Last night, Bill and I had a date. Our dates basically consist of us sitting in front of our computers and talking like we usually do, except we call it a date. We’ve gotten dressed up and made dinner “together”. We’ve played games online (that time I learned that I have been playing checkers incorrectly for the last twenty years). Usually what differentiates the date nights from the daily videochats is that we have drinks. We chose to drink champagne last night. Of course since we didn’t share a bottle, we ended up each drinking our own. Healthy choices!
I woke up groggy and forced myself to go into the office. Two or three readers were supposed to be there to start reading, but none of them decided to show up. Great work ethic! Anyway, I spent an hour opening a pile of mail, and realized a few things. First, poetry gets way more submissions than fiction does. Second, cover letters all look the same, and they’re pretty boring to read. In the last two years I’ve worked as a fiction editor, the only memorable cover letter was one that included a short bio. Under her credentials, she included writing post-it notes which she frequently lost, taming two puppies, and owning unimportant five-year old copies of the New York Times. I can’t remember if we ended up publishing her work or not, but I wanted to just publish the cover letter out of pure glee. It was more impressive than writers who print cover letters on Harvard stationary but seem to have no connection with the university other than having stolen a few sheets of paper. The final thing is that I just like seeing my name followed by the term “fiction editor”. Makes me feel important, though in the large scheme of things, I’m really not.
Anyway, from what I understand, Bill didn’t wake up till after three. By that time, I had taken a nap.
I decided to tell him about an essay I started writing last week, which is something I probably wouldn’t have done had I not had three flutes of champagne, especially since the essay was about him. What I hoped to illustrate with the essay was how drastically intimate our relationship had become – how after a year of being together, we no longer lived under the impression that either of us was a heavenly being without flaws. Time had sharpened the soft focus of a new relationship – our bodies sometimes produce surprising blemishes, and instead of passing them over in that blissful haze, we acknowledge them. It was an essay of early domesticated love. He said it sounded like a genius concept, and I couldn’t help but agree since it was my own idea.
The problem was that it focused on his blemish, not my own. I realized it was a way of distancing myself from the work. I don’t think that I made him look like a fool – and that obviously wasn’t the point. But as far as the essay went, we were the only two characters, and I certainly didn’t present myself as the joker of the two. What frustrates me is that I have an episode that would illustrate my point just as well, if not better, in which I am the one with the blemish that Bill tolerates. We had a discussion about my responsibility as a writer – I didn’t want to victimize or betray those to who I am closest. I realized I’m will to be self-deprecating in my head, but rarely on record. If I’m not willing to make myself look the fool, I certainly have no business doing it to the people I love.
I realized this after coming across David Sedaris’s essay “Old Faithful“. The betrayal business was something I was pondering since I heard “Repeat After Me” on the Carnegie Hall recording. [“Repeat After Me” is a stunning essay that will never leave my head, and if you haven’t heard it, you must. You can also read it on the transcript of the episode. I don’t care how you do it, just experience it.] This frustrated me for two reasons. First, Sedaris had already written an essay conveying the exact same topic I had hoped to illustrate. Second, Sedaris had been the one to reiterate the fact that I owe it to myself, my readers, and to Bill to put the focus on myself before I put it on anyone else. Not only is that just a more kind concept, but it’s more honest and will just make an all-around better essay.
Bill suggested I write to David Sedaris. Of course, I protested. He gave me several reasons why I should, and now I’m actually considering the idea. There’s really nothing to lose. I’m sure the most I’ll get back is a generic response letter, but it certainly can’t hurt anything. Maybe I’ll get some fantastic response with advice I’ll never forget. Or maybe he’ll write an essay about me and share the profits with me so I can buy a car that isn’t on its last leg. The possibilities are endless!
In other news, I organized my desk and now have my three books to read sitting next to my computer in hopes they will beckon me with responsibility and anti-stupid when I’m wasting time on facebook.