If there's one thing I believe, it's that laughter is the best medicine. And your trusty Dr. Jean has been writing you a regular prescription for years. Goodness knows I'm no Whoopi Goldberg (who is?), but I like to think that I, too, have been blessed with the gift of seeing the lighter side of things. And I enjoy sharing my gift with the world right here in A Room Of Jean's Own.
But a recent incident showed me that not everyone appreciates my irrepressible wit. As a gal who tries hard to please, it hurts me to think I have critics, but columnists have to expect this sort of thing. A thin skin won't help you survive in this business, and if you've ever seen me in person, you know nothing about me is thin! (See? I do have a sense of humor about myself!) However, this particular attack was truly a low blow.
A few months before I was laid off from Fashion Bug, I was walking past the Jo Ann Fabrics in our strip mall when I spotted an unfamiliar newspaper rack for something called Pressing Matters, a "free alternative weekly." Always on the prowl for a freebie, I picked it up. I like to think I have an open mind, but Pressing Matters had a pretty "out there" approach. Like, there was swearing in the movie reviews (didn't they realize children could read that stuff?) and a comic strip with a politically opinionated penguin in wraparound sunglasses. (Give me good old Cathy any day!) And, judging from their ads, their chief income seems to come from phone-sex lines and naughty bakers. All in all, not my cup of tea. (Or should I say "slice of cake?")
Anyway, I forgot all about Pressing Matters until last Thursday evening, when hubby Rick burst through the door with a copy in his hand.
"Did you see this thing?" he asked.
I was totally shocked to see Rick holding a newspaper. Had he finally broken the no-reading vow he has strictly adhered to since the last day of high school?
"Yeah, I've seen that paper before," I replied. "How did you find it? Did you mistake it for the used-car shopper?"
"I saw it on the break-room table at work," Rick said. "It was open to an ad for bodywork services with this naked tattooed chick. She was hot, but she's probably a lesbo." (Sheesh! Who's dirtier-minded, this paper or hubby Rick?)
He handed me the paper. On the cover were cartoon drawings of all these local newsmakers and celebrities. Across the top, in big letters, it said, "Our 6th Annual 'Tulips & Thistles Awards'!"
"They give out Tulips to local stuff that's great and Thistles to stuff that sucks," Rick said. "You got a Thistle!"
I couldn't believe it! Sure enough, there I was in the Thistle column, alongside such offenders as the local nursing home that was fined for having patient sickrooms with lead paint and asbestos, and a County Board member accused of bribery! I was cited for a special award.
"Back in 1997, we here at Pressing Matters created the Tulips & Thistles 'Mediabolical' category to 'honor' the dubious achievements of a local media figure," the article read. "Past recipients include big-haired, mush-mouthed Fox-47 Evening News anchorwoman Carol Kerrey, and gratitude-impaired bestselling author Anthony Chapman, who turned down an interview with this very same alternative weekly that in 1991 gave him his start as an essayist and book reviewer. But this year, after a particularly distinguished 12 months by a certain columnist whose life reads like an open—and godawful—book, we decided to create a special new category, 'Least Insightful Newspaper Commentary.' Jean Teasdale is the inaugural recipient, and if she maintains her non-stop barrage of unfunny parenthetical asides, banal observations passed off as brilliance, and suburban solipsism wrapped in the clunkiest prose this side of The Herald's Dean Vukelich, she's a lock to take the prize next year, too. Hopefully, Mrs. Teasdale's editors will come to their senses and evict her from that 'Room Of Her Own' where, frankly, she spends way too much time."
I'm honestly not sure why Pressing Matters dislikes me so. Maybe they just can't handle my sassy, outspoken, take-no-prisoners attitude. Some people don't like a woman to speak her mind, and I noticed only two women in Pressing Matters' staff box, a city-government reporter and an editor-in-chief. What's the matter, Pressing Matters, afraid of a woman's input?
Or maybe they can't stand seeing a real person with real problems express herself. They have to write about boring things like local politics and modern-dance troupes and organic gardening. I don't have to write about any of that stuff! I have the freedom to write whatever I want. In fact, my editor once told me he didn't even care what I wrote! I bet Pressing Matters' writers don't have that remarkable carte blanche.
And another thing: If something is real, and it's true, how can anyone claim it's not good? I write about what I know best: ME. And isn't that what all good writers do?
What hurts most is that this happened right after I got laid off from Fashion Bug. I'm collecting unemployment right now, so this should be a time for me to relax and take stock, not be a public target of ridicule.
But I will persevere, Jeanketeers. As I said before, I'm blessed with some very thick skin!