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Anoush Froundjian’s Highs, Lows & Loves

Anoush Froundjian’s Highs, Lows & Loves

♪ I had just finished my first year
at Mount Holyoke College and I was now working
as a box office manager at a theater
in Sharon, Connecticut. And I’d be living there with everybody in the dorms
who worked backstage, and this dorm, it was–
it was, like, a house, but more like a big cabin. And when you walked in,
the first thing you noticed was that it smelled
like cigarette smoke, and that the floors were lined
with empty beer bottles, or what they would call
“empties,” and I’m not a partier,
I never was. I was an old soul
since day one, and honestly just too busy
being Armenian to have any time for drinking,
drugs, or anything else. But I was 19 at the time, and I felt
that it was time that I saw how the other half lived. So, within
my first week of work, I drank for the first time,
smoked pot for the first time, and also lost my virginity to the guy who operated
the sound booth. (laughter) So, so I now had a boyfriend,
kind of, and had also earned myself
the nickname “Tequila.” (laughter) But since I didn’t have a big group of
girlfriends at the time to get advice from
or ask questions to, I was kind of figuring things
out on my own. Like, asking myself
if it was normal that he wasn’t talking to me
this much afterwards. Or if it was normal that my body
hurt this much afterwards. Or if it was normal
that I always felt like I had a giant lump
in my throat, and if so,
then I wanted to know how much of their sadness
women typically express, as opposed to the amount
that they just keep inside and try to forget about. So, so after awhile I couldn’t
take it anymore, and one weekend when I was
visiting my family, who lived a couple of… who lived a couple of towns away
in their summer home, from Sharon, I caught a glimpse of myself
in the porch window and I started to sob. And my uncle,
who was sitting a couple of feet
away from me, notices and says,
“Are you all right?” And I just ran away, and I swung open the porch door
and I ran down the hill, and as I’m running down,
relatives are coming up, and I bang shoulders
with my dad. And he looks at me
and he goes, “What’s wrong?” And I didn’t know what to say. I, I mean, I wasn’t planning on discussing it
with my parents, but, um… But my parents are also cool, but they’re,
they’re also Armenian, and my dad is from Lebanon,
so I don’t know, I wasn’t sure what to do. And since my dad
is so good at reading me, he looks at me and he goes,
“You went all the way.” (laughter) And, and I… And I said, “Yeah,”
and he goes, “Are you okay?” And I said, “Yeah.” And then he kind of
pats me on the shoulder, like in a “welcome aboard”
kind of way, and, and, and then
he was, like, “Okay!” And I immediately felt better, because it meant
that I could stop feeling guilty and angry
at myself and could just feel sad
the normal way now. And, but–
at the end of the night, everybody goes home. Like, my dad goes home,
my relatives go home, and now it’s just me, my mom, and my little brother Rafi,
who’s about ten at the time. And my mom reacted
a little bit differently– she found out. She lit a cigarette
and sat me down and said, “What the hell
were you thinking?” And, and, um… And my mom has a way
of coming on really strong, till you realize that it’s just
her way of fighting for you, and eventually she said,
“I just don’t know why you never look out
for your heart.” And I said, “Mom, who looks out for their hearts
anymore?” And she goes,
“You know what? “I think you should invite him
over here for dinner. “I think you should
invite him over “to have dinner
with me and Rafi. I think it’ll be fun.” And I said, “What?” And she says,
“Yeah, this is who you are. “If someone’s going to like you, “they have to love
all sides of you. Don’t you dare minimize yourself
for somebody else.” So I don’t know what it was, maybe it was
my inner Mount Holyoke-ness or my, my inner Armenian,
and I look her and I go… (growling): “Okay.” (laughter) So, so I go–
so the next day, I go to the sound booth
and I go, “Look, I know we’re not
getting married or anything, “but my mom wants to know
if you want to come over and have dinner with her
and my little brother and me.” And he goes, “Okay.” And I go, “Okay,”
and I’m thinking… And so then
I’m setting the table for the most unnecessary meal
of the century. And my mom is in the kitchen
cooking this elaborate meal and I’m thinking, “Mom, why did you roast
an entire chicken? He doesn’t even love me!” And then a car just… I hear his car driving up, and I hear the car door
slam shut, and I’m just ready. And he comes in, and it’s fine. It’s fine. We’re sitting at the table, my mom and he are talking
about bands that they both like, my brother is talking to him about instruments
he wants to play, and– and I’m just kind of
not sure of anything and I feel
like I’m disappearing, and I’m not sure of how
anything is going to go. But then something happens. Because my brother, who’s too young to really
get what’s going on but is also not too young
to know what’s going on, gives me this look
from across the table, kind of a look that’s, like, “Kind of
interesting evening, huh?” (laughter)
And– and I start laughing, and I’m laughing
and laughing and laughing, and it’s noticeable. And after awhile,
I don’t even know why I’m laughing anymore, I’m just so happy
to finally have my voice back. And I realize
that it can take you– it can take so much courage to run away and do
all these crazy things, but it takes
twice the amount of courage to be able to come back. And I realized
that he wasn’t the special guest my mom invited to dinner
that night. That special guest was me. (applause and cheering)

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