When Cheerleader came out in 2004, it was the first book I had done in awhile and I was thrilled (hey, I'm always thrilled), when the media started to pay attention. I got a phone call, while on vacation, that someone wanted to do an interview—was I available the next day. It was for a site that others picked up leads from and seemed like a big deal. We were down at the Jersey Shore but were planning to spend the next day in Atlantic City. I had a meeting with the folks at Miss America about Beauty Queen (the wonderful book I did about the history of pageants at the precipice of their plunge from popularity). I spent 45 minutes in a parking lot answering questions as honestly and openly as I could.
When the short blurb was published the next day, it was reduced to me slamming cheerleaders, cheerleading, current participants, high schools, colleges, anyone and everyone who'd ever donned a uniform or picked up a pom pon (yes, that's spelled correctly—check out the book to find out why). It was a disaster. I was hysterical. I was sure, after that, no one would interview me again. No one would buy the book. No one would ever trust me with another project even though I'd never actually said what the interview credited to me. No one bought the book but I don't think it's because of my mini-slam. I learned a valuable lesson though. People want honesty but you can't really tell the truth. Rather, you can tell bits and pieces of the truth as long as they can hold onto a positive spin.
I did an interview for FLOW that was published yesterday and had my heart in my mouth as I read it. The reporter and I had a great conversation and chatted well past when I thought we would—I had to scrabble to pick up Jack at school. But, she put almost everything in. I'm always careful now, not to go too far, not to reveal too much. The most embarrassing quote was a pretty straightforward diss of Long Island, where I grew up. And if Jack was any older, he might find his tampon story humiliating instead of funny. Not really close calls, but my love of sharing has the potential to get me into trouble.
Which leads me to this: I've been called out for revealing too much here and thanked for exactly the same thing. That's interesting enough in itself. But, how real is what I'm sharing?
Ah HA! I could be outing myself as a 70 year old plumber from Indonesia. Or a government employee who's adopted this persona instead of intercepting vital information flowing through the middle east.
No, worries. I'm not either. Although that would be an interesting turn of events. This is me, all me. Speaking from my experience, my life, my heart.
I would never want to purposely, or even indirectly hurt someone by revealing what isn't mine to share. That's hard to keep in check sometimes as the people in my life are fascinating beyond compare. Truly, the most creative of fiction writers couldn't dream up people I know. Some things in my life are too painful to be open about. Even in sharing my deepest fears and thoughts, there are still some that are down so far I never acknowledge them myself, unless I have no choice. Yesterday, someone on twitter was writing about putting her memoir down on paper. How both painful and cathartic the experience was. I don't know that I could delve that deep and survive the introspection. Some issues are best left quietly in the corner.
And that leads me to aging. I'm having a really hard time starting this new project. It's not that I can't do it—I know how to pull a book together. But aging terrifies me. I'm happier floating around in oblivion than dealing with my mother's eye surgery, my father's heart issues, my brother's impending dialysis, my sister's broken fridge (apparently it didn't age well). My own mysterious aches and pains. The arthritis that seemed to only effect one finger in my right hand that's now spreading. The fact that I can't beat this sore throat that's already gone on for too long. Watching my kids grow independent and away from me. I revel in that and yet there's an ache too, already missing how much they needed me. How friendships change and often disappear as life evolves. That you can't hold on to anything. Those moments are already over.
My full disclosure today? I wish I could stop time. Tell everyone how much I love and appreciate them. Stay in this place where everything's relatively ok and not have to have this constant feeling that something tragic will happen. Because, as much of a positive person that I am, I know they will.