I first met Sherry in Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt, where I witnessed her Sherry Show as part of the In Transit festival in 2011. So much information preceded this first encounter with infamous performer Ann Liv Young’s stage character, that my experience of the show was dominated by disappointment. After endless rumors about the performance’s aggression and transgression, the actual talk show seemed tame to me. Sherry shouldered the weight of her taboo-breaking reputation not without exhaustion, but neither without humor. She repeatedly addressed the issue of the performance not meeting our expectations. She was annoyed. Or she did a good job appearing to be.
I try picturing Sherry now, November 2013, while sitting in a Starbucks in Jersey City, waiting for her. I wonder whether I’m waiting for Sherry Vignon or for Ann Liv Young. I wonder why I am afraid of Sherry, while I would not be afraid of Ann Liv. I wonder why meeting with someone who is openly performing a character is so scary to me. There is no way around the question whether I should protect myself by constructing some kind of a fiction as well. “Share Joy” – instructs a Christmassy coffee advertisement across the room. I’ll do my best, I think to myself.
I finish my Perrier water – something I would never order in a Starbucks in real life. Afraid of too much coffee before facing her. Nervous enough as it is. I have been in touch with Sherry for quite some time now. I have addressed her as Sherry since first writing to Ann Liv Young asking for a Sherapy Session. And it was Sherry who answered my requests. Always a little late, always some information missing, so I always had to write again. A couple of days ago, she let me know that my session would be filmed. I’d prefer not, I answered. But there was no room for discussion. She also told me she would have some merchandise for me to look at. I am actually just interested in the performance itself, I wrote back, so no need to show me anything. Waiting for Sherry, I now regret my answer. I could have answered in a more favorable way, and it might have led to a more pleasurable session. Sherry had asked whether I was vegan, vegetarian, or if I had any other dietary restrictions. Someone had told me about a woman reporting happily about her wonderful experience eating scrambled eggs from another woman’s vagina in a Group Sherapy Session.
Sherry is late. I get her text message excusing herself only weeks later, once I am back in Germany and reactivate my German cell phone. I step outside, where it’s windy and freezing. I realize that Sherry might wonder why I’m waiting outside in the cold instead of comfortably sitting inside the warm Starbucks. She might suspect that I am inflexible, that I am standing outside just because she’s late; she may think that I have an exaggerated sense of duty. She may be right.
Thinking back now, I remember suddenly seeing Sherry running towards me through the storm. Her blond wig hair flying in the wind. I was back inside by then, trying not to stare out the window. She looked beautiful, and I was touched by the realness of her body being affected by the storm, and also by my own braveness. There was no way out now, and I had not even come up with a fiction. In the car, she introduced me to her partner Thomas and to her daughter. I recognized Thomas from shows I had seen with her. I don’t know whether she gave her child a fake name. Thomas took me to their studio above their apartment. He warmed me up with some easy questions, and then Sherry reappeared. She reviewed the notes he had taken, while he installed the camera. So what can I help you with, she asked.
One hour later we went down to their apartment. She had set out all kinds of merchandise available for purchase. What I bought looked beautiful to me at that moment. I did want to take some part of her with me. She had helped me. When Ann Liv wrote to me the next day, I hoped she liked me too.