Jesus’ Beard

In February, I was asked by the artistic director of Heads Up to play Phillip in Corpus Christi.  The thing that appealed to me most was playing a prostitute. Then I was asked why I said yes.

I believe things happen for a reason. I believe we are here to help each other. I believe there are signs all around us from the universe. I believe things come full circle.

When I was born, my family was very, very Baptist.  I was the youngest of four children and was picked on more than my fair share.

The first memory of my siblings teasing the hell out of me was the night I got “saved” (no, the building wasn’t on fire).  I came into the living room in my pajamas after praying with my mother, as I did every night, to tell everyone the good news: I wasn’t going to burn in Hell with the other sinners.

At 4 and ½, I wasn’t articulate and, as I excitedly ran in, I stated very loud for everyone to hear, “I’m going up there.”  To which one of my siblings said, “You’re going to your room? Ok Robbie, go to your room.”  “No, I’m going up there,” I insisted as I pointed to the sky. “Yeah. Your room. We get it.” “No, I’m going up there. Not down there,” pointing to the ground.  Each time this exchange continued, I became more and more upset.  Why wouldn’t they listen to me? This was some serious shit and they thought it was funny. I remember crying my eyes out.

Religion was a large part of my childhood until age 7 when my parents, for seemingly no reason at all, divorced. Before that, we went to church every Wednesday and Sunday and I attended a Christian School. Both my parents, being a bi-product of divorce in the 1980’s, immediately remarried.  So began the divorce shuffle and church got left behind.

At 10, my father and my step-mom had a boy. I was excited to not be the “baby” but I remembered that my father was hoping for a boy when I was born. The frequency in which I saw my father became less and less.  The following summer I wanted to be a boy very, very badly.

It was that same summer my mom decided we needed to visit her cousin in Detroit.  During the trip my sisters and I were invited to go shopping with my second cousin and her roommate. While standing in the check out line I noticed the cashier, a pretty blonde woman, skipping every other item on the register. She would ring up the sweater but place the jeans directly into the bag, ring up the socks but place the shoes directly into the bag and so on.

When we arrived back at my cousin’s house, everyone was discussing how little the women had paid and I spoke up immediately, telling them what I had seen but adding a theory. “I saw the cashier put stuff directly in your bag and not make you pay for it.  I bet she used to be a guy, but isn’t anymore – now she’s a girl but she still likes you and so she gave you all that stuff.” After my cousin and her roommate left, my siblings started referring to them as lesbians. I was unfamiliar with the word and stated, “I love those lesbians.”  My siblings started teasing me.  They were relentless. I spent the rest of the summer being confused about who the hell I was.  I knew I liked boys but I also knew girls didn’t repulse me.  I felt alone.

My adolescence was filled with peaks and valleys.  I had a cyst the size of an egg removed from my right breast. Mammograms and operations are rough but for a 12 year-old girl, they’re pretty fucking awful.

The bright spot of my youth came when I was 13 and my sister had a baby.  I was obsessed; he was the most perfect child in the world.  He had huge brown eyes, beautiful blonde hair and dimples the size of dimes, one in each cheek. I loved him more than anything and for the first time in my life – I felt loved back.

The years flew by and in my freshman year of high school I made out with Jesus (yep, I’m an overachiever of sorts) at a football game…  OK. Fine. It wasn’t really “Jesus,” it was the Spanish foreign exchange student named Hey Soos.  We broke up because of my frustration at not being able to understand a word he said.

It wasn’t long before I found a new love.  He had a locker near mine. He was in Spectrum of Sound, Coventry High School’s show choir, and he was playing Jesus in Godspell.  He used to give me sticks of his pink Extra chewing gum. I thought he was dreamy. On my 15th birthday he gave me a balloon; it floated to the top of the gym during Phys Ed where it became helplessly trapped.  I loved him with all my heart and when he broke up with me during rehearsals for Godspell I almost died from the pain.

Eventually, I recovered.

When I was seventeen, after a year of dating, I got married to a young man who had a horrible childhood.  Though I don’t blame him now, he was awful. He was abusive – emotionally and physically. He wouldn’t work, wouldn’t contribute and, on my nineteenth birthday, raped me. Once I left him, I started going to church with a friend to find some comfort. After a month or two, I had a talk with the “minister” and was told I was wrong to try to obtain a divorce. God wanted me to suffer…

I quit going to church and began my wandering.

Eventually, I settled down, married again and had another child.  My nephew, who I considered to be my brother/son, came out to me.  I reacted the only way I knew how: I tried to stuff him back in the closet.  I told him he didn’t know for sure and, even if he was, people wouldn’t understand.  He needed to experience life before he made that kind of a choice.  Later, I realized what I had done.

Fast forward to today.  I have been divorced for 5 years. My oldest son graduated high school in June, finished EMT training and is an assistant wrestling coach at a local high school. My youngest son is a fifth grader that loves to read, plays the violin and loves musical theatre. My nephew is the artistic director of an innovative production company and is engaged to his best friend.  I have my own business. I perform with an improv troupe (or two.) I’m on the production board of a local community theater. I audio describe for the visually impaired. I’m in a loving committed relationship.  Most of all, I’m happy.

By the way…why I said yes:  I needed to make out with one more Jesus.

-Robyn Cooper
Corpus Christi Ensemble Member

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Comments

  1. Amy Spencer says:

    Thank you for revealing so much of yourself and your history. You are wonderful, Robyn. Much love.

  2. Nici Romo says:

    Adorable! We are a family. We love…and I think Jesus would be cool wit dat!

  3. Thank you for sharing such a raw story!

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