I’d checked her blog here and there, mostly there. And I’d read enough to know she hated me, or at the very least my writing. WTF is up with hating someone you’ve never even met? You think I’d be used to it. Yet knowing she hated me made me kinda hate her back. Granted, I’ve never in my life ever written one negative thing about her, anywhere. Though I’ve thought it. I’ve thought, I hope no one shows up to her book signing. I hope she fails miserably. Because who the hell is she to hate me the way she does? I mean seriously?
Yes, I’m 32, not 12.
Somewhere, deep down, I knew I had to do something about it. Not about her hating me, about my beginning to hate her back. I don’t like myself that way–it’s too reminiscent of the jealousy and hate I reserved for a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, one I’d never met but in a sick destructive way kept thinking about. I knew the best thing I could do for myself was just confront it. In person. Emails are a nightmare, a tangle of awkward and trying-too-hard.
I hoped in person I’d realize that we’re not all that different.Or gosh, maybe we really would be. Then what? Bitch throw down! Either way, I was determined to fight my own insecurities and do what I believed was right: to support a talented female author. So, I got in the car with my family and showed up to her reading.
Just being there made me like her. On a certain level, I think seeing someone in person strips a lot of the bullshit away. I bet it’s why therapists don’t want to only treat you via telephone, ahem. There’s a lot to be said for hearing a voice, for seeing a person’s reaction to the world around them. And in most instances it’s disarming. And you realize you’re dealing with a person, not a name, or an idea.
She reminds me of my sister Lea. She’s got a big mouth, and does but doesn’t care what people think. The punchline to many a joke ends with a variety of grape or a barrel-aged cheese. With me, the lines end with a toss up to masturbation or butter. But either way, on the line, if we cut to it, I saw a beautiful woman who knows how to work a room, a woman who has said the same thing before a crowd as she’s said before a camera, and as she says it, she’s thinking, “Wait, I’ve already said this. People know this. How can I say it differently this time?” I know she’s thinking this because I’m the same way.
We come off brave, heartless sometimes, but at the core, all any of us want is to be liked. We’re also big enough to realize not everyone is here to like us. And you know what? That’s okay, too. But for me, in this one case, it just wasn’t. It wasn’t okay for her to hate me, not until she actually met me. If she hates me based on me, I can live with that. But hating the idea of me, hating me because a die-hard reader of mine went psycho on her, has nothing at all to do with me. And I knew she’d know this. Even more than this, though, my hating her back wasn’t okay with me. I don’t like the idea of jealousy; it makes me squirm. I want to be happy for the people around me and believe they genuinely deserve the successes afforded them. But I couldn’t do it from a distance.
Jen Lancaster’s book Such A Pretty Fat just hit the New York Times bestseller list, which is an amazing accomplishment. It means your readers love what you do, your publisher supports you, works for you, pays the money to keep your book at the front of the store, and means you are someone to watch. And I couldn’t be more sincere in saying, I’m thrilled for her.
People might think I’m crazy for posting this, but you know what? I believe in supporting talented women. I believe in facing your fears. I believe in doing things that maybe make you want to pound down a few glasses of vino before you do them. Life is about risk, and anything worth doing involves being scared at the beginning.
So when she asked if anyone had any questions, I raised my hand and eventually came to ask her what I asked David Sedaris and Ruth Reichel: is there anything you’ve ever published that you regret? To which she responded: Yes. I wrote a mean review, and I really shouldn’t have. And I’m sorry.
I wasn’t asking because of what she’d once written about me. I was asking because it’s my go-to question, and I think the answers are always interesting. But there it was. The hugging came later. Incidentally, we’ll be on a panel together at the Chicago Tribune’s Printer’s Row event in June. I hope to get her drunk.
I genuinely hope Miss Jen(n)* Lancaster appreciates how blessed she is, that she revels in the moment and doesn’t for a second worry about the sales of her next book. Because we writers have a tendency to go there, to that intersection of panic and crazed, and it’s always nice to hear from someone other than your mother or mocking therapist that it’s okay to enjoy the moment. It doesn’t have to take yoga to make you present; it takes a new admirer, a new friend, to reassure you that people will not forget you.
*Isn’t the second "n" completely superfluous?**
**I heard Jen say this tonight at her Round Rock reading to a woman named Jenn.