Love, loss, and burning everything to the ground: an interview with Cristina Pitter

For Decent Company February: BODY, Cristina Pitter will be turning her painful memories into a sensual ritual. Cristina sat down with Decent Company producing director Josh Boerman to talk a bit about those memories, how they’ve impacted her body, and why she’s doing this piece now.

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JOSH BOERMAN: This month, this weekend actually, you’re going to be gracing us with a real— I don’t even know how to describe it. How would you describe it?

CRISTINA PITTER: You got me there. (laughs) I would say, it’s a spell. Plain and simple. Because you can tell stories with a spell, and this is a spell of vitality and wrath.

JB: Vitality and wrath?

CP: Yes.

JB: Tell me more about each.

CP: The vitality of love, when it consumes you, when it brings you so much joy and so much life, and the exchange of energy when you have that connection with someone. And it does bring everything to a higher plane of encounters and experiences and the vitality of that. Like, it brings you a different quality of life that’s tremendous. And in that same intensity is the wrath, when something goes afoot, if you will.

JB: Awry.

CP: Afoot, awry, in a fire. (laughs)

JB: In which you’re gonna burn everything.

CP: In which I am going to burn everyone! (laughs) But yes, I want to tell a story of a relationship that really consumed me the last two and a half years, but most devastatingly the past five months, and how my body responded. Being with this person’s body, having this constant sensuality and sexual tension without any manifestation or consummation. 

And that’s trickled down into a loss of a friendship overall. Like, a lot of emotional labor and manipulation and disregarding of my truth. And knowing that I am so present for the good, the bad and the ugly, and to have someone claim that but really only want the good parts of me, is a burning that does something.

JB: That’s some pretty intimate stuff to put up in front of an audience, to say the least.

CP: Yeah.

JB: Why?

CP: I’m not done with it. And even with all the joys I have in my life, this is still burning me, and the best way for me to process things and to clear them—’cause you never really let go of them, there are always threads—is to put it into my work, like I’ve always done. And knowing that other people have had this before, and I know this will resonate with people as well as just be a good fucking story. (laughs) But there’s a healing that comes from telling stories, and that will be that for me.

JB: And I think that’s something that you’ve been able to experience with the other pieces that you’ve done for Decent Company in the past. By telling these stories, you’ve been able to maybe begin to find a sense of closure about certain things, or just express things that matter to you.

CP: Differently, yeah. And taking back power, taking back ownership, as opposed to letting things fester or be a constant open wound. It’s good to have scars. It’s bad to let things be left open to infection.

JB: Well, and it’s interesting that you say that, too, because you’re obviously using a body metaphor, but at the same time it is—

CP: My body.

JB: Literally about your body. It’s about the physical things that happen to it when you’re under certain mental and emotional conditions.

CP: Yeah, for sure. And I had mentioned to you earlier that I unintentionally lost 20 pounds over the course of two months, and that’s crazy. And I was really just in awe of that, and that weird battle of being in such a good place where I love myself, even at my heaviest.

Like, that doesn’t matter to me, but the realization of something very unhealthy, and how do you get to being back to a healthier place physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally? And it’s a lot. It’s a lot to process and to balance out.

JB: It’s crazy how those things link together. How if you go into a bad place mentally or emotionally, it’s always going to affect how you actually treat yourself. And then because you’re body’s like, “I don’t have the food I need to survive right now,” it starts decaying.

CP: And it eats itself.

JB: Shrinking, eating itself away.

CP: And then you add other factors. Like, I know I was doing, as I often do, like seven shows at a time. (laughs) While working full time. And it’s amazing what grief does on top of all that.

JB: And I think, too, that those of us who perform, our bodies are all that we have.

CP: Literally. This is our vessel. This is our machine. This is our being by which to survive and thrive in this career, in these adventures and weird journeys. And respecting myself more, taking more moments for self-care. Yeah.

JB: And self-care, that’s a phrase that has been floating around a lot lately. The idea of self-care, the idea that this world is in a crazy state right now and the only way we can deal with it is by taking time for ourselves. And that that’s not an act of selfishness, it’s an act of self-love.

CP: Yeah. And self-preservation. Because we’re of no use to anyone if we aren’t in a good place with ourselves. I actually believe that. There’s only so far you can get, and taking the time and knowing when I don’t need to be around people.

JB: Yeah, that’s kind of what I was gonna ask. What stuff do you do to take care of yourself in this world that we find ourselves in right now?

CP: I go to sleep. (laughs) I go to sleep. And I masturbate so much. I mean, I do anyway, even when I’m not upset. But so much. (laughs) And letting myself be a mess, because I know that so much is, “Have to be in order. Have to be going. Survive, survive, survive, emergency mode.” And that’s so brutal to be in constantly, that state.

So allowing myself to cry and scream in a bathtub full of water and stare at myself in the mirror and pick and prod and pull and then soothe. And drink a lot of tea and a lot of hot toddies. And sleep. Yeah.

Because I know I get a romantic, perverted sense of “Mmm, I’m really just gonna lean into wasting away. How about that?” (laughs) And what that does. The pendulum swings so extremely, so to be able to live in a good balance is wonderful, but I know also there’s something that jumpstarts and kicks it back in the other way too. It’s like, “I’m going to be as decadent as fuck.”

JB: Right. And if you’re not careful, that end of it can go totally out of control. Because what your body says it wants is not actually always the right thing for it.

CP: No, not at all. I’m trying to remember what I— in the midst of running around, doing all these things, realizing, oh, I was just eating a couple pieces of fruit, a lot of eggs and vegetables, and so much water and tea. And wine. (laughs)

And then the other part of it, okay, I’m gonna eat full meals again, and gain back a few pounds, and not be like “Oh god, I gained five pounds.” No, I lost 20 being a psychopath and freaking. I can take time to be back in the body that I love.

JB: The fragility of it is so striking, isn’t it?

CP: It’s really something. And to know that I want to get rid of the numbers things. I love being a fat babe. Like, I’m great, I know people love me, I know people wanna fuck me. I have no— I’m good. (laughs)

But the notion of being fat and healthy, and how to live with that in your body. Knowing that I can dance for four hours and not be winded, and celebrating that. Celebrating every part my body contains, but also being allowed to want more for it. To be like, “Hey, I’m going to start doing more squats, because I’m vain and I don’t want my ass to go away.” And that traveling into strength training, and putting strength back into my body as well as love.

JB: You know, I was talking to Jeremy about that, about fitness and working out and so forth. And one thing he said that really struck me was that for him, when he’s working out, it’s almost like a meditative thing for him. Everything else just kind of goes anyway because he’s just focusing on his body, on the challenge of what he is trying to do with his body in that moment.

CP: Yes. It’s fascinating. I could talk about it all day. (laughs)

JB: That’s what we’re here for. (laughs) So do you feel similarly, though, about that?

CP: Yes and no. Being able to focus, I think I’m not focused on the physical of the body. I’m focused on the energy and the emotional, mental pursuits that manifest in my body.

JB: What do you mean?

CP: For when I’m grieving, how that process is. When I’m putting focus into what makes me happy, who am I surrounding myself with? Am I emotionally being honest and vulnerable, and what that goal is.

JB: I’m just curious, if you’re willing to share, what does that look like for you specifically? Like, if you’re in a place where things are out of balance, how does that manifest?

CP: Well, when it’s out of balance, 20 pounds gone. Or my skin getting really tired and lackluster. Being tired, or very neurotic, manic. And knowing that that runs in my family as well, and so having to be very careful to correct it, to balance it back.

JB: One thing that’s been interesting to me about the pieces you’ve done for the company so far is that they’ve all been connected to sort of the physical manifestation of what it’s like to be in love or in lust, or whatever you wanna call it. Aspects of infatuation, shall we say, and the deeper things that underscore that.

CP: Yeah. (laughs)

JB: What is it about this piece that you’re hoping to explore that’s a little different from what you’ve already looked at?

CP: So to start off with LUST, great. Wonderful. The thrill of all of that.

JB: ‘Cause you were dancing, Tommy was on the piano.

CP: Doing the burlesque. Like, amazing. It’s fantastic. And then we went into June, secrets, Return to Sender. That infatuation, that lust, that affair. What does that do. To fear, October, infatuation with the unknown, with the things that thrill us.

I feel like body is a culmination of all of them, very much so. The lust of engaging with someone that you’re attracted to, and that taking over. The secrets of a relationship that neither of us are really diving into, the unspokenness of it, of thinking that I’ve resolved something but I’m holding a secret of no, I’m still in love with you, and I don’t know how to let go of that or turn that off.

The fear of losing myself into someone, and not losing them, because I’m better off without. If they walked through the door right now, I know that my heart would swell with such joy and anger. Like, what do you want? What could you possibly say or do right now that would fix anything, that would be different?

There’s nothing, and yet that still drives me to pursue and to analyze and to rip apart this thing because they had such an effect on my body. And how our bodies were together. I have to honor that, I have to see what that is. But I also have to honor myself and let the darkness that I have something too and kept on burning with, that cycle, putting it onto him.

So that’s what I hope to accomplish there. The honoring of the good, the bad, the ugly, and knowing that. I feel like a scar and not an open wound anymore. And making someone— not make them, but really put them in a place of questioning themselves, dealing with it.

Like, what are you so afraid of? I’ve gone the full gamut. All of it. Over and over and over again. And now I have to leave that with you. It’s not my job anymore. I don’t care anymore. I care just enough to care for myself.

JB: You gotta care for yourself.

CP: Yeah. Because I think that the ultimate shock to the body, mind, and all levels is when you have made someone a priority in their life and they’re not doing the same for you.

To purchase tickets for Decent Company February: BODY, click here.

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