Oh, Frank. The neglect!
Well, readers, I’m really sorry that almost two weeks have gone by with no post. I’m going to apologize if I seem like I have wicked A.D.D. or if this is really rough. I’m easing back into writing. Building up my chops, if you will. Remember a few weeks ago when I said I’d had about the busiest week that an unemployed person could have? I lied. That was actually last week, carrying over into this week. And let me tell you, it wasn’t all very pretty. But I’m here now. And also, since I had a lot of time on my hands at the end of last week to sit and worry about something over which I had no control, I decided to read a book. My criteria for this book included being funny and being smart.
Enter Tina Fey.
I was on my way to the hospital on Friday morning last week to spend the day sitting at the foot of my dad’s bed (a story that I’ve told a bajillion times and don’t feel like rehashing right here, right now [cue Jesus Jones], but be assured that everything is working out). I decided that I was going to swing by Barnes & Noble because… that’s how I roll. I wanted to pick up a book to read while I was there (see above criteria) and pick up a book about the Civil War for my dad… because I’m always trying to get him to read more and, well, he likes the Civil War. As I was rushing through on my way to the magazines to pick up the latest Writer’s Digest (fear not, for I’m still writing), I passed a display of Bossypants, Tina Fey’s book that had just come out a few days before (April 5 was the official release date). I didn’t even think. I just instinctively new that this book was going to be exactly what I needed, grabbed a copy, and, after picking up that Writer’s Digest, made a beeline for the register (I was in a hurry, after all).
Once I got to the hospital and settled in what I can only imagine is the world’s most uncomfortable chair, save only, perhaps, for the one next to it that looked even worse, I got my new book out and started reading.
And within the first five pages, I was already laughing out loud (this was after reading the jacket, which made me smile and amused me greatly). By the time I was somewhere around page 23, I was actively surpressing my laughter so as to not disturb the old grouchy man in the other bed (my dad was listening to his iPod and heard nothing, whereas the other guy had already introduced me to his sleep apnea machine).
I’ve always been a fan of Tina Fey. I liked her on SNL. I loved her in Mean Girls, and when I remember to catch 30 Rock, I always enjoy that, too. Most of all, though, I respect that she’s a strong woman who’s funny and a phenomenal writer.
But since I read the book (which I finished yesterday), I’m weirdly convinced that she and I might be distant relatives. The parallels between her experiences and mine are uncanny sometimes, and the way she thinks about things seems to sit with me in a comfortably agreeable way. I agree with a lot of her opinions. In return, the weird things that I did as a child and as a teenager that I never mention because I’m afraid no one will really get it — she comes right out and talks about those things. She did them too. For the record, I suspect that many people had similar experiences, it’s just that we won’t discuss them because no one wants to admit any of that.
Oh, but Tina will.
I think what it is, though, at least for the most part, is that she makes me feel okay about being dorky and awkward. There are so many times that she talks about being dorky and awkward and her struggles to be accepted, etc., etc., that it just makes me feel sort of like I was listening to a smarter version of myself talking.
As I write this, I realize it’s really hard to be specific without giving concrete examples. I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to ruin this book for you. I don’t even want to assume that you won’t read it anyway. It’s phenomenal. You really must.
Anyway, she comes to a part near the end of the book where she says something about having a hard enough time just being around people and acting normally.
Oh, hey, story of my life.
But then I started thinking. Maybe this is what makes writing so attractive, at least to people like me. It’s really hard sometimes to say exactly what you want to say. You get one shot to get the right words to come out of your mouth. Sure, you can always say something like, “No, that’s not what I meant. What I meant to say was…” but then you’ll just start to wear people down and their eyes will glaze over and then they’re gone, off in space, wondering about things that really matter (like what ever happened to Connie Chung?).
With writing, though, you can get it all out, then you can go back and re-work it. You can shape it and make it what you want it to be (unless you’re me with this blog post and the last two weeks have you feeling like a zombie — but the point is that I could and I usually do!).
I know that I’m not the most eloquent of speakers. If you put me in front of a group of teenagers, I’m fine. Put me in front of a group of my peers and I turn into Stuttering Stanley (unless I’m teaching something, and then I tend to be fine). Even speaking to people I know and with whom I’m comfortable sometimes throws me off. It’s not that I can’t convey my point — I can. It’s just that I’m not a talker. I get really nervous. I’m much more comfortable writing and I express myself a lot better that way. Throughout the book, Tina Fey kept talking about the ways in which she avoided awkward situations or the awkward ways she responded to them (lots of awkward). They reminded me so much of myself that I just wanted to find her and thank her for giving me hope that I wasn’t a lost cause on the verbal communication front.
So why do I think Tina Fey and I would be such good friends? Well, for starters, we could agree on a meeting time, then we could both show up late. After that, we could talk about writing and awkward situations we’ve been in. I can tell her my version of her story about going hiking up a mountain at night. Mine differs only slightly and there are actually at least 3 versions of it. Then we can talk about locking ourselves in rooms to cry when we’re really stressed out so no one can see us, followed by a conversation about stress and chin acne. We can compare notes on our own body-images and issues after lunch. Then I can ask her if she still has any ties in Philadelphia and if she could use them to help me get a job. I mean, if Tina Fey recommended me, would anyone really tell her no? (The answer is probably yes, sadly.) That will probably take a while, so then it will be time for dinner, over which we can compare notes on sarcasm (doing so sarcastically). After that we’ll probably talk about stress and chin acne again. She can talk about filming 30 Rock, doing Sarah Palin impersonations, and taking care of her toddler all at the same time. In turn, I’ll tell her about teaching, working a second job, hellacious commutes to grad school, and living with my parents. We’ll end with a conversation about what it’s like to drive through the Alleghenies and how much the Lycoming Mall sucks. (Man, if you didn’t know me, this would sound kind of creepy. Maybe it still does. Oh well.)
But that’s just the beginning of a beautiful friendship….