My first exposure – no pun intended – to the work of humorist David Sedaris was more than a decade ago when I read Naked, a series of essays focused on the author’s early years and young adulthood. Although I’d originally purchased the book for a friend, once I realized how freaking funny it was, I promptly re-appropriated it.
(I justified this act, which in the days before political correctness we would have referred to as “Indian-giving,” by assuring myself that she didn’t appreciate it as much as I did. After all, if she had, she wouldn’t have let it out of her sight long enough for me to steal.)
Since that first reading, I have read, re-read and listened to just about everything Sedaris has ever published. From his early Holidays on Ice and Barrel Fever, to Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and, his most recent work, When You are Engulfed by Flames.
Perhaps my favorite, however, is an audio recording of a performance he did at Carnegie Hall called, appropriately, Live at Carnegie Hall. Without fail, every time I listen to it I laugh so hard that I cry, particularly during “Six to Eight Black Men,” where he discusses holiday traditions in the Netherlands.
Since I started working at the Evening Sun, however, one of the essays included on the CD gives me pause. It’s called “Repeat After Me.”
In it, Sedaris talks about his sister’s reaction to the news that some of his work, in which she and his other family members feature prominently, may be made into a movie. The essay – in which he trains her parrot to say he is “so sorry” for using her life as source material – is in part an apology to her. And I think of it every time I write a blog or column where I dip into my own well of source material gathered from the exploits and embarrassments of those nearest and dearest to me.
Which, lets face it, is every time I write a blog or column.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when my friends and family members didn’t start, end or at some point interrupt a conversation by saying, “wait, are you going to write about this?” But for the most part, they are willing participants. So willing, in fact, that a few are actually disappointed if I spend time with them and don’t write about it.
The only real exception to that is my parents, who grew up in a time when privacy actually existed (read: pre-internet). When I told my father I would be writing a column, he didn’t congratulate me. Instead, he said, “You’re not going to write about your family, are you?”
In an effort to avoid confrontation, I quickly answered no. Okay, it was a blatant lie. But I kept my fingers crossed.
He and my mom tend to take it in stride now, perhaps they have realized that resistance is futile. Or maybe it’s the fact that I ply them with wine and martinis before I start digging for the good stuff.
A lot of those I write about most don’t live around here. They feel like minor celebrities when they see their name (repeatedly) in print. When they haven’t gotten their fix in awhile, they start jumping up and down begging, “Blog about me, Blog about me!” (I keep telling Liz this is unbecoming, but she doesn’t listen to me.)
That’s why when someone asked me last week if my friends get upset when I blog about them, I had to laugh.
And then I felt compelled to write about it.