When I send these columns in to the Editress in Chief, I never know which section I’ll fall into when they lay out the issue, nor how many words my little corner will accommodate for a title. So I include a couple of alternative headlines.
More accurately, early on in my illustrious community columnist career I wrote a column about miscarriage. I sent it in with one headline: “The Miscarriage ‘me too.’” When I picked up the paper that Sunday, it was titled differently. Having just days before watched our baby’s heartbeat cease, I was . . . abundantly rational and emotionally stable and not at all feeling outrage at a world that kept spinning as if our baby hadn’t just died, as if a miscarriage wasn’t worth noting. So I e-mailed the Editress to question whether I’d run afoul of some rule of titling. She generously refrained from lopping off my head for questioning her judgment, instead sending back the instruction to include alternate headlines from then on and when spacing was an issue they would review my preferred alternates for something more workable.
Having been on the other side of the EIC desk once upon a time, I’ve had some dealings with authors suffering from Allergic Redpenitis. One had such a severe case of it that I can recall his name and the seemingly endless back-and-forth we exchanged, but cannot describe with any reliability the substance of his scholarly article. I think it was about minutiae. I mean, it must have been. Mercy, but I’d never dreamed I could become one of those writers. But sorta I had.
So, I’ve done that, the alternate titles thing.
Most months they’ve used the first headline I sent. Some months, one of the alternates.
When I sent in the column for March, I left the primary title set to one that amuses me. The stomach bug that had leveled my children was far enough in the rear view that I’d found humor in the description of it.
I fully expected the Editress to use the alternate — the one that didn’t put the vomit in bold print.
But very quickly she e-mailed back her amusement and that she’d be running it with the first one I sent.
Well color me chartreuse because it’s a celebration!
When I opened the paper Sunday I got to thinking that the lovely lovey couple professing their lovey lovingness and upcoming nuptials were quite possibly not as amused at the neighboring column’s title as I was. I could picture their faces as they opened their paper across town. So naturally I photoshopped their dismay. Also naturally my photoshopping skills are lagging behind my imagination such that about all I can manage are white ovals and crooked paintbrush strokes in varying thicknesses and colors. I hope the attentiveness to getting their eyes somewhat level is appreciated because that took me a bunch of tries, at least three or six or fourteen or so.
Well, I have some unfortunate news for you love birds: there is vomit in your future. I’m sorry. It’s true. Hopefully not for a long, long time. Hopefully you’ll have years and years of seeing each other at your best before you find yourselves hovering over a child hovering over a toilet in the middle of the night, stroking her hair and assuring her that you can and will wash her beloved, befouled stuffed toy in the scorching-hottest germ-killing water known to man.
And hopefully by then any “thanks a lot, Slawson woman” thoughts you may be having now will be long-since forgotten.
If not, then perhaps draw comfort in this irony:
I was so busy measuring the distance between us and that putrid bug in my rear-view that I missed whatever signs there might have been of the impending disaster ahead. And then boom — all of the sudden it’s 2 a.m. and in sleep-deprived desperation I have agreed to the baby’s demands to teethe on my person when from my bedside I hear those whispered words that cause every reasonably-germ-averse mother to panic: “Mama, my tummy feels kind of ooey-gooey . . . .”
Return of The Teething No-Sleeper
Return of The Stomach Bug
Return of The Monthly Visitor
If 5 p.m. does not equate to Return of Mr. OtherSuch, I will certainly understand.
And then I will hunt him down.
And breathe on him.