Thursday, July 16, 2009


There are two remarkable things about me. First, I am mistaken for someone else more than anyone I know. At least once a week, someone will say to me, Aren't you Phil's sister? or Don't you work at BevMo? or Didn't I just see you in the ER last week?

In all cases, I am mistaken for someone the person only knows marginally anyway. And always the exchange is both oddly flattering and mildly irritating. Because I was raised to have good manners, I try to alleviate the conversationalist's embarrassment with a good-natured apology for not being Phil's sister and I play off the error with something witty and clever like, That's okay, I get that a lot.

Sometimes, the mistaken identity conversation can be extended well beyond anyone's comfort level when a new person is invited to validate Person One's mistake. Are you sure? they query, then pull over their spouse to study my straight, freckled nose, doughy figure and limp, mousy hair for a moment. The companion's job is to mask her annoyance and look gamely perplexed as she tries to register who Phil is. Doesn't she look like Phil's sister? You know Bucky's friend who used to rotate our tires...his sister lived in that basement apartment...?

Together, the two grope for some connection to the person I am not, while I politely feign interest in someone I don't know and who, frankly, sounds pretty unremarkable in her own way. I continue to make every attempt to soothe their potential embarrassment and try to play it off until finally someone thinks enough to grasp for a meaningless connection to me.

Person Two will point to my feet, perhaps, and say a little too shrilly, I used to have sandals exactly like those! And with nothing further to say, the conversation has fully run its course and we can all splinter off in separate directions to seek out the host's famous salsa/the restroom/someone interesting to talk to.

The second remarkable thing about me is that despite my utterly unremarkable, plain Jane exterior and my ability to meet the same person on eight different occasions and experience them saying nice to meet you each and every time, I have somehow amassed the most interesting friends. I'm here to attest that it is possible to be a dull, suburban mom and still cobble together a life colored mostly by talented, funny and intelligent folks who don't mind you hanging around -- if only to offer stain removal advice when something gets bloodied.

I attribute this to my fear of too much attention coupled with my true appreciation for people who have the guts to do things that I'd never dream of doing in real life -- setting themselves on fire, say, or becoming a pediatrician who specializes in treating street kids. I suppose my relationships with fascinating, accomplished people could be due to my dishtowel persona -- inert yet useful. (Also occasionally amusing like maybe a dishtowel embellished with blue, apron-clad ducks!)

You might ask why someone so benign and spotlight-averse would bother blogging. The truth is, I'm not sure. But after browsing the Internet, it seems no reason is necessary. I only know that after "writing a book" for ten years that amounts to about 900 double-spaced pages of crap, and bitching about not writing for another four years, I know that I prefer writing to not writing. (Luckily for me, writing and bitching can be done concurrently!) Plus, I realize (again, still) that I'll never actually be a writer if I don't write. And that even if 99.976 percent of what I do write is trash, it still may be a more worthwhile activity than spreading ugly rumors about my neighbors or shopping for the perfect frozen pizza.

There are always excuses for not doing something. And I am expert at finding them. But as my husband (who is quite remarkable) says, you gotta do something! You can't let fear of being mediocre or embarrassed or boring stop you. The only way to become a better writer is to actually write.

When my son comes home from school and I ask what was the best part of his day, the answer is always the same: recess. The boy spends most of his day at school, doing what he's supposed to do. For the most part he is a quiet, well-mannered student in class (another story at home) with the guiding principle: "just don't get in trouble." But at recess he is free to be with his friends, to scale mountains, slay dragons, face insurmountable physical challenges presented by his co-seven-year-old cronies. Twelve hours a day he is following someone else's agenda. But he gets to be fully, unapologetically himself each morning during the best part of the day: 10-minute recess.

There will always be laundry to fold, emails to return, excuses to make. But I've decided it is time to allot myself a weekly -- if not daily -- 10-minute recess. I am anticipating the bell and allowing (forcing) myself to peck out something each day -- even if it is sappy, crappy, maudlin, crude. Even if it is unremarkable.

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