Mattie Jo Cowsert
Wow. The last time I wrote was March 11th. Look, I started writing and filming for a weekly video blog about how AWESOME it is to be an unemployed, non-union, non-UMICH grad actor in the city and that actually took up all my free time. So here. Check it out so I know my efforts were (are) worth it:
Oh and now I live in Glen, New Hampshire performing as storybook characters. At a theme park. You got it, folks. I moved to New York City from Branson, Missouri to work at theme park. Next Stop Broadway. Obvi.
Anyway. I was reading a Tinder message the other day (What? Yes, the selection in New Hampshire is pitiful compared to the copious swipes allotted to me in New York City. But it’s going to be a long summer. One of these Paul Bunyons better work out) and I found myself proofreading his homonym usage. Sometimes he used “than” properly but then he would misuse forms of “there”. This bothered me. A lot. Then I remembered all those stupid teachers I had throughout elementary and junior high who didn’t know how to use “seen” in the proper tense. I was always outsmarting, correcting in class, and getting in loads of trouble for doing so. I mean, yeah, I was a total asshole. But they were educators! WHY DIDN’T THEY KNOW BASIC GRAMMAR? Then I thought how many other students in rural America have this problem? Being smarter than their teachers? Then I thought “How did I get this way?! I am such a grammar douche!” Proofreading Tinder Messages? Who do I think I am? Oh Yeah: Mark Cowsert’s Daughter.
Mark wearing overalls.
My father is the oldest of 3 children. Born and raised in the rural Midwest, he was mostly surrounded by blue-collar fellas who enjoyed maybe 4 too many pints of beer every day. I don’t mean this negatively at all. I enjoyed 4 too many beers last night at dinner. I didn’t know my dad back then, but he must have been smarter than nearly everyone around him. I mean, he’s smarter than most people I know now. Dad was a nerdy fat kid in school who took care of his entire family, including his father and mother. He was the first of anyone in his family to go to college. This was an excellent life choice on his part (except that he went to Baptist University. That was not excellent). He and my mom were married in their first year of college.
My dad met my mom at church camp and swore to everyone that he was going to marry her (I’m telling this story how I have heard it told over the years from various sources. So some details may be wrong. So it’s kinda like the Bible. Majorly conflated but you get the point). Apparently this was laughable since dad was a tall skinny almost ginger all American country boy and my mom was the rebellious preacher’s daughter from the big city of Poplar Bluff. He obviously proved everyone wrong. They’re still married, taking vacations together, and saying wildly inappropriate things just to get us grossed out. My dad started college as a business major. This was okay with mom, obvi. But during his years at Oakland City University, he decided to answer his call to ministry. My mom says she was tempted to leave him right then. But see, they already had a kid together because they’re nucking futs, so she couldn’t just peace out. I don’t mean to vilify my father because it is, afterall, Father’s Day. But DOUCHE MOVE dad. Everyone knows mom is a total introvert. And you made her be a preacher’s wife. RUDE. Anyway, he’s in insurance now so it’s cool.
Being the hottest straight man over 32 in the state of Missouri. Oh and my mom's boify.
I was the last of 4 children born within 9 years. That’s right. My father was a parent of 4 by age 30. You know what I did today? I drove to theme park called Santa’s Village and ate some icecream and cotton candy. I’ll be 26 in September…
Quirky Best Friend
Honestly, it’s really difficult to write this entry about him. There are so many heroic things about my father. But there are equally hilarious quirks that make me belly laugh thinking about them. Yes, Mark Cowsert is saving the world one grocery store aisle chat at a time. But he is also doing really strange things like sing about brown sugar while he bakes cookies in a Christmas apron. He helps people fight addiction and binge watches The Big Bang Theory (I once secretly filmed him watching Big Bang. I listen to that string of laughter when I get sad sometimes). He helps me understand my taxes but still calls farts “toots”. He could recite Andrew Jackson’s biography to you and blows his nose VERY LOUDLY in the shower (seriously. Most of our lives we had no idea what that elephant in the shower with dad was doing. I realize this sounds like a weird metaphor. But it’s not. Dad really does blow his nose and makes an elephant like noise while doing so).
Cooking with towel aprons because he is very masculine.
He is really particular about funny things like tucking his T-shirts in only the front of his cargos. I’ve told him a million times that he looks like a total doof when he does this. And also cargos are disgusting. But he doesn’t listen to me. He won’t let anyone into the kitchen while he’s cooking (This is why mom never cooks. It’s really for dad’s sanity). He still yells at me everytime I sneak spoonfuls of cookie dough from the cookie dough bowl. Even though I am 25 and I will do as I please with said cookie dough. He has now decided beer is okay and not for the sinners so he drinks really terrible beer like Bud Light Lime and Mich Ultra. Yes. It took my dad 42 years to drink alcohol like a sorority girl. I’ve heard him curse once (sans when he’s repeating someone in a story. In which case, he whispers the curse word) and it was when some Christmas ornaments fell out of the top of a closet. Of all the games the Cubs lost and he chose THAT moment to express anger via hard consonants (my dad is a DIE HARD Cubs fan. When they lost that one game cuz the guy interfered with the catch, he ran out to our driveway, knees to the pavement and screamed “WHY GOD WHY?” But still. No cursing!). He exercises with all the overweight women in fitness classes at the Y. This is because my father has no shame. And also he tore both his ACLs playing intramural baseball so he can’t run. But mostly he has no shame. He drinks coffee with his icecream almost every night before bed. And then falls asleep in the recliner.
Helping me read my "Grammy" speech at my senior graduation party. And also loving me despite my lack
of fashion sense. You will, however, notice he took my note on the no "front tuck only" in this photo.
He has recorded the same voicemail greeting for the last 30 years. It ends with “BYE NOW!" Which I find hilarious since he’s not actually talking to anyone but still feels the need to let us know exactly when he’s leaving the conversation: NOW. He has an on camera speaking voice that sounds like a younger, more excitable Regis Philbin. He uses this same voice when passing out Christmas presents. These are the only two events that elicit this specific voice from my father. He knows everyone. We call it the “3 degrees of Mark Cowsert.” I swear to god my father could go to a Mormon compound in Guatemala and find someone he’d played basketball with in the 70s. As kids he took us on longass road trips when he was pursuing the whole AMWAY thing (Ministry isn’t the most lucrative occupation. Unless you’re a “FAITH CAN DO ANYTHING!” pastor. Those guys get jets and shit.) and made us listen to either 1) AMWAY inspirational speaker tapes 2) Fuzzy AM sports Radio or 3) Dr. Laura.
I still can’t figure out the Dr. Laura thing. Did my dad have a crush on Dr. Laura? She was so mean! My mom said she was a lesbian. I had no idea what that was. I assumed it was a synonym for “mean lady.”
Anyway, my dad is a funny, weird dude.
As I mentioned earlier, my dad spent most of his life in ministry. But I think what makes my dad so incredible is that he always prioritized his marriage and family before his occupation. My dad’s job was to be 1) a great husband 2) a great father 3) a great preacher. In that order. I think a lot of men could benefit from this model. Only replace “preacher” with literally anything else because being a pastor/preacher is the worst vocational choice on the planet. When we were kids dad took us for breakfast at Bob Evan’s every Friday. Just him and us kids. I looked forward to these days. Not just for the pancakes, but to sit next to dad and answer questions about the Bible. I think I liked the idea that my dad listened to me. Especially because I had (have) A LOT to say. He would get out of work to chaperone field trips when I was in elementary school. In fourth and fifth grade we had to drive 4 hours to an orthodontist who provided free care. I looked forward to these monthly trips with dad. We listened to Blondie and Pat Benetar tapes he bought at gas stations and talked about how much I liked my teacher, Mrs. Stone. I liked that my dad knew me.
Baptizing people in plastic pools from Wal-Mart because #Missouri
By junior high, I really got into playing sports. I loved that dad watched from the stands. I liked attempting to impress him with my athletic and leadership skills. I wanted him to be proud of me. But by 8th grade I grew to hate basketball and begged him to let me quit. “No. You made a commitment to your coach and your team. After the season ends, you don’t have to play. But you do not back out of commitments.” I finished the season and never played basketball again. I took first place in my first and only speech and debate competition that same year. All day I couldn’t wait to get home and tell dad. “GIDDY UP, SWEETIE!” I knew he’d say. Then give me a giant hug. That’s all I needed.
By 9th grade, I was experiencing severe anorexia. Accompanied by equally severe depression. I didn’t know myself anymore. I was so sad all the damn time. I didn’t really want to do anything but felt I had no choice so I did everything. I was exhausted mentally and physically by the end of each day. I would ask dad to lay with me until I fell asleep at night. He agreed. He held me as I cried to myself quietly. Afraid I was letting him down by being so sad all the time. I wasn’t that smiley, energetic “full of life” baby I knew daddy loved so much. I cried to him everytime he took me to therapy. Everytime we had to refill a prescription. The guilt I felt for costing my family so much money…because I needed to be “fixed”. Why couldn’t God just fix me?!?! “I’m sorry daddy. I wish I could just make it go away.” “Baby. It will. These things take time.” He told me. My dad didn’t hate me for being sad or sick or imperfect. He loved me.
Daddy’s Baby Girl
I’m now 25 and living a totally different life than my father led. I’m not living in the Midwest and married with 3 children with a 4th on the way. I don’t go to church every Sunday anymore or consider Toby Mac an amazing recording artist. And I definitely don’t whisper curse words. However, we can really blame dad for my tenacity, conversation skills, and sense of adventure. Whenever people read my blog, they immediately ask what my father thinks of it. The truth is, it’s all his fault. He gave me the genetics and character traits to go through with this whole crazy New York City actor lifestyle. Whether you’re an actor or a pastor, you have to be the same kind of totally nutso to pursue these very different careers. Alright, what I actually say is, “You know my dad is pretty cool. I mean he’s conservative and Christian but he wasn’t like always trying to force me to be something I wasn’t. So I think he likes my blog. I think it makes him laugh.” I don’t know if this is true. Maybe I should ask him…
Here’s what I do know: My dad just loves me. He taught me to work hard and go after whatever it is I want. He didn’t tell me no if I wanted to do something that was seemingly impossible or extra difficult. He said “Make it happen.” He taught me to love everyone, even if I don’t totally understand or like them. He taught me to look at people’s intentions, because we are imperfect and our actions might fall through. He thinks I am the funniest person in the world, so I love talking on the phone with him. I really don’t think I’ll ever understand the extent to which my father’s love and work have determined my trajectory. And if you’ve had enough encounters with Mark Cowsert, I’m sure you will never fully understand that for yourself either.
Happy Father’s Day, daddy (kissy face emoji)