Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Performance by Arachne Aerial Arts 
She and I stand on the sidewalk in front of my Washington, DC apartment talking briefly as she drops off her daughter. She is Sharon Witting, the co-director of Arachne Aerial Arts and she's going to work.

"Thanks for watching her. The warehouse where I'm rehearsing is filled with sharp metal shavings."

I hate when that happens.

No worries, I reassure her. Company for my son means I can get more done. Sometimes two are better than one.

Sharon's daughter is an only child like my son. And like some singletons (a word I learned from Parents magazine) he occasionally asks for a sibling. I get that. What I don't get is when other parents ask, not if, but when I'm having a second child. What if I can't? What if I won't?

I'm surprised to learn that people plan such things as siblings. The whole concept of sibling math is new to me. If so-and-so is two years old, we should have so-and-so in less than three years but no more than five. 

But this is coming from a woman who is also shocked to learn that some little girls, and some not so little girls, dream of their future wedding. Complete with tear sheets and story boards. I've never been much of a planner.

Sharon's advice, though, is spot on. Get a cat. Hell, get two. This satisfied her daughter's craving for a playmate.

"What he doesn't realize," she adds, nodding in my son's general direction, "is that you're not going to pop out a 5-year old brother for him to play with."

Sharon Witting and Andrea Burkholder (Photo by Enoch Chan)
As she drives away, I'm still laughing at the the image of birthing a 5-year old boy for my son with a complementary demeanor he'll find agreeable and toys that he doesn't already have.

The laughter then turns to abdominal cramping. And I wonder where I could put a litter box. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Oh No He Didn't

David Sedaris 2007

"You should read David Sedaris. You'll love him." That's what one of the Wenches said to me recently at our monthly W.E.N.C.H. meeting in Washington, DC where I live.

(W.E.N.C.H., a professional woman's group I founded, stands for Women Exploring New Career Hemispheres. I wanted to name it Careers Undergoing New Transformation, but the ladies voted that one down.)

So I did just that. I read three of his essay collections and loved them. Funny. Self-deprecating. Dark. All things I love. I began imagining that with practice, focus, and the proper amount of childcare, maybe one day I could be a humorist writer like Sedaris. Except with boobs. And hair.

I start researching his agent because that's what Betsy Lerner, in her book The Forest for the Trees, recommends as a smart first step. After I type "David Sedaris" in Yahoo, the first hit is not his representation information, but rather  "Chicken Toenails, anyone?", an article he published on July 15 in the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The article floors me. It's not his usual hysterical account of Life as David. It's a mean, scathing diatribe of his recent visit to China with not a trace of the self-deprecation for which he's so famed. No disclaimers of any sort. He just drones on and on about the lack of sanitary conditions and the poor quality of food, sounding like a hoity toity bitch. And I don't call just anyone hoity toity.

Maybe I fell in love with Sedaris too quickly and now I'm seeing him in the morning with bad breath,  scratching himself through dirty, worn boxer shorts.

I fell in love with China too. But that took much longer. It's where I lived for several years, the first half of my 20s to be exact. It's where I got one of my degrees, making me the first Westerner to graduate from Henan University. It's where I became Kaifeng's Beer Girl with television ads and everything.

View from my beloved tiny, humble, concrete room at Henan Univeristy, Kaifeng, China. 

I won't go in for a tit-for-tat. Not here anyway. Jeff Yang, in his follow-up article "David Sedaris talks ugly about China" published in the San Francisco Chronicle, does a better job than I could. And he's Chinese.

I'm just wondering what happened. Was it the typical you-become-famous-and-turn-your-venom-outward syndrome? Sedaris, in his secluded fame bubble, should remember his own recipe for success. Direct the venom where it belongs, at himself.