October 29, 2010


A friend gave me a magnet that reads: Barbie wants to be ME. It's pink, of course, and yes, there's a heart on it. I thought it hysterically funny. Still do. But I don't believe it. Friends have said (some even publicly, in comments made on blog posts) that Barbie has nothin' on me (aside perhaps from the nifty convertible, the padded resume, and the height), but I don't see it.

What I see: a short, overweight, glasses-wearing middle-aged woman who is also--when she's not spending insane amounts of money to keep from looking 50--going gray.

I read a story the other day (by the fabulous Jo Pilecki, one of my workshop writers and a newly-minted Amherst Writers  & Artists workshop leader) about a woman who bought a special mirror that made her look thin. Of course it would be wonderful to own such a thing, but what if the mirror on the wall reflected who we really are? If we could see ourselves as others see us?

Probably I would avert my eyes--just as I do whenever I stand before the bathroom mirror in the dark, for fear that what I will see there will be as hideous as the vengeful Bloody Mary, whose spirit can be summoned by the triple invocation of her name. For fear that I could never un-see how others see me. (Short, overweight, glasses-wearing, middle-aged, going gray, bossy, self-righteous, judgmental...) 

But what if the magic mirror showed me the good things I don't see: wit, humor, kindness, generosity, intelligence, tolerance, talent. Would I then believe that Barbie wants to be me?

Actually, you know what? Who cares who Barbie wants to be. Who does Barbara want to be?

October 12, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

October 12, 2010
Fear of Being Laughed At
Department of Looking Stupid
Worrying Too Much What Other People Think, Inc.
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to you today regarding a lifetime's subjugation to the fear of looking stupid, sub-catagory: fear of being laughed at. After fifty years, this fear continues to operate as efficiently as if its constituent parts and features--embarrassment, humiliation, exposure, blushes, and, yes, tears--were brand-new. In fact, it sometimes seems that this fear of being laughed at/looking stupid works better now than when first installed.
This is unacceptable.
It is this very reliability that makes the fear of being laughed at/looking stupid a health hazard. Frankly, I'm surprised that you have not already been sued for damages inflicted to self-esteem, ego, and potential. Do you have any idea of the things I have avoided doing because of you? Singing where anyone could hear me. Dancing. Writing. Saying "I love you" when it might have made a difference. Saying "I love you" when it wouldn't have changed a thing.

While we're at it, let's talk about my fear of losing control--kissing cousin to the fear of being laughed at/looking stupid--which requires--requires!--me to be in control at all times. I must avoid any and all situations in which the unexpected might occur. Surprise is anathema.
Thanks to you, someone is always watching. am always watching, always vigilant, always less than I could be, my light perpetually basketed, lest someone find it/me laughable/stupid.
I really must insist that you accept the return of this paralyzing gelotophobia--which, by the way,  I never wanted in the first place. As it was a gift, handed down through countless generations of my family--along both matrilineal and patrilineal lines--I do not have the receipt. Regardless, I feel certain that you will find a way to make restitution.
I look forward to your prompt attention to this matter.
Cross-posted in the Sunset Coast Writers blog.