Who’s That Girl?

By ANDI TODARO | Photos By Jason Hitchcock & ANDI TODARO

I have a distinct memory of making tiny dandelion wreaths at the daycare center inside of my mother’s gym, sitting alone, at the furthest part of the field, where the chicken wire fence prevented by escape. I was a strange child, so I spent most of my time alone talking to inanimate objects and inventing ways to keep myself occupied. I could easily slip my hand through the fence to retrieve the best, un-mowed, flowers just on the other side. And, then, construct a tiny masterpiece and leave it there, upon realizing that I had no one really to give it to. My only friend, who didn’t last long, was a mentally handicapped boy who I had planned to marry, as kids do. We would draw pictures of the house would eventually live in, including a pink fire hydrant out front. He had an imagination, and so did I, and this was the space we spent all of our friendship in.

Me and most other kids didn’t get along. Once, I was outcast from sitting at a table of girls in elementary school because I insisted we make offerings from our lunches to ‘Granny Smith’, a regular tree I had named such with an apple sticker and a popsicle stick stuck squarely in the ground in front of her. At home things were tough, and my little brother and I escaped into fantasy worlds, namely, the game ‘Billy and Vanessa’, which was our favorite, and lasted for many years. We were space couriers, slash, adventurers, and we made a very special fort spaceship, complete with a control helm made of radio buttons and gears and a manifold (pocket folder) full of ‘passports’, ‘teleportation equipment’, drawings of the likenesses of aliens we might encounter on each plane, their imports and exports, their weaknesses, their weapons and how to defeat them, if need be. Dad was pretty hands-off, and his expectations were never inline with how we behaved, namely, I think my brother and I switched roles; he has empathy and I have power.

Middle school, no different, but with outlets for my interesting acuities: chemistry club, building a museum exhibit based on the ocean and rainforest, sewing every toga with my mother for the Shakespeare performances, wiring robots…. there were some nerds, but then there was a pair twins who went through puberty early, and their tits let them run things. My given nickname was Ta-Donkey. I had an interesting freshman year of high school, ran away from home, started smoking cigarettes and had most of my regrettable sexual experiences. I went to school with a lot of ‘winners’, and I say that as facetiously as possible. Things were strange and oriented around sports, I couldn’t make the poms team, I hung out under the stairs and so I transferred schools. Denver University High School, may you R.I.P., was a dumping ground for / well curated / group of weird, wonderful, startlingly intelligent young people. It, too, had an arbitrary hierarchy, but it was based on perceived intelligence and cutting wit- if you weren’t smart, you weren’t cool. I remember reenacting and recording an adaptation of Candide, becoming a muse in a fellow student’s made up religion and going-office-space on a printer with baseball bats we dropped out of a second story window. I acted in all the plays, either as the mother or the slut, and also created most of the sets. The school was liberal, and I did well, planting origami penises on the water fountain, covering chalk boards in penises, even sneaking the word ‘penis’ into my history papers, covertly starting each word with ‘P’, ‘E’, ‘N’… and still getting an A, burping loudly down the hall, and hearing it echo.
My favorite teacher of all time, Stephanie, died a year after I graduated suddenly in her sleep, and I stopped making art.

College, I lived alone for most of it, I was lonely there, no weirdoes in Boulder if you can believe it. But then I found the Espresso Roma and Communikey and I took on dancing, and being exuberant, costuming and being expressive. The first selfies I ever took were freshman year of college when I wore zebra stripes, roofing nails in my ears, roller skated everywhere, brought my lizard to class on my shoulder and smoked a pipe. I got involved with illiterate Magazine when my dear friend Adam, at the time a stranger, made a point to meet me after a class we had together where I yelled the word ‘poop’ repetitively and at the top of my lungs at a useless teacher when she asked for a suggestion for a noun. When I graduated from the advertising school and the TAM program at CU, I felt like I had the skill set of a highly cerebral sheep and my options were either to go to portfolio school or a firm, but neither sounded very appealing. I knew I had to work for myself lest I have a bunch of guys steal my good ideas and/or eventually get fired, as I had historically. But, hey, I’m incredibly thankful for the people and I have gotten to know, and the groups I’ve become involved in, the vision of a few loners that brought a lot of people together and figured out how to get people to rally around them. My brother is this way. I’m realizing I am a better creative and more acutely able to think abstractly because of TAM, physically expressive, embodied and more social thanks to Communikey, anarchistic and diligent thanks to illiterate, and developed sharp conceptualization in ad school… but, what I never really learned, and still really haven’t, is how to work WITH people.