The Book About Cousin Brothers and Brother Uncles

Even though I say I’ll never write a book, the truth is that I would write a book were it not for two things:

1. The only thing I have (content wise) to write about is my life and my family

2. Because of number one, I neither have advice nor license to warrant an entire book

It’s not that I am necessarily opposed to writing scathing or unflattering things about myself or those I love. Given, those things are not always well-received (just ask my mother), but they can net some great stuff. To my own credit (go me!) I’ve never used the blog as a weapon or to arbitrarily hurt someone. (Though let’s be honest with one another, in order for that to be a possibility we’d need a healthy following of people to read said “weapon.” Alas, that is not the case.) But the point I am not getting at is that I feel disingenuous writing about, or even thinking about writing, a book about a group of relatively ordinary and unremarkable people. (In the best way possible.) And in order to make us seem interesting and entertaining, a lot of pretty objective truth has to come out.  And no matter how true it is, it somehow manages to be hurtful. Funny how that works, right? The stated truth, emotionless and uncontextualized, makes people very upset. Layer humor onto that and I’ve basically waged war.

For example, here are a few of the Big Things that would make a book entertaining and worth writing:

My son has a three-year-old uncle.

I married a carbon copy of my father.

My step mother is four years older than I am.

My brother is a 28-year-old scotch-aholic with Tourette’s

I’m a hot mess.

My mother has her eyeliner tattooed on.

My sister-in-law got drunk and broke her neck.

I hate myself a lot of the time.

My step mother and I have twice been confused for my father’s “two daughters.”

My step-father sprays ag poison on your food– and makes a glorious living at it.

My step-mother-in-law is terribly bitchy and hates us all.

I’m currently 40lbs overweight.

These are all true and documented things, but try writing a whole chapter on any of them and still get an invite to the holidays. It gives me a huge respect for personal essayists and comedians. The choice to use your life as creative fodder is incredibly difficult. The “public” BEGS for you to make them laugh. They (you) love to hear the craziest stories and most unbelievable details, but what no one takes into consideration is how isolating it can be to be funny. What thick skin you have to have. What one personal considers hilarious, another person consider exploitative and hurtful. And being the one responsible for crafting stories that walk the fine line between the two puts you on a razor’s edge.

Be funny, but don’t be racist. Be funny, but don’t be hurtful. Be funny, but don’t generalize. Be funny, but don’t make it about me. Be funny, but don’t be too honest. Be funny, but don’t be rude. Be funny, but don’t be condescending. Be funny, but be compassionate. Be funny, but don’t use political sensitive monikers.

Making it harder is that I seem to have been born  giving zero fucks. Any filters and parameters in place are the product of many years of observing and pulling back. As the years have gone by, my enthusiasm for writing a book has dimmed considerably because I dread the outcome. Even worse, imagine writing a hilarious book about your family that no one buys. Poor and all alone. That would be terrible. If I’m going to be a girl without a family, I’d at least like to be a NYT best seller.

The other part of the fame monster is how much of my own perspective I have to include in order for the content to be meaningful. I have to put myself WAY out there in order for people to connect. And, truthfully, I am a-okay with that, but it can get tiresome to hear what a terrible or selfish person I am. Eventually you start to believe the bad things. Especially when they come from people close to you.

In the ten years since I started blogging, I’ve pissed off many people. I’ve hurt plenty of feelings. But I’ve also admitted to a 17-year-long eating disorder, confessed to hardships with marriage, parenting, and growing up. I’ve confided insecurities about my body, lifestyle, and intelligence. I’ve been transparent about my political and social views. I’ve been honest and vulnerable, but I realize that it’s my choice to do and be and say those things. And I don’t get to make that choice for my friends and family. And in order to write the only book I’d know how to write, I’d have to make that choice. Or choose to do it no matter the consequences.

So, for now, a book is just not in the cards. Or rather, it’s not in the family.

4 thoughts on “The Book About Cousin Brothers and Brother Uncles

  1. Yes, Yes, Yes! Having three Brother-uncles and one Sister-Mama I can relate! (I was adopted by my Grandparents) There are wild tales to be told but I would still like the occasional Christmas Card. Even as I write Stuart’s Diary I have been admonished not to let him call me The Fat Woman. I literally had to tell the person that his writing was fictional but that if he were writing he didn’t actually know my name. We should compare family faux pas some time. – Anna Davis

  2. I admire your scruples but you are putting laws on yourself. You are enormously talented and that talent is not limited to comedy. Your blog on the small boy and the marathon was one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I have ever read. Use that disclaimer about your characters being “fictional” but please don’t deprive us of your talent.

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