“Let’s go to the fitness room.”
“Do you feel the need to get fit?”
“I feel the need to go to the fitness room.”
“Not the same thing.”
“At all,” she agreed.
So they changed into their sweats. Mostly because it seemed the thing to do.
“Ready?” Dylan asked.
“Ready,” Rev replied, brimming with good fitness intentions, and led the way into the closet.
“It’s always door number three.”
They found the elevator, pressed the buttons, and got in when the doors opened. It was easier that way, they’d discovered.
They both stared at the grid of numbers and letters.
“Do you know what floor the fitness room is on?” Rev finally asked.
“No. Do you?”
They stared at the grid of numbers and letters a bit longer.
“If you were a fitness room, where would you be?” Dylan asked.
“Near a bunch of fit people. Otherwise I’d be called an unfitness room.”
“And where would we find a bunch of fit people?”
“Near a fitness room.”
“That wasn’t very helpful, was it?” she said after several moments.
“There’s a phone,” she observed. “That could be helpful.”
“But it’s an elevator phone. Isn’t it just for emergencies? Like when you’re stuck?”
“Right. Okay. But. Aren’t we stuck?”
“Wow,” Rev said, half an hour later when they stepped into the room. “Both sides of the room are set up exactly the same way!”
“That’s a mirror.”
“First one to do five steps on the treadmill wins,” Dylan says.
“Nothing. Just wins. That’s why so many people watch sports. And then beat each other up when ‘their’ team doesn’t win.”
“Didn’t that study actually say that people beat each other up when their team does win?”
“You’re right.” He paused on the way to the treadmill machine.
“What were we going to do?” Rev said after a moment.
“Five steps on the treadmill.” Dylan remembered.
“Oh yeah. I can do that.” She walked over to it and was about to board.
“When it’s on,” he qualified, turning it on.
She stood at an angle to it and got into a rhythmic rocking, forward and back, forward and back, like she was trying to enter a double dutch.
“Can’t do it,” she gave up and stepped away. “You try.”
“Okay. New strategy.” He turned it off, stepped on, and then turned it on.
“Maybe if you’d grabbed on first,” Rev said, looking at him splattered against the wall behind it.
She stepped on, grabbed the handlebars, then turned it on. And was almost immediately hanging on for dear life, her feet dangling off the end, her body making the hypotenuse of a triangle.
“Let go!” Dylan cried out as the hypotenuse sagged, perhaps painfully.
“No!” She cried back, confirming the painful part. “Turn it off!”
He hurried to the switch and turned it off.
Rev made various parts of several other polygons before she managed to get off.
“I have an idea,” Dylan said. And grinned, momentarily happy with just that realization.
He approached the treadmill, threw one leg over, and sat down. “Remember Pickle?” He and Rev had ridden horses at Dim’s farm. It was something Dylan had never done before. And until this moment, something he intended never to do again. He wiggled his bottom a bit and made sure his feet were firmly on the floor on each side, ready to walk along.
“Ready!” he said to Rev. She turned it on.
“Okay, that didn’t work.” Once again, she managed to state the obvious.
“No,” he said from the floor at the end of the treadmill. “I got confused as to which part would be moving.”
— Jass Richards
Jass Richards has a master’s degree in philosophy and for a (very) brief time was a stand-up comic (now she’s more of a sprawled-on-the-couch comic). Despite these attributes, she has received four Ontario Arts Council grants. In addition to her Rev and Dylan series (The Road Trip Dialogues, The Blasphemy Tour and License to Do That), which has reportedly made people snort root beer out their noses, she has written This Will Not Look Good on My Resume, a collection of short stories described as “a bit of quirky fun that slaps you upside the head,” and its sequel, Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun (“… terrifically funny and ingeniously acerbic…” Dr. Patricia Bloom, My Magic Dog). All of her books, including her most recent, TurboJetslams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of God, can be purchased (in print and various e-formats) at all the usual online places. “In the Fitness Room” is excerpted from The Blasphemy Tour.
When it became fashionable for males to sport jeweled earrings, I declined to participate in the craze. Next, tattoos stained some people’s skin. Ew!
But, being exquisitely masculine, I do so adore rugged individuality. This year I’ve reinvented myself by sporting ear clothespins. How butch is that?
Blame Michael J. Fox’s father-in-law, Stephen Pollan. As I absorbed his inspirational book, Second Acts, in 2002, I discovered a passage that reaffirmed the special lifelong goal that really makes me tick. The author/life coach told us readers to “… constantly reinvent (yourselves). Make it your lifestyle.”
Indeed, in my case, Mr. Pollan was preaching to the choir. Resolutions be damned. Unlike many others, I’ve never waited until a new year greeted me to revamp myself. I’ve been in a perpetual state of reinvention since I was six. I’m the guy who gave Madonna the nerve to try.
I’ve always resisted becoming a clone of my peer group. I call it clone-aphobia. Not made of rags, tags, bags nor sugar and spice, I thrive on morphing into as many aspects of Myselves as I can muster.
As an adolescent, I became the innocent recipient of pointed remarks when I decided to wear a cape. Confound it all, it made my exits more dramatic. Sometimes it simply gave a lot of laughs to lots of folks. I pity teenagers who fail to appreciate class.
My hairstyles were labeled legendary in some circles. Kind of like the circles that you’d find in the windmills of my mind. I’ve been known to go into the bathroom during a party and come out wearing a different hairdo.
Gay? Nope. Just a heterosexual experimenter unafraid of public censure in my efforts to fight boredom. I’m bolstered by the words of my hero, Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
I live my reinventions. I’m a “method” re-inventor. For example, once when I adopted a new persona of sophistication, I bowed from the waist when I was introduced to anyone. Even the garbage man. I not only fancied myself as a VIP, I “became” distinguished, and demanded r-e-s-p-e-c-t. On the other hand, another time I had just reinvented myself into an earthy, Falstaff-like person. When someone addressed me as “Mr. Eskew,” I respond with “Gesundheit!” Then I belched.
Some people reinvent themselves with face lifts. But beware: sometimes that can backfire into scary consequences.
Case in point: a know-it-all neighbor had his nose altered. Sounded reasonable at the time. Granted, his nose was indeed long, huge, crooked, ugly, distorted and totally revolting. On the other hand, it also happened to be his very best feature. Yikes!
Since I’m regarded as a fabulously strapping vat of virility in those same circles where I’m considered a legend, I was recently dumbstruck. An acquaintance suggested that I engage in what he referred to as “super self-actualization.”
“If you’re so keen on reinventing yourself, why not consider gender reassignment procedures?” he smirked.
A manly stud such as I? Hardly. I would look like the warning label on a bottle of hormones.
But it’s nice to realize that even I have a line I shan’t cross. Ever. Though it might be fun to see how my teenaged grandchildren would react. They do so love the clothespins on my ears.
My ex-wife hates them and, sticking to her nature, she spoke frankly: “Those clothespins on your ears simply underscore the one big Truth about you. You’ve got no class.”
Hey lady, unique is not another word for wrong. Her insults only spur me on. No class? Come on. I’m lousy with class. Why I’ve got class I ain’t even used yet. Watch me, woman: I’ll reinvent class.
— Steve Eskew
Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.
For example, The Huffington Post in its Jan. 10 online issue proclaimed, “Mariah Carey only eats two foods.” An oddity to my way of thinking, considering she can well afford to eat any food she chooses regardless of how expensive or exotic. Yet knowing that entertainers may follow unusual rituals to maintain their looks and figures, I accepted the statement at face value despite a menu which, if strictly adhered to, would rob her of ever enjoying such goodies as fruits, vegetables, ice cream and licorice allsorts.
Who would not be intrigued to know which two foods comprise this performer’s daily menu? If they do such wonders for her svelte frame, would they have possibilities for me?
Her two foods turn out to be Norwegian salmon and capers.
Why only salmon, and particularly Norwegian salmon? Google claims all salmon fished from Atlantic waters, whether wild or farmed in net pens as in Norway, are Atlantic salmon.
Capers I guessed to be a smaller fish, similar to Newfoundland capeling, or Skeena river oolichan. I began to think of Carey as another Garfield or Sylvester.
I was way off the mark.
Capers are the pickled flower buds from the Capparis spinosa shrub which grows in the Mediterranean. Picking the buds by hand, before they flower, makes them fairly pricey. The buds are dried in the sun, packed in wine vinegar, brine or olive oil and used to add a distinctive sour/salty flavor to many savory dishes. In Carey’s kitchen capers might enhance the flavor of the Norwegian salmon.
Carey’s repetitious dining on two foods wouldn’t entice me back for a second invitation. Still, I was less put off by that than by the headline with its misplaced “only.”
As the headline reads, it means Carey only eats two foods. She doesn’t shop for them, prepare, cook or serve them. She doesn’t store any leftovers in the fridge. Outside of forking them into her mouth, she’s strictly hands off.
“Only” is one of the commonest misplaced words I run into while reading articles or posted comments. Watch for it in TV ads, too. You’ll hear lines like, “Dave only buys Ford vehicles.” Which means Dave wouldn’t rent a Ford while vacationing overseas, borrow a Ford from his brother-in-law until his own truck was repaired, or drive a Ford under any circumstances. He’d rather walk, take a bus or bike, although he’d happily drive a Chev, rent a Buick or borrow a Nissan. Anything so long as it isn’t a Ford. If Dave is a mechanic, he might be too choosy to even repair a Ford.
Come to think of it, how does Dave dispose of all those Fords he buys? Dole them out as birthday gifts to family?
The second type of headline that riles me is frequently found in reports of court cases. The headline might read, “A 56-year-old man was sentenced to two years in jail for molesting a toddler in a B.C. court this morning.”
I’d bet the assault never took place in court — this morning or within the past year , thanks to our constipated court dockets — or within any court room. However, noting the offense before the sentencing appearance says that in court is where the offense took place.
I never hunt for headline bloopers. They jump out at me.
— Claudette Sandecki
Claudette Sandecki, 81, began as a writer by penning letters to the editor of various newspapers. In 1988, she was invited to write a weekly column, “Through Bifocals,” for The Terrace Standard in Terrace, British Columbia. She aspires “to write funny like David Sedaris or Dave Barry.
There’s an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. I disagree. Having been married for nearly 20 years, there’s an ease to the way Hubs and I relate to each other that I think is one of the ultimate perks of a long-term relationship. It’s comfortable. It’s accepting. It’s affirming. It’s without artifice.
And it’s blog fodder.
I mean, c’mon, if we were newlyweds, I doubt I’d feel okay exposing something that happened in the bedroom to the blogosphere, or publicly calling myself (or Hubs) out for doing or saying something stupid.
But being older — and thankfully prone to laughing at and with each other — sometimes stuff happens that I just have to share (with Hubs’ blessing, of course). Some recent examples:
We’re cleaning up after a dinner party, with me washing items that can’t go in the dishwasher while Hubs dries. Having consumed a healthy quantity of wine during the evening, our powers of observation aren’t at their keenest — and I don’t notice that he’s putting the clean, dry items on the kitchen island behind us. And he doesn’t notice that I’m turning around, grabbing those items and washing them — again.
Me: Hey, wait a minute — didn’t I already wash this?
Hubs: Where’d you get it?
Me: Off the island.
Hubs: Those are all clean.
Me: Oh, for gawd’s sake. Time to call it a night.
The two of us are sitting at the dining table, having a casual supper and just gabbing about whatever — as married couples are wont to do.
Hubs: I saw a video today that showed a snake swallowing an alligator whole, and x-rays showed how the carcass dissolved inside the snake over the course of a week.
Me: Wow, snakes must secrete some strong stomach acid.
Hubs: It’s too bad cats couldn’t do that with hairballs instead of urping them up the way Kirby (our long-haired cat) does.
Me: This is some appetizing dinner conversation, huh?
Hubs is able to recall his dreams quite vividly, and recaps them for me most mornings — and they’re usually quite entertaining. One recent morning:
Hubs: Last night I had a stress dream.
Me: About what?
Hubs: I had a bunch of cardboard boxes in the garage to cut up before the trash pickup got here, and I wasn’t sure I’d get it done in time.
Me: If that’s what you consider stress, I think you’ve been retired too long.
It’s early one morning, and Hubs and I are about to have an amorous encounter. Suddenly, however, we hear a repetitive slapping noise coming from the adjacent bathroom.
Hubs: What the hell is that?
Me: It’s Kirby trying to cover up a turd that must’ve landed outside the litter box.
There’s a plastic mat outside the box to catch litter and occasional other droppings, and Kirby is scratching the edge in an attempt to bury a piece of poop he’s dropped, causing the mat to lift up then flap on the floor. So I get up, retrieve the errant turd with some toilet paper, and throw it in the toilet, washing my hands before returning to bed to resume what Hubs and I had begun. En route, however, I see Kirby hunched over and dragging his butt across the bedroom rug.
Me: Aw, crap.
Me: Kirby must have more poop stuck to his butt; he’s scooching across the rug.
I grab the cat and carry him back into the bathroom for inspection. Sure enough, there’s a piece of fecal matter that didn’t completely make its exit from his poop chute.
Me: Can you help me here?
Hubs: What do you want me to do?
Me: Can you hold him while I get the poop off him?
So there we are, in our birthday suits, taking care of the business end of a cat. Our mission successfully accomplished, we both wash our hands and return to bed. And with the single-minded focus that men seem particularly capable of exhibiting at times like this:
Hubs: So, where were we?
Which inspired this haiku:
You know you’re well-loved
when even rogue cat turds don’t
derail his desire.
— Roxanne Jones
Roxanne Jones blogs at boomerhaiku.com, a mostly lighthearted, often irreverent look at life as a baby boomer, 17 syllables at a time. When she’s not tapping out haikus, she’s a freelance medical copywriter, enjoys chardonnay and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.
If it weren’t for my wife, I would have starved to death long ago. Not only is Sue a great cook (her specialties include everything, which is exactly what I like), but she does all the food shopping. Only illness can prevent her from the swift completion of her appointed eye of rounds.
“Here,” Sue said between sneezes, handing me a shopping list. “You don’t have to get too much. Do you think you can handle it?”
“Of course,” I said confidently. “I’ll just put the cart before the horse’s aft.”
“If you come back with everything,” Sue said wearily, “it will be a miracle.”
When I arrived at the store, I met Ken Fehling and Richard Cunnius, who also were shopping for their wives.
“My wife doesn’t shop,” said Ken, who recently retired as a college director of residential operations. “So she sends me.”
“Do you go back home with everything on the list?” I asked.
“Always,” Ken said. “My wife thinks I do a good job.”
“I don’t think mine does,” said Richard, a retired electrical engineer. “When I get back home, she’ll say, ‘Did you get it on sale? Did you do this? Did you do that?’ Then she’ll discover that I forgot something. I guess I’m not a good shopper. But if my wife can’t go, she sends me.”
We stood in the produce section, getting in the way of other shoppers, all of them women who seemed annoyed that three geezers were blocking their way to the lettuce, and talked about wives, kids and grandchildren before I said, “I have to go to the deli counter to pick up some cold cuts. Nice meeting you guys.”
“You, too,” said Richard. “Good luck.”
“Check off every item on your list,” Ken suggested. “That way, you won’t forget anything.”
When I got to the deli counter, it was so crowded I couldn’t get to the machine to take a number.
“I’ll get it for you,” said Maddy Spierer, an artist who owns a design company. She handed me No. 57. The guy at the counter yelled out, “No. 45!”
“I guess we’ll have to wait,” I said.
“You looked lost,” Maddy noted.
“It’s my first time shopping alone,” I said.
“You’ll be OK,” Maddy assured me. Then she realized she had taken two tickets, Nos. 54 and 55, so she handed me the latter. “It’ll speed things up,” said Maddy, a mother, a grandmother and a veteran food shopper. When her number was called, she said to me, “You’re next!”
“I’m not going to get bologna because I’m already full of it,” I told Maddy. But I did pay it forward by giving my No. 57 to a woman named Tanya, who had No. 62. When I told her my wife had sent me shopping, Tanya smiled and said, “Smart woman.”
A few minutes later, in the canned food aisle, I saw a tall gentleman with a black suit and a clerical collar.
“Are you a priest?” I asked.
“I’m a Methodist minister,” the Rev. Amos Sherald responded with a warm smile.
“You’re just the man I’m looking for,” I told him. “This is my first time food shopping by myself. My wife said that if I came back with everything on the list, it would be a miracle.”
“Did you remember to bring the list?” Rev. Sherald asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“It’s a miracle!” he said.
And, lo, I felt the hand of God guiding me through the rest of the store, making sure I did, indeed, get everything Sue wanted me to buy.
When I arrived home, I told her about my supermarket adventure and especially about my encounter with Rev. Sherald.
Doubting Sue would not believe until she had checked the bags. “He was right!” she exclaimed. Then she added, “How would you like to go food shopping for me next week?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “After all, miracles don’t happen every day.”
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
(Editor’s Note: Angie Klink’s essay about the National Women’s History Project originally ran on Ms. Magazine’s blog on Dec. 27, 2016.)
Molly Murphy MacGregor was a 26-year-old high school history teacher in 1972 when a male student asked her a question that would change the course of her life: “What is the women’s movement?”
MacGregor didn’t know the answer.
“As a young teacher, I couldn’t let the student know that I didn’t know the answer,” MacGregor said. “So I said, ‘What a good question. Let’s discuss it.’” After school that pivotal day, she consulted her college history textbooks for an answer. “Only one chapter in one book contained information about the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848,” she said. “I had read it before — I received straight A’s in history — and yet somehow I had not remembered it. I had not even realized how much I owed those women. For me, that was the beginning.”
It was the beginning of MacGregor’s realization that women’s narratives had been left out of history books, classrooms and the media. Women were invisible because their stories had not been told. It was oppression by omission. “What I didn’t know that day was that that moment of realization would set the course for my life’s work,” she told Ms. “I asked new questions in all my classes. As we studied American history, I’d ask, “Did these events impact men and women differently? Did they impact cultural groups differently?’”
MacGregor’s “conversion moment,” spurred by one student’s question, was ultimately what sparked her co-founding of what are today two national icons: The National Women’s History Project (NWHP), a nonprofit educational resource and clearinghouse for multicultural women’s history, and National Women’s History Month held annually in March. Her journey began when she returned to college at Sonoma State in the mid-seventies.
“It was magic after that,” MacGregor said. “I became very involved in Women’s Studies and a women’s history slide show. We traveled all over, and each time we showed the presentation, we could see that people knew nothing about women’s history.”
MacGregor also taught classes at a community college where her students conducted a research project counting how many books about women were available in their local elementary school libraries. There were only three to seven biographies about women in each library. “The real problem was that the books had not been checked out in five to 15 years,” said MacGregor. “As a teacher, I knew why that hadn’t been checked out — it was because the books had not been assigned.”
MacGregor spearheaded the idea of a Women’s History Week for county schools as a volunteer on the Sonoma County, California Commission on the Status of Women. Curriculum guides were created and a celebratory parade was organized. “We provided resources, and the teachers could really teach it,” MacGregor said. “It was a way to introduce teachers to information they didn’t have.”
The first ever Women’s History Week held in California in 1978 included March 8, International Women’s Day. Organizers focused on women as professionals. “We wanted girls to take math and science,” MacGregor said. “They didn’t understand how much they needed math and science to be admitted to a university.” Professional women were recruited to visit schools. Teachers set the scene saying, for example, “Tomorrow we’re going to have a visit from a dentist.” The next day, a woman would enter the classroom, and the students would be taken aback — the dentist was not a man.
The week was a success, and MacGregor was subsequently hired as projects director for the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women. In 1979, with the impetus to promote a National Women’s History Week, MacGregor attended an invitation-only, 19-day Women’s History Institute for Women Leaders held at Sara Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Dr. Gerda Lerner was chair of the institute. Lerner is credited as the single most influential figure in the development of women’s and gender history since the 1960s.
“When I received the invitation, I was speechless, overwhelmed and completely intimidated,” MacGregor said. Conference attendees included acclaimed women who were presidents of national organizations such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, National Organization for Women (NOW) and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
“I was one of the youngest people there, and I was not an academic,” MacGregor said. Again, MacGregor’s mission to promote women’s history took a giant leap forward. She presented her idea of a National Women’s History Week, and the Women’s Institute passed a resolution calling for its establishment. The participants immediately began using their organizational skills and political connections. Women around the country petitioned their governors to declare the week of March 8 as Women’s History Week. Barbara Omalade wrote an article about the Institute for Ms. Magazine and included MacGregor as a contact for materials to promote the week. The grassroots movement spread. MacGregor received hundreds of requests. Then she received a call from the White House.
MacGregor remembered answering the phone: “A woman said, ‘I’m Sarah Weddington, the special assistant to President Carter. He wanted me to call you and let you know that he’s going to issue a special message to the American people about Women’s History Week.’”
She was astounded.
President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation calling on the American people to pause and remember the tremendous contributions of American women and declared March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. The next year, Sen. Orrin Hatch and then-Rep. Barbara Mikulski co-sponsored a congressional resolution proclaiming Women’s History Week.
Also in 1980, MacGregor and four others formed the nonprofit National Women’s History Project in Santa Rosa, California, offering resources and knowledge to lift the stories of women’s contributions out of the shadows. Today, the NWHP is known nationally as the only clearinghouse to provide information and training in multicultural women’s history for educators, organizations, parents and others.
In 1987, the NWHP successfully lobbied Congress to declare the entire month of March as National Women’s History Month. National Women’s History Month celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2017, and the NWHP has planned their theme — “Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.”
“Every year we select a theme, and then we accept nominations of women whose lives exemplify that theme,” MacGregor said. “We offer educational and celebratory items, such as our Women’s History Gazette, and a press packet to make it easy for organizations and communities around the country to celebrate the theme.”
Lilly Ledbetter, equal pay activist, and Barbara Hackman Franklin, former Secretary of Commerce, are among this year’s 13 honorees. Open to all, an honoree luncheon will be held in Washington D.C. on March 25 with tickets available on the NWHP website.
After Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential campaign, the NWHP created one of their most ambitious publications to date — First Woman — a 48-page commemorative volume that pays tribute to Clinton and to the many women who were “first” to hold elected positions in the United States. “We published First Woman to highlight the extraordinary journey for women to participate in our government, from winning the right to vote to being an elected official,” said MacGregor. “First Woman lays out the challenges women face, yet, highlights how we’re moving forward through the next generation of women who have new skill sets and connect through social media.”
From the day 45 years ago when she searched her college history books to find information about the women’s movement, to 2016 when she led the NWHP to publish First Woman, MacGregor, 70, continues her quest to render women’s contributions visible.
“Women’s history transformed me,” said MacGregor. “It gave me a sense of confidence and made me feel connected to everyone. I believe it can transform others. If women know how strong, brave and bold other women have been, they can feel that way, too. And if men know how strong, brave and bold women have been, they will feel more respect for women.”
— Angie Klink
Angie Klink is a board member of the National Women’s History Project (NWHP). She is the author of eight books spanning history and biography. Klink holds a B.A. from the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University.
If you can’t decipher kids’ scrawl, here it is spellchecked, for your reading pleasure:
Dear Tooth Fairy,
Please come get my tooth. I have been waiting for 4 days.
First of all, speaking on behalf of beleaguered Tooth Fairies everywhere, I didn’t even know she had lost a tooth at first. It apparently happened the night I had a concert, so go ahead and throw a big heap of Workin’ Mama Guilt on top of this Shame Sandwich. Our partially toothless daughter had been suffering in silence, waiting patiently for three nights before she even let us know she had a tooth under her pillow!
When she finally told us about it, I was horrified and said many nasty things about our Tooth Fairy that I now regret: how’s she unreliable; takes to drinking under stress and blacking out for days and nights on end; how after she’s been to the house to collect teeth, I notice little things, like jewelry and loose change, have gone missing. Maybe, in retrospect, I laid it on a little too thick, but I wanted her to understand who we’re dealing with here.
And I love how she gave the Tooth Fairy her GPS coordinates, writing “Top Bunck”; like Fairy can fly all the way here, but once in the room, maybe she got confused which pillow the tooth was under? Since there are three of them in that room (next to an empty bedroom repurposed to hold all their dressers so they can sleep together like a litter of puppies), that does present a challenge for the Tooth Fairy.
I wrote back to her:
Sorry, Sophie. My wings were tired!
Nice, right? Here’s what I really wanted to write back:
Congrats on losing another tooth. You’re losing them like acorns from a tree in autumn, you know that? And it always seems to happen when your Mom has a concert, or you’re traveling, or one of your siblings has the stomach flu, I swear. Makes my job WAY harder. I mean, it’s not like I always have cute little tchotchkes on hand — sometimes, my Treasure Drawer is empty, you know?
And these Blackhawks! Do you know how many teeth these guys lose during the playoffs? I am beat half to death flying all over the place, taking care of them.
I’m just saying, it’d be great if I could have a little help from your parents once in a while.
Remember when you lost two teeth over spring break while you guys were on that remote Island? I overheard your Mom and Dad laughing about putting Coronas (with limes, but still!) under your pillow ’cause that’s all they had. Girl, I stopped that train wreck from happening by stealing five bucks from your Dad’s wallet — twice! Weren’t you wondering why you got so much money that week compared to when you’re at home? I was workin’ overtime on that vacation, so excuse me if I’ve been a little off my game lately.
So anyway, thanks for the reminder note, but at the same time, lay off with the shade you’re throwing. I’m doing my best here.
See you soon, I’m sure of it.
— Lynn LaPlante Allaway
Lynn LaPlante Allaway writes a blog, Backwards and In High Heels, and is finishing up work on her first novel, set in a symphony orchestra. She is an active jazz and classical musician, playing violin and viola with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and the Chicago Philharmonic. She lives with her jock husband, their four young kids, incontinent cat and hyper puppy in Chicago. You can find her at www.LynnAllaway.com and @LynnAllaway.
Not “She needs medication” kinds of voices. Other voices. They’re not always pleasant, but I hear them loud and clear:
Essays don’t sell.
Mom-humor is overdone.
You need more followers.
The voices come from the publishing industry, and were the most common responses I received while pitching my book I Love You. Now Go Away: Confessions of a Woman with a Smartphone, a memoir in serial essays written on my phone. I’d spent a couple of years hunched over a four-inch screen, furiously tapping out tens of thousands of words on a wee-tiny keypad, only to be continually turned away by publishing executives — those who bothered to respond — with the no essays/followers/mom-humor assertions.
Such comments perplexed me. I mean, I could understand being dismissed based on a lack of followers — I am admittedly Twitter-averse. But “mom humor is overdone”? What about the hundreds of successful mom blogs and record-breaking EBWW sell-outs? Essays don’t sell? What about David Sedaris and Dave Barry?
What about Erma?
Still, after a year of querying, the rejections wore me down. When my phone contract ran out, I switched handsets, stuffed the one with my book file in a drawer, and tried to forget about it.
But that didn’t go so well. You see, I began to hear other voices, those of successful authors, the “Ermies” I call them, most of whom I’d met at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.
I heard Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, saying that fear is the thing that stops us.
I heard Kathy Kinney telling us to work — don’t wait — and create our own opportunities.
I definitely heard Wanda Argersinger, every other day when she emailed me to ask, “Exactly where the hell is your book?”
There were many more — Tracy Beckerman, Jerry Zezima, Robin O’Bryant, to name a few — and though the words came from dozens of different EBWW writers, they all said basically the same thing: 1) Keep trying 2) Don’t be afraid, and 3) Get off your a** and publish that book.
I’ll tell you — the Ermies were loud. I couldn’t shut them up. Especially Wanda.
So a few months ago, I gave in. I pulled the old smartphone out of the drawer, transferred the files to my new phone, and spent the latter part of 2016 editing, polishing and publishing I Love You. Now Go Away. I hired a copy editor and a cover designer so I could choose my own cover.
As you can imagine, all of this was expensive, a bit frustrating, and extremely time-consuming. It was also totally worth it. Dreams don’t belong in a drawer.
I published my book on Dec. 29, and it’s doing just fine. It will never be a New York Times’ bestseller. But you know what? That’s OK. I get comments, emails and even some “Thanks!” for it every day, because it’s making people laugh, which was my goal — my only real goal — in the first place.
Sometimes, I still hear the big-shot publishing authorities in my head.
Luckily, I don’t listen much to authority. Ask my high school principal.
I also don’t always listen to my head. Ask anyone.
But I listened to the Ermies. I listened to my heart.
And I got off my butt and published that book.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” — Erma Bombeck
— Dawn Weber
Dawn Weber is a national award-winning humor columnist, Huffington Post contributor and author whose work has been published in six books, including her new book, I Love You. Now Go Away: Confessions of a Woman with a Smartphone. She blogs at lightenupweber.blogspot.com, and her Lighten Up! column was a favorite in the Buckeye Lake Beacon, where she’s been called the local love child of Dave Barry and Nora Ephron. Dawn resides in Brownsville, Ohio (motto: Indoor Plumbing Optional) with her husband, kids and freakishly enthusiastic dog, Suzie the Meth Lab. Her goals include thinner thighs, a nap, maybe a solo trip to Target.