Britney Spears wanders into a Beverly Hills party.
She mistakes Hugh Hefner for her grand pappy from back home and quickly sits on his lap to reminisce about that time he fought in the Second World Civil War of The Roses.
Never one to turn a warm lap
dog bunny away, Hefner mistakes Britney for a Playmate or a wannabe Playmate or a former Playmate and gets to petting her golden blonde weave.
Later, as Ms. Spears recounts with horror the bizarre run in with her overly affectionate grand pappy over hash browns (smothered & covered), a Waffle House patron mistakes her for a waitress.
Somewhere in Tennessee a Waffle House waitress shrugs her burly shoulders and wipes a greasy spatula across her apron. I stare over my coffee cup, sure that if not for her official name badge I would have taken her for a female truck driver.
She tells a sleepy traveler of the time she darn near caused a pile up on Highway 112, cocking her neck all willy-nilly to catch a glimpse of a young trucking mister. He sported glasses, a distinguished pipe, a turtleneck, and less of a beard than she sprouts on Tuesday afternoon. He looked like one of them fancy poets or something. She laughs, flops bacon onto egg onto toast. Never would’ve taken him for a trucker.
All of this is to say that I don’t belong in Starbucks.
Perhaps a little clarification is in order.
A new blog reader recently sent me a terribly flattering message, something along the lines of “I don’t know what you do for a living, but I hope it’s writing”. My response, naturally, was to blush and denounce myself. I believe my answer boiled down to my being a professional idiot. You know, something eloquent like that. What I felt at the moment of message’s impact was a tinge of panic and maybe shame. I’m no writer, after all, just a girl with a kid, a blog, and a hankering for poop jokes. His complimentary words pointed out the very absurdity of me. What does it mean to be a person who writes but is not a writer? What makes a writer? What is a writer, and where can I get one?
The streaming inner interrogation muddled and spilled over until all I could think about was how to transform myself into a very writery kind of writer writing written words on writing written words as a very writery kind of writer often writes. Yes, the effect was much like a seizure wrapped in a panic attack smothered and covered in epiphany. I haven’t labeled myself a writer in the past because I hardly fit the image.
In olden days we picture a tormented soul holed up in a dusty, dank room. Curtains drawn, the vintage writery writer hunches over desktop, furiously breaking the neck off a quill pen as mysterious metaphors bleed onto paper. A hand-rolled cigarette twists smoke into the air, masking the writery writer’s pensive glare, a smoldering look which threatens- with just one glance- to burst words into flames.
Today, well, things aren’t so dusty, but the angst remains. The modern writery writer lurches above the corner bistro table in a hip coffee shop. An iPod feeds slow, whiny lyrics into the writer’s head, the head is abuzz with genius ways to link seemingly distant things, the fingers furiously peck a literary piece, a comparison of an ex-girlfriend to a bear ripping its human lunch from limb to limb, the lips bite through a fluid ounce of death-black espresso, the eyes shoot sorrowful laser beams at the barista behind the counter. It is a smoldering look of old, because No Smoking signs are akin to communism, the writery writer thinks, interrupting the writer’s ability to properly huff and puff and blow the world away with written words on writing.
Obviously, I needed to head to Starbucks if I had any hope of becoming a legitimate writer. I studied myself in the mirror before heading to the land of Mourn & Mocha. I raked hair in front of my face, sure that my typical look was far too tidy. I dug an old, black sweater from the closet. Two sizes two big, it hung by my knees. Slouchy and perfectly sad, I decided. I rehearsed my lines should anyone ask where I got such a garment. I’d speak of the light knit’s heavy symbolism: “Funeral wear, if you will, as I mourn the loss of classical grammar”. I stared at my bare face. My default expression is a smile, a dopey, silly thing that makes strangers wonder if I’m drunk in market or church. They see my lazy grin and assume that my Happy Hour came early, yes, but I’d bet you a beer they’d never mistake me for a writer. I purposefully did not spritz myself with Clinique Happy perfume, and reached instead for a pair of plastic glasses, remnant of a Where’s Waldo? costume gone horribly right. I headed out the door, trying desperately to think only the saddest, most woebegone thoughts.
I sat alone at a large table. I pouted and sipped a Mocha Venti Tall Frappu Double Shot Latte thing, trying against nature to master that tormented intelligent look. I figured it was expression which caused people to stare. Either that or my oblivious and offensive choice to hog a giant seat meant for handicapped patrons. Unable to erase the trademark crooked smile, I figured I’d just throw a few other gestures on top of it. One squinting eye, two flared nostrils, and half a quivering chin later, I felt sufficiently writery. Now for the “writing written words” part.
I hugged my laptop like a bear with a Facebook page and got to work. Think Brilliance! Think Great American Classic! Think… the elderly gentlemen talking about Jersey Shore two tables over? I would have taken them for the chess-playing-in-the-park type. Think Human Suffering! Think Big Words! Think… the homely girl steaming milk behind the counter. I would have taken her for the sews-quilts-for-kittens type. Mother of Pearl! It’s loud in here. Maybe the noise makes all the writery writers so pissy? Think Writing! Think Writery Writing! Think…. I spotted a writery writer looking girl a few chairs away. She looked the part: grumpy face, backpack stuffed full of grief and struggle and such, smart glasses, fingers thumping keys like a drumroll of creative genius. I would have taken her for a writery writer. I stared at her, wondered which rehearsed line I should use to most impress her. My dinky southern accent wouldn’t cut it. I needed to pull out the big guns for this one. I would use The Madonna, a hint of fake British flare. I would ask her how her coffee tasted and answer “Like Capitalist Greed” before she got a chance to speak. She wouldn’t smile (because she’s a writery writer, duh) but would nod and invite me to sit and discuss written words on writing. Pretty soon her writery writing talent in the field of writing would rub off on me, and I’d be sophisticating the masses at a thinking man’s coffee shop near you.
Four Mocha Jumbo Java CappuFrappuccinos later, I took a deep breath, tried to will the smile off my face and the jitter off my fingers, and approached the writery writing girl writer on my way to the potty. Shit. Writery writers don’t say potty. I asked one of the elderly men sitting nearby to keep an eye on my laptop because ” Um, I’m pretty much, uh, a writer who, uh, writes things, soooo”. I saw the doubt in his wrinkly, old eyes. That makes two of us, senior sir. As I neared her, I could smell her frown and actually see whole books circulating in the whites of her eyes. “God, I bet she’s writing the next To Kill A Mockingbird. It probably has some clever title like To Later Revive Said Mockingbird. I need to be her. I’d like to really need glasses and really hate my parents and really live a tumultuous life that begs to be turned into a depressing biography special on CNN. I’d love to….” my thoughts of admiration came to a halt when the writery writer girl of extraordinary writing written words ability answered a pink, sparkly phone. Unusual, I hoped it was a feminist statement or something else I wasn’t smart enough to understand. And then the heartbreak, the learning that someone is never what they seem. “El- Oh- El- zzz,” she giggled. She GIGGLED. She SMILED and GIGGLED. She SPELLED OUT TEXT-SPEAK! By the time she twirled a polished fingernail around a strand of hair, I was in the restroom, contemplating the disappointment.
I peed, confused by it all: If I can’t even spot a writery writer how will I ever be one? Can’t I just be a writer as I am (small words, smaller jokes and all)? Most importantly, do they put crack in that coffee, and does crack make my pee smell like bean sprouts? I returned to my big, sorry handicapped table and wrote a post about Britney Spears sitting on Hugh Hefner’s lap. I pushed that godawful hair from my eyes and tucked the plastic Where’s Waldo? frames in my bag. As he left, the older mister made a point to stop at my seat.
“Young people, all looking at porn with the public’s Internet. Humph,” he judged down at me, a not-so-writery-writer-just-wanting-to-write-about-forgetting-today. For once, I perfected the kicked-puppy stare and looked to him desperate and miserable as I’ve heard many a writery writer do. For once, I meant it. His scolding look softened to a smile, a friend of his elbowing and laughing until I realized I was just the punchline of a joke. My old smile came back, an appreciative gesture for an old man and his humiliating hilarity.
At home I wrestled with my son, jotted down some notes for a controversial post on how to best body slam a toddler, and took a moment to laugh and be especially un-writery. Contrary to popular belief, that gray fart was cooler than he looked. That makes two of us, old man. That makes two of us. In a world where I would’ve taken him for a senile flump, where Britney Spears can be a pop diva in trashy sheep’s clothing, where even I wouldn’t take my sweatpants-wearing, happy- dancing, smiling, skipping self for a writer,where you’d judge a book by its cover, the world would be wrong. There is something pretty lovely about being more than we seem.
Do you judge a book by its cover?
Do you judge a writer by her
messy hair writing environment glasses angst latte thin lips sweater?