Hairless Barbies and Other Mistakes

Sometimes, when I get excited, I am a bit like the bull in the china shop.  Or like a Labrador puppy in basically any environment where it’s not sleeping.  I definitely have a leap first, look second thing going.

This would be okay, except: I get excited a lot.

A Partial List of Examples: coating my entire naked body with mud so I could pretend I was in an ad for a beauty salon (childhood); playing with my sister’s Barbies by chopping off their hair (childhood); cutting my own hair to match (high school); inviting someone I had only just met to be a bridesmaid in my actual wedding (college); deciding to repaint the entire living room at 7:00 at night (recently).

I am learning a similar lesson now, in the context of being a writer.  It’s because I am really excited, see?  And so I can’t control myself!  I just have to add exclamation points at the end of every sentence and thought and action!  Or maybe even three!!!

Last week, in my thoughtless euphoria, I managed to hurt three people in one short essay – all inadvertently.

In “Plus It’s a Lie”, I refer to the fact that my husband played tennis to make his dad happy.  Once it went online last week, I excitedly emailed my mother-in-law, knowing that she would be happy with me.  A few hours later, I got a sick feeling in my gut, and raced downstairs, to where my husband was putting away laundry.  I hated to interrupt him, because it seemed a shame to spoil the moment, but I had to know:

“You’ve talked with your parents about playing tennis in high school, right?  About how you didn’t actually like it?”

“No,” he said.

“Shit,” I didn’t say, because I don’t swear (except sometimes when it makes my writing sound better).  “Cuz they are about to find out.  Online.”

Online is no place to learn this kind of information.

I know that, with Facebook and its offspring, people are growing more and more comfortable airing, not their own dirty laundry, but others’.  I know of a woman who had to unfriend her own daughter because they got into a mean, cat-fighting, political debate on Facebook.

So, I called my mother-in-law right away.  And she unfriended me on Facebook!

Just kidding!  She forgave me, of course, but this was an awkward, contrite conversation that I would rather not repeat.

So, of course I repeated it again a few days later.

Because, in the same dumb essay, I also quoted a friend saying something I didn’t like, and she (and you will ask yourself: how did you not see this coming? to which I reply: Who asked you?) recognized herself.

Of course she was gracious.  But I was exhausted.  I was 0:2.  Two awkward, contrite apologies in two days.  Blech.

I am really sorry that I had to learn this at the expense of other people, but am thankful for the lesson itself.  It’s new to think of myself as a writer, and to view the world that way; I used to always wonder, How can I use this in the classroom?  Now I think, That would be great in an essay!

Though I will continue to mine the world around me for things that I can write about, I believe that relationships always, always come first.  Always.  And this means that, when I write about people, I need to get their blessing first.  That means, I emailed my mother-in-law and friend about this post before I published it.

That will require a sort of careful editing, a more transparent living, than I am used to.  I think that, rather than weakening my writing, it will make it more subtle.  That’s good.

Even better will be not having to pick up the pieces afterward, because I won’t have broken anything.


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