Stories of my friends: Rebekah

Rebekah Engle lives her life inside a Broadway musical. Wherever Beka is, people abruptly break out in song. One minute she’s eating dinner, the next, diners are dancing on tables, crooning about arugula and mushrooms. While walking through downtown Salem, it’s not unusual for Beka to encounter a chorus line of men in tuxes carrying umbrellas and pirouetting down the street in four-part harmony.

Now, this all largely happens inside her head — although she has been known to sing instructions to her 6th Grade class — so it’s less disorienting than one might think.

Beka is fleg. A term she coined, it’s an acronym of “fun-loving, easy-going.”

But, painting a picture of Beka as always unserious would be a mistake. She is passionate about her roles as aunt, teacher, community builder, friend and sex-positive feminist. She wants Salem to grow into an more diverse, inclusive city. She wants the world to be a better place.

And this, Beka says, can be easily accomplished if we smash the patriarchy. With kindness, of course.

In fact, Beka tries to approach everything in her life with kindness first. And it seems to work for her. She has an open, easy smile and a welcoming personality that people find attractive. She is almost always either running into someone she knows or making strangers into new friends.

To be sure, her kindness doesn’t preclude honesty. If you are lucky enough to be her friend, she will definitely call you out on your shit.

“Yes, Jill, sometimes when people don’t know you, you can come across as … well … it’s hard to tell if you’re being rude.”

I sat down with Beka one night before dinner to ask her a few questions. (After dinner we sang about beads and the rain, but that’s a story for a different time.)

Me: What is your favorite musical?

Beka: The one that is my life.

Me: Why do you think you can smash the patriarchy with kindness?

Beka: “Kill ’em with kindness” is an old adage, but somewhat true. “It’s easier to catch a fly with honey than vinegar.” People respond better to kindness than someone yelling at them. They just shut down. And this has been backed up by much research; I’m not just making shit up or quoting adages. People want to feel heard. And when they feel heard, they are more likely to hear you.

Me: What’s this I hear about a podcast?

Beka: You and I are apparently the podcasters. We’re going to be using your kitchen couch to interview people. Sometimes naked. “Live from the kitchen couch…. are we naked or not? Who knows?”

Me: What will we be talking about?

Beka: Life. Killing people. Philosophy. Psychology. Magic. Basically our Sunday conversations, but with others.

Me: Killing people?

Beka: With kindness, I said.

Me: Do you remember any of our laugh-until-I-cried funny stories?

Beka: We’re always funny.

Me: Yes, but right now, I’m not crying.

Beka: Neither am I. I think it’s one of those “you had to be there” things. Oh, that we’re accidentally lesbian girlfriends.

Me: “Are you a vegetarian, too, or is that just Jill?”

Beka: And you weren’t even there. .

Me: How do you feel about socks?

Rebekah: Hate ’em.

Me: Say something nice about yourself.

Rebekah: I’m really funny. I’m good at friendships.