulder. Seeing someone from home was magical though, and Pinky Deville even showed up for a night as we bar hopped around London and I pulled it together enough to rally!
After performing three shows at the historic Hoxton Hall in London, it was time to go home. I was ready. After a long flight, I was home and in my husband and daughter's arms. I finally let out a cry of relief and of course, my only homecoming request was for a burrito because San Diego Mexican food is sent from the gods!
I've had a lot of time to think and reflect on this experience, and it makes me proud. It makes me proud that I did something that scared me, that I put myself out there in ways that are challenging and new, and I gave it my all. But what I wasn't expecting was how much I wanted to stay close to home after the tour. Not that I don't want to travel, but that I realized that I don't want to be gone all the time, because my daughter is growing up fast. It's given me a space to be okay with watching others explore their journeys, and not get caught up in the idea that everyone's path to success has to be the same. Since my trip, I have taken time to focus on myself, not only as a performer but as a human. I have worked closely with some of my burlesque idols, and have seen growth in my performances that would be hard to accomplish if I was always on the road. Yes, one day I want to be a constant traveling showgirl, but until I'm wholeheartedly ready, I'm focusing on being the best showgirl I can possibly be.
Even so, I may have another (shorter) tour up my sleeves in the future. After all, baby girl will be a little older and she will understand that if you work hard enough, you can continue to make your dreams a reality.
Happy Mother's Day to all the magical mommies out there! And to all my sparkly showgirl mamas, you are doing great and you deserve to do what makes you happy. Stay feisty!
Eva Mae Garnet
aka The Feisty Fuego
Eva Mae Garnet lives with her family in San Diego, CA (USA).
Visit her website and blog to read more on her experiences as a Showgirl!