You know those celebrity interviews in fun magazines like “People” and “In Style,” where they interview celebrities at a little trendy bistro or in their own home, and describe them as if they are perhaps demi-gods, elegantly existing as half human (“she’s simply clad in jeans and a t-shirt”) and half divine (“yet she wears them with the lithe perfection of a professionally trained ballerina”)? Well, I thought I’d interview myself in that manner. So, here goes…
When Debbie answers the door, I’m stunned: who knew she’d even answer her own door, like some mere mortal? She apologizes for her appearance (“Yeah, that’s a round brush stuck in my head; blow-dryings a bitch!”), which further cements my impression that she might be insane: who pretends to answer the door for themselves in the afternoon? And why does it take her until 2 p.m. to take a shower?
“I’ve been painting our bedroom,” Debbie explains, as if she has to justify herself to herself. “Liberty Park, which is just a fancy name for a shade of green that your 7 year old thinks is kind of blah.” Debbie settles onto her couch, her middle-aged, I’ve-started-wearing-skinny-jeans-again legs kicking some errant stuffed orcas to the side. “We’ve recently returned from a vacation to SeaWorld, hence the orcas. I know, I know–most people call them killer whales, but they’re actually in the dolphin family.”
I look down at my notes to see where I should begin the interview, and I decide to go for the jugular, least we discuss sea creatures for the next hour.
“You turned 40 last year. How has this milestone been treating you?”
Debbie eyes me suspiciously. “Have I offered you anything to eat? Drink? Maybe you’d like coffee…or a Bloody Mary? Seriously, I had friends warn me about middle age spread, and while I hoped I’d suddenly think kale smoothies taste fabulous, I’d still prefer to freebase birthday cake. More seriously, I’ve been thinking of this as a transition year: my children have headed off to school during the day, and while snow days, doctors appointments, and some sense that I should volunteer for everything or let no errand go undone can still can eat up time, I definitely have some flexibility to pursue that whole “what’s next?” concept. On one hand, that’s great–now might be the perfect time to figure out why the career guidance aptitude test I took in the seventh grade indicated I should be a drama teacher–on the other hand, WTF, a drama teacher? Even in the seventh grade, I knew there was only, like, one spot for a drama teacher per state. Plus I’d never been in a play or taken a drama class in my life.”
“Have you been pursuing, err, stuff like drama?”
“Well, certainly not directly, because that would require my high-jacking my kids’ 529s so that I could do something mid-life-crises-y, and I don’t think I’m at a point in my life where I can do something quite so eat-pray-love-ish. But I have done a few improv classes, which are really fun and come in useful when you’re attempting to run a classroom game as room-mom and it’s all going down in flames. Pinterest is evil like that. I also made an attempt to stretch both my personal/professional network a few times by showing up at workshops or Chamber of Commerce meetings, but marketing one’s own self is the worst. I want my body of work as a writer to get deeper and broader–and actually paid for and published, pretty please!–but no one is just handing out assignments. I love doing the personal “mommy” essays, and my family will always remain important to me, but that can only go so far. Knowing other people who love the craft of writing and also recognize the challenges is great, but if you run into people who are way ahead of you in the game–well, combine that with the sometimes discouraging voice in your head, and that’s a recipe for wanting to pound them cupcakes.”
“What do you do when you get in those funks?”
“I line up back-to-back vacations, so I can ensure that I’m always busy catching up on laundry, packing, and unpacking. Also, I paint bedrooms.”
“Do you eat cupcakes?”
“Well, our recent Disney vacation included dessert after every meal, and even my kids were begging for vegetables by the end of it, so I swore I’d start working out and eating vegetables everyday when I got home. That lasted about two days, and then I saw Pepperidge Farm cookies on sale at Kroger.”
“Did you just leave to check the spelling of ‘Pepperidge”, or to go eat a cookie?”
“Put a sock in it. Hey, speaking of socks, I don’t hear the dryer. Must be done. That means it’s time for me to fold laundry.”
“Nice. I bet you’re doing to download something on Netflix while you’re folding.”
“Ditto, my friend. Ditto.”