She minces no words.

Dont Mince Words

Wait until your father gets home

Posted on October 10, 2004 by Marna

There are two goals in every woman’s life. The first is to meet prince charming. The second is to not turn out like your mother.

My Anti-Crazy Barbara training has been a secondary career. I do periodically check-in with my brother to ensure my aspirations are on track.

“Am I attempting to control the lives of my immediate family?” I ask.

“Am I out of touch with reality and what is currently socially acceptable?” I ask again.

My brother confirms my score is within the normal range of the Bell curve. I rest easily knowing I still haven’t become my mother.

Her latest target is my web site. Yesterday she threatened to sue me because I mentioned she had a mastectomy in a posted piece I wrote more than two years ago. “If you are such a hot shot writer, why do you have to rely on your family for material? I want no reference what so ever to me or the family. You are going to get your ass sued one way or another,” she said.

Of course, when a parent tells you not to do something, it makes you want to do it more — at any age.

David Sedaris has a great piece about family writing in the “Repeat After Me” short story contained within his compilation Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

She’s afraid to tell me anything important, knowing I’ll only turn around and write about it. In my mind, I’m a like a friendly junkman, building things from the little pieces of scrap I find here and there, but my family’s started to see things differently. Their personal lives are the so-called pieces of scrap I so casually pick up, and they’re sick of it. More and more often their stories begin with the line “You have to swear you will never repeat this.” I always promise, but it’s generally understood that my word means nothing. (p. 147)

My brother has begun self-censoring. Before he would tell me about a recent family trip to Amsterdam, he asked his wife, “hey, is it ok for me to tell Marna.” Once he got the green light, I heard about their accidental walk through the red light district pushing strollers. When they realized they made a wrong turn, their solution was to make the kids look the other way. “Hey, look at that boat over there.” It was a hilarious story that ended with me saying, “You know, by telling me this story you’ve given me permission to tell the kids as soon as they are old enough to know what hookers are.”

“Yeah, I know,” my brother replied

I don’t know if I’m my family’s junk man. I feel more like a counteragent. I have the information; I just need to figure out if it is valuable and when to use it.

I have a stable of mother stories – bad ones, funny ones, and sad ones. I have to remember them and I have to write them because it is the only prescription to not turning out like Crazy Barbara.

That’s what I’ll continue to do, until I’m served with papers from her. Then I’ll bring out the big story guns.

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  • About Marna

    Marna’s writing career started as a Pentagon intern. Early exposure to $500 toilet seat press releases made her appreciate creative nonfiction. Now she has more than 25 years of senior-level marketing and communications success working with Fortune 100 companies, government, nonprofits, small businesses, startups, and agencies.

    Stats: 377 Posts, 132 Comments

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