In terms of writing, things are moving along nicely.
My book, SUKI, has been out for a while, and as it gains momentum, it’s really touching people. But in my life, nothing is that easy. My newest problem is that someone wants to interview me about it. Live.
In reality, I am a very shy, private person. The thought of saying things without a bleep button or a ten second delay terrifies me. The pressure to perform or entertain sends my brain and my body into catastrophic spasms.
Let me give you some examples:
My family and I were on vacation at a modern Dirty Dancing type of establishment.
Besides tubing and hay riding, there were scavenger hunts and games that we could participate in. We all decided on Family Feud and they all decided that I should be captain.
Full disclosure: I told them no. I told them it was not a good idea. I told them that my sweater should not be a darker color under my arms than anywhere else. But they insisted that I do it.
I stepped up to the buzzer – a small bell found in hotels and only the most popular brothels – and the MC asked the question. We were the first “contestants” up, so he lobbed us an easy one.
The quickest person to hit the buzzer would control the beginning of the game. That part I had. I was so anxious that my adrenaline was revved up to a hundred trillion amps or ounces or however you measure that type of thing. I would’ve beaten the speed of light into the next galaxy.
But then came Part 2. Answer the question. And that’s when it all fell apart.
1. The MC sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents on every holiday special.
2. Despite that, I knew when to move my hand and got to the buzzer first…hitting it so hard that it broke in two.
3. The MC, my opponent, and my team, turned their heads in slow motion as they watched the pieces of the mangled bell fall to the floor. I had bought myself some time until I felt them all looking at me expectantly, waiting for my answer. My eyes were squeezed tightly shut, and my mind was blank. I looked like a two year old squatted in the corner, my face red. Every parent within a few feet and owning a working nose should have backed away…or run.
4. As the MC uttered an ominous, “three seconds” warning, my mind was still on hiatus, but my mouth, the real competitor here, blurted out my answer – The dentist.
The question was: Name a dangerous occupation.
In my defense, this all happened at a time when AIDS was a real fear and not much was known about it except that it could be transmitted via bodily fluids. Like spit. In someone’s mouth and around the teeth.
The officials weren’t buying my reasoning, and so my career as Family Feud Captain came to abrupt and merciful end.
When I was five, I rode home on the school bus, but didn’t get off at my stop.
Soon it was just myself and the bus driver. She pulled over and had me come up front next to her:
Bus Driver: “Do you know where you live?”
Me (shaking and speaking in a Minnie Mouse whisper): “Well, my mom shops at that supermarket over there. (I pointed across the highway at a brick building) She takes a really long time and then we go to the other store that way.” (I pointed toward an open field)
Bus Driver: “But do you know where your house is?”
Me: “Yes, it’s right there.”
I pointed to a home fifty feet from where we were stopped. My mother was out front, unloading groceries from three different stores. She was completely unaware that I wasn’t there and waiting for her on the cold back steps like I did every afternoon.
I had successfully shown the bus driver some of the places that we frequented in the town that I lived, but had not answered the question that she was really asking.
My track record has never been too good, but my shining moment was in fourth grade, when a volunteer from our local fire department came to speak about his job.
After he was done talking, he asked if we had any questions for him. Every hand in the class shot up…except for mine. I looked around and my face began to burn, as it always does when I feel stupid. So I did the unthinkable and raised my hand without actually having a question to ask. Then I did the worst thing I could’ve done and made eye contact with the fireman. I had forgotten that doing that guaranteed the worst possible outcome ever, and it’s still true today.
Fireman: “Young lady in the glasses. Do you have a question, or do you need to use the bathroom?”
Me (leaving my hand raised, although the sweat pouring down my face was pushing my glasses dangerously close to the end of my nose): “Um, I have a question.”
Everyone leaned in because they must’ve had a hard time hearing my voice over my pounding heart.
Me: “Did you ever die in one of the more dangerous fires?”
Anyone who knows my family would think that when it comes to interviews or questions about any subject, I’d be the coolest personality out there.
Most of my conversations with the relatives are interviews… aka interrogations:
Uncle John: “You did pretty well in high school and college, right?”
Me: “Yep.” (I thought that by saying very little, there’d be no ammunition with which to attack)
Uncle John: “And it’s really amazing how fast you got promoted at work. You must be good at what you do, right?”
My brother (they always come at me in packs): “Yeah. How long did it take you to go from bookseller to assistant manager of that bookstore?”
Me: “Two months.”
Uncle John: “And then you were a manager of your own store how long after that?”
Me : “Six months.”
My brother: “Then tell us this, you could have been CEO of any company you wanted to work for. Why did you choose this life instead?”
Uncle John nods.
The life they are referring to is that of a single mom of three with a job that I do out of my home instead of a traditional office. I can see why they feel that way though. I really dropped the ball when I chose to continue on as parent to my children, despite the fact that I would have to do it by myself. And making my own hours with the flexibility to go on class trips, etc. is not only undesirable, but plain irresponsible. Clearly.
My mother is the interrogator of the mundane and unnecessary.
She’ll ask me questions like:
“The dog had to be put to sleep. How does that make you feel?”
“You’re working? Who’s with you?”
“You guys are having hamburgers for dinner? Do you put onions in them?”
“So you’re pregnant? Where did that happen?”
She can go on for hours asking about nothing, all the while listening intently, because somehow, giving her my super-secret hamburger recipe might reveal all of the things she accuses me of keeping from her. Like the times and locations of my daughter’s soccer games – because the schedule I forwarded to her two weeks before the season started must’ve been written in Sanskrit.
She gets so caught up in nonsense details that she misses out on the juicy stuff.
Like when I was in high school. I’d go on a date and even though she knew what movie I was going to see, she’d ask, “What movie did you see?” instead of “Why are the buttons on your sweater fastened all wrong? Oh, probably because it’s also inside out.” or ” Why have you been grinning and staring at me for the last fifteen seconds instead of speaking, and why do you smell like burnt oregano?”
After a lifetime of invasive, insulting, and inane questioning, an interview should be a no-brainer, but if it sounds something like:
Interviewer: “Have you ever hated something you wrote?”
Me: “Does drunk texting count?”
Don’t say I didn’t warn you