I’m a lousy liar so I don’t do it. I can also be inappropriate and downright blunt. Not in a public scene making (abhor that), nor awkward silence at a table full of strangers, or even in a boarding the bus to Psychoville sort of way. But there’s just something about my makeup that makes it utterly impossible to call a spade a heart. My personality has never been described as vanilla—and almost always said critically.
I’ve often been told that I say what most people think but that’s a rather clichéd attempt–by people who care–to make me feel better about being different. For most of my life I’ve struggled to fit in but there’s always the voice inside my head that screams, “That’s bullshit—tell them!”
And I usually do.
I altered my authentic self when my daughters were young. I had a mother who publicly humiliated me on a regular basis and I was determined not to do the same to them. I self-edited–metaphorically duct taped my mouth shut. Played nice with teachers, coaches and other parents but when they needed (and asked) I gladly took off the nice mommy mask and flew the freedom flag. It was always fun to see the faces of those I’d fooled with my uber-polite persona.
I also had to edit professionally. For most of my career I was a corporate trainer–a mouthpiece for the culture of my employer. I can’t tell you how many times I conducted leadership training for middle management and wanted to say, “Look, slapdick, your department continually underperforms because your team hates your guts. You’re an asshole and the best thing you could do for productivity is quit.” Instead I stressed the significance of creating an environment where employees wanted to do their best because their boss was the greatest.
I’ve had issues with men. In the beginning they find me refreshingly honest and funny. That usually transitions to “bitch” and occasionally “see you next Tuesday” once the novelty wears off. I’ve found only a certain male personality type can handle me long term–the rest bolt for the nearest exit. One man even asked me to “play it smaller” to spend more time at social functions hanging out with the ladies and less with the guys. I don’t ever choose a gender pool to hang with. I’m drawn to stimulating conversation be it XYs or XXs. This was also the same deep thinker who said, “Why do you have to be so driven? You should strive to be on a rich man’s arm.”
I don’t know how that glass of water slipped out of my hand and into his lap. “Terribly sorry,” I said as I handed him a napkin, “I’m such a klutz.”
The only place I generally have no issue with being edited is when it pertains to writing.
When I first arrived in NYC I was fortunate enough to work on my book with a former editorial director of one of the big publishing houses. He got caught up in the publishing world shake up and was doing selective freelance editing. Why he agreed to work with me is still a mystery because my original manuscript was so rough just holding it in your hands required stitches. He was the first person who made me believe I could make a go of writing but it was a painful process. He’d put things in the margins like, “WE KNOW. You’ve told us this a hundred times. Can’t you do better?” After a year (and three rounds of tough editing), he forced me to “do better” and didn’t give a shit if my feelings were hurt in the process.
I adored him.
I’ve also had my work edited in writing classes, workshops, and writers’ groups. After my first article was published I had one professor say, “It’s a fucking miracle that piece was published.” That same professor put her fingers in her mouth and pretended to gag during a group brainstorming session to come up with a subtitle for our books. I had just shared my brilliant creation.
She was right. It was schmaltzy.
My skin is seriously thick and I’m always open to editing that improves my work—and it usually does make it better. That is until recently.
On Friday I had an author profile on Hogan Gorman published in The Huffington Post. I’ve never had anything I’ve submitted edited in any way. That’s kind of the premise of that site. The writer is considered a blogger so the posts are their own musings.
Not so much this time, and honestly the site also doesn’t guarantee changes won’t be made. Also, just to be clear–in case someone from HP reads this–I’m extremely grateful that they’ve provided a place where my work is published quickly and has the potential to be seen by their vast number of readers. I LOVE The Huffington Post.
(Was that the appropriate amount of ass kissing?)
That being said, when I read the current piece I would like you to imagine how many times fuck can be used as an adjective. It’s not that I find it horrible. It’s just that it was tweaked and I hate the modifications. I would never start an article with the sentence:
“At first glance, you’d think most women probably wouldn’t identify with Hogan Gorman….”
WTF? Is that as awkward to you as it is to me?
Am I being uppity writer-ish?
The author profile was written to reflect the tone of the book. Hogan went through hell but was a smart-ass every misstep of the way. I wanted those who read the article to understand that it wasn’t a misery memoir but a horrible situation that the author chose to deal with realistically but also with humor. I had some of my favorite parts cut AND I am not a fan of the superfluous comma. The new version was all comma-ed up. They also didn’t use the book cover nor the author photo I included with submission. I commiserated with writer friends and felt a bit better but not much. Then last night just before going to sleep I had an epiphany.
I HAVE THE BLOG–a place where I’m authentic and unedited. I can put the original version on the blog. Below is the way I hoped the article would be published.
Former Model is Down but Not Out in Debut Memoir Hot Cripple
Hogan Gorman, author of debut memoir Hot Cripple is probably not the sort of woman the average person might identify with. She is tall, thin, gorgeous and (of course) a former runway and print model turned actress. Gorman’s career was spent jetting around the world strutting her stuff–her closet filled with labels like: Prada, Lanvin, Helmut Lang and Marc Jacobs.
Then something happened and her enviable life became anything but.
Before one can say, “Oh, cry me a river,” and possibly think, skinny bitch, the details of what occurred are made clear. Gorman stepped into a New York City crosswalk and was plowed over by a car doing 40 mph. She suffered a brain injury, five herniated discs, a torn meniscus and ACL.
And she had no health insurance.
Then the real challenges began and were straightaway more daunting than the cutthroat world of her previous career. Fortunately Gorman had a good foundation. Her childhood required the development of grit. Raised by a struggling single mother (a former nun), she grew up in a household where humor was abundant but money was not.
It seems Former Catwalk Girl is plucky.
“My brother and I had an argument soon after the accident. It involved me asking him to take my laundry to be washed, because I could not carry it. During the heat of it he said, ‘You know, there are two kinds of people in this world, victims and survivors. Are you a victim?’ I yelled back, ‘You know what, I am a victim. I got hit by a car.’ As soon as those words escaped my mouth I wanted to retract them. Victim was not a word that I ever wanted to use to describe myself.”
It’s Gorman’s wit through the abyss of the uninsured in the U.S. that keeps one turning the page. Is it possibly to make shuffling through the streets to a doctor’s appointment funny? How about eating white rice and ketchup because that’s all she could afford once her savings ran out?
One might almost feel guilt for laughing, but chuckle you will.
There’s also the shame of seeking public assistance. The requisite heartless welfare employees are present to validate every stereotype. Gorman covers every dirty detail in Chapter Ten, “A Girl’s Guide to What to Wear to the Welfare Office.” One of numerous humiliating experiences she shares.
Why not just hobble home to Mother?
“My mom, like many Americans, lives pay check to pay check. It’s a struggle for her to make ends meet. She would have welcomed me with open arms, but I couldn’t do that to her. She couldn’t have supported an injured daughter plus herself.”
Three years of struggle and Gorman finally faced in court the person who ran her over. “Judge Lush” presided—a possible hint at the outcome.
How much more could one waif take?
Without giving away the ending, it was forgiveness not food stamps that finally saved her.
“I had to let all the resentment, anger, and hurt go–had to forgive, because I knew if I didn’t, it would ultimately eat me like a cancer. I didn’t want to be one of those people that let one moment define them for the rest of their lives. I wanted to be happy again.”
With a Salman Rushdie blurb, “A smart, tough, and very funny book,” and Fran Lebowitz stopping by her book party it seems there are many who think Ms. Gorman is hot but after reading her book it is clear that the sizzle has nothing to do with her reflection in the mirror.
Thank you for following along and offering me encouragement to continue to express the unabridged version of my life.
“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain