If you do something long enough, eventually someone asks you to do it in public.
Stand back, peoples! I’m about to go, in the words of the great Bootsy Collins, “All the way live, baby”.
I’ve been asked to read my work at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in March. Whoo-hoo!
I am, of course, mildly terrified.
Have you ever read your own stuff in front of people? People you know, people you don’t? It’s a little like streaking, a little like confessing, a little like trying to talk your way out of a speeding ticket. You hope that what you have to offer is not ugly, not unforgivable, not something that makes you look like a babbling idiot.
Not that that ever happens to me.
When I was 6, my mother drove me to baton lessons on Saturday mornings. Oh, how I loved it. To twirl a shiny metal rod with white rubber caps on both ends, the possibility of future tassels fluttering as I threw the baton into the air?
It was Little Girl Heaven.
And then one day, all those Saturday morning lessons culminated in a Fourth of July parade. We wore blue shorts, white shirts, red bobby socks and white tennis shoes with little red pom-poms on them.
We were so special! Little girls squealing everywhere.
But the day of the parade, when we lined up and were ready to start marching (John Phillip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” – my favorite march to this day) I realized, with the face-crumpling horror reserved for six-year-olds, that one of my pom-poms had fallen off. It wasn’t in the car, it wasn’t in the street; and as far as I can recall, we never saw that pom-pom again.
Oh, I was special all right.
I stood in the street, in line with the other red-white-and blue-clad girls, clutching my baton.
“You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?” my mother said.
I shook my head miserably, trying not to cry in front of the other girls.
“People on the sidewalks will look at you thinking, ‘Why does that girl have only one pom-pom? I’ll bet it’s because she’s the best one in the whole group.’”
“Do you think so?”
“What else could they think?”
My mother wouldn't lie to me; and by the time the parade started, I had myself convinced that it was only natural that anyone looking at my feet would – of course! – notice that I had only one pom-pom and that – of course! – this must mean that I am a very good baton twirler…
And that, my friends, may be the strategy I go with in March. I just may have to be the girl with one red pom-pom.