Brown Betties

When being brave shows us the way.

Be Your Own Bettie

Last month I presented the first Be Your Own Bettie (BYOB) workshop of 2019.

Ten years ago, I was sitting with a dear friend from my book club and I told her my idea of wanting to do a workshop for women. She’s a photographer who also loves to design and decorate; she has a really great eye. In what felt like two seconds (or most likely, two or three meetings), she had a design concept and we were ready to go.

The first workshop was a blast. Everything was pink. Pink petals welcomed the women as they walked in. A pink cake ordered from Albertson’s had a pink version of the Bettie logo emblazoned upon it beautifully. There was pink champagne. Pink table cloths adorned the tables decked with pink napkins and plates. There was classy water with lemons and limes. A fruit tray. It was gorgeous. Feminine. Delicate. Everything we wanted and imagined, came to be.

With much promoting and a little prodding, women showed up for what was a truly empowering event; both for them and maybe even a little more for me. I’d never done something like this before; I was scared. I was shaking when I spoke, but my soul and my intuition spoke louder than my fear and I stepped out before those women on sultry faith mixed with a bit of bravery. And we did the damn thing.

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Subsequent BYOB’s were just as lovely and just as fulfilling. But they got harder and harder to do. My passion didn’t wane, but the funds in my wallet would. Or the energy and focus to promote and get participants would falter. Or I’d get a new temp job or acting gig or my cat would get sick…something would happen and I’d stop. And then start again. Because I loved what I was doing; I believed in what I was doing and for whom I was doing it. So I would press on.

When I moved to Prague, I had no intention of doing anything Bettie. But, you know the power of the Bettie and the power of passion! Betties were born again, as was the workshop. I had a creative space at Studio SAVEC where I presented several workshops to international women from all over…including a travelling group of sistahs who were spending three months in Prague on a wander year away from the US. I also presented in a private home for a beautiful woman and mom who wanted to share the sultry with some of her dear multinational friends after having taken my public workshop at Studio SAVEC. And I presented yet another BYOB workshop during the SWAN festival to a group of women representing places like Bosnia, Syria, Russia and more. I learned that sensuality translates. Empowerment translates. We did the damn thing. It was gorgeous.

BYOB Swan Festival

While in Prague, I also learned I had to let go. Gone was the Albertson’s logo cake; who could find or afford such a thing on an ESL teacher’s salary? Gone was the signature red, slinky Bettie dress that was in storage in the states. Gone were the patent leather stilettos I’d purchased specifically for BYOB. Those things that were aesthetically important to me were simply not available to me. I didn’t feel very Bettie; why go on? But, once I got over myself (with the help of girlfriend talk), I realized I still had the important thing: Me. So I pivoted. Pink became red. Hors d’oeuvres became rohlíks with Gervais and bright veggies. Red slink was replaced with black slink from my favorite second hand shop, Textile House on Malá Štěpánská. Stilettos were replaced with heeled booties from Tesco, the Target of Eastern Europe. BUT! One sophisticated thing remained (besides me :)). The bubbles! I scoured the obchody (shops) for cheap champagne glasses I could afford and it was on. BYOB lived on through me, with me and for others.

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When I returned home to the US, I knew the Bettie burn would rekindle itself. Yet, I didn’t want to do it allthe same way. I wanted better. I wanted bigger. Again, I had to calm myself down; to meet myself where I was with what I had. For one, I had to wait over six months for my ankle to heal; no dancing or cat-walk strutting on a broken bone. I had to rework the Bettie brand and website. I had to get in shape mentally and physically. I had grown in so many ways. And then it was time. I pulled the trigger. Once again, I was scared. Worried about the work that was to come to make the workshop happen. This type of fear is the reward you earn after completing your first, second and third rodeos, isn’t it? I had to suck it up. If this was what I wanted, I had to be brave.

I pulled out the pink Bettie suitcase where stuff was stored. I combed through the supplies my dear friend and I created. Threw out what I no longer needed, kept what I did. My blue print was solid. I got to work. I found the patent Bettie heels in storage. Took the red slink to the cleaners. Found the fishnets. And the eyelashes. Hired a designer to rework the materials I had designed in Word and would print and hand cut tediously. Dusted off my boxed and stored champagne glasses. Graciously accepted the help of my former wine-business boyfriend with getting champagne*. I was ready.

As I scrambled to leave our apartment this past Sunday, all dolled up and saddled with a gurney of supplies, I turned the wrong way and my box of champagne glasses tumbled to the concrete. The splintered sound of twelve flutes shattering to an unusable mess sent me into a fit filled with major expletives that reverberated through the hallways of my apartment building. Amid stares from a passing neighbor, I picked up the noisy box of clinking shards; I didn’t do the work to smile and hide my anger like I usually do. Screw that. NOT covering, not hiding. NOT happy. So, I grumbled and kept cursing and kept pulling my weight. I really wanted to cry, but that wasn’t worth the sacrifice (or time) of re-gluing my eyelashes. I wanted to cry at the absurdity of having saved and carted those champagne glasses for ten years to have them break in such a stupid way. I also wanted to wail really loudly because WHO can drink champagne from a f*cking pink cardboard cup? NOT my girls, not on my watch. Not me. Not cuuuuute! I wanted to whimper sorrily because my boyfriend had offered to help me with all the shit before he had to leave (for football); he had warned me about being able to handle it all … but I’d waved him off, saying I could. (Grrrr.)

By the time I got to the elevator, I had pulled myself together. Somewhat. In my deep breaths, I found clarity. I remembered Prague. BYOB isn’t exactly about the vessel from which we drink. It helps a helluva lot because the women deserve it, but it ain’t about that vessel. It’s about so much more. As is life, right? We tend to have what we need to succeed; it’s when we add so many expectations to the heap of what’s already going on that we crash and burn. Not necessary. As I shoved everything into the elevator with the poise of my new maturity, I resolved myself into accepting that the girls would just have to drink out of the cardboard cups and all would be … “fine”.

Hot, flustered, excited and pumped, I arrived at my new swanky venue to the wide, expectant eyes of my brand new and waiting assistants. In a frazzled mess of instructions, I blurted out that I had lost the champagne glasses and that we’d have to improvise. One of them, young yet wise, who goes by @learnfromabird on Instagram, looked at me calmly, sharing her zen. She explained that she lived in the neighborhood downtown. Knew the shops (obchody). With finger raised, she said, “I got you.” And within 20 minutes, while @__________sin and I continued to set up, Bird was back with more champagne glasses and all was right with the world.

The beauty of BYOB is that women come together. And not for nothin’. Showing up to something where you have no idea what’s going to happen, is brave. Showing up again, and going deeper within that environment that is asking you to do some self-work, is even more brave. Showing up one more time as a woman who knows she has something to share that will benefit another is super enlightening.

The funny thing is, we do this all the time. Showing up to the job. Going on an interview. Going to a parent-teacher meeting. Going on a date. Presenting at a meeting. Going to brunch with girlfriends. Waking up for another day with yourself. Showing up with no champagne glasses. We do it all the time. BYOB shows us another way to do it. I’m so grateful I’ve been shown and continue to show the way.

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*I’ve been schooled by my boyfriend that I’m usually serving sparkling wine, not Champagne. ‘Cause, you know, there’s a difference. #bubbles. Pffft 

 

**This blog post originally appeared on http://www.brownbetties.com

 

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