Oh hey, didn’t see you there. I don’t know if you know this, but I have a book coming out in exactly a month.
OH WUT, REALLY? you say? I HADN’T REALIZED. YOU ONLY TALK ABOUT IT NONSTOP. I know, I know. Self-promotion is gauche as fuck, and back when I was a young ‘un working as an editorial assistant at the very publishing house now publishing my book (did I tell you? I’ve got a book coming out), I would chafe at the authors who dared to talk their own books up — I mean, aren’t we all supposed to be self-loathing? Isn’t that a prerequisite for entry to the Big Important Writers Club? Like, even calling yourself a “writer” is gross. If your work is good, I thought, it’ll speak for itself. Then I’d watch as all the books I worked on were released, forgotten, and remaindered — except, curiously, the woman who took it upon herself to make postcards out of her cover art and paper the country with them. She made the LA Times bestseller list.
18 years later, my dumb cynical chip on the shoulder about self-promotion is old enough to vote, buy cigarettes, and drive and drink alcohol in Germany, and I’m like:
Yes, my book has a professional publicist (and he’s the best — that’s right, Steve, YOU ARE THE BEST), but he can’t do what he does and succeed while I’m skulking over in the corner going OH GOD WELL, I GUESS READ IT IF YOU MUST, LIKE, BY ACCIDENT OR SOMETHING. So, welcome to #SchadenfreudeCountdown, friends.
Here’s what’s happening. (Almost) every day between now and Schadenfreude‘s publication date, I’m going to do a short post of yet another #Schadenfreude moment from my illustrious past. The book is 288 pages of people laughing their asses off at my woes, but that barely even scratched the surface of the tippy-top of the Spizze des Eisbergs. I have so many humiliating moments that I need three clichés to describe them. I also need an entire month.
So, Day 1:
In the summer of 1996, I was living in Eugene for the summer, working as a “market attendant” at the Fifth Street Public Market (aka “upscale mall janitor”) for the princely sum of $5.25/hour, and living with a friend, bunking in the corner of the one bedroom of her one-bedroom apartment, which was located approximately four blocks from my parents’ house, which I refused to “move back” into, even for three months, because I was a NINETEEN YEAR OLD ADULT, GOD DAMMIT.
So, because my friend — let’s call her Claudia — and I were in extraordinarily close quarters, I was way more up in her business than I had any right to be. That business happened to be dating “Brett,” her poncey bearded condescending philosophy TA, which was annoying enough (philosophy grad students are UNIFORMLY THE WORST, and the fact that I am married to a bearded philosopher now does not detract from this). But complicating matters was the fact that Brett was married. “It’s all right,” insisted Claudia. “Brett doesn’t really pay attention to societal norms.” UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HE WAS THE WORST. Anyway, this was actually true, and Brett was what they now call polyamorous and I guess Mrs. Brett was cool with an open relationship, which is a completely acceptable romantic orientation. But try telling that to obnoxious 19-year-old, holier-than-thou, Trainspotting-obsessed, mall-janitor Rebecca, who did NOT APPROVE of Claudia’s RELATIONSHIP, and would be the FIRST TO TELL her this in any and all circumstances. On the rare occasions Brett dared come over when I was home, it was basically this:
Yes, I had some THINGS TO SAY about Brett’s abhorrent, prurient conduct, and the clear power imbalance in his relationship with my innocent friend. I jawed about his infidelity, and I jawed about the power imbalance in their relationship (he graded her!), and I jawed some more, and I jawed and jawed until my jaw broke. No, really — due possibly to my constant yammering, and possibly to my constant clenching in my sleep (probably out of moral superiority), I had to get TMJ surgery that summer. And during my recovery, which was two weeks long, I was NOT ALLOWED TO TALK unless abjectly necessary. This was long before the days of texting or even regular Internetting, and anyone who knows my normal yakking speed knows scribbling on a notepad would not come near meeting my needs. So for two glorious weeks, every time Brett came around, I was rendered effectively mute. “Brett says hi,” said Claudia, after I returned from work one day to find her rosy-cheeked and freshly-showered, “and he hopes you’re enjoying your poetic justice.”
Brett, Claudia and Mrs. Brett lived as a polyamorous triad for several years. My jaw still clicks, and every once in awhile, it even gets stuck.
This has been 30 Days of Schadenfreude.
And now, a SHAMELESS PROMOTIONAL CONTEST. Please leave an example of a mortifying #Schadenfreude moment in the comments. I’ll keep a running tally all month, and on Feb. 7 I will crown a winner, and send that winner a free signed copy of the WORLD’S GREATEST BOOK, or, possibly, of my book, in case Gabby Sidibe won’t return my calls.
ALSO: If you’re on Goodreads, I am taking reader questions all month, so don’t hesitate to ask me whatever you want on there. Also, if you’re planning to read Schadenfreude, don’t be shy about it! Let your Goodreads friends know.