The Hilarious Book I Did Not Write
Catherine Newman wrote the book that I should have written, and I’m trying not to hate her for it. “Waiting for Birdy” is the hilariously neurotic tale of the year she was pregnant with her second child. I’ve passed around the book to every woman I know, saying “If you’re not laughing out loud by the second page, then just put it down,” under my breath adding, “and get a sense of humor.” This author represents Everymother, and even people without kids laugh in recognition of her maternal angst. In fact, my friend Laura passed the book along to me with her “You gotta read this!” recommendation, and she doesn’t even have kids yet. (Though she and her wife do have a poodle, which I think counts.)
After turning the last page, I was delighted to read that the great author herself lives in my town. Thus the bizarre hand of fate gave me a push, and I promptly decided that I just had to meet this woman. I fantasized we’d share an instant connection which lead to collaboration on well-received projects until destiny plopped us across the desk from Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” Not to mention walking the red carpet at the Oscars with Julia Roberts and flirting strategically with George Clooney, the stars of our fabulously successful and artistically rendered screenplay.
But really I just wanted to thank her for writing such a true story that enabled me to laugh at, and perhaps forgive myself for, my second pregnancy paranoia, guilt, and general kookiness. And then as I got to know her better, I might do something mildly passive aggressive like use chicken bouillon in her vegetable soup, just to get back at her vegetarian-self for writing the book that I should have written.
So I set about trying to find my connection to her. I live in such a wonderfully big small town where we’re all connected by, at maximum, two degrees of separation. Strangely enough as soon as I started asking around, I suddenly found myself surrounded by people who had had their own sightings. One friend met her when their kids were in the same choral group. Another friend turned out to be her husband’s client. Someone else ran into her at the top of Skinner Mountain. Everybody was meeting this woman but me!
But I plodded on, finally inspired to ask was my jolly CSA farmer friend if he knew her. Turns out she’s a member of the farm! I shyly asked Farmer if he would assist me in my effort to make this funny woman my new best friend. (I don’t think those were my exact words, but he got the picture.) The very next week, the stars aligned just right, and Farmer found himself socializing with her. So he asked the great author if he could give her my number. (She said yes!)
I was horrified! I had envisioned a more casual, not-so-stalkerish introduction. I thought Farmer could just point her out to me. Then I could begin by handing her a stalk of broccoli one day at the farm. Maybe the next week, I would lend her my scissors in the flower patch. And perhaps in the dog days of summer, we could share a laugh about global warming among the tomatillos. But to have her actual phone number! As if I would just call her out of the blue, and say, “Hi. I’m funny. You’re funny. Let’s be friends.” Having graduated from kindergarten, that’s just not the way I meet friends these days.
Weeks stretched into months, and I just couldn’t bring myself to cold-call this woman. Months have stretched to years, and now it’s too late. If it were meant to be, it would have happened already, right?
Plus I’m afraid she’ll take out a restraining order on me.
Damn, I just realized something. Do you think she reads online blogs? Don’t you dare forward this entry to her. I swear, don’t you dare. Now I’m really embarrassed.
Post script: Just one week after I posted this blog, I was at a dear friend’s 50th birthday party shooting the breeze with a very cool woman named Nicole. Suddenly, Nicole turns to greet two kids who just arrive on the scene saying, “Hi Ben! Hi Birdy!” If you’ve read Catherine Newman’s book, you know as well as I do that there can only be one Ben and Birdy.
I do a pirouette (in my mind) and ask with no hope of containing my excitement, “Are those (gulp) Catherine Newman’s kids?”
“Oh, sure,” Nicole breezily replies. “Catherine is one of my best friends.”
So basically, I plotz right there in my friend’s lovely garden surrounded by his closest friends with Bob Marley playing in the background. Like a total jerk, I confess how much I adore Catherine’s (oh yeah, we are SO on a first name basis now!) book, and I summarize this blog entry. Nicole laughs and promises that Catherine would get a kick out of it. (There may or may not have been fear in Nicole’s eyes. Hard to tell since she was wearing sunglasses. Perhaps she took a couple steps backwards and crossed her arms defensively. But I’m pretty sure that was just my imagination.)
Thirty minutes later, I’m sitting next to Catherine Newman at a raucous table of laughter, shouting and general glee. We’re talking about parenting and writing and comedy. She was delightful. Her husband was charming. Her children were adorable.
It occurs to me that perhaps I need to confess that not only have I read, and greatly enjoyed, her book, but that I wrote in my blog about it. It’s one thing for her to read the blog written by a stranger. But now, it seems awkward that I spend a lovely evening chatting her up in a garden, all the while having written this essay. Alas, she left the party before I got up the courage to confess. So here it goes…
Catherine, if by any chance you’re reading this, I’m sure you understand that – as I am first and foremost a comedian – this essay was written with my tongue fully inserted in my cheek. Nevertheless, I admire the hell out of your writing style, and I’m glad to have you as a literary role model. It was a pleasure to meet you, and you seem like a fun and funny woman. Although I was totally kidding about us being BFF’s, I look forward to handing you a stalk of broccoli some day at the farm. –Pam
(P.S. Please reconsider the restraining order on me, kay?)
Pamela Victor is the author of the not-nearly-as-hilarious but still really good children’s book “Baj and the Word Launcher.” Her blog "My Nephew is a Poodle (and Other Random Thoughts)" is at www.pamvictor.blogspot.com.
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