When I was eighteen, I did a brief summertime stint selling roses in bars and nightclubs dressed as a mime. It was a great gig. I got a percentage of sales plus tips. At three dollars a rose, the tips were the key and they were surprisingly plentiful.
It is amazing how the simple acts of becoming anonymous with make up and attire and refusing to speak can cause some people to do very peculiar things…
I found that men in particular, were always trying to get me to talk. It was maddening for them to be facing a person whose only response was a painted on expression and very limited physical gestures. I loved the tension it created as well as the heightened awareness paid to details of communication. Even from people who had to close one eye to stop me from spinning.
I loved flirting without speaking. I became captivating by being utterly myself. As a mime, there was no sexy getup. There were no impressive poetic musings. There was only the appeal I was able to put forth from behind my eyes, from my sense of humor in reacting silently to come-ons, taunts, dares and desires.
The disbelief that a person could actually sustain the ability to keep silent in response to all manner of verbal bating earned me a lot of money that summer.
I only caved in and spoke one time. On a particularly hot night, somewhere in the middle of my rounds, a man who had tried many times in many ways to get me to speak to him, offered me a one hundred dollar bill to hear my voice. I’d been offered money (and other things) in exchange for a glimpse of the girl inside the performance and had always declined. This time I put out my hand, accepted the bill, said “thank you” and walked away.
That wasn’t the last night of miming for me, but shortly thereafter I did quit. I’m not sure why I quit or even what I did for work afterwards but I do remember vividly how that act of speaking those two words betrayed the character I had enjoyed so much. It never felt as exciting after that night. I wondered if the word had gotten out that I had given it up. My voice was out there and my silence could never be taken back. Like virginity, most of us lose it eventually. I sold mine for a measly hundred bucks.