Things I’m Not

I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling this year, and there are some misconceptions I need to clear up before I hit the road again.

1. I’m Not Pregnant

So here’s what happens when you hit middle age: your weight settles in your stomach and everybody thinks you’re having a baby. I’m assuming God intended the gray hair and wrinkles to offset the menopause bump, but since we don’t do gray hair and wrinkles any more, there’s a cognitive disconnect and people keep congratulating me. For about two years now, I’ve been getting invitations to speak at conferences that begin, “We can accommodate your pregnancy.” I had a woman at a conference say, “Whenever I see you, I expect to see your baby.” I said, “My baby is thirty.” I am not alone in this; I have a friend who actually had somebody pat her stomach and say, “And what is this?” She said, “A soon-to-be liposuction.” My worst was in a real estate office. I was waiting for my realtor and the receptionist said, “He’ll be right out.” I said, “Oh, no hurry.” She said, “Well, we don’t want you delivering in the office.” I told my critique partner, Val Taylor, about this and she said, “You need one of those maternity tops that say ‘Baby’ with the arrow pointing down, except yours can say ‘Fat’.” I’m considering that. Dave Barry gave good advice here: Never discuss a woman’s pregnancy unless you can actually see the baby.

2. I’m Not Sleeping with Bob

I hadn’t intended to address this EVER, since, like my gestation status, it’s really nobody’s damn business, but it’s reaching critical mass. I have never seen Bob naked. I am never going to see Bob naked. We don’t do that. I’m reporting this so I won’t get any more e-mails congratulating me on “making great books and having great sex with Bob.” Or after I’ve said that writing books with Bob is wonderful, having any more workshop participants yell out, “How’s the sex?” Or having a friend say to me after a presentation, “You might as well sleep with him; after people see you talk they think you’re doing it anyway.” I could go on, but basically, the number of people I don’t know who are discussing my sex life with me has just exceeded the number of people I don’t know who are discussing my pregnancy with me.

So I’m in Maui on a stage wearing a long flowing dress and in my bare feet because, hey, it’s Maui, and giving a lecture on revising. And at the break this darling man comes up and says, “I have to leave to go to an appointment, but I wanted to tell you that with the light behind you, I can see right through that dress and I’ve really enjoyed it.” Him, I like. Then a woman comes up after the next hour and says, “That was a great lecture,” and I say, “Thank you,” and she says, “And boy, that Bob,” and I say, “Oh, yeah, that Bob,” and she says, “He knows how to keep his women: barefoot and pregnant.”

I laughed. Well, I pretty much had to, it was too damn funny.

3. I’m Not Sleeping with Bob and Pregnant.

So I went out into the hall and Bob was out there and I said, “You owe me a drink, you bastard,” and he said, “What did I do?” and I said, “You knocked me up.” And he said, “How?” and then I told him, and he said, “Where is she? I’ll kill her for you,” and I started to laugh again because it really was funny. And then he started to laugh, too, and we went out to the pool bar and he bought me a drink with a little umbrella, and we laughed harder. Then the usual gang showed up, and John Saul said, “What’s so funny?” and we told them all, and after they all gasped, they started to laugh, too. John said, “That’s a compliment, considering how old you are. And you know at your age, multiple births are common.” And Bob said, “Damn right. I want twins. Boys.” So we had another round of little umbrellas to celebrate the boys. Then they offered me another drink, and I put my hand on my stomach and said, “I really can’t. It’s not good for the twins,” and Andy Cohen, who had just walked up behind my chair, looked down my cleavage and said, “The twins look pretty good to me.”

To recap:

  1. I’m not pregnant, I’m fat.
  2. I’m not sleeping with Bob.
  3. The twins look pretty good.

Let’s try to remember all that, shall we? Thank you.

The Maui Effect

So I’m here at the Maui Writer’s Conference and I know I haven’t blogged in a while, but this place keeps you hopping, plus I’m hitting the wall. The problem with the Maui Writer’s Conference is that it comes right after the Maui Writer’s Retreat. The Retreat is pretty damn cool: We teach dawn to dusk going sixty miles an hour and then we hit the presenter’s lounge and we party, not until dawn because most of us are middle-aged, but into the night. Then we get up at dawn and do it all over again.

And here’s the thing about dawn in Maui when you usually live in Ohio: It comes at noon. Six hour time difference. So although I do not do mornings in Ohio, I am up at the break of day in Maui, walking the cliff path along the ocean, wide awake and full of energy, swinging my arms, laughing too loud, feeling like a Natural Woman, the Maui Effect. Which is why I hate the cell phones.

Maui, in case you’ve never been here, is spectacularly beautiful. The path along the rocks overlooks perfect beaches and tide pools and gorgeous flowers and aggressively cheerful birds. And along this path stroll the rich and richer, and then also the people like me who got a free ride because they agreed to teach their butts off for two weeks. Hey, I can be bought. And most of us are just happy to be alive walking through paradise, but every now and then, you see somebody on a cellphone, making deals, gossiping, whatever, and they’re always looking at the path and frowning. God’s best ocean is on their right, but they’re yelling at somebody in New York, probably ruining lunch. I will give a free pass to those who are standing on the bridge over the little ravine saying, “My God, Margaret you wouldn’t believe how gorgeous this place is, let me take a cellphone picture and send it to you.” They can live. The others, though, I just want to rip the phones out of their hands, fling them onto the rocks, and say, “Fetch.” Because you know that lava rock is brutal.

But I don’t because I’m a nice person. Well, I’m a nice person when I arrive. By the end of the retreat, I have become one of the Grunts.

Here’s the thing: By the time the conference starts, we’ve been teaching our brains out at the retreat for six days. We were neat and clean and perma-pressed when we arrived, but by Thursday night, we’re wrinkled and sweaty and rowdy and toasted. I don’t drink, there is no alcohol in my house and I never order it when I’m out because I don’t like the way it tastes, but in Maui, it tastes good. It may be the little umbrellas. We were supposed to go to a speech the other night but I ran into a literary discussion—Karen Joy Fowler, Gail Tsukiyama, Gail Parent, Dale Burg, John Saul, Mike Sack, Janie Foley, and then Andy Cohen because you never know when you’re going to need an agent—and we were having this deeply intellectual discussion about the worst pick-up lines anybody had ever tried on us, and by the time Bob found us, I had three little umbrellas in my hair. He said, “That’s not good,” but you know, it FELT good. And I checked in the mirror later and it turns out I look DARLING with little umbrellas in my hair. But probably only in Maui.

So anyway after a week, we look like we’ve been rode hard and put away wet, and then the Conference instructors come in to join us at the introductory meeting, all neat and clean and perma-pressed. Now at this meeting, we are all supposed to stand up and tell what we’ve accomplished that year. And the shiny new people, most of whom are editors and agents, get up and tell about all their successes and name drop and establish their professional presences and pretty much pitch the room. Meanwhile, in the back of the room, the Grunts are growing restless. Occasionally we hoot. We are not pretty. Which means none of those agents and editors will ever work with any of us again, but by then we don’t care. We’ll care when we get back to the real world, but now we’re in Maui, so screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke, pass the rum.

So everybody tells what marvels they’ve been all year, and then it gets to us. Bob stands up and says, “I’m Bob Mayer and I write books,” and sits down again. This is a major improvement over last year when he stood up and said, “I’m Bob Mayer, and I can kill you with my little finger,” so the general consensus afterward is that collaborating with me has made Bob a kinder, gentler Surly Bastard. Then I stand up and say, “I’m Jenny Crusie and nothing interesting has ever happened to me.” And the Grunts all boo so that tells you how much love I get here. Then Elizabeth George stands up and says, “You probably don’t recognize me because I’ve had massive plastic surgery in order to escape the paparazzi, but I’m Angelina Jolie.” Then Karen Joy Fowler stands up and says, “No, I’M Angelina Jolie.” Then Gail Tsukiyama stands up and says, “No, I’M Angelina Jolie.” Then Jane Hamilton stands up, turns to Elizabeth George, and says, “And I’m Jennifer Aniston, YOU BITCH.”

Well, you had to be there.

So now it’s Sunday, and we have to do a TV interview and then I have to teach for two hours and then we’re going to work on the book (Agnes) and then go hear Gail Parent talk which I can’t wait to hear because she may be the funniest woman on the planet and she’s definitely a spiritual sister. We were talking about being divorced and she said, “Sometimes I go home and look at that big king-sized bed and think, ‘How did two people ever sleep in that?’” and I laughed and then went upstairs to my king-sized bed and thought, “My God, she’s right, how could two people sleep in that?” so she’s not only Funny, she’s Insightful.

Of course it hasn’t all been working and drinking and talking about king-size beds. I walked the path the other day and passed a woman who was NOT on her cellphone and who looked exactly like Jayne Ann Krentz. And then I stopped and thought, “Wait a minute. That IS Jayne Ann Krentz,” so I said, “Jayne?” and she said, “Jenny?” and we both looked around to see if SEP was there because neither one of us had a stitch of make-up on.

So anyway, I know haven’t blogged in awhile, but as you can see, I’ve been busy. And now I have to go listen to another speech. Possibly with a little umbrella.

And aloha to you, too.