Yesterday I was in the waiting room of my dentist’s office, writing some notes for an essay idea I’m toying with. I was there to get fitted for an occlusal guard—yes it is a new purchase, and yes it is plastic, but hopefully it will save my crowns and my remaining uncrowned molars, and cut back on all those rubber gloves they wear when re-cementing lost crowns (have you ever noticed how many pairs of gloves they go through during one visit?)
I have spent a lot of time at the dentist’s over the last few years getting crowns put on broken teeth and getting crowns replaced when they fall out, in addition to the usual checkups and cleanings for both me and M. When I was pregnant with the twins, I went in every week for six weeks because the temporary crowns kept breaking. So I know the dental assistants pretty well.
When A, my dental assistant for the day, came out to get me, I stuffed my notebook in my bag and followed. “What are you writing?” she asked.
I tried to change the subject. “I’m here on country music day again?”
“Oh no, did I do that to you? Is that your journal?”
“Just writing some notes. At least it gives us something to talk about.”
“Or complain about. Is it for work?”
“Oh, no. I never take work out of this office.”
“I know what you mean. When I’m not here, this place doesn’t exist. So do you just write about life and stuff?”
“Yeah, my kids mostly.”
And then she was stuffing the plastic mold in my mouth and I was freed from this intensely uncomfortable conversation. I don’t like talking about myself. I’m perfectly happy telling stories about my kids or my husband or anyone else I know, but I don’t like talking about me, and I especially don’t like talking about my personal interests.
No one I work with knew I taught the Writing Motherhood class, until I ran into a co-worker who is on the school board at the high school after class. He asked what I was doing there.
“Adult ed,” I evaded.
“Do you have to pay for that?” He asked, because I’m not in the district. And then I had to admit I was teaching it, brushing it off as “a writing class.”
I have always been a little embarrassed by my interests, I guess because what I’m interested in is not considered “cool” by the mainstream. I still feel a little jolt of surprise when I find out other people like to read or write or sew or camp or draw or bird watch. Really? I’m not the only bookworm with a sewing machine, ink stains on her fingers, a tent and birdsongs of North America tapes?
My other issue is I’m not especially skilled at any of these activities. I would never dream of calling myself an artist or birder or a seamstress. I do dream of being a writer, but I certainly do not label myself as such, not yet. I guess in the same way that I would want to be Georgia O’Keefe before I would sit in the park with an easel, I feel like I should be Virginia Woolf to presume to scribble in my notebook the dentist’s office. But all of these activities bring me pleasure, which should be enough for me to do them, and admit it.
I’m not proud of this character trait. Especially as a mother, I want to be able to model for my children pride in what I do, the value of process over product, and just plain liking myself, because I want them to feel that way about themselves.
It’s time for me to come out of the closet as the nerd with the pens and colored pencils, needles and thread, binoculars and hiking boots. I recently read an interview with a publisher who says she expects potential writers to have active blogs, MySpace and Facebook pages. (Until I read that sentence I thought MySpace was just a place for teenagers to post pictures of their boobs on the internet…so I’m not quite ready to go there yet.) And as much as I say I’m not in this to become published, I really would like to be published someday. So I have decided to come out on my blogs and you can now read an actual profile of me over there in the right sidebar.