Every once in awhile, Karma smiles down upon you and grants you the opportunity of a lifetime. In my case, her gift was two tickets for a taping of The Daily Show in Tampa, Florida during the Republican National Convention. Now, some of you may be snickering or rolling your eyes because you’re complete and utter morons I think watching Jon Stewart doing his gig in person can only be surpassed by an event that involves me sipping Moët from the Holy Grail while David Sedaris reads aloud to me and Johnny Depp massages my feet. Sure, I realize his show shoots five days a week for most of the year up in Hell’s Kitchen, so you’re probably thinking that filming The Daily Show isn’t exactly rare like, say, a sober Amanda Bynes or a pale Donatella Versace.
But you would be wrong.
Shooting Comedy Central’s top–rated show in Tampa is extraordinarily unusual. And after Stewart and his team openly lambasted the city in which I reside with embarrassingly accurate observations about the heat and humidity (describing Tampa as the ideal environment for “a struggling strand of streptococcus”), the casual attire of the indigenous population (“the city where flip flops are considered evening wear”), and our fondness of clothing-optional gentlemen’s clubs (“Jon, I’m here in Tampa’s famous strip club district or as they call it here – Tampa.”), it’s unlikely that the program will ever be filmed in the Peninsula of Death again – unless a palmetto bug decides to run for President in 2016.
Thomas Edison legendarily tested potential employees by inviting them to dinner. If they sprinkled salt on their food before tasting it, he refused to hire them, viewing their thoughtless salting as a sign that their preconceived mindset would prevent them from analyzing a situation thoroughly before taking action. To be fair, this method of eliminating job applicants has also been attributed to Henry Ford, IBM, and General MacArthur, to name just a few.
And I think it’s bullshit.
I love salt. A dash brings out the subtle flavors of food. Salt is to the beefsteak tomato what Matt Damon is to Ben Affleck – the ingredient that makes it worthy of notice. Though I often taste my food before sprinkling it with salt, I like to think that my decision to pre-salt my bowl of Fly Bar’s truffled macaroni and cheese doesn’t make me incapable of critical analysis, but rather demonstrates that homo sapiens are able to learn and make choices based on previously acquired knowledge. Sure, it’s possible that the restaurant could hire a new chef who knows how to properly season food with what I affectionately call The White Devil, but an extra dash of salt never hurt anybody.
And pepper – make mine freshly ground and applied as liberally to a dish as Donald Trump’s self-tanner is sprayed onto his Oompa Loompa orange face. Black pepper is fine, but a gourmet combination of black, white, red and green peppercorns is sublime. If I had a dick, fresh ground pepper would make it hard.
This is Part II of my two-part post, Yoga Is Not A Character In Star Wars. If you haven’t read Part I of this series, click here now. Or what? I’ll kick you, that’s what!
When I saw my reflection in the plate glass window of the lawyer’s office, I immediately knew that I should have stuck with the Ikea pajama bottoms. Or perhaps starved myself for no less than 7 weeks before deciding to take a yoga class that required me to parade my ass around downtown in a clingy tee and a faded pair of black workout pants. One glimpse out the corner of my eye confirmed what I had suspected back at home: my camel toe was no regular camel toe. It was a camel toe of Sally O’Malley proportions. My only hope was that my muffin top would shade my crotch area sufficiently to hide this fact from bystanders.
Note to self: Must stop writing about my vagina. Damn you, David Sedaris!
If only I’d run out and purchased a yoga mat. It is true what they say: No adolescent boy should be without a notebook and no 43 year old woman wearing the equivalent of black Spanx with a racing stripe should be without a yoga mat. Preferably a yoga mat that is unrolled. And wrapped around her body.
But there I was, sweat waterfalling down my neck and off my shoulders, sauntering down the historic streets of Wouldn’t-You-Camel-Toe-Fetish-Pervs-Like-To-Know on my way to my very first Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class. I know…what yoga newbie wouldn’t sign up for a class with a name like that. As soon as I had read the class description, memories of Disney World’s Flying Dumbo ride merged with images of Brian Setzer jamming on a vintage Gretsch surrounded by people doing the jitterbug – in space.
Make that people with camel toe doing the jitterbug in space.
The accompanying photo had looked so nurturing. Alluring. Supple bodies cradled in mid-air by a swath of white silk dangling like cocoons from the ceiling. They had looked so relaxed just hanging there. Perhaps I could crawl into one of those magical exercise hammocks as a vodka-swilling, Splenda-sprinkling, callus-shaving, head-sweating, stanky feet-stinking, cynical caterpillar and emerge as an decaf tea-sipping, corporate coffee-banning, organic granola-munching CYC (Cool Yoga Chick) with perennially-tanned feet, a green thumb, lush sun-streaked locks knotted on top of my head and feet always smelling of freshly-mown grass, rosemary and sunshine. How could I resist desiring the pedal appendages of the only people who can provide restorative powers to Chuck Norris?
And yet, these people were essentially lying on their backs. Perhaps my secret hope that I could sleep whilst doing yoga wasn’t just a pipe dream. I mean, I’m exceptionally good at lying on my back. Hell, you should see me on my side in a fetal position – and these swings were certainly womb-like. Maybe I would be one of those savants who strolls into a yoga studio for the first time and leaves an hour later as a Jedi Master? I’d carry a lightsaber to class instead of a yoga mat because I wouldn’t need a mat. Yoda never sat on a mat. Perhaps the Yoda of yoga I was. See! I was already doing it.
I clutched my no-name denim bag nervously as I rounded the corner and the studio came into view – with an image of Buddha on its sign. Though Buddha wasn’t lying on his back in a swing, I had to admit he looked extremely peaceful with his eyes closed and his hands resting gently in his generous lap. Then it hit me. Buddha was fat! Yet there he was – maybe not as chubby or undressed as I’d seen him previously – sitting in a lotus position exerting no effort at all. Hell, I could practically hear him snoring. This was definitely the place for me. Squaring my shoulders, I strode like a rooster down the sidewalk, owning it. Soon I would be enveloped in a cool, dark space hung with silken cradles. Wisps of patchouli smoke, and the sound of crashing waves mingled with the haunting, hollow clickety clack of bamboo wind chimes would sooth me into a meditative state of REM sleep, and when I awoke, I’d have biceps and killer abs.
As I entered the building, I immediately removed my shoes and stashed my belongings in one of the cubbies provided. Closing my eyes, I breathed in deeply. Hmmm. No patchouli. They probably wait until class starts so that the students don’t zone out before they even sign in. I craned my ears, listening for sounds of ocean waves lapping on a tropical sand beach. Nope.
But I did hear something.
“Could you help? Get the door! Get the door! We’ve got a bug,” screeched a woman, poured into a pair of tie-dyed leggings. After stamping an industrial-sized dust mop down on top of a frenzied cockroach, she pushed it towards me. There was fear in her eyes. I opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk on my toes – not because I was concerned about coming into contact with the roach, but because I was afraid that I would dirty the soles of my carefully grated, cleaned and moisturized feet. As the poor critter was swept over the threshold and out into the cruel world, it staggered and squinted in the sunlight, one antenna bent at a precarious angle. Clearly, there were no Jedi Masters inside this establishment. I would be the first.
Once the danger had been allayed, Fern, the instructor and studio owner, asked me to sign two waivers absolving the studio of any and all liability should I be injured, be maimed or die during the Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class or any of the other classes. Die? Did people die doing this? Funny, but the glossy website didn’t mention anything about death. “Excuse me,” I said. “These, uh, waivers mentions the word death – more than once. Is there something I should know?”
Fern smiled and rolled her eyes in a way that said, “Pshaw!” Leaning towards me as if she was about to share a deep, personal secret, she asked in a breathy whisper, “There’s nothing wrong with your ticker, is there?”
“Erm, no. No, my ticker is, uh, ticking along just fine, thank you.”
Throwing her hands up in the air, she released a laugh that seemed to have crawled from somewhere deep in her gut. Must be that yoga breathing technique I’d heard so much about. “Then you’ll be fine.” She nodded her head knowingly. “Sometimes, we get an old fogey in here who just wants to check out the girls. And sometimes, their hearts ain’t so good, if you know what I mean.” She winked. Somehow, my imagined yoga experience never included winking.
The former contract attorney in me cautioned, “She’s just covering herself. Then again, maybe this is danger –“ But she was quickly interrupted by the soon-to-be-Jedi-Master in me who snapped, “Don’t be such a fucking pussy! It’s a piece of paper. What’s a piece of paper to one who carries a lightsaber? What’s a piece of paper to one who has harnessed the powers of The Force?” Yes, my Jedi Master sometimes cusses like a sailor and, I suspect, smokes a cigar. I scribbled my signature on both forms, then followed Fern into the studio.
One student had already nestled herself into a silk sack that was swinging slightly, as though she was rocking herself to sleep. Oh, why hadn’t I worn those pajama bottoms? And maybe some fuzzy socks? But all the CYCs had also chosen tight fitting yoga pants and tanks. Didn’t these people like to be comfortable when they rested? Obviously, none of these women were the type who immediately removed her bra the second she got home, unhooking it under her shirt and pulling it out through an armhole. Perhaps wearing a bra all the time was the reason for their exceptional posture? Other CYCs were attaching their swings to chains dangling from the ceiling, adjusting for their height, while two other students lay on their mats and used the low hanging fabric as a mechanism for stretching out their impossibly lean and toned bodies.
Come to think of it, everyone in the room was thin. The kind of people who sink right to the bottom of the pool if they try to free float because there’s just nothing to keep them aloft. The kind with BMIs lower than their ring size. Not one of them remotely resembled the double-chinned Buddha on the sign outside. Perhaps that was my power. Maybe it was my muffin top that would guarantee my position as the first Jedi Master this studio had fostered? But a nagging little voice in the back of my head whined, I don’t want to be a fat Jedi Master. Obi-Wan wasn’t plump. Yoda may have been short and his prominent ears might have prevented him from becoming an official CYC, but he certainly wasn’t portly.
After Fern introduced me as a newbie and provided me with a complimentary “first visit” mat – which she placed directly next to hers – I plopped down. And waited. But Fern had wandered off to help other students. All around me, my peers were stretching muscles that, not only could I not name, but I doubted I’d ever actually utilized in my two score and three years. To my left, a petite brunette CYC, whose upper arms were browned and ropey like strands of hemp twine, bent herself in half, the tips of her fingers cradling her unpolished toes, her chin resting on her knees. Not knowing what to do, I followed suit and also touched my toes – an act made simpler by the fact that I was sitting cross-legged.
Feeling adventurous, I uncrossed my legs and stretched them straight out in front of me. Certainly, I could touch my nose to my knees. I mean, it’s not like it’s an act that involves lifting barbells the size of my Camry’s tires. Really, you just have to let the upper half of your body fall. Presumably, my knees would catch my head before it hit the ground. It’s just gravity, if you think about it.
Except nothing in my body agreed with the principles of physics. In fact, I’m fairly certain that as I leaned forward at the waist, I heard my hamstrings hiss, “Fuck off, Sir Isaac Newton!” Nope, about 16 degrees into the stretch, my body came to a jarring halt. Sorry, but this is as far as you go, my tendons and muscles said, kicking my goal of uniting my nose and knees for the first time in history to the curb like a creepy hitchhiker. Perhaps, I thought, my hamstrings just needed a little bribing. Reaching down, I gently massaged the undersides of my thighs, but they were rigid, taut as guitar strings just on the verge of snapping. As a general rule, I like to avoid the snapping of body parts.
To placate my angry muscles, I pulled my feet towards me, allowed my soles to touch and my knees to drop, forming an attractive diamond shape in front of me. I like diamonds. As I blissfully permitted my thoughts to meander into the realm of gems and how lovely they are in general, the CYC to my left suddenly said, “Look at you. You’re like an old pro.”
What? I knew it. Even when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my future as a Jedi Yoga Master was apparent. “Thank you,” I responded with a brilliant smile, “but I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
Reassuringly, the CYC said, “Well, you sure look like you do.”
Ha! This class was going to be a breeze. For a moment, I considered leaving. I mean, why embarrass all the other students who’ve probably been studying for months, maybe years? Then again, I couldn’t help it if I was a prodigy. And my place was there. In the studio. I had to be an example for others. The lightsaber that would brighten their path to enlightenment.
“Okay, class. Let’s get started with a few simple stretches.” Fern walked us through moves I’d seen before and could easily emulate. I started to wonder why I was paying for this class. I could do this at home. For free. While watching reruns of Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis on Bravo! Stifling a yawn, I glanced around the room, expecting to see multiple pairs of eyes staring at me in awe. But there were none. Dear, lord…I had already attained super star status. Everyone knows that you don’t look directly at the talent. It’s in every entertainment rider in the universe. It makes them – erm, I mean us – feel uncomfortable. You don’t speak to Angelina Jolie. You don’t make eye contact with P. Diddy. You don’t even glance at Mariah Carey. I knew it must be hard for my classmates to stretch whilst trying to catch a glimpse of me in their peripheral vision, but what could I do? It would be rude to ask Fern if I could relocate my swing to the front of the class where everyone could ogle me freely. Not during my first class, anyway.
Once we were warmed up, Fern instructed us to place our stomachs on the swing and lift our appendages as though we were flying. As I complied, I began to wonder when she was going to take this class out of the playground and into gravity-defying space. C’mon. We were playing airplanes, for chrissake. Next she’d be telling us to sit down criss-cross applesauce and would hand out store brand, vanilla oreos and Dixie cups filled with apple juice. “Now, I want you to place your palms on your mat and wriggle forward until the swing fabric has moved from your abdomen down to your ankles.”
Wriggle? That didn’t sound very yoga-like to me. Not wanting to be accused of being a diva, however, I began to wriggle. As the fabric slid away from my mid-section and down my legs – which had suddenly become a good three miles long – I began to feel a burn in my shoulders and arms. My lower back started to ache as my belly sagged towards the mat.
“Cristy, tighten those abs. Hold your body erect while wriggling,” Fern directed me. Easy for her to say. Her stems were only a block in length while mine ran all the way out to the freeway. And she had a six-pack under her tank top, while I was storing blubber in preparation for a long, cold winter. The more I wiggled, the more my upper arm muscles began to shudder. “C’mon, Cristy. You can do it,” Fern urged.
“But I think my arms are having an epileptic seizure,” I whined. “Someone must have turned on a strobe light when I wasn’t looking.” However, just at that moment, I felt the cool silk envelop my ankle bones. I had done it.
“Great job, Cristy!” Fern cried. I could feel every set of eyes turn to appraise my achievement. Except by then, my entire body weight had been redistributed to my spaghetti arms – and when I fell, my knees weren’t there to catch my nose. As I tried to roll to break my fall, my feet became hopelessly twisted in the fabric. I half expected a giant spider to crawl out of the ceiling, encase me in silken threads as strong as steel, then drain the blood from my body.
But something worse happened.
As I struggled to disentangle my feet, I farted.
By most standards, it was a small, harmless passing of gas. It didn’t smell. It didn’t last long enough for a child to recite the alphabet in sing-song manner. No one screamed, “Gas leak!” But it was there. Loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. How do I know this? Because as quickly as my classmates had craned their necks to check out my accomplishment, they’d turned away. Embarrassed. And rightly so. Yoda never farted. Considering Jedi Masters could harness The Force to prolong life and prevent decay, I’m pretty certain that Yoda was able to avoid floating an air biscuit in front of Luke Skywalker. I didn’t know what to do. Acknowledge it with a laugh? Shout Excuuuuuuuuuuuse me, thereby confusing the class with my Steve Martin impression and causing them to forget the fart? Perhaps I could use a Jedi mind trick: This isn’t the flatulist you’re looking for.
Before I could do or say anything, Fern had instructed us to rise and stand in our swings. “Wrap the silk around your wrists once before grasping the fabric above.” Following directions, I clenched my ass cheeks together tightly to ensure that I wouldn’t accidentally blow another butt bugle. “Okay, now lift your legs straight out in front of you, allowing your abs and upper body to support the weight.”
Huh? Erm, I wanted to point out to Fern that after the debacle only moments earlier, my upper body had accepted a position working as one of those wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men, and my abs had abdicated any and all responsibility towards supporting my body, financially or otherwise, and were resting comfortably against my intestines.
Not to mention that I’m familiar with this particular exercise. It’s called a hanging leg lift. Typically, you hold on to an easy-to-grasp metal bar above you or your upper arms are bolstered by some kind of support system. People who can perform this exercise properly look like this:
Not like this:
The second I removed my feet from the swing, I could feel my palms begin to burn as the silk fabric slid painfully through my hands. Quickly, I lowered my feet. “Fern, I don’t think I can do this one.”
“Sure you can,” she chimed. “You just need to modify the pose. Instead of lifting your feet straight out in front of you, just try lifting your knees up towards your chest.”
I wanted to tell her that I’d failed just trying to lift my feet – period. But there was Yoda, warbling in that annoying voice of his in the back of my head. No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try. Motherfucker. His legs only make up about a quarter of his body, whereas I’m built like a Japanese spider crab. I’ve got a hell of a lot more to lift. But then the fighter in me reared her stubborn head. I’ll show that bat-eared Jedi that I can do anything. And then I’m gonna rip his little gremlin ears off.
With that, I mustered up every bit of strength that remained in my body and lifted my knees. As my feet cleared the fabric, I felt that familiar sliding sensation – the one that made my hands sting as though they were being sliced open with red hot knives. I clenched my fingers around the silk more tightly as my toes quickly inched up and away from the swing – only to plummet back down again just as rapidly. Essentially, I’d performed a mini-jump. As I relaxed my grip on the fabric, a strange tingling traveled up the middle and index fingers on my left hand. Then the sensation disappeared.
Along with all feeling in tip of my middle finger.
Holy shit! I couldn’t feel the top half of that finger at all. It must have gone to sleep. It was a rather boring class, after all. Hugging the upper portion of the swing with my underarms, I lowered my hands and began to massage the numb finger like a veterinarian briskly rubbing the life back into a still-born pup. And nothing happened. I continued rubbing. Then progressed to shaking my left hand back and forth as if that still-born pup had gotten some water in its ears. Still nothing. I could feel the panic rising in my throat. Fuck being a Jedi Master! I’m a writer, for chrissakes. I need that finger.
“Cristy, are you going to give it another shot?” Fern inquired, as I frantically smacked at my lifeless finger.
“Umm. I can’t feel my finger.”
“Did you try modifying the pose like I suggested?” She said the word “modifying” slowly, exaggerating each syllable as though I was both deaf and frantic.
“Yes, I modified the pose,” I spit through gritted teeth, “and now my middle finger is completely numb.” Then I showed her my middle finger. Really showed it to her.
“Okay, then. We all progress at different speeds,” she replied in that nobody-rattles-me-because-I’m-a-CYC-and-my-feet-smell-like-rosemary voice of hers. “After class, I can help you schedule some classes that might be more appropriate for your fitness level.
My fitness level! Was she insinuating that I wasn’t fit? Okay, maybe I’m not Jillian Michaels, but I’m no schlub either. After all, I did walk to the studio. Two and a half blocks. After jogging down a flight of stairs. And I spent a whole ten whole minutes on my recumbent bike last night – on level 2! I burned an entire 47 calories. Not to mention that this was supposed to be a swinging class. Their website mentioned nothing about clinging desperately to slippery fabric with your bare hands while performing acrobatics. Talk about misrepresentation. And now I was maimed. I was fairly certain that this was permanent nerve damage. My writing career was over. I couldn’t pen a blog without using the letters d, e and x. Dammit! I would sue.
But I couldn’t sue. I’d signed two bloody waivers. Damn the soon-to-be-Jedi-Master-voice-in-my-head! It was all his cussing and cigar-smoking encouragement that got me into this mess. As far as Yoda went, I was ready to show him where he could put his damn lightsaber. And Obi-Wan – he could just suck it!
It’s been a week and a half now and I’ve yet to return to the yoga studio. Though the feeling in my fingertip gradually returned after a week, my bruised ego remains the color of a sky that brings with it hail and tornadoes. The disappointment that came with discovering that I would not be the first Jedi Master to grace my studio was difficult to overcome, but throwing darts at my Lego Yoda was surprisingly cathartic. Okay, I don’t actually own a Lego Yoda, but I desperately want one. And if I did own one, I’m sure it would have made me feel a lot better about things. Particularly if I owned this one:
On Saturday, I finally broke down and bought a yoga mat, and last night, I painted my toe nails again in anticipation of Monday’s class. A more traditional class called Vinyasa Flow. The word flow sounds pretty benign. I mean, I go with the flow all the time. Rivers flow and they don’t even try. It’s all downhill, right? I bet I’ll kick ass at it. It’ll probably be easy-peasy. Chuck Norris will be sniffing my shoes any day now. Hell, he’ll be polishing my lightsaber for me after this class.
If you’ve read my previous post listing the 10 reasons why David Sedaris, the uber-talented writer and humorist, won’t marry me, you’ll be interested to know that tonight I met the object of my affection in person…and proposed.
Okay, I halfheartedly suggested that he enter into marital bliss with me, knowing full well that our love would be a lie and, in the interest of full disclosure, admitted to him that if he agreed to make me Cristy Carrington Lewis Sedaris, both us would both likely be charged with bigamy – a third degree felony – by local authorities in the State of Florida. In the unlikely event that it was the fear of an unattractive mug shot that was the source of hesitation on David’s part, I was prepared to present him with a well-researched, legal defense, complete with a loophole and lots of Latin words – all of which would be written in italics to make them more intimidating. Florida law states that “Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries another person shall, except in the cases mentioned in s. 826.02, be guilty of a felony of the third degree…” Sounds pretty cut and dry. Except that the very first exception mentioned in s 826.02 (1), Fla. Stat. indicates that the bigamy penalties shall not apply to someone who reasonably believes that their prior spouse is dead.
As I would technically be the bigamist in the relationship, it would appear that any reasonable uncertainty about whether or not my husband, Matt is dead would serve as the loophole which could permit David and I to marry without being charged with a felony. How you may ask? Am I planning to take my husband sailing, toss him overboard like in a bad Ashley Judd film, then claim six weeks after his body fails to resurface that he must have become a tapas treat for a giant octopus (Matt loves calamari and payback’s a bitch)? After all, Matt possess a nice, lean body – attractive to a wide variety of deadly sea predators. But no, that’s not the tack I would take. The idea is to avoid criminal charges – and the badly lit photographs that accompany them – not to incur a six page spread in People magazine dedicated to nothing but David’s and my mug shots. Plus, I’m a girl who wants her cake and wants to eat it too. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a cake, if you think about it? I mean, if all you can do is look at the cake, that’s so fucked up. People like that are masochists, salivating over cream cheese frosting they’ll never allow themselves to taste. David may be my key lime pie, but Matt is my chocolate lava cake – and both have their place in my life.
No, I propose that we simply confuse the court with science. Why wouldn’t that work? If you’re a Republican, you are likely already befuddled and all I did was write the word, science. Specifically, I suggest utilizing the Schrödinger’s cat theory, which purports that if you place a cat in a box, you can’t know if the cat is alive or dead while it remains in the box. It could be either dead or alive, and both possibilities are entirely reasonable. Schrödinger clearly didn’t use any of my cats while proving this theory because they whine, screech, and use their cage as a litter box to signify their dissatisfaction when confined to a small, locked space (the opposite of a “dead” give away, I suppose). Moreover, the longer this experiment goes on – assuming that the cat box is not opened to provide food, water or air – at some point in the future, the odds of the cat being alive go from 50/50 to 99.99/.01, and not in the kitty’s favor. Regardless, I suggest that we put Matt in a such a box, drug him and seal his mouth with duct tape to ensure that I really have no idea of his status on this earth. Alive or dead? Who knows? And in that entirely reasonable moment, I could marry David Sedaris without censure. When Matt emerges alive, albeit irritated as hell that I’ve put him through this all so that I can marry a homosexual man who doesn’t know me and collects owls, I doubt there’s a court in the world who wouldn’t let me keep them both. And David has lots of room. We could move in with him. He’s apparently downsizing his owl collection – and then there’s all that space between his teeth.
In the alternative, I did propose to David that should he choose to reject my offer to become his betrothed, he could provide me with the 11th reason as to why he and I will never get hitched. The bastard chose the latter.
So, without further adieu, here is the 11th reason why David Sedaris won’t marry me:
As David Sedaris sketched this vagina with his Sharpie, he said, “Well, I assume this is what it looks like.” Close enough, David. Close enough.
So the inevitable factoid finally came up: Gay marriage is legal in New York, and yet David Sedaris still won’t marry me.
Why? I’m perfectly nice, reasonably intelligent and can type more than 60 words a minute. I also make a mean rosemary roasted chicken and don’t need to refer to directions in order to operate an unfamiliar microwave oven. I once saw Liza Minnelli on the sidewalk in Manhattan and didn’t ask her for her autograph or attempt to snap an unflattering photo of her – due in part to the fact that I didn’t have a cell phone back then and only CIA cell phones had things like cameras embedded in them. A podiatrist once claimed I “have really nice feet” and I always say, “God bless you!” when people sneeze, as I think Gesundheit! sounds pretentious. My salt and pepper shaker collection is a sight to behold. Proficient at alphabetizing, I’ve organized my DVDs so that a poo-throwing chimp could locate my copy of Sliding Doors in three seconds flat.
Despite my impressive attributes, I’ve been told that there are a number of reasons why David Sedaris would reject my marriage proposal:
1) David Sedaris is a gay man. I am a straight woman. And yes, I realize that the legalization of gay marriage really has nothing to do with whether or not David Sedaris can or will marry me…but it was a great hook.
2) David Sedaris has a partner named Hugh. I have a husband named Matt who already tolerates the fact that I have one gay husband (okay, it’s not legal. Geez, like I’d become a bigamist for someone who isn’t David Sedaris).
3) David Sedaris is a famous writer who has sold over seven million books. I’m a famous writer (and probably a stalker, in the mind of David Sedaris) who has sold about seven copies of a chapbook entitled, Mind the Gap .
4) David Sedaris speaks French. I eat French fries with gusto and can, when pressed, use words like quiche and voilá appropriately.
5) David Sedaris has a famous sister. I have a cousin who lives in a trailer with two of her three grown kids and several of her grandchildren.
6) David Sedaris charges 55 bucks a head for decent seats at one of his readings. I ply friends, acquaintances and total strangers (some shoeless) with the promise of free liquor and sandwiches in order to warm a few seats at one of my poetry readings.
7) David Sedaris has a Tweet-a-Day Fan Site with 17,000 followers (he follows zilch – not a single, solitary person – not even Alan Cumming, who follows him). My Twitter account is followed by 62 people, at least 12 of whom are employed in the sex industry (I follow 86 people, including Alan Cumming.)
8) David Sedaris reads his essays aloud on This American Life and on David Letterman’s show. When I read an essay aloud to my husband in the privacy of our living room, he demands that I hand him the computer so that he can read it himself because “I’m a terrible actress.”
9) David Sedaris has given up smoking. I’m thinking about taking the habit up because it might be the best way to lose weight and/or fool others into thinking I’m a supermodel if I do it while sipping champagne and whining about what a bitch Gisele is in person.
10) David Sedaris lives in London. I live in Florida, but insist that my husband – gay or otherwise – reside in the same country I do, otherwise it makes playing board games and sharing popcorn difficult.
It’s probably all for the best. I’m sure after a few long years together, I’d tire of David Sedaris saying all the clever, pithy things first. As he ran out of humiliating stories about his own family, he’d inevitably begin scrabbling through the plethora of material available about mine – and then what would I write about? “No, David, you can’t write about my first period. I don’t care if it’s funnier when you tell it.” Our perfect, asexual life of shared erudite magazines and talking about his latest book deals would eventually sour like a pitcher of sweet tea left out on the counter for too long. I’d eventually stop reading his essays altogether, and would start rolling my eyes above the rim of my martini glass as he told the one about my father challenging the school bully who punched me at a football game to a round of kung foo fighting – I know, it’s funnier when he tells it – to our friends over dinner. It would end badly. His Grammy (by then, he would have finally won) broken on the floor, copies of my chapbook thrown into the fireplace, and Matt and Hugh, standing side-by-side, arms crossed against their chests, shaking their heads in a way that says, It was never going to work. What were they thinking?
So by not marrying me, David Sedaris, you’re doing us both a favor. Years from now, I’ll still be enjoying your books, and Matt won’t have left me because he became sick to death of hearing “David this” and “David that,” as I bitched about your continued success and the pressure of living in your shadow. I don’t know where you’ll mine your new material, but I suspect we’ll be hearing about the first time Hugh had a wet dream, at some point. And that’s okay. Because it’s funnier when you tell it.
In Miami, it’s practically impossible to grow up surrounded by anything but diversity. My family moved there when I was six, but I first discovered I wasn’t in Kansas (okay, Sarasota) anymore when I noticed that many of our neighbors in our new apartment complex had nailed skinny, metal plates with strange lettering painted on them in their doorways at crooked angles. The OCD side of me wanted badly to straighten them, but they were clearly meant to be that way. Either that or they’d all hired a handyman with balance issues to hang what I later discovered to be their mezuzahs.
Until we moved to Miami, I’d never known a Jewish person. I’d known two midgets – both of whom had appeared in The Wizard of Oz, a dwarf and a girl who’d worn braces on her legs, but that was as interesting as it had ever gotten for me. No black people. No Latinos. No Asians. No Indians (dot, not feather). I didn’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I was fully five years old. Clearly, I’d been sheltered. Of course, having been raised in the Assemblies of God church, I knew of Jews. Theywere God’s chosen people. As far as I was concerned, the Jews received all kinds of special treatment from God, while us “Born Agains” were the red-headed step-children of the world.
Of course, it took some time for me to discover that these nice people with whom my parents socialized and with whom I played in the pool, were different from me in any way. They looked the same. Except for the occasional foreign-sounding word, they sounded the same. In fact, they spoke more like me than my German grandmother, who peppered every sentence with words like hündchen and danke schön and bitte and auch du liebe. Unlike Grandma, all of our adult Jewish friends read The Miami Herald, rather than a newspaper written in a foreign tongue. Not to say that I didn’t pick up a little Yiddish. In fact, I was the only first grader at Westwood Christian School who, when something went wrong, often shrugged her shoulders and said, “Oy vey.” With a New Jersey accent, courtesy of Mrs. Schwartz in 3B.
As I discovered our differences, it became immediately apparent that they were minor. Some of our holidays were different, but it didn’t stop us – kids and adults alike – from dressing up for Halloween every year or celebrating one another’s birthdays. The introduction of Matzo ball soup into our diet was no stranger to me than I’m sure the butter and sugar sandwiches – a nod to my mother’s European heritage – was to them. The only truly distinguishing characteristic I could make out between my family and our Jewish friends was the fact that they seemed to possess no interest in converting others to their religion. Jews, apparently, didn’t recruit.
Protestant Christians make the U.S. Army look like amateurs when it comes to recruiting. “Be All That You Can Be” just can’t compete with “Become A Christian Or Burn In Hell For All Eternity.” Sure, the Army’s got the GI Bill and on-the-job-training, but compare that to eternity in a mansion encrusted with diamonds and precious stones and streets paved in gold surrounded by angels playing harps, and, suddenly, free college tuition in exchange for risking your life for several years doesn’t seem like such a bargain. During chapel at school, we were urged to share the gospel with our non-believing friends because we didn’t want them to spend an infinite number of years screaming from the pain of hellfire and brimstone raining down on them, now did we? Born with an innate sense of guilt that any Jewish mother would have been proud of, I bore the weight of the world upon my shoulders on a daily basis as it was. To add the fate of my friends’ immortal souls to that mix was unbearable. I had to lighten the load.
At the time, my closest friend was a pretty, raven-haired girl, we’ll call Simone. Half Jewish, the future of her soul concerned me more than some of my other friends in the apartment complex because her dolls were always naked. Barbie – naked. Even worse, Ken – naked. Absolutely shocking, Donny and Marie – naked and sometimes lying on top of each other. It’s not like they didn’t have clothes, she just didn’t choose to dress them in them very often.
Playing dolls at her apartment was like witnessing the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah over and over again. When we’d play Barbies, in my head, my Ken doll – his red bathing suit having never been removed since it was delivered to me factory-fresh – was Lot, Malibu Barbie was his wife, and Skipper and the Bionic Woman were his two daughters. Once poor “I’m-a-little-bit-country” Marie Osmond had been mounted by one of several paramours, including her brother and The Bionic Man, my dolls would turn their backs to the plastic orgy, climb The Twin Bed Mountain and wander off into the wilderness of Simone’s Wonder Woman bedspread. Being the Christian that I was, I didn’t even allow Malibu Barbie to glance back longingly at the brimstone falling down on the heads of her comically-proportioned, nude girlfriends. I mean, she was my best Barbie. It would have done none of us any good if she’d turned into a pillar of salt. Of course, back then I didn’t realize that Lot’s two daughters later got him drunk so that they could have incestuous relations with him. They didn’t teach that part of the story in Sunday School.
Though I was now seven, I had not yet developed the savvy conversion techniques possessed by our pastor. However, I’d listened carefully in church and I knew what selling points had worked on me. Still, this would be my first attempt at witnessing as they called it. What if I flubbed it? Would Simone give me a second chance to win her soul for God’s army of Christian soldiers? Inexperienced as I was, I became determined to save my friend’s precious, immortal soul. After all, if I didn’t, who would I play naked Barbies with in Heaven?
One afternoon, as we sat in front of my wooden dollhouse amusing ourselves with my Barbies (dolls that were between nine and thirteen inches high, plastic and not of the baby variety were collectively called Barbies then), all of which were fully-clothed (my apartment, my rules), it became apparent to me that I couldn’t put it off any longer. Simone, despite my warnings, undressed Malibu Barbie, presumably so the doll could take a bath in the pink whirlpool tub my parents had given me for my birthday the year prior. Making the situation even worse was the fact that the tub was located on the third floor of the dollhouse – in the master bedroom. And who do you think was seated in that room, on the bed, his head turned so that he stared directly at the plastic, jetted bathtub? Ken. Who’s mouth was practically salivating in anticipation of seeing Malibu Barbie’s uncovered boobies and hoo hoo? Ken. Who was being corrupted by a seven-year-old Jezebel intent upon bringing sin into my dollhouse? Ken. Poor, fully-dressed in a winter coat in the middle of April, celibate Ken.
As Simone plopped the naked and voluptuous blonde into the tub, I handed her a miniature bikini. “Put this on her,” I said firmly.
“But she’s taking a bath.”
“No, she’s soaking. Our parents don’t get naked in the Jacuzzi.” I could feel my nostrils flaring and my chest turning splotchy and red, a signal that I was becoming uncomfortable.
“That’s because the Jacuzzi’s outside,” Simone said, a smirk overtaking her perpetually-tanned face. “This one’s inside their bedroom.”
Oh. As if that explained everything. As if nakedness was okay just because it was confined to the walls of a plywood room intended for sleeping. Simone had a lot to learn and there was no time like the present. God forbid she should die in a horrible car accident the following day; certainly she’d end up sitting on the right hand of the devil, little horns sprouting through her shiny, dark bob and a long, red, spiked tail emerging from you-know-where and curling around her ankle. So, right then and there, I shared my secret with her.
Blinking back my tears, I confided, “Simone, I’m very concerned about you.”
“Why?” she asked, discarding the blue and white bathing suit I’d handed her moments earlier into a pile of doll-sized clothes.
With two fingers, I plucked from the mess of clothes, the red one-piece that Malibu Barbie had worn the day she arrived under my Christmas tree two years prior. Tossing it at Simone, I casually said, “Because if you continue on this way, you’re going to burn in a lake of fire in Hell for all eternity.” I looked pointedly at the crimson bathing suit, now resting on her thigh, and then at the naked doll, who I’m sure was mortified to be stared at by Ken in a way that must have made her feel objectified.
The young girl’s forehead creased and I swear she snickered. “No, I’m not.” Snatching the bathing suit up, she folded it into the palm of her hand and tightened her fingers into a fist, before releasing her grip and allowing the crumpled bit of nylon to fall back into the pile from whence it had come. Clearly, fear-mongering wouldn’t work with this one. I doubted she’d ever become a Republican.
Okay, I’d take another tack. “Yeah, you will. But that’s fine. I mean, I just thought you’d like to hang out with me in my mansion.”
One eyebrow cocked skeptically, Simone retorted, “You don’t own a mansion.” But she hesitated. She waited. I’d caught her interest.
“I will. When Christians go to Heaven, they each get one,” I said, conveniently leaving about the part about dying first.
“Says who?” Simone was as tough as a vanilla wafer that had fallen between the sofa cushions and remained undiscovered for months.
Rolling my eyes as though the answer were obvious, I answered, “Jesus.” The name prompted a blank stare from Simone. “You know, the Son of God.” This earned me a half-hearted shrug of her sun-kissed shoulders. Sighing deeply, I dutifully recited: John 14:2. ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.’ I was so certain and dogmatic in my belief system as a second-grader in the Seventies, I’m glad I wasn’t born in another place and at another time – like Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. I’d have been running around handing out pamphlets and quoting The Communist Manifesto.
“Huh?” Simone said, her eyes widening. I’m not sure if her confusion was because another seven-year-old was quoting scripture or if she just had no idea what I was talking about. Looking back now, I realize that they only thing separating me from Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction at that particular moment was the absence of a gun and an afro. Perhaps it wasn’t confusion in her eyes, but terror.
“It’s from the New Testament.”
“What’s that?” she asked, her eyes never leaving my face. I’m also pretty sure scooted back a little, putting a good foot of green shag carpeting between the two of us.
“It’s part of The Bible,” I said incredulously. “It’s the sequel to the Old Testament.” Finally, Simone’s head nodded in recognition. “Anyway, that’s not important. What’s important is that when Christians go to Heaven they each get a mansion and the streets are paved with gold and there are diamonds and rubies and sapphires, like, everywhere. Even the gates are made completely of pearls.”
My friend’s eyes grew even larger and her lips formed a perfect “O.” Fear had been replaced with good old fashioned greed.
“And you get crowns. Jeweled crowns.” I vaguely remembered the pastor saying something about crowns. “And princess dresses and a pony.” Now I was just making stuff up, but deep in my heart, I was certain that God wouldn’t give me diamonds, yet refuse me a Shetland pony. What kind of Heaven would that be? And He sure as heck wouldn’t make me run around in my blue plaid parochial school jumper. That would just be cruel.
“Crowns are for boys,” Simone insisted, folding her arms tightly against her chest. “I want a tiara.”
Of course, she did. All girls want a tiara. “That’s what I meant,” I added quickly. “The boys get crowns and the girls get diamond tiaras.” C’mon. I was so close. Simone was salivating more than Ken with his prime time view of Porn Star Barbie. I could see the wheels in her head spinning; I could practically hear the whirring and clicking of the gears in her brain as she processed this new information about Heaven and how it might benefit her to give Christianity a go.
“I want one with sapphires. That’s my birthstone,” she said, her eyes narrowing. I smiled and nodded, indicating that it was a done deal. “Okay.” Simone shook her head. “What do I have to do?”
As simply as I could, I explained that she just had to believe with all her heart that Jesus Christ was the Son of God – the Golden Ticket that would magically open up the Pearly Gates (still leaving out the minor you’ve-got-to-be-dead-to-go-to-Heaven component) so that she could gain entry to her new life as a jewel-encrusted, Lady of the Manor – and that he had died on a cross and rose from the grave three days later. That’s when the fear crept back into her stare and she slid backwards another foot on the carpet. I’m pretty sure she had a really bad case of rug burn by the time this whole ordeal was over.
“What do you mean he died on the cross?” she asked. For some reason, a guy nailed to a wooden cross, a crown of thorns cutting into his scalp, who’d been stabbed and was going to eventually croak was a bit traumatizing for her. The happy, shiny Heaven story had suddenly turned into an Edgar Allen Poe tale of murder, with a ghostly apparition rising wispy and fog-like from a cracked gravestone.
In homage to my future legal career, I hurriedly glossed over the carnage. “Oh, it’s no big deal. He comes right back a few days later. And He’s fine. Just a few scars.” I pointed to my hand with my finger as though a hole clear through your palm was the equivalent of a pockmark. Still, Simone’s face remained doubtful. “Look, Jesus is up there with God in Heaven right now. Their thrones are right next to each other’s.” I painted a cozy picture of father and son, plopped down in adjacent recliners with their feet propped up, watching an episode of Sanford and Son together and laughing every time Redd Foxx fakes another heart attack or argues with Ernestine.
Soon, her forehead uncrinkled and she agreed to move forward. Then I helped Simone kneel and instructed her to pray to Jesus, asking Him to forgive her for all the sins she’d committed and informing Him that she was now accepting him as her personal Savior. When she was finished, I’d expected her body to convulse with a jolt of Born Again power. This is what always happened at church. The wicked sinner would kneel before the pastor, say the prayer and then the pastor would touch the new Christian’s forehead, causing him to fall back, shuddering, as if he’d been shocked with an animal prod. When Simone remained upright, I tentatively touched her brow with my finger tip. Nothing. Next I tried pushing her backwards using a tad bit more force, but either the Jesus Juice wasn’t flowing through her loins quite yet or she had figured out what was expected of her and was resisting. Frustrated, I finally flicked her hard – just below her hairline – with my thumb and finger, prompting her to wince and yell, “Ow.” Okay, it wasn’t a convulsion, but it was something.
“You’re done,” I announced, digging the tiny, red bathing suit out of the clothing pile and handing it to her. Without another word, Simone quietly removed Malibu Barbie from her bath and slid the one-piece onto her plastic body.
A week later, Mr. Adams, Simone’s non-Jewish father, cornered me by the public bathroom at the complex’s community pool. Dripping wet and chilled, I stared up into his contorted, angry face, and shivered uncontrollably as he launched into a diatribe that would have frightened a Mafia Don. I was emphatically informed that despite the fact that Mr. Adams was a Christian, Simone was being raised Jewish and I was to never try to convert her to a different religion again. As I cringed before this man twice my size, I thought of missionaries who’d been murdered in the rain forest for trying to save the souls of indigenous tribe members. What horrendous fate would I suffer in the name of spreading the Gospel? Before I could imagine myself being burned at the stake or my severed head dangling from the fist of a savage, pagan head hunter, it was over. At least, I thought it was. Mr. Adams had turned away, taking his shadow with him, leaving me panting from the adrenaline rush in the bright sunshine.
Suddenly, he twisted around and hissed, “And don’t you ever tell Simone that she’s going to burn in Hell again. You got that?” I nodded silently, my heart pounding in my throat.
Hah! I knew it. Simone had been scared shitless at the concept of swimming in a one million degree lava lake. I’d sold her from the beginning, but she’d held out for a sapphire tiara. Maybe she’d turn out to be a Republican after all.
The definition of wit arose in a discussion I had the other night over beer and hamburgers. As a general rule, I’m against wit when meat, cheese and hops are involved as the effort is rarely remembered the following day since the recipients of the wit are either still stewing in their cholesterol-induced brain swell or just hungover. I, personally, have yet to ponder someone’s witticism from the night before while my head is dangling over the porcelain throne, so I’m assuming no one else does either.
Truth be told, I’m rarely witty whether or not beef and Budweiser is being consumed. Why, you ask? Clearly, I’m a mammoth of intellectual funny-isms or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. The problem is that I’m slow to wit. I come up with clever epigrams approximately fifty-one minutes after the witty comment would have been appropriate. Granted, my observations are often much more adroit than the retorts made by my compatriots at the time, but they’re late. Way late. Running-out-to-the-24-hour-pharmacy-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-buy-a-pregnancy-test late. This is fine if you’re writing a column or posting on Facebook, but I suspect that my friends may wonder if I’ve hired a ghost writer exclusively for those purposes because in person, my comments often tend to invoke the nervous laughter that is only uttered when others are uncomfortable or feel obligated to do something other than stare. You know what I’m talking about. Pity laughter – the awkward chuckle often heard in funeral parlors as friends and loved ones discuss zany things the deceased used to do when they weren’t so…well, dead.
Until recently, however, I’d always thought I was witty. Like everyone, I would have, on occasion, a particular good evening. During these rare events, droll observations would drip off my lips like drool off a St. Bernard’s muzzle. Strangers would contemplate inviting me to dinner parties in the future. I basked in the glow of my sheer cleverness. My friends, on the other hand, would shrug and finally credit the alcohol. When I was having an off night (which in reality was a typical night), I consoled myself with the knowledge that I would write something incredibly astute and hilarious at a later date. Something that would be published. Something that would one day appear in quote books or, alternatively, quote websites or quote clouds as physical books will probably be extinct by the time I’m dead – and everyone knows the most surefire way to be included in a collection of quotes is to be dead first.
But back to the other night. A typical night, I might add, made even more typical by the fact that I was dining with a woman who has more degrees than a thermometer and was educated in Britain, the Birthplace of Wit; a gay man (Oh, step off your PC soapbox – if a gay man could carry a child in the uterus he doesn’t have, he would also be the Birthplace of Wit!) and my husband, perhaps one of the funniest people on the planet. I didn’t have a chance in hell. And they were talking about France and things that are French. If I was Sarah Palin, I’d tell you that I’ve been to France. But the truth is that I had a two hour layover in the Charles de Gaulle airport on the way to London. I did buy a baguette with brie on it and some Loreal hair conditioner, but I don’t think that truly constitutes having experienced the City of Lights. Unless, as I pointed out, you’re Sarah Palin – and then you wouldn’t have to buy a sandwich or hair products. You’d just claim you could see the Eiffel Tower from your First Class seat and go back to reading your magazine, the name of which would escape you.
My gay friend lived in Paris for several years, and my uber-educated friend is one of those artsy-types with an obsession for obscure European facts. My sole comment during this portion of the conversation consisted of something like, “What do you expect? They’re French.” This is my go-to statement when chatter turns to things francais because it applies universally. Doesn’t matter if you’re discussing the French’s attitude towards their politicians’ mistresses, their penchant for smoking from the time they can sit upright in a pram, or their insistence upon putting mushrooms in absolutely everything they cook. The easiest response for one who can’t come up with something witty is to simply chime in, “What do you expect? They’re French.” Following said statement with a knowing chortle is completely optional.
Grateful as I was when the discussion turned away from French cinema, I was disturbed when it turned to the topic of wit, generating a lively debate surrounding the word’s definition. Now, I’ve always ascribed to what is generally considered to be the most common definition of the word – at least according to those silly books that collect such information, a.k.a. dictionaries – and they define wit as “the natural ability to perceive and understand; intelligence.” As I have been perceiving and understanding things since I was knee-high to Tom Cruise, I was confident that I fit the bill. Hell, I possess a very expensive advanced degree and I’ve never failed a test in my life. Okay, that’s not completely true. I actually failed my first driver’s test, but I was set-up and, anyway, I totally aced the written portion. As I was saying, arbitrary tests that don’t involve operating something with a carburetor concede that I qualify as an intelligent human being. Then again, poop-throwing in chimps is considered a sign of intelligence, so the bar can’t be all that high.
Our dinner companions – my husband excluded as he does have to live with me – insisted that wit involves a timing component, and argued that if brilliance doesn’t strike as swiftly as lightning, it might as well not bother to strike at all. Granted, some dictionaries list “quickness of perception” or an ability for repartee or banter in their definitions of wit. But it’s never the first definition. It’s not the primary definition. Heck, on one website, it was subsection (d) of the third definition. Regardless, it was the meaning of choice for my friends. (And may I point out here and now that my gay friend is the same friend who once erroneously claimed that The Osmonds outsold Sonny and Cher in their heyday, so his perception is clearly warped). But, as former employer of mine used to say ad nauseum, “Perception is everything.” You can’t be witty in a vacuum. Wit requires an audience. In my case, I thought an audience of people with nothing better to do than read my meanderings was sufficient, but that evening I was informed that it was not the same. Apparently, in the Aesop fable, wit is the rabbit and the old adage of “slow and steady wins the race” doesn’t apply. My humor is the turtle and muddling along at a consistent pace just doesn’t cut it. Wit isn’t a marathon; it’s a sprint. If I can’t swiftly enunciate a zinger or amuse dinner guests with banter worthy of a Nora Ephron film, I might as well don a dunce cap and resign myself to eating Taco Bell in dark room by myself – maybe with with Carrot Top if I’m lucky. Actually, I think I’d rather eat alone. At least I’m funny on paper.
For days now, I’ve wallowed in this pit of dullard despair until someone recognized by millions as being remarkably witty – in fact, he’s paid quite a lot of money to be witty – appeared to take up my case. In a recent HBO special, comedian Ricky Gervais suggested that Oscar Wilde, the Godfather of Wit, also suffered from Dilatory Epigram Syndrome. When asked by a customs official if he had anything to declare, Wilde famously stated, “Only my intelligence.” Gervais suggested that the retort had probably occurred to Wilde sometime after an earlier encounter with a customs official. You know, one of those, “Damn! I should have said this!” moments. I know those moments well. Really well. Not on a first name basis well, but on a secret-birthmarks-that-no-one-else-knows-about well. According to Gervais, once Wilde had that moment, he stored it up and waited, crouched like a spider ready to attack. Please ask me if I’ve something to declare, he would think to himself. And finally, someone did. Wilde declared his genius. Then he died. Now he’s got entire books of quotes devoted entirely to things he allegedly said or wrote.
This may shatter many people’s perception of Wilde as the erudite dinner guest who spit out impromptu witticisms the way Americans spit out haggis into their napkins in a Scottish pub. If his initiation of a clever comment was machine gun rapid, I’ve always fantasized Wilde’s voice as luxuriously slow and languid. When he opened his mouth to speak, I imagine the guests’ forks would hover inches below their mouths because whatever choice bite was to emerge from Wilde’s lips was certainly tastier than anything on their plates. However, Gervais’ view suggests that the playwright and poet may have practiced his quips religiously in his state room, pacing the short length of the carpet reciting the verbal gems he would deliver should the appropriate question be offered. Perhaps he scribbled down all the things he wished he’d said at the previous evening’s dinner party into a little notebook, then rattled them off as soon as the opportunity arose again later in the week.
During the Victorian era, the issues of politics, English society, literature and the arts, and religion were popular topics in dining and drawing rooms all over Britain. It would have been easy for Wilde to anticipate future conversations and arm himself accordingly, loading his quips like bullets into a pistol and pulling the trigger whenever appropriate. When the subject of the Americas or politics was broached, he could rattle off, “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people,” a statement which would have signaled uproarious laughter and tittering at any Victorian table. If the topic turned to fellow playwright, critic and frequent dinner guest, George Bernard Shaw, Wilde may have been well-prepped when he slung this backhanded compliment: “Bernard Shaw is an excellent man; he has not an enemy in the world, and none of his friends like him.” In a closed society, self-described by Wilde as one in which one only “has either to feed people, amuse people, or shock people…” in order to be admitted, amusing the cream of London society would have been a priority in order to ensure his continued success, both socially and financially.
So to those friends of mine whose synapses fire away quickly over appetizers, leaving the rest of us behind in a haze of smoke and clever diatribes, I say,” Erm…hold on second. It’s right on the tip of my tongue. Just give me a second. No, really. This is going to be hilarious.” Forget it, I’ll get back to you in about fifty-one minutes and when I do, prepare to die. Or maybe you’ll just blush or giggle or get a little embarrassed because I did it in print. Online. And everyone who knows me also knows who you are, so it kinda sucks for you, really. But I will do it. I’ll be witty and you’ll rue the day you ever said I wasn’t. The slow and steady spirit of Oscar Wilde inhabits me. Can I say that it’s a little uncomfortable because he was a large man? An awfully large man.