Becca at Academomia is running a fantastic meme. She asked us to write the first page of our memoirs. To play, write post of your own, and leave a comment on this post at Becca's blog. She'll link them up.
I always thought my ghostwriter would pen the majority of these pages. As a child imagining what my memoir would look like, I had a good idea of the writing process. I would lie on a pile of pillows in my bed jacket and satin turban taking delicate puffs of a Camel Special Light through a long black cigarette holder and saying “Dahling,” a lot while a mousy brunette in a turtleneck held a tape recorder aloft in the pace between my tall bed and her high backed wing chair. At night, she’d leave me with a fresh martini and a giant black rotary phone with a silver dial and slip back to her studio apartment and her orange cats and her electric typewriter where she’d turn my dahlings into literary gold. In the morning, she’d return with a sheaf of onion skin pages, and I would make her read them aloud, correcting both her diction and her copy, sending her home again with notes scrawled in the margin of every page and a fresh tape of my exploits. I could even picture the book itself—thick and sleek, a smooth black-and-white close up of me on the cover—more Garbo than Steve Jobs, but the same general idea.
Apparently, when I was a child imagining my memoir, I assumed I’d be traveling backwards in time and switching bodies with Tallulah Bankhead or Auntie Mame, Miss Hannigan if times were tough. What I could not have imagined when I was the fat little girl who devoured Danielle Steele novels, any account I could find of life with a Seconal-popping Judy Garland, Days of Our Lives, and community theater by the summer-stock-ful, was the long slog through academia and suburbia that would occupy me starting in my twenties.
I played with dolls but didn’t imagine having children, listened to my own voice echo through the high school auditorium and imagined Broadway, watched my soaps everyday and thought of myself in front of the camera in the clothes of a much older woman, passionately spitting out overwrought dialogue. When I am famous I’d think to myself, making a mental note to catalogue a particularly endearing quirk. I signed a desk full of loose leaf notebook paper, practicing my sure-to-be-coveted scrawl. I didn’t think of the future in concrete terms ever because, dahling, that’s what my staff would be for—buying food, arranging clothes, folding linens, mailing letters. I’d leave the quotidian behind and be fabulous.
And then I was in graduate school in cheap clothes and a tiny apartment filled with rented furniture, contemplating life at the meaning of the word and wondering when my own real life would begin, not realizing it already had, that the man I spent my weekends with drinking expensive vodka and cheap beer was the same one who’d watch all the kids so I could have 5 minutes to go to the bathroom or arrange oranges in the new fruit bowl I’d be really excited about.
This is a story of how I traded dreams of Ethel Merman and Deidre Hall for a reality of Betty Crocker meets Betty Friedan meets Betty Rubble and found happiness in my own backyard while still wearing the ruby slippers every once in awhile.