There is a teensy weensy percentage of the population who understands. Who, upon hearing that you are a “real writer” and have “a New York agent” representing your “book proposal” to the “Big 6,” get bug eyed and breathe a little harder. I know because I was one of them. I still am. Well, no. I’ve gotten to the point when I see someone in my own age group succeeding far better than I, I just get kind of pissed. I accidentally punched my husband during a theater preview for the new John Green movie. I meant to hit the arm of the chair but it wasn’t there so I punched Gus.
“He wrote for Mental Floss! I write for Mental Floss. Where does he get off having another goddamn movie!” That last part spat out between a locked jaw. Time and moderate success have revealed that I am a poor, poor sport, apparently.
Years ago when I first met my sweet Ro’s new boyfriend, who I knew had been on NPR and written for all kinds of places, real places, I was apoplectic with the sensory pressure of being in the same room with him and his invisible Robes of Holy Writ.
They got married and he opened the door to my deepest dreams. I am still in awe of him. Now a lot of it has to do with the fact he knows how to work the edit features in word and can make an outline. Whereas I…just write words and rearrange them till they sound good and hit send and a check comes. How can this policy possibly fail me as my career grows?
They there is the other 99 percent of the population. The population who did not spend many a summer night of their teen years crying over Rose-a-sharn’s dead baby at the end of Grapes of Wrath, who did not drive six hours to watch a young David Sedaris read his essays. People who don’t have pretend conversations with Matt Lauer about their new book when they’re trying to sweetly lullaby themselves to sleep.
I very quickly exhausted my book-gobbler friends with my good news. Then my book-liker friends. Then the book-owners. Eventually I was down to those who’d either made it through the first two chapters of Harry Potter and then lost interest to a Hidden Objects Mystery app and those whose reading is devoted to occasional, selectively beautiful verses of the Bible.
But my ego is large and my pride is small…so bless me I kept trying. I’d just tuck that bit of wonder about myself into ANY conversation, with any person.
My daughter’s friend’s dad’s friend on the day she lost custody of her son…”Hi, I’m Therese. What do I do? Oh I landed an agent so…yeah that judge was an asshole. I’m really sorry. Book. I’m writing a book.”
Mothers I just met at the kid’s swim lessons, called over the screeches and infinite echos of the locker room…..”Of course these swimsuits are a sight better than their predecessors! In my book that I’m…oh oh oh sweetie slow down floor’s wet! Oh gosh! Poor thing! Yeah if you hold her and comfort her maybe she’ll stop crying and I can finish what I was telling you about my…yeah well bye! Talk…talk more tomorrow. Hope that clots good and quick!”
Utter and complete stranger who blatantly told me she doesn’t read but I’ve had a whole bunch of this frat boy hooch my friend brews up for her BBQ’s so, “Scatological? Whose…whose she to tell me my sample chapter is too scatty? Who doesn’t deep down want to know more about old time people POOPING?? Ehh?? Amiright? EHH?”
Dude pumping my gas. Then he told me about Jesus. So we both got to take something away from that.
They give me the most half-hearted murmured “ohs?” and barely lifted eyebrows of polite indifference. Which leads me to believe they simply don’t understand. I have been touched by grace. I have (almost…haven’t quite…written anything yet) been granted the ability to be put inside stranger’s brains to say whatever I want! I’m on the cusp of every single Liberal Arts Major’s rockstar dream! Everyone who bothered me in jr high now has to apologize for making fun of my LA Gear fluffy pink laced shoes and share their Capri Suns with me goddammit I wrote it into the CONTRACT.
So, a huge thank you to all the friends who are librarians and writers and book lovers, who have grasped the enormity of this with me. And a bigger thank you to everyone else, who provide a painfully healthy reminder that all the published books in the world won’t change the fact I’m short, engage in poor dental hygiene and don’t know how to use a curling iron. So…still and forever more, just Therese.