Last year I got dumped by another performer right before BHOF. What was meant to be this grand adventure together had turned into a solo obligation. The trip was further complicated by my going viral over wearing short shorts on a plane. During this already emotional time I was fielding interviews, hate mail, and strange men hitting on me. Exhausted, I checked into a room with a king sized bed and immediately grabbed some champagne.
“Being sad at BHOF is a time honoured tradition,” they had told me when I begged them not to make me take the trip alone. Several friends, all BHOF veterans, agreed when I whined to them about it.
“It’s the best place to be sad. You should still go.”
“I was sad at BHOF last year and it was the right place.”
“There will be so many people there who love you.”
No one told me HOW to be sad at BHOF, though. Just to go there and maybe feel a bit better. And that is the purpose of this article. BHOF is not going to magically make you feel 110%. What it will do is make you less sad. It will take you away from wherever your point of sadness is. It will surround you with people who love you. It will have slushy drinks.
But being sad at BHOF requires a strategy. It took me two days to actually start having fun and once I did I, well I definitely wasn’t better and I still sobbed in my shower, but I had my first post-breakup moments of happiness. And when every day has been a slog through depression, those first moments are really important.
Maybe your reason for being sad at BHOF isn’t a breakup. Maybe you just lost your job. Maybe someone died. Maybe you got a bad diagnosis. Maybe your pet was sick when you left. Whatever the reason, if you follow these easy steps you will manage to have some fun.
1) Go to the pool
If you follow one point on this list, make it this one!
Aside from the basic scientific explanation that there’s sun and fresh air, the pool is also just the center of relaxation and day time socialising.
If you don’t want to talk to people, lay in the sun or chill in a cabana. If you do want to talk, most of the people are there. There’s snacks. There’s sympathetic parties willing to buy you slushy drinks. Let them buy you a slushy drink if you drink. They come in an Orleans sippy cup and they taste like Jolly Ranchers.
On Sunday I took mine back to my hotel room and drank it in the shower and cried. It was the best. I mean, it sucked to be crying again, but there was something about how ridiculous that moment was that I felt more at peace with it. Then I took a selfie and thought ‘in a few weeks this picture is going to be hilarious’ and it really was!
Also at the pool: the pool. Do you know what people can’t see when you’re in the pool? Tears.
On Sunday I got my now yearly tarot card reading from Electra Mourning. If you’re going through something I highly recommend stopping by on years she is there. Electra will not sugar coat anything but she will deliver hard truths in the kindest way and inform you of some any work you need to do. If you’re like me, you’ll hate being told to do work and then you’ll cry about it. Luckily, this all happened by the pool, so I just walked over and jumped in. And I was free to cry surrounded by people. I was able to just let tears fall down my face while talking to people and the next thing I knew I wasn’t crying anymore. I was even kind of having fun.
Then the conga line started. It is impossible to not have fun during the conga line.
The Orleans pool is magical and it’s way better to mope out there than in your overly air conditioned hotel room.
2) Do NOT room alone
This was my mistake on my first night. I was in my room ten minutes before I realised what a mistake it was. I slept there the first night because I had already paid for it but the next morning I checked out and moved onto someone’s couch.
Look, I understand why if you’re a couple you would get a room to yourselves. But if that ends before BHOF and you can avoid rooming solo, DO IT. Sure, a couch isn’t as comfortable as a bed, but if you can sleep on a couch you should. There’s also often people with a spare bed spot.
Roommates means it’s harder to curl up in bed and stay there. It means you have to socialise. It means people making you drink water and dragging you to DuBarry’s. It means if you break down crying on the last day there are people there to hug you. It’s just better, okay?
Also it’s cheaper. Your sadness shouldn’t cost a fortune.
3) Remember to drink water and eat. If you can’t eat, drink more water
Drinking water is one of the de facto BHOF survival tips. It goes double for if you’re sad because chances are you’re crying and not eating as much. You might also be drinking more than you usually would. All of these will dehydrate you faster, which will give you a terrible headache on top of your emotional pain.
Have a water bottle with you at all times and deputise people to make you use it.
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Also, tip for eating. The new steakhouse has the most amazing free bread ever. It’s complimentary with meals but I went back to get some and they just gave it to me. It’s got chocolate and nuts in it and it’s soft enough to be easy to eat but tasty enough that it’s a treat.
4) Tell people you’re sad
This goes along with having people help you take care of yourself. It’s also because most people at BHOF have been sad at some major burlesque event and know how much it sucks. You don’t have to tell everyone your entire story, but a lot of people respond well if the answer to ‘how are you enjoying the weekend?’ is ‘I feel kind of shitty but I’m here’.
I broadcast my sadness on social media to cut down on having to explain why I was sad. I refused to pretend I was happy for anyone but the Legends (because I don’t want to ruin their party).
Being open about my sadness also had the added bonus of finding the other sad people at BHOF. Suddenly I wasn’t sad alone. I had my #cryfemme crew and they all shared new and exciting ways to be sad. For example, did you know there’s an arcade at the Orleans and one of the games is manual one where you just punch ducks? And you win tickets and can exchange them for candy or silly toys?
WELL THERE IS.
And if you go to the arcade with the other sad people, you can all be sad together. You can take turns listening to each other’s woes and not feel like you’re spoiling anyone’s fun because, hey, you’re all already bummed. And helping others is a good way to take your mind off of your own problems for an hour. Also, seriously, the arcade. It’s also not the place most BHOFers will be so you’re out and about but also get some space if you need it. Also DUCK PUNCH.
6) Feel Your Feelings
This one comes straight from Legend Velvet Ice.
I don’t normally imbibe much but I drank and got high a lot at BHOF. I had just hit a point where I didn’t want to feel sad and was trying to find anything that would either numb me or pick me up.
Then at the airport on Monday I burst into tears again. Luckily there were people from my city there. One of them offered me half a xanax and we were weighing whether or not it would help (I’d never had one). Then Velvet said very pointedly ‘or maybe she should just feel her feelings’. I declined the xanax.
Once I started just feeling my feelings I found they didn’t last as long. While I didn’t hide my sadness at BHOF, I did hold off on crying in the lobby before shows or in the middle of Fantastik. I’m not saying you should cry-scream during Best Debut, but you shouldn’t tamp things down with alcohol or the idea that your feelings will disrupt everything.
BHOF is way bigger than your feelings, so unless you’re clinging to someone and letting your mascara stain their dress, you’re probably fine. And if you do need to have a knock down, drag out cry, remember that you have friends at BHOF who will hopefully assist you with that in your room. You can be as loud as you want in there.
And on that note, be easy with the substances. By all means, imbibe if you want to, but know your limits on things or you may end up sitting in a hallway alone at 2am REALLY feeling your feelings and be too busy coming down to process them.
(Note: This is not to say medication is never an option or that drug use is inherently bad. But medicate and intoxicate responsibly. Don’t just decide to start downing pills or trying new things in the hopes it’ll fix you. And if you do choose to be irresponsible, deputise a babysitter or two who always knows where you are and what you took.)
7) Only eat ONE brownie
You either know what brownies I’m talking about or you don’t. ONLY HAVE ONE THE WHOLE WEEKEND.
8) Experiment with your look
Make peace with the fact that you will cry and ruin your makeup. So why not go bigger? Try smudgy/smoky looks. Paint mascara tracks on preemptively. Don’t fill in your invisible eye brows. Literally draw a smile on your face. Say fuck it entirely and don’t wear anything.
Or do what you normally do and treat your face like a mandala. You did it perfect and over the course of the evening it will be destroyed and returned to the universe. When you wipe it off think of wiping away some of your sadness.
Don’t just stop at your face! Try accessories you’ve never tried instead of doing your hair. Wear that easy breezy jumpsuit you thought was maybe too casual but is oh so comfy. Rhinestone your glasses.
This is your phoenix in the ashes time. What are you gonna look like after it’s over?
9) Drink Water
So important it gets said twice!
10) BHOF will always be there
You can always go back. You can always do it again. BHOF this year may be rough but BHOF will not be ruined forever and always because you were sad at one. There are countless people who can tell you about their bad year. Or years even.
If you miss the shuttle or the bowling tournament or something don’t beat yourself up. If all you do is lay by the pool that’s good! If you hit up every single event so that you are exhausted every night that’s good too!
Live moment to moment while you’re there. Don’t worry about sticking to plans (unless you’re performing) or running on a strict schedule. You can always hit the photo safari next year.
(That said I was so sad I missed out on meeting Satan’s Angel last year. Do not apply this logic to meeting Legends. You go see them now.)
11) Make memories
Pose for photos. Take selfies (#cryfemme #feelshittylookpretty). Do the red carpet groups. You do not look as bad as you think you do and you do not want there to be a blank space later. Those photos will help you remember that good things happened to you during a dark time and when you start pulling out of it you’ll be able to see proof of the support you have and of your ability to survive.
One of my favourite photos of myself ever is from Sunday in Du Barry’s. I was hungover, cried out, and nauseated. But I look effortlessly cool. Looking at that picture later on down the road made me realise that if I could look that good when I felt like shit, then I was gonna be even better when I was on top of things. It also made me realise that maybe things weren’t as insurmountable as I thought they were. They rarely are.
You will get through this.
I believe in you.
Republished courtesy of Maggie McMuffin.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.