Writers are solitary folk. Books don’t write themselves. They take time. Lots of alone time. So much alone time your arse goes flat and the children cry for their supper. Probably about like a whole winter of alone time.
Then after this redic expenditure of hours in solitary selfish pursuit, crafting your creative imaginings into a printed objet, you must emerge. Put your PR hat on, along with your marketing and sales hat, your hell-YES-I-know-how-to-do-THAT hat and your eager public speaker face hat. All on.
‘Prostitute yourself!’ Mandy Hager offered at the Indie Publishers panel at the Tinderbox Children’s Conference in Wellington. ‘Get a professional author photo done as well.’
Mmmm. Everyone likes an easy buck. But. Standards. The latter I can manage. Then moments before my time of putting on my town clothes and trying to pretend I am not a total fake - even though I made it all up in the privacy of my own tower-office. This.
Me: Can I get a parent pass please?
Her: Do you have a child in the competition?
Me: Yes. (Names child. Meets curious gaze.)
Her: Are you his Gran?
Me: MOTHER. (Actually it was more like - Mother!!!!!! with a what-the-actual-hell emoji)
(It’s fair to say at this point I was dying inside. Yes my hair is white-ish blonde-ish grey-ish, I can and often do look tired due to hooded eyes and under eyebags (thanks Dad). Sometimes my pallor is dull. I can see how you might make a mistake. But my face is not total wrinkle. I’m 51. I’m not a grandmother. I burned inside. I lost my words. I would have given HER an Irish kiss but I am not a violent woman.)
Her: But he’s so young.
(OUCH. Easy does it. This makes me even older, lady.)
Me: He’s twelve.
HER kept talking. Making small talk by way of the apology she could not voice. I did not want to talk. I wanted to pay and LEAVE. I was booking a hair appointment in my head. I needed more yellow blonde. More youth.
My daughter came in. ‘What’s taking so long?’
You and me both. It was a bad start to a good day.
I had to send a simple email. Agree to some copy for the imprint page of my book. I couldn’t decide whether to have a wee at the base building or at my destination, let alone sign off something that would be in print forever. Daughter got sick of waiting. Left.
I gave up. Skied over. I greeted The H. He was talking to some old mates who’d obvs gone for a boy’s day out. Drinking Steinies mid-morning amongst a kid’s event they looked like a bunch of pedos. I went into the café and ordered a coffee. It was strong. I got palpitations. Added angst. Got a water. Drank it. I managed to do my work. I went for a ski. By myself. The spring snow was soft, light, springy. A sparkly carpet of microscopic icicles in the sunshine. A stellar rug. God, I love nature. My world was spinning. On the third chairlift ride I patted my jacket pocket. Then I patted every pocket. I had misplaced my phone. I was having my first senior moment. On a chairlift. In the sky. I skied down. I rode up. And looked for my PHONE. Snow moves when skied on. Gone in 30 seconds. Like an iPhone in a snow pack.
My family was sitting outside on a wooden trestle. Eldest daughter called me Grandma. I did not laugh. I sloped inside. Silent. And asked the barista, who was all of 18. Have you found a phone?
Him: What kind of phone.
Me: (nearly kissed him). iPhone 6.
Him: What’s on the lock screen …
Reunited and it felt so good.
The gran calls wore off after a couple of days. I explained it’d involve teenage pregnancies to validate.
But I kept wondering. If growing old is such a privilege, why are we so afraid of aging. Vanity. It’s impossible to let go our golden time. Our moment. Now it’s just downhill. Flat out like a beetle on its back. My great grandfather lived till 97. One of his diary entries in his later years was a simple inscription – Big Fuck! Two words that still make me so proud. Go him!
Time moved on. Press releases were preparing to woo the major dailies. I booked myself in with a local photographer. Hey, I’ve been headhunted at a pop concert before. I’m okay. For a gran.
In I went. Beautiful she kept saying. Oh that light is perfect. Look at me. Chin up (I thought it was always down). Try not to tense your neck when you smile.
So encouraging I thought. I’m rocking it. If what she saw on her camera’s screen was crap, her face never showed it. Beautiful. 100 times at least.
The pics arrived. 16 selected about of about 600. I looked good. Anyone would. I’d been so air-brushed the pattern on my blouse had faded as though it’d been on a permanent hot cycle swirling in an overdose of Persil automatic for 51 years.
Talk about faking it. But hey, I need all the help I can get. I’m a gran. Just don’t call me Gilf.